Sitting Pretty: A Conversation with Jorje Schilling of D&G Boutique

a1Wondering what to get this holiday season for the young mothers on your gift list?

If you’re looking for something unique, we’d like to introduce you to Jorje (pronounced “George”) Marie Schilling.  The mother of six and owner of D&G Bowtique, Jorge creates exquisite handmade hair bows that make the most special of gifts for mothers—and their daughters—everywhere.

And what is even more touching is how these beautiful bows were the way that Jorje created a new life for herself.

How these beautiful bows allowed her to reclaim her life after the heartbreak of domestic violence.

Here’s her story…

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Jorje: I’ve always loved ribbons and bows.  When I had my first daughter, I never could find anything I really liked.  So I decided to start making bows for her myself.  For all her different outfits.   As I kept making them (and they kept getting better with practice), I started to get comments like “Oh you really should get into business with us. These things are really nice and we like these.”

To be honest, making bows for me is really therapeutic.   When I have my hands in the ribbon, it’s one of the rare times where my mind isn’t floating in a thousand different directions.  And when I can forget the heartbreak of what I lived through in terms of the domestic violence.

It is healing because I get lost in that whole thing and my creativity starts flowing.

It’s where I’m most peaceful.

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Jorje: I get my inspiration from a lot of things…Each bow, even though they may seem similar, is different because I don’t have a template or measurement. They’re all unique.

Having said that, when I make a bow for someone, I try to get their vision in my head. What is it that she wants?  What outfit is it for? What is her child’s personality?

My clients often send me pictures of outfits to see if I can make something to go with it; my most important inspiration is trying to see what the customer is looking for…

Also, my own kids inspire me. I have three little girls and I watch them put together clothes when they’re playing dress up. And I think to myself, “Oh you know what? I never even thought that that would go together!”

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Jorje: My favorite part of the holidays is to have my whole family together. That is really important to me. I treasure it. I call it my beautiful chaos. Everybody gets together, talks at once, giggles, laughs, jokes and just plays around. I can sit back and listen to that for hours. We do cook too. My oldest ones, they’ve been talking about baking for two weeks now. “Are we going to make the Kool Aide pie? Are we going to make this?” I’m just looking so forward to it.

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Jorje: Describe my business in one sentence? This one is hard.

My business is more than just bows; for me, it represents hope and life.

I had a tumultuous marriage and making these bows allowed me to reclaim my life—and hope.

Creating these bows is a restoration process that has helped me enormously. When you first get out of a bad marriage you’re full of emotions and things. You try to regain confidence and strength.

So I think what I’d like to eventually have in my business is to be able to extend the same kind of opportunity to every woman getting out of a bad marriage.

I’d love to give them the same kind of hope and inspiration that I found working with these bows.

I’d love to help them get on their feet and give them an opportunity to work.

I’ve had several ideas such as collaborating with a local shelter.

My bows are beauty birthed out of brokenness.

Cute, colorful, sassy and fun. Jorje creates bows for all types of little girls.

This year give the gift of style.

Created by a woman who traded in being broken and hopeless for beauty and hope.

Check out Jorje’s latest creations here. b

 

Let’s Jam! An Interview with the Owner of Jams by Kim

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We’d like you to meet Kim, the entrepreneur and owner of Jams by Kim whose tasty delights won the American Small Business championship.

Kim is a quintessential artisan.

The word ‘artisanal’ means having something made by hand.

You can tell that Kim is a complete artisan, a true craftsperson who pours her heart into every single jar of jam she makes.

Blending the tradition of jam making with new and unique flavors like Bartlett pear, roasted garlic, sweet onion, ginger and peach margarita, Kim’s creations are a must have at your next holiday meal.

Here’s what she shared with us…

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Kim: I made my first jam when I was 12 years old, so I’ve been making jam a really long time. Before this I was working in corporate human resources for Prudential Financial. I was laid off but I had been there long enough that I was able to turn it into an early retirement. Right now I am president of the central Jersey chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. Oh and I must say –I’m having a ball and doing what I love to do.

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Kim: The first jam I ever made was grape. My grandfather had grapevines and he used to make homemade wine. When we were younger we used to go into his house and you could smell the grapes fermenting in the basement; it was wonderful. I remember he would let us taste the grapes in the beginning when they were ‘just’ grape juice but as soon as it became wine, we were no longer allowed to drink.  I can still remember him bringing me grapes for the jam; grape jam has an amazing flavor and I continue to make it to this day.

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Kim: I love the process. I’ve always loved to cook. My mother made jam, my grandmother made jam, so I was always in the kitchen. The fragrance that fills the air when the jam is cooking is amazing. When you fill the jars and process them, they’re gorgeous. Sometimes they look like stained glass windows. It’s really beautiful. This is definitely what I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now.

