Pamela Huber-Hauck, 46
Spirit Work Knitting and Designs, Rochester, New York
Projected 2006 Sales: $375,000
The Business: When Pamela Huber-Hauck left her management position at a telecommunications company to follow her passion and open a yarn shop, her well-honed business acumen served her well. Huber-Hauck's knowledge of what her clients wanted, as well as the fact that knitting and crochet were on the upswing, created an environment for explosive growth. The startup she launched in 2003 moved from a tiny, 400-square-foot storefront into a 2,400-square-foot facility by the end of her second year in business.
As Huber-Hauck explains, the store became the priority. "Our whole strategy around the brick-and-mortar store was finding what we could do that's different and innovative," she says. "We brought in couches and seating and coffee and spa music. We shifted our focus away from [the] website."
The Challenge: When business had fallen 40 percent by early 2006, Huber-Hauck knew she needed to find new revenue streams. However, the online yarn market was already dominated by a few sellers who were doing it well, and Huber-Hauck wasn't sure how to transform her website (www.spiritworkknit.com) from a place to learn about upcoming in-store events to a full-service online retailer of yarn and related accessories.
Even though Huber-Hauck was spending as many as 10 hours a week updating her site with new images and information, that time wasn't paying off in increased sales. ProStores business advisor Mike Miller says the problem was two-fold. "First, it was hard to tell when navigating if you could actually purchase products," he explains. "Second, we had to [take] the warm, fuzzy feeling of the retail [store] and put it in the online setting."
The Solution: The new site places the retail experience first. "My site was primarily a marketing tool for local customers," Huber-Hauck says. "The redesign placed the emphasis first on shopping, then on communication and community building." But that doesn't mean she's abandoning her commitment to the local market, adding, "The new site will allow us to leverage technology, e-mail marketing, etc. that will help us stay connected with local customers, communicate in a timely manner and drive sales."
Gwen Moran is Entrepreneur's"Retail Register" and "Quick Pick" columnist.