So you have a great small business idea but aren’t sure how to turn it into a profitable company? This, all too often, is a problem many entrepreneurs face when they’re just starting out.
And as a local business owner, it can be intimidating trying to compete with other businesses similar to yours who are not only already popular, but profitable. Undeniably, becoming an entrepreneur isn’t easy, but it helps to hear success stories from other small business owners who’ve made it work.
It’s for this reason that we asked local entrepreneur, Sonia Charry, owner of PawPosse.com, to share her advice with us on how she initially came up with her small business idea and what marketing tactics have helped her company grow.
Check out her tips below:
- Learn from others’ experiences. You can get a wealth of information from other entrepreneurs, as well as free small business resources you can find online.
- Hone your networking skills. Sign up for small business and entrepreneur Meetup groups to meet like-minded business owners. This will help further your reach in your local business community and gain traction for your business.
- Take advantage of social media. There’s no better way to reach thousands of members of your target audience on a daily basis than through the use of social media.
- Always up the ante. Constantly looking for new ways to take your business to the next level keeps your business fresh and relevant.
Check out Sonia’s story below:Business: PawPosse.com
Business owner: Sonia Charry
Business focus: Dog supplies
Business type: E-commerce
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Number of employees: 2
Scott’s Local Business Corner: Sonia, can you tell us a little about the products PawPosse has to offer?
Sonia Charry: PawPosse.com specializes in cool stuff for big dogs. We seek products that solve problems for dog owners. A few examples: Phoenix’s hot summers mean scorching pavement; our summer dog boots protect a dog’s paws from burning. For owners who would rather keep their dogs indoors when it’s hot or cold in the winter, our dog treadmills let you exercise your dog no matter how brutal the weather is. Many big dogs are very smart and high-energy, so we offer puzzle toys like a treat ball to give a dog mental stimulation while satisfying their urge to chew. We don’t carry everything, so we focus on products that are high quality and fulfill dog owners’ needs.
SLBC: How did your business idea for PawPosse come about?
Sonia: It’s all my dog’s fault! When Nala was a puppy, I went to one of the big pet stores and passed a rack of Halloween costumes. I was shocked to find my 6-month-old puppy was too big for their extra-large sizes. I went home, searched online, and after not finding anything big enough for Nala, I realized there was an opportunity.
SLBC: It must have taken quite a leap of faith for you to turn your small business idea into an actual company. What steps did you take to ensure your success?
Sonia: It was scary, but my passion propelled me forward. I bounced the idea off everyone I could – friends, family, strangers at the dog park – and their enthusiasm supported my idea’s value. From there, I made sure to work with people who had more experience than I did and could advise me. I hired a local web developer who had successful e-commerce clients. I found a wholesaler who worked with online pet retailers and picked their brains on what worked for their big customers. I sought assistance from free business support programs like the Small Business Development Center and Business Accelerator. Why waste time on mistakes when you can learn from others’ experiences?
SLBC: What advice would you give to local entrepreneurs who have a great small business idea but aren’t sure where to begin?
Sonia: Connect, connect, connect. Find others who have done something similar and find out what worked. Find out what didn’t work. You may have a hard time getting someone in your own industry to guide you, but many lessons transcend industries. Hire people whose skills complement yours. Attend Meetups and other groups where you can connect and learn from those further along the path.
SLBC: What marketing tactics have you used to turn PawPosse into a popular shopping site for pet owners?
Sonia: Social media’s been big for PawPosse. Even before the site went live, we were connecting with dog lovers on Facebook, Twitter, and other media. We put out a lot of good content, which helped us build a strong following. That led to the second piece that’s helped us grow: search engine optimization. We put out content people want, make it easy to find, and now see about 50,000 unique search visitors each month.
SLBC: Were there any marketing tactics you tried that didn’t turn out so well?
Sonia: At the start, I tried to be cutesy in an attempt to make my site different. For example, I called a product category “Wearables” instead of “Dog Apparel.” Nobody searches for “wearables,” so it didn’t get search traffic. People who came to my site from social media and other sources weren’t looking for “wearables” either, so it didn’t jump out at them and they left. Once I went for ease of use over cutesy, sales improved. Lesson learned: Keep things simple. Make it easy for customers to find what they want and sales will follow.
SLBC: Are there any software programs or tools you use to help streamline your marketing efforts?
Sonia: I use a few free online tools to monitor results. Google Analytics is a fantastic option for tracking everything from basic traffic to email campaigns to real-time data. It’s exciting when I put out a promotion and can instantly see the response.
SLBC: Your dog inspired your initial small business idea; does she continue to inspire new products in your online store?
Sonia: Absolutely. When I see a new product, one of the first thoughts in my head is “Would I buy this for Nala?” It’s one thing for a product to be useful or clever, but it’s another thing for it to be good enough for my baby. If it’s not good enough for my dog, it’s not good enough for my customers.
SLBC: Any plans to open a retail location for PawPosse?
Sonia: At this time, we’re focused on our online customers. Focusing on online sales allows us to provide better customer service and a broader range of inventory to our national customer base.
SLBC: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about PawPosse?
Sonia: We love dogs and will do everything in our power to help you and your dog live happier lives together. If you have a question about a product, sizing, or something you can’t find, please call. We’re happy to help!
Thank you to Sonia for sharing her tips with us on how to get your small business idea up and running. For more business advice, including more tips from Sonia, check out our free e-book — The Ultimate Cheat Sheet: How to Write a Business Plan.