5 tips to start an online business, by Natalie of Sugar & Vice

Natalie van Dijk (nee Vice) of Sugar and Vice, always knew two things: that she wanted to run her own business and that she wanted to incorporate her creative talents into this business. The impetus to make this happen eventually came in the form of her retrenchment from a comfortable marketing job in 2014. Rather than acknowledge defeat, Natalie saw this as an opportunity to reinvent herself and make that business idea happen!

Sugar & Vice was started without any funding, handouts or loans. Instead Natalie relied on tenacity, hard work and an uncompromising commitment to her vision to build the brand. All Sugar & Vice products are handmade in Cape Town. The growth and development of the local creative industry is of key importance to the brand.

Starting and managing a business has been a steep learning curve for me and I am always happy to share my experience and learnings with friends, family and acquaintances. The thing is though that it is a very complex question to which the only short answer is, it is complicated and a lot of hard work. But I’ve given this question a lot of thought and condensed it into five points, which I am happy to share here.

Note that this is by no means the comprehensive guide to starting or running a business. This is merely my experience on my particular kind of business (an online shop in the creative industries with a wholesale element).

Over the years I have invested in my own professional learning, growth and development by, among others, doing a mini MBA course in business management, various kinds of training with the Craft and Design Institute (CDI), and courses in graphic design and interior decorating. I’ve worked in marketing, sales and admin roles and all of these have added to my experience in various ways.

1.    Do (A LOT OF) research
This is so important, because you need to know where in the market to position your product or service. Make sure you have a unique selling point – so that you know exactly what sets you apart from similar brands. See what similar products are priced at. Get quotes from all suppliers. Don’t forget about packaging. Find out how much the initial out lay will be and think about how you are going to finance this.

2.    Draw up a business plan
No, you won’t stick to it exactly because theory is one thing and practice is something completely different, but this is an important exercise to get you thinking about your business and how you are going to make it work. Write down your vision and mission statement. Note down what you want to achieve with your business. Include how you will finance things and what your marketing plan is.

3.    Start small
At the beginning I went a bit bananas with the variety of colourways I made my products available in. I should’ve chosen just two colourways to simplify things and to establish my brand. Also, don’t go overboard with spending too much money on stationery and equipment, only get what you absolutely need. You don’t want your cash to be stuck in objects, instead of being available for spending on suppliers/couriers. Don’t make your range too big. I’d advise starting with between five and ten to test the market, and gradually adding on from there.

4.    Do market research
Delve deep here. You need to make sure you know who your customer is, what they like, when they buy, how they like to be communicated with etc. If you do this properly then you will be able to market your products more effectively.

5.    Professional photos
The need for professional photographs cannot be stressed enough. This makes the world of difference. I have uploaded photos of my product to social media that I’ve taken myself and no sales, but as soon as I uploaded a professional photo of the same product, I made a few sales of that item the same day. Photography is definitely worth the financial investment.

This blog post is one in Hello Pretty's guest blog series. Each post is written by a person who is running their online store though South Africa's favourite art, design & craft marketplace.

If you'd like to more view guest posts in this series, and other posts where we interview local businesses, click here.

Wanna write a guest post on Hello Pretty? Email us at info@hellopretty.co.za to find out more.

Attending the protests against gender-based violence in Cape Town

On Thursday the 5th of September thousands of women and men matched in solidarity to parliament to protest against gender based violence. For as long as I can remember South Africa has had an uncomfortably high rate of rape and murder. This really hit home over the course of last month (Women's month) with several high profile rapes and murders. 

Finally, South Africans reached breaking point and decided enough is enough. The public wanted to be heard, wanted to be listened to, wanted to be understood. And so we heard the accounts from rape survivors, from rape crisis organisations and from the President himself. Many sobbed in the crowd, either direct victims of sexual abuse or gender based violence, or knowing someone who has been. People were furious, outraged and heartbroken.

When our President addressed the crowd people chanted 'action action action'. The public will no longer tolerate empty promises and empty words. The President was even booed by the crowd several times as the people want action. The people of South Africa want change. The proposed reforms the President was speaking about should be standard in any case, now all we can do is to keep the same energy directed towards this issue. The same feelings of zero tolerance. 

Hello Pretty supports many women-run businesses and we just want our sellers as well as our customers to know that we will continue to support you in every way we can. We hope that our platform contributes to a sense of empowerment in this rather tumultuous climate we're experiencing here in South Africa at the moment.
 

Hello Dutch Pretty - meet Sem!

Hi there, my name is Sem (yes, this is my full name), a Dutch Fashion Student who’s ready to be Hello Pretty’s intern for the next five months. I feel blessed to get this great opportunity to be part of the Hello Pretty family and to live in this fantastic city (Cape Town).

I'm a spontaneous and sociable twenty-two year old girl who's always up for a party, so I can't leave good food and drinks standing. I love to travel and my dream is to see as much of the world as possible. I’ve left a bunch of lovely people in the Netherlands to start this adventure, but I've already found a lot of lovely friends in Cape Town.

I came to CPT with a 60 KG suitcase fully packed with clothes, I love clothes.

I'm in the process of completing my studies, and I'm sure that Hello Pretty has a lot to offer me, so I can go home with a new family, two suitcases full of knowledge, a lot of great memories and to graduate in February and rock all the Dutch people's asses off. I am excited to show you what I (& Hello Pretty) have to offer.

Byeee (in Holland I say: GROETJES)
P.s. I cannot wait to face a new summer season!!!!

Giveaway: Wishfull Thinking & Hello Pretty

We're super excited to go live with this giveaway in collaboration with one of our sellers, Wishfull Thinking

Leigh-Ann and her mom Bev design and craft decor for your little one's nursery or bedroom. All of their products are handcrafted and made with the utnmost love. They're hoping to add some sparkle and magic to kid's bedroom decor. And we absolutely love what these two ladies have been creating.

So if you feel like winning this magical unicorn garland then simply head on over to either our Facebook page or Instagram page and get liking. The giveaway will run for a week. Good luck :)
 

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