Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Husband and wife have 3 unique shops

Today’s shops belong to a husband and wife team:
Rainbow Design Fine Art Prints & Gifts
TEE Total - Shirts for the whole family
Gunman´s Erotic and Pin-Up Art

1. What drew you to opening an online store? Were you in a related field?

My husband and I have both been painting for a hobby for decade. Since starting our own art websites we’ve been looking for a way to sell prints of our work. To have prints done yourself and then ship them requires a huge amount of upfront money, so when I received an e-mail from CafePress about a year ago, asking if I would be interested in their online stores, I considered having a look at it. As chance wants it, I had no time - and lost the e-mail. Last December I stumbled across a CafePress shop by chance and realized it was the company that had sent me the e-mail.

I am not working in any related field, but spent about 20 years working in brick and mortar shops - so I know a bit about business. And as for the design side of the business, I design our five websites, including the graphics, I have a site where I offer graphics and IM stationery for download - so designing comes easy for me.

2. When did you open your store?

I opened my first shop on Dec. 9th 2005. I started premium straight away. I have so many paintings that having basic shops would just not be enough. Also I am into designing websites as a hobby, too - and a basic shop just doesn´t fit my taste... I have three premium shops now - the first, Rainbow Design, where I sell (or try to sell) our original art as prints and on gift items, as well as some digitally designed gifts. The TEE Total store for the t-shirts, apparel and baby stuff, and a shop for my husbands erotic art and pin-ups.

3. What is harder about doing this then you thought it would be?

Turning the premium store into something special - I have learnt heaps of Html in the past four months; thank god for the CP forums! And getting people to come and visit my shops - and, more important, stay a while! I still haven´t got where I want to be - but I´m patient!

4. What do you like best about being an online shopkeeper?

I like being able to work as and when I please - I wish I didn´t have to go to my daytime job, too (although I must admit that I often drop into the forum while at work :-)) And about the CP shops that I haven´t got the hassle of production, and packing and sending the stuff! I can concentrate on my store.

5. During the very first month, what do you wish you had known then that you do now?

Knowing more about customization would have saved me hours of work and changing the look about four times!

6. Could you share some of the marketing you’ve tried so far (on or off line) and what has worked and what hasn’t?

Up until now I have only tried free marketing. The first thing was SEO optimization - having spent five years optimizing my other sites has helped to know what I was doing there. I have linked from all the other websites to the shops, and get a good amount of traffic from there. I have put lots of t-shirts in different marketing sites. I have two blogs, but I have not much feedback from there - probably because I lack the time to post very often. I joined some webrings, which have driven a satisfactory amount of traffic my way. Also I am a member of several art forums with a high visitor frequency, and have my links in my signature - that´s a very good way to get free PR.
Now that my shops are looking a bit more presentable, I am going to put in some paid ads on sites that drive targeted traffic to the shops. I haven´t decided where yet, I´m still looking for the best deals. And I have spoken to other shopkeepers who sell my sort of designs and have "shopping mall" stores. That has been a very good thing. Offline marketing is no good for me, as I live in Germany and the cost for the items is too high if you add the shipping.

7. What other sites, blogs, etc. do you have if any?

I have my art site: Rainbow World of Colors
My husband has an airbrush art site: Airbrush Alley
my husband’s Pin-Up site: Gunman´s Pin-Up and Erotic Art
My IncrediMail Stationery and PSP resources site Rainbow Design
A blog on Myspace , which is for advertising my t-shirt shop
A blog on blogger.com for my art shop - although I should spend a lot more time on the blogs!

Nancy’s comments – All of these are great looking sites filled with beautiful art and wonderful ideas. Having lived in Germany myself for three years and traveled all over Europe I really enjoyed Hilly’s landscape in Rainbow Design. Her still lifes are really beautiful too. I like that she kept those on prints, coasters and greeting cards and didn’t stick them on t-shirts just because she could. Some designs aren’t meant for apparel and I think it takes away from the store when you don’t pick the right items. She has her separate shop, Tee Total for that and it’s full of cute, fun designs.

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