4 Successful Shop Owners Share How They Brought Their Business Online (and How It Changed Everything)

When it comes to starting a business, there are a LOT of decisions to be made — small decisions and big decisions can become synonymous, and it’s definitely difficult to prioritize all the hats you have to wear.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make is how you want to present your company to the world. Back in the day, the only option for a small business was to open some kind of brick-and-mortar storefront — and the only ways to brand oneself were through word-of-mouth and physical advertising. These days, though, there are SO many more options — more and more businesses are built online and in-person, and it’s hard to know when to take your business online, when to open a physical location, and when to know you’re ready for both.

When it comes to taking your business online (no matter what kind of business you have or are dreaming of) and building a website, look no further than Squarespace. With beautiful, fully customizable templates, amazing step-by-step assistance and help, and a world full of opportunities for growth and expansion, Squarespace is the perfect jumping-off point to launch you into online success.

I talked to four different incredible business owners about what it’s like to have a business presence both online and in person (and to make a website!) — and how to take your OWN business idea online and into the world of e-commerce (with some amazing website design to boot). These women successfully navigate the world of small business ownership — and they’ve got some serious wisdom to share.

 

 

Abigail Lozares Oh, Founder & Creative Director of Gravity LA

 

Tell us a little about your business.

 

Gravity LA is a lifestyle graphic tee line based out of Los Angeles that supports missionaries as well as charities close to our hearts. We design super soft tees, stamped with our personality and humor based off of what’s relevant. We aim to make the world a better place with each tee we sell.

 

Tell us about the process of starting your business. What lessons did you learn as a first-time business owner?

 

I started this business with my now husband on our very first date! We were having a beer at TGIFriday’s and he suddenly, shyly sprung up with the idea of starting a tee line to support missionaries and bring change to the world. With my background in fashion design, working for major companies such as The North Face, True Religion, and Target, and him having a background in management and business, it was the perfect team. I’ve taken on the role of everything creative, including designing the tees and graphics, as well as social media, while my husband takes over all the business (not so fun in my opinion) stuff, and it’s been one hell of a ride since then!

As for lessons, I think one of the biggest takeaways that I can share from our years of doing tees is the importance of trial and error. I can mention countless times that we’ve just tried and tried and failed or succeeded. Struggles to figure out our market, figure out what’s on trend, what our customer is buying were just a handful of the trials that we’ve faced. But we definitely wouldn’t be where we are now without going through that journey. Also, what’s so awesome is that it doesn’t stop there. it’s a constant, “You think you’ve got it all figured it out, but you don’t.” You’re always learning, always growing, always striving, and to me, that’s what makes everything so worth it.

 

What made you want to take your business online?

 

From our experience with doing countless craft fairs, opening up a brick and mortar, and my experience in the industry for the past years, we noticed a definite decline in retail. The consumer and times are changing and everyone’s going towards what is the most convenient for their lifestyle: e-commerce. Also, with the huge influence that social media platforms and bloggers have on the consumer, we learned that it was the best way to reach out to our customer.

 

Tell us about the process of taking your business online.

 

I started Gravity LA with my husband online at first. Having an online shop was an easy, effective, and quick way to be able to launch and get our product out there. We started out with designing a logo, taking some product shots, and me designing web graphics for the website. It’s been four years since then, and our website has changed and morphed so much to best appeal to our customer.

 

 

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

 

Throughout the years, having an online shop has been a reliable way to have consistency with our products, shows, and our brand as a whole. If any customer would see us on Instagram or at a craft show, they could easily hop on their phone and check out our website and have that available for them. I think that’s one of the biggest reason to bringing your shop online — convenience for your consumer.

 

What’s your favorite feature of your Squarespace site?

 

I’m absolutely obsessed with how easy it is to edit and shift around your content layout on your website; you simply drag and drop. The user interface is so streamlined that you’re able to change things up within minutes. It’s incredibly effective considering how little time you have as a business owner because we don’t have the time, experience, or finances in order to code or hire a web designer. Also, with how often the consumer is changing and moving forward, we’re able to keep up our website graphics to those changes super easily through Squarespace. This feature really gives anyone the opportunity to create a beautiful, professional website to represent their business.

 

What one piece of advice would you give to new small business owners?

 

Don’t be afraid to try and think outside of the box. If something’s not working, don’t give up and figure it out. Being scared shows that it’s all worth it because nothing worth doing is easy.

 

 

Hayley Carrow-Janecki, Founder of RÓ

 

Tell us a little about your business.