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Kim: I have an online store and I do farmer’s markets primarily. I typically do 3 farmers markets a week. My jams are in 3 small local stores but will hopefully grow to a few more. One of the stores is called the Better World Market. It is located on Route 27 in Somerset. I do jam sessions in my kitchen, teaching children and adults how to make jam. I teach people how to use jams in different ways. (It’s a whole lot more than just butter and toast.)

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Kim: The inspiration is really that I get to do what I love. I’ve always loved working in the kitchen. I love making jams. Having this business allows me to do that and make a little money. I meet great people, I source beautiful produce and it’s a blast in the kitchen. I have a great time making jams and selling jams.

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Kim: November and December are my busiest times because jams make great holiday gifts. One of my flavors for this season is a cranberry chutney. Cranberry chutney is great with any kind of poultry for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I do gift boxes for people and I ship jam. If you wanted to ship jam to a friend or family member I could put a hand written note in the box for your loved one with your gift.

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People love consumable gifts- nobody’s going to re-gift a jar of jam. It’s the perfect gift because it’s not masculine or feminine. I also do some nice wine and cocktail jellies.

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Kim: Thanksgiving was my mom’s favorite and it’s all about food and I love food. I get together with my brothers and sisters and their kids and grandkids.

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Kim: In one sentence- oh my goodness. I’d say: Jams by Kim are made by hand the traditional way, balancing creativity and authenticity.

You can’t compare them to something you would buy in a supermarket.

Thanks to Jams by Kim, you can officially say goodbye to boring stock stuffers and hello to flavorful, fun jams.b

 

 

Pink Room Therapy Anyone?

a1We had the pleasure to meet up with Cammy Wall, the inspired owner of Pink Room Therapy. The mother of two beautiful children, Green Bay Packers Fan and breast cancer survivor, Cammy is a Wisconsin girl who fell in love with stamping in 2006 and parlayed her passion into an exciting and unique business.

Here is her story…

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Cammy: Well, I guess I’ve always been a little creative. I’m from Wisconsin originally, and crafting was a big thing in my family. My mom and grandmother sewed…I had grandaunts that sewed Barbie doll clothes. It was only once I got married and started a family that I was introduced to scrapbooking.

But scrapbooking just took so much time.

So after I had my daughter I decided to stop.

Shortly after, I attended one of those home party things for rubber stamping.

The rest—as they say—is pretty much history.

That’s how I got started and it was an absolute great journey. I absolutely loved making cards and stamping. As a busy Mom, it was also the absolute perfect thing to do; while my daughter napped, I could dash out a card.

I’ve now been doing this for almost 10 years!

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Cammy: Well, it’s really therapeutic. For example, as an adult, no one ever thinks about coloring. It’s something I absolutely adore to do. So a lot of my cards feature hand-colored images.

There is nothing better than sitting down and hand coloring an image.  (Although I think the whole world is catching on to this with all the adult coloring books that are being introduced nowadays).

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Cammy: I actually don’t have a brick and mortar store, it’s just me. In 2007 I was pregnant with my son, and we had a room in our house that led out to a three-season room. It wasn’t being utilized in any useful way, so we converted it to a craft room for me. It was painted hot pink, which became mommy’s pink room, and eventually became Pink Room Therapy. That’s how the name of my business came about.

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During that time I started developing my skills – obviously your style changes a bit as you work on things. A little bit after that, I was asked to join a design team for a digital stamping company.

So I had started doing that and blogging, and that’s kind of where it took off.  Along the way, people would say “Oh do you sell your cards?” and I’d be like “Well, I can sell you a card.” For the most part, all the cards I create are one-of-a-kind pieces. I could easily duplicate and replicate things, but for the most part, they’re one of a kind.  I don’t have a physical shop to put them in. Eventually, I was approached to do a ShopOnMain store where I could feature them, so that’s how I ended up here.

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Cammy: Creating peace of mind while creating handmade cards.

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Cammy: I’ll definitely have some awesome teacher gifts and so forth that I’ve made. And during this season, I definitely don’t just stick to cards, I’ve done little gift items too. For example, I created a gift of ‘elf vitamins’ that goes with the theme of Buddy the elf from Elf.

So I definitely have some great teacher gifts, and gifts for maybe an aid in your child’s classroom. Or even the mailman or your UPS guy. Just something to be able to say, “We’re thinking of you.” I also like to emphasize the packaging, trying my best to make the packaging look beautiful and nice.

