Maria Falconer picked up the domain name Rambles.com to base her business on. I love single word generic domains so I asked her a few questions about he choice and her business.
Mike: Tell me how you came across the domain name Rambles.com. Was it available to register or did you purchase it from someone else that owned it?
Maria: The url was being held by a ‘squatter’, someone who really had no intention of ever using it, but wanted to drive up the price on the domain and resell it (editor’s note: that is not a squatter). I tried to reach an agreement with the current owner one-on-one, but the numbers they were asking for were just outrageous. Just when I began to fear that I would have to choose a new domain name, I got word that rambles.com was being auctioned. I was extremely lucky in that the current owner chose a really fair brokerage/auction site to sell the domain. I managed to acquire the domain for a fraction of what the owner was asking. When the owner tried to back out of the deal, the auction firm made them stick to the agreement. I love Sedo!
Mike: Tell me why you chose that name and what it means to you.
Maria:My shop is really the ‘Seinfeld’ of online stores. There is really no ‘plot’.We have everything, but nothing specific. So, I wanted to choose a domain name with a little ambiguity. I do believe that life, like art, is journey (or ramble). I also wanted to convey that the story takes a myriad of really different, unrelated ideas and expresses them in jumble (like rambling). So, rambles.com just seemed perfect.
Mike: Can you tell me how many monthly visitors the site receives?
Maria: Just under 5000 and growing fast.
Mike: The site is an ecommerce site and contains a wide variety of products. Why did you choose not to focus on a specific niche? Has that worked to your advantage?
Maria: I wanted to cast a wider net. I know that my interests change from year to year and I bore very easily. So, I wanted to make certain that the site was constantly fresh and new. I want to continuously reinvent the site. I want our audience and customers to come to expect the unexpected. I want them to visit the website and say ‘Wow! That’s new! I’ve never seen anything like that before!’
Mike: What are some of the challenges you have faced as an online business owner?
Maria: Gosh, so many. I think the greatest challenge is building buzz. The internet is like one giant high school hallway. It’s a popularity contest. So, you really have to work at it. I really had to learn that the hard way. I had to learn that most people today spend very little time, relatively, ‘surfing’ the world wide web. Most people get on the internet with the intention of visiting a specific site. So, you need to catch them before they log on.
What people will never tell you is that creating buzz offline is absolutely vital to your survival online. So, you really have to build a great relationship with your local publications and reporters. Print advertising is just critical, but you have to careful. You can spend $2000 on print ad and not attract a single visitor.
Online advertising is hugely expensive. Building relevant traffic is even more expensive.
Building an air of accessibility for your company is key. Yet, finding the time to blog, tweet and update your Facebook status, all while trying to build your business, can be such a struggle.
I certainly haven’t conquered all of these obstacles yet. I’m learning as I ago.
Mike: Your page has quite a few Facebook likes. What other strategies do you use to promote the site and the business?
Maria: I tweet like mad. Unlike Facebook, I really haven’t found that Twitter has directly led to sales. However, its a good ‘awareness’ tool. I also blog. I advertise with Google. I also advertise on design and craft blogs. Currently, I’m trying align myself more closely with some of the local craft festivals. Making a name in the ‘real world’ will hopefully translate to sales online.
Mike: What advice would you have for someone looking to start an ecommerce site? What is required to do so?
Maria: I don’t think there will ever be another Amazon. We (people in general) just aren’t as enamored or in awe of the internet as we used to be. So, don’t have those types of expectations.
Unless you have a great deal of money to invest, plan on it taking about five years before you can say with any certainty whether or not you’re venture is a success.
Find out who your competition will be, realistically, and spend some time interviewing at least observing them. This can really help you adjust your goals and avoid pitfalls.
Get a mentor to guide you through the landmines of paperwork.
Overall, make sure that you love what you do. It’s been said many times before, but it’s true. If your hearts not in it, you won’t persevere through the tough times…and all businesses have tough times.