Interview with Simply Preloved Children’s Boutique: A Sustainable Solution

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We recently interviewed Kate Casey – the founder of Simply Preloved Children’s Boutique, a UK-based sustainable solution to fast fashion and unnecessary waste when it comes to children’s clothing.

Since the business is in its infancy, we spoke with Kate about how she got started, choosing a website builder, and what it’s like to juggle many hats as the company grows.

“No day goes 100% to plan, and that’s OK.”

Simply Preloved Children's Boutique homepage, displaying eight products for sale
Kate gives her website’s visitors clear direction, guiding them toward the store.

A Me-Shaped Business

I’m the owner and founder of Simply Preloved Children’s Boutique. I source, quality check, and sell affordable, preloved baby and toddler clothing online to busy parents. My store is ideal for parents concerned about the impact of fashion on the environment and the cost of clothing small bodies.

I’m a mum of three – I gave birth to my youngest child early on in the pandemic. He had to be delivered early, was underweight, and initially had some feeding issues. I was on maternity leave from my full-time job and it quickly became clear that each child needed me to be around for different reasons. Coupled with difficulty finding affordable childcare places for the youngest two, I needed to reconsider my career.

I spent two years at home with them, adjusting to a new way of life, but I felt I could start something independently from home. Buying preloved items has always been important to me – born initially out of need when I was surviving as a single parent and now very much a passion.

“I knew I had an eye for sourcing inexpensive quality clothing, a wealth of knowledge about buying and caring for clothes, and the drive to help struggling families.”

I had the opportunity to participate in free online coaching to help identify my values and build a me-shaped business. I decided to take the plunge, built my website, and studied technical and content SEO.

A Passion Project

I’ve been concerned about the environment since I was a teenager. For me, sustainability is a very broad topic – it seeps into all aspects of our lives, not just recycling an empty plastic bottle and saving the planet. Being sustainable to me is as much being intentional and purposeful with items we consume in our everyday lives as committing to recycle, save energy/water, and think about our carbon footprint.

As a society, we should be mindful of not depleting resources for future generations and maintaining a balance. But it is also about what we as consumers buy and from where, the quantity of what we buy, reusing and repairing items, and repurposing. We must all work together to limit environmental damage; for me, something that everyone can do quickly and very easily is to reuse products that have already been produced and are in our homes. It’s better for the environment and it’s far cheaper for you!

Finding Brand Values

Alongside the environmental issues, I have a genuine heart for families struggling financially. It’s been a lived experience for me for many years, particularly since starting a family. I’ve been sharing many ideas for helping families on my website in my blog.

In the current economic climate, families are hit from all angles; especially those middle-income families with one income who aren’t eligible for financial support – this is an area where my experience and expertise can help and make a difference.

My main focus is on providing excellent customer service. From sourcing clothes, through the quality checking process, to storing them and then packaging each bundle carefully. I’m taking time to ensure that all items are cared for. I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t dress my children in.

Simply Preloved Children's Boutique blog page, sharing articles on second-hand clothing
Kate’s blog speaks to her target audience.

The Preloved Process

I buy items locally from other mums or on online marketplaces. When I send out an order, I include a flyer offering to buy items back once finished. When purchasing online, I scrutinise photographs and check the description for flaws.

Once I receive items, I check them in direct sunlight, particularly around the neck for baby clothes under six months (for milk stains) and the cuffs of long-sleeved tops for babies and children over six months (for food stains). I also check seams for holes, the back and front for any excessive wear stains or holes – excess bobbling is also a no-go.

Anything that doesn’t pass my checks is bundled up and sold online elsewhere as playwear (suitable for nursery/preschool) or sent to charity; nothing ends up in landfill.

I’m toying with digging out my sewing machine and customising garments that may need repairing with patches. Still, I must wait for my youngest to be in school next year and off my hands!

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Navigating Parenthood

As an older mum, I have been genuinely interested in discovering how older generations have overcome my parenting struggles. I have talked with my mother about what she and my maternal grandmother did differently and implemented changes to how I parent. I had huge anxiety about the volume of baby essentials I felt I “needed” as a first-time mum, until my own mum pointed out that my grandmother had three babies under three during the Second World War – and didn’t “need” any of it!

That helped to shift my perspective and when I went on to have baby number two and three, I always asked myself, “Did Grandma Fred need it?” The answer 95% of the time, of course, was no! Of course, it’s a personal choice and many things that are invaluable for new parents have been invented – I purposefully didn’t buy too many gadgets that I would dispose of again in a few short months. My new mindset helped reduce the overwhelm as a new mum by having a clutter-free house.

Juggling the Workload

My main challenge has been one of time. I’m the default parent at home – I’ve had to juggle looking after the children and running the home with setting up a business which has been difficult at times. My youngest two aren’t of school age yet, so I’ve had to channel time working on my website and social media during the few hours they’re at preschool each week.

Between updating and maintaining a website, sourcing stock, creating social media content, blogging and fulfilling orders, many things need my attention each week. It is vital to prioritise tasks and complete the most time-specific tasks first – it can be easy to waste time on the fun stuff that doesn’t win me any clients. I’m realistic and allow myself margin during the day; two of my three children are of preschool age. No day goes 100% to plan, and that’s OK.

Since becoming a mum, I have had to change my view of what success looks like and lower my expectations of myself. I try to not spend too long thinking about the text and design for social media posts; it is better to post regularly, concentrating on connecting with people and building a following rather than wondering if something could look better.

Advice for Businesses

Do some market research first and identify your ideal client, not just who you think they are. I’ve also joined a local networking group for women in business, which has been a great source of ideas and encouragement. It is also important to connect with people who understand what you do – running a small business can be tough, and it gets lonely.

Don’t be concerned about making mistakes or what others think about you. I would also suggest not thinking too much about something before doing it, as you can talk yourself out of it! Not everything needs to be perfect when starting – sometimes completed is good enough.

Looking Ahead

I hope to do some local pop-up stalls at various events this year. I am also in the process of building a lucky dip web page – where customers can pay £10 and receive a customised box of four or five items personalised for them based on colour/style preference.

I often have people comment that my youngest two are wearing cute items and they’re often wearing preloved items that I’ve put together from different brands. Several parents have told me that this is something they “can’t” do, whereas I love it – so I’m excited to offer this soon!

I am also working on a “build yourself a bundle” page where customers can access a discount for buying multiple items.

Lucky dip form on Simply Preloved Children's Boutique website
Kate continues to engage with customers using new strategies, such as this lucky dip product.

Thoughts on Wix

I built my website because I want to be online and not have a physical store. Wix was recommended to me by a friend and also had good reviews – I briefly looked at other platforms but didn’t feel that they offered the same functionality and support that Wix does.

The best thing about Wix has to be its overall ease of use. I’m no IT expert at all, but whenever I struggled to do something, there has been an online help article that has helped and the chat feature is good too.

With features, the best thing for me has to be calculating postage costs automatically. As I upload stock, I weigh each item – Wix then calculates the correct postage payable for the customer during checkout.

There have been minor things I’ve had to tweak, particularly between the desktop and mobile site but Wix makes that quite easy. From looking at the website, there are plenty of things available to me that I have not implemented yet but could do as and when I grow.

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Interview with PERSEVE: An Intentional Haircare Brand

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We interviewed the clean, cruelty free, and pH balanced hair care brand PERSEVE, set up by a mother and daughter duo of Hyeri Sung and Olivia Bae. We spoke with the daughter Olivia on how they hit $200,000 in sales in 10 months.

“About 30% of our sales are direct from our website so it’s a must for our business.”

We were inspired to discover the story behind this hair care brand and how Olivia turned her struggles with hair loss into a way to help others. We love that she was able to turn a difficult situation into a solution for those who can’t afford the proper haircare products. Jumping into building a website with Wix, and creating a shampoo, conditioner, hydrating treatment, and a dual function masque.

Mother and Daughter Founded Company

Three black and white images of PERSEVE owners sat on a couch together
This mother and daughter duo create affordable luxury Korean hair care products.

Our brand is called PERSEVE. We’re a women founded and AAPI (Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander) owned haircare brand that is founded by me and my mom, Hyeri, who has been a hairstylist in New York City for over 25 years. We’re a clean and cruelty-free haircare brand creating luxurious yet affordable formulas that are quality alternatives to prestige brands. Our mission is to make premium haircare formulas accessible to everyone. 

“As immigrants, our culture is super important to us so we focused on adding our background to the brand.”

My mom and I founded the brand together and are Korean-American immigrants. As immigrants, our culture is super important to us so we focused on adding our background to the brand. When we started we knew for sure we were going to have everything formulated and made in South Korea. Our products are all under $20, but equally equivalent in ingredients, standards, and performance of a prestige product that retails for $30.

Working Alongside Family

This is kind of corny, but the best part is working with my mom. We have polar opposite personalities, but we mesh well together. Also, the fact that my mom and I are working to build something together motivates us daily. We have polar opposite personalities and work styles, but that helps us a lot as a team. In areas I lack in, she thrives in. And areas she lacks in, I thrive in. We balance each other. And we also prioritize communication because it’s super important in every aspect, not just when running a company together.

My mom has been a hairstylist in New York City for over 25 years so she’s always had a passion for haircare. I think our love for hair care stems from the idea that it frames our face and helps us feel more beautiful, but also can help us in so many ways to change our style and identity at the snip of a scissor or flick of a curling iron.

As small business owners, we tend to wear a lot of hats – I usually manage our marketing, social media, and business development. And my mom takes more of a product development and operations role in the business. She does all the dirty work while I do all the pretty work.

The Meaning Behind The Business

I was experiencing intense hair loss after getting COVID and tried so many different products from high-end, drugstore, to personalized products. Not much worked except a $30 shampoo from Sephora, but it wasn’t realistic to spend $30 on a single bottle of shampoo.

“It almost felt like brands were gatekeeping prestige formulas by sticking overly expensive price tags on them. My mom and I had a lightbulb moment and made it our mission to make prestige formulas accessible to everyone.”

Our goal is to make affordable luxury hair care, like treat yourself vibes, but products on a budget. We want to make the ingredients of a prestige brand accessible to the everyday consumer with our clean and cruelty-free price inclusive products.

The very first thing we did was create a brand identity. My mom and I brainstormed so many names for the brand and landed on PERSEVE after about a month. Then started working with a graphic designer to create logos and content for the brand.

How a Painful Moment Can Turn Into a Positive for Others

The hair loss was such a life-changing experience for me because it essentially gave me a whole new career path. When I got COVID, I was living in NYC and I had just lost my corporate job due to the pandemic, dealing with the aftermath of losing my hair was extremely stressful.

Probably a few weeks after I recovered from COVID, my hair would come out in clumps and I would see it mostly while washing my hair, or when I brushed it. I was so desperate for a fix so I tried everything. The only product that worked was a $30 shampoo, but being out of a job in the middle of a pandemic I couldn’t justify paying that much for a single product.

