When Things Don't Go as Planned

You might have heard this old (and admittedly terrible) joke before: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I know. Groan. But I feel like this can be a very hard lesson to learn when running your own business. Often we have started our own businesses because we like make decisions quickly and cutting through what would be layers of bureaucracy at a typical job.

But, uh, oh yeah, we also don't have a team of people we can boss around to make things happen (I try to get my dogs to do work, but they insist on sticking to their tight nap schedule). Which slows things down. And makes doing things like building websites extra slow. Take it from a day-job marketing veteran, websites take FOR-EV-ER to do with a team. So it's understandable your digital "Rome" doesn't get built in a day with just you working on it.

Today, Kristan from Stitcherie shares how in her best laid plans her new website was going to include a beautiful shop with all the products from Etsy store. But she quickly realized it's best to eat that website elephant one bite at a time (yeah... I know, that was a weird metaphor).

Q: Tell us about yourself!
A: I’m Kristan Kremer, owner and operator Stitcherie. Stitcherie is an online only fabric shop that with a curated selection of fabrics for the modern sewist.

Q: Why did you decide to redo or create your website? 
A: When I first started my shop at the beginning of 2014, I used the Shopify platform. At the time, I didn’t know much about SEO (search engine optimization) to drive customers to my shop. I also thought I could get by on support from my “friends” (people I knew online from blogs and social media, as well as the local population of sewists). I was wrong!

I tried to market on social media, but I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I saw very little sales. I moved to Etsy in June 2014 and sales increased dramatically due to the built in SEO and customer base. I continued to increase my knowledge and experience of running an online shop while enjoying the growth I was seeing with Etsy.

During that time, I started to think that I should follow the advice I had read many many times to diversify with my own online storefront, separate from Etsy. At the very least, I needed a way to communicate with my customers and retain their contact info via the ever important e-mail list. It’s difficult to form a relationship with customers through Etsy since we cannot provide many easy-to-find clickable links.

Q: Did you do it yourself?
A: I did it myself, mostly because I prefer to put profits back into the company through more inventory, since I do not create that inventory myself. I can build a website myself, and I’m a chronic DIYer, so I went for it.

Q: What platform did you choose and why?
A: Armed with good ole Google and countless walk-throughs and tutorials, I created a Wordpress site, installed and customized a pretty theme, and started to import products from my Etsy shop. I chose Wordpress because I loved that I could do pretty much anything with it. I chose WooCommerce as my e-commerce provider because the Wordpress theme I loved was optimized for it.

Then I scrapped the WooCommerce part of the site because I just couldn’t handle the stress from creating the shop that way (more on that in a moment). My next idea was to use another shop platform separate from my Wordpress site, and then just link the two. After some deliberation, I went back to Shopify because I was already familiar with it, and because I liked what other people were saying about it and doing with it.

Q: What challenges did you have with creating the site and how did you overcome them?
A: My main challenge with WooCommerce was importing all my products. I had/have around 100 listings in the Etsy shop. I had to purchase a plugin that would import them for me so I wouldn’t have to do it all by hand. But then after importing I still had to clean up all 100 product pages because things don’t import perfectly. Then there was the added task of having to optimize for SEO so I would be able to grab traffic from organic searches for every single one. There were also formatting issues that made things look shoddy and unprofessional. No amount of Googling and asking for support from the theme’s creator was helping me to fix the issues I was having.

After I got fed up with all of that, I moved over to Shopify, which had it’s own set of challenges. The main one, again, was importing my Etsy listings. There’s no plugin or program that will do it for you. There’s a crazy looking spreadsheet. I couldn’t find much help on how to interpret it to work for my shop and the CSV file I get from my listings on Etsy.

Apparently Shopify has amazing customer service and you can call them and a real person will help you. I think that’s a great feature of the platform, but I absolutely do not like talking to techy people on the phone. (Sorry techy people, I don’t know what you’re saying to me. We will just frustrate each other. Please just write a clear tutorial with screen grabs and put it where I can find it so I can do it without bothering you!).

So I began the task of creating listings for every one of my fabrics. I could copy listings for fabrics from the same line so that tags and general info would be the same, much like in Etsy. I spent days trying to do that, but I was just DONE. Over it. It was seriously taking a toll on not only me, but my family as well because my stress level was through the roof, which is rare for me. I knew it was time to move on, or back to what was already driving my current success - Etsy.

Q: You originally were going to also host your shop on the platform. Why was this the best decision for your business?
A: Through all my reading and research, I found that it’s very helpful for SEO to have a blog as part of a shop.  The more you talk about your shop and your products and link to them, the better. The more eyes you can get to your site where your shop lives, the better. The more people link back to your site, the better. You increase your chances for views and links by having real content to share, not just products for sale. I also wanted my customers to be able to do things like sign up for my list and find other valuable content like tutorials and free patterns, all in one site. It concerns me that the more clicking out of a site a person does, the less likely they’re going to click back. I wanted my customers to spend time where my products are, not on Pinterest or some other site looking for something they could do with my products.

Q: What are your plans for the future with the site?
A: In the future, when I can justify hiring someone, I will eventually have a super beautiful and functional all-in-one blog and e-commerce site built. I’m just not willing to devote the funds to that now, because I have much more important (to me) projects coming up soon.

I know that one day at the right time for me and my shop, I will cross paths with someone that will be able to execute exactly what I’m looking for and what will be a wonderful experience for my customers. For right now, I’m very happy to focus on the Etsy platform.

People complain about the fees, but I am happy to pay them for everything Etsy does for me right now. I’ve tried to build my own site, so I can see the work involved, and there are still quite a few fews associated with that too. Etsy just works for me at this phase of my business.

Q: Anything else?
A: When I started Stitcherie, it was important to me to offer fantastic customer service and super fast shipping along with great modern fabric. The amount of fabrics available out there is staggering, but I keep a small, curated shop so that sewists don’t have to browse through mountains of fabrics that don’t interest them.

Q: Where can people find your stuff?
A: Crafters, sewists, quilters, and anyone else that likes awesome modern design can find my shop by visiting www.shopstitcherie.com and clicking on the shop tab. While they’re there they can join the mailing list to stay informed of sales and discounts (don’t be shy about joining - I don’t like cluttered inboxes either, so you’ll only hear from me when there is actual news to share!). They can also see behind the scenes stuff on Instagram by following @stitcherie, where I also like to share customer projects using fabric from Stitcherie (just use #shopstitcherie and tag me so I can find it!).

When have you learned that maybe you can't tackle everything on your to do list all at once?

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