Rob Bryn remembers lying above a sweater factory listening to the huge loom moving back and forth below him as he tried to sleep. Living there for years, Bryn witnessed the slow transition of living in an industrial zoned area with working factories to an area full of artists living in these vacant buildings
“I literally saw the last textile business leave this area,” Bryn said.
As the dying breed of manufactories shut down due to cheaper labor overseas, a new purpose arose for the massive rectangular prisms sprinkling the otherwise desolate northern Bushwick neighborhood.
Years ago, wanting to find a place to throw their pottery, chisel their sculptures, or paint their masterpiece, artists clamored to Bushwick looking for space, inexpensive rent, and proximity to Manhattan. They turned to the vacant factories, a place that no longer created goods but now created homes.
Recently Little Dudes and Divas, an online boutique selling infant and baby clothes, was profiled in The New York Times as a small business dealing with the trials and tribulations of being of being a small business competing against much larger companies like Babies “R” Us.
They state it isn’t easy, and I couldn’t agree more. For five years I was the owner of an online women’s contemporary clothing store, and I remember the stress that came alone with trying to compete with the Nordstroms and Shopbops (now owned by Amazon) of the online world.
As I believe and Little Dudes and Divas explains the key to success is in the details. Below are some tips from the article, which I believe will set you apart.
- Carrying unique designers/items: Little Dudes and Divas discussed how they try for only the hottest items as a strategy to beat out the competitors. If you are able to get a hold of the latest high-quality product, do so. As for my e-commerce site, I would approach the strategy a little differently. I would often times speculate what the big competitors were going to carry and pick something else from the designers’ line. By doing so, I tried to create a niche by carrying very unique items.
- Little Dudes and Divas also points out that they are accommodating to their customers by giving them special attention. They did so by taking time to email, listen to customers needs, and going the extra mile for them. Again, I found focusing on the small things a way to sett myself apart from competition. I would write personalized thank-you notes, gift-wrap everything, include a store magnet in the package, and provide very fast shipping. I can’t tell you how many people thanked me for it.
- Lastly, Little Dudes and Divas discussed their marketing strategy to make sure they are connecting to the right customers. The store mentioned SEO and Google Analytics, which was a service I used often to track shopping cart abandonment, landing pages, and time on the site. The store also discusses social media, which is imperative for success. When I had my store it was not as prevalent as it right now but it sure is useful. Not only is it free, but interacting with customers in a social environment does wonders for your credibility.
One concept I am surprised wasn’t mentioned was a forum. I believe having a link to an online discussion board would really help bolster the connection with the customers and possibly increase sales.
What would you suggest for Little Dudes and Divas?
Tom Szaky recently wrote a New York Times blog about the need for start-ups to look at crowd-funding as a means to generate capital in today’s economy.
For those of you unaware of crowd-funding, is basically an online collective group of strangers pooling their money together to provide capital for a start-up.
Szaky touched on sites like Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site targeted towards the art community, as way to get your business of the ground.
As much as I am a cheerleader for crowd-funding and believe is a viable option for small businesses, I believe entrepreneurs need to take crowd-funding with a grain of salt. (more…)
You name it and Business Insider has a list for it.
On Monday, Business Insider launched its 20 Best New (as opposed to old) Start-ups for 2011.
The site boasts a lot of practical companies (Simple, Giftly) and one that doesn’t make any sense to me (Sphero).
Here is a list of my favorites: