Shop and Share.ca is the creation of Richelle Skrilec after years of experience raising funds for local school and sport programs. It occurred to Skrilec that there was an opportunity to create an ongoing fundraising platform; an online system that would benefit the shopper, the retailer, and local charities.
In the summer of 2009, Shop and Share.ca was formed. Shop and Share.ca is an online shopping website that allows you to purchase from more than 140 reputable retailers while a portion of your purchase price is automatically donated to the non-profit organization of your choice. It does not require a membership and there are no price markups. It is a brilliant concept that truly is a win-win for all involved.
Intrigued by the program, I contacted Skrilec and discussed what it was like to take her concept through to fruition and any advice she might share with other wishful entrepreneurs with a concept yet not sure where to start.
Q: What was the greatest hurdle in launching your idea?
Skrilec: The brainstorming sessions were always fun and easy for me – the greatest hurdles I faced were doing the market research and creating an in-depth business plan prior to launch. Both tasks took a lot of time and energy to do, plus they didn’t always provide favorable results. However, they were invaluable exercises as they helped to steer my business in the right direction and avoid fatal mistakes along the way. They also saved me a great deal of money and frustration by allowing me to budget wisely and stay focused on the best possible path to success.
Q: What were the key learnings that you acquired through the launch of your idea? What might you suggest to any entrepreneur coming into the market with a base concept?
Skrilec: The main things I learned while launching my idea were: patience, perseverance, and learning how to play in fear. Things always take longer to accomplish than anticipated when starting a business or launching a new concept. It takes time to develop new relationships, find new suppliers, and reach your target audience. Be patient.
And be prepared to tackle obstacles such as lack of financing, time, knowledge, market acceptance, etc. The key here is to KEEP GOING – NEVER STOP MOVING FORWARD! Persevere. Get through the scary times. Know that it’s normal to feel a little fearful at times – fearful of failure, risk, instability, or simply the unknown. Be open to the challenges and dance in the fear. Heck, if starting a new venture was easy, everyone would do it.
Q: What forms of advertising and public relations proved most effective in creating interest for Shop and Share?
1. My website: eye-catching, easy to navigate, “Google-friendly”, and interactive
2. Direct mail-outs to my target market: expensive but effective
3. Facebook: posting consistent and useful information, articles, and money-saving opportunities that would interest my readers, giving posts a ‘human’ touch (i.e. using a sense of humor, avoiding sales pitches)
Q: If someone were to ask for advice, what three important learning’s would you pass on given your experience?
1. Relationships: Networking meetings are fine for meeting new people, but your time and energy is probably better spent connecting with the existing people in your lives on a deeper level. They will be your biggest fans. Then ask them to refer you to people they know. A referral is a lot easier than a cold-call.
2. Release the guilt: I still struggle with the guilt associated with my old 9 to 5 job, even though I haven’t worked a 9 to 5 for almost 15 years! There’s still part of me that feels like I’m ‘cheating’ if I leave to get my hair done, go for a walk, volunteer at the school, or basically anything other than work during the normal work-week hours. But, then I remind myself that one of the huge benefits of being an entrepreneur is that I can choose when and where I want to work. If that means working in my PJs after my kids go to bed to 1:00 in the morning, great! So be it!
3. Get cozy with your bank and spend wisely: Whether you’re a business owner, employee, student, or homemaker, the banks and other creditors can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. My suggestion? Play nice. Be a good friend. Pay your bills, in full, on time. It’s much easier to borrow money from people you’re on good terms with and they’re more likely to help you out if you run into trouble later on if you’ve taken the time to get to know them and respect the rules. Learn the difference between ‘bad debt’ and ‘good debt’ – being self-employed often means sacrificing ‘wants’ for ‘needs’.
To learn more about Shop and Share.ca, please go to Shop and Share.ca
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