In every sense of the phrase, Lisa Mandy Seskin is a true leader in heels. Quite quickly after founding her own shoe brand (worn by Bella Hadid!), she realised there was a highly committed market for vegan shoes. Not wanting to alienate customers, especially those who loved her brand, she developed her first entirely vegan collection. However, like many businesswomen, Lisa knew that having a great product simply wasn’t enough and thus she developed a strategy working with influencers, to raise awareness and sales. Read all about Lisa’s journey below.Continue reading →
It’s one of the most visited pages on many websites and yet easily overlooked by business owners. Often it’s relegated to the bottom of a website, and for other sites, it is missing. So, we’re here to share how to write the perfect About Us page for your website.
A client of mine recently confessed to me that after a year of putting it off, she had finally begun writing her About page. The reason for the sudden action? A customer had emailed and asked why she didn’t have one! That was enough to get her moving on it quickly.
For many people, it is the most difficult page on your website to write. It can be hard to know what to say when you live and breath your business every day. Writing their passion and brand story succinctly is a task many would rather avoid. However, done correctly it can have a massive impact on your personal brand and business.Continue reading →
My name is Melissa Stevens, I’m an entrepreneur and this is the story of how I bought a dropshipping e-commerce site and doubled its monthly sales to $10,000 in just one month.
Lightingshoes.net is the site. It sells light-up shoes to consumers of all ages and walks of life. For toddlers, kids and adults too, we offer sneakers, low tops and high tops in various designs and colors.
Last month we attracted 11,000 visitors to the site, and earned $10,000 in sales. This month we’re on target for $15,000, and I’m confident we can continue to increase sales as the business and our marketing develop.
How I Came To Own lightingshoes.net
I’m a software developer and I was exploring the idea of a SAAS product to sell to users on a recurring monthly plan to bring in some passive income. A friend recommended I check out Shopify. He believed there were great opportunities to create plugins for the Shopify market. I really liked Shopify, but it wasn’t clear to me what Shopify users wanted or needed from a new plugin.
I decided the best option was to become a Shopify site owner myself, and I searched for a Shopify business for sale that was already established and getting orders. The next day, I was the proud owner of lightingshoes.net.
I jumped on the site quickly because I felt it was such as good deal. I’m sure you want to know why. The owner was asking only $8,000 for it, and average monthly sales over its 6 month lifespan were $5,000, with a profit margin around 20%.
The reason the price was so low was the amount of work needed to make the site a proper business, and the issues that had to be fixed after I bought the site.
1. Unreliable suppliers
Dropshipping from our supplier in China was by far the biggest issue. It was taking over 2 weeks for the shoes to arrive, and customers weren’t happy. I found a supplier with a warehouse in the US that would ship shoes directly to our customers in 3-5 days. It was no easy feat, and took well over a week to research suppliers and eliminate bad or expensive ones.
2. New merchant account needed
There were too many chargebacks due to the issues with the previous supplier. So I needed to get a new merchant processor set up when I bought the site.
3. Poor site design
It’s the details that really make a site, and lightingshoes.net was missing all the refinements needed. The site loaded extremely slowly, there were spelling errors in the logo, the footer was inaccurate, and many other problems needed fixing. I did a good amount of redesign to make it look like a real business and a site that people would trust.
How I Doubled The Conversion Rate And Sales
Now, the juicy part. The site was converting at 1.10% when I bought it, and within one month I’d increased conversion to 2.07%. This doubled the number of sales and the value of the asset. Here’s how I did it.
1. Added Discount Pop-Ups
When a visitor first arrives on the site, I added a pop-up 10% discount if they share or like us on social media. I also added an exit popup, advertising $10 off if they stay on and shop with us. In the month of March, 14 people used the intro popup coupon, and 23 used the exit offer. That’s more than worthwhile, assuming just 50% of them are customers we wouldn’t otherwise have sold to.
Shopify Plugin used: Better Coupon Box.
2. Added Sales Pop
I added a little pop at the bottom of the user’s screen showing them “Person so-and-so from such-city just bought these…” I don’t have the numbers, but this helps build trust with customers who can see others are buying from us.
Plugin used: Sales Pop.
3. Improved Product Images
With Adwords, anything that differentiates you from your competitors is a good thing. An image of your product on a white background converts best. That’s common knowledge with Adwords, and what I and every other LED shoe site was using. So I hired a Photoshop expert to change the images and make them stand out.
4. Added an Abandoned Cart email series
I added marketing directed at visitors who had come to the site, started the checkout and abandoned before completing it. The previous owner missed the opportunity to follow up on these visitors, despite having their emails! We got 12 sales in the month of March from this.
