3 Successful Shop Owners Share How They Brought Their Business Online

And how it changed everything.

When it comes to running a business, there are a LOT of decisions to be made. You’ll choose team members, branding materials, colors, patterns, textures — all kinds of things both big and small. For many business owners, one of these decisions is whether or not to take your business online — and if you do, how exactly should you do it?

While this is a big decision, it doesn’t have to be a hard one — here, five successful women behind three amazing companies are sharing the details on how they brought their own hard-earned businesses online — and how Squarespace helped them do it! (One of them was even just named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for 2018! Read on to learn more about Anna Polonsky’s inspiring work!!).

 

Use the coupon code “EVERYGIRL18” for 10% off your first Squarespace purchase.

 

 

Bridget Borden & Kate Arends, Co-Owners of   Studio 125

 

Tell us a little bit about your company.

 

B: Studio 125 is a collaborative event space in Minneapolis — we offer 6,000 square feet of bright, airy, styled studio space for hosted events, photo and video shoots, and speaking engagements. The space is incredibly versatile — featuring two kitchens, large south-facing windows, and furniture vignettes throughout the space. In the past year, the Studio (as it’s lovingly referred to) has hosted so much — weddings, fashion shows, retail pop-ups,  yoga classes, photo shoots, and more! We’re always happy when clients say they felt welcomed enough to curl up on the couch and make themselves at home.

 

Tell us about the early days of your company — how and when did you get started?

 

B: Kate and I started Studio 125 after Kate’s company, Wit & Delight, opened a smaller studio space in 2016. Right after opening the smaller space, which was meant to be purely used as office and studio space for Wit & Delight, we had an influx of interest from clients looking to use the space for their own photo shoots and events. Serendipitously, the space next door to the small studio space in the building was still available — so within a week, we had signed a new lease, and began our expansion designs. Two months later, we knocked down the wall between the spaces and Studio 125 officially opened in July of 2017.

Kate: I never imagined there would be a demand for a studio like ours. It’s been exciting to have enough space to explore our passions for interior design and hosting guests. We love seeing how our clients make the space their own with our large collection of styling props, vintage rugs, and furniture.

 

 

What lessons did you learn as a first-time business owner?

 

B: Everything takes time — I have learned a lot about having patience with the process of growing a business. We’ve learned to take partners in fields outside of our expertise and acknowledge what we don’t know. Truly, the moment we think we have it all figured out, a new challenge or opportunity seems to present itself. We are constantly in a state of learning and growing, which can be exhausting, but we’ve learned to take a step back when needed and to try to enjoy the growth process.

K: I’ve truly learned that there is very little we can control in life. Even with best laid plans, you have to be prepared and ready to adapt. That means having the energy and grit to roll with the punches.

 

What made you want to take your business online?

 

B: A huge part of our business is client interaction and ensuring that each client feels welcome and at home in our space. Many clients aren’t able to come in and see the space prior to booking, so first and foremost, we wanted to have a space to showcase imagery and information about the studio. Allowing clients to explore the space at their leisure through our website and social media channels was an incredibly important factor for growth.

K: Because I’d built Wit & Delight in the online space, it felt natural to have a presence outside of our local market. We hope that out-of-town guests, businesses, and even WD readers keep us top of mind when they come to Minneapolis!

 

 

Tell us about the process of taking your business online.

 

B: As we were opening Studio 125, we knew that showcasing the space online with beautiful imagery and key pieces of information about the space would be important to establish ourselves. Aligning the design of the space and the design of the website was very important to us — that all being said, Studio 125 is self-funded by Kate and I, so we didn’t have a large budget at all to take our business online. Squarespace immediately came to mind as a platform to incorporate our design needs, imagery, and information, but fit within our budget.

 

Why would you recommend that other new small business owners take their own businesses online?

 

B: I would recommend taking time before building your presence online to establish the purpose of your business online — is it to gain clients, communicate information, showcase your work, or a combination of things? Understanding the goals of your online presence prior to building a site or a social following will allow for you to make better decisions, prioritize content, and clearly communicate what you are offering to potential clients.

