This month, we had the privilege of speaking with one of our longtime customers, Carla Ekman from Cobwebcorner.com.
Carla, you're no stranger to selling online, could you provide us with some background on your business?
In the late 90’s I caught the ‘Beanie Baby’ craze at the same time that the internet was getting popular. I started Cobweb Corner as a hobby but quickly caught entrepreneur fever. Around 2003 I became serious about starting my own business and working out of my home. Looking for something that was interesting to me, easy to store, and easy to ship – I settled on cross stitch books. At first I purchased large used collections on EBay and resold them, then I moved on to purchasing entire inventories from stores that had gone out of business, and reselling the inventory at a discount to my customers.
Around 2003 my husband and I were faced with the fact that our daughter was growing out of day care options and I was increasingly more interested in my own business than I was in my ‘real’ job as a software engineer writing and supporting databases used by over 1,000 engineers for a major International corporation. With my husband’s support I left my career of 19 years and set up a full time business. At the same time I started creating jewelry and added that to my online inventory.
It sounds like you've really had a lot of experience and knew what you wanted. How did you discover 3dCart?
When I first started my business I used my skills as a database programmer to create my own website and write my own limited shopping cart. Over the years my business grew and I had difficulty keeping up with the program changes I needed in addition to designing jewelry, maintaining inventory and processing orders.
Also – I wanted to start offering my customers features that represented a ‘real’ store such as rewards points, discounts, featured items etc. etc.
The task of choosing a shopping cart was overwhelming. At first, I wrote my own and used some very dependable basic carts that allowed HTML to be added to my site to create a shopping cart. While these were very low cost and worked great – they didn’t have near the feature set I needed to move my store forward. After months of searching and trying demo versions I settled on 3dCart. With my database background the setup was very intuitive. I was able to create my own import routines and had my entire inventory set up and my new store was up and running in under 2 weeks.
Any features that you like the most?
The ease of setting up sales and specials via the promotion manager.
How did 3dCart assist you with making your business more successful?
It has provided me with a way to appear much more professional to my customers. It ‘legitimizes’ my business through its features, security and appearance so that a new customer doesn’t come in and say – “Oh, this is a one-person mom and pop shop” – Many of my customers don’t know that I am the sole employee and I think a lot of that is due to having a full-featured store.
Last year has been rough on a lot of merchants, how did you fare? What did you do to weather the storm?
When I first started my business my sales increased steadily every year and I did very well for the type of business I have. Then, when the recession started – my business was really hit hard with sales dropping by over 50%. I dropped my expensive on-line advertising, stuck it out, and managed to stay in the black throughout the worst of everything. Now, in the last 3-4 months I have started to notice an increase in sales again. I believe things are starting to turn around for me and hope to be back to my pre-recession levels soon.
How have you grown in the last year and what do you have on the horizon for 2010?
This year I really concentrated on online social networking. I continue to grow my newsletter, which is by far my best investment in getting repeat sales. I’ve also turned on some of the online advertising I had stopped. That is one of the best sources for getting new customers.
I also have reached a point where I am a respected professional jewelry designer. I have won a couple of jewelry design contests and been featured twice in a magazine. I’m respected locally and online for my commitment to creativity, helping others in their own business and providing unique, original products for my customers. I am also starting to get more requests for wholesale accounts.
For 2010, I will continue to focus on my cross stitch inventory which is the bread and butter of my business. I have drastically increased my online social networking via twitter, face book, blogging, online marketing groups such as Unique Women in Business, etc. I have seen benefits of this, but it is time consuming and I often wonder if my time could be better spent.
Outside of my online store I am working to increase my jewelry wholesale accounts, other sales venues and I continue to participate in events for women where I can sell my jewelry. My jewelry is extremely successful with in person sales and I am working very hard to transfer that success to internet sales. This has been one my major challenges and one of the things most frustrating to me – that I can’t reproduce my jewelry sales online to match the jewelry sales I obtain at shows.
Sounds like you have a lot in store for the next year. Lastly, why would you recommend 3dCart to a new ecommerce customer or someone looking to switch?
3dCart is very intuitive and full of features. It is also very reliable and when there is a rare problem it is usually addressed VERY quickly. With the introduction of 24/7 support and hopefully a new release with new features, that shows me that 3dCart is committed to staying around and constantly improving what they offer.
Carla, Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us. It's my pleasure to award you with the 3dCart Excellence in Ecommerce award for April 2010.
Until May 3rd, our readers can use the code 3dcart at Cobwebcorner.com and save 10%!