Today I present another written interview with Elena Travis. Elena is the eCommerce manager of The Funky Chair website. The website specializes in importing and reselling bar stools into the UK market and has recently been re-designed in order to cater for a growing market in the UK for bar stools being used in interior design. Elena has many years of experience working as an online marketing manager for eCommerce websites.
What got you interested in selling bar stools and running your own online store? Share your story.
For many years I worked as an online marketing manager for a large fashion house, and was spending almost 12 hours a day working on someone else’s brand, someone else’s website, and ultimately earning online profits for someone else’s pocket. Like many online entrepreneurs I had an “a-ha” moment and started to think that I should really be doing this for myself.
I’d always been interested in interior design and had seen bar stools being used in modern kitchen designs. The prices for bar stools seemed quite high so I thought to myself surely I could look at importing cheaply, and re-selling back in the UK via my own funky bar stools website. That’s how it all started off a couple of years ago and I haven’t looked back since!
What are a few challenges you have faced during the initial growth of your eCommerce business?
Set-up costs primarily. It costs quite a lot up-front to run an effective eCommerce platform… especially if you don’t have any income coming in yet in terms of online sales! Another challenge was settling on a brand look and feel – we went through so many iterations with The Funky Chair until we finally settled on a the design. Admittedly I still don’t think I am 100% happy with it – but I guess every business owner probably feels the same!
The most important thing is to make people correlate The Funky Chair brand with buying bar stools online… if we can get that done in the next 12 months then that will be the biggest challenge overcome. Hopefully interviews like this and our online advertising efforts will make that happen as we want to be the number 1 bar stool retailer in the UK, and eventually for Europe and the United States too.
Do you also sell on other platforms such as eBay or Amazon? What are your thoughts on using these platforms?
I did initially yes. I tested out the profitability of importing bar stools and selling on both of those platforms. Although the profits were small, I could see it could work. I still have a presence on both eBay and Amazon but hopefully those will become less and less important to the business over time as our website traffic increases as well as our online visibility in the search engines for when people search for bar stool related terms.
What are 2 or 3 useful tools you use daily to run your eCommerce business that you couldn’t live without?
I have a tool to automate image prepping and cropping which is essential. We tend to add about 10 to 20 new bar stool designs every week so being able to do that quickly and in the same format each time is key to be productive and quick in terms of a turnaround.
We also have an online stock control system linked into the warehouse where we keep all of our bar stools and furniture stock. Without that I wouldn’t’ have a clue how the business was performing.
What are your future plans for 2014 and beyond?
To roll out new sections in the website for things like cool chairs and office furniture. I have noticed a trend where offices are now starting to look for functional furniture that actually looks cool… I am currently looking at overseas manufacturers to look for new lines to start importing alongside the bar stools part of the business.