Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Personalized Gifts Made By Hand with Tons of Heart

Name of your company and URL?

The Younique Boutique, inc.

Date officially launched?

December 2001

What is your product or service?

Custom bridal accessories and personalized gifts for special occasions

Why did you start your company?

Photo Quilts

After September 11, I lost my software interface design job and decided it was time to work for myself. I had spent almost 10 years in the technology industry which was dominated by men and it was very hard to be move up the ladder and be given any real responsibility. I wanted very badly to be my own boss and call the shots myself. Plus, I love making things and felt this was the perfect space for me.

How was it financed ?

I started with about $800 in savings and a ceramic kiln. I did the entire web site myself (and still do) and made most of the first products we offered with the help of my mother.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

Google analytics is critical for any ecommerce business and it is crucial that it is configured correctly for transactions. The insights we have been able to make based on actual data is sometimes very startling and it helps us to make business decisions on a monthly basis.

We use Facebook to stay in touch with our past customers, remind them of special promotions, host giveaways and launch new products.


Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or ?

We use Facebook

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

We have a staff of 5 full time employees including my mother, myself and my husband. The other two employees have been with for over four years and are considered members of the family.

What is the best advice you never got?

Start with a business plan and company mission and stick by it through thick and thin. Ten years later, we are just now starting to be able to very well define what our business model is and which direction we want to move it.

Over the years, I have moved in several directions that proved to be a waste of time. I think most small business owners would say the same – there is a lot of trial and error with company direction and product development – but I think a solid framework of who we are and what we want to become would have served as a guide for me over the years.

Cake Topper

What almost killed your business in the start?

We are largely reliant on Google traffic for our success and major changes in the algorithm can majorly affect our sales. We have been through so really bad times but we have stuck it out and our hard work and determination has paid off.

What is the one thing that you did right?

I created a business that I really truly enjoy working at. I’m not always feeling extremely inspired and I don’t always have tons of motivation but most of the time, I enjoy being at work and overall, I find a great deal of passion for the work I do.

Even in the toughest economy, we are proud that we are making something that is important and sentimental for other families.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

I constantly have to push myself further as the CEO of this company and sole decision maker. Our success or failures are firmly riding on my back and I am well aware of this. We don’t always have the operating budget to hire expert help and in most cases, I feel like only the owner has the invested interest to make the best decisions for the company anyway. I have had to become a web programmer, a search engine marketer and a manufacturer over the years.

Are you currently in the black or red?

We have never had to borrow any money in our 10 year history. We are completely self sustainable.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

We direct 100% of our marketing efforts to search engine marketing and nothing else. We feel that our efforts in this area are the most self serving as the traffic driven is the most targeted and the efforts spent only become more successful with time. We have never had a pay-per-click campaign and with the exception of one magazine ad I took out years ago, we have never spent a dime on advertising.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

That’s such a hard question. For me and my family, success is not measured in revenue but rather in quality of life and the time we have to spend together. Ideally, I would like to hire one more full time employee that could take over some of my day to day responsibilities just so that I could take off more time to travel. But, with a 2 year old son and baby due in October, we don’t see a lot of travel in our future anyway.

Every day, I wake up excited to start my day and I have the luxury of taking of time whenever I want to. I am with my son every morning, he spends his afternoons at the office with his grandmother and I am home when he wakes up from his nap. That to me is true success.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

It’s hard to imagine our company run by anyone other than me since the majority of the products we create are touched personally by me or my mother. I think some aspects of the business could be run by other individuals. To be honest, I don’t really know what I would rather be doing and as a fairly young person, I have many years of hard work still in me. I don’t foresee selling the business in the near future.

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