013: How My Student Sandy Donovan Created An Online Store Selling Personalized Kimono Robes

sandy Donovan

Today I’m happy to have one of the students in my Create A Profitable Online Store course on the podcast today. Sandy runs GetUnrobed.com which specializes in selling bridesmaid robes online.

Now this interview is unique in that it provides a very realistic, in the trenches account of someone who just started their online store. Sandy started less than a year ago and today, her shop is now on the front page of search and making consistent sales.

But her path was not smooth. In this podcast, she’ll tell us about all of her struggles and triumphs during her journey.

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What You’ll Learn

  • How Sandy found her niche for her online store
  • Why Sandy switched shopping carts to Shopify early on
  • How Sandy sourced her products for sale
  • How Sandy gets customers to her store.
  • What worked for her and what did not
  • The hardest part about starting an online business
  • How much did she spend to start her business.

Other Resources


Steve: You’re listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast episode number 13. A few weeks ago, I sent out a poll to my blog asking who they wanted to hear from the most on my podcast. And surprisingly, they didn’t want to hear from famous people. They simply want to hear from real people, who just started their businesses and basically people in the trenches. Now, since I run a course at e-commerce at www.profitableonlinestore.com I just happen to know many in the trenches. So today, I have a student of my Create A Profitable Online Store course with us on the podcast. Now, first things first, this isn’t gonna be one of those raw-raw type of episodes, it’s not going to be a, oh! I signed up for Steve’s class and after following the step by step tutorials, I managed to make tons of money. Quiet the contrary. It’s rarely smooth for any business owner and it would be a lie to say otherwise. So, in this interview, I give a very realistic, in the trenches account of a student who just started their online store. Now, if you are interested in learning how to start your own business, go to www.mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six-day mini course on how to start an online store. Also, I’m giving away free one on one consults on a monthly basis. For more info on that, go to mywifequitherjob.com/contest. Now, onto the show.

Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host, Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. Today, I’m really happy to have Sandy Donovan on the show and Sandy is actually a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store course. Now, last week when I sent out a poll to my readers, an overwhelming number of people responded that they wanted to hear from real people who just started out with their shops, people in the trenches, people starting from the very beginning. So, I decided to bring on different students of mine to the podcast. Now, incidentally if you want to learn more about my course, go to www.profitableonlinestore.com. Anyways, I’m gonna have different students on the show who kind of took different paths towards starting their own online stores.

Now, some students chose to go the free open source route, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about sign up for my free mini course at mywifequitherjob.com. I also have students who chose to go with a fully hosted chopping cart and I’ll also hopefully convince a few students to come on who are just absolutely killing it! Now, in a private poll I conducted with my students last week, there were at least two students doing over six figures per year, both of whom have been doing five figures per month consistently for the past several months.

Now, my goal with these set of podcasts is to give all the would-be shop owners some different perspectives on the whole process of starting an online store. Okay now, let’s talk about Sandy. Sandy is one of my favorite students in the class, because things haven’t exactly gone that smoothly for her, yet she has kept at it. Now, she’s currently doing four figures per month with her online store GetUnrobed.com, which sells Kimono robes for bridesmaids. Now, Sandy really is an amazing person and she’s done an incredible job thus far. So, Sandy, welcome to the show and thank you for coming on.

Sandy: Thanks Steve! That was such a great introduction, so thanks for having me; I’m really excited to be on the show today.

Steve: Yeah, really happy to have you. I know for a fact since we’ve interacted quite a bit through the course that, I know you’ve been trying a whole bunch of different things and you’ve had your ups and your downs so, that’s why I thought you’d be an ideal person to bring on the show.

Sandy: Yeah, well, l definitely had the ups and downs so [chuckles]-

Steve: [chuckles] And again you know, just for everyone who’s listening, we’re trying to give a realistic account for someone who’s just started relatively recently. So, Sandy, how did you come up with the niche for your online store?

Sandy: Well, most of it was mathematical, just walking through what you had shown in the course, which just to give a brief overview, is basically taking a look at what people are searching for and comparing that to what is out there in terms of competition. So, it really came down to that in the end, but just a little background on how I came up with it, I – you’d mention to look for something that isn’t being sold in the store. And one day I was with my family and one of my older cousins was turning something– I don’t even remember, 55, 60, something like that, and someone was looking for a happy coat, do you know what that is?

Steve: I do not, what is a happy coat?