Want to give a unique gift during this holiday season?  We’re brimming with ideas on ShopOnMain.  Check out our featured gifts list (LINK TO GIFT LEAD MAGNET) And to discover some of Cammy’s Pink Room Therapy treasures, go here (LINK TO HER STOREFRONT)b

 

Why You Should Be Using Google’s Shopping Insight Tool

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Picture this. You’re the owner of a seemingly successful retail clothing store with locations in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Things are going well for you – in fact, your Chicago location just sold out of a certain grey sweater, and you need to reorder.

You think to yourself, “If that sweater sold well in Chicago, it’ll do well at my other locations too, right?”

So you go ahead and order a massive amount of inventory for all three locations. You think you’re about to make a TON of cash off this grey sweater, but alas! It’s just not selling!

Apparently, grey sweaters aren’t as popular in Los Angeles or Miami as they are in Chicago.

If only you could have known this before you ordered all that inventory, you could have saved yourself a lot of time and money (not to mention a giant headache).

But…what if there was a way to know which products were trending in different markets?

Enter, Google’s Shopping Insight Tool.

If you’re not using it, you should be.

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Whether you have an online business or a traditional brick-and-mortar store, Google’s Shopping Insight Tool is definitely something you’ll want to take a closer look at.

Providing insight into online searches for over 5,000 of the most popular products on Google Shopping, the Shopping Insight Tool highlights search trends based on location, time of year and the device used to perform the search (mobile, desktop, etc.).

So, essentially, this tool helps retailers determine which products might sell best in certain cities, based on these trends. For example, if you were interested in the popularity of Xbox One vs PlayStation 4 on Black Friday, you could search to see which was more popular in which cities (In 2014, PlayStation 4’s were more popular in New York, but in Los Angeles, Xbox One’s were much more popular).

If you’re a retailer who sells gaming systems, this sort of information would be extremely valuable, and may even influence your marketing strategy for certain products.

So, how do you use it?

It’s really quite simple. On the Shopping Insight homepage, just type in the name of the item you wish to find information on into the search bar and the tool will generate all the data it has on that particular product.

You can also use it to compare the popularity of different products. Going back to the gaming system example, you could type both “PlayStation 4” and “Xbox One” into the search bar to see the popularity of each system based on location, time and device.

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Having access to this sort of technology and insight is extremely valuable for retailers. Here are just a few ways in which it can help:

  1. Compare Product Demand on a Local Level – If you have stores in various locations, the shopping insights tool would allow you to compare the popularity of products across different markets. Then, given the trends, you would have a better idea of what might sell well in each local market.
  2. Measure Consumer Interest Across Different Cities – Taking a broader approach, retailers can see what is trending on a national level, but also based on cities – what works in one city might not necessarily sell well in another.
  3. Inventory Management – Product demand and consumer interest are a good indication of what will sell well in your market. With insight into this data, inventory becomes much more manageable, as you are able to stock only what is expected to sell well in your area. 

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  1. Understanding Trends in Popularity – 87% of consumers research online before entering a store, but at least 90% of goods are still sold in stores. When you better understand what customers are researching online, you’ll be able to better understand what they’d like to see in a physical (or online) store.
  2. Generate Ideas for Local Promotions and Investments – Along the same lines, if you know what products people in your local market are interested in, you can come up with better ideas for promoting those products locally.

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So now that you understand what the Shopping Insights Tool is and how to use it, let’s take a closer look at the Google Insights features:

  • Heatmap Technology – This allows you to view the popularity of a product based on location over a specified time period using different shades of colors to indicate interest levels. For example, a darker shade of blue would indicate a higher interest level, while a lighter shade would indicate less interest.
  • Time Series Graph – This graph shows the popularity of a certain product during various intervals of time – useful for determine what times of year products are most popular among consumers.
  • Device Filters – Shows the popularity of products based on the various devices used to perform the search – for example, you could compare searches on smartphones vs. desktop computers to gain further insight into your customers.
  • City Filter – Allows you to search the popularity of a product based on any given city.
  • Product Comparisons – You can also compare two or more products using any or all of the above features. Extremely valuable for determining the popularity of different products across various markets!

So, if you’re looking for valuable insight into shopping trends across the country, you definitely need to give Google’s Shopping Insight Tool a try. Not only will this help you avoid inventory disasters, but you might just discover your new favorite resource for developing and implementing effective marketing strategies both online and offline.b

 

The Power of Photos-What Every Online Retailer Should Know

by rice1 0 Comments

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

But how valuable are photos to your online business?

Let’s answer that question with a fact: articles and blogs that include images receive 94% more total page views than those that don’t have images.

That’s a whole lot of views.

As a business, your goal is to attract as much attention to your brand as possible.

Photography may be your new secret weapon.