 

RÓ offers a curated selection of contemporary, mid-century modern, and reclaimed wood furniture, original artwork, custom designs, Scandinavian dishware, and handcrafted homegoods. We help to create peaceful environments using local artisan work, ethical designs, and beautiful goods that will last a lifetime.

 

Tell us about the process of starting your business. What lessons did you learn as a first-time business owner?

 

After I graduated from Alfred University, I decided to move to Buffalo, NY and share an apartment with my best friend, Cortney. We both had design degrees and entrepreneurial interests. That October we took a trip to the European Union. During our travels, we started brainstorming about the idea of opening a business. There were so many interesting shops and inspiration in Paris and London. Fresh out of college, and with not much going on job opportunity-wise in Buffalo, we decided to pool our resources and open Reimagine. It was an up-cycle kind of a place. We’d repaint and upholster vintage items to put in our shop. The store also incorporated interior design services and bi-annual art exhibits. A few years in, we rebranded to RÓ. Our business model needed a change, as the popularity grew for the type of shop Reimagine had become. Adapting to stay unique and true to our niche was a big learning lesson for me, and to explore ways to evolve and expand through the rebranding process. Our slogan for RÓ is Calm Living Through Functional Design. Using this idea drives the nature of what we sell, create, and live by.

 

 

What made you want to take your business online?

 

Creating a web store on our site helped to expand our client base. The brick and mortar shop is for the experience, and adding a web presence brought new clientele — which I may not have otherwise had.

 

Tell us about the process of taking your business online.

 

Once our logo and marketing materials for RÓ were completed, we started right in with our website through Squarespace. Our intern and photographer would come to shoot vignettes for our website and online shop. It was a lot of fun watching the site transform. I still feel like I’m constantly tweaking some elements.

 

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

 

More exposure. Also, it helps to set the mood of what the store offers. Someone looking for modern decorative accessories may research prior to going to a location to shop. This is where a website helps — it shows off the design aesthetic.

 

 

What’s your favorite thing about your Squarespace site?

The built-in mobile websites.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever recieved?

 

Don’t let the future leave you behind.

 

What one piece of advice would you give to new small business owners?

 

Try and be very specific with your goals. This helps to avoid distractions.

 

 

Lauren Winter, Founder of Lauren Winter

 

Tell us a little about your business.

 

Lauren Winter is a clothing brand based in Portland, Oregon. We sew unique yet wearable pieces in our Portland studio using high quality, all natural materials like linen, wool, and hemp. Our style ethos is comfort can be interesting — lots of wrap-around, tie, and pullover styles that are sewn with durable, breathable fabrics, some of which are intended for year-round use. Sticking to these perimeters keeps the design process both challenging and fun for me, and it also results in a more cohesive, recognizable look for our brand.

 

Tell us about the process of starting your business. What lessons did you learn as a first-time business owner?

 

Being a self-taught designer and business owner, I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I had so much to learn in the beginning, from the differences between an S Corp and an LLC, to the environmental impact of fiber reactive dyes versus natural dyes, to how to prevent fabric shrinkage.

The truth is, I’m still learning. Now I know that success doesn’t mean you’ve got all the knowledge you need, it just means you have a new set of problems to solve! Right now, I’m in the middle of remodeling our studio and my brain is filled with construction terms and techniques that I never thought I’d need to know. If you want to grow in life, you’ve got to keep learning.

 

 

What made you want to take your business online?

 

Maintaining an online shop allows our brand to reach a wide audience. While we do have awesome, loyal customers here in Portland, the majority of our sales come from NYC and California. We love shipping our made-to-order pieces all over the country and beyond! It makes our world feel a little more connected.

 

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

 

There isn’t a lot of risk involved with starting an online shop, and it’s a great way to test out your potential audience as a new business — you can follow along with sales easily and track which products are generating interest and which ones aren’t. An online shop also has less overhead expenses than a brick and mortar shop, so if a brick and mortar is the direction you’d like to take with your business, selling online can be a useful stepping stone towards that or even provide additional income (a lot of local stores here also sell online).

 

What’s your favorite feature of your Squarespace site?

 

I love the Analytics page — it’s a one-stop-shop for everything you need to keep track of as an online business. It makes following sales and comparing traffic month-to-month so simple and easy.

 

 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

 

Be adaptable while remaining true to your values. We are always changing, no matter our age or situation; it makes sense that the same would be true for businesses.

Also, write a mission statement. I know this sounds like a throwback to outdated marketing classes, but mission statements are very useful. It’s easy for change to compromise your business values when you don’t know what your values are, and writing a mission statement at the start can help you define those.