Sandy: Okay, so, it is– I don’t know really where the name came from, but in Italian families, it’s basically this really long night gown, it’s kind of a mix between a robe and a nightgown and Idon’t know why they call it a happy coat, I think it comes from another language but the people now kind of tease the older generation because they wear it all the time because it just makes them happy. But, it’s…

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: Something that the older Italian women would wear around the house. So, one of my cousins was searching for that since she couldn’t find it anywhere, so they used to be able to get them everywhere, and so that kind of just put me down the truck of robes. And as I was looking for different robes, I knew I didn’t really wanna sell the happy coat, but I was looking at different robes and what I was seeing was that, a lot of them were either really cheap, so cheaply made, I didn’t like the fabric or they were just really frumpy looking, so they were really big and just not flattering, and so, that kind of led me even further to find out that a lot of women were searching for robes for their bridal party and they were really hard to get. I’ve heard that from lots of different people and it has been confirmed after I opened the store a lot of my customers told me that they can’t find them anywhere in local stores. So, that was kind of the progression but, all along the way, I was checking for key words that were related. So, it all started from that happy coat but then it kind of you know, went a lot further based on the key words that were popular and low competition.

Steve: Okay, so, one mistake that I’ve seen a lot of students make is that they haven’t decided who their target customer base is, you know, when they’re starting on their niche. How did you actually decide to target your robes towards you know, the wedding party in particular?

Sandy: Well, I was definitely one of those people, who made that mistake and didn’thave a target audience right off the back, or at least I thought I did, and it ended up changing. So, if you look at the name of my store, its Get Unrobed, and that basically came from, like I was just saying, looking at the robes that were out there and either cheap or they were a little frumpy and I was looking for something that was a little more sexy and not lingerie like, but closer to that than what was, so I actually didn’t start targeting bridal parties or brides, as who I’m targeting you know, for the bridal parties, but I didn’t actually start targeting them until I made my first few sales, and my first few sales were all brides, and that was kind of when I decided, okay, this would be a much better option because, when people are buying for their bridal party you know they are buying– my average sale is about five, it’s four point something almost around five robes.

Steve: Nice!

Sandy: Per sale. Yeah, so that’s a lot better than the one robe [chuckles], that I would have been selling per sale if I just went the traditional like, hairspray gift or hairspray yourself or something like that. So, I didn’t decide right away and I wish I did because, if I had put more thought and done a little bit more research, then I probably would have come up with a different domain name and I also would have branded a little bit differently right off the back.

Steve: But I noticed that you know, I just went on your site actually just before this interview, I noticed that all the verbiage on your site is now geared towards weddings and the bridal party.

Sandy: Yeah.

Steve: And has that had a good effect on your conversion rate over all, once you started doing that?

Sandy: Yeah, I mean that, there’s been a lot that has I think, affected my conversion rates since the beginning. I’ve made a lot of changes, so, I definitely have noticed though that my customers over time have gone from you know, bridal party, bridal party, bridal party, individual, now to mostly just bridal parties.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: So, I don’t really– I guess I can’t say that it has definitely affected my conversion rate overall, but it has definitely affected my number of items per sale.

Steve: Okay, okay sure, that makes a lot of sense. So, you know, a lot of the people just kind of want to hear about the process and first of all, you wouldn’t describe yourself as a technical person, would you? Like a programmer, developer type?

Sandy: Absolutely not! No.

Steve: Okay, so, given that as your background, can you kind of discuss some of the most difficult parts that you had about getting started with your online store?

Sandy: Yeah, so, when I first got started I actually went with open cart because, I thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult to kind of put a store together which– I don’t know why I did that. And you know, after someone made this analogy after I was talking to them about what I had decided to do. They said, you don’t know anything about building a website. If you were going to open a retail shop down the street, you wouldn’t go out and buy some bricks and try to put it together yourself, you know, why are you doing this? So, that’s basically, I started that way, started with open cart I was trying to do it all myself and I’m kind of glad I did it only because I did learn a lot, and now I’m able to take what I learned as far as very simple code and apply that to where I am now which is Shopify, which is fully hosted.

And so, the most difficult part about that, I guess, since I’ve moved to Shopify – which I was only on open cart for two months. But since I moved to Shopify, I guess the most difficult part is, you do so need to code a little bit to get things exactly the way you want, and it is tough for me sometimes. But, what I’m learning is to let go of that, and to just get somebody who knows what they’re doing to do it right off the back because, I’ve learned that I’ve wasted more time and more money making a change that has affected other things such as, okay, now– I don’t know, now the track out process is not working quite right, or it looks a little funny, and my conversion rate plummeted and I have no idea why, you know, because it’s on some browser that I didn’t check, all these different things that can happen. So, definitely I’m letting go of that and letting other people do that for me and that’s been a huge help. So, yeah, most difficult part, just even those little changes just to make things exactly the way you want.

