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Customer Spotlight – amiastri

by MelissaM on April 1, 2010

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Lessons Learned in Starting an Online Store

Mompreneur, Mia Vallo

Mompreneur, Mia Vallo

Mia Vallo is a mompreneur who began thinking about starting her own store in 2009 and finally launched an online baby boutique, called ámiástri, later that same year.

Since she opened the store quickly, she had to learn many things on the go. Mia shares with us some of the things she learned in starting her own online store. When you’re done reading, tell us some of your own lessons learned.

Get your budget in order
Since I’m using my personal savings, I set aside a budget for my first year of business to account for marketing, operations, supplies and inventory. I got a small business credit card to keep my expenses separated from my personal expenses. I also invested in QuickBooks to manage my expenses. If you don’t want to pay for an accounting software, you can simply use a spreadsheet to track your expenses.

Stock your inventory as needed
Unless you already have a brick and mortar store and you already know what your best-selling items are, or you have a large investment, watch your inventory carefully. Stick with your inventory budget and don’t get carried away with having too much inventory in the beginning. Watch your sales to see which items are popular and stock up on those popular items. What I thought was going to sell out is completely different than what I had envisioned in the beginning. Another option is to look for drop shipping companies, where you only pay for the item when you sell it. If you choose to do drop shipping, take into account the drop ship fee (normally a few dollars per item), shipping charges, how long it takes them to process your order and if they do blind drop shipping, where your company name will be included in the shipment instead of the drop shipping company name.

Try out several marketing channels
Every business is different. If your store is brand new, try out several marketing channels to see which ones work for you. Don’t put your entire marketing budget into one marketing channel just because that channel has worked for your friend’s store. Start with small investments for your tests until you find the right mix for your channel. Some great channels to start marketing your online store are paid search, shopping search engines and if you have a niche offer, find niche websites and blogs to promote your products.

Secure your shopping cart
A must in having an online store is a secured shopping cart. Customers need that reassurance that the credit card number that they enter on your site is going through a secured site. Show a security seal on your website in addition to actually having an SSL certificate for your shopping cart. There are several companies that offer SSL certificates; pick one based on your budget and your needs. Some even bundle the SSL certificates with other security-related seals, such as privacy seals.

Shop at your own store
Having your online store as your home page when you open your web browser is not enough. On a regular basis, go through your store as if you were a customer so you can see if there are any issues with your store, whether it’s related to products, content and shopping cart. Ask for feedback from your friends and family; bonus if they’re in your target market.

On that topic, Mia would love feedback on her new store. Please leave a comment on your suggestions for ámiástri.

(source:  www.amiastri.com 04/01/10)

(source: www.amiastri.com 04/01/10)

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    • http://www.YellowBearShop.com Julie Wabrun

      Hi Mia,
      I am also a mompreneur. My online kids store, YellowBearShop.com, has been in business since 2007 and like you I have learned along the way. I work with a lot of dropshippers so I don’t need to worry about shipping my products. It does affect my profit margin but allows me more time to work on SEO and adding more products. With this down economy I have found some of my manufacturers have closed or stopped dropshipping. I have also had some ceasing to respond to my orders or not fulfilling my orders. I threw them to the curb. Mess with one of my customers and you are done. It’s tragic as setting up a manufacturer’s products in a webstore is very time consuming as you know. My advice for you is to add the fabric content and care instructions for your clothing. Parents will want to know this. Also, my customers want to know the manufacturer and I don’t see this in all of your product descriptions. If you are the manufacturer, shout it out! There is a TON of competition in online kids stores so we are in this together. Glad you found your niche.
      Sincerely,
      Momma Bear

    • http://www.amiastri.com Mia V

      Hi Julie,

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I will definitely implement your recommendations.

      Best,
      Mia