I’m a big fan of entrepreneurs and what they do for their families, their communities, their countries and the world in general. If you look back on history, you’ll see that many of the modern marvels we take for granted are thanks to entrepreneurs. They’re the backbone of growth in modern societies.
March 8th 2020 is International Women’s Day and I want to take a moment to stop and highlight some of the amazing female entrepreneurs amongst us.
As a maker of wholesale tools for WooCommerce, we’re super proud to be able to associate with amazing entrepreneurs like the ones below every single day. The fact that we have a special day to pause and recognize the wonderful, powerful and determined women in our midst is amazing.
Read the experiences of these special women below and you will learn what it takes to build a store, a business, and a life around being an entrepreneur. Regardless of your gender, there are some brilliant lessons and takeaways below that I guarantee you will find inspiring.
I hope you enjoy reading these interviews as much as I did putting this all together.
CEO of Rymera Web Co, makers of Wholesale Suite for WooCommerce
It started as a way to monetise my blog – but the product took on a mind of it’s own and I created a new brand around that.
Fun? It’s bloody hard work! But probably the best part is being able to work from home, around my family. I even travelled Europe for 6 months last year and managed to double revenue in the same time (thanks in part to an awesome wholesale solution). Being online allowed me to do that.
Distribution. I bought out my business partner a couple of years ago and she handled all distribution. I didn’t want to do that when I took over so I know partner with an amazing logistics company who makes this super easy for me. It also allows me to be flexible around working hours and locations.
Outsource! Don’t try and do everything if it isn’t what you love about the business. When I started paying people to do the mundane stuff that was dragging me down my business grew and they now essentially pay for themselves.
I handcraft plant-based & all-natural bath, skincare and relaxation products to help connect daily rituals with nature and instil a greater focus on self-care within our daily lives. I started MYTHYN with my online store to create a full brand experience from the start.
It’s so much fun to experiment with the store and find ways to create the best experience you can for your customers. And it’s always great to reach people you cannot reach in person too to share what you do.
Making my store as easy to use for wholesale as it is to use for direct customers, so that my lovely stockists also enjoy the experience. Thankfully, Wholesale Suite has been great for this.
Don’t forget the importance of how it feels to use your website for your customers – the way they perceive your products is hugely influenced by how you set their expectations at the time of discovering them and purchasing them. It’s a lot of fun to make it unique and also can be very rewarding for your brand.
CharmCat! The name is inspired by my cats, who just love to keep me company while I work, regardless of how inconvenient it might be! I’ve actually had to put a cat bed in my office so they sit there and watch me work, rather than on my keyboard or on my lap.
I’ve always loved art and paper. After school I went into graphic design and although I am good at it I found the “corporate” design life unsatisfying. So, I started my little stationery shop on the side. It’s changed a lot in the last seven years, but it gives me the opportunity to pursue projects that excite me and to create products I love!
Pushing my creativity to come up with brand new product designs that you can’t get anywhere else! I really rely on my weird sense of humor to help me with product development and it’s so satisfying when I hear people laugh at my jokes! The feeling of making a real human connection is part of what greeting cards are all about.
I am chronically ill, and that means I sometimes have less time or energy to dedicate to my business. I always put my customers first, but that means that the stuff that sometimes gets put on hold is marketing and product development. On the flip side, I’m able to work from home and on my own schedule, which means that I can grow at my own pace.
Sometimes on the path to your goals, you find a boulder in the way. Don’t turn back; go around it! It might be harder, or take longer, than you thought it would to get to your goal, but you can still get there. Or you might find along the way that you’d rather head to a different goal than you first wanted. You have to be flexible and sometimes that means being willing to reverse course, letting go of the work you’ve done, and starting something new.
To offer dog breeders and show handlers the option to buy all the grooming products they need for show dogs in one place. It’s still kind of a niche in Germany.
Putting together the product assortment.
The technical knowledge. I made the whole store myself without paying any IT companies.
