Sunday, 9 December 2012

Choosing a business name and rebranding

When you have a small business, you need to keep your costs low during the start up phase in order to survive. Presenting yourself as a professional looking business is one thing you really should spend a little money getting right in the beginning. And if you didn't, then do think about a rebrand before you take your next step to grow.

Choosing a business name
I know this will sound harsh but i literally cringe when i hear a baby or childrens business named after children (and or pets). I'm sorry but it's a big no no in my book. It just screams "i had kids and decided to make a business out of it". In other words, it scream small and inexperienced. 

Yes ok i know there are loads of you out there saying "Well poo to you, i love the fact that i called my business after my kids". Time to build a bridge and read on.... 

So the one KEY thing you want to focus on when choosing a brand name is: Does my business name explain what the business does or makes? If someone was to read your business card and have to ask what you do, then you are not achieving your goal. A business name should always be easy to say, spellwrite & remember.

Here are some great examples of what not to do (these are made up names so as not to offend anyone.)

No No
Fork Bug - explains nothing about anything
iBot, iRock, iAnything - Don't jump on someone else's bandwagon
Sherryn Designs - Overused, screams that you aren't a real designer 
Milly and Poppy - naming after kids / pets screams small biz
Pugatetum - Unfamiliar to pronounce, no one will remember it to Google it
Chow Chow - (This is one is real, it's a friends band name) Naming it after something that already exists creates a linguistic nightmare on Google

And some good examples (these are real business examples)
The Commitment Company - A marriage celebrant business - simple, easy to remember and explains what it does 
Period Details - A store that sells federation period style homewares and products like period fireplaces
MiniMink - Children's mink fur accessories - Rolls off the tongue, does what it says on the tin - Uses the perfect keywords that their customers would type into Google
Hawthorn Car Repairs - If you are a business that mainly services a local area, add your suburb or city. It may sound boring but if it means you'll get customers easily, who cares!

OK so what about those huge companies that use made up names like Google and Ebay and Etsy i hear you say? Unless you are reinventing the wheel, i would stick to a finding a name that explains what you do. Google didn't get where it is today because they picked an obscure name, they got there by being the best at what they do and by having a great marketing plan. 

Random fact: The name Google comes from the word googal - the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. It signifies the large amount of information hits achievable by their search engine. It was misspelled on a check made out to them as "Google". Their original name for the search engine was "Backrub". Can you hear yourself saying "Backrub it"?

OK so you went ahead and picked a crappy name already and now you wish you could fix it but you feel like you will lose your whole customer base if you change it? False. Rebranding can (if done correctly) take your business to a new level. 

Rebranding is not necessarily changing your name, it might be just changing your logo, colour scheme and fonts used on all your marketing materials.  In order to rebrand effectively, it is important to get a graphic designer to do it with you. Trying to do it yourself if you have no training in graphic design and marketing WILL send you even further down that creek without a paddle. 

Case Study 1
Amy had a little business called Aimless Designs - handmade greeting cards. After discovering that blogging about her business and crazy life was taking off more than the cards were, she needed a new approach to her business that incorporated her blog about being a mum to 3 boys, her other passion cooking and her creative business. 

Amy decided on a new name for her blog "Adventures of a Crazy Mumma". As a blog name, it tells me exactly what this blog is going to be about - hilarious antics. So it gets my tick for a good name choice. 

Taking inspiration from Amy's facebook page, here's how we came up with a rebrand for Amy's business. 

Inspiration from Amy's facebook page

The new blog header

The new logo of the blog (perfectly square for social media)

I felt that Amy's creative business still needed to be kept a separate entity and so i developed a separate logo that she could use for her Aimless Designs facebook page. 

Old Logo
New logo

Notice that the new design is very similar to the old one so as not to completely confuse customers but looks fresh and professional. 

