Lessons Learned is a biweekly series where we ask ecommerce business owners to share their experiences and advice. For this installment, we interviewed Patricia Brown of LordsArt.com. Based in Ozone Park, N.Y., the site sells Christian art and gifts.
A school teacher by day and ecommerce entrepreneur by night, Brown’s gross revenues from her online store are expected to grow from less than $50,000 in 2008 to more than $75,000 in 2009.
“In 2004, I started a gift basket business on eBay, along with an ecommerce site which never quite took off. I began to diversify my products and became an eBay PowerSeller. One of the product lines I had chosen was Christian artwork, which soon became my favorite product to work with. In the summer of 2006 I launched LordsArt.com and closed my eBay store.”
“I use the Yahoo! small business platform. It’s very easy to use and it has a wonderful support system with the customer-driven forums.”
Design and Functionality
“My website was designed by EY Studios, and they [EY Studios’ personnel] did a fantastic job creating an eye-catching, attractive site that appeals to my customers. I keep the site fresh with updated Christian art and gift images for our featured items.”
“We do keep a small inventory, and we also use some drop shippers. I work with some of the best people in the industry, such as Mill Pond Press Companies [an art supplier].”
“At this time it is only my husband and me, along with someone who helps me list new products. I also use United Answering as a call center. I am getting ready to hire a virtual assistant to act as a go-between when I am in class or otherwise not available to answer specific questions.”
“I am part of an online SEO forum where I have learned how to do basic SEO myself. I do some pay-per-click advertising, as well as some banner advertising. I also use email marketing, Twitter and Facebook, and I am getting ready to launch a direct mail [USPS] campaign. I also have an affiliate marketing campaign with Webgains, a marketing network.
“Google organic traffic is my biggest source of traffic. Anywhere from 40 to 48 percent of my visitors come from there. My second biggest source of traffic is direct traffic. I believe this is the beginning of branding for my business that is a result of my organic search engine rankings and may also be credited to my Lord’s Art Twitter followers.”
“I research everything before spending to see if it is something that I really need and can afford. The best decisions I have made were to get my site redesigned and to utilize a call center, which are both well worth the money.
“I would advise anyone starting out in ecommerce to do as much as they can do themselves (i.e., SEO, marketing, handling phone calls, listing products), and to save-up and plan for when they can have someone else assist them in these areas.”
“I don’t use any accounting software at this time. I’m sort of old fashioned that way – pen and paper. I do have a very good business accountant.”
Biggest Lesson Learned
“[My biggest mistake was] paying a premium for advertising on sites which I found out had very low traffic. I would have been better off investing that money in PPC campaigns.”
Biggest Success to Date
“I am proud to say that [my site] ranks number one on Google for the keywords “Christian art.” I have maintained that position for several years now, and [the site also] ranks well organically for many other search terms.”
Order Management Software
“I use The SuperManager system, another example of one of the smartest decisions I have made. It’s very easy to use and the customer service is phenomenal.”
Credit Card Processing
“I am currently using iPayment ecommerce exchange and Interchange Pricing.”
Overall Business Philosophy
“I truly believe in the golden rule in business and life in general. I believe in treating all customers the way I would want to be treated, with respect and kindness. Every customer, whether ‘big’ or ‘small,’ is important to me, and I want their experience with Lord’s Art to be pleasant so they will come back again, tell their family, friends, church members, and others.”
On Being An Entrepreneur
“I have learned that having my own business is one of the most challenging and exciting things I have ever experienced. Having a family, and still being a full-time teacher, it can be quite challenging to juggle all of the responsibilities. But, I simply do my best — learning and growing, and enjoying the journey.”