When Jessica Russel, owner of Tumbleweed Bead Co. Etsy shop and Washington-based Tumbleweed Studio, decided to take her successful jewelry line to the streets in order to reach new customers and take advantage of untouched holiday sales, she knew she would face some huge challenges, but she had no idea how much her base business would suffer. After all, it’s hard enough managing an online and retail business from an office, where you have all the tools you need at your fingertips, but how could she make it all run smoothly remotely? Well, the reality is, she didn’t – at least not the first year she attempted it.
Jessica and husband Tyler operate both an Etsy shop and a brick-and-mortar storefront that offer handcrafted eco-friendly jewelry pieces, crafted from recycled Bronze, Sterling Silver and 14k Gold, to a broad and diverse demographic. In 2010, in an effort to increase sales and reach new customers, Jessica took her successful jewelry line to the streets during the busiest shopping season of the year in what she called her ‘Holiday Trunk Show Tour’. Unfortunately, the tour didn’t turn into the wild success she had anticipated. Away from the office, long periods of time elapsed before she could respond to customer emails or Etsy messages, which created a lapse in the great customer service they were known for providing. Product design concepts from her designer sat in limbo, which slowed production and introduction of new products. Credit card payments they took manually meant long hours keying credit card numbers from carbon slips created earlier with the manual credit card imprinter. So, even though they had additional sales, the loss of efficiency, lacking customer service and additional time spent processing those sales cost them more than any profit they took in.
Jessica wasn’t willing to give up. There were additional sales to be made by doing her ‘Holiday Trunk Show’. It was just a matter of figuring out how to make it all work remotely, so the sales processing was simple and they were still able to manage their retail and online business. Jessica knew she’d need to employ the right technology solutions to make it happen and then she realized that the right technology was right in her hand – her T-Mobile Android smartphone.
Determined to make it work, Jessica downloaded some key mobile applications such as eFax, Evernote, Instagram and Dropbox to her phone. She also got herself a Square credit card reader, which attached directly to her phone, so she could swipe credit cards on site. With these new tools at her fingertips, Jessica hit the road in 2011 and was able to:
- Save time. Using Square, Jessica reduced payment processing time by at least 10 hours per week.
- Collaborate. Dropbox allowed her to share new ideas with her designer and marketing team.
- Update customer records. Evernote enabled Jessica to take notes on customers and their preferences, which helped maintain strong relationships.
- Maintain cash flow. When on the road, she used eFax to send photos and invoices to wholesale customers.
- Interact with customers and promote marketing campaigns. Using Instagram and Facebook, Jessica was able to spark conversations between followers and drive traffic to stores.
The results of her 2011 Holiday Trunk Show were so significant, that Jessica doubled the number of trunk show stops in 2012 and she more than doubled her sales!
“We made five times as much profit during the 2012 holiday season as we do in a normal month between our store, Etsy shop and trunk show sales thanks to our ability to stay constantly connected from the road.” said Jessica. “With T-Mobile, we saved money, grew our business and earned back time that we were able to enjoy as a family. These are real luxuries for a small business owner.”
“Increasingly, mobile apps are becoming go-to tools for accessing and managing critical business priorities. But, with more than one million available, how can small business choose the right one? T-Mobile wants to help businesses find an application that best fits based on industry, job function and business priority.” says, Milan Ruzicka, Vice President B2B Marketing at T-Mobile.
By using technology tools that were readily available to them, and at very limited cost, Jessica and Tyler were able to increase sales, create a new revenue stream for their small business and reach a whole new customer base. There isn’t a greater success than that in small business!
What technology tools do you use to keep you business running smooth while working remotely? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!