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Well, consider these facts:

  • Visitors to your site remember 80% of what they see, but only 20% of what they read – if you want them to remember you, you’re going to have to use visuals.
  • The majority of customers think that, in an online store, the quality of the product images are the most important part of the decision making process – more important than even ratings and reviews, long descriptions and specific product information.
  • 67% of people who shop on ecommerce sites say that the product image is very important when it comes to actually picking out and purchasing a product.

We’re big believers in business owners always taking the time to listen to their customers. And in this case, the message is more than clear- images matter.

They even matter enough to affect the purchasing decisions of customers.

Bottom line?

If you have an online business and you haven’t started incorporating images into your website, you need to get started as soon as possible!

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But here’s the thing… not just any old image will work to transform your online business.

You need to be clever about the images you create and select.

Images hold the potential to effectively tell a brands story…or, they can have the complete opposite affect. It all depends on the quality of the images used.

What are some things you can do to make your images really shine and stand out from the competition?

Give a few of these tips a try:

  • Play on the emotions of your customers. People tend to make emotional decisions and purchases quite often, so if you can help push them in that direction by boosting their mood with a happy or positive photo, go for it.
  • Focus on your customers and their emotions. Don’t take the pictures for yourself. Utilize images that your customers can relate to. Take the focus off of you and put it on them.
  • Avoid cheesy stock photos. We’ve all seen those pictures that just seem to continually pop up around the web of people with cheesy smiles. Don’t use those. Be original and use photos that are unique to your specific brand.
  • Use natural settings. Try to photograph your products in their natural environments. For example, if you’re selling T-shirts, take photos of models actually wearing the shirts. This helps your product seem more relatable to customers.
  • Take photos in the right light. Try to utilize as much natural light as possible – if you can, plan to take your pictures in the early afternoon as this tends to provide the best light.

And Some Tech Tips To Help You…

To break it down even further, give these smaller, actionable steps a try to get started improving your photography today.

  • Learn more about Photoshop. Try going through a new tutorial and learning a new skill to use in improving your overall photography.
  • Reach out to others. Find some other photographers in your area and learn from them. Teach each other things and improve together.
  • Switch it up. If you usually shoot your photos during the day, give nighttime photography a try. Just try something different and see how it goes – you might learn something new!
  • Learn the functions of your camera. You won’t be able to take awesome pictures if you don’t’ even know how to properly use the camera. Learn the basics early on, and you’ll see improvements right away.
  • Get creative. Think outside the box and brainstorm for different photo-shoots. Think about what photos could really represent your brand well, and then go take them.

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Whether online or via a physical copy, we’ve all seen them – those bad photos that just make you cringe a little inside.

How can you be sure to avoid such cringe-worthy photos on your own blog or website?

  • Try not to take pictures in direct sunlight. Avoid this if you can, because direct sunlight can compromise the look and quality of your photos.
  • Don’t use excessive contrast. This can create those little halo-like features around the heads of those you are photographing, so try to avoid this.
  • Don’t over-edit. Editing is important, but it can be overdone. Especially if you’re photographing people, you want them to look real so your readers and customers can relate, so try to keep the editing to a minimum, at least when it comes to people.
  • Don’t shoot in the automatic setting. It might be easier to revert back to the auto setting, but don’t do it. Learn how to manually adjust the settings to ensure that you produce unique, quality photos every time.
  • Don’t use excessive filters. They look cool, but they also aren’t realistic and lots of people are using the same ones. Be authentic and learn how to customize your filters to give your photos a unique feel instead.

Photography is a process, but the more you become comfortable with it, the easier it will be. Taking and using quality photos on your blog or website is critical to your success online – don’t wait until it’s too late. Take the time now to learn about photography and how to incorporate it into your business. You won’t regret it!b

Rent the Runway – How to Look Like a Million Bucks without Spending It

by rice1 0 Comments

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Have you ever had to purchase an expensive, formal dress, only to wear it once, then banish it to the back of your closet for the rest of its life?

Or maybe you’re sneaky – you buy the dress, wear it to your event, and then return it to the store. (While not exactly ethical, a lot of women do this – 14% of women in 2013 admitted to wearing something once then returning it.

But did you know that there’s a better way?

You truly can look like a million bucks without over spending.

Introducing Rent the Runway – a store and ecommerce site where you can rent designer fashions at a discount.

Curious how it works? Keep reading to find out!

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It all started in 2008 when two Harvard MBA students – Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss – came up with a brilliant idea. After seeing one of their sisters spend thousands of dollars on a dress for a wedding – a dress that would only be worn once – they thought to themselves, “There must be a better way!”

And that’s how the two Jennifers came up with the idea for Rent the Runway – a company that allows women to rent designer dresses for a specific event at a fraction of what it would cost to actually purchase the dress.

And when you’re only wearing the dress once anyways, doesn’t it make sense to rent and save all that money?