Steve: So, just to give a little background story with the listeners. As part of my course, I always urge everyone to actually just consider the open source route because, that’s the only way that you’ll have complete control over your online store. You have everything and no one could ever raise prices on you or put you out of business. But for some people, it makes sense to just go the fully hosted route because everything is just done for you. Ultimately, you’re there to sell your products and not have to deal with website stuff at all. But you know, there’s obviously pros and cons with both, and as Sandy pointed out, she did try the open source route and I commend her for doing that, but it just wasn’t for her so she moved over to Shopify, and some of her skills that she picked up while going the open source route, kind of translated over as well. Okay Sandy, so let’s talk about the next part of getting started with your store, how did you find the vendors?

Sandy: I found the vendors– well; I have two vendors that I started working with right in the beginning. I have a few more now, but right from the beginning I found one through Ali Baba or I think actually through Ali Express, because I wasn’t quite ready to order enough to go on Ali Baba. But Ali Express let me order just like a few hundred at a time, so, that was perfect. So, I did that and what I did was just contact a whole bunch of them and ask for samples. I didn’t have to pay for the samples and I ended up not liking a majority of them actually, but then once I did find what I liked, it was nice because it’s been a really smooth relationship with that vendor ever since.

So, definitely if anyone is listening, that was something that scared me a lot. I didn’t know how to do that, I mean, you showed us in the course but going into that, I had no idea how to contact people, I was afraid to contact people in another country because I didn’t really know if, you know, what would I do if they didn’t send the product? Or how would I talk to them? I just had a lot of questions but, it actually was pretty easy so, that was one. The other one, I decided to go with a US based company, someone who manufactured in the US. So, that was my second vendor, and I really just went with those two because I felt like they had enough diversity in their products to get started.

Steve: So, can you just talk about some of your experiences with the overseas vendors? What were some of the difficulties that you had in communication if there were any?

Sandy: You know, I really didn’t have any. The ones that I didn’t go with, I didn’t go with because I didn’t like the product but, I really didn’t have any trouble with just reaching out to them, communicating with them. Actually, the person that I deal with now, he’s my only over seas vendor and basically because, he can pretty much do whatever I ask. And then he could do whatever specifications, material. I mean, he’s very flexible with that and the cost is low and he doesn’t even take long, it takes about two weeks to get products to me.

Steve: Oh! That’s really fast actually.

Sandy: It’s really fast, I was really surprised. He ships DHL and it comes almost right away unless I have something that he doesn’t normally make, that I need made special or something. But it really doesn’t take that much longer. So, yeah, I didn’t have any problems and he’s very friendly, he’s easy to talk to, he’s English is, you know, fine so, [chuckles]-

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: Yeah, so it works out.

Steve: So, did you have any difficulties or struggles at all? I mean, did you have any mental hurdles in the whole sourcing process?

Sandy: Yeah, well like I said, I was just afraid but, once I kind of got the samples, and I got over that fear. And I think what it was too, the person who I work with overseas– his name is Ray Ray actually, and I don’t think that’s his real name.

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: But that’s what he goes by, and once I started talking to him about what I wanted, I just felt comfortable with him and like I said, I hadn’t had a problem since.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: So, maybe I just got lucky, but yeah, my biggest problem was myself, was just the fear of you know, mis-communicating, losing my money. I think common fears that everyone has, but just none of them panned out. And like I said, I’m probably just lucky that I found someone right away.

Steve: Yeah, that’s really good because you know, with our vendors at least, there was some back and forth, where– I mean I talk about this on the blog, but we had good product initially when they were sending us samples, but then when we placed the bulk order, he kind of mixed some bad ones in with the good ones so to speak. And we had some quality control issues earlier on, which we then actually just resolved once we met up with the guy face to face in China. So, have you spoken with any of your vendors you know, verbally at all or?

Sandy: No.

Steve: No, it’s all been e-mail right?

Sandy: Yeah, well, for the overseas ones, yeah.

Steve: Okay. And so, what made you decide to also get a domestic vendor?

Sandy: Well, that was something that I wanted to offer in the beginning. I just felt like it was important to offer something that was made in the USA. As time has gone on, I am re-thinking that because my prices are higher for those products, they have to be because it costs a lot more to get those than it does to get from overseas. And even though the product is outstanding, it’s awesome, I love it, they’re awesome robes, but I just really don’t sell a lot of those robes. So, I thought that it would be a good seller, I thought people would prefer to get something from the US, but I think when it just comes down to it, price is a factor and I don’t know, they just don’t go for it. So, it was important to me but, yeah, now I’m not viewing it as important and I feel bad saying that, but if no one’s buying it it’s like a…

Steve: Yeah, yeah. I mean, if it was selling well, obviously you’d still continue to carry them right?

Sandy: Yeah.

Steve: I mean, you know a quick question for you though, in terms of– I’m just curious this for myself, the vendors in the US, are they actually making them in the U.S, or are they actually sourcing them from somewhere else?

Sandy: Yeah, who I use in San Francisco actually manufactures in California.

