Guest: Erin Shea
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Excited about you know, talking to Vistaprinting and of course you.
Erin: You too, I think it'll be great.
Ramesh: Yeah. So I think Adam and Erin, I would like to introduce Vistaprint as a leading online provider of marketing products and services to small businesses. Is that fine or is there anything else you want me to do?
Erin: No, I think that's appropriate.
Ramesh: And then Erin, I think you as a marketing director for North America for Vistaprint.
Ramesh: Okay. So good. All right, so we'll get started and then pretty much we will get into you know, the areas that you know, you really drive, which is the marketing for small businesses. And then we'll get into some of the study findings as well. And we want to take, you're welcome too. And [00:50 inaudible] you want to mention, okay. Thank you. Alright.
Hello everyone. Welcome to one more episode of the agile entrepreneur video cast and podcast. And this is your host Ramesh Dontha. Today, I am especially excited to talk to Erin Shea, who is the North America marketing director for Vistaprint. For I think almost all of you know about Vistaprint. Vistaprint is the leading online provider of marketing products and services to small businesses. And in full disclosure, I am a customer of Vistaprint. Every time I do my business cards routinely, I go there and then, so without thinking, so they gave me so much flexibility. So that's what I do. And then that's where I start as a customer and
then I go into some other areas as well. Erin, welcome.
Erin: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Ramesh: I know I introduced Vistaprint, but in your own words what is Vistaprint do and then especially what you do for Vistaprint?
Erin: Sure. Vistaprint is a company that's been around for over 20 years now and we are so proud to say that we've helped over 17 million small businesses really live their small business dreams. We started out as a startup, a small business of our own, and then have kind of grown to an international company. But small businesses have always and will always be our full passion. And it's why we kind of come into workday in and day out. We did start with sort of business cards as our core product. And then as small businesses have evolved, and the customers' needs have evolved we have expanded our assortment into a number of different printed marketing materials. So everything from so, your flyers and your brochures, your signage, and then of course, into digital. So websites, search engine marketing, and then of course design services.
Ramesh: Oh, excellent Erin. So how long have you been with Vistaprint?
Erin: I have been with Vistaprint for a wonderful 10 years. And I find that you know, I'm so passionate about partnering with small businesses day in and day out.
Ramesh: So in the 10 years, I mean, I can't imagine, but you must have talked to so many small businesses. So if I could start off with one question in the small business marketing, what are the things as small business like a successful small businesses do versus a small business that don't do too well? so what different it makes.
Erin: Sure. So I am a big proponent of really focusing in on where the value is for your small business. And so I think we see this, we find this tendency to juggle all the balls in the air and to do a ton of different things. And what I think is really the difference between success and sort of feeling daunted around your small business is really kind of choosing those top two or three things that you think are most valuable for your business. And that could be anything. I think that could be from expanding your assortment. It could be from you know, reaching a larger network. I think you really have to define what those things are and then do fewer and do them better. And I find that really drives success.
Ramesh: Oh, okay. So fantastic. Actually, I mean, I like that I myself, I'm a small business owner. While getting started, that was the biggest struggle that I had because I felt that I had to do so many different things and then, and not doing anything well. So you have seen that or the successful business owners, they focus on few things and then they do them well.
Erin: Yes, absolutely. And I find that if you start with what you are most passionate about, the answer of what will drive the value becomes so much easier to define. So I think a lot of times with small businesses, and I see this every day, you have started your small business for a reason, and you really want to make sure that your customers and the people that you're getting in front of understand what that reason is.
Ramesh: So Erin, let me just segue a little bit into the small business, how they get started. So I did mine as a side hustle. I was working full time for a company. In your experience, have you seen people start this small businesses just as a full-time business or more and more people are doing this in a hobby as a side business? Can you talk a little bit about how this is working?
