Are you endlessly inspired by beautiful homes and shops? If you want to launch your own online store, but aren’t sure where to start, take some tips from the founders of the boutique homewares store The Future Kept, Dean and Jeska Hearne.
1.WRITE A MISSION STATEMENT
Think carefully about why you want to set up a shop and write down your mission statement. This process could take a while, but it’s important to get your ideas clear and focused, right from the start.
“First and foremost, spend time figuring out where you want to take your business and what your passion is. You need a mission statement. We wrote out what we wanted to achieve. It took a while to fine-tune it, but it’s a document we refer to every time we make a decision, from what products we stock to how we want our business to be perceived,” says Dean.
Dean and Jeska run The Future Kept from their home in Sussex
2. PLAN YOUR FINANCES
If you want to secure investment or a loan from a bank, a business plan is crucial. But even if you’re starting out very small scale, it’s useful anyway because it challenges you to put your ideas down on paper. It makes the whole process seem much more real. Governments often provide free support and advice for small businesses, so tap into these resources.
“Be realistic financially and don’t get carried away – one of the advantages of setting up an online shop is that you can start small and grow your business slowly. Get advice and help from your bank or an accountant if you need it,” advises Jeska.
A metal leaf garland is draped over the curtain rail and jewellery is stored on pretty hooks
3. ASSESS YOUR SKILLS
Think about what your strengths and weaknesses are – what will you need help with? What can you already do? Make a list of your skills and areas you need to work on, perhaps with the help of others.
“If you run a small independent online shop, you have to do everything yourself. It’s tough. You have to be an accountant, a social media expert, a website designer, a packer, a shipper, a marketing expert. We enjoy all these things, but it’s hard work!” explains Dean.
Jeska compiles mood-boards around the house. ‘I use old frames and fill them with whatever I’m currently loving.’
4. DO PLENTY OF RESEARCH
With a plethora of online shops out there, you need to ensure that yours stands out from the crowd. Get to know the market you’ll be entering really thoroughly before you take the plunge and spend plenty of time considering what will make your shop different.
Visit as many online shop sites as you can and note down what you like and dislike about each one in terms of design, layout, stock, creative content, social media approaches and more practical elements such as shipping and delivery costs. Check out the competition and see what they do well.
Do some online shopping yourself and consider: as a customer, what your experience was like? What impressed you? How quickly did your order arrive? How was it packaged? Did you find it easy to interact with the shop owner online? The more you shop online yourself, the more you will learn and the easier it will be for you to work out what sort of customer experience you want to provide.
A few vintage crates and wooden planks form practical, temporary shelves in the living room
5. CHOOSE A GOOD NAME
Use instantdomainsearch.com to see if your shop website address is available and also check that the name you have chosen for your shop has not been used elsewhere, on or offline.
“Make sure that your name works fluidly across the internet – if somebody already has the handle you want on Pinterest or Instagram, choose a new name, one you can own completely. Keeping your brand and name consistent and strong across all platforms is essential,” advises Dean.
Objects are arranged to create appealing still life vignettes
For more advice on creating your own online store, pick up Chic Boutiquers at Home by Ellie Tennant, photography by James Gardiner (Ryland & Peters, €23.75)