Don’t set yourself any deadlines. A shop takes time to set-up and to grow. Considers at least 6 months before you go live to sell. Another important advice, staging sites and back-up back-up back-up!
I quit my job in advertising and traveled for 6 months through New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and India. When I got home I knew I wanted to do something with a more positive impact on the world, inspired by the people in Cambodia and India where “everything can be fixed” or used in a new way. My last stop was India where I found paper products made from elephant poo and wallets made from inner tube and plastic bags. I hired a fellow advertising dropout to design my website and teach me the basics of WordPress. My company name was inspired by New Zealand (Koru meaning “new beginnings” in Maori and true for both me and the products) and added a nickname for my last name to make it more my own.
Attending a few basic WordPress classes and learning how much I can do on my own.
Turning an info based website into a Woocommerce store (as a non-professional in 2010) and then later adding the wholesale version and learning how this differs from a basic retail one.
Understand it is ok, in fact highly likely, to pivot as you learn more about your business. I went from a side hustle purely retail at events adding online to then making it my full time job and adding trade shows and wholesale customers. The types of products I have carried consistently changes as I learn more about what people want. But stay very focused on the reason you started.
My goal was to carry only fair trade and upcycled products. The handful of times I moved away from this (to products I thought were so cool but were only one or the other) they didn’t sell as well. And I found myself explaining that my products are fair trade and/or upcycled. Better to not have to explain myself and make it very simple for customers. If I find a great product that doesn’t fit in my store, I tell my customers about it with no financial advantage to myself because I want all great products to succeed – plus it’s also nice to be able to talk to customers without always selling to them!
I saw an opportunity and took it.
Seeing customers returning after their first order. Watching the website evolve into a beautiful thing.
Trying to increase our customer base using social media as I find it so utterly boring.
Keep going, don’t borrow too much money, listen to others but not all people. Be careful what you get dragged into when spending your money.
I’ve always been a designer, and about 3 years ago I decided to switch from a very high-end, gallery-type objects to more commercial, accessible products. I built the store to distribute my products to both retail and wholesale customers.
The reach of my products! It’s a joy every time i get to add a new “dot” on my retailers map, worldwide. I love seeing customers tag me on their instagram posts with pictures of my products.
I had to go through a complete name change for my company last year because of trademark issues. That was a very expensive, stressful and work intensive lesson learned!
Start before you’re ready, you can always refine/perfect everything later, incorporating the feedback of your customers. And register your trademark 😉 !
I use to own a vintage furniture store and sell a chalk type paint along with brushes I was buying that were made in Italy. After 2 years of owning the store I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I ended up closing my store which devastated me.
I was left with a lot of inventory. My husband suggested I try and sell the brushes online to liquidate my inventory. I was recovering, and in his words “had nothing better to do”. I did nothing with them for about a year then I joined a Facebook group for creatives. The creator of the group ordered some brushes from me and loved them so much she started promoting them too. I sold out so quickly I knew I had something.
That manufacturer wouldn’t sell to me directly, I was using a supplier to buy them. So I looked for a manufacturer that would sell to me and found the best one ever! It was a Godsend actually. He offered to private label for me which I didn’t even know was an option.
Watching my business grow. I started with 4 brush styles that I feel are the basics for furniture painting. I’ve grown my brand to 16 styles plus brush soap. Last year we started branding for 2 furniture artists selling their brands through my website. The Turquoise Iris, we brand her artist brushes and Jami Ray Vintage, we brand her stencil brushes. We also teamed up with a paint company called DIY Paint Co. These are all artists with big social media followings. This has had a HUGE impact on my business. I’ve also gotten to meet some incredible artists that support my brand.
Building 2 websites has been a huge challenge. My first one was with Shopify. I have NO experience in this field. I learned from YouTube. I outgrew that in 2 years because of my wholesale site. I was using an app to offer wholesale pricing but as I grew and the inventory needed to be kept accurate between the retail and wholesale site, I knew I had to make a change.
