I define risk differently than many people. I think regret and wasted potential are the biggest risks in life. I’d rather fail at business then wonder “What if?” at the end of my life.”
Amanda Austin worked in magazine publishing and corporate marketing for 12 years before she could no longer ignore her dream of owning her own business. While it was clear that she wanted to break out on her own to create a scalable business, what that business would be wasn’t as clear.
Then one day she came across “My Wife Quit Her Job,” a podcast about a women who started a successful ecommerce business after leaving a lucrative finance job. Amanda became interested in all things ecommerce and embarked on a self education journey to learn as much about building an online business as she could. She eventually became a part of the Profitable Online Store Community, where you learn everything you need to know about launching and running an online store.
Amanda spent several months researching niches before finally landing on dollhouse kits and dollhouse miniatures. While still working for a Fortune 500 company, she began laying the groundwork to launch this business by attending trade shows and learning all the ins and outs of running an ecommerce store.
In 2017, she turned in her two weeks notice so she could focus full time on launching Little Shop of Miniatures. After a summer spent loading thousands of products and making a lot of mistakes, she launched her business on shopofminiatures.com. She received her first sale several days later and is now working on growing her business. Here’s what she has learned so far.
Where did the idea for Little Shop of Miniatures come from?
I knew I wanted to open an online store, and, at first, I was all about the numbers–as in, does this product get enough search volume and is there room in the market for a new player? I had a list of products and targeted keywords I was considering. I eventually chose dollhouses and dollhouse miniatures because I had a dollhouse growing up and bought a ton of miniatures from a local store that is no longer around. My research revealed that very few brick and mortar stores still exist–and the online miniatures stores had some major design and functionality issues. I thought there was a need for a better branded and designed website.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I try to eat breakfast with my husband, but the rascal usually leaves by 7:15, which is about the final time I hit the snooze button. I usually check my email and my Facebook Business Pages App to see if there are any urgent customer emails. I then check the Shopify app to see how many people visited my site and how many orders I got since the night before. I like to think that I might have made money in my sleep!
Right now, I do a little of everything: uploading more products, writing blog posts, getting my social media posts in order, checking the functionality of my site. I also try to devote some time each week to improving my site’s SEO. To stay productive, I try to prioritize the day’s most important tasks before I dive in. I’ve also been known to bribe myself with chocolate if I finish a task. (I’m partial to Kit Kats and Reese Cups.)
How do you bring ideas to life?
I work backwards by listing each sequential step I need to take to make something a reality. And then I focus on only that one step until I can move onto the next one. Starting a business can be a slog at times, so I also let myself visualize and feel what it will feel like when I reach a milestone.
What’s one trend that excites you?
How Google ranks websites. I know this has been going on for a while, but I feel they are getting better and better at serving up results that provide value instead of ones where people are good at gaming the system.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
This is weird, but listening to music all day. I match the music to the mood I want to feel–so upbeat pop when I’m dragging, jazz or classical when I need to concentrate. Some people like working in quiet, but I am 10x more productive when music is playing.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Action kills (most) fear. I had so many fears before I started this business, but once I got moving and saw things progressing, the fear grew from a shout to a whisper.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
I define risk differently than many people. I think regret and wasted potential are the biggest risks in life. I’d rather fail at business then wonder “What if?” at the end of my life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Unplug from your phone for a good part of each day. There is a thing as too much information and you aren’t being present to your loved ones, who, like it or not, are on this entrepreneurial journey with you, if you’re glued to your phone.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Pinning my product images to Pinterest. I am getting saves from people who love miniatures, which is helping them spread. It also boosts my SEO because Google counts it as a backlink from Pinterest.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Sometimes I’m in such a rush that I just jump in and don’t learn the nitty gritty. Like the time I tagged by hand 2,000 products all wrong and had to redo them all over again one week before my launch. After I wiped away the tears, I redid them and tried to make the categories better. So I was able to view it as an improvement exercise rather than a straight up redo.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My research revealed there is strong demand for online quincenera party supplies and not a lot of competition. I shied away from this niche because while I speak Spanish, I am far from fluent and that would present a problem for customer service.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A membership to a nice gym. Working out is like therapy for me–and my gym has a sauna with a no phone policy. Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster ride, and self care is important.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Shopify. I would never have launched my business without this all-inclusive ecommerce platform that is so intuitive and innovative.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. It always reminds me that I’m capable of so much more than I probably think I am.
What is your favorite quote?
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
- There is so much you can learn for free. Follow podcasters, read articles, join online communities–education happens in lots of places that aren’t a traditional classroom.
- Sometimes the biggest risk in life is doing nothing at all. I’ve read that people who work in hospice say people’s biggest regrets in life aren’t what they did and didn’t work out, but the chances they never took. Life is short–you can always make more money, but you’ll never get your time back.
- You will make mistakes along the way. View them as teachers and as part of the process.
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Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.