Erin: Absolutely. So Vistaprint, at Vistaprint we did a recent study of 2000 full time employed people and we found that you know, just over about 25% of people currently have a side hustle business or and then those that don't over more than half of them feel like in the future they want to do that. And so the side hustle or the part time business is really something, of course it's been
around for a while, but we are seeing this trend emerge more and more over time. And the interesting thing that I think is that we are really seeing it be very prevalent in sort of these younger generations. And so your gen Z and your millennials they are very excited to kind of start with these side hustles.
Ramesh: That is actually, it's an astounding number. You're talking about 25% started a side hustle and 55% or so want to do it. So I'm looking at seven out of 10 or eight out of 10 people really want to get into this space.
Erin: Yes, absolutely. And I think we found that that was for a number of different reasons. So you know, one reason of course is from a monetary perspective. And so one of the things we found is that the average side hustle does make about $15,000 a year. And so that's additive income to your full-time employment. And so that's really one of the drivers that we're seeing. I think additional ones are back to that passion, that hobby that people have. And so they want to start to think about how I could turn this hobby into, you know, a business for myself. They want to make it part of more of their day to day life and bring that to others as well.
Ramesh: So Erin, I'm very fascinated now with looking at the numbers. So, but of the 25% who started this as a side hustle, do they tend to keep this as a side business or at some point they become comfortable with the business that they will completely switch over?
Erin: Yeah, I think you're hitting on one of the most, you know, interesting things there, which is a side hustle is a really you know, a bit of a lower risk way to start into this small business arena. And so what that allows people to do is to kind of put one foot in and say, can I make this into something bigger? And so we do find that, you know, there's a huge array. Some people want to keep their business as a side hustle, but there is a huge portion of people who want to grow this over time. And so starting out as a side hustle allows them to figure out how they want to grow their company in the future.
Ramesh: So actually I had a chance to look at your study. And another number that caught my attention is that some sizable number of people who start the side hustle are making more than what people make as a minimum wage. It's like other minimum salary or the household income. So I think, I don't remember exactly, but it's at 25,000 or whatever. That's a pretty decent number.
Erin: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that we in the Vistaprint study we were, you know, really surprise and happy to see that as well. I think, again, it just speaks to the importance of side hustles and starting this journey.
Ramesh: Okay. So Erin in your job then do you, when you try to market to the small businesses, are you in the distinction, how do I market to people who have the business, small business and are completely, versus people who have this business as a side, like, do you have different marketing strategies that you implement to reach the solopreneurs or a mompreneurs and that kind of force versus people who have the business as their full time business?
Erin: Sure. It's a great question. I think what we find is that there are many types of businesses, so as you mentioned, side hustlers, full time, mompreneurs, etc. But there's a common thread there that they all have. And even if it's a small portion of their day as a side hustle may be, we suggest that you really try to treat that as a full-time business. And what I mean by that is again, it goes back to what are those things that are going to drive the most value. And so at this department, we're certainly partnering with all sorts of businesses at all times, but we find that that core need and the core partnership that we're able to provide is very consistent to that passion across all businesses.
Ramesh: Yeah. So one of the things I always admired about Vistaprint is their marketing, right. So I mean because the reason, there are lots of other options of our business cards or whatever, but I can't tell you exactly, but whether I'm surfing or whatever, I come across Vistaprint for my small business needs. So I mean, what are the channels that you use to reach the entrepreneurs?
Erin: Sure. We want to be where our customers are. So we want to make it easy for small businesses to reach out to Vistaprint and to shop Vistaprint. And so we use an array of different channels from both offline and online. You know, when you search, we want to be available for you. We want that findability piece there. Certainly on more of like TV and radio and also social. So we do believe that, you know, people these days they are on their phones. And they are constantly you know, looking for inspiration. And so Vistaprint definitely wants to be available to our customers in that arena. And the other thing I would say is, you know, that is also advice we would give small businesses as well. So you definitely want to be where your customers are. I think social is a really great place where again, there are so many eyeballs on it and there's just a huge opportunity for small businesses there. It's also tends to a bit more of a cheaper channel. So depending on what your marketing budget is, I think social is a great Avenue.