Steve: Okay, okay.

Sandy: Yeah.

Steve: Okay cool! Let’s talk about your first sale, how did you get your first sale?

Sandy: [chuckles] I have no idea. I…

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: I was actually getting really upset because I was on you know, open cart still, and I just didn’t like the way my website looked but at the same time, I was spending all day, everyday, like hours and hours a day trying to fix it, and it just kept on getting worse, it wasn’t getting better.

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: Yeah, it was awful and I was getting really upset and I was like, okay, maybe I need to hire someone, maybe, but that’s really expensive and I didn’t know what to do. And then I just got this e-mail that just said someone has ordered a robe and I was so excited then. So, that really made my day and it was just – that one was actually just, yeah; I don’t think that one was a bridal one actually; I think my first one was just a regular robe. But I was really excited and it kind of gave me the motivation to at least keep going and try some different things.

Steve: Yeah, I remember back then you weren’t targeting anyone I don’t think and then your website when I had critiqued it, wasn’t looking so hot if I [chuckles]-

Sandy: [chuckles]-

Steve: You don’t mind me saying. But you still managed to get your first sale, and were you doing any sort of advertising or anything to drive traffic to your site at that point? Or was it just a random sale?

Sandy: I, oh okay, I see what you are saying. Yeah, I was doing a little bit of advertising but I actually wasn’t doing it. I didn’t actually think any sales were going to come from it. I was really trying to test like, where are they going? How long are they staying on the site? Like, I was more doing it for information. Of course I was hoping for those sales, right, you know, but I was kind of just playing around with it I guess you can say, I mean, I only threw like– I don’t remember, 50 or 100 dollars, no more than a 100 dollars at iGoogle adds so, it wasn’t like I was running some major marketing campaign, you know.

Steve: So, how did you end up resolving all of your site design issues actually? I forgot to ask.

Sandy: I just went to Shopify, [chuckles]-

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: Yeah, because I, you know, I did hire someone, I actually hired I think two people. One person was making progress but then he was kind of, I couldn’t do exactly what I wanted. I went to someone else and I wasn’t happy with what he was doing, it was getting too expensive and I wasn’t getting the results. And one day, I just went to Shopify and I just said, forget it, this isn’t going to, it’s never going to make me any money because I’m spending way too much time and money on it and I just needed to…

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: Re-think that.

Steve: And so, once you went on Shopify, you just chose a theme and did you have to customize it– you started to customize it yourself, so how did you get around that hurdle?

Sandy: Well, that’s been an ongoing process so yeah, I did select a theme and I liked it and then I started getting feedback from people– you were one of them.

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: And they all kind of said the same thing about it so obviously you know, right, there was something wrong with it. So, a lot of the changes I could make just in the back end so, if anyone– I’m sure there are people listening who don’t actually have a store so, the difference really– and this is something I was really confused about in the beginning. The difference between open cart and Shopify was, Shopify just has more back end stuff and that’s I think really all comes down to. Like open cart still had back end stuff and I could still make some changes there, but Shopify, it aims to let you change everything back there but there are still some things that you need to change in the code.

So, I was able to get someone to work on Shopify, on the store to make some changes but, you know, it was actually a lot cheaper to have someone work on the Shopify design because it was really close to how I wanted it to be. So, the changes were small and I continue to make changes. I mean, every month basically I take a look at what’s going on and try to make some change. I have crazy eight now which has been really helpful. Yeah, so, I’m trying not to make too many changes, I’m trying not to go crazy with it because I don’t want to make a major change and then totally mess it up. So, it is– I do keep tweaking it and yeah, I have someone now who can do that and it’s really not that expensive and it doesn’t take him too long to make the changes that I want now.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: So, it’s not too bad.

Steve: Just so for the people who are listening, the reason it’s easier for someone to work on Shopify is because, at that point the person is mainly just dealing with the aesthetic portions of the site. The nuts and bolts of the shopping cart are pretty much obstructed away because Shopify handles all that, whereas in Open cart– open cart is a lot more flexible, the way you get more things as you buy plugins and you can kind of build your store that way but ultimately, you know, you need to be the one to go in and adjust some of the code and, it is separated out nicely, but for someone who is not technical, it will tend to be a little more difficult.

Sandy: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: Okay, so, all right, so, what has worked for you in terms of just marketing your site?

Sandy: What has actually been really effective with paid advertisement, paid marketing, has been Facebook ads.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: And, I don’t know why Facebook ads just seem to work a lot better for me than Google adworks.