The concept of ‘value over ownership’ was what made Netflix and Spotify popular, so Hyman and Fleiss decided to bring the same idea to the fashion world. Without ever even creating a business plan, they pitched their idea to investors and designers. It was an instant success, and Rent the Runway officially launched in November of 2009.

Through Rent the Runway, consumers have access to over 50,000 dresses and 10,000 accessories – all from over 200 different designers. In 2013, the company expanded into a physical store, and currently has storefronts in Las Vegas, Washington, Chicago and New York, with over 4 million members and counting.

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From beginning to end, the process behind Rent the Runway is quick and easy, allowing you to choose the perfect dress for your event in no time at all!

  1. First, filter dresses by color, length and trend to narrow down your options.
  2. Decide which dress you want to rent, pick out your accessories (if you want) and then place your order! (They also sell things like tights, lingerie and shape wear in case you need these items to go along with your dress – you can get everything you need, all in one place.)
  3. Rent the Runway will send you two sizes, just to guarantee you a perfect fit (this is included free of charge).
  4. Before the dress is sent to you, it is first steamed, pressed and then sealed in a plastic bag, so when it arrives on your doorstep, it will be ready to wear!
  5. Once you receive the dress, you’ll have it for either a 4 or 8 day time period. Each order comes with a prepaid, pre-addressed package that makes returns a breeze. To protect against accidents, a $5 insurance and dry cleaning fee are included with the rental.

Pretty straightforward and simple right? And the fun doesn’t stop with the process…

When browsing the website, you’ll probably notice the little heart icons next to each dress. When you click on the heart, that item will be saved to your favorites so you can go back and view it later.

And if you want to compare outfits or sort them into categories based on occasion, you can do that too.

You can even earn money towards your rental by telling your friends. When a rental is returned by someone you’ve referred to the website, you’ll receive a $20 credit towards your next purchase.

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Buying clothes online can definitely be a nerve wracking experience. What if the dress doesn’t fit quite right? Will you just be stuck with it?

Rent the Runway takes fear out of the equation by doing everything they can to make sure you love your dress, including giving you:

  • A backup size free of charge.
  • The option to add another dress for a small additional fee.
  • Access to an excellent customer service desk that will help you in case your dress doesn’t fit and take care of exchanging your dress in time for your event. (If you live in Las Vegas or New York, they will even send you a new dress via Uber in less than an hour!)

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Here are some of the reasons Rent the Runway is unique:

  • They have their knowledge of dresses down to a science, plus an analytics team that looks into all the details. Color, fabrics, long vs. short, which designs get returned, which designers are popular, what is hot or not, specific trends for the season – everything is analyzed.
  • They feature a lot of young, up-and-coming designers, providing a solid range of hip designs for all ages.
  • They recently launched their subscription service – for $99 a month, customers have unlimited access to all accessories and clothing.
  • They partner with designers (rather than buying dresses retail) which keeps the prices really low and increases the range of their size inventory.

With such a unique process, simple concept, and generally positive reviews, Rent the Runway seems to be a slam dunk in the fashion world.

And the proof they say is indeed in the pudding.  All you have to do is look at Rent the Runway’s amazing results to know they are onto something big.  After just a few years in business, the company is valued somewhere between $400 million and $600 million, and has raised $116 million in funding.

So…do you have an event coming up?

Try something new!

Save space in your closet and consider looking drop dead gorgeous in a rental desk from Rent A Runway. b

 

Warning: Your Very Own Black Friday Survival Kit!

by rice1 0 Comments

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1The clock strikes midnight.

You’re stuffed—lethargic–from the traditional “I ate too much” Thanksgiving dinner.

But you’re getting a second wind.

Adrenalin starts popping through your veins as you get in the car, drive downtown and get in line.

It’s that time again.

Black Friday madness!

Black Friday (and all the various Sales Day ‘babies’ that have been born from the tradition) is now almost like its own holiday.

Staples of our consumerism… and our society.

Here in the United States, we take these post-holiday shopping specials seriously.

Did you know congress even decided Thanksgiving Day should fall earlier in the month, just to make sure Americans had ample time to cross everyone off their list? 

And its massive success has spread worldwide, with retailers around the globe opening their doors on Thanksgiving evening just to meet customer demands.

Between Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday- one thing is certain. A lot (and we mean a lot) of money exchanges hands in just a few days. In fact, retailers make most of their yearly profit during “Black November.

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But what about you?

Do you know HOW to successfully prepare for the Black Friday shopping battlefield?

Consider the following to be your very own Black November Survival Guide—a primer on how to make the power of Black Friday’s shopping bonanza work for you. .

1. Make A List helps to save time when it matters most. If you just go ‘out there’ with no predetermined idea of what you are looking for, you may end up just being overwhelmed.