A friend suggested I move to WP and after finding the Wholesale Suite plugin I felt confident that it would be the right move. Creating another website from scratch again has been daunting. Again YouTube has become my best friend. There have been so many challenges with the different plugins I need for EVERYTHING and not always knowing if they will work until I test them. Sometimes having to purchase them to only find they are not what I was needing. Honestly Wholesale Suite is what has kept me with WP. At least Shopify has a support team, with WP I feel like I’m on an island by myself and it’s sink or swim. Can you feel my frustration? Lol
Never let circumstances stop you. No matter what age you are either. I started this business a little over 2 yrs. ago and was just getting ready to turn 61 yrs. old. I was supposed to be in semi-retirement after my cancer. I work more hours in a day than any business I’ve ever been in but I LOVE it! If you do something you love then you’ll never work a day in your life.
Iron Leaf Press
Our online store is an extension of our retail presence. We have a stationery shop in a small, Midwest college town and adding a shop has expanded our reach beyond our physical storefront. We sell to retail customers and also have a wholesale store for our line of greeting cards and stationery, sold in shops and boutiques across the US.
Expanding our presence across the country has been so fun. The thrill of seeing orders come through to various parts of the country makes every day fun.
Building our website was a big process and definitely a challenge. Finding the right functionality and putting in the work to get it finished took some time.
Keep focused on what you are doing and keep making steps forward, even if they are small steps.
We bought the business 8 years ago and knew Baby BeeHinds had a reputation for excellent and innovation in the reusable baby products industry for over 15 years so we jumped at the opportunity to take it to the next level. Sustainability & eco-friendly reusable options has seen huge growth over the last few years, especially with the #waronwaste movement & education happening so for us it was the perfect synergy.
Having the flexibility to grow our business based around our young family. Since the kids were in nappies we have been able to manage our family responsibilities & changing needs around the business and had the flexibility to adapt & change those business demands as we need to. Aside from managing our warehouse team daily, we can work any place, any time knowing we are growing the business even if we are sitting poolside in Noosa.
Switching website platforms to WooCommerce was one of the biggest challenges we faced over the last 18 months. For a complete non-technical person at all, working with two developers to get the site basics done & then for me to implement all the details was a huge challenge. Making a switch of platforms was a big change, but needed to be done for the best of the business and our next growth phase.
Take the leap into your own business! Make a calculated, informed decision and if you have the passion just go for it, you won’t regret it!
Olive Drab Farm
I bought three little goats about 5 years ago so I could enjoy dairy (I am lactose intolerant) but quickly figured out I am unable to drink 2 gallons of goat milk a day. I am not a wasteful person at all so I had to figure this out. I started selling the milk and making cheese but I still had too much milk. Then it hit me! I had used goat milk soap all my life because I also have a few skin disorders. Why was I not making my own products?
I became determined to master soap and I taught myself to not just make soap but lotion, liquid soaps, sugar scrubs, facial skin care lines. I soon started selling to my friends and family and it was a hit! There became such a demand for the product that it turned into a full fledged business in less than 6 months. I started doing craft shows and festivals but was spending less time away from my now herd of 13 goats.
I love my goats as if they are my own children. I know when someone is sad, I know when someone is ill, and I know when they just need a little extra cuddle time. Something had to change. So I built my WooCommerce site and launched it the end of July 2019. I’m slowly moving away from other marketplace sites and the craft shows and working on building my email list and marketing directly towards them. There is a much more detailed story on my site though if you want to learn more.
I find that the best part of growing my online store is meeting people who are truly seeking the products I offer. I also find it incredibly intriguing how many people feel like they are truly a part of my herd and have a favorite goat. I receive random emails or notes on orders asking for me to give a specific goat an extra treat for them.
The biggest challenge to overcome is definitely learning the technology and learning to troubleshoot my own issues on the site. Once I got the technology piece down I found it even harder to put myself out there, to put my farm life out there. People are so quick to judge and the “cancel” culture is real and very scary.