Prior Experiences Before The PERSEVE Brand

My mom and co-founder, Hyeri, has been a professional hairstylist in New York City for over 25 years and actually created one of the first non-toxic keratin smoothing treatments before launching PERSEVE, so she has experience with manufacturing and that definitely helped us a lot with our brand.

Prior to PERSEVE, I was an event planner for hospitality groups mostly doing corporate events. It’s a world of difference from what I’m doing now.

The Day-to-Day of a Haircare Business

As a small business owner, your hours aren’t the typical nine to five. Everyday is different, but I typically start my day out at around nine at our office. The first thing I do when I get to the office is check my emails. Then my mom and I will usually go and help our warehouse team in the back with packing orders and preparing wholesale shipments for pickup or delivery that day.

After that, I’ll go to the office and do some work. Mostly consisting of prospecting, sending cold emails, and working on our social media platforms or marketing initiatives. Usually throughout the week when I have a free moment, I’ll work with our photographer who has a studio nearby to plan and create content. Every week is filled with different projects, but that’s typically what my day to day is like.

PERSEVE’s Proudest Moments

Hair product items in an online store.
For $22 you can get the PERSEVE luxury shampoo and conditioner.

I think a core moment for us was when we finally received our finished products. Our products are made in South Korea so it was a long and extremely stressful process to get our products delivered due to the pandemic and importing restrictions. It was delay after delay so when we finally got it, it was unreal. It felt like our hard work finally paid off.

“We’re immensely proud that we’ve sold about 15K products so far and a lot of them are returning customers.”

One tip is patience is key, you’re not gonna see instant results. For example, in marketing especially if you’re bootstrapping and not throwing thousands into Facebook ads, you are not going to see an instant return. We’re immensely proud that we’ve sold about 15K products so far and a lot of them are returning customers.

The Importance of Creating a Website

Hair care brand PERSEVE home page with shampoo smears on background
The Wix-made website is sleek as a well made hair conditioner.

Creating an online presence especially for a CPG (consumer packaged goods) is so important. You need to have a consumer facing website to capture consumers. And a website is the most cost effective selling channel especially if your brand is new and haven’t entered major retailers yet.

We launched our business on our website. We bootstrapped and built the brand ourselves. The only thing we really outsourced for our business was a photographer and a graphic designer, but beyond that we kind of do everything ourselves.

Experiences of Building with Wix

The templates are absolutely the best thing about Wix. The Wix templates are easy to use and actually aesthetically pleasing. There’s so many design templates you can choose from too. And you literally drop and click to design and you’re done.

Wix made everything user-friendly and also automated a lot of the actions, so it’s very hands off compared to other platforms. Also, the analytics and email marketing features have been the most helpful tools for our business.

The only problem I do have with Wix is that sometimes the website editing tools glitch and freeze, but beyond that I have nothing bad to say about it. It’s one of the best platforms.

Tips and Advice For New Haircare Businesses

Invest in a better chair – just kidding! But in all honesty, I would maybe tell myself to “have patience.” And I say that because in the first few months of launch, I was so anxious and constantly beating myself down for not getting instant results. Then once our brand started getting some traction I realized that all I needed was some patience.

 “Also plan and organize everything. Creating content and copy for the website prior to starting is always a good idea so that everything is more organized and you’ll definitely finish the website a lot quicker.”

I would also say don’t give up. It’s so hard being a business owner, but the empowerment from building something from the bottom up with your own two hands is priceless. I feel so proud to say I created a brand on my own.

Do your due diligence and research everything. Research the industry, your competition, trends, and ingredients. It’s so important to know your information because the hair care industry is one the most saturated sectors in beauty and you want your products to differentiate within that mountain of competition.

For the future we have some retail partnerships in the works so hopefully we’ll have some exciting news soon. But our ultimate goal is to have our products available at major retailers like Sephora and Ulta.

Hannah Terwin Interview: Bringing Personality to Your Business

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Hannah is the owner of the photography business Han Designed, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She specializes in weddings and elopements, supporting and celebrating clients worldwide with cinematic and magical visuals.

It was an absolute joy to chat with Hannah – accompanied on the call by two gorgeous Golden Retrievers, Keely and Goose – and it’s easy to see why clientele would come away from photography sessions happy.

To get started, we spoke with Hannah about her journey into photography and how the business has grown over the years, but we quickly spiraled into the impact fantasy has on her work and her experience with two website builders, Squarespace and WordPress. Let’s dive right in!

“I can’t leave myself at home when I go to work, I’m always showing up with these pieces of myself too.”

Homepage for photography website Han Designed, featuring an image of a couple getting married
Hannah clearly highlights her style of photography across the website.

The Birth of a Business

“I had gone to school for film and cinematography, and then I switched to photography after graduating about four years ago. From there I started doing weddings, just as a way to pick up jobs, and then I realized I liked it. Before I knew it, I was getting referrals and stuff. So that then kind of snowballed into me having my own business.

I went full-time between two and three years ago, just on my own – so now it’s just me and then I’ll hire contractors sometimes to help out with some work. I shoot 20-30 weddings and elopements per year. Mostly in the Midwest of the US, and then a few abroad as well.”

Finding Brand Values

“I think one thing that sets me apart – and it’s a big philosophy of mine and my photography – is consent-informed posing. So I approach photography through a trauma-informed lens, which then kind of takes away – or I think supports people – to feel more comfortable with me.

“It allows us to create photographs without me making any assumptions about who they are, or what they want. Keeping the collaboration open.”

I started making monthly donations pretty early on in my business. Without mentioning it or telling anyone – it was a personal thing at that time. But I realized as I kept working with people that the clients I really enjoyed working with, and that were getting the most out of working with me, had a similar passion for supporting the community and we would lean towards supporting the same causes.

Putting it on my website is another way to communicate who I am as a person and also a way for clients to know what to expect from me and where my passions outside of work lie. I can’t leave myself at home when I go to work, I’m always showing up with these pieces of myself too. So I wanted to use it as another way to narrow down my clientele – to be people that knew what I stood for and that felt like knowing that I was a good fit for them. It’s also a good conversation starter too, and it also just feels good working knowing that I’m supporting these two places monthly [The Gentle Barn and The Innocence Project].”

A white background with a grey box detailing the values of Han Designed and a paragraph of text to the right showing the projects the business supports
Hannah makes her values clear to potential clients.

The Magic of Fantasy

“I think as far as my niche goes, I think something else that sets me apart – and is very central to my business – is wanting to focus on, or take inspiration from, fantasy books and movies. Like folklore and stuff like that, and trying to incorporate that into my work. I work with a lot of people who are really passionate about fantasy movies and films, and different stories. So I find it fun to try to incorporate the things that they like into the photography.

I take a lot of inspiration from Celtic folklore, especially images, right now. That’s kind of like it’s less specific but I’m really inspired by the scenery and colors of Ireland. And the history of it – the Celtic folklore stories. And, as for films or shows, I would say visually that I take a lot of inspiration from the show Outlander – I think it’s shot in a way that I really like to emulate with the colors and the composition. And the same with the more magical elements of The Lord of the Rings.”

Bringing Personality to Your Business

“I wanted to avoid the more generic personality things that people will put on their websites. The first time I made a website and started writing about myself, I wanted to be very approachable to everyone and be kind of generic in a way. I wanted to have details that wouldn’t make anyone not like me, if that makes sense.

So when I redid my website over the past two years, I worked with a copywriter and she was really helpful, but I leaned into mentioning things that not every person can relate to – but are true to me. And I’ve found that I’ve met with and worked with clients that then align more with what I like because I’ll mention kind of obscure things, but they’re pretty important in my life.”

The Joys of Work

“My favorite thing about work is meeting the people that I end up working with and getting to know them and getting to know their families. Just being able to support them through a process that – I mean quite a few people may do more than once – but for a lot of people, it’s just one time and they’ve never done it before. It comes with a lot of emotions and baggage and stuff like that, so I like to be a support person in that way.

I also like to be able to empower people when it comes to trying to encourage them to make their wedding or elopement or portrait session – make it whatever they want it to be. So that’s really rewarding.

And day-to-day, I really enjoy editing, especially when I feel like I’m doing something where I have a little bit of artistic freedom. I’m able to really give people what they want, or what they hope that they could get.”

An Evolving Process

“My services and process definitely evolved, especially with things like permitting and the legal checks that come with destination weddings and more adventurous elopements in national parks and things. Because a lot of people – I mean, most people – haven’t eloped to a national park before. So how would you know that you need a permit in order to take photos on a mountain or need to get permission?

My first one, I had to do serious research and I realized that I wanted that to be a part of what I do for my clients and not something they have to do. I want to provide that education and, if I’m the expert in our relationship, I want to provide all of that. So that definitely came from learning and working.”

“It’s helpful now that people can know what to expect through my website, and it’s a reminder of what to expect of myself.”

Growing a Business

“Over the years, my business has grown and as it’s grown, I’ve had to learn more about efficiency and making sure that I’m hitting deadlines since I have more clients. And I’ve been wanting to maintain the personalization, the one-to-one process. Even having, you know, 50 clients a year, or however many, I didn’t want to lose that personal feeling.

So that’s been a learning curve and there’s been a lot of things I’ve had to learn as I’ve grown. A lot of it has to do with marketing and my website and trying to find ways to be more efficient in that department, but also learning when to delegate – or when I’ve hit a roadblock and need a contractor or professional who can help me take the next step.

I’ve also had to adapt my contracts a bit too. Going through the pandemic, I learned a lot about how to deal with cancellations and rescheduling – that kind of stuff that didn’t come up a lot before COVID. That’s when I had to learn about adding it to my contract and setting expectations early too.”

Planning Ahead – Preparing for Busy Seasons

“For me, fall is my busiest season, and summer is wedding season in the industry.

It’s something else I’ve learned over the years – I’ve had to be strategic about scheduling because I’ve learned that one of the best things I can do for myself is give myself breaks so it’s not back-to-back every weekend. And there are quite a few back-to-back weekends, but I’m still trying to be intentional about how far I’m traveling and giving myself time to decompress and get editing done in between. So that helps me seasonally.

Something else that helps me deal with the rush is trying to get as much backend stuff done as possible during the off-season. So that’d be December, January, February, March – I try to set up marketing as much as I can. I try to get ahead of any website updates and changes and do that when I’m not my busiest because then that takes something off my plate for future me.”

Pursuing Passions and Future Plans

“I have the goal of doing more destination weddings. I have one booked for next year (2024) which will be fun, but I’d like to lean into making more social media posts and blog posts with education about destination weddings and putting out more content that’s helpful to people. Trying to be more of a resource in the future for people, even people who don’t end up booking with me.

