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This Startup Handmade Business Makes Little Girls’ Dresses That Last for Generations

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Business owner and fashion designer Elizabeth Seghezzi started hand sewing in elementary school, but she didn’t get her first sewing machine until she was 20. She studied textile design at the Savannah College of Art and Design and honed her design skills in the costume department at the Boston Ballet before starting her own company in April 2016. Based in San Francisco, Elizabeth on Jones is named for the street on which it’s located.

Elizabeth’s dresses for little girls have impeccable detail not usually found in children’s clothing and are unique because they’re made to last for generations.

Tell us about your company.

It is a girlswear brand designed for ages two to 10 years, offering limited-edition handmade collections that combine classic silhouettes with gorgeous, vibrant fabrics that come from all over the country. Each garment is designed and crafted to maintain relevance through time in both construction and style.

My inspiration comes from the mastery, focus, and dedication of European couturiers Cristóbal Balenciaga and Jeanne Lanvin. I try to mirror these traits in my work and pride myself on my attention to detail. My goal is to make dresses that appeal both to little girls and their parents. I’m excited about my new collection, which I introduced on October 8th!

Is getting new business one of your top three challenges? Why or why not?

Absolutely! I’m always looking to grow and reach my latest sales goal. When I feel like I’ve hit a plateau, it’s helpful to look back at previous growth while also planning my next approach. Lately, I’ve been working hard to figure out which digital marketing approach is most effective. There are so many approaches, which can be very overwhelming for startups like mine.

What is your biggest marketing challenge?

It’s a challenge to put out valuable, high-quality content on a regular basis. Instagram is my top priority when it comes to social media/digital marketing, but it’s time-consuming and meticulous. Not only do you need high-quality images, but your brand story is just as important. I’m proud of my account so far, but I’m not able to post as often as I’d like. My company’s Instagram is at instagram.com/elizabethonjones/.

Where do you get your leads from?

Mostly from word of mouth. A good portion of my sales are either from repeat customers or new clients who were recommended by repeat customers. With a handmade business, excellence in quality, customer service, and making sure my customers are happy are vital. Instagram and Pinterest are the top two ways clients learn about, are directed to, and purchase from my website.

If you had a $1 million marketing budget, where would you spend it?

First, on regular photo shoots with some of my favorite photographers. Photographs are how people are initially introduced to my brand. My goal is to capture their attention through these images and bring them to my website. I’d also put more money into branding. I’d love to hire a graphic designer to create a new, stand-out logo. From there, I would update shipping boxes, tissue paper, clothing tags, the lining fabric, etc. to display my logo.

I’d also invest more in marketing. I’d run consistent ads on Google, Instagram, and Pinterest. This would help me immensely in reaching a much larger audience.

How do you make sure leads don’t fall through the cracks?

By using email marketing. I put together a simple email template that has proven to be incredibly useful—something with copy and images I can easily update and then send as a friendly reminder to everyone on my mailing list. I think it’s key to stay in customers’ minds, and doing that with photographs works best.

How many leads do you estimate turn into actual sales?

I’d say that I’m able to turn two to six of every 100 leads into actual sales.

What was your biggest marketing mistake?

Doing magazine advertising. It’s very expensive but has yet to result in an increase in traffic or sales for my company. It’s so fun to see my designs in print, but digital marketing is much more affordable and effective.

What marketing advice do you have for other business owners?

Identify your ideal clients and figure out how to get in front of them! Find out which social media platforms they use, what they read, where they live, where they shop, etc. Once you’ve done this, your attention to detail and customer service will determine whether they’ll buy from you or not.

Next Steps:  You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.

This Entrepreneur Grew His Business by “Getting Waisted”

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Bill Glazer is a man on a mission. He wants everyone to “get waisted.”

No, it’s not a misspelling and, yes, I’m having a little fun here. But so is Bill.

After running a small fashion boutique in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., Bill started noticing that his customers were complaining about the burden of carrying all their stuff. He thought about this and, like many successful entrepreneurs, decided to come up with a solution to solve the problem. His solution: a two-pocketed belt-like spandex carrier that fits just below the waist. Glazer calls it the “unfanny-fanny pack.” I call it genius.

But as genius as it is, it still needs to be sold. Many would-be small business owners have come up with plenty of smart ideas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve been able to profit from them. Bill has. How? Three big ways.

For starters, he leveraged his existing business. Customers were already coming into his store to look at the fashions he sold, so he had a small quantity of his specialty carriers manufactured and merely sold them right out of his store. The response was overwhelming and the belt-like carriers sold out almost immediately. Presto! A successful test marketing campaign at a low cost. Bill knew then and there that he had a winner.

Next, he repeated the process by expanding to other local retailers. He took a gamble and had another 15,000 carriers manufactured and then peddled them around to fellow store owners. Bill realized that, having succeeded on a small scale, all he needed to do was follow the same procedures and widen the territory. Other store owners—drug stores, vineyards, hair salons, smoke shops, and specialty shops—loved the carriers and sold them. The popularity of the Get Waisted encouraged him to hire half a dozen sales reps to grow his base of retail sellers. As sales grew at the grassroots level, Bill landed his first big contract: The Hudson Newspaper Group began selling the Get Waisted at major airports in Dallas and Chicago. Airline travelers loved the product.