Case Study 2 
Milk and Honey Handmade Crafts had a great name but needed a fresher version of their logo and branding. They needed a new look and feel that still conveyed their old school, passionately handcrafted vibe and they still liked their colours. We continued the bee theme as it spoke well about the long processes they used to hand stitch theirs products. 

Old logo

Rebranded logo - (webstore banner version)
We also of course developed versions for facebook, for black and white documents etc to make each size and format workable and readable.  

As you can see, rebranding does not have to be a complete backflip from your current look. It's about bringing a brand to the next level, making it look professional & timeless and making it relevant for any current forms of marketing (eg social, web and print forms). 

And yep, here's where i shamelessly plug my graphic design services...

We have a great special on from now until Christmas. 

Book in any website or webstore design and get a free branding or rebranding package valued at $800. Projects can be done pre or post Christmas if needed, a deposit is just required before Christmas. Head to my graphics page for more details and prices.  

Ciao for now. 

Nicole Herrick
Head Honcho at Kids Style Hub

Founder of AADR
The Australian Alliance of Designers and Retailers 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

SEO... when you're a struggling, one person small business

Right, SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION, you've all heard the term and know roughly what it means. You know that it's all about keywords and rankings but that's about it. For some reason, most of us in small business are still a bit clueless about what it really entails, how much it costs for someone else to do it and why on earth we avoid it for so long. 

I've been running several small businesses for 2 years now and have happily had my head in the sand up until now. So what made me change my tune and start to research it? Well i guess for me it is all about taking things to that next level. I feel like i have done everything on my own for such a long time and have finally jumped off the cliff and started outsourcing a few things. I now have a cleaner once a week, an intern part time and business partner in our kids parties side of things. 

OK, i think to myself, time to get more serious and take this baby to "profitsville" before i end up bankrupt. SEO seems like just about the only thing i haven't tried so far so let's give that a crack and hopefully that will just magically make everything start selling better and life will be sweet. 

So my next step is to jump on google and find myself an SEO consultant. In my head i'm thinking maybe like AUD$2000 or something as a one off fee. Turns out, you can't really just do it once and then expect to stay high in the rankings of the almighty Google. Apparently  you also have to take out a "monthly plan" which starts from around $400 per month. Now that may not seem that exorbitant to you (or you may already be sheding in your pants), but my main business is in a VERY competitive industry, ie children's clothing, toys and gifts and there are around 2,000 products on my website. So for me to really have effective SEO management i'm looking at a set up fee of anywhere from $2000 to $8000 and a monthly plan of around $2000. 

....... cue crouching into the fetal position and rocking. 

Anyway, i could stay in that fetal position forever OR get off my butt and figure out a way to do it myself. Now i must admit, i am a bit of a techy geek so for me, as long as i teach myself how to do it and find an extra 12 hours up my sleeve every day for a month, this seems achievable. For  those of you that aren't quite so technically "elegant", i wanted to write some basic layman's tips on how to start implementing this into your everyday business life. 


Step One: Get yourself a free Google Analytic's account to track what your website traffic does. In a month or two, jump on it and have a look around, it can be overwhelming but it will soon start to make sense and provide you with some really interesting info. Even if you can't make sense of it right now, it is super important to set it up as early as possible. I always set mine up as soon as i make a new site. 

Step Two: Set up a free Google Webmaster Tools account and learn how to use it. This will help you TELL Google to look at your site. Any time you add new info or a new product, you want Google to go have a look to see if you rank a little higher now. To tell Google to crawl your site, you want to submit your "site map". All the info on how to use Google Webmaster is easily learnt just by using it and following prompts. 

Step Three: Now that you have had a little play around with Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, you will have learnt a bit more about what keywords are sending people to your site. The next step is to ask yourself, what is the ultimate 1- 5 keywords or key phrases that i "want" people to type into Google and up bings my website in top spot? 

For me, the top keywords are:
Kids clothing
Kids Toys
Baby Clothing
Baby Toys

Then there is also a whole bunch of secondary keywords that i think should be getting them there like: Melbourne, maternity, artwork, bedding, dolls, newborn, gifts, stationery, hair accessories, party products, kids shoes, craft, nursery, cot, swimwear, pyjamas, play rugs, etc. I could go on forever with the amount of products we stock.

