It has been a long journey, but here we are once again in the retail trade. I always come back to working for myself. I guess that it is just in my blood - - my parents were both entrepreneurs as well.
This time around it is extremely different...my husband, David, is working with me side-by-side on a full time basis. Yes, working together can be a bit challenging but also a blessing. In the five years since we closed our soy candle manufacturing facility the Internet has really changed. This "social networking" stuff and twittering...what is this all about?
David is a bit old school in regards to computers in general, however I went to school in the early 1990's and obtained a diploma in computerized business management. I'm certainly not a tech geek, but I am pretty comfortable sitting in front of the keyboard.
Since our business plan was to sell our candles exclusively on the Internet I quickly delve into the social networking realm. I had MySpace and Facebook accounts which were rarely used and half-heartedly thought I would give Twitter and LinkedIn a try. I quickly found old and new friends on MySpace and Facebook...many stating to just let them know when we were up and running so that they could order some candles. They have watched the web construction as it has proceeded along and been very supportive.
Twitter...that was a different story. I am by nature a shy person who takes a while to get comfortable with people, so Twitter was a bit difficult at first. I began by finding people with similar interests (eco-friendly, motivational, retail etc). One of my biggest weaknesses in my past businesses was my networking abilities, mainly based on the shyness and not wanting to "toot" my own horn. I analyzed others on Twitter for a few days and read every twitter article which others posted. The best suggestion to date was to get TweetDeck so that I could organize who I follow. I also put many 'tweets' into my Favorites folder to look back upon later, or to sometimes re-tweet. In one month I ended up having almost 2000 followers...wow! A built in customer base, cheering squad and support system...how exciting.
From Twitter I found a professional networking site, LinkedIn. To my surprise I found my past employer listed so was able to obtain two recommedations immediatley. LinkedIn didn't interest very much as I wasn't sure how to get connected. I searched around for Groups which interested me and I found one concentrating on Twittering...voila! What a wonderful group of supportive people. I have since joined numerous groups, get great business information on a daily basis and have almost 400 connections.
Blogging was a topic which kept peering its ugly head on these sites. I actually really enjoy writing, however didn't have the confidence to do a blog. After talking myself out of it for weeks, I talked myself into it! Here we are! I've read numerous articles about blogging and am no longer worried about the number of followers I have. I simply concentrate on providing my honest thoughts for others to read.
In the meantime, David thinks that I have completely flipped my lid! Why would I spend so much time doing social networking? writing a blog? We are suppose to be getting our business up and running. What he didn't see was that I was making customer contacts, supportive professional contacts, building our brand online and stirring up interest before we even had our products ready to sell.
David's story changed when we received a direct message asking if we would like to be featured this summer on a high traffic website which reviews retail products! Ha! The same week we were found by two different retailers asking about wholesale information for our products! ha again! Last but not least our first retail order came from a follower of ours on Twitter, a nice big order! Ha, ha, ha! David is now a convert.
I guess the moral of the story is...jump in! Don't let your weaknesses or fears hold you back from trying something new. If you try a social networking site you actually have to participate in order to get something out of it. It is a fantastic business tool which is just waiting to be used.
Life is a journey...not a destination! David and I are learning to enjoy the journey and we encourage you to give it a try.
Join us on twitter! http://www.twitter.com/sallyleecandles