I just think that there are a lot of misconceptions and legal gray areas with destination weddings and some things that some photographers and vendors may skip out on learning about that I think are really important, so I’d like to lean into that education piece more in the future of my business.

And same for my more personal passions, like environmentalism. I’d like to do more in the sphere of eco-conscious weddings and elopements. So I think overall doing more education and maybe one day trying to host some kind of workshop or something of the sort would be on my goals list. Overall, I think just booking more adventurous National Park elopements around the US, I would enjoy too… so those are my upcoming goals.”

Columns of elopement images above related blog posts and guides
Hannah already shares helpful blog posts and guides on elopements.

Advice for New Photographers

“When I was first starting out, I was accepting any client that inquired without getting to know them and without doing my full due diligence of making sure they were a good fit. I haven’t had any crazy difficult people but I’ve had clients that I’ve learned maybe I could’ve been more diligent about making sure that we were what was best for each other. And especially in shorter sessions, like portrait sessions, there’s less of a relationship-building element as weddings.

So I find that the more I know a person and the more we’ve spent time talking and feeling comfortable, the better. With shorter sessions, I think it’s easier to end up just pushing through, despite whether you think it was a good fit or not. Usually, I handle it by doing the best work I can for them and make a note to myself that down the road, if they wanted to work together again, I would probably point them in the direction of someone who I think would be a better fit for them. And just keep mental notes about stuff like that so that I can serve people the best way.

As much as you can, don’t work for free either. Especially in creative fields – you know, art, writing, theater, music, photography, all of that – I think it can be easy to say you just want to do it. So you’ll do it for free – and there’s definitely space for collaborations and exchanges and donating your time. I still do that, but I think that a lot of people just starting out in the photography field will do any work for anyone for any price. And I think that just does a disservice to the people working and is a quick way to burn out in the field.

So I would say to remember to honor what you need, so then you can do the best work for the people you work with.

I still need to work on learning when to delegate and outsource and when to push through – time is money, as people say, so you may be able to do something yourself, but is it worth the 40 hours of time spent learning and rewriting and reworking things? So I kind of wish at the start that I had reached out for more support, especially in a lot of the administrative stuff.”

Thoughts on Squarespace and WordPress

“I wanted a place where people could go to basically get everything they needed about working with me. So I wanted a place to put all of the photos and a place to have an FAQ – like a home base where people could access everything they needed to book me.

I was on Squarespace for my first year, and I think Squarespace has a great user interface and it’s really user-friendly but I did feel limited in customization after a point. So it was helpful in getting my website up really quickly and it looking pretty clean and straightforward in a short period of time. It felt super easy to use, but after that first year, I realized I wanted to do a bit more with altering my code and doing more with Google Analytics and tracking things. And overall, it just felt like it wasn’t easy anymore for me to make design changes, so I ended up going to WordPress because I’d worked with it a little bit in the past and had heard really good things from other photographers working with WordPress and how they were getting good SEO results from it.

I would say my SEO performance has been probably one of the better things I’ve noticed since switching, and I also really like how customizable everything is in WordPress. And the amount of plugins that they have available is helpful as well.”

Revamping The Business

“I was noticing that I was getting less inquiries of the sort that I wanted to work with and that I wanted to shoot. So I was getting more cold leads – people just messaging every photographer that comes up on Google. People who hadn’t picked a date yet, or weren’t really sure… less inquiries that were real leads of people that wanted to see if we’d be a good fit. When those leads got less frequent, I decided to revamp my website so that it reflected more of me and what I wanted to shoot. That’s what kind of drove the changes.

This year, I did a full overhaul of my homepage and my pricing page – for that, I hired a copywriter that specializes in elopements because I found that I wanted to lean more toward elopements. She was really helpful in getting that big chunk of copy done, and then I updated the other pages on my website myself, having that as an inspiration or framework.”

Website Building Tips

“My advice to someone who has never touched a website would be to start with the most user-friendly and straightforward experience you can find. Because with web building, I think it gets overwhelming really quickly, and there’s so much you can do with it. For me, a big part of being able to get a website up quickly was finding that Squarespace was really simple for me to use and then just running with that because it allowed me to get my first draft up, so to speak. Even as I was working on customizing it and working on my business overall, I still had that framework up.

Whatever seems the most doable for you, and you can always change down the road.

My other advice would be to watch YouTube videos and to read blogs and to try and learn as much as you can about it and how it works, because it can be very complicated.”

More Information


The key takeaway we found from speaking with Hannah is how important it is to connect with your clients or customers, and why bringing your personal values and passions to your work can help to build those strong relationships.

Every business faces hurdles, but you should always be ready to adapt – Hannah did just that by revamping her website and by letting her processes evolve with experience.

Finish The Sentence

I am happiest when… I’m reading a book outside with a cup of coffee.

To me, success looks like… serving myself and my community in the best way that I can.

If I could go back in time, I would advise myself to… travel more.

Having a business website has… been a very rewarding time suck.

Being an entrepreneur means… connecting with and sharing my skills with people.

Eliana Bergman Interview: How To Build a Brand From Nothing

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Eliana is a woman who does it all. When she’s not looking after her three children, she’s focusing on the business she self-started during the pandemic. De Novo® is a revolution to the lint-rolling world. The main thing that sets them apart is that their lint brushes are self-cleaning, meaning gone are the days of having to hide them in a drawer and go to the hardware store for a replacement. This also makes them a great sustainable alternative.

Others have taken note too. De Novo® lint brushes have been featured on Univision, are part of FabFitFun’s marketplace, and can be found in small boutique stores all around the United States. A great success for a company that started in the midst of a pandemic.

But how did it get here? We sat down with Eliana, founder and CEO, to talk about her products and how, through ecommerce platform Shopify, she was able to build a brand from the ground up, and how you can too.

waist high headshot of woman holding two lint brushes smiling in front of wood table with tree painting behind

I take my customers on a journey – tell them a story. I let them know they’re buying a product from this business, but behind this business is a person… and that person is me”

Quick Insights

  • Industry: Ecommerce
  • Company Founded: 2021
  • Business To Date Profits: $140,000
  • Website Built With: Shopify
  • Education: International Media and Communication BA, Social Science MSS
  • Article Highlight: You need to love your product or you’ll never get anywhere

Eliana's Background

“My name is Eliana Bergman,  I sell self-cleaning lint brushes through an ecommerce platform and my company is called De Novo®.

I initially started my business in February 2021, right in the middle of the pandemic. I started it from home and built the website and the brand mostly in the waiting room of the Child Development Center where my son would go for various therapies

I mostly do B2B, meaning most of my sales come directly from other retailers, but I do generate organic sales on the website as well. Over time, we have brought in around $140,000.

Initially, it was very little sales, but lately, it’s around 2,000 [products sold] on a monthly basis. This year has been very good but it still fluctuates depending on the month.”

What Is The De Novo® Lint Brush?

selection of a range of lint brushes of different sizes

“De Novo®’s mission is to provide consumers with the option to generate less waste in the world by selling reusable, self-cleaning and fashionable lint brushes. Instead of the discardable sticky sheets and constantly producing more trash, it’s just one product that will last you many years and you don’t have to constantly be producing trash or purchase refills.

In my household I mostly use it for pet hair. Our medium-sized schnauzer, Maya, sheds a lot twice a year, so these brushes certainly get put to the test. But you don’t have to have a pet to find these brushes useful. My mom, who has no pets, uses them after the dryer to remove the lint off her clothing. We also have a fair share of clients in northern states and Canada, who find our products helpful in the colder months when they wear sweaters and scarves which leave lint on finer textiles. 

I personally use my De Novo® Back-To-Basics two-to-three times a day on my sofa and then the little De Novo® On-The-Go I keep in my purse so I have it when I’m out and about.”

Where Did The Idea Come From?

“Since delivering my second child, I had been experiencing a whole lot of hair loss. Aside from our dog Maya, we also had a cat who sheds a whole lot. So we had all this hair from everyone everywhere. As a stay-at-home mom, I spent all day at home and needed to find a solution to this problem. It was also appealing to have a job that I could do remotely so that I wouldn’t need to be pulled away from my family. You might think that having three kids and pets is enough, but I’m just one of those people that can’t really sit still and do nothing, so I decided to go for it and give entrepreneurship a try.

I also felt like there was plenty of opportunity with these products. The reusable lint brushes you find in stores today are all black or white with red bristles, which is just ugly. And the traditional lint rollers with sticky sheets produce so much trash. 

I wanted something nicer but also effective. I wanted a product I could have on my coffee table or hanging with my winter coats and feel comfortable leaving it there because it is stylish. De Novo® lint brushes are always on my coffee table. I can easily pick it up and clean the couch and I just put it back and it looks nice. The traditional sticky sheet lint roller is not something you keep out, because it just doesn’t look nice. 

This brand came to fruition as a combination of everything. It was my own hair loss. My pets were shedding like crazy. The amount of trash produced by sticky sheets, how ugly your typical lint roller is, and ultimately, my own desire to make a difference.”

This brand came into fruition as a combination of everything. It was my own hair loss. My pets were shedding like crazy. The amount of trashed produced by sticky sheets, how ugly your typical lint roller is, and ultimately, my own desire to make a difference.”

How Did You Launch The Business?

“The product designs are created by a Chinese manufacturer and De Novo® is the brand. I contacted a broker in China who helped me get in touch with the manufacturer. 

I had to ensure that I was not hiring just anyone to produce these products. It was also really important for me to do a social compliance audit and make sure they actually take care of their own team because that’s important to me. We also did a manufacturer audit and a raw material test before we started production. I recommend that you test your products. If you want to be a brand, you need to buy them, test them, see if you like them, test the market out, and then evaluate to make sure you feel there is enough potential for growth with the brand you create.

You don’t want to be just producing just another piece of trash. You’re producing something that has quality and you need to know what is in your products and where it’s coming from and that this factory is treating their employees correctly.

Once you’ve tested everything and you’ve done all of your compliance, then I do think it’s important to trademark. There are so many products out there right now and so many people trying to make a quick buck. You don’t want your hard work to be capitalized on by someone else

It took about a year from start to finish to trademark De Novo® and it wasn’t so bad. I opted to hire a lawyer to help me do it, which was helpful as there was a bit of back and forth following the initial application. Now I have this trademark for 10 years and it’s my brand and it feels really nice to know that I have that protection. 

If it does expand and it does grow, I’ll do the same thing for the European market, but I’m not really there yet, so we’ll see.”

Marketing the Business

“I have worked since I was about 15 in various retail shops. Following my Masters, I started my career at the National Hispanic Leadership Institute (NHLI), a small nonprofit in Washington DC that promotes Latina leadership. From there, I went on to work in communications and marketing in a range of different sectors – from transportation to the wine industry. 