K: Be prepared for your goals to change as you grow. While we started our site with the goal of communicating information about Studio 125, we are now finding that it would be incredibly useful for our site to allow for clients to book the space on their own. The ability to react quickly to changes in the business, with ease of implementation on our site, has been so helpful for us in the last year.

 

 

What’s your favorite feature of your Squarespace site?

 

B: Aligning the Studio 125 aesthetic in-studio and online is a priority for us — Squarespace made that possible by being incredibly user-friendly. Kate and myself are by no means experts in website building, coding, or really anything of the sort. Frankly, building a site felt like a scary mountain to climb as we were starting the business. The ability to showcase imagery of our space in such a beautiful way has to be my favorite part of the site. We can also easily change out the images as we make changes to the space — it’s just as important to keep the site fresh, as it is the space.

K: I remember vividly when there were no templates or services like Squarespace. We had a website up and running in no time, and with a background in graphic design, I loved that I could totally hand off the process of building the website and know I’d be happy with the overall look of the site itself. Having more time for the strategic aspects of the business is everything when running a small company!

 

What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?

 

B: From the moment you decide to start a business on your own, the process of building and managing can be all-consuming. You’re going to work incredibly hard, and there are going to be moments (perhaps lots of them!) where you question everything. Continue to go back to why you started the business and what drove you to that decision — when things get hard, remembering how far you’ve come and how much you have left to achieve can be a catalyst for moving forward. Remember that while your business can feel like your whole life, it is, in fact, just a portion of your life. Take time for yourself, your family, and friends, and enjoy the process of building and creating.

K: Don’t be afraid to take a leap before you are ready. Running a company is hard work no matter how prepared you are, and I know so many people who said if they didn’t just GO FOR IT, they never would have had the opportunities that came their way. Companies like Squarespace have made it so easy and affordable to just test out an opportunity or target market, from landing pages to email acquisition — you no longer have to invest a ton of money into your dream business and hope your customers will come. You’ve got to learn to trust your head and your heart as an entrepreneur.

 

 

 

Lora Appleton, Founder of   The Female Design Council (FDC)

 

Tell us a little bit about your company.

 

The FDC started shortly after the 2016 election, and was established as a direct response to the current political administration. It is a NYC-based professional membership organization which provides design career support, guidance, and mentorship, while fostering dialogue and spurring action on the issues women face in our industry.

The FDC engages a powerful and connected community of successful and emerging designers and design-related professionals. This member-driven organization provides curated networking, educational opportunities, and access to employment information fostering prosperity.

Our members consist of Industrial and Product Designers, Ceramicists, Furniture Makers, Architects, Jewelry Designers, Painters, Design and Interiors Photographers, Stylists, Textile Designers, Art Advisors, Design Communicators (& PR), Curators, Gallerists, Design Writers, Interior Designers, Design Students, and others who work as design professionals. Our public FDC members list will give you an idea of our community!

 

 

Tell us about the early days of your company — how and when did you get started?

 

The FDC began directly after the 2016 election. It was a response to the need for more inclusion and respect for women — specifically in design. We spent the first year hosting causal meet-ups to gather the needs of the community and find the best way to support them. Since then we’ve grown to be a strong community of many talented women across all facets of the design landscape — from product designers to interior designers, and much more.

 

What lessons did you learn as a first-time business owner?

 

First, stay true to your vision. I have always created ‘different’ types of companies and business models, and that scares people. As an entrepreneur I think we must take risks and ignore the negative nellies. I also think you must really hire your weakness — it’s important that you fill in with employees that are better than you at their craft or expertise. There are so many more lessons — as a business owner, every day is a lesson!

 

What made you want to take your business online?

 

I don’t believe business can effectively exist without an online component. Over the years what that looks like online has changed, but non-digital is not an option.

 

 

Tell us about the process of taking your business online.

 

With the Female Design Council, we knew we needed an easy site — something that could look great, clean, and function super well. Naturally, we knew we’d go to Squarespace. I use Squarespace for all of my businesses and vanity projects.

 

Why would you recommend that other new small business owners take their own businesses online?

 

You should take your business online for SO many reasons:

  • Reach new customers
  • Have an immediate validity for clients
  • Be able to effectively and beautifully hone your vision for your company, products, lifestyle, etc.

 

 

What’s your favorite feature of your Squarespace site?

