Most businesses start a blog after they launch, to promote their products and service, and engage with their target audience.
Erika Holt of Eclectic Enchantments has done it the other way around. What started off as a blog for her to write about her passion (jewellery) has gradually turned into a business, as more and more of her readers requested handmade pieces from her.
In the latest of our Startup Stories, I caught up with Erika to talk about her journey from blogger to businesswoman.
Q) Can you tell us how the business got started, where did the idea come from?
A) I was forced to give up work through ill health some years ago and was terribly bored being housebound. It was suggested to me that as I have a love of making things, I should try jewellery making.
So, I gave it a go and quickly became hooked. I only made for me and my mum though.
Then, I decided to give myself a make over to build my confidence and help me see more of life than just my illness, which lead onto me starting my own blog, another of my passions being writing.
From there people started to comment on the jewellery I had made and started to ask me if I sold it. Eventually I was encouraged about a month ago to take the plunge and open an online shop.
Q) What does your team look like?
A) My team is just me!
Q) How have you funded the business?
A) With my own money. It didn’t cost me too much to move from a hobby to business. I already had a website for my blog by the time my business started, so my outlay was relatively small.
Q) How did you get from idea to product, was there much project management involved?
A) I try my best to record new ideas in my sketch book, making noted about specific gemstones, crystals, metals I want to work with, then I make my first attempt. Sometimes it comes out great and others I end up reevaluating the process I was using.
Every so often though, mistakes lead to fantastic new ideas!
Q) How much competition is there in your space? How do you stand out?
A) There is a tremendous amount of competition for jewellery based businesses, from small businesses like mine, to larger industrial made jewellery businesses. I feel that I stand out from the crowd as my jewellery is completely unique. I handcraft everything and no two pieces are the same. I use natural gemstones and a lot of my work is wire based, this means my work is very free form and different to what you might find on the high street. I take enormous pride in my jewellery and like to make sure that everything is just right.
Q) What does your typical customer look like?
A) My typical customer is really hard to pin down. With jewellery being such a universal accessory and my pieces being as unique as the people who buy them, it would be wrong to say any one type of person would be drawn to my work.
Q) What have been your major hurdles when starting up, how have you overcome them?
A) My illness is definitely the biggest hurdle. I don’t know from one day to the next how I will feel, so I have found I need to try and plan ahead, having stock in place and any relevant promotional work done and ready for those days where I can’t do anything.
Confidence is another big road bump. I have suffered terribly with a lack of it and realised I need to believe more in myself. I think that a crisis of confidence is most likely quite normal, but when you are working alone, you have to rely on yourself to keep up morale. Luckily I have a wonderful network of family and friends that support and encourage me, however the biggest confidence boost has been feedback from my customers.
Q) Are there any services or tools that you can recommend for startups who need help with getting stuff done?
A) Have a system in place before you start, plan out every little detail. I spent months before even setting the business up, planning and organising how I would make it work. What filing system would I use? How would I promote it? What are my legal obligations? Do I need insurance, to pay tax, register to VAT? I asked myself as many questions as I could and answered them.
As to services, if you are starting an online business, find a good webhost, someone you can contact at the drop of a hat, that knows about the type of site you want to have and could help with any problems that might arise. Mine have been invaluable.
Q) What customer recruitment channels are you using, and which are the most effective in terms of conversion?
A) I think first and foremost my blog has provided me with the greatest way to connect to people who are interested in my jewellery. The next most effective way has to be Twitter. It seems that everyone is using Twitter now and it is such a simple way to connect with people, in a concise and articulate way.
Q) What are your long-term plans for the business?
A) My long term plans are to connect with more people and introduce them to my jewellery. I have been told that when I am working I have a smile on my face, so long as I can keep doing that, I will be happy.