There are advantages to having your products in brick and mortar locations, even if you run an e-commerce business. People prefer human-to-human interaction and being able to physically hold an item before purchasing. Furthermore, shoppers who walk into local gift shops intend to make a purchase – you don’t need to do much to convince them! Retailers may also promote your products, which indirectly, brings traffic to your social media platforms.
The big question is: HOW do I get my products into retail locations?
I finally have a product that I want in retail locations so I started asking my fellow business owners regarding their process of getting into retailer locations. I knew Allie, from The 6th Scent Candle had her products in many locations so I started chatting with her. When I found out that she would wait until her toddler’s nap time, then pack him into the car seat, and let him nap while she drives around the city bringing candles to various retailers. I was so impressed with her work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that I wanted to share what I learned from her!
Prep work: Before you even start going to stores, you need to prepare a few things.
Know your margins. Wholesalers and consignment shops may have varying terms. Wholesalers expect a significant discount (at least 30% but 50% is more common, depending on type of product). Consignments may be a 30/70 or 40/60 split (i.e. you receive 60% of the sale and they receive 40%). Know what your margins are so that you can quickly tell a retailer whether or not their terms are realistic for you.
We are living in a strange world where we would rather connect through our phones than with the people who are physically beside us. In a world where social media is being accused of isolating us, I find that it is also opening up relationships that I otherwise would not have found.
Meet Kristine, founder of Table and Co. She reached me through Instagram one random day and before I knew it, my introverted self was chatting with her in a coffee shop like I had known her forever.
She shared her business story and how she juggles life with a toddler. But more importantly, she reminded me why I love meeting small shop moms. I was delighted to find that she has balloon garlands and massive backdrop displays in the living room of her one bedroom apartment. (As for me, my living room is filled with boxes of letterboards so I can relate!) She has secretly covered half her parking stall with tarp and snuck some more props in there. As long as strata doesn’t find out, she’s good!
As I was eating my bacon brunch, she told me all about how she had a pet pig until the age of 9. One day, her grandpa said that the pet pig had to go home to his family and took it away. She never saw him again.
We heard your complaints! It annoys the heck out of you when people follow and unfollow.
What it is – “Follow and unfollow” refers to accounts that follow you, gets you all hyped up because your account is finally growing… and then they unfollow you within hours or days. It is often a software or app that is doing the follow and unfollowing. They find you through location and hashtags. It is not personal so don’t be offended; often the account doing the follow and unfollowing do not even realize who they’re targeting.
Why people do it – It brings traffic to their account!! When someone follows you, what do you immediately do? I’ll bet that you tap on their account to see who they are. And what do you do next? If you like their content, you’ll follow them back. Or you might follow back out of gratefulness. Or you might just ignore them and move on with your life. Either way, it’s a strategy to increase traffic to your account. It is no different than doing follow loops, giveaways, posting click bait content, etc.
The good – As annoying as this strategy is, it works. Two years ago a large company started their Instagram account from scratch and followed many accounts in the home décor niche. I was naïve and thought, “WOW! XYZ company is following me! I must be going places!” Little did I know, they had unfollowed me promptly afterwards. Today, their account has grown to 300K and they’re only following a handful of people. I’m still following them because I’m a sucker and they put out good content. Even now, I still take a peek at the random people who follow me to see if it’s a gem (or hot men).
The bad – You need to be careful when using this growth strategy. Using third-party programs to follow/unfollow goes against Instagram’s terms and service and you could lose your account. If you are doing this manually, it will be very time consuming and you need to watch the frequency of your activity. Make sure to follow/unfollow people in batches. If you suddenly follow/unfollow hundreds of people in one sitting, Instagram may think you’re a bot and suspend your account. Don’t worry – this type of suspension is usually temporary but it is scary!
The ugly – Many people find this distasteful and will have negative feelings associated with your account. You’re making a very poor first impression and that could have consequences. Let’s admit it though, this group of people probably won’t follow you back so you might never be affected by them.
The people who do follow back, but only to return your follow, may not genuinely like your content and may not be your ideal audience. As a result, they’re going to be stalkers and will not engage. In fact, you would hope that this group unfollows you in the future because an uninterested audience would not help build your community.
