Small Business WebsiteWheatbelt Beads

Online Bead Store

Sheree Lowe loves making beaded jewellery.  There are a lot of beaders in her home town and they have no choice but to go online to buy their stock – but the current websites that are out there are not as good as they could be. Very successful Australian bricks and mortar bead shops time and time again have poor websites – ie, they’re not user friendly, they’re not intuitive, they don’t look modern, the photography is not enticing – and given Sheree’s experience as a freelance digital marketing consultant/trainer, she felt she could fill a gap.

Q. Describe your business and products/services you offer

I have an online bead shop. I’m based in a remote country town in Western Australia with a population that couldn’t possibly support a bricks and mortar store.

Q. How long have you been in business?

A month – I launched on January 1st , 2014. I realise that isn’t very long, but I have had immediate success with it – I made my first sales (from all around Australia, not locally) the first weekend after the website launched, and already have repeat customers. I have been a social media trainer and consultant for the last 5 years, and I have had clients who “tried social media and it doesn’t work” (because they haven’t done it properly). I’ve met other people who won’t try it because they feel it will take too long and too much effort. In a lot of cases people won’t have immediate success with social media, and certainly the more you give to it and the stronger the relationships you build over time the more success you will have – but I feel I’m a good example of how understanding how “online” works, putting a good strategy together and then putting proper effort into implementing it can have positive results very quickly.

Q.  How many hours a week do you work in your business?

I still have a full-time job while I get the bead shop off the ground. I spend maybe 20 hours a week on it in the evenings and weekends.

Q. What kind of online and offline marketing do you do and which is working for you?

I have a website (with a blog), a Facebook page, a Pinterest page. I will be advertising in a national beading magazine too, but my first ad won’t come out until March, so I can’t tell how that is.

My website is where people buy my stuff, but Facebook is where I keep my potential customers until they make the decision to buy. Facebook is like a holding pen for future customers, so as long as you keep them interested and entertained, they will sit there and let you parade your products to them until they see one they like, then they pop over to the website to buy. But it’s a holding pen they can leave at any time, so it’s important to be interesting!

Pinterest is where I collect examples of what other people have done – which my customers use as inspiration for their own projects (which they then need to come to me to buy the components to make)

My blog gives them different ideas on how they can use the components I sell. Ie, I might stock specialist products that not everyone knows how to use, so I use my blog to educate people to use what I sell.

They have all been successful, and were all built in to my original strategy – but I can categorically say that I wouldn’t have had a single sale yet if it weren’t for Facebook.

Q. What mistakes have you made in running your business and what lessons have you learnt from those?

I haven’t really made any yet – but as a social media trainer, I watched a lot of other people make their own mistakes, and I learned from those!  The most important lesson is that you can’t cut corners. If you’re trying to sell online you’re battling against eBay and other cut-price sellers – so if you’re not trying to be the cheapest you need to give really high quality of service, make your customers feel very happy and special in your little online domain. So, no automated blanket updates, respond to or acknowledge all communication with you via Facebook or any other online tool. Show the customer how well you know them and how much you respect them and want them to stay with you.

Q. How has your website helped you run your business?

I wouldn’t be in business without it. I can’t afford to open a bricks and mortar store, and there isn’t the population to sustain it where I live anyway.

Q. What obstacles or challenges are you facing at the moment?

Space! I’ve commandeered the family caravan as a stock storage and display area. I’d love to have a bricks and mortar store to be able to store and display everything beautifully – but that may come down the line as the website becomes more successful.

For more information, visit the Wheatbelt Beads website.

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