Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
After my son was born in July 2013, I soon realized I wasn't going to be able to wear jewelry around him. He was just too quick to pull on my necklace or bracelets and always wanted to stick them in his mouth. At the time there was one company offering teething necklaces but I just couldn't bring myself to wear one. They looked like you were wearing a brightly colored toy, and with all the strain of being a new mom and lack of sleep during that time I really just needed to feel pretty.
I knew that there were other moms who felt the same and recognized an opportunity to design jewelry that was both functional and cute — something that I would want to wear even if I wasn't around my son. With $1,500 in cash I started Mama & Little in January 2014. I had spent the previous few months drawing designs and laying out color palettes and I had a good plan for what I wanted to do. So after talking with several silicone manufacturers I chose one and spent most of my budget on a small amount of inventory and a custom mold for a hexagon bead design I drew out by hand. I even paid extra for custom colors.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
When we officially launched our website I mainly used Instagram. I was fortunate to have become friends with a group of women who were also starting their own businesses and we had this amazing community of women supporting us. Plus, Instagram was the perfect place for us. Our jewelry looked awesome in pictures and could be styled with super cute outfits. I was getting pictures back from our first few customers that were adorable. We quickly had all this content that people wanted to share, and they did.
That first year was a shock. Our sales more than doubled every single month. Business had grown so much that my husband was able to join me full time in early 2015. With the two of us, and some help from our families, Mama & Little has continued to grow at an incredible rate. Our jewelry can now be found at over 30 retailers and boutiques, including being offered at Nordstrom.com. Our website continues to be our greatest sales channel. I personally have spent hundreds of hours adjusting photos, taking new ones, rewriting descriptions and blog entries, and just working to convey my passion and excitement. It has paid off for us and continues to do so.
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?
We really try to keep it simple, using a few apps from Shopify to integrate with Facebook, Google Shopping, and Product Reviews. But without a doubt the single most important app is ShipStation. It solved all of our shipping issues and cut down on so much unnecessary stress we had before. Other shipping programs had little problems that added more time and management. ShipStation solved that and continues to be a solution as we grow. It integrates with all of our key marketplaces and even with our wholesale portal. It has been critical to our execution.
We fulfill in-house, literally. Our home has been converted to an office and warehouse, and we ship everything from here. It can be chaotic at times and we're busting at the seams from our continued growth this year, but it was a good choice for us. Being self-fulfilled allowed us to add a personal touch to every order and I really believe that has made a big difference.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Don't delay launching your new business because of trivial things. As I was putting together our Shopify store I would sometimes get hung-up on pictures or descriptions that weren't absolutely perfect in my mind. I wasted a couple of months by delaying our launch so that I could make everything "perfect." The truth is there will always be something that could be better or more compelling, don't use that as an excuse. A good business will continually evolve over time, especially after gaining experience and feedback.