My thoughts? I don’t approve nor disapprove of follow/unfollowing. It is simply another marketing strategy. As with all things in life, if you are aware of the pros and cons and are making an informed decision, then sure! You do you and I’ll do me.
“But it’s annoying!”
Yes, it is! But we cannot control how other people choose to grow their accounts and spend their time. We can, however, control our own reactions and how we choose to spend our time and energy.
Don’t like the follow/unfollow? Just ignore it and move on! Treat it like you are driving by a billboard. There are more important things in life that deserves our attention. Girl, if you are letting a follow/unfollow from a random stranger bring negativity into your life, we have a few things to work on!
“But I’m not that cool yet and IT REALLY BOTHERS ME!”
Okay, fair enough. I actually complain a lot behind closed chats so I’m not judging you at all! Here are some ways you can minimize the impact follow/unfollowers have on you:
Don’t use broad, spammy hashtags. If you’re tagging your posts with huge hashtags such as #love #health #business, etc., you’ve basically put a sign on your face that says, “Please spam me with everything you got!” Say you are a wedding planner in Vancouver, BC. Someone who is looking to follow/unfollow for the purpose of growing their account will not care if you are based in Vancouver, BC. They just want the numbers and are likely to target posts with #wedding #love #events. “But Kellie, this means that people who actually want to hire me won’t be able to find me!” Girl, someone who is looking for a wedding organizer in Vancouver, BC is not going to look under #wedding. They’ll probably enter narrow hashtags such as #yvrweddings #vancouverweddings #vancouvereventorganizer, you hear me? If anything, you’ll be making it easier for your ideal customer to find you!
Use an app to so you can find out who is following and unfollowing you. An example is, “Followers Pro For Instagram” in the app store. There are many similar apps but to use them for free, you have to watch a bunch of spammy ads. With these apps, you can quickly see who is not following you back and you can unfollow them directly in the app. CAVEAT: There is a margin of error with these apps. It is not uncommon for the app to indicate that someone is not following you even though they are. Use your common sense and don’t unfollow a good buddy because it is awkward when they receive a notification that you’ve just followed them back (‘fess up, we’ve all been there).
Be selective with who you follow back. Use your judgment! If you like their content, then that’s great! But if some dude with 1500 followers/7000 following follows you, then think twice before following back. Something isn’t right with those numbers. And really, are they ever going to buy from you?
My #ftstip: The most sustainable way to grow an account is through organic growth (i.e. hashtags, challenges, people genuinely loving your content, etc.). You should also have a variety of ways to grow your account (i.e. don’t put your eggs into one basket and only do giveaways). However, if you were deciding between buying followers or following/unfollowing, the latter would be the better choice. With following/unfollowing, you will end up with real people following you and the algorithm likes it when you have real followers.
This is a controversial topic and I would like to hear your thoughts! Comment down below or on our social media posts.
Last month we were honoured to do a live Instagram Q&A with Jessica from Mint & Birch. She is a mama of four, an entrepreneur, a small shop supporter and has built a wildly successful jewelry business. She has been running her business since 2012 and has a wealth of information. If you missed our Instagram live, no fret! This blog will recap some of the knowledge that Jessica shared with us.
Are Instagram pods worth the time? Jess: I might come under fire for this one. I don’t know if I would say that they are or are not worth it. They’re just very time consuming for un-proven results. The best way to grow your account is to create content that people will love and share. Pods are great for supporting one another and interaction, but don’t forget to spend time on content creation. I used to be in pods, but it was starting to become stressful to keep up, so I decided to switch my focus.
Should I pay for followers? Jess: Do not do it. There was a study done on Facebook by a very well known marketer regarding “like farms,” and the result was that true engagement and reach was down. The idea is that fake followers will not engage in your posts. So say, there are two accounts: One with 500k followers but only 5000 real followers. And the second account has only 5000 followers, but all genuine, engaging followers. The algorithm will give preference to the one with 100% real followers.
What is a tip for working with influencers? Jess: Ask for a media kit. Unless you have a specific plan in mind, ask the influencer to spell out what they have in mind for collaborations. When an influencer pitches to you, it is up to them to pitch to you, not the other way around. Find people who are going to genuinely love your product.
How long were you in operation before business really began to boom? Jess: I opened up in 2012 and I didn’t see an obvious growth until 2015. This will vary for everyone and depends on how fast you grow in the beginning, and how much time you put into your business. In 2016, my business exploded (so 4 years after I first started ) and today I have trouble keeping it scaled.
