Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
Devon Maryn is an activewear brand that offers feminine, preppy, chic workout clothing for women.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
For about a year prior to launching Devon Maryn, I worked to build our presence on social media and gain followers in our target audience. I shared in-process product designs, asked for opinions, and even ran contests for people to name the products. This all contributed to an engaged fanbase who were ready to buy by the time we had inventory to sell in August 2014.
Our most active social network is Instagram, though we have a solid following on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, with a high amount of our referral traffic coming from Facebook.
We also worked with fashion bloggers and leveraged their readership and social channels to get our products to an engaged audience. Our best channel for selling is our Shopify website, and we've recently started selling on Amazon as well. We also work with a variety of stores, boutiques, and fitness studios to grow our retail presence.
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?
The tools I use most frequently are the Order Printer app, which gives me "pretty" invoices, and MailChimp, for my email marketing.
Right now I'm considering a couple of apps that encourage customer referrals, as well as adding an app for user reviews, and also the Stitch Labs app to help manage my inventory across other platforms (like Amazon) and to handle wholesale/store orders and invoicing.
I also use Quickbooks to manage my accounting. Currently I am handling shipping & fulfillment on my own, but I've had experience with fulfillment before and will be offloading this to a third party shipper before too long.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
I always tell new store owners and entrepreneurs not to make things more difficult than they need to be! This really means you should outsource as much as possible to experts.
Ten years ago, I ran another business, and things were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are now. There was no Shopify, no apps to help run the business. Everything we did was time-intensive, expensive, and painful to implement, with many costly mistakes made. The amount of money we spent on IT experts and agencies that didn't understand our vision is horrifying to me now!
Today, being able to utilize Shopify's platform and their many tools is a massive improvement in running a business. All the things I never understood, like coding, is now off of my plate, and in a very easy-to-understand and editable way. I interviewed several "Shopify Experts" and picked one that has been an absolute godsend for me - and inexpensive to boot.
Another example of smart outsourcing was logo design - instead of working with an expensive agency and getting only a few options, I worked with 99 Designs (99designs.com) and got hundreds of freelance graphic designers to submit logo ideas, all for an inexpensive price. There have been so many innovations within just the last 10 years to help entrepreneurs run their businesses more efficiently.
The other major advice I have for other store owners is to really focus on press and marketing to get your products out there. No one can find your store on their own. You must work with influencers, bloggers, editors, reviewers, etc. to get a steady stream of referral traffic to your site. Word of mouth spreads best and fastest this way, and each influencer gives a different perspective on what makes your product unique and different. This kind of marketing takes time (and you must be prepared to offer free samples), but is invaluable in the long run in getting you started.