Change Merchants

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

There were two main drivers for our business: First, we noticed the untapped market of fair and ethical trade in Australia. The fair and ethical marketplace is much bigger in the USA and the UK, but Australian customers are frustrated by not being able to buy a decent range of good quality ethical and fair trade goods for a reasonable price. Second, through our own work in charities, we've come to believe that economic empowerment is the best way to ensure poor and marginalised communities can improve their livelihoods. By being a conduit into the Australian market we aim to help poor artisans and producers grow their businesses. We have set up relationships with overseas suppliers who have the same ethical goals as we do. We have some direct partnerships with charities, and a major wholesaler that we use to ensure we have enough variety while we grow our direct partnerships. It was very important in the beginning to use a wholesaler, as we didn't have the time or the money to set up relationships with as many suppliers as we would have needed to have a good range of stock.

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

Our first sales were word of mouth through family and friends. However, this was nowhere near enough to survive. Early on we managed to get some great PR through press coverage of one of our key product lines, PUNJAMMIES™. We were placed in a national newspaper and online news service, and this drove sales significantly. This was the result of an email pitch promoting our products that we sent to a large number of magazines and newspapers before Christmas 2014. We are still receiving a reasonable amount of traffic through PR and mentions of our store in other publications, and Facebook appears to be the other largest driver. We don't pay for the PR because we pitch our products as 'stories' that their readers will be interested in.

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?

We have ensured that our presence across all platforms is integrated, so we have a Shopify Facebook Shop section, which is great as we can see how many customers come from that page. We have our social media linked to our website, but just through the use of Shopify features, including Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. We have the Google Shopping app, but we need to learn more about how to optimise this. We use Mailchimp as this has been a great way to share news and drive sales, particularly when new products are launched that subscribers may be interested in. As we have recently brought on an external company to warehouse for us, we use the Onesaas app to communicate inventory and orders to them for shipping. We also have Persistent Cart, Shopify Bulk Discounts, and Shopify Product Reviews. As mentioned above, we have recently brought on a warehousing and fulfilment service. This is great as when orders come through our site they are sent automatically to our warehouser through the Onesaas app who ships them for us and updates inventory. For a small business this has created a lot of extra time and capacity for us to work on the business, rather than just pack orders all day. It also means we are able to travel while working. The downside is that it can be difficult and expensive to offer unique services such as gift wrapping, which we did last Christmas. However as we go along we are looking at options.

What are your top recommendations for new store owners?

If you're not actively driving traffic to your store it becomes invisible - like shutting the doors of a bricks and mortar store and drawing the curtains. You need to be constantly doing something to get noticed, on social media, traditional media or advertising.

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