Ramesh: That's great Erin. So another segment where I'm always fascinated by people's, you know, their lives, their careers. If you don't mind, if you could talk a little bit about you, many times for many people that aren't comfortable. I hope you are a little bit, so what has been your career progression? Like have you switched around in different roles. If you could say a bit about Erin Shea, how did she come to where she is right now?
Erin: Sure, absolutely. So I have always been in marketing. I started out kind of doing a bit more on an internal marketing perspective for businesses and kind of really involved into more of what we do today, which is working with small businesses. I grew up with a mother who was a small business owner and a really strong female entrepreneur. And so I'm really passionate about you know, making sure that that feeds into my day to day. And so when I'm thinking about marketing for Vistaprint, I'm thinking about what the customer needs, what small business needs are out there and how can we sort of help and partner with small businesses.
Ramesh: I see. Have you always been in this niche, in this area of a marketing to small businesses? Have your switch around industries now switched around functions since you graduated from college?
Erin: Yeah, so I have switched around a little bit. I used to kind of be in more of a sports, in the more of the support’s arena. But for a long time I've been in the small business arena and that's really where I'm passionate. Again, I think that, that it's so close to home for me. Just having been, you know, helping seen, you know, my mother as she started her business and how important it was to really create, you know, a forum or create marketing collateral where her business vision could come to light.
Ramesh: If you don't mind me asking, what kind of a business did she have?
Erin: Sure. She was an interior designer. So she worked on the commercial spaces and also personal home spaces. And again if you think about that type of work. She had such a vision for the spaces and for her clients. And she also had a vision for her small business. And so she spent a lot of time kind of hemming and hawing about you know, what was the right name for her business, what was the right logo? And I do think about, you know, back in the day when she first started, Vistaprint was not around. And I think about how much time and effort she had to spend trying to translate that into her brand. And I think about, you know, had Vistaprint been around that partnership could have been such an, it's so helpful for her from a timesaver and also from you know, from a value perspective. I think that that's another thing that Vista primp brings to the table.
Ramesh: Wow Erin you're lucky. You had a first experience without having started a business, but an experience of, you know, somebody who in the household who started the business. So you could go through the ins and outs and then you had a bird's eye view of the problems and opportunities. That's a very good.
Erin: Yeah, and it's wonderful too because I have just such distinct memories. I can recall, you know, the first time that she got her business cards and it was such a moment for us, again, like I think she had really spent the time and effort to figure out what that should look like and how she wanted to present herself to her prospective clients. And so when we got that, it was a celebratory thing. We
all felt like she was on the cusp of something really exciting.
Ramesh: Wow. So I'm in like, you could really connect entrepreneurs. I mean, I could see the enthusiasm, the passion that the excitement that you saw. So I mean you really know what an entrepreneur is feeling and thinking when you are actually marketing to them.
Erin: Yes. Because not only did I grow up with it, but here at Vistaprint, we're constantly talking to our customers. We want to know what the new trends are, we want to know what they need, and we want to kind of solve that need for them. And so it's part of our day to day here.
Ramesh: Great. So Erin, so this is the last segment. I would like to talk a little bit about entrepreneurs themselves. What kind of advice would you give based on your experience of dealing with so many entrepreneurs? So let's take two different classes of entrepreneurs. One is somebody in your study also said about 30%, didn't know where to start, right? So if I'm a person always wants to earn some money or do something and I don't know where to start, is there any advice that you could give?
Erin: Absolutely. I think, you know, the passion there is so important. And so I think you need to think about what you are trying to accomplish. Is it, you know, what is your business and what do you want to stand for? And once you figure it out that, I would say really invest in trying to figure out how do you communicate that to your prospective clients. And so spending time at the very beginning and saying, what is my vision? How do I, how do I want to bring this to life is so important. And I think you can do that at the very beginning with little to no money. I think you just have to sit there and think, what do I want this to become? And then from there I would say you really want to invest in your brand identity.