I have such a personal story with my farm and as to why I have the goats, how I raise them, and my own relationships with each of them. The greatest joy comes from working through that though….I have a personable story that others feel like they are a part of and want to contribute and I have been able to accidentally create a cult following to include even the most unlikely of customers such as vegetarians or vegans. We are a non-slaughter farm for our own reasons and people can easily relate and accept our lifestyle attracting more than the average customer.
For any entrepreneur I believe the best advice is to seek advice from others who are not family and friends. They always want you to succeed and in their minds have a certain way they believe you can achieve that and it most likely does not involve the risks that come with being an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship to me is not about the money (although that is what pays the bills) it is about the rush to have something succeed that you built right out of your own mind. Something that you built from nothing and it succeeded, even if that is not the million dollar dream business it is still something you have the drive and passion to see through to the end. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road sometimes but there are always great groups that remain positive and give constructive feedback and mentorship, look for these even if it is not your style or normal path.
Blackberry House Paint
We were originally a wholesale-to-the-trade company and only sold to shops and boutiques who in turn sold our products to the end user. We began getting numerous requests to sell directly to customers who are in markets where we did not have a retailer, and since we were set up only for wholesale sales, we referred those requests off to one of our retailers who would ship product to the customer.
When requests got so numerous, and many of our retailers stopped shipping, we knew we had to fulfill that need ourselves. To add retail sales we knew we had to set up an online store, not just a website. So, we added the store to our site for both retail and wholesale customers. A bonus to starting those direct to consumer sales was that we started getting reseller requests in areas where we had not marketed previously.
In the past year alone, we have been able to start establishing retailers in states where we did not previously have any representation. Because of the exposure our web store has given our company, we now sell in 46 states!
Fun?? Lol. Not building it for sure! Seriously though, it allows you to have a more personal connection with your customer. We add a small candy treat bag to every online retail order, and customers really react to that. We get messages all the time that “I haven’t seen that brand of candy since I was a kid”, or “I can’t believe you sent something for my kids – they loved it!”, It also lets the customer know that we care about them, and it helps them to understand our personality so they are comfortable reaching out to us.
We’ve made many friends that we’ve never seen in person! When a customer calls or emails us about anything concerning their order, they often start a personal chat as well. We then enter notes on their customer profile about that conversation. When we receive an order from a repeat customer, we look back at any notes and we often put a hand written note on the invoice, such as “I hope your mom is feeling better”, or “I hope all the new puppies have found their forever homes.”
There is nothing like a personal connection to your customer that keeps them coming back. If we didn’t have the website, we would have no way of storing so much info on a customer that we could reference back to. Keeping that connection open< I would say, is the most fun part of having the website.
When I started the website, I thought it would pretty much take care of itself. Umm, nope. Being a very busy person, it was extremely challenging to train myself how to take care of the minor things a website needs. I still leave the big issues to a more qualified professional, and take care of anything that I’m able to myself. I have A LOT of notes on index cards! lol.
Other than having to slow down and train myself how to take care of things such as updating plugins or setting up user roles. I would say the next biggest challenge was setting up the best shipping platform for my business and realizing how important it is to get orders moving out the door as quickly as possible. Customers want everyone to ship as quick as Amazon does.
Originally, I thought, “They’ll just have to understand that we aren’t Amazon and we can’t ship everything within a day”. I learned all too fast that if a customer hadn’t received tracking by the day after an order, we were going to get calls until they did! Now we ship as quickly as possible, and if something is not in stock, we call the customer personally to let them know when their order will be shipping.
Some advice I’d like to offer is that, no matter what you are selling online, you are NEVER TOO SMALL to do it right from the beginning. Plan for growth, don’t try to catch up to it. Hire experts in the field to help you, even if it’s just to learn how to do something for yourself. Watch the online tutorials.