My background has helped tremendously in building the company. Because even though I don’t have a business background, my understanding of and experience in marketing and communications has helped me position De Novo® and its products. Being able to market the brand has been crucial. The way it will grow is through sales and marketing. 

Currently, I do Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, as well as email marketing, which is huge. I take my customers on a journey, telling a story and letting them know that they’re buying these products from this business – but behind the business is a real person. And that person is me.

I think that human connection is really important. You miss it so much these days. You just buy a product and you don’t even think about the fact that people are behind this product. And that human connection is really important because it creates customer loyalty. You’re going to come back and say oh you know what, you gotta buy the brushes from Eliana, you gotta go there because she’s a real person. She sells these great brushes, and you’ll feel like you know me and that’s really important to me. 

I started the business during the pandemic and everything felt so quiet everywhere. I got opportunities very easily. So we were on Univision, which is a national TV network in the USA for the Hispanic market. All it took was two weeks and the products were listed. I don’t think that would have happened in a normal time period, but I think it was quite difficult to get people to move. Everyone and everything was paralyzed during the pandemic.”

I wanted something nicer that was also effective. I wanted a product I could have on my coffee table or hanging with my winter coats and feel comfortable leaving it there because it is stylish. De Novo® lint brushes are always on my coffee table.

Mom and CEO

“Yeah, it’s hard. I have three kids, and my youngest just turned six months old. I feel like I’m a juggler but I enjoy it so much. It’s something that I love. I really love the flexibility that being a business owner gives me. I’m able to work from home and I’m able to be with my kids. I’ll take care of my baby and breastfeed while I send emails.

On a usual day, I’ll wake up at four to five, and during that time period is when I’m emailing or speaking with the manufacturers in China. I want to catch them before their day closes. 

Then my kids will be awake and I send them off to school right around 9:00. 

I do more work until they come home from school, and then I’m with my kids. Then in the evening, I do more work. So it’s a full cycle and around 9:00 pm I’ll go to sleep.

I did everything myself for a while. I recently hired a young woman from Canada to help me out with social media. She also does my photography and my posts on Facebook and Instagram.”

Dealing With Disappointment

“It’s great to have a goal in mind. My goal from the beginning was to work with FabFitFun. When that partnership became a reality it was surreal. I sell on their marketplace and it goes very well on a monthly basis, so it’s nice. Their partnership has been very important to me.

With FabFitFun, you get a mystery box of products quarterly, and it is such a cool idea to introduce consumers to products.  I am such a big fan of what FabFitFun does and how it allows consumers to test out products without having to pay full price. Last fall, I was given the opportunity to showcase one of our brushes to potentially be added to one of their future boxes, and I was over the moon by the opportunity. I worked for about six months trying to ensure we were ready to submit the products to FabFitFun. I did this while pregnant and I actually worked while in labor. I’m crazy. 

However,  after everything was said and done, they did not select De Novo® to be in one of their upcoming boxes. This was a giant fall for me but it was also a big learning experience at the same time. Though the door is closed for me this time, going through the requirements has been a great experience and it has made us better for any future opportunity that might come along.”

If you’re gonna do ecommerce, you need to have a Shopify website.

Sustainability and the Future

“If you take out your sticky sheet roller, you’re gonna use at least three or four sheets. And if you’re like me, you don’t actually go and buy the replacement for the sticky sheet. You just go out and you buy a new roller. Also, everything is in a box or it’s wrapped in plastic. It’s like plastic upon plastic upon plastic. And this is a requirement for many retailers. It’s all trash.

To me, product display is important, but we need to get to a new way of displaying products to reduce excess waste. Even though De Novo® is a very small business, this is still a core value of the company. All our products come in a linen bag, and that bag is recyclable and reusable, and while the product itself is not built on sustainable resources (yet), it does provide a more sustainable solution.

In a perfect world, I would love for these products to be produced sustainably from recycled plastics because I don’t want to waste any additional material. I’m trying to figure out what would be the best way to use recycled plastic to create a brush because that would be more of a niche item. It would be something that would make my product one hundred percent sustainable, and that would be great. 

I want to be able to get to the point where we are selling brushes made from recycled plastics that you can recycle again, which can in turn be made into another brush. So it would be a perfect cycle. That’s where I would like to take it. That is my goal and dream for the future.”

Extra Tips

Thoughts on Shopify

Homepage of De Novo lint brush, featuring a gallery of product images plus a sales desription

“If you’re gonna do ecommerce, you need to have a Shopify website. It’s easy because everybody integrates with it. I have my warehouse with my products and orders to fulfill them to customers and each step is done by Shopify. So it’s like a process where I don’t even have to do anything.

The app AfterShip on Shopify has been such a huge help because it allows customers to easily track their own packages. I used to get so many emails from people who didn’t know how to track their packages, but those emails basically do not come anymore. With AftersShip, all you do is go to the website and you can track your order and you know exactly when it will be delivered. 

The AfterShip return app is also great because customers can start their own return process and then I just click approve and Shopify sends them a shipping label and that’s all it is.

That’s why Shopify has been an important partner for me. My biggest goal is to continue with business development. Since I mostly sell directly to retailers, my day-to-day is less busy and I don’t have too many direct-to-consumer interactions. My website is a platform for people and companies to be able to see the products and get to know the company a little bit more. If you want to dive in deep to get to know me better, you should sign up for our newsletter. 

If I were to start the process from the beginning again, I think I would initially just start with a Shopify free template. I would also download the apps that I already know work. Because I had to go through and download so many different kinds of apps with Shopify, I had to weed out the ones that made my website very slow. I even hired a consultant to go in and delete some of this additional code because they couldn’t find all of it. So there were some lessons learned.

I did buy one of their templates because I wanted the website to look a little bit different than their free options. The building was a learning experience – a bit of a plug-and-play. I don’t have a background in web design but I found it relatively easy. Plus, they have very good customer support. 

From a user perspective, I would have preferred a platform that I can easily turn on and off [the] features when I want it, instead of relying on third-party apps. I think that Shopify should try to consider doing things more in-house.”


“The most important lesson I’ve learned in my career and through De Novo is to not be held back by fear. That’s the biggest lesson. Fear cripples and makes you feel small in this environment. Being an entrepreneur, having a small business – it’s so easy to be afraid of sending that email and to lose a little bit of money. 

But you just have to not give up. And it’s a lot easier now. There are so many opportunities within ecommerce that you don’t even need to have products. You can easily just create a website and a whole ecommerce business and someone else will ship it out [your products] for you. Even Amazon is allowing you to publish your own books. For an additional cash flow or even just a hobby, it’s worth it to just see what happens.

Feelings of fear and giving up will stop eventually, they aren’t permanent. So just move forward and don’t be afraid.”

An Interview With Mordy Oberstein The Head of Wix SEO

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What struck me when meeting the Head of SEO Branding at Wix, Mordy Oberstein, was his electric energy, his enthusiasm for SEO, and his joy in helping people of all types start building their sites. The Wix SEO specialist Mordy, is expertly opinionated on search engine optimization, and sat with us to humbly share his thoughts on the future of search, content, and AI — even giving us some teasers as to what’s on the cards for Wix in the future.

It’s very easy for SEOs to get lost in search volume and keyword difficulty, those kinds of metrics, without thinking about the business goals behind the keywords. But I think for the average site owner, getting too focused on the tools is a bad thing Mordy Oberstein

Mordy's Background

Graphic with image of Mordy and information about his career experience

I’m Mordy Oberstein, the Head of SEO Branding at Wix. I used to be the liaison to the SEO community, which I stole from Google Search Liaison. I also used to work for an SEO platform called Rank Ranger as the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) for five or six years. I come from the SEO world and Wix didn’t have the best reputation for SEO at the time and they brought me in to help bridge that gap. Which was relatively easy because the product itself was far more advanced than the SEO community realized at the time.

What I do is establish links with the SEO community, answer questions, and concerns, and showcase what we do. Fast forward to now, I spend my time between Wix, and consulting for Semrush on the side. I was the Head of Communication at Semrush, which is an SEO tool. I came back to be able to position Wix as a brand around SEO for multiple SEO communities.

So fully integrating with the SEO community like, for example, launching an SEO learning hub, which involves articles, a podcast, webinars, and a newsletter. I find ways to really add that voice to the SEO world.

An Insight Into SEO From Wix’s Expert

What SEO fundamentally is in my mind – and I’m sure if you asked 10 different SEOs you’ll get 20 different opinions – but to me, it’s about showing Google or other search engines that your website is relevant and trustworthy around whatever it is that you do. And then once you have that definition of what you provide and a working understanding of what SEO is, I think it’s how you can find your own pathway.

If you’re technical SEO, for example, it’s going to be making sure the sites are indexable. Making it crawlable on the technical side of things, efficiently showing Google that your website is trustworthy.

For learning about it there’s reading about it and then there’s doing it. It could be as simple as spinning up a website and trying to have a newsletter or blog and just getting your hands even just mildly dirty. Getting involved in what it means to actually set up site structure, optimize your title tag, etc. You can read about it until you’re blue in the face or go to as many webinars as you want. But just basic hands-on, first-person experience is more important than anything else.

The Day-to-Day of the Head of SEO and Branding

How’s my day-to-day? A lot of emails, a lot of tweets – I’m internally speaking to other teams about SEO, educating them. Then there are the creative products that we’re doing like YouTube ads that we’re putting out around SEO for the average site owner, and for business owners.

Wix is interesting because you’re talking to so many people that you’re trying to help.

You know, a mom, a pop, a large business, helping to do SEO. We’re trying to help our partner agencies with SEO. You’re speaking to the SEO community about SEO at the CMS level, just super interesting!

There are still times when I’m very much intricately involved in the SEO world day-to-day tweeting and connecting to people. There’s the SEO education aspect of it as we run the SEO podcast. So there are all the ins and outs of running a podcast.

There’s literally the SEO work that we do on the Wix SEO hub as well as the SEO advice we have on the Wix blog. Those two assets are very similar and at the enterprise level there is always overlap between similar assets. We work hard to ensure each offers something unique so we don’t step on each other’s toes on the SERP.

Then there’s, you know, the wider strategy. How do we position ourselves? What audiences are we speaking to next? What’s our future, five years down the line? What are we trying to achieve with a new product?

It’s kind of everything SEO – all over the place.

Thoughts on the Recent Partnership With Semrush and Wix

I think it’s very easy for SEOs to get lost in search volume and keyword difficulty, those kinds of metrics – without thinking about the business goals behind the keywords. But I think for the average site owner, getting too focused on the tools is a bad thing. I think the average site owner understands their business goals inherently. So I’m not worried about that with them.