The Fruits Of My Labor
The result of my work was doubled revenue to $10,000 per month, and a profit margin around 25%. The business is essentially hands off for me – about 2 hours per week – since I hired a VA to handle customer support and work with the vendor. All in all, a nice asset for generating passive income.
My immediate plans are to increase the site’s SEO and social media reach. I want to establish it in the top rankings for all searches related to its keyword.
I’ve already been approached by some potential buyers. When the time is right I will turn the asset over to the right buyer. I’d expect a possible 7x return on my investment.
My Top Advice For Passive Income Seekers
Do your due diligence. Really investigate every little detail, do your research thoroughly and use expert help. In all the excitement and optimism for making money and that the project is going to be easy, be sure to think through how much hard work it’s going to take before launching into your business.
Reinvest the income from your site back into the business. For the future return I’m expecting, I’ve been pouring a significant amount back into SEO.
Melissa Stevens is an entrepreneur in pursuit of a passive-income lifestyle. She is part-owner of lightingshoes.net, a dropshipping Shopify store selling light-up footwear for everyone, specializing in light-up yeezy inspired shoes. You can see an example of their adult shoes here.
Yuliya Raquel is the CEO and co-Founder of BootstrapFashion, and the Founder and former Fashion Designer and Creative Director of IGIGI by Yuliya Raquel brand founded in February 2000.
An award-winning fashion designer, accomplished creative director, brand and women’s fashion e-commerce expert with strong skills in fashion design, merchandising, visual brand and marketing, Yuliya has a passion to produce results.
Yuliya is an outspoken women’s empowerment activist and entrepreneur with the mission to transform the world’s view of beauty and to democratize the fashion industry. She is also a forward-thinking leader with a keen entrepreneurial background and an eye for identifying new and innovative opportunities for fashion and ecommerce businesses and providing insight and strategies to capitalize on them.
I had the privilege of discussing with Yuliya her thoughts and experiences in the fashion industry, being a woman in business, and her visions for her new business BootstrapFashion. Here is what Yuliya had to say!
Yuliya, you were very successful with your fashion label IGIGI. What compelled you to start BootstrapFashion, and what problems in the marketplace did you see that you wanted to solve?
There are several reasons I left IGIGI in 2013. I recently found myself a divorced, single mother of two and chose to use my new-found energy to propel my career to new opportunities where I could continue to do what I love yet make a bigger difference and positively impact the world. For me it’s a priority to be a positive role model for my children and to empower them.
I had recently found myself a divorced, single mother of two and chose to use my new-found energy to propel my career to new opportunities…
When I started IGIGI without any funding and manufacturing experience, I discovered that the process of running my own fashion business was extremely complex, expensive and simply said, grueling; there were no easy-to-use, affordable tools available.
For me it’s a priority to be a positive role model for my children and to empower them.
I realized that there could be thousands of designers out there with the ability, talent and skills to create fashion that would allow women to know themselves as beautiful and feel powerful and confident in the clothing that they wear. I dreamed of creating a social marketplace where anyone could simply design a custom dress or launch and operate a multimillion-dollar fashion business. It is then the idea of BootstrapFashion was born.
In BootstrapFashion I have used all my experiences to provide a solution to every obstacle and hurdle I had to personally overcome while running a fashion business.
Where did you get your inspiration for BootstrapFashion?
I spent over 20 years in the fashion industry, first as a custom dressmaker, Indie designer and later Head Designer of an international fashion company. I dreamed about finding easier, less expensive and faster ways to design a production-ready collection. Yet nothing of the kind was available. The variety of patternmaking CAD software that existed on the market were expensive and required specialized skills in both patternmaking and learning the workings of each CAD system, which took time.
The creative fashion design software for illustrations was also expensive, and conceptualizing, sketching and drawing a technical flat illustration for each style took hours and sometimes even days, greatly reducing productivity. It is from these experiences that I wanted to completely automate the design and product development processes.
My goal was to create online software where ANYONE – even people with no experience – will be able to create an original design, get a technical flat sketch, and a color/fabric rendered illustration with a custom-fit sewing pattern of that design, in less than 30 minutes – while actually enjoying the entire process!
Where do you see BootstrapFashion having the most impact?
I foresee the biggest impact will be with Indie designers and DIY sewers, who will be able to create unique designs and offer them for sale or make them for their own enjoyment, hassle free. However, there is also a huge opportunity to disrupt the larger fashion industry as well, allowing design companies faster delivery of their products.
What do you see as the biggest challenge of the future for the fashion industry?
I believe that the biggest challenge the fashion industry faces is it’s inability to quickly deliver fully customized fashion items, designed and made to consumers’ unique style preferences, their body shape and size, while providing superb quality at reasonable price and turning a healthy profit. Instead, there is a need to stock massive quantities of inventory that was produced based on the subjective point of view of merchandisers. Additionally, the time that it takes fashion companies to design and develop each item and then produce the inventory reduces their profits significantly, forcing them to make it up by using significantly cheaper fabrics and paying extremely low sewing costs.