Third, he focused on his community and listened to his customers. For example, when the new bigger smartphones came out, he redesigned the pocket so those phones could fit. “You have to be open to change and embrace it,” Bill says. “Customer tastes change, and the competition keeps trying new things. So you can’t stand still.” He also uses social media posts to point out features that make his product better than others, and he updates Facebook whenever a new style or color is added or the product is improved in any way.

These tactics have paid off. His Get Waisted products are now sold in 255 locations in more than 30 states and are used by everyone from hikers (who love it for carrying bear spray) to diabetics (who say it easily fits an insulin pump).

In the end, Bill says that his continued success will depend on paying attention to what his customers are telling him—both good and bad. “I’ve learned that if something is good, people talk, and other people find out about it,” he says. “But you have to careful. Ten happy customers may get you one more customer, but one unhappy customer will guarantee you 10 more unhappy customers.”

Next Steps:  You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.

How an Indoor Cycling Studio Used Facebook to Get More Riders in the Door

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Surge Cycling is an indoor cycling and spinning studio in Saint Louis Park, Minn. Co-owner Ken Anderson remembers back in 2013 when he and partner Zion first opened. They got their first customer through Facebook viewership. “Facebook is an extremely valuable tool for new businesses,” says Ken. “The word spreads fast if you create interesting and meaningful posts.”

Referrals are by far Surge’s most important method for getting leads and new customers. As Ken says, “We feel that if you deliver a top-notch service, stand behind what you do, and make clients feel important and wanted, they will tell their friends.”

Surge uses six primary CRM (customer relationship management) tools, two of which are social media channels. The first, of course, is the aforementioned Facebook, which connects to—and creates relationships with—clients 24/7. “The posts have to be interesting, pertinent to your business, and stand out from your competition,” Ken says. “And, as a business, it’s an absolute must to respond to comments, so people feel noticed and connected.” Surge also uses Instagram, which has been gaining in popularity.

READ: 30 Social Media Ideas to Help You Attract Customers to Your Small Business

For managing clients and reservations, Surge uses two other CRM tools: Zenrez—which provides sales software for fitness studios—and MINDBODY—which supports business management. The fifth CRM tool Surge uses, Constant Contact, helps them manage their email marketing, and ClassPass—a third-party reservation tool—is the sixth.

Now that Ken has been in business for five years, he says the most important thing he’s learned about keeping customers happy and coming back for more is this: “It’s all about the client’s needs, not yours. It’s about making them feel special and important. The client is everything.” That’s why, whenever someone walks into their studio, Ken and his staff welcome each client by his or her first name to show that they care.

Ken has also learned that it’s important to be yourself, not someone you think customers want you to be. As he puts it, “People are smart; they can see through BS. But, of course, be your professional self. Be sincere. Never fake. Apply humor! Do everything possible to make sure they leave feeling happy and satisfied.” Ken recommends asking yourself in normal day-to-day interactions with clients, “What can I do to make this person happy?” and then doing exactly that.

There are other things that Surge Cycling does to keep and attract customers. First, its instructors are the driving force behind helping Surge operate and grow. Second, its front desk crew—who create the first impression for clients—are focused on providing the best customer service. “If our customers have a glorious experience,” Ken adds, “there is no doubt they will tell their friends. That’s how we grow at Surge.”

Ken does sometimes ask for reviews and testimonials because he says that it seems people are taking less time to write reviews as compared to previous years. As he describes it, “You really want to rely on organic reviews; however, sometimes you just gotta ask—because reviews are so important.” Ken says there’s a difference between asking someone for a great five-star review, compared to simply asking for an honest review of their experience. So, occasionally, he’ll ask clients to share their experience on Google or Yelp, and about half of them will do so.

Ken proudly shares that Surge had a client who lost 90 pounds from riding at the studio. She works very hard, comes in at least five times a week, and lost the weight in less than a year! She took control of her diet and made exercise the most important part of her day. “We are so proud of her,” Ken says, “and were amazed to see her transformation over the course of the year. It makes us feel good that we provided a safe, fun, and effective method for her to reach her goal.”

As for the importance of word-of-mouth advertising, Ken says, “Nothing is more important! If people are talking about you and spreading the love, that is a huge sign that you are doing something right.”

Surge differentiates its indoor cycling service by offering 45-minute classes, as opposed to the 55- or 60-minute workouts its competition offers. “We believe in intensity over duration,” Ken says, “and our clients appreciate being able to get in and out quicker!” Ken adds that Surge also “believes in community over competition. When you hop on that bike, you hop on as yourself. Everyone comes in at different fitness levels. Everyone has a story. You ride at your own pace, you go at your own flow, and our instructors constantly remind the class, ‘just do you.'”

Another difference at Surge is that it doesn’t display riders’ progress on huge monitors for everyone to see. Instead, each bike comes with its own private console, providing measurements for progress. And Surge instructors create thoughtfully curated playlists to make clients want to come back for more.

Ken says, “Surge is living proof of the American dream.” His partner Zion was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and her parents immigrated to this country 48 years ago, “because they knew the good ol’ USA was the land of great opportunity. They were told that America was where anyone could pursue and achieve their dream with a sound education and hard work—along with more hard work.”

Zion’s parents instilled in her an attitude of never taking anything for granted. After working in corporate America for 20 years, she wanted to do something more inspiring. “So I jumped ship and never looked back,” she says. “Today, I can proudly say that I am an Asian-American woman who created this space for folks who want some cardio fun, to elevate their health, and discover their love to sweat!”

Tell Us: How do you attract new customers to your business? Are you using Facebook to do this? Have you had success?