By Natasha Voudouris
Our journey into the online world began less than 2 years ago, when my mum Debbie and I had the idea of creating a website for her interior styling business. At the time, Mum had just completed a new interior design course and was ready to put her excitement and passion into practice. Up until that point, she had been flying solo as an interior stylist for over 10 years. I found myself drawn to her assignments and our shared love for beautiful furniture and homewares grew deeper.
While we were pouring out ideas for mum’s new website, we talked about one day having an online store. Talking and dreaming soon became planning and organising. Within a few weeks we had our name, Zohi Interiors, a domain and a logo, and chose a web development company. Within a few months, we began importing from India, Morocco and beyond.
We often get comments that our online store appears polished and looks like it is run by a team of 20, not a team of 2 who have never had any web or retail experience! The truth is, creating an online brand isn’t easy, we are constantly growing and learning to keep improving our business. We would love to share a few tips for anyone who is considering launching their business online.
1. Preparation is key
Do your research and get prepared, you’ll need to develop relationships with important contacts that will help your business run, such as freight providers, web developers, marketers, photographers, graphic artists and product suppliers. Our tip is to be patient as all good things take time. We spent nearly a year in planning and research before our online store launched in January this year.
2. Learn from the best
Look at your competitors and colleagues. Large, established online stores spend great of amounts of time and money in research and testing to discover what works. So pick an online store that inspires you and be perceptive, you’ll soon discover what works. Apply this knowledge to your own online store and you’ll be miles ahead. One of the most important things we learnt from this was to keep our website simple and easy to navigate.
3. Express your brand
With so much competition in the online space, it’s never been more important to stand out by expressing your unique brand. Branding is everything, from how your website looks and feels, the message you are sending and your customers’ shopping experience. Photography is a great way to visually represent your brand. For Zohi, our brand objective is to inspire people to create beauty in their own home and life. We achieved this by styling beautiful interior looks using our products.
Starting our own online business has been an exciting, scary and at times exhausting experience. We are always learning and don’t have it all figured out but we hope sharing our experience might inspire just one of you to take that leap of faith as well.
Natasha Voudouris runs the Zohi Interiors online store with her mother, Debbie.
Jen is currently on honeymoon in Tokyo, Venice and the UK, and has opened up the blog to a series of fabulous guest posters to share their interiors-related expertise in her absence. She hopes you’ll enjoy them and look out for the odd honeymoon post from overseas! The new Mrs Francis (who will still be known as Bishop for work purposes) will be back at her desk on 11 November.
Emma - My Bespoke Chair says
Great guest post Natasha, And good to read about your behind-the-scenes! Always my favourite. I also took a leap of faith last year and plunged into online retail, where before I had a shop and studio.
You also just reminded me to get my very first vision board back from my lovely web developers. It’s been 18 months so I hope they haven’t thrown it out!
Natasha - Zohi Interiors says
Thank you I’m so glad to hear you liked the guest post! Congratulations on taking the leap of faith as well, I had a look at your online store – it looks great and it’s such a wonderful concept as well. We would love to one day have a shop, I think we might be doing it the other-way aroud to you! It’s a hard decision though as everything is online these days, but it is still important to touch & feel especially when it homes to furniture and homewares!
Fingers crossed your vision board is still there!
Jules Hayman says
What a great and timely article for me. Thank you! I launch my online store today to a small test group and pubicly by the end of the month. I had not spoken to anyone else about how to do this, but take great comfort that I have pretty much followed the same path. Thanks for the affirmation. This journey is equally terrifying and exciting and it’s nice to know I’m doing alright so far!
Ina - Wandaufkleber says
What a lovely post. I like the commitment in the family. It is so nice to share the same interest and finally to get into action and building an online shop. Thanks for sharing your way and insights:)
Wendy Beard says
What a GREAT post and thank you for sharing your tips! We are a few months into our online story (after a year of research and planning). It is a lot harder than anticipated but I wouldn’t change it for the world!!!
We worked hard at creating our very unique look and stick to what we love …original and limited edition items. Now we just need to get the hello yellow message out there.
Your passion is infectious so thanks again for sharing and inspiring!
Great post, Her site is indeed quite charming!
Thank you and the girls for all the useful tips.
I am getting my feet wet in the online decorating business (www.cheerupdesign.com), so these tips come in good time 😉
Trudy - HOME etcetera says
I first read this post when it was published back in October. (Jen, can you believe your wedding was 3 months ago? I saw the pics of your big day and honeymoon on Instagram – Gorgeous!) I have just taken a great leap of faith and changed by business name and domain to match the new direction my online homewares business is taking. I have just re-read this article and have to agree with Natasha’s tips above. After nearly a year of running an online store I would especially endorse her comments about research and relationships.
Jen Bishop says
3 months married tomorrow! It flies! Glad you found this post useful and all the best, Trudy! Thanks for your comment. Jen
Alisa Fraser says
i finally have a few spare moments to jump on here and read your story. Just wanted to say thanks for sharing your experience as it can be a very daunting one. We have just launced our online store and are always looking for ways to improve our brand. So much to learn but exciting times ahead.
Good luck and thanks again.
Jen Bishop says
Love it when we can share great info and interviews that inspire others A&L 🙂