Doing business online is the future (and the present), and more women are cashing in on this expansive market, using their skills to build an online presence, develop their brands and expand their reach in ways that would not be possible with a brick-and-mortar store.
Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp co-founded e-commerce beauty retail store Birchbox in 2010. Both attended Harvard and spent a lot of time learning about strategy and psychology; crucial for success in consumer business.
Barna and Beauchamp noticed a gap in the market of beauty retail e-commerce. Inspired by new concepts (start-ups like Glit Group and Rent the Runway), they recognized that e-commerce in the beauty retail sector needed better marketing initiatives. So, they took advantage of the gap in the market. Their focus turned to illustrated monthly giveaways and giving beauty samples to subscribers. By paying $10 per month, subscribers could try out a wide range of samples tailored to suit their individual profiles. The business took off.
Barna & Beauchamp knew how important it was to associate their as yet virtually unknown business with established, well-known brands. They approached several brand owners with their business idea, requesting samples to test out. They sent samples to friends, and asked them to spread the word about Birchbox via email. This way, they managed to secure clients. Word-of-mouth has strength and power – never underestimate it as a marketing tool for start-up businesses.
Leila Janah graduated from Harvard, with a BA in African Development Studies in 2005. She launched the award winning, non-profit social enterprise Samasource in 2008. Inspired with a desire to offer solutions to world poverty, Janah developed an idea to assist people in developing countries that had minimal skills.
The root word Sama translates as ‘equality’ in Sanskrit: This is the motivating factor behind Samasource. They’re dedicated to helping young people and women living in poverty throughout the world. Samasource provides them with the opportunity to learn essential computer and tech skills, and trainees are paid as they learn. Sustainable employment is key with Samasource, and like Barna & Beauchamp, Janah paid attention to changes to business and recruitment. The need for computer literacy in developing countries was mirrored with the need for disadvantaged people with minimal skills to find work. With sustainable employment, both parties (the employer and employee) benefit. Employees are paid a fair wage. Samasource has expanded rapidly, and counts many high profile clients in its’ roster; including eBay, Google, Microsoft and Linkedin.
Building an online presence
First off, creating an online presence is essential. Utilizing social media is a good idea for start-up businesses. Draw attention to your brand by way of status updates and link back to your website. Initiate discussions that center on your services or product. Most importantly, engage with your readers, allowing them to build up a relationship with you and generate a feeling of trust.
You can also attract potential investors and stakeholders with social media. Work with other websites, sharing and swapping links to pages. Most website owners will agree to this, providing your website’s content is high quality. This will give you greater exposure. Update your website regularly so that it will rank highly with search engine optimization (SEO) trackers.
Your domain name is the first thing your viewers will see, so choose a domain name that speaks to your viewers and potential clients. Short, catchy names are best – long and complicated names are easily forgotten. A catchy name is more likely to be shared with visitors and you’ll benefit from word-of-mouth marketing. Once you have your name, you can register it via an ISP (Internet Service Provider). A substantial number of domain hosting companies also offer packages that include domain registration, free email addresses and web server space, so it’s a good idea to shop around.