I’m more worried that they don’t realize what the landscape looks like on the SERP. And giving them data and information to show them, wait, if I sell shoes and I’m trying to rank for shoes, it’s impossible. I’m not Nike, I’m not Adidas. I’m not going to rank for that. But giving them the best understanding to rank better. I used to work for a property management company in New York City, they owned 50 apartment buildings there, you know, 500 million dollars worth of capital. They were very immature in the digital space. They were very business savvy, we’re talking about major professionals. But digital is just not their space. And you need to give them some kind of context to better understand it.

Look, obviously, the basic information inside of the Semrush integration is not going to get you your super detailed insights. It’s not really what it’s meant for. What I think that it does do though, is it opens up your mind to think, wait a second I didn’t realize this was so complicated. Now, maybe I should do some more research. And I think for site owners, they need to have that incentive, and that inner drive to say, I’m gonna learn this. I’m gonna follow this. I didn’t learn SEO from a course, I literally learned SEO because I was working as a content writer for an educational software company.

If people really wanted to get into SEO, this is the only way to really do it and I think having things inside of the Wix platform, like the Semrush integration or showing access points to the SEO learning hub does two things;

It gives them the basic information they need to get started and it also gives them the opportunity to spark that SEO journey.

Can a Website Without an SEO Team Rank Well?

Yes, but I’ll say it depends. The short answer is if your technical foundation is sound then yes and I’ll quote John Mueller who tweeted that when you build websites to test them, you don’t really dedicate the actual amount of energy and focus that you were to do a real website. So these tests are kind of funny.

And then from there, there was a whole conversation that John was talking about CMSs, whether it’s Wix or Squarespace. Said that they do fundamentally handle the technical foundation well enough. Now I think that if you look at what Wix is doing versus other CMSs, like we’re the only CMS that pulls in Google Search Console URL Inspection API. So you can see the indexation and status of all of your pages literally, in one click. But fundamentally, the web has gotten to a place where a lot of the technical barriers around ranking have been removed because there’s been a call on the CMSs.

There’s literally a website called and she ranks for everything sugar related. I think she was some kind of chemical engineer or something like that. Just put up a whole website about artificial sugars answering questions about sweeteners. She somehow has some kind of background in it and the content is phenomenal. It is really good, strong content about is this sugar or better than that sugar. Whatever it is and she’s competing for really competitive keywords.

I’m not saying that she wouldn’t be benefited from having an SEO come in and optimize things. Taking what she’s doing now and increasing it. But she’s gotten to the point where she’s killing it completely on her own. So it’s most definitely possible.

Mordy Oberstein’s Concerns About AI Writers

Look AI, I get it okay, content is hard. People don’t like writing, I love writing content, but many people don’t like writing it and you need it for the web. The commodity of the web is content. Whether it’s a product page, a blog post, or a landing page — it’s content. And if your business can’t handle this, it can’t have a digital presence.

We’re opening Pandora’s box. You can look forward to the web being temporarily ruined — and then it fixing itself.

Whether it’s SEO or even PPC. You need it. There has to be something to put on social media. It’s very fleeting. The idea is to send people somewhere, which is why all the algorithms don’t want to send the enemy anywhere — they want to keep them on Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever it is. I get that content’s hard and AI seemingly, solves that problem. It’s like you’re putting a drug in front of somebody and saying don’t use it. And not to make light of drug use, but it’s like asking a drug addict five years down the line, how did it go? Not well.

I had Bing write me a birthday poem for Barry Schwartz in the style of a romance novel because I know Barry would hate it. And it was amazing! But if I was a poet and I looked at the poem I’d be like, this is crap!

This technology is amazing but that’s different from if the content is good. Just because wow, it’s an amazing technology, and I can’t believe it wrote it. That doesn’t mean the content is actually good. It doesn’t mean that it’s accurate.

For example, I’m a big baseball nut, one of the cases I looked at was there’s a player on the New York Yankees. When they first brought him over they thought he was gonna be a great defensive player. And if you ask Bing chat if this player is good at defense it’ll come back with he’s amazing, but by the end of the season, turns out that he was not. That content was accurate at the beginning of the season until he had some kind of brain fart and just completely melted down.

You just don’t realize how much inaccuracy is in AI content. The average site owner who is very much incentivized to use AI is not going to realize that this is not great content. They’re not experts on what is quality content. So, Bing spits out a couple of paragraphs like, all right, that’s a blog post — that’s not a blog post.

The search engines are going to have to figure that out. Otherwise the web will, and it’s already flooded with crap content. It’s only going to get worse and Google’s going to have to figure it out and it’s really not that hard to do.

In my honest opinion, there are a million tools out there that are able to identify whether or not the content input is written by an AI writer. Google can do that. It’s gonna figure out what’s crap content and what’s actually expert-written content.

I do have concerns about smaller size websites ranking in an AI world. Because if Google’s looking at things semantically at the whole website, large websites have entire content teams and they can create that semantic awareness for the search engine. It’s going to have a larger impact on what Google decides to rank for snippet-level content. That is fine for an AI writer to write. But there’s no way to get around having a human being either write or extensively edit content.

Informational Content Versus Sales Pages Rankings: Striking a Balance

I think over the last few years informational content vs sales content has been a large part of loss in ranking. Accenting that commercial intent with a little bit more information. I’ve seen that a lot of times that Google prefers that you’ve given the user more. I think it’s better for the users, to give them more context to understand what the heck they’re actually buying. You see that with the product review updates. So back in the day, you could stuff in a bunch of affiliate links on a very, very thin review of something and you’d be done with it.

Masking a commercial intent to get you to the affiliate link and the information was just a way to get you there. And I’ve seen that a lot of times where you have a commercial intent lurking, underneath the informational content, Google is able to figure that out and doesn’t like it.

Practical Tips for Improving a Website in Order To Regain Ranking

I call it the brand sniff test, think about it like a brand marketer. If you look at a web page and in three seconds flat, you’re like, I do not trust this thing. Whether it’s the tone or the way they’re structuring it. Look at your website as if you are a user with an unbiased opinion or actually get real users to look at it and do the sniff test.

Also knowing that if I’m looking for five easy ways to fix my washing machine, I don’t want the astrophysics of washing machines. I don’t want like, the physics of a wash, and don’t care. Understanding from a user’s point of view what they want and what quality means to that target audience is what Google is trying to do. Like they ask Google, do you have EEAT as part of your algorithm? The answer is no, there’s no EEAT score. But what they did say was, we tried to mimic what quality content would look like algorithmically.

Extra Tip from Website Builder Expert: recovering your rankings can be achieved by doing everything you can to improve the user experience for your specific audience, take this thread by Tony Hill as a brilliant example of “throwing the kitchen sink” at the fall in ranks.

A General Insight Into the Future of Wix

For the future of Wix, teaser spoiler alert! Some exciting things are happening on the SEO front, but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet. We’re continuing to put out content that really helps SEO, it’s one of the great things about our SEO learning hub.

If you’re an SEO listening or reading this, you can edit that customizable markup and add additional markups to those pages. But what it also does is Google changed its guidelines around Google Shopping. If you have valid product structured data markup you’re automatically eligible to be shown in shopping results, you don’t have to go through Google Merchant Center.

Also, if you’re on the ecommerce SEO side of Wix and you have a store, you’re already eligible for rich results automatically and you’re already eligible for Google shopping automatically. There are going to be new tools added and integrated into multiple places inside the platform. That will help whether you’re an SEO, a pro, or a business owner. To help you catch things you might have missed around SEO — which is all I can say for now.

I think the most meaningful part of what I do is always when you hear stories like, my friends 13-year-old nephew likes photography and he’s spun out a Wix website and he was able to do it all himself — when you’re actually helping people.

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Brigitte Weil Interview: A Matchmaker on Love and Business

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I had the pleasure of interviewing 10-year matchmaker Brigitte Weil, asking for advice on her business, setting up with GoDaddy, and her advice on love and dating. The moment she hopped onto the call I felt a warm nurturing presence from her, and could see right away why she made a wonderful dating coach and matchmaker.

Brigitte began with a large national matchmaking company, learning the ropes of the business, until three years ago she decided to build her website and change the matchmaking game.

Let’s get right into the good stuff.

What is your USP?

A matchmaker website with an image of Brigitte

“My unique selling point is one of the reasons I left the larger national company, I felt like my matchmaking clients needed a more tailored experience. In terms of matchmaking dating is not one size, fits all. And I felt like I wanted to give my clients unique experiences where I was able to coach them in their matchmaking experience and in their dating.

I take the time to get to know them better and understand their life history, relationship history, preferences, priorities, and deal breakers before I actually set them up on a date.”

Brigitte spends a lot of time with her clients, and asks a range of questions to really delve into who they are. This, she noted, was a huge part of her process. I was honored that she shared with me some of the important questions she asks clients like:

  • Where did they grow up?
  • Who they were as children?
  • What their family life was like?
  • Relationship history
  • What are they looking for moving forward?
  • Do they have specifics they’re looking for in terms of match?
  • What is important to them?
  • How do they see their life a year from now?

These are just some of the techniques Brigitte uses to shape her understanding of her customers. As I was later to find out, she also uses almost therapeutic techniques to coach people into happy, healthy relationships.

What inspired you to become a matchmaker?

“I come from a lot of longevity in terms of relationships, my grandparents on one side were married for 76 years. My grandparents, on the other side, were married for less years, they got married during the war and developed a beautiful love. Also my parents are now celebrating their 59th anniversary.

So I’ve been surrounded by a lot of long-term relationships and I think to me it’s something that is incredibly special, and I’d like to help other people have the same experience.

The best part of the work I do, is when I get a text or an email from somebody and they say, oh my gosh, I totally forgot to tell you that, so-and-so and I are still together or I’ve been meaning to tell you that the guy that you set me up with three years ago, we are now engaged. Those are definitely the best moments of my day.”

How does your service work?

“My coaching programs are tailored to whatever somebody actually needs to get them back on the dating scene or to become comfortable while dating.

When I take on a matchmaking client, there is a reasonable amount of coaching that comes along with that process. There’s two different ways you can work with me; I take you on as a private client or I take you on as a date coaching client, or we do a combination of both.

If somebody came to me and said, I would like to hire you as a matchmaker, but I have some commitment issues. I need to work through those first for a few months. The question is always, why? Why do you feel that way? What are you afraid of? Let’s break through that first before I start setting you up on dates.

A lot of clients come to me and they don’t want the coaching. Nobody thinks they need coaching. Everybody thinks I know how to date, I’ve done this before, I know what I want. And nine times out of ten, I drag them into the coaching room because they actually do need that.”

Yeah I can imagine many people not being aware of the need for coaching. What were you doing before that led you into your business?

“I’ve been coaching for over 25 years in the wellness space. I started out as a food coach, where I helped people figure out how to reach their weight loss goals without giving up all of the foods that they loved.