 

That you can go to your site, press ESC, and go straight into edit mode. It makes my life so easy, as I do a ton of edits on an ongoing basis!

 

What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?

 

Be original, be fearless, take risks, and be authentic. If you are true to your vision or your creativity, then your customers and audience will know and get behind your vision.

 

 

 

Amy Morris & Anna Polonksy, Co-Founders of   The MP Shift

 

Tell us a little bit about your company.

 

The MP Shift is a 360 creative agency for hospitality. We work on branding, interiors, and marketing with a dynamic mix of renowned chefs, restaurateurs, real estate developers, and hoteliers around the world.

We provide a holistic approach to concepts by first defining our clients’ brands using our MP approach, and then incorporating its elements into the messaging, visual identity, interior design, and launch strategy.

We were awarded the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design earlier this year, were recently featured in the New York Times as “The Women Responsible for the Look of Your Next All-Day Café,” and were previously included in Bon Appetit’s national Best New Restaurant Design Top 5. The Huffington Post says we’ve created a new paradigm for hospitality.

 

Tell us about the early days of your company — how and when did you get started?

 

We met 10 years ago through common friends in Europe when Anna moved to NY. The business partnership was unexpected. but it has felt like a natural evolution.

Amy was providing marketing strategy and creative direction for major companies such as Condé Nast, Richard Branson, and 1stDibs while growing her residential design business in New York. Anna was in charge of Le Fooding in the U.S., a notoriously disruptive food media and consulting agency working with international chefs and sponsors.

We had both had one leg in design/art direction and one leg in strategy for most of our careers, so individually, we always brought a holistic approach to building brands

As we were both starting to consult for restaurants on our own, we found that when you ask a restaurant owner to tell you about their brand or concept, it’s usually just a spark — latin food, wine spot, etc. — that’s rarely fully formed. We realized no agency was offering help from A to Z in the hospitality world. In line with our holistic way of thinking, The MP Shift, was built out of a desire to offer the equivalent of a Creative Artist Agency for hospitality. We see our clients as partners and aim to take the anxiety out of the process and help them articulate their vision from concept to launch.

 

 

What lessons have you learned as business owners?

 

  • Be clear about who you are and what you stand for as a business. This is what we tell all of our hospitality clients — business owners should take the time to thoroughly think about their positioning. How would one describe their offer in one line? What is the company’s mission? What are the values? Who is the dream customer? What does one want the public and press to say when completing a project? All of this informs your communication, work ethic, and the type of projects you should decide to focus on. It’ll save you a lot of time and confusion among your staff or clientele.

 

  • Stick with your beliefs. As a business owner, when you start, you want to please everyone and are more easily flexible on the method, timeline, and approach. Every time we’ve accepted to be stirred away from our processes, we’ve failed. Learn to be flexible and put ego aside when it’s about receiving feedback from client, but also stand for what you believe makes sense and voice out what you think won’t work.

 

  • Follow your gut about people. The perks of growing is that you can choose who to work for. We have a specific approach and scope; we’re not for everyone and not everyone is for us. If you’re not so warm on how a potential client treats its staff or communicates with yours, don’t push it, just move on — it’ll probably get worse as you start collaborating.

 

 

What made you want to take your business online?

 

While our services can’t be sold online (design, branding — it’s all physical), being able to show our portfolio online is everything. We work on so many projects at a time that we sometimes forget to let the world know. Having one place to clearly show everything we’ve been working on, what the intent and approach were, the different services we offer, and what the press says about it is major. It’s surprising how many creative people don’t spend time updating their website — this is a priority to us and brings a lot of new business to our company.

 

 

Tell us about the process of taking your business online.

 

The initial set-up was straight-forward, and because Squarespace has a great CMS, we’re able to update our portfolio and press weekly. Everyone in our office has access to the CMS — it’s that easy.

 

What’s your favorite feature of your Squarespace site?

 

The galleries, especially the one for our home page. It’s so easy to update to showcase new work. The newsletter box option is also really convenient, making it really easy to build a database.

 

 

Don’t forget to use the coupon code EVERYGIRL18 for 10% off your first Squarespace purchase!

 

 

This post was in partnership with Squarespace, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.

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