Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?

As an artist I noticed a gap in the market for designer bathroom towels and set about drawing and sketching some ideas. A close friend had also expressed her interest in working together on creating designer towels, so we moved ahead to make our first collection. We formed a company and had our first designs beautifully woven by a European mill. When the box of sample towels arrived, we held our breath whilst it was eagerly opened...our new Ninnho towels were stunning! We knew we had a wonderful opportunity to make our dream a reality and the hard work of promoting Ninnho's luxurious towels began.

Passionate about branding, we made sure to link our unique designs with our artist-created story and started to sell our towels online. Many Manchester professionals had expressed concern about our plans, saying it would be nearly impossible to sell towels online. Our passion for our product was greater than any fear of failure and we pushed ahead with our dream. We produced and directed a photo shoot, employing a key professional team including stylists and an experienced editorial photographer. We left nothing to chance and we launched our first "Hello Ninnho" Collection of artisan-designed towels to the boutique homewares market. We leveraged wholesale relationships and sold our towels into retail stores, and promoted our collection through social media platforms to boost our own online sales. Angela & I are extremely proud and have learned so much along the way.

The best decision we ever made was to use Shopify for our website and integrate our online store with our warehouse and accounting systems. Ninnho designer towels are designed in Melbourne, Australia and made in Europe. The process from sketching designs to having them woven into new designer towels and then shipped to Australia takes around 4-5 months. It's a labour of love! It took nearly 2 years to bring our first towel collection to market with lots of research and hours of product development. Every Ninnho design collection is a limited-edition, luxurious towel design to bring art to your bathroom.

How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?

Our first sales were mostly wholesale, having attended a trade fair and selling in our new collection to local boutique retailers. We needed customers to see and touch our towels for themselves, so our first collection got people talking! We worked with social media platforms to drive sales to our website. When the sales started flowing through our website we were ecstatic! Our first collection was selling despite many others telling us we would struggle to sell towels online. Ninnho recently launched "Shimmer Ninnho", our second designer towel collection. Our sales are closer to being an even split between wholesale and online sales now, although Angela & I work hard to keep our product promotion high on social media and editorial print press. Shopify enables us to keep track of our sales orders, linking directly to our accounting system.

Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?

Ninnho utilises Xero which has enabled us to monitor and track our sales, expenses and profitability. We are able to see when we need to run various promotions and plan for future collections. Ninnho has an internal warehousing system which enables us to track orders around the clock simply by logging in to check order status. This has made a positive impact upon our customer service response times when following up orders. Ninnho utilises a fulfilment house or third-party logistics warehouse to store and distribute our orders. This enables both Ninnho Directors to work more productively upon design, production, sales and business operations effectively. Relationships are key to our business and we spend a lot of time keeping connected with our suppliers and stockists. Our Ninnho customers are communicated with by Angela and I directly through social media and our online database.

What are your top recommendations for new store owners?

Starting a new business is a constant juggle between managing daily operations with the multitude of new learnings along the way. Big dreams don't always add up financially and much of the hard-work for a start-up business tends to be done by your own hands. Everyone you meet will remember you, whether the warehouse staff or an online customer. Make sure to always be yourself and trust that your genuine passion for your product will shine through. Be willing to get your hands dirty - whether unpacking boxes to ship your product to customers or making the appointment for a face-to-face meeting with a potential new retail stockist. Even your written replies in emails or social media can make a difference. It's not easy but remain positive and keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. Customers will provide honest feedback regarding your product and you will know how you're tracking by simply listening. Enjoy the little wins along the way as all good things take time....

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