Now you have to figure out how to get more of these keywords into your website LEGITIMATELY. You can't just copy and paste them from your word document, it all has to make sense and be RELEVANT to your products. Basically, don't try and cheat, just think KEYWORDS before you enter your next product or service title, description, page details etc. 

A good starting point is to make sure that each of your main page addresses contain good keywords. If you use a templated online website building system, usually the address will just be what ever title you initially give it. For example some of my pages used to be called:

But a better way to name these pages using keywords for my industry is:

Step Four: Write a bloody blog! If you are that intelligent to start your own business then trust me, you are smart enough to write a blog. A blog is the second biggest tool for upping your ranking on google after keywords. Use a free platform like Google's blogger. Most people think "oh but who would want to hear what i have to say?" Forget about an audience, you can pretend your one and only audience member is the almighty Google and you write for his/her pleasure. The more you please him/her with keywords RELEVANT to your industry, the higher they will rank you on the leaderboard. 

The trick with a blog is not to hard sell. Just write about your work or your industry. If you're a plumber, write about funny plumbing stories or tips on keeping your plumbing in tip top condition. If you're a dance teacher, write about all the styles of dance. If you're a clothing retailer, write about what's hot in fashion. In all respects, pick something that you like, that way it's easier to write about.     

OK that's enough to make your head spin i know and there's plenty more to it than that. But before you reach for the phone and remortage your house to hire an SEO consultant, think about this... Why on earth would i pay someone to write words for my business (cause that's what SEO consultants do really) when no one knows my business better than me. 

Want to learn more? Google's own SEO GUIDE is straight from the horses mouth.

A very talented designer recently said to me "Race you to a million?" and we're talking profit per annum here..... My reply "Challenge accepted my friend, challenge accepted!"

Nicole Herrick
Head Honcho 
Kids Style Hub
KSH SHOP 436 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Melbourne

The Australian Alliance of Designer and Retailers

Sunday, 5 August 2012

How to make your retail business relevant for today's consumer....

It's easy to forget to the worlds money worries when you have an amazing day and sell lots of products. In Australia we are just starting to see the warmer weather kick in after the coldest winter in around 15 years. Retailers and designers alike have definitely felt the chill in the air with loads of stores having to close their doors. 

For some retailers, it may be the right thing to close and reopen after a little research and training to understand how the industry has changed. Do not take that as offence though, i say it with complete seriousness. Here are some things that retailers on the old system should get up to date with. 

  • Simple website design
  • Ecommerce website design
  • Product Photography
  • Search Engine Optimisation "SEO"
  • PR
  • Marketing  
  • Networking 
  • Facebook
  • Blogging
Now if you're a big business, i would advise you get the professionals in to do these for you but it is important to learn the basics for yourself so that you understand the processes involved.  If you're a small business however, you can learn how to do all these yourself at a basic level and save yourself a tonne of money. 

You might be thinking, how on earth am i going to be able to do all of this on top of the work i already do in my retail business? To put it simply, IN HARD TIMES YOU HAVE TO WORK HARDER! 

The priorities of retail have also changed. Forget spending hours of time planning your stock displays or ordering new stock that you think will sell better, get your front end systems right and you'll have enough sales soon enough to hire someone to help you with everything. Whether you run your retail business from home or from an actual shop, you'll now have to spend 95% of your time on your computer.   