Erin: And so the look and feel, your logo. It's so important to have something that really speaks to your business. And so you can kind of weave that into your
marketing collateral. So examples of that could be, if you are a new bakery starting, you know, you want to make sure that your marketing, if I'm looking at a brochure that you have at your business, I'm looking at that and I want to try that cupcake. I want to try that donut. So it should really speak for you. And again, that's half the battle. I think the second part of that of course is I think we would remiss if we don't mention financials. So really, I think you need to step back and say what is your comfort level in terms of investment here. And so again, this kind of leads back to the side hustle story where we can say, you know, if it's a small investment that you're willing to start with at first, start with the side hustle. There's nothing wrong with that. I think that's really exciting. You can kind of get your feet wet, you can see what you know, what customers you're willing to drive and what that looks like and then grow it over time.
Ramesh: Excellent. So now the second class of entrepreneurs. So I'm somebody who started, and I believe that the first year is probably the most critical, crucial year. And also the first initial customers are the most important customers. So what are the things, me as an entrepreneur now I have an idea. I know what I want to do. So I've invested something, I got it off the ground. What are the things that I should be focusing on during the first year?
Erin: Use your network. There's so much power in who you know and other small businesses around you. And so I would say focus on, you know who those people are and really trying to turn them into an engaged customer base for you. And again, I would say after that, really focused on keeping them coming back for more. And so to your point, you mentioned that those first customers are so important. I completely agree. How do you get them to keep coming back to your business I think is really important?
Ramesh: Yeah. So referrals and those kinds of things. Testimonials keep building and keep thinking about them from right off the bat. And then the third phase is where now you got your feet on the ground. I mean many people say it's difficult to get the start, within three years a number of businesses fail or whatever. I'd say just survive first three years and you're good to go. So beyond the customer pipeline, financials you already talked about, are there any things that as a
business owner should think about for the long-term growth?
Erin: I think as a, you know, in general your business should be an umbrella. And so hopefully again it goes back to that original conversation around really establishing your brand. And so when we find that when you start out, you might start out with one particular product or one product line, but your brand, your small business should be an umbrella in the sense that once you know your customer really well, how do you sort of expand what your offering is. And so that could be another product line. It could be a new location or space. I think there's a lot of opportunity if you kind of think through the longer-term vision of what that could be from the very beginning.
Ramesh: So basically what you're saying is, Hey, don't be complacent just because something is working, thinking that it will continue to work, you know, maybe or maybe not. But start thinking about diversifying the clientele, diversifying your products and those are the areas that you're talking about.
21:35 Erin: Absolutely. we find that small business owners are so passionate, keep that going. Just because you're three years in that is the lifeblood. Like that is what should drive your day to day. And again once you do that, I think things start to fall into place. You can diversify your portfolio, your customer base, etc.
Ramesh: Excellent. So Erin, I can't believe that we covered so much ground already, talked about different classify entrepreneurs, your advice to them and then what they should be thinking about. So are there any areas that we have not covered but you think are important for anybody who's thinking of business?
Erin: I think again, I would just say think through what is most important to your business. And we touched a little bit about this but this changes, it evolves. And like we mentioned just before, you know, your business is going to change, the market is going to change, the needs of your customers is going to change. And so really well equip yourself to be able to be flexible and modify as needed.
Ramesh: Yeah. Actually I 100% agree with you and I call that an agile way of doing a business because you know, you start with something and then I spoke to hundreds of entrepreneurs as part of the podcast and almost 95% of them said where they are now is not where they started.
Erin: Absolutely. And where they are now is not where they're going to be in the future. And I think that's a really important thing to keep in mind.
Ramesh: So that knowing that, so don't try to be perfect in what you're trying to do now. Just get something out there, do something, learn from the experience and then continue doing what's working and then what's not working, then not focus it, but keep evolving, keep iterating. And then just don't stand on your feet thinking that it's going to be like this forever.
Erin: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Ramesh: Thank you very much for your time. I'm very excited again to talk to you and talk to Vistaprint as a company. So thank you very much.
Erin: Thank you so much for having me.