Websites always seemed so simple… before I had one of my own.
You want to buy your week’s groceries and have them delivered to the doorstep, without the effort of going out to the shop? Easy- log onto your preferred supermarket’s website, order your shopping and hey presto- all nicely delivered by a friendly driver.
Or you want to browse through them for a bit of info. What was that bird you just saw hopping about pulling worms up in the garden? You know- the medium sized one with black wings and a yellow beak? Pull up a search engine on the computer, type in the bird’s description, follow the link to a bird spotting website and read away- all about your friendly garden blackbird! 😉
Or you simply want to look for ideas for that dream kitchen, your ideal car, to search for your new house… these days the list of what you can find a website for is endless. It’s so easy to depend on websites just being ‘there’ and ready to use, that we just don’t think about the thought and work and planning that has to go into making them that way.
Back when I first had the idea of selling my doll’s clothes, I was only focused on one thing- to get myself a website that I could sell them through. I hadn’t really thought about the style, the colour palette I wanted, what my customers would or wouldn’t be looking for- I hadn’t even thought about needing a logo… nor even what I wanted my shop to be called! I didn’t know the first thing about finding a website address, setting up the shop or advertising and actually selling repeatedly.
Selling was actually the one bit I had had one tiny experience with- Mike had bought me a hosted website when we moved to Devon from London as I made cards for a hobby. Intending to try to make them to sell once we were settled, he set up the basic site but it never really took off. Little Blondie was only eighteen months old when we moved, setting up our new house took a lot longer than it should have, and running a household of eight people- all trying to adjust to their new lives in the country, meant that I simply didn’t have the time to dedicate to it like I wanted. Even as recently as fourteen years ago, the set up for an online store was more complicated than it is today- with far more knowledge of computers needed than I possessed at the time!
But one day something made me set up a page on there as ‘gifts’- the gifts in question being some doll’s clothes similar to ones I’d made for our girls. No advertising, some basic photos and a PayPal button… and an order that came in only a couple of weeks later- the only one to come out of that website. But it was the beginning of Little Dolly Clothes Shop– although of course, I didn’t realise that at the time! 😀
It was later that same summer, whilst sitting gazing out to sea on the first day of our first ever trip to what is now our ‘second home’, that I had a vision of selling my doll’s clothes more exclusively- after all, they’d actually sold whereas my cards hadn’t- probably being up against a handmade-cards-saturated market at that time hadn’t really helped!
Once we got back home after five lovely days away, I sat down at the computer wondering where to begin. I didn’t really have a clue- I just knew the outcome that I wanted to achieve, and that it had to be done as cheaply as possible if I was actually going to make any money from selling my dolly clothes. I don’t really remember what I typed in to find it, but somewhere along the way I was directed to a website company that advertised themselves as being easy to use- with free website hosting up to a certain level of selling, readymade templates that could be customised and with the ability to take payments already set up. Upgrades to further levels were also available for various fees.
So I signed up. It’s not like me to do something so out of my comfort zone, and I don’t really know what made me actually take the plunge- other than the fact that it felt right and, by putting my faith into this being the right thing to be doing… everything fell easily into place. Coming up with a name for my shop was surprisingly easy considering I had given it little thought- I was selling doll’s clothes, it was a shop and a small business. Little Dolly Clothes Shop seemed to fit the description perfectly.
As for a logo… well, in the early days I simply had a play around with the shop name on word art to make it a bit fancy, and decorated the word with some colourful ‘bubbles’! It served the purpose, even if it didn’t really fit the shop! With pink as a basic colour palette for the website- a bit stereotypical perhaps and not very original being mainly aimed at girls, but I just happen to love it in all its forms- and a basic web address that described my business (not essential, I just wanted one of my own!) bought through the site’s recommended registrar and my new ecommerce store was good to go. 😀
The early days were very simple- I made half a dozen different outfits, took some basic photos using my daughters’ dolls as models, popped a basic description on and hoped for the best. The orders came in straight away, at the rate of a couple per week- faster than I could have hoped for or imagined, and it rather overwhelmed me! I was enjoying the experience so much I expanded my range with other ideas I had- nappies and bedding being the first. Each new item was carefully measured against my models, with patterns carefully drawn out and mock ups made to check the fit. Each time I added something new, it sold easily proving it was the right thing to do. I very soon outgrew the permitted fifteen items with options, and signed up to the first level pay-monthly store.
It wasn’t all plain sailing from there though- at the end of December 2012 we lost our house to a fire, and it nearly finished my little fledging business. The fire having been in the loft, water damage was the main issue- so the bags of fabric, bought and stored with such care in our hallway were in the centre of the house and therefore mostly needed replacing, along with all my carefully drawn out patterns and paperwork. Stupidly, business insurance hadn’t been top of my priorities back then and replacing the fabrics was a slow and costly business, never mind the fact that I had no base to work from for six months while we were living in a caravan, so had to suspend my little business until we were settled several months later into our (now long term) temporary home. 😦
Getting the business back up and running was again surprisingly easy, most likely helped by the fact that it occurred during August and September- the run up to the busy Christmas period. Two weeks before Christmas I even hit my highest ever (to date) number of orders waiting to be processed, and somehow even managed to get most of them (all the pre-Christmas delivery ones) out in time! 😀
Having learnt from that lesson, and with enough money set aside to pay for it, my next big hurdle came just over a year later when I looked into insurance… finding a craft insurer for online selling was the easy part- but when I came to sign the end of the form and I had to confirm that my makes conformed to all required legal standards… that’s when I panicked- as I had no idea! Form laid aside, I turned to the good old internet for a quick search and found that even as a very small time maker I needed to certify my doll’s clothes for toy safety… which I’m a bit ashamed to admit I’d never even heard of.
‘A quick search’ became many hours of internet browsing, which turned into many weeks of research… which in turn became many months of finding online help, contacting trading standards, replacing easily sourced and cheap fabrics with more expensive branded ones, putting each of my items through the rigorous CE testing process… there were many times when I wondered if it was really worth all the bother. (You can read more starting HERE about my CE journey in the series of blog posts I wrote at the time 🙂 ) With a now higher price band to cover the extra costs, my orders slowed down for a while too- but each time a new one came in I still felt the thrill of excitement that showed me that maybe I was actually still doing the right thing! ❤