Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
We travelled on a short trip to India in January 2015. While there with other English and European tourists, I began to notice something. All of the girls were dying to find 'henna' and get it done, and get the photo shared out to all of their friends. Eventually, they found it, and got it. It cost next to nothing. The locals were eager to sell us more to take home and share with our friends. We started doing some research on the way home, to find that although there are a few henna stores around the world, and although there are some large ones, no one had offered henna in an attractive and simple way to the first time users. And more over, there was lots of 'dangerous' henna on the market, full with chemicals and additives.
We wanted to provide henna from a cool, and attractive brand that promoted natural and safe ingredients. And so far, we have! As our product is a 'kit', we use around 9 different suppliers from all around the world (India, Pakistan, China and Australia). We order all the separate components to here on the Gold Coast, and have employed a local charity who employ disabled and disadvantaged people to help with the manufacturing. We now work closely with the charity, and try to help them grow as we do. The atmosphere and enthusiasm around their factory is extremely uplifting. We have never regretted working with them, despite it potentially being half the price to outsource the jobs offshore.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Instagram was crucial for us. We began our account months before launch, and used a lot of tactics to gain over 5,000 followers before even revealing what we were selling. We also bootstrapped and used every contact and acquaintance we had! From popular friends, to famous friends of friends. Any mention or reference from anyone in any market helped, so we pulled favours from everywhere possible. Instagram is still the main seller for us. We also constantly send short briefs to bloggers and journalists hoping to get mentions, which does sometimes happen, and results in large surges of sales!
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?
Google Analytics has been extremely important for us. It has helped us work out what pages people are actually visiting on our site, and therefore what pages might be able to be deleted to avoid it being too cluttered. It has also helped us to really define our target market. Additionally, setting up our accounting with an online cloud program has saved a huge amount of time. We spent too long with long, fidgety Excel spreadsheets, and by simplifying that, we have freed up so much time for doing what we need to - growing the company! We looked into multiple shipping and fulfillment companies, but due to the initial low price of our main product, the fee seemed to impact the profit margin to heavily. We have therefore found a way to handle the shipping and postage ourself without too much time. By using label printers, apps, and keeping to a tight and consistent schedule, the shipping can be done with a breeze! Also keeping on good terms with the post office staff is always a plus. We do aim to use a fulfillment company to handle all physical labour at some point, however we are holding off doing so until our sales volume can justify it. It also helps us keep full control on the look of our packaging, and any special notes or messages to specific buyers which can really make a huge difference with customer loyalty!
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Dont give up. We have come across numerous barriers where each time, we thought it was all over. From legal issues, to postage restrictions, to financials difficulties and personal struggles, we have had it. The key is to always look at the things you have already overcome, and keep pushing on. Think about the 'imagine if' final goals. There is always a way, don't accept 'no' for an answer.