Simple Websites
Even if you think you are completely computer illiterate, i promise you there are some very easy ways to get your business on the web. A basic website might just include you business name, your address and a few images (plus a list) of the kinds of things you sell. Let's face it, if your details aren't on the web these days, you're missing out on the majority of people searching for you.  put all of your products online. One of the easiest ways to set up a basic website using some really well designed templates is
A simple website using a Wix template can take as little as 10 minutes to make
E commerce Websites 
If you think your business would benefit from having all your products online available to buy (and let's face it, if you can post it, then it's worth it) then you'll need an E Commerce website. There are a lot of them out there and they are a little more complicated to use but not out of anyone's capabilities with a little help. I recommend as a great service to get your webstore up and running. 
A Miiduu store template can give you a professional looking webstore
Product Photography
OK so if you're going to put all your products online, you'll need to have decent photos of everything. But you don't necessarily need a photographer, you can do it yourself with any digital camera. My tip: keep the background clean and white. It's much easier to see the details. If your products are small, grab your self a sheet of white cardboard from the craft store, stick it to a wall and bend it out onto the floor or a table. 'Eh voila' you have a photo studio backdrop. Just make sure you set it up somewhere that gets lots of light and that light is not dappled. It's best to always shoot in the same spot, that way you light stays relatively the same. And shoot during the daylight. 
A piece of cardboard makes a great backdrop. I used my iphone to take this professional looking photo with no special lighting other than daylight. 
OK so you've heard the term, what does it mean? Well in a nutshell, it means that your website should have relevant words that will help people find your website using a search engine. If you sell fishbowls but all you have is a picture of fishbowls on your site, anyone searching won't find you. That's why having at least a list of everything you sell is super important. 

When was the last time you read an article about a small business? today? yesterday? Newspapers, magazines, online news etc is full of news stories about small business. And you know what, they didn't just make up an article title and go searching for a small business, that small business contacted them and gave them the story! Journalism, like retail has completely changed, journalists get sent stories these days and whatever is interesting and relevant enough to print, they will print. Best of all it costs you nothing, it's not an advertisement, it's an article. 

Who is your target market? It's not just whomever happens to be passing by your store that day.  Think outside the suburb you're in. If people can find you online and you sell what they want, they will come to you. If you have all of your products online to buy, then your target market just expanded dramatically, worldwide in fact (as long as you're happy to ship overseas). 

Do you meet or chat regularly with other businesses in the same boat as yourself, or those business that compliment yours? Whether it's online or at council meetings, you need to be in touch with these people. By working together, everyone is stronger. Networking also helps you keep up to date with your industry. 

I know i know, you either hate it or you're addicted. Well if you hate it, wake up! Facebook is one of the THE most powerful free marketing tools in the world today. If you don't have a business page, then make one, even if only post something once per month, it is worth it.

Like websites, there are simple free tools to help you set up a free blog. I use Google's Blogspot (Blogger i think it's called now). If you own a retail store, it usually means you're pretty interested and passionate about the kinds of products you sell. Take that knowledge you have and share it with the world, people LOVE hearing new tips or seeing new fashion, learning things etc. You don't have to advertise a blog, they are easily found by random people worldwide. If people can find your blog, then you can point them to your website and your store. 

Ciao for now!

Nicole Herrick
Founder and Creative Director of
Kids Style Hub
The Australian Alliance of Designer and Retailers
The Australian Photographers Directory

Friday, 11 May 2012

How to keep a small business going in a financial crisis

So you know it's hard out there. Everyone's holding on to their money tight and trying to find ways to make extra money to pay the bills. So you figure, "I know, i'll start my own business!". It seems like a great idea and you work your little butt of figure out the business plan, you set out a budget and dollar signs light up when you estimate how much money you can make by doing something you love. So you go for it....
It's 6 months in now and you're starting to ask yourself "What happened to all this money I was going to make? I seem to be spending more than i'm making!" Well the hard cold truth is, you're only about a quarter of the way there until you start making some money. 
Most businesses take at least 1-2 years to get off the ground, even in better financial times. I know what you're thinking "This is too hard, i am never going to make any money" Well no you're not if you quit right now. The only way to make a business work is to keep at it. Pace yourself, set yourself short goals that are actually achievable. Put your long terms goals to the back of your mind and focus on the here and now. It's kind of like a 12 step alcoholics anonymous program, just take each day one at a time. (Although a little wine at the end of each day might actually help). 
At the moment, consumers are all cutting back their spending and trying to only buy what they need. What you have to do is work out why they NEED your product. What can you offer them that makes it hard to reason why they shouldn't buy it. I'm not talking about some silly 40% off sale or throwing in another item if they purchase, i'm talking about  offering them something that is actually of value to them. A great way to do this is to offer knowledge. Everyone has some great tips on something, even if it is not really related to your product, pass on the knowledge. By helping people with tips, you can gain respect and increase your brand awareness without being pushy. 

