A One-Woman Brand with a Passion for Fashion: Meet Online Boutique Owner Emiley Cox
Emiley Cox quit her management job in construction one lunchtime without a backup plan. After the dust settled, she decided to follow her heart and her passion for fashion. She threw everything into creating her own online boutique and sold a yellow sundress to her very first customer within 15 minutes of launching.
We spoke with Emiley to find out just how she did it.
I always wanted to open a boutique. At first, I wanted it to be a brick-and-mortar store. But as I got older I realized that it was safer to start online because there were fewer upfront costs.
I was working as a manager at a corporate construction company and hated my job. One day, at lunchtime, I just got up and quit. The same day I talked with a friend who designs websites and decided then and there to start my own business.
Thankfully, I’m good at saving, so I had some money put away! But I had no job lined up when I jumped straight into creatingEMILIA.
When did you know it was going to work?
It probably took me a good year before I felt okay about things. The biggest thing for me was finally noticing that most of my customers kept coming back!
Talk us through a typical day in the life.
I get up at 4:45am and work out before starting work on my business at 7am. I keep working until 7pm, then I have to shut it down.
It’s a long day, but it goes by really fast. There’s always something to do — whether I’m editing pictures, doing the website or writing the blog. It keeps me busy!
Do you struggle with a work-life balance?
I've done a decent job of creating a pretty rigid schedule for myself. I force myself to stay in the habit of sticking to my schedule and I leave work at the same time every day, as I would if I were still working in an office.
What has been the biggest surprise for you so far after starting your own business?
It was shocking when I realized that my business is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m the only person in the company and I do everything. I knew it would be a lot of work when I first started, but then I actually had to start living it.
If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently when you were starting out?
There are a few things! At the beginning, I was outsourcing my photography and hiring different photographers once or twice a week for photo shoots. In the last six months, I've bought my own camera and have decided to take my own images.
It wasn’t good to add an extra thing onto my plate, as it's definitely more work now and the cost of the equipment was expensive, but my pictures are my selling point. The energy I save not having to outsource to different freelancers, plus the consistency I maintain with the quality and style of imagery from a brand perspective, is totally worth it.
Also, when I first started out, I only bought from wholesalers who were local to me. In the past year, though, I’ve reached out to wholesalers in Europe and Australia. Since I’ve brought them on board, it’s really helped broaden my horizons regarding the products that I sell, which is another thing I could have done earlier.
How did you learn to price your products?
Early on I did a ton of research and asked my wholesalers to give me the names of some of the other companies selling my products. I looked at what they were charging and based my pricing on that. My margin is about 50–60%, which seems to be my sweet spot.
Do you remember your very first customer?
Yes! My website went live one Friday lunchtime at 12pm and the only marketing I did was via my personal Facebook page, as I didn’t have a business account.
By 12:15pm I had my first customer, from California. Her name was Elaine and she bought a yellow floral sundress. It still blows my mind — I have no idea how she found out about me but she holds a special place in my heart!
How did you go about developing a brand for your website?
I feel that my brand is ever-evolving. I would recommend that before anyone starts a business, they have a brand that’s set in stone. If they don’t, it’s very easy to move away from it and for it to keep changing.
I learned from that, as I created my brand along the way and it's still changing.
Do you have any standout marketing tips or techniques you can share with our community?
I offer free shipping to the customer, which is how I compete with retailers that sell the same products as me. It’s a huge incentive and creates a security blanket for the buyer when they know they can order and return without being charged.
I’ve also just introduced something called Emilia Boxes. Customers can choose between five and six items for their box, which is then sent to them for free and they don’t have to pay for the merchandising upfront.
When it arrives they can try everything on, keep what they want and send back what they don't. It’s like having a store experience but without leaving the house. I’ve found that if a person is going to buy one shirt, and you give them additional options, they often end up buying more.
What are you hoping to learn from our community of small business owners?
I think the biggest thing we can offer each other is encouragement. Some days I feel great and the next day I’m like, “I can’t do this!”
I always appreciate having people I can talk to who totally understand where I’m coming from and who get the struggle.
Now, it's your turn!
Are you looking for like-minded souls to cheer you on through the peaks and valleys of running your own business? How have *you* learned to balance the rough days with the rewarding days?
Share your own stories with us below — so that we can cheer each other on and help each other out. :-)