My advice is, “Don’t focus on “growth,” and numbers.” These numbers tell so many different stories, and if we get fixated on the numbers, it can distract us from enjoying our work.
Thank you Jess for sharing your thoughts with us!! One of Jessica’s goals this year is to help small business grow. Her mission aligned perfectly with ours which is why For The Small collaborated with her to host this Instagram live. I hope you found it as fruitful as I did! To find more information about this powerhouse mompreneur, check out her Instagram at www.instagram.com/mintandbirch or visit her website here.
Meet Colleen, owner and creator of Tink & Evie. Her small shop is dedicated to fun and interesting clothing for children and their moms.
How did you start your business? I started my brand because my daughter didn’t seem to fit a lot of baby clothes due to her length. I also couldn’t find clothes that matched the aesthetic I liked, so I decided to start making my own. Then people started telling me I should sell them!
What advice would you give to the 20 year old you? Don’t wait for things to happen, just go and make them happen!
What personality trait always gets you into trouble? I’m quite stubborn.
This week, we are meeting Amanda from Bee Pure Apitherapy. Her business is SO COOL! Her shop carries natural organic skincare and eco friendly products made with key ingredients found in the bee hive and combined with carefully chosen premium ingredients from around the world. Let’s find out more about her business!
Hey Amanda, how did you start your business/brand? It all came together when I developed an interest in bees and beekeeping. I discovered so many wonderful benefits of honey and the by products from the honeybee (Bee Pollen, Propolis, Royal Jelly etc.) This led me to further my education by taking an Apitherapy course from Europe. During my studies I began to play around with what I had been learning and make products that were all natural, healing and healthy. Once I found the perfect formulas for my products, I felt the desire to make these products available to everyone, who like me, desired to use products that were based on an organic formula.
Share a fun fact with us! As much as I really do love keeping bees, I have since discovered I actually have an allergic reaction to bee venom. Every trip to the hive demands that I wear a full on bee suit that covers me from head to toe. Even then my little friends find their way into my suit where I fail to properly zip it all the way. Fortunately, I have my trusty homeopathic remedy, Apis mellifica, to remedy the reaction to the occasional sting.
What’s the biggest challenge of running a small business? (We know it’s not that glamorous behind the screen!!) Besides being an entrepreneur, I am also the wife of the most supportive husband and mother of three wonderful children. While they are the most important part of my heart and life, I have discovered that running my business feeds another part of me! I find that I can manage my deadlines and get product out the door to customers, and that provides much satisfaction. What is a big challenge for me is social media. When it comes to keeping up with my instagram and other social media sites, I struggle with keeping them interesting, meaningful and current.
The holidays are over, time to get back into it! Today we are meeting Shannon, boss babe of Grey + Beau. They are a small babe and mama run business who wish to inspire everyone to not only create beautiful moments, but to take the time and make their souls happy.
Let’s ease into this with a few quick questions:
Why did you start your business? After almost losing my life after having Greyson, I realized that life did not revolve around my previous career and that there was nothing more important then doing whatever I could to be able to watch Grey grow.
What inspires you? Creative minds.
What advice would you give to the 20-year-old you? Change nothing. 😉
What’s one word to describe you? Silly.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A lawyer.
Last month we did a call out for donations for Baskets of Love Down Syndrome. Nicole, from Happily With Love, was one of the small businesses who stepped up and graciously made a donation. Today we are going to meet the owner of this beautiful shop located in Toronto, Ontario.
Hi Nicole!! Can you tell us how your business started?
Happily With Love started with the simple idea of creating a cake topper for a friends shower, and evolved quickly from that (I’m the type of person who has a thousand different ideas running through my mind in a single day!) I enjoy a good idea and really loved creating these beautiful pieces from scratch! I’m most in love with the fact that people will use these plaques in some of life’s most memorable moments – from pregnancy and birth announcements, to those first amazing months with your little babe, they really do pull at your heart strings!
What advice would you give to the 20 year old you?
I would have loved to tell myself that it’s okay to take some time to figure your story out. Take a year off and just travel, enjoy being care-free with little to no real responsibilities, do things that you’ll never have the time to do later on! Those were the years!