I had a blog for many years called, I Hate Celery Sticks, which was based on the premise that we can eat whatever we want and still reach our weight loss goals. Without giving up the foods we love or going on crazy diets or over-exercise routines, or following any fads. I started actually coaching a few years ago within the dating and relationship community.

I’m a small boutique matchmaker. I generally don’t take on more than 10 clients at a given period. My matchmaking packages range from 15 to 25k per client, but depends on the separate hourly costs.

I think the biggest realization was how important coaching was to the matchmaking process. When I first left the national company, I assumed I would focus only on matchmaking but when I started to build the website, and I started to add more to it, I realized how mandatory the coaching piece is to have a successful matchmaking business.”

Further Information

  • How to Start a Wellness Business: inspired by Brigitte to start a wellness website? Here is our informative guide.

What is your favorite success story?

“One of the couples whose photograph is on my success page, had a long list of priorities. One of them was that she wanted to be matched with somebody who makes her laugh. And then all of the other priorities were were about physical qualities.

But I knew this guy and he cracked me up. And every time I spoke to him, he would make me laugh. I just had a really strong feeling that there would be a connection there. Some of the work I do, there is a methodology to it, but there’s also some intuition as well. And I presented him to her, she out right refused to even meet the guy, absolutely not! 

I kept on nudging her a little bit, and after two or three good dates with other individuals. She learned to trust me. And I talked her into going out with this guy and what happened?

She has a ring on her finger, and they are engaged. They’re getting married in the Cayman Islands in May, they’re gonna have a big family party over the summer which I will go to, that’s probably one of my favorite success stories. Because there was so much resistance. She really thought he did not look like the person that she imagined herself to be with.”

Do you think that blocks a lot of clients? The aspect of just focusing on appearance, rather than the contents of someone’s character?

“Absolutely, positively, yes. So you asked me about my favorite success story. I’m going to tell you about my favorite unsuccessful story, because there’s such meaning in this to me. I share this one with a lot of my clients too.

I took on a client who was very adamant of the person that she wanted. She wanted somebody who’s well educated, was professional and that came from a good family. And I set her up with somebody that I had date coached.

A gentleman who was professional attorney in private practice and done very well for himself. He came from a very prominent family, and I introduced the two of them over dinner. I also curate the entire date.  So I have both my calendars in front of me, I know when one and the other is available. I set up the date and make the reservation. I let them both know where they’re meeting.

I set up the date in a lovely Italian restaurant down in Soho, and they went on a date, so excited! I mean, I couldn’t sleep that night because I couldn’t wait to get the email from both of them!

The next morning I didn’t get an email, I got a phone call… A screaming phone call from my client who basically said, what were you thinking? How could you set me up with somebody that orders spaghetti and meatballs?

I thought it was a prank. I thought I was on like, matchmaker candid camera! I said, but what do you mean? And she said, how dare you set me up with somebody who ordered spaghetti and meatballs? I don’t want a commoner. First of all, this was a lovely, Italian restaurant. I guarantee the spaghetti meatballs were $30 a bowl, it was a beautiful establishment. She also didn’t like that he showed up in a t-shirt, probably a $100 t-shirt knowing him. And that was the end of what could have been a really good relationship.

The challenge with these expectations is that we don’t leave any room for surprises to happen. Maybe the person of one’s dreams does not have an Ivy League degree. Maybe they don’t have hair, maybe they have a couple of extra pounds. When you have those expectations, you immediately eliminate 80% of the population.”

What dating advice do you have for a happy, healthy relationship?

“What a happy relationship looks like could be different for everybody, but I will tell you that the majority of relationships that I set up are people that clearly want to see each other again. Sometimes I’ll get a text simultaneously in the bathroom, like the men’s room and the women’s room. Both like oh my God, this is amazing. Thank you so much.

I have learned what qualities I want them to look for. For example, two people don’t need to make the same amount of money to be in a good relationship. But they have to have the same idea of how to spend their money. If they agree then they have a really good chance of having a good relationship. If not, that’s where the tension comes in.

Also how people relate to their family, right? I have couples where they first get together. And one person says, Thanksgiving let’s go to the Bahamas, and the other says, what Thanksgiving? No, I do that every year with my entire family. So when you have people that can agree on certain key issues such as vacation time, free time, money spending, work ethic, politics and religion –these are markers of a really good chance of a stronger connection.”

What do you think is the reason people can struggle to find the right relationship?

“I think a lot of people don’t find partners because they think their partner is gonna fall out of the sky, or they’re gonna meet them over the tomatoes at the Farmers Market. The white horse is gonna walk in with the shiny Prince and those things only happen on television and in the movies.

They don’t often happen in real life.

I encourage my clients to be open to the world around them. What I found is that you need to be intentional about what you really need.

Everybody’s so unique. It’s almost impossible to generalize which is what I really love about the work that I do. But some general rules are, before you go on the date I think it’s important to know what is important on that list. I suggest to my clients that they leave the list at home, and they go out on a date and they just be open. I generally do not suggest asking a ton of questions on the first date. I think the best experience is just to be yourself and talk about your day and talk about yourself, but not necessarily turn the date into 20 questions.

Also don’t come from work, go home. Take a shower, change your clothes, put your date mode on, and go out and have a good time. Try to think that you are looking to meet somebody new and interesting, not necessarily looking for the man or the woman of your dreams.”

I often hear we bring baggage into new relationships, what are your thoughts on that?

“You know, baggage can be replaced by life experience. We don’t get into our 30s, 40s, and above without having experiences. Those experiences are what make us interesting and unique. They should be celebrated and not looked at in a negative way. If there are certain realities that are triggers for certain people, the more that we know ourselves and the better that we can share our vulnerabilities with our partners – the more success we can potentially have in a relationship.

So baggage to me is not intimidating, it’s just part of who we are. Unless you grew up in a bubble by yourself, and you didn’t have parents, siblings, a community, home, or a school, it just doesn’t exist. Nobody’s a clean slate.”

How did you find your experience of building with GoDaddy?

A page with an image of a couple drinking and bullet points of pain points for daters

“I think the ease of the platform made it very simple for me to navigate. It’s very user friendly or at least it was Brigitte friendly, which means that it has to be extra user friendly! I felt like GoDaddy answered the question before I had it. And when it didn’t the phone support helped me, they would spend ages on the phone walking me through each step I had to take.

I know there are some features that I’ve not yet explored, some of the marketing features that I see and Google Analytics. I haven’t paid attention to that at all, but that’s on my list of resolutions for this year.

Any advice for new start ups I would say, to borrow a very famous term, just do it!

One barrier to a lot of businesses starting is that we spend too much time thinking about little things like, should the font be this, or should I make this red? I would say don’t spend too much time on the small steps, don’t sweat the small stuff. It can always be changed later.

The bigger decision is that you have an idea. You’re letting people know about your idea, you’re making yourself available to people. You’re not going to make a break your business, as far as I’m concerned, whether your logo is, you know, black or blue.”

Further Information

That’s wonderful advice, do you have any tips for those wanting to start a matchmaking business?

“I would say speak to other matchmakers and network with other matchmakers. The matchmaking community is beautifully collaborative, a community of people like myself. Who have small businesses. We need each other to share ideas, information, and networks. I’m part of two national matchmaking communities, one of them is the Matchmaking Institute and  Matchmaking Alliance. I’m certified through both of those.”


In many ways, Brigitte’s biggest lesson on love is similar to her thoughts on business. She told us, “the biggest lesson is to be open. Emotionally open. Physically open. Psychologically open. Open to falling in love with somebody that you did not expect.”

It’s my personal thought that we need to be open in business too, open to the possibilities, to our ideas, and to feedback and iterations along the way.

Lilian Chen Interview: Team Bonding with Bar None Games

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We interviewed the inspirational Lilian Chen, co-founder of Bar None Games, about her trivia website for corporate teams to boost productivity and creativity. This amazing business began with Lilian and Spencer Fertig, in the height of the pandemic when teams could no longer spend time together, and flourished into a business that has taken over a million dollars revenue over the last two years.

A business with a focus on diversity, team bonding, and bringing people together has been a winning combination for this dynamic business duo. As I sat with Lilian I couldn’t help but be impressed with the teams background, the 90,000 team connections they’ve built, and her idea of success.

If you are as curious about what it took Lilian Chen and her co-founder Spencer Fertig to shape their success as I was, take a look.

Tell us a little about your company.

Bar None Games Zoom call with plenty of recognizable faces playing

It is a virtual team building company. So what that means is that we work with companies all over the globe to help them bring their employees together in a virtual format. Typically over Google Meet or Zoom these employees are distributed or remote. And all of our events are interactive collaborative, and really focused on helping people to actually form real connections with their co-workers.

Team managers say that it’s really great in terms of productivity and employees do really appreciate it because you save a lot of commute time. But I think the number one challenge, is employee burnout is high when you’re remote.

It’s hard for employers to figure out how do we actually keep our team feeling engaged? And make sure that people feel connected to the company, or to their co-workers. That’s where we come in. We are the experts at making sure that people are actually having a good time and creating spaces where it doesn’t really matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. So that every single person really feels comfortable and can create true memories together. 

I love what you say about connection. What kind of games do you offer that inspire connection?

It’s team-based trivia, people break into smaller groups and work together to actually compete to be the final trivia winner. It’s all themed around specific categories that we curate based on what we know about the group or the organizer can choose the categories.

The second game is TV Game Show, it’s inspired by a few fan favorite TV game shows and can feel nostalgic to people and create a team-based collaborative atmosphere. Our next event is a game called Mini Games Party, which involves three different events that are all kind of unique in different puzzle games.

We also have an Interactive Icebreaker event. That’s the best for groups that are really trying to just get to know their co-workers. Oftentimes, we’ll use it for new employee onboarding. We also have a bingo event which we call, Not Your Grandma’s Bingo. It’s our own spin on Bingo with multimedia experiences in a bunch of different bingo formats, so it’s keeps people on their toes.

How did your business begin?

Website page explaining the different games with graphic of Lilian and little person on a computer

We started the company in 2020. As you probably can imagine it was during a period of time where human connection was really difficult to find, and I think everyone felt pretty lonely. I’ve always loved games whether it’s virtual or whether it’s in person. I just think it’s really fun. It brings people together like with my family and with my friends and it’s super joyful.

The company started pretty organically. My co-founder and I had both been in business school, and our first year business school reunion was May of 2020. Obviously, that was supposed to be in person and then soon turned virtual, and with that, my co-founder Spencer essentially came up with this trivia game format.

It kind of progressed naturally from something that was just for friends into something that we also realize had a place at the workplace too.

Your website says that 98% of players report feeling more engaged with their team after. What’s it like getting that kind of feedback?

It’s amazing and super fulfilling. It’s one of my favorite parts about the job, being able to see the actual impact that it has on people and on teams. And I think it really highlights the importance in the positive value that we’re able to bring to who we work with.