Steve: Well you can target brides or people who are engaged right? For one thing-

Sandy: Yeah, right. So on Google I am targeting the key words, but on Facebook right, I’m targeting the people. So, I actually thought that it would be reverse because I thought well, if I’m targeting just brides but then not necessarily searching for bridesmaid robes, you know, it’s like a cold call as opposed to a warm call if someone is searching for bridesmaid robes and my add pops up. So, I expected the opposite, but I don’t know, that’s not what happened and I think though, one of the reasons is just, Facebook ads is just cheaper too. So I pay a lot less for people to see the ad and you know, for them to click on it so, I can go through a few more clicks before I get the sale and it still works out and it don’t pay as much per sale you know.

Steve: So, how do you have your ad set up? What’s the landing page for your ad?

Sandy: It depends, what ads. I do have a few different ones but, mostly the one that converts the best goes from Facebook to the bridesmaid robe site so, it’s just…

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: GetUnrobed.com/ – I think it’s /collection/bridesmaid robes. So, they go to the collections page.

Steve: Interesting, okay. Yeah, so my experience with Facebook has been different from yours. When I was setting up Facebook ads to just point directly to products, it actually was not doing that well. But what I found was if I pointed it to a sign up page, got them into my e-mail list and then market it to them through my list, it worked out a lot better so, I’m kind of taking a more indirect route than you are. But, it sounds like what you are doing is working and that’s awesome.

Sandy: Yeah, you know, I considered actually doing– I haven’t tried it yet, to go to my e-mail list and I actually have something all set up for that to happen. I have a download for thank you cards for the bridal party, and I thought that would be a nice little lead in, and then, you know there is kind of book cards like a little pdf, and they’re cute, and I thought that would be a nice lead in. And I have people sign up for that and then I do have an auto responder that does market to them but, I haven’t paid any traffic to go there yet. So, you know, maybe I’ll try that and because I had intended to and then, I don’t know, I guess I just kind of thought, that was right, too indirect for paid marketing, so I think…

Steve: Yeah, it’s kind of counter intuitive, but it’s jus a matter of calculating the return on investment for that particular list that you’re driving to, like you separate it out obviously and you just get an idea of how much money you’re making there versus the amount you’re paying for the Facebook ad. So, yeah, it takes a little bit and you know, again, it’s just all about experimentation to see what works.

Sandy: Yeah. I’m going to try it, thanks.

Steve: So, let’s talk about your e-mail actually. So, have you marketed to your e-mail list at all, or?

Sandy: You know, I, okay, I do but I’m probably not doing as good as I should. So, here’s kind of what I have going on right now. I do have people signing up to get those thank you cards and a few other things. So within my blog posts I have little opt in– little lead magnets, so I have a wedding prep checklist, I have the thank you cards, and then I have a five percent discount so, they can sign up and then they go to their list or whatever. Then, I do have an auto responder sequence that will send out, depending on what list it is. So it will briefly send out a follow up to kind of see if they either like their thank you cards or checklist whatever, and they do get an offer at the end of that follow up which is, it’s actually not even two weeks long, and I think for all of the list, it’s no more than four e-mails depending on what list you’re on. And so, I’m really not doing a whole lot and my reason for not– and I know this is probably not going to sound like the right answer but…

Steve: There’s no right or wrong answer Sandy [chuckles]-

Sandy: Well-

Steve: Remember, this is the real trenches, this is the way it is. We’re trying to give a realistic account here so-

Sandy: Yeah, well, okay. So, when I look at Google analytics, it tells you how long until the average customer buys and it’s only one day for me like, it’s usually a second or third visit on the same day. So, generally when people come, they decide pretty much right away, and the only real sales that I’ve been getting from my e-mail list come from the five percent -or not five – I forget how much I’m giving off right now, may ten percent.

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: I change it around all the time but the percentage off that you’re getting, enter names I do for shipping or whatever for signing up, and that’s really been the only thing that has been getting them to convert, but it’s still the same day.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: Which makes me think that, you know, they were going to buy anyway and then they saw they could get some money off and they signed up and you know, did it. So, I’ve tried doing little e-mail campaigns here and there, but I don’t think I’ve been consistent enough to actually see any benefit.

Steve: Okay. So, I can share some of my own experiences since we are kind of both in the wedding industry here. We do get a lot of – most of our customers are just like yours, because they’re shopping for weddings and for stuff like gifts, like for our handkerchiefs is for gifts right? A lot of times that’s last minute, so people are pretty much ready to buy. It’s not like you’re buying your wedding dress or setting your venue which is way in advance.

But one thing that we have attracted with our e-mail list are you know, wedding planners, event planners and we’ve also gotten people who just like our products; who aren’t brides, who aren’t you know, anything to do with weddings, and those guys are the people who tend to buy a lot. Every time we blast an e-mail we get a bunch of these people. Actually we attract crafters also so, you know, even though you might be targeting wedding people, you might be surprised at some of the other types of customers you might have on your list.

