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Vanessa Sofia worked in international fashion for almost 20 years before starting her sleepwear company, Gingerlilly, in 2006, but her limited knowledge of e-commerce systems meant working with a talented web developer was crucial for her business.
The fashion side of the business came naturally. “I was born and raised in fashion,” she says. “I’ve got a mother who’s also a fashion designer, and I was exposed to it at a very young age.”
After working for the family business for a number of years, Sofia moved to the world’s fashion capital, Milan, where she worked in the showrooms of top-end design houses, Prada and Gas Jeans, liaising with a range of buyers from around the world. “That gave me a 360-degree knowledge of the industry,” she says.
Sofia started Gingerlilly after identifying a niche in the Australian market. “There was really just one big player – Peter Alexander – and I saw a niche for luxe and sophisticated sleepwear,” she says.
While chic fashion was in her DNA, developing an e-commerce business was not such an easy fit for Sofia. “The main challenge was my limited knowledge of what sort of systems I needed to get,” she says.
To overcome this challenge, Sofia opted to outsource parts of her website and e-commerce systems to expert developers or hired specialists, who could help her with specific areas. “If I had to do it on my own, I would have been out of my depth,” she says. “Technology can be a bit scary if you’re not familiar with it. It’s almost like not having the right chef if you try to open a restaurant, so it’s about finding a team that you feel comfortable with.”
Gingerlilly also opted for a SecurePay payment gateway right from the beginning. “I had a great web developer who really knew his stuff and SecurePay was recommended to me,” says Sofia. “When I looked into it, it just seemed the obvious choice and it’s worked really well for us. It’s automated and really easy to use. It’s one of those things in your business that you just don’t have to worry about.”
Having the website working perfectly is vital for Gingerlilly, as products are sold directly from the brand’s e-commerce site, as well as being stocked in selected independent retail stores around the world. “The website is our store,” says Sofia. “Where you used to have your bricks-and-mortar store, your website takes that place now. So it’s really important that the imagery is correct and the site is user-friendly.”
If I had to do it on my own, I would have been out of my depth."
Vanessa Sofia, Gingerlilly
While the website’s appeal and functionality are vital for Gingerlilly, Sofia’s other priorities are developing beautiful patterns for fabrics and sourcing sophisticated packaging. “I always felt that sleepwear was a really good gift idea, so I just tweaked the whole business around that,” she explains.
Recently, Gingerlilly has expanded its range to include homewares and baby clothing. “The challenge is to make sure that you keep the business growing, because that’s what the market wants,” says Sofia.
Looking back, Sofia says her experience in international fashion has stood her in particularly good stead. “We do things differently [from international fashion brands], because we’re on a much smaller scale,” she says, “but it’s advantageous to have learnt about things like exporting and how much you should be discounting for export to department stores.”
This type of experience can make all the difference for a small business. And despite Sofia’s admission that e-commerce wasn’t her specialist area, her decision to push ahead with her online vision by working with expert developers is standing her in good stead, too.
Vanessa Sofia founded Gingerlilly, a sleepwear e-commerce and wholesale business. Here are her top e-commerce tips:
1. Work with experts
“If I had to do it [the Gingerlilly website] on my own, I would have been out of my depth. Technology can be a bit scary if you’re not familiar with it.”
2. Build your brand
“The more you build your brand through your website and through online ranking to increase your following, the more that retailers are going to want to sell your product.”
3. Keep it fresh
“If you’re spending money on driving traffic to your website, you want to make sure that when retailers or consumers are visiting, there is always something fresh for them.”
SecurePay’s payment gateway integrates with a variety of shopping carts, as well as custom-built websites.