Big Laces was started by Cheryl and Dave Clayton as “The Lace Place” back in 2006, primarily as an eBay venture to earn extra cash. Without any initial business plan and very little fancy marketing, the company has grown significantly but still remains family owned and run.
Some thoughts from the interview
“Essentially it started that I needed some laces for some shoes and I couldn’t find the specific laces anywhere. This was back in 2006. I looked on the internet and the only place I could find them was a little sore over in America, but to make it worthwhile I think the minimum order was something lke 10 pairs. I really, really needed the laces to the extent that I actually order all 1 pairs just to get the one I needed thinking I would keep the spares.
“EBay wasn’t in its infancy but it was certainly only a few years in. I can’t remember if someone suggested the idea or if I stumbled across it. I though actually I only need 3 so I’ll put the others on there, maybe some other people will need them. They sold not hugely quickly but quickly enough. So I thought I’ll order another 10 and see what happens. Cut a long story short we got emails from people saying can you get these in red at all? Can you get them in blue? Brown? Can you get them slightly longer? Slightly shorter? And the range just grew and grew as we realised that actually everyone was having the same problem, that you can’t walk into a shoe shop and get anything other than standard black or brown laces.”
“We just started increasing the range as more and more different types of foot wear came out. We built the range up from there. We got a few brands on board. We started stocking their laces as I guess it’s not cost effective for them to sell individual laces.”
“A lot of the brands we stock in large volumes and then they tend to send people to us to say if you want replacements here is where to go.”
“I think nowadays there a lot of little niches that probably still exist that there is a need to be filled. The big players and the big brands haven’t got the machine or the inspiration to do it. For people who aren’t to make millions of pounds but who are out to make an easy existence in the business world without having to do what the big brands are having to do there are these holes to be filled.”
“I would probably say 80% of people just buy a pair and maybe come back 2 years later when they have worn them out, who are just looking for a practical solution. I wouldn’t have thought there were enough of those people out there to build a business off, but turns out there is. Then we get the people who are into fashion and like to change things around, so we get people who order repeatedly purely for the sake of changing their laces in their footwear to look different day to day.”
“For our business specifically, because you expect a pair of shoe laces to last a reasonable length of time, there’s not the money to be made there with more perishable goods but you would be amazed how many people come back looking to just refresh existing footwear as well as replacing the snapped laces.”
“I would say I prefer our own website just purely because you have most control over it but in terms of visibility I guess it would be Amazon. They all have their positives and negatives so I think by using all three you offset the positives and negatives or each one by using the other two.”
“Encourage (customers) with business cards inside (packages) that pushes them to the website.”
“We don’t use ad words any more, in fact that’s lie, we use ad words very minimally. I used it quite heavily when we first started out to actually get yourself that visibility as there is no other way to do it other than slowly build up your reputation on google. My interest is more in the computer side of the business and SEO so I put all my effort into researching getting us high organically. As that built we could drop the ad words because for a low mark-up item like laces you can’t afford to be spending much on pay per click.”
“I have been surprised at how successful the organic side has been given that we don’t give a lot of money to google via ad words.”
“That was one of the worst decisions I ever made was poo pooing amazon for so long purely because I looked at the 15%, but actually when you think about it 15% off, if you factor that in our amazon now eclipse eBay and our own website put together so I wished I hadn’t done that for so long but you and live and learn as you go through.”
“It’s pretty much manual in that I’m not a big fan personally of these, you know where they automatically swap the stock across, just because of reviews I have read that when it goes wrong it is hard to recover from because it is automatic, and also the fact that it doesn’t integrate with the website we use and the website that we use is organically high on google so I’m not in a hurry to switch that. I have never actually used them so I can’t say that the automatic things aren’t useful because I’ve not used them.”
“I pretty much do everting on the technical side as that is the bit that interests me, that’s what keep the business fun for me is the technical side of it, so I research and learn those bits and give the other bits I don’t enjoy to other people, accounting for one.”
“The banners were supplied by the website company so that was part of having the website built, that they will do banners for you. The actual images there is a mixture of, we used a photographer to start with but then we discovered removethebackground.co.uk. So we started thinking we’ll just try it out, so it’s literally take an iPhone are so good these days, take a photo with an iPhone on any surface you want and they will cut it out and make the lighting look good. So we have skipped from using an expensive actual, physical photographer to just taking the photo ourselves and then sending it across to be digitally enhanced for something like 59p a photo which is ridiculously cheap.”
“It is one of things we have really made a point of concentrating on, purely because of personal experience. You know what it’s like when you buy from a company and that first transaction really sets the tone for whether you’re going to go back again which is probably why Amazon is so successful. They really are customer orientated in terms of solving problems certainly in my experience and that is why I go back because I know they are going to sort any problem out. So we pretty much copied that model. Being proactive with solving problems is one of the things we really, really focus on.”
“Word of mouth is huge in marketing terms for us. The number of people we get come in saying someone suggested that I come to you and this is what I need. It is taking time to answer those emails, even if it’s going to result in the sale of one pair of laces if that person goes off and tells 5 people and those 5 people tell 5 people quickly that one email you bothered to reply to can get you a lot of sales.”
“See how you can do it rather than just saying no because it is going to be too difficult.”
“We rely mostly on organic google placement and word of mouth, we don’t really market it any other way because of the nature of the product if you need a pair of shoe laces you’re either going to try in a store or you’re going to google shoe laces. We are not really competing in the same way that a lot of other businesses are.”
“We do use Facebook and Twitter but very sporadically.”
“You are always going to get people that complain, you’re never going to be perfect and how you handle the complaint says as much about you as a business says as much about you as the complaint itself.”
“It’s about solving the problem as quickly as possible because at the end of the day it’s probably your fault and therefore if you get it solved you get a happy customer rather than someone that is going to destroy you on the feedback.”
Best advice: “Don’t try doing everything yourself, use the experts because you will be amazed at how much time someone else can actually save you and therefore money but pick those people wisely. Don’t just use the first person you see on google, use recommendations. For example, the accountant, the accounts are so heavy and there are so many kind of trip wires it is better to use an expert and you’ll find their knowledge will almost pay for themselves.”
What do they offer?
On top of our wide range their Fat, Flat, Round and Super Fat Laces they offer a range of Retro Sweatband Sets and Beanies and a 5 Star Customer Service experience!
How to contact Big Laces!
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