Four Robins Ltd. started with a conviction that we had something unique to offer and a real desire to make our own way.
I was a painter and an art educator for many years, but was looking to merge my love of color and design with practical objects. My husband and I both came from artistic backgrounds and, individually, had been pursuing art and craft in various ways. I began working in leather as a bit of an experiment and became somewhat of a hobbyist leather worker. Over the course of time, and owing a debt to our collection of family pets, I started to make custom leather dog collars. It didn't take long to realize that working as a team to create the things that we were able to imagine was a unique opportunity and one that we did not want to miss. Over time we worked to standardize our techniques, and eventually started to sell the collars and hand crafted objects via consignment and a popular craft website.
The strong response from these channels lead us to create our own portal here on Shopify. As our skills have evolved, we have grown to create a variety of different products to compliment our original line. Now, our line of leather desk accessories and home goods are nearly as popular as our dog collars. Despite our growth, all of our products are still proudly made in our Western Pennsylvania workshop.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Most of our early sales came from a popular craft website. While we still maintain an active presence on that site, and several others, each month we are getting a progressively larger volume of sales through our Shopify store. We also are involved in the wholesale of our products. Our Shopify site helps serve as a convenient way of sharing our products with potential wholesale customers, and also helps raise the profile of our brand as a whole.
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?
Each of the items in our store are individually hand crafted by my husband and I, and we still fulfill and ship all orders right from our workshop. Upgrading to a thermal printer and using an application like Shipstation for managing our orders, has been a great time saver.
Shopify Facebook Store was also a tremendously easy to use app that integrated our store into our facebook page.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
1. If you don't know, ask. Shopify and Shopify's theme designers are a great support system. When working through your website, its design and what features will benefit your company most, you sometimes just get stuck. We have had a fantastic experience whenever we had questions, technical challenges, or any confusion with the process of designing and implementing our site. Familiarizing yourself with your theme and how to interface with building a portal that fully embraces who you are as a brand is a worthwhile challenge, and the support that you need is ready for you to access.
Friends, family, other makers, and retailers can also be a great resource for bouncing ideas around or even just for technical advice. You may know someone or be only a few degrees of separation away from great tips on something like fine tuning your photographs, where to get the best shipping supplies, or how to improve your SEO, but if you don't ask, you'll be spending time and energy that could be better used elsewhere.
2. trust yourself. So…while I just told you to ask, you also have to know when to turn on the filter. Everyone has a great idea in there somewhere, but what is setting you apart is your willingness to implement yours. It is easy to be derailed by internalizing another person's dreams or good intentions as a measure of your own success. Your store, your brand, your product is your face to the world, and it is up to you to decide what that face will ultimately look like. It is fundamentally your vision and passion that will fuel your success.
3. Finally, as simple as it sounds, one of the most important recommendations I could make for new store owners is to pay attention to the quality of your images. While some people may advocate for only using plain backgrounds, an unobtrusive natural backdrop can add style to your products and help define your brand. Always choosing clear and accurate photographs helps customers understand your products, and along with proper descriptions and tagging, are one of the the most important parts of a successful web presence.