2. Clarify Your Budget Knowing how much you want (and CAN) spend, will curb any desires for an impulse buy. Yes, the pair of shining stilettos might twinkle in the window display with a sales tag strapped to their heels. But are they really in your budget?

3. Crunch Numbers. While one retailer may claim to be offering you their best deal, a competitor’s idea of “best” could be far less expensive. Compare. Compare. Compare. Even better, start researching NOW to compare prices and get the most bang for your buck when Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales roll around.

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4. Track Price Trends. Don’t fall for ‘price illusions’. While 50% off an item you’ve been eyeing might seem too good to be true, you need to remember that many retailers jack up prices during the holiday season (and then reduce) to give the illusion of a ‘great deal’. Check the price on the same product from six months ago- you may be surprised to find the price is much lower than it is now that we’re approaching the holiday season rush.

5. Shop Online. Prevent the physical harm associated with the Black Friday rush. And it happens. Crowds crush. In 2008, a Walmart Employee was actually trampled to death by a herd of ruthless shoppers.

Cyber Monday got its start in 2005 and has grown to a nearly 2 billion dollar sales day for online retailers worldwide. It’s a great way to avoid the crowds, and for the most part, retailers offer the same deals online as they do in the physical store.

6. Sign Up For Emails. Before you send those retail blasts to the trash, read at least the subject line- you’d be surprised what deals you might be foregoing. One great trick is to devote one entire email account to receiving newsletters. This will ensure that any important business correspondence won’t get lost in the discount mayhem.

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We place enormous emphasis on shopping safely online throughout the year (check out our blog post on how to stay safe online!) But between Black Friday frenzies and Cyber Monday madness, hackers have more opportunity than ever to steal your information. Remember that ATM fraud, defected registers, and online scams become increasingly prevalent during the holiday season.

So what steps can you take to prevent yourself from falling victim to holiday fraud?

• Avoid Stand Alone ATMS. While grabbing quick cash at the mall ATM might be easy, these stand-alone machines provide thieves with enormous access to your personal information. Go to the bank ahead of time.
• Check The Website URL. If it doesn’t start with “https”, there’s a good chance it’s not a real site.
• Check your credit card statement. You may be surprised to find a slew of two-dollar charges- a hacker’s way of ensuring they can use your card for bigger purchases.

With the holiday season swiftly approaching, make sure you are prepared to navigate your shopping list in a safe, efficient, and savvy manner. To get the most out of your Black November, consider ditching crowded malls and sold-out sites for the ShopOnMain experience. The best of both worlds- you’ll get the thrills of a shopping extravaganza without camping out in front of the store for hours or days on end.
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The Disneyland of Dairy

by rice1 0 Comments

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1Stew Leonard’s.

It’s been called “The Disneyland of Dairy Stores” by the New York Times.

But what really makes the company tick?

Why do so many people across the country love this one-of-a-kind grocery store, and why do they keep coming back time and time again?

The answer might be different from what you expect.

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Founder Stew Leonard Sr. had a vision – to sell freshly bottled milk along with other farm-related products in a fun, farm-themed retail environment.

Stew Leonard’s began in 1969 as a small dairy store with only seven employees, and has grown through the years to become the World’s Largest Dairy Store with nearly 2,000 employees and $400 million in annual sales.

But the vision for the company really began in the early 1920’s with Stew’s father Charles Leo Leonard’s dairy farm in Norwalk, Connecticut – Clover Farms Dairy.

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In the late 1960’s Stew began to realize that, with the decline of the milk delivery business, the farm would need to go in a new direction in order to survive. So in December 1969, Stew opened the first Stew Leonard’s grocery store.

The rest is history.

Truly a unique grocery store concept, Stew Leonard’s is more than just your typical retailer. In addition to their farm-fresh products, the company sets itself apart with its company’s consistent and spectacular customer service.

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As founder Stew Leonard said, “If you wouldn’t take it home to your mother, don’t put it in front of your customers.”

And no one sets the bar higher than Stew Leonard’s; they are committed to providing the best possible products and the best possible customer service.

In order to do this, Stew Leonard’s lives by these two simple rules:

  1. “The Customer is Always Right.”
  2. “If the Customer is Ever Wrong, Re-Read Rule #1.”

In fact, those two rules are so important to the company that they are written on three-ton granite rocks at the entrance of each store!

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Apart from providing excellent customer service, Stew Leonard’s is also committed to giving back and impacting their community.

For example, each store has a large ‘wishing well’ located near the exit. All of the money accumulated in these wells is then donated to local charities.

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And then there’s the actual quality of the products. Since its beginning in the 1960’s Stew Leonard’s has been committed to sourcing only the best, highest quality products in each store.

