This is a follow up story for Temples and Markets. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Judith, Sydney based founder of the online curated store for ethical gifts Temples and Markets. My online store launched over 4 years ago and since then it has evolved dramatically, and despite a downturn in the Australian economy, the store’s revenue has increased year on year.
Temples and Markets showcase unique and ethical accessories, jewelry, bags, decor for men and women. All gifts have been sourced ethically and personally from artisans and Social Enterprises in S.E Asia. Products are handmade and each one has a story. Online in-store I tell the story behind each product and the people who make them.
Gifts have been made from sustainable and either interesting/bizarre/recycled materials.
Examples of best-sellers are Zsiska resin jewelry (see pic above). I have orders from customers worldwide for this amazing bold and unique jewelry.
This year I’m expanding my range of sustainable bags including Washable paper bags and basket bags made from water hyacinth.
Since featuring in Starter Story I have added 2 adjuncts to my business. As Temples and Markets is primarily a gift store, revenue tends to be seasonal e.g I take approx 1/3 rd of my revenue between Oct-Dec. As a result, I needed to add additional revenue streams to my business that sustains it year-round.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since we last talked the online store revenue has increased. This year the business is set to post its first on paper profit. However, the key to my business increasing its profit is creating other revenue streams. My business advice to startups is that you should allow your business to evolve, and if you see opportunities for additional revenue streams, connected to the original business, then grab them.
Listen to your intuition, your own wisdom. Shut out the naysayers or the know-it-alls, unless you genuinely feel they can add value to your business story.
Two years ago I founded the Pop Up Collective - this is an initiative that stemmed from my own store being part of bricks and mortar pop-ups since it began. The Pop Up Collective brings small business owners together to share pop up spaces and curated indoor marketplaces. I actively seek out the spaces/shops and sublease the space, charging an admin fee to the vendors. Also, I’ve curated gift fairs with 30+ vendors. The Pop Up Collective has proven to be the most profitable side of my business thus far. I have found it vital for my own online store to pop up pre-Xmas to increase sales in my busiest period. Pre Xmas 2019 I also brought into my Sydney pop up shop ladies fashion which complimented the other products I was selling. In the 7 week pop up shop alone I took $17kAUD revenue in 7 weeks, and I did this without any Black Friday discounting. This revenue doesn’t include online sales.
In addition to the Pop Up Collective, in the last year, I have been busy creating a tour for women to Vietnam. The inaugural Shop Eat Love Our Vietnam Tour was due to take place this March 2020. Sadly the Coronavirus has meant we have postponed until September. There is nothing else on the market like this tour - it focuses on ethical shopping and the design side to Vietnam (most visitors to Vietnam wouldn’t know this existed) and is the natural next step for my business. I am seen as a spokesperson and expert on ethical consumerism and unique gifts from S.E Asia. I wanted to share my knowledge and love of Vietnam on a more personal level. For 10 days a small group of like-minded women will experience the Vietnam I know and love well. The current new year promotional price is being kept at $3700USD twin share. My co-host and I can’t wait to welcome women from all over the world on our tour.
In terms of marketing, SEO and PR are still the best means of promotion to bring traffic to Temples and Markets Last February I was featured in an article in a national newspaper article and this proved to be the most successful PR event of my business to date.
90% of the traffic to my eCommerce site comes from SEO. Approximately half of that is driven by one blog post that seems to have gone viral. Whilst I am grateful my SEO agency created this post, it has disappointingly failed to generate sales, despite the traffic it drives. What it does do though is improve my domain authority so Google now loves my site. :)
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
One of my traits on a personal, as well as business level, is to be too trusting. I am trying hard to change this. That might sound harsh but it is easy to be taken advantage of in business when you trust and give too much, and I’ve had to learn to toughen my stance towards business associates. Interestingly I’ve reaped the rewards for doing so. An example is the Pop Up Collective. In Dec 2018 I curated a pop-up shop with 8 business owners including myself. Two individuals dominated that space and it became a toxic and stressful environment for everyone else involved. Consequently, I tightened up the contract for how my pop-ups are run. In Nov-Dec 2019 my Sydney pop up was far and away from the biggest success I’ve had to date. It was also the least stressful, and the most harmonious for the 6 biz owners working together and supporting each other in the shop.
Temples and Markets continue to be a lesson in sticking to a niche area, telling stories behind products, and not following what other retailers are doing. I do feel fortunate that I have bucked the trend in Australian retail in 2019 which was very much on the downturn. Retailers in Australia have gone into an ever-increasing discounting cycle and as a result, many chain stores are closing down across the country. Consumers have been trained to never pay full price. I refuse to be drawn into this. The Temples and Markets story is about offering the consumer something different, personal experience and unique products. Combining online and offline (with pop-ups) I have increased my revenue whilst many other retailers around Australia are closing their doors.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I am Australian-based but Australia is a small market. For my online store to continue to grow I have to expand my SEO to reach international markets. I already receive orders from international customers but I need to build on this.
I am very excited about the women's shopping tour I have created this year. I have invested a great deal of time and marketing budget to Shop Eat Love Our Vietnam Tour and I hope that pays off. My dream is for the Shop Eat Love Our Vietnam tour to take off this year and in 2021, as the next step will be to create ethical shopping tours to other destinations e.g Cambodia/Laos/Thailand/Singapore.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I studied history at university and history is a subject always close to my heart and mind. I have just finished reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Everybody should read this book. It explains how we evolved to where we’re currently at as a species, and what we need to think about, and action to take for our planet to survive. Ok, this isn’t strictly business-related but it is a vital story for our times.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Patience is a virtue. I’m now 4 years into my Temples and Markets journey. It hasn’t been easy and there isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t consider giving it all up. Being self-employed isn’t for the faint-hearted. You literally work for nothing for a long time and work longer hours than most people earning a wage. But nothing compares to those winning moments, those moments when you think your hard work has paid off and when the profit finally comes.
As I have said above, don’t be scared to evolve and find other revenue streams in addition to your core business.
Find a niche and stick with it. Seriously the world doesn’t need more natural skincare, candles and plastic tat producers. Be different. Follow your passion. Don’t discount - discounting is for competitive product businesses.
Not every social media platform will work for you. Work out which one does and invest your time and money in that. Alternatively, social media might not work for you at all. Maybe it’s SEO, or PR or word of mouth. You won’t know overnight. All this learning takes time and time is the most valuable resource we have as entrepreneurs.
The final piece of advice - only you know your business. Listen to your intuition, your own wisdom. Shut out the naysayers or the know-it-alls, unless you genuinely feel they can add value to your business story.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?.
I am always interested to hear from experts in SEO, and travel writers who may like to guest post on my site.
I moved away from my SEO agency at the end of 2019 as the expenditure wasn’t being matched by revenue. They were too focussed on Australia which is a small market. I am grateful for what they did for me, but I would love to hear from SEO gurus who can market my business internationally.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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