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Season 1 - Episode 6

from markets to millions, online store success with jodie minto

Season 1 - Episode 6

In today's episode, I discuss the lessons I have learnt from seven years of owning and running my online fashion store.

These lessons will ultimately save you time and money in the rollercoaster journey of having your own business.

Tune in to hear more!

Enjoy!

xo





Show Notes:

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Curious to check out my fashion brand?  Take a look here: iland co. 

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Show transcript

Hello and welcome to this episode of From Markets to Millions, Online Store Success with me Jodie Minto. I'm so happy to be here today and to share with you my seven lessons from seven years of iland co. that is my online eCommerce fashion brand, which is a million dollar a year business. And boy, I've learned lots of things along the way and made all of the mistakes and hopefully some of these lessons will help you fast track your success and maybe not fall into some of the pitfalls that I fall into along the way. 

So my first number one tip for scaling your store is to stay scrappy for as long as possible. What do I mean by that? Don't get ahead of yourself when sales start to ramp up. Remember winter is coming. For us, we are a resort wear brand, winter is always very quiet. So during the summer months, we often feel like we are super rich and have got all of the money to invest in all of the things and you know just be throwing cash around left right and centre and then all of a sudden some winter comes and we are scratching our heads going ‘Hmm, where did all the cash go?’.

So staying scrappy means doing things as cheaply as possible as you can for as long as possible. Everything from whether or not you've got an office like me from the office supplies, buying the no name brands to make sure that you're just not overspending and over capitalising in some areas, which might come back to bite you later on. Because trust me, expenses always pop up in business. And if you can stay scrappy and have some cash left in the bank that will serve you well when those unexpected bills appear. 

Number two for those manufacturing or for those that are even purchasing products from other brands, keep your inventory low. As far as if you're manufacturing, keep your minimum quantities or your MOQ's as small as possible. Rather than going all in on one particular style in say a 100 different units, I would suggest if you can find a manufacturer that will agree to do perhaps even 30 different, you know 30 MOQ’s, but across three different colours, you'll be in a better place to capitalise on selling and moving that inventory as quickly as possible. Because there is nothing like committing to 100 units of one particular style and colour that you think is going to sell really well, only to sell two or three of them and the rest sit on the shelf for the next 12 months. It is not a fun place to be when all of your cash is tied up in stock so make sure you are constantly negotiating with your suppliers or your manufacturers about keeping minimums small. This is something we do at iland co. is we absolutely keep our minimums small. What happens if we discover that we have a best selling piece, we will then make it again and we will take pre-orders and let customers order in advance while we're still making it. So you can always look at doing things like that, because it protects your cash flow and it protects you from having lots of slow moving stock on the shelves that you don't know how to get rid of. 

This brings me to number three: don't have all of your cash tied up in stock. Keep your range neat and small and focus on best selling shapes. So if you have discovered you've got this signature product or this unicorn product, which I like to talk about, where people just keep coming back for it and that's what you're known for, focus on that and reiterate that in different ways. So for example, you have a kaftan dress that women or your customers keep coming back for time and time again, look at creating that dress in different prints and maybe create a maxi length as well as a short length. Keep the focus on what is selling versus over-stretching yourself with time and cash by trying to experiment too much with product that's not yet proven.

We want to keep our range neat and small and remember we can always add to it later, but by going all in and doing high MOQ’s, as well as a massive range will mean all of your cash will be tied up in stock. You'll have none left to spend on marketing on product development for that next collection, or paying yourself a fair wage or hiring that team member that you need help with. Because cash is king in business. And like I said, there's always unexpected bills that pop up so make sure that you keep your inventory commitments, as small and neat as possible. Always keep coming back to any sales data you have around what's the best seller and think how can you reiterate that, how can you create something along the same vein with a product that is proven.

Number four of my lessons from seven years of being in online fashion is don't overcommit with wages, bonuses, and staffing. Now in any kind of business, there's usually peaks and troughs, and often when you're in a peak, and the money's coming in and everyone's feeling really stretched and overwhelmed, that is when we can go a little bit crazy and start hiring extra people and committing to new, salaries and headcount and promising pay increases and bonuses and all these different things. 

I know, I like to reward my team, I want to give them absolutely everything I possibly can. But what happens is, when they're new, that peak in your business drops off, you come into winter, for example, and the money slows down you have then you're then really in a place where it's tricky to honour that commitment. There is nothing worse than having to let go of team members, it absolutely destroys me. I've had, I've had it over the years where I've hired people, and I've had too many people and all of a sudden the sales aren't coming in, in order to cover the payroll, and I'm sort of looking around the office, seeing people that don't have anything to do and then having to let them go. And that, for me, is absolutely heartbreaking. I just encourage you to remember when you're in those peaks of businesses, don't jump the gun too much. Especially if you're in retail or fashion, it's a real rollercoaster of up and down sales. So just keep in mind the long view and go, can I afford to still keep this promise or keep this person in a job in the dead of winter. So just ask yourself that before you go and make commitments in those peak sales times. 

My lesson number five, some tasks in our business and really easy and cheap to outsource. These are different little things that you will find you might find someone on freelancer.com or on fiverr.com or even software tools that help you systemize things like social media scheduling, for example. There are a lot of options when it comes to outsourcing different tasks of your business. I always recommend outsourcing specific tasks in your business, if it totally overwhelms you or if it's totally outside your zone of genius, or it's something that takes you far too long and it's cheaper to pay somebody else to do it for you. 

