The Gator Loft

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

We live in a community that has a very large population of young families. When I was pregnant with my first child 4 years ago, I literally drove up and down the streets in our community trying to find a baby store. It turns out, there wasn't one. The closest one was 30 minutes away. The idea was planted. I always knew I wanted to start a business one day. After my second child was born, and still no baby store near by, I held my breath, signed a lease, and opened our brick and mortar store and online store in June 2015! And here we are, growing, learning, and having some serious fun! There is nothing like taking that leap and working hard every day to make your dreams reality!

As for sourcing, we research, research, and research to seek out the best baby products on the market! We interview moms, read product reviews, and attend expos. From there we contact the manufacturer of the product and work on a wholesale agreement.

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

Social media has been very good to us. Moms love social media and it is an easy way to reach a lot of moms all at once. I attribute our first sales to social media which to this day is still very effective, but we are seeing word of mouth kick in more and more each week. We just got our online store fully stocked with merchandise, so as of now, our brick and mortar store has generated the most traffic. We have a classroom/studio within our retail space in which we hold a lot of classes and workshops. We have a registration/payment method for all of these events on our online store however and that has been extremely successful as 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?

Our Shopify POS has been our number one asset. We have not had a single issue with our system. Customers regularly comment on how quick I can check them out. Because our POS is tied directly into our online store, inventory booking is a breeze. Additionally, the Shopify support chat has been a lifesaver for me. I have contacted the support on countless occasions and each and every time I was helped out extremely effectively and efficiently. I can't tell you how many binds the support group has gotten me out of. I truly feel like they are on my team working on my business with me. Are people really able to run a business with out Shopify?!? We handle all of our shipping and fulfillment in-house. We have a pretty solid process in place. We have all of the boxes and packaging in store and when an online order comes through, we are able to package it right there in the store, and UPS, FedEx, or USPS comes to our door daily to pick up our packages. Our inventory is automatically updated through our Shopify POS. It is a breeze.

What are your top recommendations for new store owners?

This will begin to sound like a broken record, but it is absolutely true: you must LOVE and BELIEVE in what you do. There must be passion there. Without passion, there is no drive. Running a business isn't easy and without passion behind it, you will burn out FAST! Making money can not be your reason for your business. There has to another "why" and that "why" should stem from your love and passion for what you do. Your customers will see it in your eyes, in your work, and in your products. If you don't believe and love what you do, you can't expect anyone else to either.

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