the business side of me | an update of sugar bit
I've had a lot of you asking about my business, Sugar Bit, and what it's like trying to manage an e-commerce business as well as a blog, so I thought I would give a little update as to all things in the children's apparel and gift world.
Next month, we will celebrate our third anniversary from the day we opened our virtual "doors" and welcomed customers to visit our website. A lot has changed since April 2014 and I am so excited about what's already happening in 2017.
First things first, we are growing with our customers. When I began Sugar Bit, our focus was primarily on babies and toddlers and we only carried newborn through age 4. Crazy to think that in the timespan of three years, we have now increased our size run up to 14 for girls and size 10 for boys. It was a gradual change and one that we tested a few times to make sure the interest was there, and it's been so much fun to branch out, incorporate new brands and collections, and offer styles for kids of all ages. It's also been a learning experience in realizing what people want, versus what they actually buy and what keeps our customers coming back time after time.
Second, yes I still hand write notes. I founded our business on southern hospitality and it's still the backbone of everything we do at Sugar Bit. As much time as it does take to sit down and write notes for orders, it's something that our customers continually rave about and say that it separates us from other competitors and it makes our packages uniquely special. So with any full price merchandise order, you'll still receive that custom note from yours truly.
Styles have changed, but some things remain the same. When I started Sugar Bit, we had a mere 12 brands to offer... we wanted to start small and see what happened and we made a point to ask AND listen to our customers in terms of what they wanted us to carry, gift options, etc. We have tested and tried new brands--some worked and some didn't--but we have made moderate shifts here and there to keep our shoppe fresh and focused. As a result, I am proud to say we currently offer more than 60 different brands, so that we truly have something for everyone!
And yes, some brands that we started with are still in the rotation including Joules, Hatley, Lucy Darling, Peppercorn Kids, and Pink Chicken, just to name a few.
We intended to open a brick and mortar store. From day one, our business plan included eventually opening a brick and mortar store here in Nashville. It was something I dreamed about, prayed about, and after three years, we have decided it's just not what's right for our business. I've looked at more retail spaces than I can even count, have ran the numbers on costs/profit/etc, and now I'm finally at a place where I 110% believe we're on the right path. Honestly, it just never felt "right" and even though it was something I wanted, our business has continued to grow online and I know at this stage in our family's life, operating online is not only what works, but it's what is best for Sugar Bit AND for our family. And yes, we will continue to do seasonal pop-ups and trunk shows and holiday markets so you'll see us in person more and more.
Keeping up with social media is HARD work. Between SEO and rankings and Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email marketing campaigns and more, I feel like I am failing at managing it all. It's a market that is constantly evolving and I'm trying to "up" my game so I can be as efficient as possible. At the end of the day, if I am able to do a few posts, that's going to have to be enough for now. I am looking at hiring a summer intern to help with these types of tasks so fingers crossed I can find someone!!
Outsourcing has been a lifesaver and is helping us grow. About six months ago, I started working with a local accountant and it's been a HUGE blessing. Honestly, accounting/finance isn't my favorite thing to do (nor am I very good at it), and so we brought on a local mom who used to work in a big accounting firm and Ashley has been helping me reconcile the books, keep my accounts up to date, etc and I cannot say enough great things about this decision. Plus, I'm helping another mama make some money for her family so it's a win/win for all of us!
Market is still my absolute favorite thing. It's SO funny when people ask about market... it's like this unicorn people are dying to see and I can totally understand the fascination and why people get enamored with the thought of this giant building full of shops and showrooms. BUT having said that, it truly is work and my friends and family that have gone with me can tell you it's not as glamorous as it seems. You're up at the crack of dawn, bouncing from showroom to showroom with 4-6 appointments a day (with multiple brands shown in each showroom) and then when you wrap up, we usually head back to our hotel to tally our daily spend before finally eating dinner and passing out at night. But yes, it's fun and if you ever have the opportunity to go with someone, you absolutely should! The best part is knowing what's coming in terms of fashion for the next season and being the first to see the designers' looks. My new goal?? To head to Playtime in NYC so I am hoping that happens this fall.
I watch Shark Tank religiously. Not only do I read industry/trade books and such to keep up with what's going on in retail, but I am an avid watcher of Shark Tank. I have found it to be a valuable resource in terms of learning from other entrepreneurs and listening to the guidance the sharks provide.
Say yes to really good opportunities. A good friend of mine (thank you again Chrissy) emailed me a few months ago about a small business program called ScaleUp Nashville. It's a competitive, six month training program for entrepreneurs who want to grow revenue, build staff, and expand services and I thought it would be a fun thing to apply for so I did, thinking there was literally no way they would choose Sugar Bit to participate. Luckily for me, we were recently accepted in the next cohort that starts in March and I am SO excited about this program. It's definitely going to be a lot of work and a big commitment, but being scared is good and I know I still have a lot to learn in terms of running a business and I am confident it will be worth the sacrifice.
Crazy to think about how far I've come... I am constantly learning and evolving and I absolutely LOVE what I do. For so many people that have helped my dreams come true, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! And just because it's fun to see all the new goodies taking over the shoppe, here's a roundup of recent show and tell flatlays displaying some early spring favorites!