This post is part of our Best Next Step series, where you will hear from creative business owners like you, who are wondering what to focus on next. The background stories and questions are from all kinds of businesses in various stages of growth, and I share my ideas for how to proceed forward most efficiently and ambitiously. Today we’re hearing from Wendi Gratz, of Shiny Happy World.
Shiny Happy World
Business: Shiny Happy World
Owner: Wendi Gratz
Below is a screenshot of Wendi’s website:
I believe that everyone can sew, or quilt, or embroider – they just need the right patterns and someone to hold their hand. :-) That’s what I try to do at Shiny Happy World.
I have over 100 video tutorials, plus lots of regular tutorials teaching all kinds of basic needlework skills. I also have over 100 digital patterns designed especially for beginners. I never release a pattern until I have videos demonstrating every skill someone will need to complete the project, and then I include links to those videos in all my patterns. Every pattern is a mini workshop.
I also sell all of my favorite tools and supplies – the exact same things I use in my own work – and have recently added kits and subscription clubs to the mix.
My business style is warm and friendly, playful and fun and always upbeat and positive. I really do try to make my website a shiny happy world. :-)
Customers can mostly buy my products on my website, but I also have shops on Etsy and Craftsy. I never direct traffic to those other sites, though. I consider the time spent on them a marketing expense because they bring new customers to my main site. I invite everyone who buys from my Etsy or Craftsy stores to join my newsletter.
I’ve been running my business since January 1 2011 – so close to four years now. My business has grown a LOT in the last year (I’m on track to more than double my sales from 2013 and my newsletter has grown to 6000 subscribers). I’ve done all the website work myself – moving my site from Blogger to self-hosted WordPress, adding a shop to my site, adding a members-only section and more. There are minor technical issues on my site that I can’t take the time to figure out (Like why does my theme shave off the right edge of all my photos on any archive pages?), but I’m also starting to worry that the whole thing feels cobbled together. I know it feels that way on the back end, but I worry that it feels that way on the front too. My site is also pretty darn slow to load, which I know is a problem but don’t know how to fix. As I sell more kits and subscriptions, streamlining the shipping process is starting to be a priority too, and I’d love to add courses to the site. Basically – with over 100 tutorials in different categories, almost 100 free patterns (some available only to members), over 100 patterns in my shop, customer show & tell photos, subscription pattern series and blogging every week day – it’s just a TON of information and resources to manage and organize. I don’t think I’m doing to best job I can of presenting all that Shiny Happy World has to offer.
I have ambitious sales goals for the next four years – my insane goal is for my average monthly sales in 2018 to be $10,000. I’m a long way from that now, but I’m on the right track. I’ve learned that a big part of that is my newsletter subscribers. They really drive my business, so my goal is always to sign new readers up for the newsletter (but without annoying and intrusive pop-up things). I’d love to build a stronger sense of community for my readers, without relying on Facebook. And I’d like to do all of that while working just a little bit less – fewer evenings and weekends – so I can spend my time with my family. I realize this is possibly impossible. :-)
In the last year I’ve focused almost entirely on customer service. I reward my newsletter subscribers REALLY WELL and I’ve found that free patterns on my own site are the best way to bring in new subscribers. I’ve stopped almost all guest posts on other blogs because I found I was giving them a free pattern to drive traffic to THEIR site, with only a very small percentage of those people clicking through to Shiny Happy World. I’m done with that. I’d love to get press that doesn’t involve giving away free work, but I haven’t figured that out yet.
Shiny Happy World’s Best Next Step
Thank you for entering our Best Next Step giveaway – hooray, you’re a winner! My thoughts follow (read them with a grain of salt, since I only have a brief outline of your business and challenges right now).
You are one of our giveaway entrants that barely needs any help! :) Your plan looks pretty solid, you’re on track to achieve it, and the way you’ve been doing things is quite savvy. Doesn’t look impossible to me!
Make Customer Service Your Priority
Making your newsletter a high priority and rewarding your subscribers well is a good move, and it sounds like it’s been serving you well. I appreciate that you’re being persistent about getting people subscribed to the newsletter without being annoying or intrusive. I was looking for your newsletter on the home page, and completely overlooked the button in the footer, so if it’s hard for me to find while looking for it, it’s going to be pretty easy for your casual reader to miss. Perhaps it could be part of your navigation (listed as a page under “Free Patterns” perhaps – I like that you’re mentioning it at the top of each Free Patterns page). You could add it to the footer of each blog post (“Did you like this article? Get more like this from my newsletter!”) – I see you’re doing that on all the Free Patterns pages, which is good.
I don’t know if guest posts are the answer, but to grow business, you do need to have other blogs, magazines, and media outlets sending people your way. Perhaps you could think of a more creative way to do a guest post without giving anything away? Maybe a tutorial, which then points to a pattern on your site, or an interview or other type of informative article? The trick is to get people to want to click a link back to your site. Or perhaps you could continue to do pattern giveaways, with a final paragraph on each guest post that encourages people to sign up to your newsletter for more. That way, you’re getting a benefit out of the post. Abby Glassenberg wrote a very useful post about guest posting lately that I think you will be interested in.
So, it seems like the last nut left to crack is your website. I wish I could just offer a few quick tips for you to get it all sorted out, but it’s quite the behemoth, as you mention! Your best bet would be to leave it as is if you don’t think it’s losing you business, and then to hire some professional help when it’s in your budget. With a membership area, you may need to keep at least part of the site on WordPress, but WordPress’ ecommerce solutions aren’t our favorite. It looks like you’re using WooCommerce, which we have worked with before, but have recently stopped recommending, as it just doesn’t work as smoothly as something like Shopify does.
Let me know if you’d ever like to talk about the website! We design strategically, are good at sorting through a whole pile of content, and making it digestible and easy to navigate, and we have a lot of experience with ecommerce.
Thanks for the chance to learn more about Shiny Happy World. I hope this all makes sense, and I encourage you to keep working on increasing your newsletter fanbase, finding new ways to bring fresh visitors to your site, and hit your sales goal. Make the best of your website until you can afford some pro help, and keep making customer service your number one priority! I would love to hear how it works out for you as you build your business!
Are you ready for the next step?
If you’d like the power and experience of the Aeolidia team behind you, please get in touch! We would love to untangle your business priorities and take a few tasks off your hands so you can do your work. Contact Aeolidia – we never bite!