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A First Hand Guide to Launching a Business During a Pandemic! Lessons and Learnings

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Back in February 2020 we were on the verge of the biggest shake up to the economy since Brexit!  We, like many were hopeful that it would all pass and by summer it would all be a distant memory.  How wrong we were.

The signs were there as early as January 2020 that businesses, small and large would be impacted by this new and highly contagious virus and it was then that the idea of an online enterprise might be something that could work and keep us in business.  We had the warehouse and we had the staff and expertise and we were already packing and shipping products for other people so I thought, “why not find a product or service of my own that I can sell”?  But what to do? 

I’d been looking online for gifts for Christmas and for a few engagements and weddings that were coming up and I couldn’t find anything that was “a bit different”.  Yes, I could get the mugs and a lot of what was available was personalised which was lovely but there were too many people offering the same thing.  I wanted good quality branded products and as a busy grandma, mum and business owner wanted someone else to come up with some ideas.  Eureka!!  I couldn’t possibly be on my own?  So ooh-box was born.

The idea was the big decision but now we had to BRING IT TO LIFE.   The trick is to find a good partner to help with branding and developing the website and don’t forget the marketing.  The internet is a big place and it’s easier to go un-noticed than it is to hit the ground running.  Without vast sums of marketing budget it’s a slow process, so make sure you have the funds to sustain yourself until your sales start to come through.  Shopify says you need around 1300 shop visits to get your first 10 sales and this might take quite a while.  In my experience I wouldn’t expect very much in the first few months.  I would strongly recommend finding a good photographer if you don’t have the skills.  We all know that first impressions count and if your images are fuzzy, dark and look amateurish, all your other efforts will be in vain.  This applies to your packaging too.  If you have a sleek website the packaging has to match.  Don’t skimp, the customer wants an experience, so even if you’re packaging is eco and minimalist, make sure it’s great quality and carries your message – Bloom and Wild are a great example of this.

So, you have the idea, you’ve decided on branding and you’ve found a web developer and have invested in an online shop (we chose Shopify as it is so easy to use and develop, but there are lots available).  You have stock in the spare room or garage and your images are coming together. Now you need to let people know you’re there.

Part of the marketing mix is social media.  This is something that I have a limited knowledge of so have partnered up with an expert.  This has been invaluable and ooh-box is seeing a steady organic increase in followers and likes across Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, but it needs more, social is not enough to drive sales.  You’ll also need to invest time and effort getting your SEO optimisation just right.  These are particular words and phrases that appear in your website that match what your potential customers are searching for.  The world of digital marketing is full of jargon and it will take time and effort and some financial investment.  Whether this is paid social marketing or pay per click, do expect to lay out some of your budget to get the ball rolling and set aside some for monthly management.

It’s easy in the early days to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing.  You’ve laid out a lot of money and the sales still aren’t coming.  Be patient, if you are confident that your brand is right and the offering is good, stick with it, know your target market and make sure you are being seen.  A business that changes too often will not get any traction. It takes time and effort and I’m afraid to say….money.

We are in the early days and are developing our marketing strategy so hopefully in 6 months-time I will be able to tell you more about our experience and that sales are on the up. 

Good luck with your new venture, and watch this space, and of course if you are looking for beautiful, hand picked luxury gift boxes you know where to come.

Julie