What was your previous experience before Bar None Games?

Spencer has a background in startup operations at mid-sized to growth stage companies. He was actually an employee for Uber before, I believe there were around 10,000 employees, he really was there through a stage of extremely high growth at Uber with a focus on operations.

He also previously was head of operations at a few different Series A startups. On the side though, he’s always done comedy. Stand-up comedy is his passion and really, what makes him so excited. Products, content creation, game design, and community building are really the areas where he shines. He loves getting people together and he has put a lot of thought into how to do that.

For me, I worked at an early stage, venture capital firm, where I was focused specifically on launching early stage startup. That zero to one stage; testing ideas, building early concepts, minimal viable products, things like that. Before that, I was investing in tech companies at a private equity firm. And so I’ve seen a lot of different tech companies at different stages, both super early as well as a much later stage.

Do you think that both those experiences combined is partly what has led to the success of Bar None Games?

I think definitely, with any young company you’re always testing and iterating different ideas. I draw a lot from my past experience of doing that zero to one testing, building, and being extremely scrappy with a really small budget. For Spencer, he’s worked at larger startups and seen a lot of different best practices.

Given that he was at Uber during a high stage of growth, he also had to be really scrappy and creative. And for sure his humor and his love for bringing people together – I think is one of the reasons why all of our products are so high quality.

Your business is a hundred percent minority-owned. Could you elaborate on that?

The business owned by myself and my co-founder. So I’m a woman of color and then my co-founder is part of the LGBTQ+ community and we feel really passionate about diversity and inclusion. We actually work with a lot of employee resource groups or people who are actively involved in their own companies.

DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) efforts to host team building events that are focused on honoring and celebrating different DEI communities. March for example, is Women’s History Month, we’re working with a ton of different companies to host events that are both educational, but also fun and engaging on Women’s History Month.

We have another game that’s called Celebration Games, where it’s celebrating the impact that females have had in global history. There’s also games on, Pride Month, API Heritage Month, Mental Health Awareness Month.

We also work with 70 different professional entertainers that are comedians, actors, actresses, Broadway stars. Truly people who are born to be on stage and they’re also really diverse as well, to reflect on the values that we have. Along with our clients that we work with, and you know, the different types of topics that we really honor and celebrate.

What were the early stages of owning a business like?

First of all, there’s so much to be done in the very early days, that it’s impossible for both people to be doing it all. It’s just the most efficient for people to have clear areas of focus. But second, I think it also enables you over the course of growing the business to really specialize in what you’re doing and you become even more of an expert in that area. So at our company Spencer focuses specifically on product and sales so he runs all of our sales team, outbound sales process, and talking to customers.

For me, I run operations and growth with the actual day-to-day execution of all of our events and ensuring that every single event goes off without a hitch. Now we have three other employees who work with us. One person who’s on the sales side and two people who are on the operation side and that’s been immensely helpful to have more hands on deck. We’ve also really focused on learning and development for our employees as well.

Any tips for someone just starting to create a trivia game business?

Having a really high quality product and making sure that people are actually having fun. You need to consider what do they actually want? Because I think sometimes, I feel like it’s easy to create a product that you want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s what the client wants.

The only way you can figure that out, is by talking to your customer and getting feedback. And honestly when you get that feedback, reacting to it quickly, and integrating changes. I think as a business owner you have to be able to have a really thick skin, it’s never a personal – it’s always in the best interest for the business.

What was a realization you had working with Squarespace to create a site?

Bar None Games home page with Spencer holding a microphone

Brand definitely matters! The website that you see right now is actually the third iteration of our website. The very first website that we had was put together by ourselves really quickly, it had all the information on the page, but it wasn’t necessarily organized in a way where we were optimizing for user experience.

We hadn’t really sat down and thought about what the photos or illustrations would convey. The key things I wanted for the second version of our website was to put a little bit more thought into flow and things like that. But the version that you see right now, we actually worked with a website designer and a branding expert. We sat down with her and talked about:

  • What is our key value proposition?
  • What feelings do you want someone to leave with when they look at our website?
  • How can we improve navigation?

And she honestly redid our entire site from our logo, branding, illustrations, as well as the site navigation. She designed it to ensure that it was easy to navigate and that we had content on the page that is helpful, but not overwhelming.

We just did the rebrand to our current website last fall. So it’s been maybe about six months or so. It’s not been that that long, but it’s had a really direct impact to when we talk to customers who have never heard of us before. Our website looks way more credible right now, and it does make these sales conversations much easier.

When you have a website that looks legit that you can point to, it makes it really easy to understand what our company does and people just understand quickly, they get it.

Were there any challenges with building your website with Squarespace?

One thing that I wish we thought about more was SEO friendliness. From an SEO perspective, we have run into a few hurdles with Squarespace because of the way the page loads and the overall website load time

There’s essentially a massive code base that gets loaded every single time and there’s no way for us to edit that or turn it down. So from a page load speed perspective, it’s not the most ideal platform – which does impact SEO.

Candidly we weren’t even aware of it as something that was important to SEO. I would definitely advise someone to think about that. But what I do love is that it’s really easy to customize, it’s super user-friendly when it comes to editing stuff on your own.

Advice I would give to someone starting out is to do a free trial and play around with it and see if it feels intuitive to them. And choosing a website builder that feels like they’re continuing to invest in the technology. I’ve definitely seen with Squarespace over the last three years have incorporated different types of design elements and given us more functionality.

Further Information

What's in the future for your company?

We love expanding on different themes and we are also continuing to focus on our hybrid and in person events categories. When people think of us, they still think of us only for virtual events, but we do hybrid and in person events too. And also we will be building our branding and our marketing presence.

If you could go back and start again, would you have done anything differently?

We’ve worked with over 1500 companies, and 90,000 people play our games – something we’re already incredibly proud of. The fact that people are giving us their time and trusting us with their team’s time that we’re able to actually create true connections, I think that’s the biggest piece of data in terms of how successful are we to doing what we set out to do.

There’s always things that you do that you kind of wish that you did earlier, because it made such a big difference. But I think also the reality is that you are just so limited in terms of your own time, your own resource that you’re always going to be forced to prioritize. Like, for example, do I wish that we had our branding and our website up earlier? Yes, I do. But I also know that the reason why it took two years to give our website a facelift, is because there were just so many other things going on.

I mean, there’s nothing major that I would do differently if I had to start again. I think there are times when you feel challenged as a business owner and so it’s not like everything goes flawlessly, and it’s not like everything is super easy. But I do think it’s all part of the journey and I’m really happy with where we are right now.

It’s also really rewarding, there’s nothing quite like feeling like what you have built with your own hands is really adding something to people’s lives. I would say be ready for ups and downs, but celebrate your wins. Focus on how you measure success. If you measure success as personal growth and your own learning and development, there’s no other journey where you will go through as much personal growth. You’ll end up being really proud of yourself.

Shontel Horne Interview: Luxury Writing & Business Tips

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We interviewed Shontel Horne, a writer, editor, and content strategist, to learn more about the world of luxury writing and about her business. Shontel works a full-time job in the diamond industry, doing web producing and writing — she then uses her earnings to invest in her business. 

Alongside her writing and editing work, Shontel told us, “I do a lot of strategy and consulting, I also have a small business that’s wine industry adjacent, called VINOTES. It’s a wine tasting journal where you can learn how to taste wine and guide yourself through.”

She noted that she wanted the business to outline the intricacies of wine tasting without it being really overwhelming, and still be really accessible.

From Luxury Journalism To The Oprah Winfrey Network

Shontel Horne standing in front of palm trees wearing a grey suit

Shontel started her awesome career as a luxury journalist in Los Angeles, and that was the bulk of her career for over 12 years. Her aim after college was to work for CNN after studying in Atlanta, but the recession led her down a different path – luxury writing and marketing.

She went from “being just a journalist to actually helping businesses with their sites, and then doing my own. [What I do is] a mix of content and a mix of digital marketing focus.

Around 2017, Shontel worked for the Oprah Winfrey Network, and the curiosity of the Website Builder Expert team was piqued. 

She told us, “So it’s a network, there’s all these shows. And then for online, we had to figure out which assets from those shows are going to be the best for marketing. So, like, what would fit for social, for YouTube, for the website. Discovering which clips we think are going to resonate the most, and tell the story without giving it away.”

“I was a senior producer at that point. Not only would I help to figure out the story lines that work best for an online audience, but I also helped with the website strategy and I created original digital content for the OWN Your Vote campaign — both in 2017 and again in 2020. That was an initiative that Oprah was really passionate about to encourage voters among women and it was just really fun. One of the most fun things was to try to figure out how to work with the Obama Foundation on a live stream.”

Main Aims For Shontel Horne’s Career

“I am just really all about how to connect with an audience, no matter what that is. Whether that’s through content [or] through marketing, [it’s] helping businesses [and] individuals find out what their audience communication style will look like and where they should focus.”

“It’s really recognizing what you actually want to accomplish. Kind of reverse engineering and then building the strategy out that can help lead you to success. I think I’m really good at – when it comes to digital – spotting a lot of the blind spots.”

“These days I’ve been really interested in thinking about underserved communities, like people of color. People that aren’t born into these elite circles, but that are creating luxury products. How can they take up space, you know, how can they actually have a voice here? So that’s something that I’ve actually really been big on leaning into.”

Further Information

Content Strategy Tips

“Being creative with your content is probably the biggest step, especially if you’re starting. Also really narrow down your platforms. Knowing where the content should live and where you believe it will have the biggest impact as a journey. I think this is something I took from journalism,” she said.

Shontel showcases her knowledge of Googles E.E.A.T guidelines by saying, “I do think expertise is quite important. I do think the more you can write about just one particular thing and just really become the person that’s known for that, that ends up being your best bet.”

How To Begin Luxury Writing

“I worked at a high-end restaurant and I learned about food, from this high-end restaurant. I did not grow up going to a lot of fine dining restaurants, but working in this place I learned so much about the quality of ingredients and then started to learn about wine.”

“Working in a restaurant is actually what made me quite a strong luxury writer. Yeah, I would not have guessed that in a million years.”

“When I moved to Los Angeles after college and I got an internship at a luxury magazine, I was able to hone in on food because I was the only one that had experience in a restaurant. I was able to have conversations with chefs in a really interesting way that the other interns weren’t able to, because I had the experience myself.”

Shontel began working at Angeleno Magazine, a regional, high-end magazine about modern luxury. It was there that she learnt the ropes on all things architecture, high-end art, beauty, fashion and philanthropy.

She explains, “Los Angeles is one of the most famous cities in the world for luxury. What better place to learn? The magazine was great because I was just thrown in, from day one, interviewing celebrities and talking about their product lines.”