KNOW what you are offering to the customer inside and out – how to buy it, how to make it, how to sell it, how to ship it, how to service it – Everything. Even if you are drop shipping items, know as much as you can about those items. A customer may have a bad experience with your product, but one good customer service call will get you a repeat customer for the life of your business.
Run your company like someone pays you to be there. Even if you are a one person operation. If you’re selling on an online store, your customer thinks you are a company with employees, and departments, and customer service, etc. Run it like it is. Refer to your company as “we”, and not “me”, ie, “We sure appreciate your order!” And lastly, my best advice is, operate on a profit margin, not just cash flow. MANAGE your numbers well and your profit will take care of itself.
The Taylor Group
The short story is we created it to house our wholesale ordering. We have several brands that sit under our company banner The Taylor Group. The long story is that we had spent thousands on using a third-party supplier (wholesale ordering platform), with glitchy interfacing and no real customization or branding. They owned all the data collected about our business and we had no say in how that data was used.
Our customers were getting little to no service and the payment gateway was clunky. Our in-store experience is amazing! Our retail customer service is fantastic but our wholesale customers were getting zilch! Wholesale is one of the biggest parts of our business so why were they getting such poor service.
The best part has been the ah-ha moment when payments went through smoothly, customers started ordering on time, they started to use the features we were so proud to offer. We have new customers telling us that they had heard from others that ordering with us was super easy, now that is a big change! Cash flow has also improved, with the ability to change payment methods for late payers we now no longer have to chase our tail.
Onboarding new customers has been a bit of an issue. In the Coffee industry, we can be a little hesitant about dealing with online. We like face to face interactions, after all, that’s really what our industry is based on. So convincing customers that the new interface is actually easy to use and helps them grow their business has been a little tough.
My biggest piece of advice, that applies to product-based businesses and also service is “Just stick a barcode on it” I’m pretty sure it was Roxy Jacenko who said it first, but it’s very true. If you wait for a product/service/website to be perfect chances are you have missed your opportunity. Jump in launch it, if its almost done and it’s almost perfect put it out there. Test the market with it. Get feedback then improve it.
My store is Papyrusaurus, and I make a variety of unique gifts and stationery items inspired by and, in a lot of cases, made from everyone’s favorite books and stories.
I initially started my store on Etsy almost 9 years ago because my friends encouraged me to. I had started crafting after not doing much creatively for years because I was a mom to two small children. My friends liked what I was making, and really gave me the push and the confidence to open up an Etsy shop with my creations.
I don’t know that any of it is “fun”. It’s a job, just like anyone going into an office and working 10 or 12 hour days. But, the most rewarding is connecting to customers, whether they’re existing or new folks. Hearing how excited they are about finding that perfect gift for their book-loving friend, or how much their parent appreciated the custom piece they received, or getting notes about how my creations are a part of their family’s holiday traditions really makes all the long hours of work and the sometimes stressful work-life balance worth it.
In 2016 we relocated to Long Island from Erie, PA and it’s been a huge challenge to reestablish my brand in a new area. I spent so long building my reputation and customer base in the midwest, it’s been a bit of a shock to essentially start over. But I’ve worked hard to find new creative business connections here, and to really put myself out there in the community. Making the additional leap into trade shows has also really helped to overcome this, and to help my brand reach further not just regionally but nationally.
Don’t be afraid to just do- to take the chance, ask for help, make the thing, try something new. Maybe it’ll be a success, or maybe it’ll fail, but either way you’ll have learned something important that you can apply to your business.
I’ve absolutely loved compiling the above interviews and stories into this article. It’s been amazing hearing from all of these wonderful entrepreneurs doing their part, building things, growing their stores and making a difference in the world. Thanks to all of you for sharing.
I’m feeling lucky that many of these wonderful women are also customers of ours which is why we are extra proud to feature them on our blog. If you also run a store and want to know more about Wholesale Suite, one of the tools they’re using to grow, you can read all about our bundle of products here.
If you found the interviews above valuable and you’d like to share this article we’d be extremely grateful: