Though it’s been a tumultuous year for small business owners, it was an equally hopeful one too. According to Yelp insights, over a half-million businesses have opened, and work-from-home culture has energized a number of lifestyle brands that now cater to our newly-discovered needs and hobbies. Perhaps you’ve made a pivot and launched an e-commerce business. Maybe it’s still a work-in-progress.
According to Elisabeth Jones-Hennessy, there are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind whether you’ve started or not. The former buyer for Bergdorf Goodman and CEO of Kilian Perfumes for North America parlayed her expertise into GiftMeChic, a luxury gift-giving platform that makes a point of highlighting female-founded products and experiences.
Though she’s got a knack for discovering one-of-a-kind brands, she’s also taken some risks, made some mistakes, and overcome plenty of obstacles. Ahead are five oft-forgotten things she wants newbies to remember as they enter the e-commerce space.
Confirm Your Why
When you have a great business idea, there’s a sense of urgency that kicks in. All of a sudden, you want to do everything right away. This is where you can get yourself in trouble. If the circumstances allow, don’t be afraid to take your time crafting a mission that will anchor all of your future decisions. In other words, know your why before selling anything.
“I’d say the number one thing is to be clear about your business, i.e. what is your product, what makes you stand out, how do you want to promote and sell it, who is your target market, and what are your goals? That is the framework to build upon before and once you get the ball rolling,” she says.
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Identify Your Skills
In addition to knowing your why, you also want to know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. As your business continues to grow, you’ll likely need help and when the time comes, you’ll know exactly what you want off your plate.
For those looking to disrupt an industry that they have previous experience in, the beginning stage of your e-commerce business is also a great time to identify the relevant experience that can be applied to your new venture. For Jones-Hennessy, this gave her a leg-up.
“Knowing how to truly manage and operate a retail business has been essential. My best and favorite ‘skill’ is having an eye for unique, exciting, and interesting gifts, as well as innately knowing what would appeal to my client,” she says. “The other essential yet less creative skill is running the financials, analyzing the business, and making fact-based decisions, whether difficult ones or not.”
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth reminding. Never underestimate the power of some good, old-fashioned Googling and facetime with experts in your field.
“Before you start investing your own or other people’s money, research as much as possible, do a competitive analysis, and talk to professionals in that business. Not to be cliché but knowledge is power, so the more you know, the more successful you’ll be,” adds Jones-Hennessy.
Don’t Rush the Process
Rushing isn’t ideal when you’re launching an e-commerce business. Jones-Hennessy also advises against this after launch too. When you’re selling products, it’s very easy to get ahead of yourself and launch something that doesn’t fit your standards or the needs of your consumer.
“At one point, I added a brand too quickly as I was in a rush to fill a void, but I didn’t do as much testing on the product as I should have. The brand shipped it directly to the customer and that customer (who I actually knew) was disappointed by the quality,” she recalls.
“I asked the brand to replace it, which they did, but the replacement had a different issue which, again, was not up to GiftMeChic standards. Unfortunately, I had to remove that brand from the site. It was a good lesson for me to ensure that all the brands I carry are 100% GiftMeChic approved before they reach the customer.”
Make the Most of Rabbit Holes
Even the most focused business owner isn’t immune to going down rabbit holes on the Internet. (I’ve lost hours to YouTube tutorials.) However, this type of “research” isn’t all bad, especially if you set some parameters. Jones-Hennessy is a pro at product discovery and has a multi-pronged approach to finding new products for GiftMeChic.
“My favorite way is by discovering them at industry shows such as Maison&Objet in Paris or Shoppe Object in NYC. I go through them like a hawk and stop at the ones that catch my eye. The other great way is word of mouth. Because I’ve worked and have a lot of friends in the industry, I get amazing recommendations from people I trust and respect,” she says.
“Last, through Instagram! I’ll follow hashtags, explore accounts, and sometimes get targeted for sponsored posts which work to my advantage. Sometimes I fall down the rabbit-hole but, on the flip side, sometimes I’ll make a real connection and start a partnership. All of the above are fun and what I love about my job.”
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