FLOPSY SHOP.IE – INTERVIEW WITH LISA VERHEES
I am always amazed at where people get their energy from. Take Lisa and Marc, for example. They both work outside of the home. They have a beautiful little girl and, mark my words, toddlers are wonderfully exhausting work. And, on top of that,they have started their own enterprise – Flopsyshop.ie, a web shop that buys and sells pre-loved baby clothes
Here’s Lisa to tell you about it.
What is Flopsy Shop?
We launched Flopsy Shop on 1 November 2016. We saw the potential of the pre-loved baby clothes web shop based on popularity in other countries. Combined with being conscious of the waste that is generated in the clothing industry in general, we thought it would be a great way to combine a personal value with a business model.
The idea came from two different friends. One introduced me to the idea of the quality to be found in charity shops locally and when a friend from the Netherlands was visiting with her family, she told me of a Belgian website that is very popular that she likes to use. We had a stack of perfectly good clothes that were just sitting in the closet after our daughter grew out of them. So we did some research, talked to some more friends and after validating the idea that we could make this into an online enterprise, and encouraged by my husband, I attended a small business boot-camp by Dublin City Local Enterprise Office.
We did some proper market research on the concept in Germany, Netherlands and Belgium where this kind of website is like second nature to people. We source items from parents whose kids have grown out of them. Often we find items that are not worn and still have their tag on. We generally offer a fixed price per kilo, but for special items we make an exception. We then check, wash, photograph the items and put them up on our website.
We promote the website via popular social networks and share on groups of like-minded parents. For example, we found great response in the Zero Waste movement group, where people are trying to cut down on creating waste by being conscious of what and where they buy their day-to-day items. FlospyShop.ie fits nicely into that ethos as it passes on clothes that otherwise might have ended up in landfill and creates value for both sellers and buyers.
FlopsyShop.ie is currently run in the evening hours and weekends as my husband and I both have full time jobs. We have a two year old daughter which we’d like to give as much attention to as possible during the weekend, whether it is trips to the local playgrounds or going for a Sunday morning swim. During her afternoon naps, we often work an hour on FlopsyShop.ie, prepping social media posts for the week and processing orders. Most of the other work on the shop happens when the little one is asleep in the evening.
We sometimes attend events or do pick-up runs where she would come along, so it means we’ve had random pit-stop at playgrounds throughout Dublin. For example, recently we came across a fabulous one in Glenageary where she had a ball climbing and sliding and we could sip a coffee from the local coffee shop. We also make sure that we try to stop working after 10 pm to give some time for ourselves and at least two nights a week we prioritize catching up on our favourite TV or Netflix shows or pursue our own interests. So juggling work, business and family really means making sure we plan our time ahead and stick to it.
What business challenges do you face?
The biggest challenge is time, shipping costs and quality website traffic.
We need to juggle business with work and raising a daughter, so scheduling time is important. Making sure we spend our time effectively; managing stock, preparing for events, social media management and creating awareness via connecting with like minded bloggers.
The second challenge is shipping cost. In Ireland, options are limited for very small traders like ourselves and the cost to ship cheap items is often higher than we’d like. We are often not able to charge for full shipping cost, as it would mean a good value item would become too expensive. On top of that, Irish shoppers are used to free or very low shipping cost from the large e-commerce players, which makes it hard for us small enterprises. We are currently exploring options with a variety of providers.
It is really easy to launch a web-shop, but without a plan to drive traffic to the site, it will soon lay idle. Spending money on online ads will get page likes or quite a lot of visitors, but I also realized that it does not necessarily generate many sales. I started a much more personal approach by reaching out to bloggers and Facebook groups to share the site. Word of mouth in the digital world works mainly the same as in the old days. Delivering great service while nudging other to share your details. I’m also learning all the ins and outs of SEO, so that the site gets better ranked in search results.
What lessons have you learnt from setting up your own enterprise?
Everything either takes time or costs money. There are a lot opportunities out there to start a small business. As long as you can commit to the time it takes to keep it going and growing. Being non-technical, there are many places that can help to set you up with an e-commerce platform without having to learn how to code. There are tons of apps out there to make things like photo editing, SEO or providing support much easier. However, nobody has made to possible to applify human contact and story telling. This can only be done by getting out there and engage with people. Other small businesses love to share their story with you. Some of the best advice we’ve had came from other small business owners.
What aspects of your business do you enjoy the most?
I love seeing what people buy. They really take their time and you can see them putting outfits together themselves, like a mini capsule wardrobe. Being satisfied when we see lovely items find a new home and knowing that there was value for both seller as well as buyer in it. Besides that, I like the administrative side of the business, the sorting items, logging and storing until purchased. My husband enjoys playing with all the e-commerce and social media platforms. I like to say I’m logistics and he is social media sales.
What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Check out the Local Enterprise office for training around areas you’re not familiar with such as accounting or an overview of available grants. Their courses are great value for money. Secondly, do your due-diligence with market research and sizing. Thirdly, whatever you do, it is going to take more time than you thought.
What are your future goals for Flopsy Shop?
In the short term, we’d like to further grow our webshop by providing a larger variety of items and with it hopefully generate more traffic and sales. For the long term we are playing with a number of thoughts on how we can connect parents who have surplus clothes or other items. This could either be via their mobile phones (think buy/sell/swap focused social apps) or via an actual shop/events and meet-ups. We are also contemplating ways on how to reach customers outside of Ireland. As nice as the Irish audience is, it is rather small and enterprises need to look outside of their own border to grow. We already had interest coming from Poland where children clothes are in the high tax bracket.
Where can people find you?
The easiest way to find us is either on FlopsyShop.ie or Facebook/FlopsyShop. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org OR you can use the Facebook messenger option on the site or page which is really popular.
As published on Her Voice From the Kitchen Window and the Evening Echo in Cork.