October 12, 2012
When I tell people about my paper goods business, one of the first questions I'm always asked is how I came up with the name Happy Cactus Designs for the company (that's the Happy Cactus on the right). Here's the back story from my About page:
So just where did the name for the design studio originate? While living in New York City, Brannon bought a tiny one-inch tall cactus to remind her of her Texas roots. With loving attention (and a lot of sunlight), the little cactus grew into a thriving plant…a very happy cactus indeed! Now in Texas, the happy cactus is enjoying the warm Texas sun. Just like the plant, Brannon’s goal for the studio is to take her tiny seed of an idea for a paper goods company and grow it into a line of products that bring color and happiness to everyone.
Truth be told, it took a while to come up with a company name that I liked and felt was a good fit for what I was doing. My qualifications for the name were that it: a) was not just my name (My name, Brannon Cullum, is tricky enough to remember as is), b) was memorable and stood out, c) was not limited to just paper products as I hope to eventually branch out with other non-paper products, d) was easy to spell and pronounce, and e) had an interesting and compelling story behind it.
There were a handful of other worthy names in the running, but in the end Happy Cactus Designs just felt right and it met all of these qualifications. I like that the name evokes a sense of playfulness and fun. It's an easy name for people to recall and I am asked frequently about the origin of the name - a story I love telling.
Before you set your heart on a particular name, do your research and make sure that no one else is using it for your particular area of business. The last thing you want is to decide on a name, start building your business, and then realize you need to change the name. Google the name and check with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office. You can search here: http://patft.uspto.gov/. It's also a good idea to see if the domain name is available and to purchase it before anyone else does!
How did you name your business?
September 27, 2012
Last week, I wrote about how important it is to have a website up and running when you launch your company and shared a little background on what I was looking for when I created my website. This week, I wanted to share what I believe are the essential components of any successful website.
Consistent Branding: The look and feel of your website should be consistent across the board. Use the same suite of fonts and color scheme on each and every page. Make sure your logo/company name is prominently featured and is the same branding you use on your business card, signage, and other collateral.
Easy-to-Find Contact Information: Is it easy and intuitive for someone visiting your site to get in touch with you? I have my company email address displayed on multiple pages and also have a contact form that can be filled out. I can't tell you how invaluable it is to have that contact form! Many customers and retailers get in touch with me for the first time through that form.
Links to Social Media Sites: As I mentioned in past posts, using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are great ways to increase your exposure and connect with fans and colleagues. Make sure you have links to these sites on your website! I have widgets that run at the bottom of each page that link directly to my social media pages.
About Us: What's the story behind your business? What do you want potential and existing customers to know about your work? Visitors want to know that there's a human face behind the brand. Highlight your company's mission and any other essential facts you want visitors to know about you.
Good Product Photography: For someone like me, having great photographs of my stationery is essential to selling my product. I spend a lot of time working to have the best product photography possible that showcase my designs.
Clear Product Listings: Along with good photography, it's a wise idea to have well-written and clear descriptions alongside each product. Include information about size, how the product comes packaged, color choices, and any other essential information. Remember, people aren't able to touch the product they see online, so the more descriptive you can be, the better!
September 20, 2012
This month, I'm celebrating Happy Cactus Designs' one year anniversary. It's hard to believe it was just one year ago that I formally launched my small business! People often ask about the steps I took to get off the ground and running. Having quality products with appealing designs was at the top of my list, of course, but I also knew that I needed a website for my company. These days, it's next to impossible to have a company and not have a website.
The first step I took was to purchase the domain for my website - www.happycactusdesigns.com. The last thing you want is to spend a lot of time building up your company and deciding on a company name and then come to find that there isn't a related domain available. After securing the domain, I spent a lot of time researching my options when it came to creating a website and weighing the pros and cons of different platforms. I did not have the technical prowess to create my own site from scratch, so I was hoping to find an e-commerce provider that allowed for some customization and made my products the stars of the page.
Many artists first launch their products on Etsy, an online marketplace for all things handmade and vintage. While Etsy is a great place for many, I ultimately opted not to launch Happy Cactus there for a few reasons. All of your products are listed on your own Etsy shop page, but it's not branded for your company, it's branded as Etsy. It was important for me to have a site that was fully branded as Happy Cactus Designs. Also, I found that Etsy is so oversaturated these days and felt that my products would get lost among thousands and thousands of other products.
Eventually, I chose Big Cartel, a site that caters to artists wanting to sell their products. It was simple, well-priced, and customizable. As my company grew and I decided I needed more functionality to my site, I switched to Shopify. Using a custom template, I was able to add different pages to my site, components that competitors didn't offer. I've been happy with the service so far and have found it really easy to create product listings, update this blog, etc. I've received many compliments about how easy it is to navigate my site and how cleanly everything is laid out. Down the road, I would love to have my own snazzy site with even more features!
When it comes to designing your site, think about what you want your visitors to do there. Do you want them to be able to buy your products? Do you want to share information about your services? Is it important for you to have a blog or a portfolio to showcase? This will help you pinpoint what platforms meet your needs. Then think about navigation. The biggest turn-off for a potential customer is having a site that's hard to figure out. Is it easy to list your products? Can you upload multiple product photos? Can customers easily find their shopping cart and check out without problems? Can they contact you if they have issues with shopping the site? Before you publicly launch your site, have friends and family members test out your site and make purchases. Get feedback from them and make changes accordingly.
Next week, I'll be sharing the essential components you need for a successful website!