Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
I used to design shoes for Converse and Puma, and on the side I start a clothing brand. I gained a ton of industry experience by working for big corporations, but realized I wanted my time to be in my own hands. In running my apparel line, I earned a lot of hands-on experience, but realized the limitations of having a brand whose main goal was to be carried in shops. That uphill battle was real. I ultimately decided to combine the knowledge I had learned in creating products for myself and others, and decided to open a shop that sold the product I loved. Instead of being the maker behind it all, I wanted to be in charge of the shop that sold it. I wanted to work with creatives to showcase their talent and perhaps steer them to success, too. Strange Ways was born to showcase independent designers, artists, and small brands. We're strange because the product we carry can be kind of weird (that's sort of my thing), but it's also unique, limited, often made by hand, cared for, eccentric and interesting.
It started out working with friends I had made throughout the years, and knowing the cool stuff they were making. I got them on board with the shop, and eventually it was a domino effect. I started carrying work by friends of friends, then people started coming to me, and now I can reach out to artists I admire and creative exclusive content for the shop.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
I knew an online shop would be the easiest and fastest way to start making money and spread the word about Strange Ways. With a webstore you can reach anyone around the globe with a few social media posts or online ads. Congruently I also participated in regular events like markets and festivals in my area to see if the local customer base was there. Eventually I was invited to hold pop-up shops at local retailers, including Urban Outfitters. The online shop continues to grow the fastest and generate the most revenue with hundreds of items shipped out weekly. This is probably partly because the largest audience interaction we have is through Instagram, but I also like to think that our online shop is set up well. :)
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
The greatest asset has been the Shopify POS app. It makes accepting money in person easy, but I truly love that it syncs up with the online shop so seamlessly. It not only brings in pricing and automatically charges sales tax, but it depletes inventory from both channels to prevent overselling. The Wanelo Shopify app has been the hugest surprise for sales. Without any work on my part it easily brings your product onto their platform and exposes you to their thousands, if not millions, of users. Strange Ways has received a lot more sales by simply installing the app. For months I packaged orders myself; writing all orders by hand and going to post office for an hour almost every day. It was my least favorite part of having the shop. Recently Shopify began rolling out an automated shipping service directly from our account dashboard and it has helped tons. I can buy postage and just drop off packages at the post office now instead of waiting in line. Often I'll just pack up orders and print labels when there's a lag at the storefront.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Do not start any business you don't believe in. Do not start any business you wouldn't shop at yourself. Do not start any business you aren't passionate about. Customers are smart. They can see if you aren't 100% into what you're trying to sell to them. And if what you're doing isn't worth your time, how can you convince others it's worth theres? (You'll also have a really hard time devoting so much time to something you don't care about.)