Sandy: Yeah. That’s a good idea for the event planners, so, I am going to look into maybe setting up a list of targets there, thanks.

Steve: Yeah, so, yeah, wedding planners you know, they often have to say shop for everything and they just present it back to their clients. So, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them would say, hey, I bet this kimono robes would be awesome as a bridesmaid gift, do you want to get a sample or take a look so-

Sandy: Yeah! Definitely, I’m going to do that.

Steve: I know for a fact– and this is just based on the survey that I did last week. There is a lot of people on the sidelines and these people are– deep down they’re ready to start their online stores but they kind of want to know how hard it was before you started making money. So, what I’m trying to ask is – I’m going to go through all the common risk factors that are going on through people’s minds and I think you know, we could just blast through this. How much money did you spend to start your business?

Sandy: After everything, I spent a little under 5000 dollars but remember that that included, [sigh] I want to say like, 600 robes so, and then plus some of the website design and things like that and oh! And a photo shoot.

Steve: Oh! Okay.

Sandy: And, there was a lot of stuff so, I definitely could have reduced that. I’d say I should have reduced that by at least by half because, if I knew what I was doing [chuckles] and I didn’t go through all that website trouble and also if I, well, I messed up somewhere else that I spent too much money – and I’m trying to think right now. Oh! Because the first photo shoot I did I kind of, I switched probably through to say, okay, here’s what I’m selling and then when I started to realize that I was getting more of those, the bridal parties, I switched products, I added a lot more products and had to do that shoot all over again. So and that actually was pretty expensive because I wasn’t able to do it myself. They just weren’t not coming out right and I think photos are a big part of– just because of who I’m targeting and what it is.

Steve: Right.

Sandy: So, I did spend a lot of money on that but, you could definitely do it a lot cheaper.

Steve: So if you were to do it all over again, how little do you think you could start the exact same store again?

Sandy: I would have run with drop shipping first until I tested all the products, so-

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: I would have cut that out. The photos I think would have been the only thing I would have kept honestly, and I would have went with Shopify which is– I could have that whole theme thing theme and everything exactly the way I wanted for less than 300 dollars I’m sure, even having someone do the tweaks.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: And so, yeah, less than a 1000, definitely less than a 1000 if I re-did it.

Steve: Okay, and you know, how much of a struggle was it to find your actual niche?

Sandy: I did spend a lot of time on that. I actually ended up kind of going down a rabbit hole for over a month on another product that I was going to do and then it just didn’t pen out so – how much time did it take? Was that your question? I want to say like a month.

Steve: Yeah, not time necessarily, but how difficult was it? I mean, I guess so two months?

Sandy: Yeah, probably about that.

Steve: Okay. And a lot of it probably was just kind of getting used to the tools and that sought of thing too, I would imagine right? At least, that’s the feedback I get back from the students from time to time.

Sandy: Yeah, you know, I didn’t mind the tools. I got Market Samurai right away, and that was pretty easy to use. I’m just; I’m not good at the creative side of things, that’s not my thing. So, it was tough for me to even think of things and then if they didn’t work, to like move away from them, that was tough for me.

Steve: Okay. And in terms of marketing, what avenues do you use for marketing now? And has it been a real struggle to actually get traffic to your site?

Sandy: It’s not a struggle to get traffic to my sight, well, at least some traffic. I get – depending on the time of year and I haven’t been open a full year yet so I don’t even know this for sure, but so far we’re getting traffic. I get, around 100 clicks a day just organically which, I think is okay. So, I don’t run ads all the time. I kind of go– I found on Facebook actually that, if I run it for two weeks and then two weeks off, giving that break, I don’t know why, but seems to work. So, my ads mostly run on Facebook. I don’t spend more than 300 dollars a month on Facebook ads. Sometimes I also run Google ads when I feel like sales are you know, kind of hot and there’s been a lot of searches and like, those things are trending. Then I also run Google ads and I won’t spend more than 500 a month on Google ads but usually you don’t even spend that much.

Steve: Okay. I have the answer for you on the Facebook ads by the way. People tend to get blind to your ads so, the people who do Facebook ads effectively they tend to change out their ads quite frequently because of that blindness factor.

Sandy: Yeah.

Steve: I think what you are saying is normal, yeah. Cool, so, you know, surprisingly we’ve already been talking for a like 35 minutes and I didn’t want to take up too much of your time, but I do want to have your opinion. Like I said before there’s a lot of people on the sidelines and you know, what sort of advise would you give the people who are thinking about starting an online store?

Sandy: I would definitely– if it’s something that you really do want to do, I would definitely give it a try. I would say, for the risk, I mean, it’s worth it. I was working full time, I actually had two jobs and I’m also a single mom. So, I had a lot going on when I started, it’s not like I just was able to sit down and really work on this you know.

Steve: Yeah, I remember.