The other thing that is highly regarded in hard financial times is customer service. A lot of the larger companies are cutting corners in this area to try and save money so they can offer cheaper prices to their customers. How many times have you gone with a cheap service only to end up bashing your head against a wall because you can't get any customer service if something goes wrong. 
Being a small business, we often ARE the customer service team. Simple everyday politeness will go a long way to making your customer feel happy and more likely to buy and return again to buy from you. I know most of you are already feel like you are giving the best possible customer service but have a think and see if there are other extras you can add to their experience. It might be somthing like "have a lovely weekend" or "Thank you so much for supporting our small business" on the phone or end of an email, or a simple brown wrapping paper with some old fashioned string on their internet order to make them feel like they're opening a gift, even if it isn't. A comps slip that is hand written by you rather than just a generic printed receipt. 

And remember, even when you're having the sh*ttiest day from hell, never let your customers feel it.  

Software Review

We test drove the My Memories Suite digital scrapbooking software last week and it was so great, we contacted them to ask if we could give one away to our readers! 

For your chance to win, simply have a look at the My Memories site and anwer this question by commenting below: What is your favourite album template?

As an added bonus, they have also given us a $10 voucher for all of our readers. Simply use this code at the checkout when your purchase the My Memories Suite V3. The software also comes with a $10 coupon so you'll save $20 all up.   Code: STMMMS33288

OK enough chatter for now, i'm off to write the weekly Kids Style Hub e-newsletter to tell everyone about the gorgeous new winter products we have in store.  

Sneak peek: 

Happy designing. 

Nicole Herrick

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Where the magic happens...

This months blog post is inspired by an image i saw posted on facebook a little while back. 
People often ask me where how on earth i have enough courage to take the risks i do. Well truth is, i believe in spontaneity. To push myself off the cliff, i force myself to do things that can't be undone, like quitting my well paid regular income job, spending my life savings or telling the world what I AM GOING TO ACHIEVE (as opposed to what i hope to achieve). 

I believe anyone can have strength and be spontaneous. The initial action is what you need to focus on to start with, not what comes after, because in all honesty, that's the scary part. Knowing that it's up to you to pay the rent / mortgage, up to you to pay the credit card bill, up to you to get people to give you money for what you are providing them with, THAT is hard. Saying i resign takes 2 seconds. 

I guess what has always made it easier for me to take risks, is not having kids or a husband yet that i need to consider.  But consider this... if you're not as happy as you could be, are you really considering them? The happier you are, they happier they are.

The Picnic Room has been a hit on weekends for parties and we have had some smashing ones so far. Like a Royal Fairy Tea Party, a Disco Ninjago (ninja lego) Party, and a Yellow Chevron Party.  

I just love transforming the room into something completely different for every party, even if it does mean late nights and a lot of hard work. Seeing the kids and parents faces light up is definitely worth it. 

We have a great networking night coming up on the 18th of April put on by Alli from Motivating Mum. All welcome, head to their website to find out more. 

Winter store hours will take effect from today but parties can still be booked for any time over the weekend. We stay open longer if a party is on. 