Here are some ways that they go about guaranteeing the quality of their products:

  • Delivery – They refuse any delivery that doesn’t meet their high standards; everything must be delivered in mint condition and at the proper temperature.
  • Team Member Training – All team members who work in food production are required to regularly attend food safety classes, and all must follow food handling best practices while on the job.
  • Food Monitoring and Testing – Team members are constantly checking food temperatures, inspecting all equipment and performing routine sanitation techniques to keep everything safe and sanitary.
  • Inspections – Sanitation inspections are performed once a quarter, along with regular health department inspections to make sure everything is up to spec.

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From concept to execution, Stew Leonard’s is definitely a great business model to follow.  Their example teaches us the importance of:

  1. Quality Customer Service – Stew’s simple commitment to customer service has helped shape the company into what it is today. Never underestimate the power of this simple strategy.
  2. An In-House Brand – They sell a lot of their own high quality, privately-labeled products, helping to make them unique and stand out from the crowd.
  3. Perks for Big Spenders – Shop at Stew’s frequently? You will be rewarded with things like a cup of coffee or scoop of ice cream for every $100 spent at the store.
  4. Reasonable Prices – You don’t have to pay a fortune to get high quality products. Items are all reasonably priced so all can enjoy.
  5. Well-Treated Employees – It’s not just the customers who are treated well at Stew’s – the company has frequently appeared among Fortune’s “100 best places to work in America.”

All in all, Stew Leonard’s is not only a successful business, but a quality-driven, customer-focused grocery store. You can learn a lot from company’s like Stew’s; it all boils down to being true to your brand, loyal to your customers, and committed to your products and employees.

All qualities we hold dear here at ShopOnMain. b

Gilt-The E-Retailer Who Does Things Differently

by rice1 0 Comments

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Are you looking to dress like Kate Moss but don’t quite have the budget?

Do you feel like you are always on the lookout for a great deal?

Constantly going from website to website?

Well, let us introduce you to the incredibly successful ecommerce site, Gilt.

Gilt is the largest U.S.-based flash-sale e-retailer.

Today, we’re going to walk you through how Gilt works and how it is they’ve managed to grow into a million-dollar company.

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Based in New York and developed by serial entrepreneurs Dwight Merriman and Kevin Ryan, Gilt takes shopping to the next level.

Kevin wanted to create the fastest, most exciting shopping experience online.  He wanted people sitting on the edge of their seats. So the company came up with the concept of a flash sale.

The idea of a flash sale is that you sell luxury goods for a steep discount for a limited amount of time. Every day at noon a new sale starts on Gilt and lasts only 36 hours. Merchandise is sold in limited quantities, which means that in order to nab your favorite products, you’ve got to act fast.

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And customers are loving these fast-paced sales.

  • With more than 9 million active members, Gilt has an incredible following
  • 68% of members are female as opposed to 32% male
  • And it’s a young crowd! Over 50% of members are under 34 years old

With these droves of clients, Gilt was valued at $1 billion in 2011.

Their growth just happened incredibility fast. In 2010, their sales jumped from $425 million as opposed to $25 million in 2008.

A lot of Gilt’s breakneck speed of growth is attributed to their strategy of offering discounts to customers who refer their friends. Also their sign-up program is incredibly interesting to fellow retailers helping their growth to go viral.

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Gilt scouts the world for unique brands and products. What they’re looking for is women, men, and children’s fashion, as well as unique home décor, artisanal ingredients and unusual experiences. They want products that people typically find inaccessible price-wise.

By purchasing unsold merchandise from designers and wholesalers, they are able to keep prices low and thus make them available to the general public.

If you join Gilt, here are some of the benefits you can expect every time you log in:

  • Instant access to local services and designer fashions
  • Exclusive deals. Sales are fast and furious so if you see an item you like, buy it!
  • Sale previews. View upcoming items before they are released. See the must have trends before your friends.

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Here are two other key reasons (aside from their amazing product choice) that Gilt has a leg up on the competition:

  1. Site navigation and organization. Merchandise is organized around a color, holiday or celebrity. This allows clients to approach their shopping depending on their mood. It also makes the flash-sales more manageable to navigate.
  2. Personalization. When you are a member Gilt tailors your shopping experience. Think of it as your personal shopper. CEO Michelle Peluso explains: “We know exactly what each shopper is doing on the site, not only what they’re buying, but also what they’ve looked at, what they’re putting in their cart and not checking out, and what they have added to their wait lists.”

Gilt has taken the online retailing world by storm; we can all learn a lesson or two from them.b

 

Online Shopping—Why Consumers Can’t Get Enough

by rice1 0 Comments

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1There’s something appealing about the idea of shopping in your pajamas from the comfort of your living room.

