The no.1 piece of advice for budding e-commerce entrepreneurs
“Knowing your purpose” is a bit of a buzz phrase at the moment. That’s because, when it comes to building a brand, focus is vital. And no one believes this more so than Flora & Fauna Founder, Julie Mathers.
With a passion for living ethically, naturally and sourcing the best natural alternatives for her e-commerce store, Julie is a purpose-driven entrepreneur. Her business, Flora & Fauna, sources natural, organic vegan skin care, make up, body, home, fashion and lifestyle products from Australia and abroad.
Not only is Julie an e-commerce expert, her entrepreneurial nous and ethical business practices have garnered significant attention. Amongst a host of awards, Julie was named as a finalist in both the 2017 World Retail Awards for Responsible Retailing and 'Best Bootstrapped Growth Initiative' in the Online Retailer Awards.
We spoke to Julie about her experience starting Flora & Fauna, and her practical entrepreneurial steps to get a business off the ground.
Why I started my own business
The trigger for starting Flora & Fauna was trying to find a lipstick that was cruelty free. It was incredibly difficult to find out about the ingredients included, as well as the testing that had been done. There was a real lack of transparency and information available.
I wanted to create a retailer that made It's been missing in retail for too long. Flora & Fauna is the best reflection of this purpose, offering products that are ethical, cruelty free, vegan and eco friendly.significant social change and is ethical and responsible in terms of principles, behaviours, sourcing and products offered.
We launched Flora & Fauna in November 2014 with only 500 products and 30 brands – we now have over 150 brands and 3000 products.
My 20 years of retail and 10 years of digital experience helped me get started. I know what's important to brands and wholesalers, along with how to actually be a retailer. That last part definitely shouldn't be underestimated.
Finding wholesalers to supply small quantities wasn’t too hard. Once we explained what we were doing and our purpose, we found that many brands were more than willing to support us and wanted to get onboard.
Our first store was an off the shelf website, we quickly outgrew it in terms of functionality and availability of support, so in February 2017 we transitioned to a platform called Neto. We have customised this to fit our business and it works very well for us customised it to meet our needs.
Funding the dream
To get started in any new business you have to back yourself. I bootstrapped Flora & Fauna and put significant funds behind getting it started in terms of technology, stock and marketing. You can’t expect others to invest unless you are willing to invest yourself and back that investment.
Any new business takes some investment to get started. While we were setting up, I continued to work full time until the point where I really couldn't do both any more and wanted to invest my time fully in Flora & Fauna.
Marketing on a budget
Social media was our main source of traffic when we first started. As we’ve grown, word of mouth has also extended our reach and great customer service has meant we have great retention.
No.1 piece of advice
My top advice for other entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting an e-commerce store is: know your brand. Know who you are. Know your reason for being. Know your point of difference so you can run your business with that front and centre.