Welcome to this e-commerce business success story! In this profile, we interviewed Katrina Bell, the owner of The Copper Bell. Our hope is that you find this interview to be enlightening and inspiring as you seek to start and grow your very own online brand!
Thank you for joining us for this e-commerce business success story! We’d like to start by getting an understanding of your backstory. How did you come to own your business?
My business started as a creative side hustle in Fall 2019. I had been unhappy in my day job for a few years and never landed the promotion I was looking for. As I was looking for a new 9-5, I started making candles and wreaths and attending local artisan markets on the side. I wanted more experience with sales, getting to design and create my own thing, and wanted to be able to talk to people directly! I attended a few lacklustre markets during the Christmas season in 2019 and shelved The Copper Bell on the backburner in the new year. March 2020 rolled around and the pandemic we had been joking about for some time really started to hit home. At that time I was working in business development for a local tech company and we got the stay at home order starting mid-March 2020. Just a few short weeks into that, the company let go of 25% of its global workforce – including me! I figured it was the perfect opportunity to work on growing my side hustle and made the decision to take my 5 month old side hustle to full-time work.
Terrific! Now, this article is about profiling successful e-commerce businesses. So – can you share your top 3 keys to running a successful online brand?
The things that have worked the best for me are: leveraging social media, authenticity and being the face of my brand, and email marketing.
Social media has been 95% Instagram for me – before I ever even made a website I was growing my following and talking to customers on Instagram. I am working on diversifying what social media I use for the business but Instagram has remained my bread and butter. I have professional product photos and am constantly working to tweak the content I create and the audience I am serving.
Authenticity and being the face of my brand have probably had the biggest impact for me. My customers know me as a funny, raw, real person who shows up regularly on social media. I am open and honest with my struggles and successes and have customers and followers cheering for me as my business grows. The best thing to do is show up as yourself – people really do love buying from a real person and not a faceless brand.
Email marketing cannot be stressed enough. I have way more sales from an email marketing blast than I do from throwing a post on Instagram to talk about a new product. I grow my list through giveaway contests exclusive to subscribers, offering small discounts for sign up, and will be experimenting with early access for subscribers on my launches this Christmas season. Work on collecting emails but make sure you are offering something valuable in exchange.
Excellent. Now, I’m sure it hasn’t always been that easy. Can you tell a story about one challenge, setback, or mistake that you’ve had to overcome on the road to success? How can others learn from your mistakes?
I could tell dozens! Business is all about making mistakes but learning quickly. Don’t double down on something that isn’t selling, and be quick to learn and move on. I have launched products I loved that no one wanted to buy. I have done a poor job of managing my materials and sat on thousands of dollars of unused raw goods that don’t work for me anymore.
The best piece of advice I have is start small and get a very good inventory management system working for you. If you make a product you should know what you make that sells the best and what just sits without moving for weeks or months – these are products to drop. Sell off your remainder but don’t tie up your cashflow in inventory that isn’t working for you. If you make a small run of something and it sells out in a day – great! – the demand is there and you can go much harder on keeping that stocked up.
If I were going to do it all again I would make less of everything to start and only restock the items that move quickly. As I’ve scaled my cashflow has been a big bottleneck to my growth and I wish I didn’t have so much money tied up in products that aren’t moving.
Thanks for that. Now – we want to know what’s next! What new initiatives are you rolling out at your business and what results are you hoping to see?
I release candles seasonally to keep things fresh so I’m always working 3-6 months ahead in the year. I’m getting ready to make most of my Christmas and Winter stock to get ahead of the curve. It’s a busy season for most retail but especially for candles!
Last year was my first year working full-time in my business. My sales in November 2020 alone were more than all of my sales combined from April-October 2020 and I could not keep product in stock. I’m hoping to replicate that success again and be prepared for the demand this time around. I have all my sales and campaigns planned out for the next 3 months to help drive sales and am aiming for another $100,000 in sales for November and December this year.
Sounds exciting! Any final words of advice for our readers?
Fail fast! Everyone makes mistakes and you should absolutely expect you will try a dozen things that don’t work in your business. Try out new variations of products or new styles and be ready and willing to say goodbye to things that aren’t being validated by the market.
Brilliant! We want to thank you for participating in today’s interview. Hopefully our readers agree that there is a lot to be learned from your brand’s story. What links can our readers use to follow along with your journey?
I am most active on Instagram @the.copper.bell and you can find me on my website at www.thecopperbell.ca