"It helps when you're your own target customer," says Steffanee Taylor, co-founder of KidsClothesline.com in San Jose, California. Taylor, 32, loved the clothing her mother made for her two sons, and, with her mother at the sewing machine, she took her work online to sell handmade baby and children's clothing.
Six months pre-launch, Taylor, a Silicon Valley marketing veteran, researched other Web-based vendors selling the same type of high-quality, handmade and embroidered clothing, and she realized her product was unique. From there, she had to learn the technical skills to get the business in gear, including how to build the backend billing software and integrate the shopping cart technology. Taylor estimates she saved about 75 percent of the production costs by learning to do the work herself rather than outsourcing it to contractors. Like a fine boutique, the site's catalog is small, offering only 150 products with variations on theme and size. Many products are priced at $70 or $90, and they never offer sales, trendy items or seasonal promotions. "The profit margin is somewhat slim because there's so much handwork," says Taylor. So, for her business, she decided to stick with the basics.
KidsClothesline started off with just 300 visitors per month, but through directory listings and word-of-mouth, that number has grown to 15,000. And, says Taylor, with some stepped-up marketing efforts, including direct mail, she anticipates an increase in traffic and sales for this holiday season.
Keeping costs down is a big issue for this company, as it's funded with about $20,000 of Taylor's own money, plus innumerable hours spent in site development, sometimes as many as 30 hours a week. Taylor says her sales continue to increase every month, and she is optimistic and willing to be patient for further growth. She continues to plug away at the site, massage an evolving business plan and look for some external funding to further develop the business.