When we asked Shontel about whether working for a luxury magazine allowed her to get a lot of luxury items for free she said, “There’s all this stuff coming to your house. And that was actually how I started writing more about wine. To this day, I get things sent to me. If you’ve seen beauty influencer unboxings on YouTube and TikTok – it’s like that!”

Further Information

Hornes Top Tips

“Know which [social media] platforms are right for you because I don’t believe everyone needs to be everywhere.”

“I’m very big on having multiple streams of income because, [this career is] quite volatile. We’ve seen all of the layoffs from all of the big tech companies,” she said.

When discussing her business, VINOTES, she talks about how she did research on the best notebook printers, found the US trademarks, got her business licence, YouTubed business answers, and used the website builder Strikingly to create her website. 

“The biggest lesson is to really lead with being a business as early as you can. That means getting your business bank account, forming an LLC and, when it’s tax time, you’ll be happy that you did.”

Her notes on working with Strikingly for her business were, “It’s really easy for you to build and see it as you’re building — which I think is quite nice. I’ve worked with Drupal, WordPress, custom CMS and, honestly, something as simple as the back and forth between backend and hitting update can be the most encouraging. I think for people that aren’t used to building sites, but that really want to just get something out into the world — that’s really helpful.”

What’s The Future For Content?

“I think it’s going to increasingly become blurry as brands are all encouraged to become media companies. I think you’re going to just continue to see brands take up space in untraditional areas, especially when it comes to marketing and  content.”

“That means a beverage brand will have a TV series or a podcast. That’s just going to continue to be what we see. For example, the Gwyneth Paltrow brand, Goop, has a website, products, a restaurant and has shows.”

Shontel discusses the importance of social media and how it will continue to grow, but advises that having your own website is important to prioritize. This is because you are less at the whim of the platform. She goes on to talk about maintaining social media alongside monetizing your website with products as “that’s yours, that’s your home.

What It’s Like Having A Business

Hands holding a glass of rose wine in one hand and a notebook in the other

Shontel told us she was incredibly nervous about the initial investment to produce her VINOTES notebook. She didn’t want to compromise on the quality of her product and was willing to spend everything she needed to for the sake of quality. 

“Yes, it’s expensive starting a business, but it’s not worth it to take shortcuts. This is more money than I’ve ever spent on anything – besides my car. I was like, oh my gosh, I’ve never spent this much on my own creativity and vision. But that is the leap you need to take.”

“I was so nervous. I definitely remember one sleepless night where I was like, this is the biggest financial mistake I could make, what am I doing? I was like, I’m gonna lose all of my money. Oh no, no one’s gonna buy it.”

“But it becomes easier to part with that money when you truly believe in it and recognize the investment. I was fortunate enough to get my whole investment, of thousands and thousands of dollars, back in like a month.”

We’ll leave you with the feeling Shontel gave us. She opened our eyes to the leap of faith needed in any project or product you want to create in your life. Like her, we hope to “encourage people to do one thing. I believe everybody should have a product, because my product sells without me doing a lot of work.”

Further Information

Jim & May’s Spanish and Go – The Multi-Channel Approach

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I spoke with pioneers in the immersive language learning sector, the dynamic couple and founders of Spanish and Go – or at least one half of the duo Jim Fricker II. Jim began his journey as a music producer in 2010, then had the overwhelming desire to travel the world and learn a new language. By some lovely twist of fate he chose Spanish, which led him to his now wife and co-founder May Larios García, a Mexican English and Spanish teacher.

The two went on to create a multi channel business that consists of a YouTube channel, a podcast, a blog, and an immersion retreat that teaches people Spanish while immersing them in the culture. All easily found on the website they created with Squarespace.

Follow along this interview to learn more about how they began their business, what advice they have for new business owners, and to hear their incredible story.

The Beginning of Spanish and Go

Jim and May smiling on a pretty street holding a map and camera

Jim and May’s story began with Jim needing to learn Spanish, through a language-learning website. He started learning Spanish with May which eventually led to her inviting him to Mexico to meet her.

“And so, I went down to Mexico, for the first time I was leaving the country by myself. And we had this fantastic experience. I mean, not only did we fall in love, but she showed me around the country and taught me about her culture and taught me Spanish, it was really just this fantastic experience,” Jim told us.

[May’s] a language teacher, and I’m a music producer. My background is in audio and video production, and so we thought, well, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could start a business where we could provide this experience for other people? Where we could be a bridge for people to experience Spanish-speaking countries, and have a much more authentic experience while traveling abroad.”

This led the duo to begin crafting a podcast, which wouldn’t meet the light of day at first – because, as Jim explained to us that after doing their research, the ecommerce world was raving about YouTube instead.

YouTube: One Milestone at a Time To Success

Spanish and Go YouTube channel page with images of the couple together

Jim explained: “So early on we thought we would start as a podcast. So this is back in like 2011. It was really early on but we never published the podcast episodes that we released. Not sure exactly why, maybe I was a little embarrassed of my Spanish at the time because it was early on. 

But we ended up going to a travel conference for creators and bloggers. We went there and there were a couple of sessions focused on bloggers, then there were sessions that were really pushing the idea of getting creators to get on YouTube, because Google owns YouTube.” 

The decision to move towards YouTube would prove to be the right call, as they managed to grow it from zero to 160,000 subscribers! Aiming for the awesome 200,000 subscriber milestone for 2023, Jim and May have also hit an incredible 10 million views on their YouTube channel in a little under seven years – so we delved into the details of how they achieved these milestones.

“With the Spanish and Go YouTube channel, I remember just getting to 100 subscribers that was like, wow, we got a hundred people following us. And then it was a 1,000, and then 10,000, and then a 100,000. All of those little milestones were huge for us.” 

Jim noted that with YouTube, you not only get the video which you can post on your YouTube channel and website, “but you also have the audio [for the podcast] and you could convert a video into a blog post. So you could kind of have a little bit of everything, just in one form of content. So we decided to start a YouTube channel. And when we really started the business in full force in 2016, we launched our YouTube channel and started producing mainly video content.”

Jim and May started with ideas for evergreen content, the kind of YouTube content that will always provide value. But Jim also stated that consistency is key with YouTube.

Jim’s Top Tip! He told us to steer clear and forget about trying to be a YouTube personality. The central part is to focus on the type of content that you produce and provide for your audience. Aim to be a valuable resource that people will not only look for but consume, and be able to implement into their lives. He also said to develop your reputation as the kind of resource people will need to come back to.

Husband and Wife: Working Together

Jim and May sitting on the street in front of a pink shop

It’s a wonderful thought to travel the world and start a business with your significant other, but we were curious about the working dynamics and how that might affect both your business and your relationship. We were delighted to see that May and Jim have been able to capture a lovely balance.

“You know, I was still living in Minnesota and when we met, we had to figure out how we could even be together to start this business. So we got married and then went through the immigration process to get May up to the States. Then together we worked for a while with the goal of saving up enough,” Jim tells us, so that they could test to see where there business would go in two years.

Jim explained that it was at a really early stage in the relationship that they came up with their business idea, just a few months of having met in person. He said that before they even discussed marriage they had the idea, due to May showing him around Mexico, as for him it was a “truly a life-changing experience.”

Working with your significant other he notes, “can be a little tricky. It has its challenges occasionally, but for the most part we work really well together. You know May is primarily responsible for the language instruction and cultural content so she does a lot of the research for us.”

May grew up in Mexico so she has the inside scoop into the culture and locations to visit, while Jim’s role is the more technical aspects of the business. Jim is responsible for “getting things up on the website, the audio and video production,” as well as marketing and email funnels. The duo also work with two others who handle editing, podcast management, and manage the immersion retreats. 

Their accomplishments are all the more impressive when it’s such a tight-knit team, in our opinion.

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The Pros Of Using Squarespace for Spanish and Go

The Spanish and Go homepage with a photo of the two co-founders

The Spanish and Go website is the central hub for everything they offer to their 160K plus audience. We wanted Jim’s honest opinion of what it was like building the business with Squarespace, and whether it was worth our readers building with it.

When we asked Jim why he created a website he said, “The biggest impact of having the website was we learned early on from travel conferences that you have to find a way to convert your audience into a newsletter. Early on that was one of the primary reasons why we had the website. And so that’s helped us grow our email list tremendously over the years. [Our audience] watch a video and see that we mentioned that we have a PDF and then they can sign up and get that as a download.” 

Jim noted that the best part of working with Squarespace is its flexibility and how quickly you can create content. Making it easier to sell their immersion retreats, having had to use Teachable to host the podcast membership and their language course before. 

“It’s nice that we can easily create a new product and update our inventory and add discount codes. Those are huge advantages and it’s just easy to maintain. I don’t think we’ve had much if any downtime at all with Squarespace. And it’s just been easy to implement our brand colors and have a consistent look across our website.

On the success that Squarespace has provided Jim and May, Jim stated, “I think it’s the integration of forms, we’ve used that to get people on our newsletter and that’s been fantastic.” He told us that it was an easy way to let people know that they could get free extra learning materials and tell them about the services they provide.

The Cons Of Using Squarespace for Spanish and Go

“Overall, I would say. We absolutely could scale considerably more with Squarespace. However, there is a major disadvantage of Squarespace that I see, and it’s just that it’s terribly slow. And it seems like no matter what we do in terms of optimizing images and trying to make everything as lightweight as possible on our end, we can’t keep load loading speeds down.”

Jim and May ran into some trouble with site speed, with help and support directing them to their image sizes multiple times. Despite their efforts to resolve the issue, they still have slow load times – which you should be aware of if you’re planning to create a website with Squarespace. Video and image optimization is there to greatly reduce load speeds. But sometimes, like in this case, it’s just due to the providers’ capabilities. 

When asked if Jim regrets using Squarespace due to this issue, and whether he should’ve opted for a WordPress blog, where you have more control over the backend, his response was unclear. On the one hand, he notes that it could’ve been better to have full control – but that when they began it was just the two of them, and it was an easy way to start the business.

Jim’s Top Tip! If you can afford to, learn to delegate early on. Try to get the website off your plate sooner rather than later, it may be “potentially harder [to start a blog] on WordPress but maybe [would have been] better for us in the long run if we had started that way.” He also notes creating an organized SKU (stock keeping unit) system, to keep inventory as neat as possible.

The Future for Spanish and Go

Jim and May walking up red staircase

Despite the pandemic dampening the duo’s efforts to create an amazing experience on their retreats over the last few years, the future for Spanish and Go looks bright, continuing on their mission to visit every Spanish-speaking country (21 in total). “And we want to provide useful content for audience, about the culture differences, language differences, and in slang.”

They’ll be continuing to innovate content on the Spanish and Go podcast, to provide exciting Spanish immersion program, their epic climb to YouTube’s 200k subscribers, and provide blog readers with some top notch learning resources. If you’re interested in learning Spanish authentically then Jim and May are there with friendly guidance.

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