When 33-year-old entrepreneur, Tara Shelton, stumbled upon the idea of an online succulent business over a game of ‘idea ping pong’ in late 2016, the founder of creative agency Dream and Do, decided to run with the offbeat concept. Now, nearly four years later, Tara has turned Little Succers into a full-blown business success story.
Tara is well versed in nurturing brands, having worked with over 220 businesses since establishing Dream and Do in 2013. All this experience has allowed her to turn her own bubbling hot pot of dreams into a prickling success. Little Succers is now a six-figure business and growing daily.
Venturing into a niche offering sounds simple but can be extremely daunting. Tara shares her tips for those who want to dive into less conventional business and have a ‘bit on the side’. “Who knows where it will take you”, she says, “one day your side hustle could be your main hustle”.
Find a niche market and don’t be afraid to narrow your customer right down
“There are so many niche markets and so much opportunity, you just have to narrow your offering right down. For example, I sell succulents which are a niche, but I narrowed it down again, I sell succulent gifts. My tagline is ‘Because Flowers Die’ and this is how the concept for the business was born – as an alternative to sending flowers. I have remained focused on this and I have not yet exhausted the opportunity here. Eventually, I could expand out to other succulent related products, but I suggest exhausting your niche first.”
Keep the risk small and frame your own perception of starting
“Don’t quit your job or invest your life savings. Look at this new business venture as an ‘experience’ or a ‘creative hobby for learning’ and you will totally take the pressure off. Only spend what you would spend on a car and limit yourself to that. People will reason to spend $5,000 cash on a car or get a 70k loan, so that’s how I would view the investment on trying a new venture. You have to invest something, but only invest what you are comfortable with. Creativity will come from constraint. Taking two weeks of annual leave was what I was prepared to do to start my first business and by that point, it felt more exciting than a holiday. I invested about $5,000 in Little Succers and got my head around the risk by viewing it as a marketing exercise for my agency Dream & Do with it being a lesson in empathy for our clients. We could use this side hustle to prove that we knew how to build a brand and product to market fit in a way that we preached.”
Choose one marketing channel and be consistent
“When you start your venture, you will be completely overwhelmed with all the marketing opportunities and channels. There are so many social media platforms and they all have their merit, but you will likely be a one-person band so pick one channel, always be on and always be consistent. I chose Instagram and have grown to a 31k following in 3 years. It is the only thing I have been consistent with daily. I have dabbled in email marketing and paid social, and I plan to invest more in these this year, but I am very proud that I have built a 6-figure business from free press and organic Instagram alone.”
Stay true to your ideas and keep as original as possible. It pays.
“Build Your Own Terrarium Bar” was an event concept which was completely original as it was an answer to not being able to sell terrariums without them ending up looking like a hot mess. This idea ended up more than doubling my business. It was original and it was true to my niche offering of succulents. So many people say, ‘You should get into indoor plants’, but it’s something I won’t do, because the beauty of my business is how targeted it is. I don’t want to compromise being the front of mind brand for one thing by diversifying into other areas. Now my product development strategy is always centred around succulents and cacti and, if I see a cool idea working for someone else, I am not naive to think it would work for me.”
Waiting too long to invest in digital marketing
“For the first three years of Little Succers, I barely invested in digital marketing. All I did was post every single day on Instagram and I have built my brand organically. I am really proud of building a six-figure business with almost zero marketing spend but there is also a lot of money left on the table. I was overwhelmed by digital marketing and there are so many agencies out there, it was impossible to choose. My sister helped me a lot but as soon as she came too busy with her own business, I realised that I would not grow unless I really backed myself and invested in a digital marketing team. There are ALOT of agency sharks around so be very cautious. I suggest teaching yourself everything there is to know about digital marketing. I do online courses and week by week action things like Instagram shopping and Klaviyo for email marketing, I am already seeing the returns. Remember as soon as you start making money, there are people out there promising to make you more if you spend with them. There is never a quick buck to be made in digital marketing, just tick one thing off at a time and measure the impact bit by bit or you will be completely overwhelmed”
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