But then again, there’s also something lonely about it.

Shopping used to be such a social event – friends would gather at the mall for a day of spending, bonding and fun. It was a way that people connected.

But with online shopping on the rise, is the idea of shopping as a social activity a thing of the past?

Maybe – but then again, maybe not.

There are a lot of benefits to online shopping, and you might be surprised to find that there’s also a budding online shopping community.

Let’s take a look at some of those benefits.

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It’s so easy to discover new, exciting products while shopping online, which is one of the many reasons that people love it so much. You can find those strange, interesting products that you’d never find in a traditional retail store; sometimes the things you find become your new favorites, and you never would have discovered them if you hadn’t been online shopping.

Another way that people discover new products online is through subscription boxes. Basically how this works is that the online company puts together a box of goods catered to the customer’s specific needs – whether that be food, clothing, beauty supplies, etc. – and then sends the box to them in the mail.

Often times, this is a great way for online retailers to send a sample of different products to customers in the hopes that they will eventually come back for more in the future.

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The subscription box model has really taken off recently, some examples being:

  • Stitch Fix – This company curates a box of clothing items to suit your style and needs. You give them a bit of input, and their stylists come up with a box catered specifically for you. It’s all a surprise though – you won’t know what you’re getting until you open the box!
  • Blue Apron – They provide healthy, easy to make recipes, along with the necessary ingredients, to their customers via a subscription box delivered to the customer’s front door.
  • Birchbox – Each month, they send their subscribers 4-5 samples of beauty related products, including things like makeup and skin care products. This way, subscribers have the opportunity to try out these products as samples before actually making the commitment to buy them.

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Variety is another thing that people love about shopping online. Have you ever gone into a retail store to buy a specific item only to find that they don’t have your size available? What a waste of a trip.

But when you shop online, your size is all but guaranteed to be in stock. And with so many online retailers implementing free shipping these days, it’s almost just as good as going to the actual store.

Plus, since there is only so much room for products in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, some retailers carry items online that they are unable to carry elsewhere. By browsing those retailers’ websites, you might just find some hidden gems that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

How about the ability to buy used items for a discounted price in addition to brand new items? Amazon, for example, has this option – something that is especially useful if you’re looking to buy gently used textbooks at a discounted price. This can be an easy way to save money on items that are basically as good as new.

It all comes back to variety – whether you’re looking for alternative sizes or something gently used, there’s a good chance that you’ll find it online.

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Online shopping gives people the opportunity to buy a variety of different products from anywhere in the world, at any given time – something that’s not really possible when shopping regular retail.

And if you are the online retailer, you have the opportunity to reach a much larger potential audience than you could through just a single storefront.

But how effective are these international online retailers? Take a look at these companies and the subsequent numbers of unique monthly visitors to their websites:

  1. Taobao – 601,450,542 unique monthly visitors
  2. Amazon – 524,470,572 unique monthly visitors
  3. eBay – 267,904,800 unique monthly visitors
  4. Alibaba – 106,760,063 unique monthly visitors
  5. Alipay – 104,530,651 unique monthly visitors

That’s a lot of unique monthly visitors. Not only does this show the vast, international reach of online retailers, but also the sheer number of people participating. Which brings us to our final point…

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One thing you might think comes up short in online shopping is the community aspect. That’s one thing people love so much about shopping traditionally – spending the day perusing the mall with friends, connecting and bonding over the shopping experience.

What you might not know is this – there is actually quite a large community aspect to online shopping already in place.

One way that online retailers incorporate community is by using share and comment functions within their websites. This way, if you want to get your friend’s opinion on a cute pair of boots you found online, you can just share the website and /or image with her and get her opinion on the spot.

The comment functions allow shoppers to interact and leave feedback on various items online. People tend to feel more connected to the product and other shoppers when reading an authentic review from a real person. Many customers read reviews before making a purchase, so reviews are not only helpful in forming community, but also help the retailer sell more product.

Social media is, of course, another way that people can connect online. If an online retailer has a Facebook page, customers can comment on different items there. Over time, this builds community, providing a place for customers to interact digitally, almost like they would in a brick-and-mortar store.

Some tips for making an e-commerce site a true community:

  • Post regularly on social media so customers know what’s new.
  • Be true to your brand. When you post on social media, make sure you’re being authentic – speak to your audience in their voice as a reflection of your brand.
  • Build awareness through email marketing, in store promotion (If you have a physical store front) and social media.
  • Cater to your customers – give them a reason to spread the word about your business.

Even though online shopping is remote, that doesn’t mean it has to be anti-social or lonely. When done correctly, it can provide a great place for people to come together, shop, share and connect with each other internationally.

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