Starting a Web-based Retail Business
Interview with GardenScribe Founder Theresa Morrogh
Have you ever created something for your own home use and thought about selling it over the web? Theresa Morrogh has a great story about how she brought her GardenScribe Plant Organizer to market.
We've all had that great idea at home for a product we wish we could bring to market.
Meet Theresa Morrogh, founder of GardenScribe.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I sell a product that I created called the GardenScribe Plant Organizer. I sell the product, along with items that support it (i.e. refill pages) primarily through my website.
When did you start the business?
The short answer is October 2007, which is when I sold my first GardenScribe Plant Organizer. The longer answer is that I had been using my "garden book" in my own garden for years. In December 2005 I finally decided to explore the possibility of turning it into a product. It took me until October 2007 to make it all happen.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Before GardenScribe I worked in the financial industry as a software developer and project manager for a company that designs computerized trading systems for firms on Wall Street.
In 2003, I started my first business called Everyday Projects LLC to provide project management services to private individuals. After I created the GardenScribe Plant Organizer, I added the GardenScribe DBA to my existing business. So, technically, GardenScribe is really part of my first business. But, since selling a product and project management is so different, I think of them as two different businesses.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
I haven't been able to find a product exactly like mine, so I really don't have a direct competitor. In general, my competitors are anyone selling gardening products. My plan is to compete by offering a high quality product at a reasonable price. I also try to offer the absolute best customer service and support that I possibly can.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I have a lot more expenses that I thought I would. I did a ton of research and thought I was prepared for what it would cost to run a small business. I didn't realize that selling a product on-line would be so expensive (i.e website, shopping cart, credit card processing fees).
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Yes. I should have trusted in my own ability to turn my prototype into a finished product. I hired a firm to do this for me. I finally had to fire them, start from scratch, and do the whole thing myself. That mistake cost me $2000.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I tell everyone that I meet about my business and product because you never know when someone will have great information that you can use. For example, I had no idea that the New York International Gift Fair was a great place to learn how products reach retailers until my hair stylist, of all people, mentioned it.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Just do it. If you really think the business (or product) is a great idea, do it. I sat on my idea for a couple of years because I wasn't absolutely 100 % positive that people would want it. Sometimes, you just have to build it and get it out there to find out if there's a market for it. But, if you don't build it, you'll never know (until someone else builds it, and then you'll kick yourself).
Theresa, what an inspirational story! Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.
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