Sandy: So, yeah, it was a lot going on and that’s okay because I kind of feel like my goal was a little bit more long term. So, I was okay with that, but I would say try it if you want to try it. I would though– if I was doing it again, I would have definitely been a little more okay with letting go with some things in the beginning. And I also would have found a lot more people who had done it before that could have helped me find those resources. So, now that I have been doing it a while you know, I have people that I can go to, to do like a website tweak or to you know, a photographer that is going to do a good job and not rip me off and you know, I have all those things, but when I first started, I didn’t have anybody that could help me with that. I mean, even yeah I was in your course but I mean, you couldn’t have helped me find a photographer in Las Vegas, you know what I mean?

Steve: Right.

Sandy: It’s just like, you have to find people I think, to help you with that and that would have been really helpful and would have helped me save a ton of money, if I had the right vendors and the right team members in place right from the beginning.

Steve: Yeah, that’s a hard thing to actually overcome, but the good news is, if you were ever to start a different venture, you have all of that stuff at your disposal now, so it shouldn’t be a problem if you were to start another store.

Sandy: That is true, for sure.

Steve: Let’s see, there’s one other thing I want to ask you. I’m drawing a blanket; I didn’t actually make notes on this, but [chuckles]. So, Sandy, for all the people who are out there who actually might want to contact you and have questions for you, is there a place where they can get a hold of you, or contact you?

Sandy: All right, well, so you can find me, if you go to GetUnrobed.com, that’s the store. I definitely check that out especially if you have a wedding coming up, if you want to get in touch with me and just about that info@getunrobed.com but, also you if want to hear more from me, I also have this other side business going on right now called, clearly influential. So, that is where I talk all things communication. It covers marketing, branding, it covers public speaking– if you are basically if you are in the online world, that would definitely be a good place to get more information. So, ClearlyInfluential.com or GetUnrobed.com, that’s where you can find me.

Steve: Okay, I remember the question I was going to ask you now.

Sandy: Okay.

Steve: Okay, so you have two kids.

Sandy: One, one kid.

Steve: One kid, sorry one kid. You’re a single mom, how the heck do you find the time to do this and your side project? You know, describe me your productivity flow.

Sandy: Okay, well, I’m kind of lucky in a few aspects so, even though, yeah, when I started I had two jobs – I don’t anymore. When I started though, I did for the first six months or something so, I was a little lucky because one of my jobs was as a communication instructor/ professor, and then the second job was tutoring students that would come in and I was actually able to do a lot of things online while I was sitting at the tutoring desk which is really nice, I also though now…

Steve: Those poor kids.

Sandy: I know, [chuckles]-

Steve: They should have been to [chuckles]-

Sandy: Yeah, [chuckles]-

Steve: Sorry, go on.

Sandy: No, it’s okay. You know, well, we had down time you know but now though, what I’ve been doing– I do have a VA now and she’s great. She started about a month and a half ago and basically what I did was just document everything I did for you know what I did on a regular basis and turned that stuff over to her. So, I don’t work on Get Unrobed every single day but, I know that she’s working on Get Unrobed every single day. So, she’s doing at least social media posts and she’s also contacting bloggers that– she’s contacting other places too to try to get interviews and guest posts and things like that, just to build links. So, she’s doing that every single day so I know that there is promotion going on and that it you know, I’m slowly continuing to build links, climb up ranks, build my social media following and things like that. So, that’s what’s going on now, so, if I don’t have the time which some days I don’t, at least I know that, that’s taken care of.

Steve: Okay. And one thing that I just want to talk about to the listeners is that, Sandy has a really good attitude here. She’s looking at this in the long term, she’s doing everything little by little which kind of just builds up over time and will eventually make her business successful and that’s actually one of the reasons why I brought her on. She’s got a really good mindset and the right attitude so to a point where I know that her store is going to be huge someday.

Sandy: Oh! Thanks Steve!

Steve: And with that, I think our time is done. Thanks a lot for coming on the show Sandy.

Sandy: Thank you.

Steve: All right, take care.

Sandy: Bye!

Steve: As you could tell from that interview, there’s often a lot of trial and error involved in launching a successful business. Now, Sandy has what it takes because she’s always willing to try new things and quite frankly, she’s just a problem solver. Now, I can’t tell you how bad her first shop looked when I first critiqued it and she since improved it dramatically to the point where it is now generating regular sales. Go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode13 for the show notes for this episode and be sure to sign up for my free newsletter while you’re there, where I’ll give you a brief introduction on you know, how to start your own e-commerce store. Thanks for listening!

Thanks for listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast. Where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

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11 thoughts on “013: How My Student Sandy Donovan Created An Online Store Selling Personalized Kimono Robes”

  1. Sandy Donovan says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to be on the show, Steve! It was a lot of fun and I hope it is helpful to someone out there.