 

What one piece of advice would you give to new small business owners?

 

This advice is specifically for fellow artists and designers — we live in a fast-paced world, and most makers are eager to get their work out to be recognized right away. Give your work the time it deserves, and don’t feel pressured to release it until it’s ready. Apprentice with someone to learn new skills, if you can. Your time and experience will not only hone your abilities, it will inform your worldview and ultimately show up in the character and quality of your work.

 

 

Connie Matisse, Founder/Chief Creative Officer of East Fork Pottery

 

Tell us a little about your business.

 

When my husband, Alex Matisse, founded the pottery in 2009, it was a very different business. We made traditional North Carolina pottery, fired in a wood-kiln, and sold to a niche market of pottery collectors in the Southeast (who we could not have launched this ship without!). Today we’re a team of 30, making and selling contemporary ceramic dinnerware and other beautiful objects, in Asheville, North Carolina and across the Internet.

We throw dinner parties, cooking classes, and trunk shows. We raise funds and awareness for people and organizations working to make our communities more equitable and just. It’s a wild world out there, but a tender, beautiful one too, made ever more sacred by our daily rituals of eating, drinking, and coming together around table.

Later this year, we’ll be opening a new production facility and opening our second brick and mortar in Atlanta, Georgia. We’re very excited!

 

Tell us about the process of starting your business. What lessons did you learn as a first-time business owner?

 

We want to build an American-manufactured ceramics and lifestyle company that’s going to be around for a long time. It’s a slow, slow process. Making the products that we sell on the scale we want to sell has meant making substantial investments both in equipment and in the wonderful humans who work with us. East Fork is a true team effort. The three of us (Alex, John, and I) have done a very good job of figuring out what we’re good at, and trusting each other enough to stay out of each other’s way, while checking in regularly to make sure our business choices are staying true to our vision, mission, and values.

 

 

What made you want to take your business online?

 

I’m from Los Angeles and my husband, Alex, is from a rural area outside Boston, but both of us found our way to and built this business in Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville has been a fabulous place for us to grow our workshop and our family, but even with ever-flowing tourist traffic, there’s only so much pottery you can sell in a town of 80,000. Our collection has broad appeal — it looks just at home in a sleek, pared-down, Mid-Century inspired Venice Beach bungalow as it does in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Taking our business online means our pottery brings people around the table, from Winston-Salem to Santa Monica and everywhere in between.

 

Tell us about the process of taking your business online.

 

Ha, we could fill a novel with this one! Alex and I are not “computer” people, but our DIY Squarespace site has helped sell us a lot of pottery. It’s all about good visual storytelling and building a brand that’s consistent and recognizable, without being stale! Instagram has been our main driver of traffic to our website — it’s where I can talk directly to people, get feedback, and see how people use East Fork in their own homes.

 

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

 

The Internet is a wild, wonderful, terrible, fascinating place! Taking your business online means you get to explore and tap into markets for your product that you maybe didn’t even know existed. The Internet gives you the opportunity to get playful with your content, try new things in new places, collaborate with strangers from across the world, and speak directly to potential customers, all without having to deal with the overhead of a brick and mortar (though, we think there’s definitely room for brick and mortar, too!).

 

 

What’s your favorite thing about your Squarespace site?

My favorite part of using a Squarespace site has been the responsiveness of the customer service team. They always answer questions so promptly, and with lots of patience 🙂 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Before I joined Alex in working for East Fork full time, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself and my life; I was being torn in so many directions. Part of me wanted to move back to New York and be a writer, part of me wanted to milk goats in the middle of nowhere, part of me wanted to go to law school, be a social worker, hide in a closet til my twenties were over. I was really crippled with indecision for a really long time. My friend Daphne Beal, a writer in New York, passed along advice that she’d been given decades before: when you don’t know what to do, just do something.

 

What one piece of advice would you give to new small business owners?

 

Look to other brands and businesses for inspiration, but when it comes to speaking to your customers, speak from the heart, in a voice that’s true to you. Your community is gonna call bullsh*t from a mile away if you try to act like someone else. Figure out why your business exists in the first place, and build your foundation on that. Also, if you don’t know how to do something, outsource it to professionals who do. Also, hire slow, fire fast. Also, therapy.

 

 

Are you interested in taking your business online? Check out Squarespace’s wide range of customizable site templates and use the code “EVERYGIRL18” for 10% off your first purchase!

 

 

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

Show Comments +