Monday, May 08, 2006

Tech Styles interview

Tracy and Jeff, owners of,
are sharing with us today.

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

My husband is a graphic artist. For Christmas last year, we came up with a design for a shirt that I stenciled onto a shirt for my college-aged daughter. We both thought the design was so good that we should try to sell it. We turned to CafePress. That design (Study Hard. Be Evil.) was the first of the many we now have.

2. When did you open your store?

December 28, 2005

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

Promotions is the hardest part. Trying to get the word out so that people will come to your store is definitely the hardest part of owning an online store. We really don't want to lay out cash for advertising so we have to continually look for free promotional opportunities. It is very time-consuming to do that. Not only is it finding places to do the promotions, it's finding promotional opportunities that generate traffic and sales.

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

Being able to design so freely and having people actually buy the designs is awesome. This has been a very rewarding experience. We've only been at it for four months. We had no expectations that we would sell as much as we have so far. It certainly isn't a lot (yet) but it has been enough to pay for the store and we hit the first tier bonus level in our third month.

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

Thankfully, I found the CafePress forum right away and read everything. There is a wealth of knowledge in those message boards. The people who have been with CafePress for years give so freely of their knowledge and share in everyone's tiniest of successes. I think the fact that I found the forum and dove into it so quickly helped us to ramp up faster than we would have otherwise. I think, without that, we would still be floundering with store design, tagging & descriptions, and ideas for promotional opportunities. I do freelance web design outside of my usual 9-5 job (Project Manager at Ford Motor Company). The experience I bring with website design gave us a leg-up over that learning curve that many people struggle with.

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?

CafePress's Marketplace really does a pretty decent job. The key is tagging your images well and writing good descriptions. We make sure that our tags include words that we think people might use as search words in the CafePress Marketplace for which we think they would like to see our designs as a result of their search. The same holds true for the descriptions. We use words in the descriptions that people using search engines such as Google, MSN, Yahoo, etc. will enter as search keywords. So, we don't just describe the design, we target the end users with the description. We have links to our CafePress store from other websites we own and our blogs and those links are generating both traffic and sales. We let all of our friends and acquaintances know about our store. We sent out a mass email to everyone but we didn't beg for sales. We asked for feedback. What we got in return was some sales and some ideas for more designs. My daughter in college promotes the store (primarily the "Study Hard. Be Evil." design) from her personal web space at college. My middle daughter promotes her own designs that we have in our store from her MySpace account. We bought a few of our designs and we wear them so that people can see the quality of the designs and printing. We are walking billboards. We find opportunities to mention our store to everyone and we printed our own business cards to have ready to hand out so those people have a URL to visit when they get home.

7. What other sites, blogs, etc. do you have if any? - We have a set of designs targeted to this audience and promote them on this site. - Tracy's personal website where all the designs are promoted. (mirrored home page of our store)

Blog on MySpace

Blog on LiveJournal

Blog on

Nancy’s comment – Tracy mentioned being a web designer on the side and how that gave them a leg up. My husband is an internet consultant and also designs websites. I couldn’t have done my store without his help and it always amazes me so many people figure it out on their own!Tracy and Jeff have a different take on the immigration controversy in their “Legal American” section. They also have a very clever magnet to put on your dishwasher that you can turn to “clean or dirty” and they have a whole section of Mother’s Day products, which is coming up very soon!

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