Celebrating 1000 orders online at Country Mouse
I’m so excited, I've recently reached my one thousandth order. Not very long ago – that was just a dream, as I tried to get my first sale online.
It has felt like a long time coming, getting to my one thousandth order and I’m so pleased, I feel that I should celebrate this milestone. With that in mind what’s better than to share the news with you and some of the story along the way.
I started my website for my online business in March 2020 and I'm sure many of you realise that March 2020 was when COVID hit, and the UK ended up in our first lockdown. Previously I had solely traded at events such as horse trials, country shows and Salisbury Christmas market.
The thought of going online was really daunting. At shows many of my customers kept asking me if I had a website and I would usually give a vague answer along the lines of, I've got a website but there's nothing really on it!
I kept making these promises to have a website and add lots of stock to it however, I just never really did the getting “round to”. It was not until March 2020 that I really had to do something because otherwise I had no way of earning money that year.
Normal life was cancelling.
In the runup to the lockdown in March 2020, all of my shows were cancelling that I had booked for later in the year, so it was becoming increasingly clear that for 2020 as a trading year was going to be an absolute disaster. As a small business this was absolutely terrifying I had absolutely no idea how I was going to have any money and it was becoming increasingly obvious that Salisbury Christmas market was not going to go ahead in 2020.
If you remember the initial lockdown was for 3 weeks, so I had initially thought, well if I lose the summer season, perhaps I can recover at Christmas, and I think we all assumed that life will be back to normal by 2021. Well, we all know how that turned out.
Country Mouse goes online
In March 2020 I set about building a website for Country Mouse. I had the apps and software, however I had little or no knowledge on things like SEO, or product descriptions let alone knowing where to start with photography. I knew how to trade outdoors, how to find a random gateway into a farmer's field or show ground, how to set my tent up securely and trade in 40+ mph winds, or how to make my Christmas chalet cosy and inviting for Salisbury Christmas. I could do all those things they were second nature including making my lovely displays. Having to suddenly trade online, was incredibly overwhelming.
Looking back, I'm very glad I did start my online shop and I'm eternally grateful to all of you who have purchased from me several times over since I started in March 2020.
On the surface it might sound easy get a website, upload some products and then everyone will find you and shop with you. I very quickly learnt that is not how it works. Getting a shiny new website, uploading your products, and writing a bit about them is literally the first step.
Getting found online, I’ve discovered is a lifelong learning experience. So, with my new website I set about doing all of my photography. My early photography was done using my mobile phone and I took photographs of my throws on little benches, chairs, stools or anything I could find against some nice backdrops and even in the garden to try and create some nice product images. Photographing socks is still something I find tricky to this day.
My first photography efforts were never going to win any prizes, however, over time I have become much more confident and along the way I have learnt how to remove the background from my photos, to create standout images. I can now happily write blogs and product descriptions. All of this has come through time and there was no quick fix. I think the days of building a website and the sales roll in have passed. It really doesn't work that way and there was nobody to say this is what you need to do, it really was a case of trial and error.
Country Living Lifeline
I was thrown a lifeline early in Spring 2020 when Country Living (the magazine) did a series of online events which replaced their live shows. I'm very grateful to Country Living for doing that. I became one of their artisans and they even featured me in the Country Living magazine. Those 3 weekends brought much needed sales for 2020 and certainly a great boost to my confidence. It showed that the website could work, given enough exposure and I still think about that little lifeline.
Personally, I'm not a great fan of social media, as I think it can be quite a negative place however for business it's been incredible and I'm always trying to do new things. It took me a very long time to actually have the confidence to show my face as somebody who is not in their 20s and 30s you do have to just get on with it because at the end of the day, I am me. If you meet me at show, you will see what I look like so I'm not afraid to show my face online and increasingly I'm having a go with videos and reels on Instagram.
I'm really enjoying doing lots of fun creative content. I'm certainly not an expert but I really enjoy doing it and I love taking photos and creating content and yes, they do feature my horse, cat and my chickens, because that's my life and I am a proper Country Mouse.
Raising the profile of Country Mouse
Last year while I was on holiday in the Peak District, I decided that I wanted to raise the profile of Country Mouse, by using PR (public relations). At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about PR, but I knew I needed to get my products featured in the press. Following the initial success of the Country Living events in 2020.
I joined a PR company which has secured me quite a bit of coverage towards the end of 2021 and throughout 2022. I also found a lovely lady called Louise, who runs Louise Cox PR. I did her product PR product boot camp which was very helpful for getting featured. Learning how to get featured in the press so I could do some of my own PR.
I'm really pleased to say that I now get regular coverage in the press which has really helped to raise the profile of Country Mouse. The first piece of coverage that I secured from doing it myself, was my cerise merino wool throw which was featured in Vanity Fair. I have also been featured in quite a few different publications from the Daily Express to Country Living, House Beautiful, and The Metro and so many more.
When I think back to my 2021 target to secure or have one piece of coverage I'm really pleased with the amount that I have had. The coverage that I have received has been amazing and in turn I’m grateful for everybody who has helped me, guided me and just really being there. It’s been great to run an online business and make friends along the way.
One of the main things for PR was learning how to cut my images out and this was a huge learning curve. I do most of my own photography, although I have paid for photo shoots with a really talented lady called Rachel Collins and she's created me some amazing lifestyle shots for our knitwear collection.
When I first started building the website these were things that just never ever occurred to me. Having been a teacher before without any retail or website experience the learning curve had been incredibly steep.
Get a website
“Get a website” they say it will be easy your “sales will flow” in they say. That is so far from the truth. It’s really not like that. It is hard work and you have to consistently work on everything all the time. One of the things that I have really invested in this year has been working on my mindset which was with a lovely lady called Tara Punta, who is just an absolute positivity queen. Tara has really helped give me the confidence to celebrate every success and celebrate my wins.
I'm celebrating the fact I've had 1000 sales and to some people may be disappointing, but when you come from suddenly having COVID destroy your previous business model and having to go online with no idea of which website you're going to be have, to building it yourself, doing all of the photography and the SEO and then go down the route of PR it's been a fabulous journey it's been a huge learning curve and I still love it.
I'm just very glad that Country Mouse survived, and I am still trading. I have been out to some shows in 2022 which I have really enjoyed but I also really enjoy the freedom of being online. Next year I intend to do a bit of both go to a few events and stay online and grow my product ranges.
So, for each and every single one of you who have purchased from me a massive thank you from me I am so so grateful. You really are helping me live my Country Mouse dream of running my own business.
So, thank you for my first 1000 online orders -here’s to the next 1000 orders. I wonder where the journey will take me too next.
If you have any ideas and suggestions or products, you would like me to stock please do let me know in the comments below. I’m on the lookout for summer ideas.
Thank you. Helen xxx.