Monday to Friday 9am - 5:30pm
Thursdays late night shopping til 7:30pm
Saturdays 9am til 2pm
Sundays 9am til 12noon

Did you know we now have GROOVE dance Fitness on Thursday nights? Miranda of Mizz Fitness is the instructor / guru and her class is amazing. Every week there is something a little different and i always learn something new about myself. She doesn't just teach a class, she helps you enjoy life more and encourages you to make yourself feel good!  Best of all, you don't need any rhythm to do this class, is easy and free flowing, no need to follow the moves exactly or look at the instructor, just go with it and have fun. 

Want a Free Class Pass to try GROOVE Dance Fitness on Thursday nights? Just email and i'll email you one!
Until next time... go jump off a cliff, it's not that hard really!

Nicole Herrick

Monday, 6 February 2012

cracking summer.....

Hi Everyone.

What a cracking summer it is here in Oz. When i think back on my 4 years living in London, all i see is grey, miserable weather and lots of "drizzle" No sunshine, no crazy summer thunder storms, no swimming to cool yourself down, just grey. How lucky are we to be living in a country where you can wake up, see sunshine most mornings and smile!

London was a fabulous time in my life and it taught me a lot.  One of the things i now love about Australia that i didn't previously, is getting to know your community. You see I come from a VERY small town in NSW, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and sometimes you feel like you have no privacy because no matter what you do, someone you know will see you do it.  

But here and now, in a completely different world it feels, i relish the opportunity to get to know my neighbours, my local businesses, my local sporting teams, my local supermarket servers. Working 7 days a week makes it a little harder, but i am slowly learning more and more everyday, meeting great people and discovering great businesses. 

These days, your local community extends further than just the area you live in. I am so glad to have met some really amazing people in my industry. So i just wanted to give a big thank you today, to some great businesses i think, make the world a better place. 

Love your work: 
Mums on the Go - Nifty Mums Network - Market Angel - Connect to Mums - Kidz Bizz - Mummy Guru - Melbourne Mammas Market - Mizz Fitness - Melbourne Made Magazine - Little Melbourne - Hey Bambini - Little Eats - Planning with Kids - Alphabet Street - Motivating Mum - Peekaboo Magazine - Mums Lounge and many many more. 

Happy designing xxx

Nicole Herrick


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Time flies...

Has it really been over a month since my last blog post? Wow i don't know how i had time to do this every week once upon a time. I hope you all had an absolutely amazing holiday season and are relaxed and revved up ready for another big year. I know i am! I even had a fortune teller walk into the shop the other day and tell me that i was a lucky lady and that this was going to be a great year for me. 

We've had lots of evolution happening at the Hub, especially in The Picnic Room. We had so many people requesting to do birthdays in there that we have gone full steam ahead in promoting it as a venue for all budgets. You can now hire it as space only, custom styled or fully styled with a character host.  I think in the first week of my advertising it we had around 10 bookings so it's great to be able to use that space for such fun events. Mothers groups and play date groups can still use the space for free during the week, you just need to book via phone or email. Here's a graphics pack we put together for a 1 year old bday bash recently. 

We're also running events like the recent Mosaic Magic Workshop run by one of our fab designers Tania from Squiggle and Stitch which the kids had lots of fun at. 

Our next one coming up is this Sunday and it's our Fairy Flutterby Tea Party and Puppet Show! Great for all ages, buy tickets online here

Yet another great new event is GROOVE Dance Fitness on every Thursday night at 6:30pm run by the awesome Miranda. She is also looking to start personal training sessions with mums and the kids can come along for free and play. Email Miranda if you would like some more info
Ahhh after all this hard work i felt i could use a massage. But so could all of you, SO you can also now book Ladies Pamper Nights! More...
Yes there's more. Got a class or workshop you want to run? Hire out the massive Picnic Room for just $50 for one hour or $40 per hour for 2 or more. You can also hire the Atrium Room for just $30 per hour for smaller classes. More...

Some great new products have been arriving on our shelves lately. Check out what designers we think are fab enough to be stocked here on our latest newsletter. More...

OK that blog post is waaaay too long. I will make sure i post again sooner rather than later so i don't bombard you again. 

Happy Designing

Nicole Herrick


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