After years of selling their handmade goods on the Pow Wow trail across Canada and the US, Kim Vincent’s parents decided it was time to find a more permanent home to set up shop, and in 1994 Beaded Dreams opened its doors in Canada’s Capital city of Ottawa, Ontario. Since then, the family has continued to sell beautiful handmade First Nations apparel, jewelry, and home goods, and in 2007 the store was officially handed down to Kim.
It wasn’t until 2014, with Ottawa-born Shopify seeing explosive growth in the ecommerce industry, that Kim decided it was time to take their family-run retail business global by adding an ecommerce storefront to the mix.
As the first feature for our Merchant Success Series, we sat down with Kim and learned about the evolution of Beaded Dreams and what this journey has been like for them.
Tell us about how you made the decision to use the Shopify platform.
The first version of our online store was launched using Wix, and although we were seeing some orders it just didn’t have the professional look and feel I was hoping to achieve to represent our brand. And then I came across Shopify and loved that they were an Ottawa-based business as well. The platform was easy to learn, and with the Retina theme from Out of the Sandbox I was able to build a storefront that I was really proud of. We officially launched www.beadeddreams.ca in April 2015, and immediately saw a huge improvement in SEO and conversions. We couldn’t have been happier!
How has your business grown since launching on Shopify?
While our customers were previously mostly Ottawa-based, we’ve been able to expand our reach to markets around the world. We’re now seeing orders come in from across Canada and the US, and even as far as Australia. It’s really exciting to see that kind of growth for a small local shop.
You’ve upgraded your shop to our premium Turbo theme in December – what encouraged you to make that switch?
Upgrading to Turbo just seemed like the obvious choice to take our online store to the next level. Even without coding experience, I was able to create a beautiful shop that’s lightning fast and is optimized for conversions. We’ve had a lot of great feedback on the new store and we’re excited to continue growing it this year.
What have you found to be the most successful form of marketing for Beaded Dreams?
We’ve relied heavily on Facebook ads because of the flexibility and lower cost. Where local online advertising can come with a huge fee and monthly commitment, we can leverage Facebook to advertise the store without breaking the bank and change tactics at any time.
As a small business owner, what do you see as one of your biggest challenges?
Between the retail shop and online, I’d say it’s knowing your numbers. How to price products competitively while still making a profit and keeping the lights on. Learning what products aren’t moving and adjusting your inventory accordingly is an important part of this process.
Having been in business for so long, what advice would you offer someone just starting their ecommerce store?
I think my biggest piece of advice would be to eliminate or contract out the things you aren’t good at and focus on where your strengths lie. When I first started, I wanted to be everywhere – Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogs… and it just spread me too thin. So, I dialed in on the channels where I was strongest, and instead focused more time and energy on making those the best they could be.
You’ve created a loyal following at your retail location by providing quality products and exceptional customer service – how do you translate that same experience into the ecommerce world?
We pride ourselves on providing a great experience to our customers, regardless of the channel. For online, we offer free shipping on returns within Canada to give customers the confidence that they are buying from a reputable source. We also include special touches like thank you notes with each order – we appreciate our customers and we want them to feel that.
What plans are in store for Beaded Dreams in 2019?
I’d love to continue working to get more of our products online to ensure we always have fresh products available for our customers. We’re also looking at hosting more in-store events – community involvement is really important to us, and we’d love to use our space to provide more workshops for our customers.