How do you think that social media has impacted the fashion industry and how can designers leverage it effectively?
Social media has played an important role at taking the first steps at democratising the fashion industry and creating a two-way dialogue between consumers and fashion manufacturers. For the first time in history consumers have an opportunity to become fashion critics, expressing their desires, likes, and dislikes publicly through comments and blogging. Designers have an opportunity to leverage social media, to listen to the feedback from their targeted customers, as well as building relationships with fashion bloggers, who have become a force to be reckoned with influencing fashion trends, promoting brands and designers. This is one of the reasons we have developed a social platform in Bootstrap Fashion where designers can collaborate with fashion influencers, brand themselves, and even develop a following and a customer base before ever going to production.
What are your thoughts on sourcing and operating ethically and how do you see this is impacting the fashion industry?
I believe that ethical fashion production means combining sustainable textiles and fair trade manufacturing. Sadly, in my opinion, the fashion industry as a whole is challenged by this due to its struggles to recover exorbitant development costs, lengthy delivery timelines and inventory overproduction – while staying competitive! Thus companies are forced to use very inexpensive, low quality textiles and cut sewing costs, lowering the overall quality of the garment and paying minimal costs to the factories. This is one of the reasons we have also incorporated a service marketplace into BootstrapFashion, which we believe will lead to creation of over 2,000,000 home-based and small businesses, expanding local economies.
What are the biggest challenges you see that new designers face when starting their label and production line, and how best can they overcome these?
There are a few equally significant challenges that beginner designers face. They include solving design, development, sourcing, production and distribution, and the “I’ll do it all myself” or “I can’t afford to hire anyone to help me” mindset.
The way to overcome these obstacles is to streamline the entire process.
The way to overcome these obstacles is to streamline the entire process. It is important to have textiles available in a way that can be easily sourced and procured; to have access to service providers who can accommodate manufacturing of various volumes, whether it is one piece or one hundred thousand, in a fair but competitive pricing environment.
What would be your key pieces of advice for anyone wanting to start their own fashion business?
- Have patience and be ready to work long and intense hours
- Don’t take mistakes made by others personally
- Be open to reinventing yourself several times before you ‘make it’
- Know your target market
- Listen keenly to your customers
- Build a team, and give interns an opportunity if you are short on funds
- Think strategic, always streamline and do not get stuck in a single area
What do you love most about being in business?
I love building my own dream and future and having the ability to run with my visions and ideas, without having to go through tons of higher-ups deciding ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I also love seeing my vision becoming a reality and the kind of impact that it creates. Additionally, I love the flexibility of hours, being a mother of two. However, I sometimes do end up working 12-16 hours each day, sometimes until 3 am, so the working hours are long.
Who are your business mentors/role models and what do you find inspiring about them?
I love working with business mentors and find their input invaluable. Being a first-time CEO, I work with a coach and advisor, Gary Jinks of GLG Group, who helps me to develop myself as a leader of a high tech company. In addition we are starting to look for funding and I work with a seasoned fundraising coach, who is helping me to fine-tune my pitching and presentation skills.
Regarding my role models, Oprah Winfrey inspires me tremendously. Regardless of her early hardship, she was able to build an empire by revolutionizing television and positively inspiring viewers to transform their lives. I also have always admired Coco Chanel, who in her time was able to revolutionize fashion.
What has been your biggest challenge in running your own businesses so far, and how did you solve it?
Both of the business I started by bootstrapping, so having very limited resources yet taking on playing huge games has always been the biggest challenge.
What I find extremely helpful is having a ‘can do’ unstoppable mindset and instead of focusing on what is impossible to accomplish, my team and I look for what we can do to move us closer to our goal. Although we were told that a project like this would cost close to $1M dollars and require a very large team of people, the entire BootstrapFashion platform and the Design Center app were created by a team of three people!
If there were 2 people you could thank who have helped you get to where you are now who are they and why?
First is my co-founder and life partner, Don Straub, who has been a powerful stand for the creation and success of BootstrapFashion. Second is my family – my father, mother and sister, who have been standing by me, regardless how ‘crazy’ my dreams seemed to them. Their belief, honesty and acceptance of me have been an enormous blessing in my life.
Who is your favorite designer or fashion brand and why?
Aesthetically, I’ve always liked Ellie Saab and Valentino and some of my favorite brands include Nanette Lepore, Catherine Malandrino and Milly NY. However, I now prefer to have my clothing custom-made. The feeling of wearing something that fits me impeccably and hand crafted by a person who loves what they do is incredible – custom-made items have become my most favorite pieces in my wardrobe.