  2. Online Income For Everyone! says:

    These actual interview case studies are great and loaded with valuable real-life information!

  3. Swetha says:

    This is one of your best podcasts yet, Steve!!!! I loved all the details about the challenges Sandy faced. Very refreshing!!! In the introduction, when you mentioned it is not one of those Ra..Ra…Steve’s course is making me a millionare!!! :), your humility and authenticity comes through. Great work, looking forward to more…

  4. Manny says:

    Hi Sandy, great interview thank you !

    Can you advise where you got your VA ? Is he / she in the States or Philippines or similar ? Its just looking at your Facebook posts the englisg looks pretty good.


    1. Sandy Donovan says:

      Hi Manny,

      I used Virtual Staff Finder. She is based in the Philippines. Yes, her English is great. She actually worked here in the States for a little while during college and she is really on top of her game! It was a great investment.

  5. SNak says:

    Steve and Sandy,

    Thanks for the wonderful podcast interview.

    Sandy – a few questions:
    1. You mentioned one thing you might have done differently is drop-shipped some items instead of stocking them yourself. Could this have been an option with your supplier?
    2. What were your feelings when you ordered the first shipment from your supplier? Provided you were confident that you would receive the actual goods, did you have any plans on what to do if you didn’t get enough sales?

    Steve – your podcasts are great! Your pacing is excellent and you ask the right questions. Nice!


    1. Sandy Donovan says:

      Hi SNak,

      After the interview, I felt like I should have elaborated more on this because I think I gave only a partial answer – so I’m glad you asked.

      I actually sold some items on Ebay before I opened my store. Not a lot, only a few. What I did was sample products from multiple suppliers and then out of the ones I liked, I put them on Ebay to see how long it took to sell them and at what price they would sell. So, by the time I actually placed an order with my supplier, I had a pretty good idea what was going to sell and what I could sell it for.

      I imagine this isn’t a perfect formula, but it ended up working out that I was able to purchase the top selling products (and what still are top selling) and go through that first round of inventory pretty quickly.

      I didn’t do drop shipping in the beginning because it was tough for me to find the products I wanted. Plus, after talking to some potential customers, it seemed that the personalization was key – and I really needed to do that in house.

      However, if you want to start with a lot less money and risk less, drop shipping would definitely allow for that. As far as what I was thinking… I was just hoping I didn’t end up with a life time supply of robes. But, by the time I placed the order, I was pretty sure that wouldn’t happen.

      1. SNak says:

        Hi Sandy,

        Thanks for the reply. Sounds like your ebay experience was a good test! Nice.

        Thanks for all the info. It was very helpful. Always great to hear stories from the front line.


  6. Joe says:

    Hi Sandy and Steve,

    Great interview!! It’s so informative hearing from a small business owner from the point of initial startup and operations.

    Sandy, can you elaborate on your fulfillment process? From what you mentioned in a previous answer, you don’t dropship. Do you personalize, pack and ship all by yourself or do you have others do it for you?

    Can you also elaborate on your Customer Service setup? You have a phone # and email address on your site. Who answers the phone and what hours is it manned by a person? Who responds to emails?

    Also, I noticed that there aren’t any links on your site like FAQ, Returns, Shipping, etc… The vast majority of sites have them. Are you planning on adding those as it should increase credibility and trust.

    Thanks so much!

  7. Sherry says:

    I’m so glad I listened to this today, because now I don’t feel as alone as I’ve been feeling lately. Just to know that someone else has had similar struggles is, for lack of a better word, refreshing. This interview, as is with all of Steve’s podcasts, was so wonderful and informative. But, I have to say that this interview really hit home because I felt it was very relatable to what I’m experiencing in the moment. Not that I don’t love hearing from all of the other extremely successful people, but for some reason, everything Sandy said really resonated with me.

    Thank you to both Steve and Sandy for taking the time to do this interview, and for the continued honesty that I always feel Steve and his interviewees always share.

    I opened my store 2 weeks ago and have only 1 sale, so I was getting a little down. I wasn’t expecting massive sales by any means, but was definitely hoping for more than 1 sale in 2 weeks. But, this gives me hope and some ideas I’m going to try, I just wasn’t sure what kind of advertising to do or that I can afford. I came into the same issues with trying to build my own site using OpenCart and that really ended up costing me a lot more than I expected after having to get outsource to get things fixed, so my cash flow has been pretty depleted from that. But, I’m still positive that this is going to work. I’m still putting my best foot forward and working hard to keep adjusting things and add things.

    Again, this couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for your insights!

  8. Eve says:

    Just read the post and don’t know when was the interview done.

    I went to his site, it’s unavailable anymore?

    I hope she is doing well

Comments are closed.