Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
In April 2014 I was traveling through Thailand when I met Mitch (from the US) and his girlfriend Fai (from Thailand) who had opened a hostel in the beautiful mountain town of PAI. We hit it off and they told me they were thinking of starting a store to sell the famous local handmade Thai harem pants back in the USA. In my time in Thailand I saw almost every girl from the USA, Europe, and Canada wearing these pants. The one thing holding them back was they didn't know the e-commerce business or online marketing at all. It was true serendipity as my background was in doing SEO and online marketing work and I happened to meet them at just the right time. We work with a small local textiles house in northern Thailand and they hand stitch all of our pants.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We were lucky to have a good network of friends who helped spread the word (some with big social media followers) when we first launched and supported us. Since we were bootstrapping it helped to get a decent amount of sales out of the gate to reinvest into growing the business. Our two biggest sales channels are Instagram and search engine traffic.
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?
I love the Foursixty app that allows you to feature your Instagram stream on your site and link to the products that are in the photos, so if someone sees a style they like from our Instagram they can click right through and find what they want. Other crucial apps for me are Mailchimp, Out of Stock, Persistent Cart and Yotpo. Outside of Shopify I couldn't survive without the Google apps suite of products (Gmail, Google Docs, etc.) We started out shipping ourselves and just took the step of moving to a fulfillment house.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Identify 1 to 2 marketing channels that are a fit for your business and dedicate yourself to growing an audience from them. We chose SEO (that's my background) and Instagram as we identified that a lot of our customers (yogi's, travelers, music festival fans) were there and sharing and communicating. Now our SEO success pays for us to expand into other areas like Pinterest and paid search. If you are starting with a small budget and you're trying to grow on every possible outlet you're going to stretch yourself too thin. Also, don't skimp on getting quality photos done.