Let me start by saying I am not an expert financial wizard, nor is my business raking in billions of dollars that I can toss on my bed and swim in. I am, however, co-owner of a women-owned small business that began with very humble start-up money, at the worst time economically to START a business, that has consistently grown each year. So how is it that we have done so well?
1. Initially, focus your products or services.
Too often I have heard of businesses faltering, or worse, going under completely because they stretched themselves too thin trying to cast a wider net. When we began Wellspring Trading, we knew it would focus on massage therapy products because that was our main background. We offered both one-time purchases (reselling massage tables and chairs) as well as consumables (100% natural massage oils). But we started getting feedback from our customers…
2. Listen to your customers.
The feedback and inquiries we got indicated that not only were massage therapists coming to us, but non-therapists who wanted natural products. We found that many customers absolutely loved our golden jojoba oil for a hair shine, and our fractionated coconut oil for very dry skin. Once we realized the potential to introduce people looking for high-quality, all-natural, non-chemical alternatives to use, we expanded our customer base. Additionally, we’ve now expanded the products we sell to meet the needs of customers who had trouble finding those products elsewhere.
3. Excellent customer service is ESSENTIAL.
Set yourself apart from the MegaCorporations with teams of operators who know little about the products or services they offer. From the beginning, we promised ourselves that the highest quality customer service would be one of the most important aspects of our business, and we’ve kept that promise. In speaking with a customer about a massage table, I refuse to sell them the most expensive just for the sake of making the sale. I listen to their wants and needs, and offer the best suggestions I can. My goal is to make the customer completely satisfied with their purchase, which means less hassle for everyone later on. It’s also my personal goal to ship products that come from our warehouse within 24 hours, and our customers go out of their way to let us know how much they appreciate that. Lastly, always try to talk to a customer with a smile on your face – they can hear it through the phone!
4. Know your strengths AND weaknesses.
If you know you won’t be able to handle an aspect of your new business, don’t just try to ignore it – find a partner or hire an individual to handle it for you. I am great with customer service and shipping, but anything to do with finances or micro-details makes my eyes glaze over. My business partner, Marcia, on the other hand, has a background in accounting and is extremely detail-oriented, so we make a perfect team.
5. Look for ways to save money everywhere you can.
Setting up a business presence on sites like Facebook is free and easy for your friends and family to help spread the word. We do our business online only, which saves the overhead costs of leasing a brick-and-mortar storefront. We offer the convenience of a low flat rate shipping, and go with the least expensive shipping methods we can. Before adding a new product in to our line, we research it thoroughly. We also re-visit our suppliers’ prices regularly to make sure we are getting the highest quality products for the money.
Hopefully this give you potential small business owners something to think about as you consider your new venture. The last piece of advice I can give is to truly believe it what you offer – customers will get excited when you speak from genuine knowledge and happiness. It makes all the difference!