Name: Liz Smith
Company: Apples & Pears Clothing
Position in company: Owner
It may be highly stereotypical to say that women love fashion, but it is undeniable that many a woman grows up dreaming about a career in this ever changing industry. Many buy magazines and shop ‘til they drop, but few actually get to live their dream. When she started Apples & Pears on eBay, Liz Smith was one lady that decided that a fashion career was for her and that there was going to be no stopping her achieving that goal.
The ambition of running her own business started many years before she first ventured out to sell clothes. In fact she was so determined to become her own boss as a first priority that she enrolled on a business degree course as a mature student. It was from this point that she then began narrowing down her options of what to begin trading in. She went from the broad idea of her passion for fashion to honing in on an area she felt had potential for her and that she had knowledge of.
Her mission from the outset became simple – to provide stylish clothes in bright colours and larger sizes, which make women feel amazing. It was here that the newly titled Apples & Pears would either become a reality or be left on the cutting room floor.
While Liz was setting everything up she began trading on eBay, which she says was a brilliant way to learn about ecommerce. However, she wanted to take that leap from being an eBay seller to having her own website. And this, she decided, was her biggest challenge – finding customers and then driving them to her new online shop. So she approached Ignite.
Liz said: “Working with Liz Storey at Ignite was a really positive experience. I got practical advice on how to improve my website and how to boost my use of social media. Following on from this, I then worked with Sarah Brockwell at sarahBee marketing via Ignite to get help with PR. The advice was really helpful and has had a positive impact on my business. I continue to use and recommend Ignite.”
The main thing that Liz received from Ignite, other than the information she went for at the beginning, was the message that advice doesn’t cost a fortune and that support is definitely here. It also appears that she got a winning set of contacts.
She now has a more defined a social media strategy, which has led to an increase in visitors to the website from Facebook and Twitter. She also has a better understanding of PR and her company, Apples & Pears, has featured in a number of publications including the Daily Mirror. The website itself has become more SEO savvy, and once traffic has been directed there, it is being found to be more user friendly.
Another thing Liz learnt from Ignite is to give your business a human touch. Whilst there is a huge amount of opportunity selling online, she has found it really important that people realise they are buying from humans and feel some sort of connection to the business. Everyone wants to look professional, but people like to support small businesses so she recommends not being faceless.
Liz says that she has, slightly reluctantly at first, tried harder to be the face of her business and she has been rewarded for her efforts after being nominated for a British Plus Size award, which in turn has been brilliant for Apples & Pears.
So, at this point in her business career, are there any regrets of her time before she approached Ignite?
“I wish I had had a more detailed idea of who my customer was when I started out, and really thought this out properly. Initially I did stalls at tons of events, many of which weren’t really connecting to the right people. This year I have really tried to be more focused and taken part in fewer, bigger events that fit the profile of my ideal customer, and had much more success,” said Liz.
She went to Ignite for website help and left with contacts and advice about her whole business. It must have been like going into a shop for a particular dress, finding out it is in the sale and that everything to go with the outfit is included in the price then?
Liz said: “I can’t recommend Ignite highly enough. I got great common sense advice at a point when I really felt ‘stuck’ and it helped move my business forward. Even though my initial contact was about my website, I have continued to use the services since, and attended a course there the other day in fact!”
While her business may play to the women and fashion stereotype, Liz is making sure that her dream of amazing clothes no matter your size is a reality for all of her new customers, and that is one label she is happy to wear.
Telephone: 01206 710506