Olga Vidisheva’s upstarting business, Shoptiques, is an online venue where small fashion boutiques can sell their merchandise to a much wider audience than the foot traffic passing on the street. There are multiple inspiring and admirable aspects of Vidisheva and Shoptiques’ story, but here are a few we thought particularly applicable to other SMBs.
1. Do the work before the launch.
Vidisheva’s idea began as an undergrad and came to fruition years later. The launch took many years because Vidisheva took the time to do proper research in order to make her business successful. Although she came up with a great idea, Vidisheva realized it takes more than an idea to make a business truly work. Vidisheva personally interviewed over 800 boutiques nationwide about e-commerce to determine what her brain-child could do to best serve the boutique and their customers.
Instead of using the Field of Dreams mantra, “If you build it they will come,” Vidisheva also gathered her customer base before launching the site. Vidisheva drew a customer list of 12,000 in order to ensure the website’s success before it hit the web. Vidisheva was able to set herself up for success by doing the footwork and research necessary before beginning operations in earnest.
2. Keep your contacts.
Vidisheva says herself that her story sounds cliché because it is the “American Dream” realized. An immigrant herself, Vidisheva paid for her tuition by modeling where she was able to make valuable photographer and modeling contacts that she later turned to when starting Shoptiques. Make a positive impression on your contacts and then keep them, as chances are they can do things you can’t. If you’re looking for more inspiration on how to successfully do this, consider Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which demonstrates how Abraham Lincoln surrounded himself with cabinet members, contacts he made along his political journey, who were his opposites and would therefore fill gaps in his own reasoning…which brings us to the next point.
3. Fill critical operational gaps.
During her research Videisheva discovered that the boutiques she was interested in didn’t have online logistics or operational components to support the “customer chain.” Technology and logistics operations had to be created and put in place to make the boutiques viable for Shoptiques’ online marketplace. In order to make the one-stop-shop offer more appealing to boutique clients, Shoptiques took care of it all, including managing inventory, integration with FedEx, and contacting the customer when they have bought an item. Shoptiques even provides professional models and photographers for the boutiques’ merchandise. By filling these operational gaps Shoptique is able to make an attractive offer and fully-integrated customer experience.
If you’d like to read more about Olga Videisheva and Shoptique, here is a great article.