I know a lot of people that I work with don't pay themselves a salary and I, I always tell them, please pay yourself first. But if you think about it, if you're not currently paying yourself a salary in your business, but you were to go and get a casual job down the road at the local coffee shop or the local soup supermarket, what would your hourly rate be then? Let's say it's $30. Just for the purpose of this example, if your hourly rate is $30, and you've got a task such as creating an email newsletter to your list that might take you inside of Canva or tool like that, six hours to create. That is a lot more money and time spent doing something that would be easily outsourced to someone to an out we have a designer and overseas designer that helps us without EDMS and it will take her two hours for example and at a lower hourly rate. 

So think about what things are taking up all of your time and your business and have a look and see whether or not it can be easily and cheaply outsourced versus some things that are absolutely crazy expensive to outsource for what might take you a little bit of time to do yourself. One example I have of this is social media, your organic social media now, over the years I've used agencies to help. I've had a staff member that's what she manages for us but she went on maternity leave. So I hired an agency for three months and the cost of that agency just to do our organic social media, and it was about seven, I think was like one post a day with five stories a week was about three and a half thousand Australian dollars a month, which is absurd, because what they were doing was exactly what we were doing. They were just popping all of our posts into a scheduling tool. They weren't doing anything outside of what we were already doing. There was no groundbreaking secret that they were able to, you know, increase our engagement or anything like that. It was exactly the same. And we can do that ourselves, isn't it at all, such as later.com. And I don't mark, I don't love social, organic social media. But it's not that difficult for me to, to spend an hour in later.com, dropping in some images, writing a few cute captions and programming that for the rest of the week, it's not something that warrants that amount of spin, in my opinion. 

So there, like I said, there's different things in your business that you can outsource cheaply, which makes good business and dollar sense. And then there's other things that are just crazy expensive. Another thing that is really expensive to outsource is Facebook ads management. And I've looked at that over the years, and I am a bit of a weirdo, I actually love Facebook ads. I live for the numbers and the analytics, and I manage it all myself. But sometimes, like when we are in those peaks of business where I feel totally stretched and overwhelmed. And I think that's it, I'm going to outsource this to someone else, it's really expensive. One company quoted me $6,000 a month to manage my level of Facebook Ad Account. Plus, they also wanted a commission from the sales and from sales that I was already making without their help. But they said if any more, you know any sales, we make via your ads, even though they're already doing well. We also want to commission so it's something that is crazy, expensive, in most cases to outsource. And I know Facebook ads are something that are terrifying for many, many people. But once you know the basics, and if you're only spending a minimum budget, you know, maybe you're only spending anywhere between, I don't know $10 And $100 a day, you can manage that level of ads yourself. The great thing about Facebook ads is if you know how to manage them, and you notice that they haven't made any sales for a few days, you can go in and make necessary changes. So just keep that in mind. Where are you best spent in your time you're in your business, and usually it's in revenue producing activities versus what takes up too much of your time and can be cheaply and easily outsourced. 

Okay, lesson number six, practice difficult conversations, you will have many of them as your business grows. This I've had quite a few of these recently, even just in the last week, it can be anything from difficult conversations with suppliers, to different difficult conversations with influencers, to difficult conversations with staff and team members to difficult conversations, with a partner who might be on your case about you know, selling more product and clearing out that garage of empty stock for example, it's something I hear a lot of from women, it's something you will need to master and, and by all means I am not a leadership coach. I get coaching from others that specialise in that but there it is something that you will need to practice is having these difficult conversations that are fair but firm, and that you don't lose sleep over, you know, for days leading up until then, because you will have to have many of them. 

One of my tips for this is to write out the conversation, script it a few days before you've got that meeting coming up. Go over and think, Is this fair? Is this firm? At the end of the day, after having this conversation, what would these people think and feel about me? If you read through that script and think oh, they're gonna think I'm a horrible person. Well, maybe you need to go in and tone it down a little bit. So having difficult conversations, I mean in life, we have to have them, but you will be having a lot more of them when you're in business. 

My final final lesson from being in business for seven years is pay your taxes on time. If you have got regular revenue coming in and if you're in a country like we are in Australia, were your registered for GST, for 10% of every single sale you have to pay 10% to the Tax Office. Set yourself up on some sort of pay as you go plan. Speak to your accountant don't think it'll be okay, and then in five months time, you get three quarters worth of tax bills for about $100,000. And then you think, oh my gosh, how am I ever going to get myself out of this.

I'm speaking from personal experience here, don't put it off, don't put it off my friend, pay your back taxes on time. Because the Tax Office, even if you shut your business down, they will come after you for that money. So make sure that you prioritise that, whether or not that setting up a specific bank account to funnel taxes into or setting up an actual system with your tax office where you're paying them a monthly amount, have a conversation with your accountant about what the best way forward is for you. If you're like me, and any money sitting in a bank account just seems to burn a hole through it and I just end up spending it, set up a repayment plan direct with the ATO because there's no getting out of that. If you're great at saving, well, perhaps the bank account method will work well for you. 

Also a side note, I started my business when I was living in the UAE and Dubai, where there was no tax there was no company taxes, or income tax or anything like that. So for the first half, four or even years of my business, I was like, what even who even cares about taxes and this is probably why I've managed to give myself a tax bill. Now, back in Australia where you have to register for tax and pay tax. It can be the ever rude shock. So just make sure if you are moving countries or anything like that, check what your local tax authorities rules are and don't forget about it. Don't just have your head in the clouds and think it's fine. The law will sort itself out, you need to systemize and make sure that that is paid. Well I hope these seven lessons from seven years of island co. have been helpful to you. I wish you all the very best in your online store journey. Be sure to follow and subscribe to this podcast give me a rating give me a review if you really want to make my day. I'd love that. And I will see you next week, same time, same place with an updated episode for you. Bye for now.



Tune in each week to learn how to build and scale your own online fashion or lifestyle eCommerce store.

My mission is to help other emerging fashion entrepreneurs crack the code of eCommerce success for a life of uncapped income, flexibility and fun.

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