Finally, what’s next in your development and growth of Bootstrap Fashion?
BootstrapFashion will be launching an Indigogo campaign on February 1st to raise funds for additional design libraries and hosting servers. I invite readers of Leaders In Heels to support our effort to democratize and revolutionize the fashion industry!
You may say that, when I first started my online retail business, I had my work cut out for me. I do not have a retail background, I am not a technologist and I had no experience in importing goods. But I have a passionate belief in the digital economy, and I believe that the future of the world is in the online and digital space.
My fundamental driver was, and still is, that being online is really important.
I knew I wanted a business in clothing, I wanted it to be niche and I wanted the products to be produced in a way that supported humanitarian, ethical and cruelty-free lifestyles.
Since I began my business three years ago, the learning curve has been massive. Despite my first foray into manufacturing my own goods having more than its fair share of challenges, I now own an online retail business that has traction in the UK and US.
What I have found over the last three years is, among my fellow e-retailers, there is a willingness to offer support. A quick Google search reveals loads of ‘how to’ guides on virtually everything and friendly words abound in forum chat rooms.
Below are my top five tips for burgeoning e-retailers, a way of extending my virtual helping hand to those launching their own online dream.
1. Sell something you are passionate about
Sounds logical, doesn’t it? For me, I love a really good jacket. Feedback at the time, which also aligned with my key business principle to be “niche”, was to look for an alternative to a leather jacket. I am a vegetarian, and so the idea of selling a product that was underpinned by humanitarian ideals and was cruelty free was very attractive.
Once you find something, road test and road test again with friends – really anybody – that is willing to be blunt and speak their mind. When you do decide on “the one”, the next step if you are importing the good, is make sure you have contractual arrangements with suppliers in place to ensure the quality of your order will be the same as the sample. Get their commitment in writing.
2. Know your limitations
I think if you don’t necessarily have a background that you can draw upon, you should get some advice. Not being a technology expert, I outsourced the development of my website. Networking is key to finding people you can trust. I use contacts that I am comfortable with as much as possible.
Once you find something, road test and road test again with friends – really anybody – that is willing to be blunt and speak their mind
3. Educate yourself
I have a background as a lawyer, so I am pretty good at dissecting facts and looking for outcomes. However, I felt completely naked! I had to keep making ‘to do’ lists of what I didn’t know. As I mentioned, there is a wealth of information on the Internet; it is pretty easy to find a “how to” article on just about everything. Don’t go overboard though and sign up for every newsletter you find during your hunt – your inbox will start to groan! Often you don’t need to pay dollars for the knowledge, there is just so much free information out there on the web.
My overall objective from the outset was that I did not necessary want to remain hands on – forever. Even though I am not as familiar with things such as digital marketing concepts and apps, I need to learn the substantive part of it, so when I do engage people to do it, I know what I’m asking them to do. For example, as my products appeal to a large demographic – including those younger than me – I have contracted out the marketing and social media side of things. The messaging needs to be contemporary and I am happy to let people that know what they are doing handle this side of things.
4. Think big
When you start your business, you need to have vision. Not just how it is going to grow locally, but internationally as well. Legal issues around setting up a business should not be ignored. Apply for a business name, register the company, get corporate tax file number (ABN), find a good accountant and buy an accounting package.
But the big one that most people don’t think about is look after your intellectual property. Apply for a trademark over your logo.
Contracts are important. Don’t move a muscle until you have a contract with your supplier. I didn’t have a tight contract with my first supplier and as a consequence found the styling of my wallet was being replicated – and sold – with the supplier’s own fabric around it.
In my experience, it is also a mistake to underestimate the benefits of a physical outlet for your product – a bricks and mortar vehicle. Nothing beats the ability to touch and feel your product.
My overall objective from the outset was that I did not necessary want to remain hands on – forever
5. Respect social media
You hardly need a Trade Practices Act to keep retailers and manufacturers honest when you have social media. Be honest in how you describe your product, the quality and the images that portray it. If you get these two wrong, your business can be destroyed overnight by social media postings. Make sure everything you put out there is open to scrutiny and you are fully accountable because customers are going to call you on everything – so you have to be prepared!
Anne Hurley is the Founder and CEO of James&Co, an online boutique selling designer faux leather jackets and accessories. Anne established James&Co in 2012 with a strong humanitarian philosophy, supporting cruelty-free fashion and directing a percentage of profits to mental health initiatives for young people. James & Co’s products are made without leather, fur, wool or silk and are accredited by Peta to carry the ‘Peta-approved Vegan’ logo. Under Anne’s leadership, the business has expanded into international markets, and is now selling with great success into Australia, the US and the UK.