The FEW Women’s Start-Up Club (WSC) attracted its largest audience on May 31, 2017, with three panelists sharing how their online-based businesses are succeeding, independent of location. Below are summaries of their presentations. Be sure to check out their sites for more inspiration!
The next WSC event is “Mentoring and Networking” on Thursday, June 29. Join us to learn how mentoring can help a start-up succeed and keep up the momentum and motivation for your business.
Chris Kirkland – Blogger and website developer
A Brit based in Tokyo, Chris identified and exploited a niche in online blogging: helping budget travelers get the most out of Tokyo “on the cheap.” With a background in web development and IT consulting, Chris is succeeding in his goal of helping budget travelers through the highly successful TokyoCheapo.com.
The motivation for TokyoCheapo came in 2012, when Chris and his business partner aimed to debunk the Mercer Report’s ranking of Tokyo as the world’s most expensive city. Keeping up the momentum from one of its first popular articles on Japanese capsule hotels, TokyoCheapo now posts up to 50 articles a month, has a growing team of independent contributors across the globe, and plans to expand with London and Hong Kong sites. TokyoCheapo’s reliable and extensive content, along with a unique, quirky style, currently attracts more than 250,000 followers.
Chris stated that while it can be difficult to make money blogging, it is still useful for promoting a business. He shared tips for how to make blogging successful, including:
- Aim to generate 80% of revenue with 20% of your business activity by capitalizing on articles that generate the most traffic
- Capitalize on a space/topic not already covered and create a niche
- Set yourself apart by creating a unique style and presence
- Clearly define yourself with depth and high quality content with significant details
- Be consistent with a regular, high volume of high-quality posts to audiences engaged
- Exploit seasonal trends and events for more article opportunities and presence
Social Networking Sites (SNS) can also be effective for grabbing the shorter attention spans of certain target audiences. Business can optimize their social media presence by:
- Using channels best suited to your content
- Being an engaged member of a SNS platform/community related to your business or content
- Making your site easily found through organic searches
- Using a mailing list
- Owning your site’s traffic and identify key content and users
- Evolving: review, analyze and strategize
Kyoko Bowskill – Online store specialist
A Japanese native, Kyoko started her online store Link Collective in 2011, with the goal of sharing the beauty of Japanese furoshiki art and design to a global clientele. She continued to grow her business while an expat in London, and since returning to Japan, she travels to various textile wholesalers throughout the country and collaborates with global artists and designers who design her modern furoshiki-based products.
While she introduces her products at various markets and events, most of her sales are through etsy.com, one of the biggest online worldwide marketplaces for creative individuals. Kyoko offered the following advice to grow an online business:
- Research and choose your customer base wisely
- Brand effectively –when selling products online, visuals are important, so use good quality photos
- Economize when starting – quality photos eliminated the need for an advertising budget
- Be timely – In the global market, simplicity and speed are essential
- Connect and build trust with customers with a balance between timely, friendly responses
- Connect with and exploit the platforms connected to your product for further marketing
- Get feedback to analyze how your brand is perceived – surveys and testimonials are helpful
Jodie Lightfoot – Online communications consultant
Jodie is a brand marketing strategist from Vancouver who has successfully exploited her networks in Canada and Japan to grow her digital marketing agency, Lightfooted Strategies. She believes “the shortest distance between two people is a story” and has attracted a diverse, global clientele, including: Shortlist.com; local non-profits Mirai no Mori and the Jewish Chabad House of Japan; a Swiss luxury beauty brand; and Accenture, where she coordinated APAC-wide internal communications for 500+ Utilities professionals.
With Singapore as her next physical location, Jodie is confident she can succeed as a digital nomad by building on all her experiences and networks to develop new ones. Along with building effective networks, in person and online, she suggests the following for ambitious online communications specialists:
- Choose what’s important to you and work around it- make your work your play
- Choose small projects when starting out and still learning
- Choose projects that resonate deeply with you- including pro bono projects you believe in for experience and resume building
- Identify issues and don’t be afraid to ask for the right help
- Choose effective channels and be proactive, including finding good partners and learning digital languages
- Make a training plan – start in the client’s shoes
- Determine your vision – where do you want to go and what is the finish line
- Don’t procrastinate – the longer the time gap, the higher the expectations of the client
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The three panelists all agreed that it is possible to support oneself independent of one location. In response to audience questions, they emphasized that:
- Online security is much safer than it was just five years ago due to the evolving internet
- An online presence means you are putting yourself “out there”- be aware of your audience and “ be professional” on all platforms
- Build trust and loyalty with professionalism
- An online business is like any business – it needs vision, opportunity, a business plan, hard work, and, if necessary, an exit plan.
Thank you to Chris, Kyoko and Jodi for their time and advice!
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