Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?

I was recently initiated into this exclusive fraternal organization where the members and officers meet at least once a month in a very formal setting - suit and tie (or kilt, jacket, and tie) required. I wanted to show my zeal for the club by buying and wearing accessories that bear its emblems (shirts, rings, hats, pens, etc). I remember searching the internet trying to find a necktie with our fraternity's emblems and while I did find a lot of them online, a lot of them are, to be quite frank, unimaginative, uninspired, and merely printed on cheap synthetic material - the same styles over and over. As tacky as they are, a lot of our members buy and wear them because nothing else was available at the time. I thought that the loud printed designs are quite shameful specially knowing that our fraternity is very well known for its formality, creativity, and subtlety. I was working as call centre represantative at the time but I have a passion for graphics design, I thought I can do better than the cheap "exclusive" neckties available out there. With a $90 investment and the blessings of my life-and-business partner I founded FraternalTies. We started with just two neckties that I personally designed. One I kept for myself, one I auctioned off. The amount of interest it received on eBay convinced me and my wife that we have stumbled upon something good. I design the products myself and have an overseas supplier make them for me.

How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?

Purely word of mouth. I enjoy a very loyal following in Facebook. Our patrons are always eager to buy stuff from us. I also manage a mailing list with a 54.6% open rate and a 12.3% click rate (very high compared to the industry average of 15.9% open rate and 2.8% click rate according to MailChimp). I recently joined Instagram and we are growing fast there. I have a Twitter account but I rarely use it.

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?

Shopify Payments! A definite must! Shipping and handling is a family affair. We do it right here in the comfort of our own home.

What are your top recommendations for new store owners?

Be honest and open to your customers. One of the blessings you have as a small business operator is the ability to make fast decisions for your business without having to consult or get an approval from someone. While this capability makes your business dynamic, it also means that you will be prone to committing mistakes. If you are sincere in your honesty and openness, your customers will be more understanding should you fall short. Don't make promises you cannot keep. As a new business, you will have this burning desire to please everyone. In your zeal to make everybody happy, you might end up promising the sun and the moon, knowing by heart the things you can and cannot do will save you a lot of grief in the future. Believe in your products and do not compromise on the quality. Remember that the products you make are an extension of your self. How would you like to be received?

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