Interview with Ecwid Merchant: Amy Vander Vorste, the Owner of Ojamiya.com

Mar 23, 2010 by Qetzal, Head of Product
Posted Mar 23, 2010 by Qetzal, Head of Product
Today we’re announcing a new format of our blog posts: interviews with store owners about e-commerce. Below is our interview with Amy Vander Vorste, the owner of Ojamiya.comAmy Vander Vorste

Please describe your store, what does it sell?

Japan is a serious obsession for me. At Ojamiya.com, I sell Japanese inspired items: bento boxes (Japanese style box lunch) and chopsticks. I also sell handmade bento bags and juggling sets on Etsy.
Bento is my best seller for several reasons:

  • Bento can be incredibly cute. Japanese culture and Kawaii (“super cute”) are starting to become popular around the world.
  • It’s an easy way to pack a healthy lunch! Pack a carbohydrate, a protein, and a vegetable. Simple!
  • Lunches don’t get smashed in bento boxes.
  • It’s great for portion control. I live in the land of “super size” meals here in the US. Our ideas of portions and meal sizes have become super sized too. But we really don’t need that much food. Using a bento box helps me keep meals to a more realistic size.

How did you start your on-line store?

At first I only sold my items on Etsy. Changes to what supplies could be sold affected my being able to sell bento boxes by themselves. So, I started my own online storefront. I looked at and tested quite a few options for e-commerce sites that are affordable for a small business like mine.

Ecwid was the best fit and the simplest to maintain. I’m tech savvy, but I don’t have much time to maintain my site. I’d rather spend my time making products, marketing and caring for my family.

How do you promote it? Do you use social networks?

Yes! Social networks can be really fun! They’re a great way to gently get the message out about your shop and meet like minded people. Remember, interaction is key to social networks. If you only promote, people won’t listen to you.

Tools I use to promote: Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, being involved in related forums, my email and forum signatures, word of mouth, leaving my store’s web address when I comment, simple online ads, occasional contests, and linking to my Ecwid store from my Etsy store and vice versa.
Getting your name in multiple places really increases the likely hood of being found.

What do you want to improve in your store in near future? Why?

Expanding my product line is a big priority for me. I’m adding more bento products as quickly as I can. My hope is to add handmade items to my Ecwid store too. Keeping my bento bags and juggling toys stocked and “fresh” in more than one place is a little tricky. With a plan, it’ll be possible.

What challenges have you had? How did you solve them?

Finding shopping cart software that was easy to add product to and maintain took me quite a while. Oh my goodness, most shopping carts are so unfriendly and so ugly. But Ecwid is so easy and looks great! Simple is good.

Finding a good balance between my shop and my family is always a challenge.
I’m a stay at home mom and run my shop for fun (and little profit). I’m constantly looking for ways to be more efficient. Also making sure I only work on the most important things helps with the balance. Some days the most important thing is getting more product listed or a custom order filled. Some days it’s making sure my son understands his math homework.

What can you advise to other store owners who’ve just started to sell?

My Ecwid store is still pretty new. But here are some of the things I’ve learned so far about having a store online.

  • Excellent customer service is priceless! People will return if they know they are valued. Be willing to go the extra mile for your customers. You don’t have the personal interaction online that you have in a brick and mortar store. Do your best to make a connection with your customer. Hand written thank you notes with your customer’s name only take a few minutes and make you stand out.
  • Pictures are worth much more than a thousand words. Your products must have well lit pictures for your customer to be drawn to the image or see details in it.
  • Presentation and good branding help people remember you. Most big stores just toss the item ordered in a box and ship. Branding is very visual. Stand out by adding a personal touch. A ribbon with a branded tag and your store name on the outside of the package help keep your brand in the mind of your customer. Include a business card with an incentive to return to your shop — such as a discount. Ensure that the customer’s order will arrive in tact with enough padding in the box.
  • If you are creating your own items, be sure to limit your online activities to a set amount of time each day so you have enough time for to make your items! There are so many things we can do and it can be a bit overwhelming, but you can’t sell unless you have product! Work on one online thing a day, and soon you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished.

There will always be a million things you can try and that you could make or sell. Choose only the best and the things that bring you the most joy and profit.

About The Author
Qetzal is Head of Product at Ecwid. He loves to create new things to make people's lives easier.

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