Isabella, the inspiration for Isabella's Fate
Shekera Myers and CL Napolitano are both mothers—and both shopaholics. So it was only natural that this mother and daughter duo would gravitate toward children's attire when they began their own online store.
The store, Isabella's Fate, operates on Auctiva Commerce, specializing in children's formalwear. However, it took some time for the pair to find just the right niche, Myers notes. Initially, they offered all types of apparel for both children and adults on eBay.
"I needed to condense," Napolitano explains. "Over the decades, I had accumulated vintage clothing from the '70s and '80s that were in mint condition, and I decided it was time to give them up. We enjoyed the extra income and continued on."
The women sold on eBay for about five years, but eventually looked for another platform to offer their gear, a place that offered great features and fewer fees. They settled on Auctiva Commerce, and, by this time, they also settled on a niche that suited them well: special-occasion attire for kids.
While their time on eBay had shown the women that women's clothing was very popular, it also taught them that it was one of the hardest categories to sell in because sizes differ so greatly from brand to brand, Napolitano says.
By keeping the lines of communication open, we learn more about our customers' wants and needs
"The sizing for children's formalwear is straight forward—and it needs to be," she explains. "This is the difference between special-occasion clothing and 'trend' clothing, and customers seem more comfortable measuring a child for formalwear. Also, we know, as parents, that dragging a child from store to store to find the perfect outfit for a special occasion is a parents' worst nightmare!"
Isabella's Fate seemed like the ideal business opportunity. They women knew they'd have buyers, and that they'd be helping out a lot of fellow parents. The shop opened in August 2009, offering adorable outfits for some of the biggest events in people's lives like baptisms, first communions and weddings.
A family business
The family approach to business is very obvious at Isabella's Fate, beginning with the name.
"We wanted a unique name for our store, a name that would stand out from the crowd," Myers says. "We decided to name it after my daughter, Isabella Fate."
The women strive make to make shopping for special occasions easy and convenient by giving parents a wide selection of "adorable" outfits they can easily browse through and forward to other family members to get their opinions and choose their favorites. And when shoppers are ready to buy, Myers and Napolitano are there for them, regardless of the situation. They'll even take orders over the phone.
"We only offer apparel that our own children would—and do—wear, the highest quality, known and trusted brands, correct sizing with easy size exchanges, affordable prices and top notch customer service," Myers explains.
Communication is of the upmost importance to having good sales, the women note. So they encourage shoppers to let them know when their special occasion will be to ensure orders are ready in time. They also provide upfront FAQs with store policies and they offer live chat in case shoppers need personal assistance right away.
"By keeping the lines of communication open, we learn more about our customers' wants and needs and this in turns helps us to run a better business," Myers says. "Selling children's clothing for these special events could not be more rewarding."
Our future may hold yet another Auctiva Commerce shop. They have made it easy to do
Donning SEO hats
For Napolitano, the most rewarding aspect about the store is the idea that she and her daughter now have their own business. "We are responsible only to our customers, and can adjust our business to suit the customer's needs without the red tape and bureaucracy of upper management consent," she notes.
However, becoming independent merchants has required the women to learn search engine optimization—something they knew little about before opening Isabella's Fate.
It's an ongoing education, Napolitano says.
"We have a children's special occasion shop that many are looking for, but cannot find because the 'map' to the store is not clear," she explains. "Search is based on keywords, primarily in individually listed items and pay-for-view advertisements. The SEO for eBay, other minor search engines and major store chains is strong. A search will generally bring up several of these, [including] major chain stores that may or may not actually have the item you have searched for, and individual eBay listings on the first page. If you're looking for a specialty store, you will only find it through an individual listing—usually several pages in—and sheer luck."
However, they're not giving up. They've taken up researching SEO, and are beginning to see the fruits of their hard labor as they learn about site mapping, site structures and maintenance.
"Flexibility is key," Napolitano notes. "We're always improving and never completely satisfied. We will do more, and offer more."
And with time, their business will expand, she says.
"Isabella's Fate is a small specialty shop only because it is relatively new," Napolitano continues. "We are always brainstorming new ideas, looking for new product sources, and adjusting our current product line to better accommodate the market trends. Our future may hold yet another Auctiva Commerce shop. They have made it easy to do."
Visit Isabella's Fate on Auctiva Commerce.