Before starting Sheet Society, Hayley Worley was working in the fashion industry. That background meant she was uniquely placed to rethink bed sheets. “I decided that I wanted to create a brand that enabled you to use your bed to express your own personal style, much like clothes,” she explains. So, in 2017 she launched Sheet Society, and through ecommerce and clever use of social media, Hayley has turned her small business idea – “a fashion take on sheets” – into a raging small business success story. Here, she shares her small business tips.
Growth Doesn’t Happen Overnight
In the beginning, there were a lot of days where I would focus on growth and get nowhere. It takes a while to get traction; that’s what I’ve learnt along the way. There have been no major setbacks, because any setback was learnt from, and I think we’ve been a little bit risk averse. We’ve made sensible decisions and that’s got a lot to do with my partner and I being co-CEOs in the business. I’m creative with brand and product and he’s very strategic with finance, so we’re able to look at things from both sides.
Business Priorities Will Change Over Time
There are different things that are important at different times. At the start, it was obviously the product and the brand that were really important. Then it was the marketing and getting the word out there. For a while, it was operations, and now, it’s community and culture and team. It’s important not to dwell on just one thing, but if you can identify what the business needs most at any given time, and focus on that one piece, that’s powerful.
Instinct Counts for a Lot
I didn’t have a business plan on paper but I had a feeling and I understood that fundamentally I was selling a product that people needed. We only did a business plan last year – four years in. I think, as the founder, there’s a lot to be said about your feeling, and sometimes that’s not able to be written out in a business plan and articulated clearly. But now that we’ve got so many staff, [I need to] articulate it, and tell everyone what the plan is and get them on the journey.
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Embrace New Ideas and New Technology
We’ve got a bed builder on our website that’s really cool. It’s a 3D render of a bed, and you’re able to add pillow cases, add a quilt cover and change up all the colours, because the idea behind the brand is that you can mix and match and that’s why we sell everything in separates. If you’re on the bed builder and you’ve designed your bed and you’ve got four pillow cases in different colours, a different quilt cover, a different fitted sheet and a different flat sheet, you’ve designed that. You can project it onto your bed. It’s so fun and I loved that we were able to build that here in Melbourne. It’s something I’m really proud of [but] it was a stab in the dark. A lot of business is like that: you’ve got to try things. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but when you do win, it’s really great.
Lean on Your Peers
I’ve been able to create a great network of peers through attending events and being involved in the community. I met one great person and they were always keen on introducing me to someone else and then another and so on. So whenever I’ve got a problem, or something new to solve, I’m able to just ask for help. I think that’s really important; a lot of small business owners, or startup businesses are really generous with their time because they understand. It’s such a community. By asking and learning and listening, you’re able to minimise any setbacks.
Make Sure the Business Is Profitable
There are a lot of stories out there about people investing their whole life savings in their business. Investing is important, but making sure that the business is profitable is really fundamental. That’s not saying it is profitable enough to buy a yacht, but just to afford to grow and invest in things that your business needs, like equipment and technology and staffing. If you don’t have a profitable business, unfortunately it can’t grow.
Understand All Aspects of Your Business
Early on, I remember going to an agency, asking them to help me out with a photo shoot and getting a quote for $20,000. So, I went out and did it myself instead, and by doing it myself, I could see where there was value and I figured out that I didn’t need the whole package: I probably just needed a photographer. I could do the sets and source the models and everything. By giving it a go, I think you understand what’s worth paying for and what’s not.
Use Digital Marketing to Your Advantage
It’s important for ecommerce brands to get across how digital marketing can help in terms of growth. We know exactly how much it costs to acquire a new customer, based on digital marketing, and so we’re able to factor that cost into the cost of doing business. For us, it’s a return on ad spend, so we’re able to dial up our marketing budget if we’re doing well, but also dial it back down.
Stay Open Minded
Give it a go. There are plenty of things out there: try different things. There are things I’ve tried that have flopped, but there are things that I tried that we still do today. It’s important to not be set in your ways and say “This is how we should be marketing or we should be selling”, or “This is what our product should look like”, or “This is who our customer is”. Try something new.