Donna Pratt, Inspirational Gifts and Decor
Helping the less fortunate has always been a passion of Donna Pratt's. She's been doing it for as long as she can remember.
In elementary school, Pratt read to preschoolers in the Head Start program; during her teen years, she was a junior candy striper. Later she helped care for AIDS patients at a hospice center during a time when doctors knew little about the disease. Then she and her husband volunteered at a boys' ranch, where they first met their adopted children.
Today, Pratt lives in Martinsville, VA, where the unemployment rate has reached 30 percent. This harsh reality has only fueled her desire to continue helping others, and her three Auctiva Commerce stores have helped her do just that—giving her a way to generate funds to help the needy, and allowing her to be her own boss so she can be on call whenever someone needs help.
"The people here are truly some of the finest, salt-of-the-earth folks I have ever had the privilege of meeting," she notes. "Sadly, this part of Virginia has gone from being a leader in manufacturing to being the leader in unemployment. The needs of the people here are growing—particularly in the area of hungry, hurting and homeless people. The face of homelessness has changed across our country, and Martinsville is no exception to this."
I'm proud of my accomplishments, and I'm already dreaming of stores No. 4 and No. 5 to open later this year
Pratt donates 10 percent of the proceeds from her three stores, InspirationalGiftsAndDecor.com, LittleCherubsBoutique.com and InLovingMemoryGifts.com, to help homeless people in her area, and writes about the issue on her blog, Inspired Daily Living. She also uses a portion of her profits to buy everyday necessities for the homeless and household items for those who are just getting back on their feet.
"When one of our guys finds a home, they're so excited," she says.
Being "virtually computer illiterate," Pratt says she had a lot to learn when she launched her first store, InspirationalGiftsAndDecor.com, during the beta-testing phase of Auctiva Commerce. Despite several frustrations along the way, Pratt dug in her heels and stuck with it. She learned by trial and error and by being active on the Community forums.
"If it were not for the wonderful people there, especially Michelle G., I probably would have given in to my frustrations the first week I started this journey," she muses. "I'm proud of myself for my accomplishments, and I'm already dreaming of stores No. 4 and No. 5 to open later this year!"
That may seem like four too many stores for some, but not for Pratt. As a mother of five, she's mastered the art of time management. Keeping a kitchen timer at her workstation also helps, she notes.
"I only have a certain amount of time to do something, and that's it," she explains.
Shoppers have responded well to all three of Pratt's stores, she adds, noting that orders come in every week. The end of February and March were especially busy, she notes. Sales have recently slowed a bit, but she expects them to pick up as Father's Day and graduations near.
Part of Pratt's success is her customer service, she says. Customers regularly compliment her on her attention to detail and "People are usually pleasantly shocked when I offer to find something for them via a competitor," she adds.
I'd like to encourage others who are 'fabulous and over 50' to give Auctiva a try
Discovering new tools
But just like her charitable nature, Pratt has also been an entrepreneur since her youth. "Lemonade stands, selling donuts or Christmas cards door-to-door was an exciting challenge," she recalls.
Over the years, Pratt occasionally sold framed inspirational quotes and prayers on eBay. Trying to find a way to display her items in a more professional manner, she did a search for similar products and discovered Auctiva's listing templates.
"I wondered, 'how did they get this?' and lo and behold I saw the Auctiva logo at the bottom and started using them," she says. "I got a taste of Auctiva with the templates and that led to more sales."
When Auctiva began offering Auctiva Commerce stores, she was ready to make the leap to full-time store owner.
"The state of our economy has seen many traditional brick-and-mortar stores close. While Internet sales have seen their own decline, the trend toward shopping online continues to rise," she explains. "No longer having children at home left me with time on my hands and the entrepreneur in me began stirring once again. This time in my life seemed perfect to explore selling online and I'm glad that I did."
Sellers should never be discouraged from starting a shop at any age, Pratt asserts. "I'd like to encourage others who are 'fabulous and over 50' to give Auctiva a try," she says. "Dig your heels in, commit to learning something new each day, and when you get stumped—and you will—ask questions on Auctiva's Community boards.
"I've had my share of frustrations, but when looking to open a second store and comparing platforms, I could find nothing to compare with the overall features that Auctiva offers," she continues. "I'm looking forward to Auctiva's continuing promotion of their store owners, as I'm seeing more and more buyers coming my way since the launch of Elefy."