Getting your first sale is an exciting time for any eCommerce startup. Some must wait a few agonizing hours or even days before someone finally takes the plunge and presses the “checkout” button, while others are lucky enough to get that first sale within moments of launching their site to the world. For Annie Chapur, cofounder of candle company TAJA Collection, her first sale came before the company had even launched.
“We were lucky in that we got our first wholesale sale before we even knew how to make candles,” she says. Before she and her cofounder, Annabelle DeGrazio, launched their website or even perfected their method of making candles, they started an Instagram account. “We would take pictures of the same two sample candles we had in new and creative ways.”
While Chapur and DeGrazio worked to build a pre-launch social media following, they were also cultivating a brand and image around TAJA Collection. That paid off financially when a local boutique reached out through Instagram to place a wholesale order.
Today, just a year after they officially launched, that Instagram community has grown to over 10,000 followers and remains an important channel for showing off their brand.
The experience of Chapur and DeGrazio demonstrates that it’s possible to begin finding your customers even before you launch. Though their company sells a physical product (candles), the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version of TAJA Collection didn’t have to include any salable merchandise—it was just a social media account and a handful of photos. And that community building and branding work paid dividends when TAJA Collection officially launched, too.
“We sent out an email to our entire email list letting them know we were live,” says Chapur of launch day. They also put the word out on Facebook and Instagram, and got their first few orders that same day as a result of having already built a small following.
One of the most important lessons Chapur and DeGrazio learned is that you should never let perfect be the enemy of good. They could have waited until all their candle making supplies and inventory arrived. They could have spent weeks perfecting their brand image before showing anyone. They could have made sure they were fully stocked before launching. But instead, they got online and started talking about TAJA Collection before any of that other stuff was ready for prime time, and it paid off in a big way.
TAJA Collection’s experience proves the old startup adage that it’s never too early to build an audience. Even before you have a product to sell, you can put meaningful work into building a future customer base; and when you are ready to launch, don’t delay. Finding your customers and telling your brand story is more important than having a flawless website.
As Chapur says: “Set a deadline and just launch—it’s never going to be perfect!”