Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at Happy French Gang and how you got started?
Hello! Happy French Gang is a textile company I started in 2013 in San Francisco. We have a collection of textiles for your home that combines a French vision with California creativity. Everything is made by hand in our studio in San Francisco with a focus on texture and color.
We started our business by selling tie-dye blankets and pillows—many of which are still among our best sellers. Eventually we expanded with rugs, napkins, bedspreads, curtains, etc. We want to add a beachy, fresh, modern vibe to every home where our products are displayed.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
The biggest initial investment was of my time, as I was doing everything by myself and the process was still quite new. Because I was unsure of the demand for our products, I was making super small batches of blankets and pillows. Once I saw that there was a demand for my products, I gained more confidence and began making bigger batches each time.
We’ve expanded so much that many of our textiles are now crafted abroad—though they still handmade. So our ability to save money and time has definitely increased since I launched the business, but we’ve kept the important parts of our process the same.
How did you get your first sale?
I started my business on Etsy, then switched to Bigcartel, then to WIX and finally to Shopify! My first sale was a completely random customer who happened to find me on Etsy.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
Since I don’t come from the fashion or design industry, I initially encountered many obstacles and challenges! I started out as an engineer and switched to the textile industry after five
years in the engineering industry. I’m an autodidact and learned everything myself—from dyeing fabric to using photoshop or doing marketing. It’s a lot of work, but very rewarding.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
Shopify is the best platform for accessing my favorite widgets and managing items and collections. At one point I had over 100 items and just couldn’t manage them well on the other platforms. So I made the switch to Shopify and it totally fits my needs.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
It wasn’t the first website I had built from scratch, so it was super easy. In 24-hours everything was ready. The most time-consuming part was uploading pictures of products to the website.
But my website is always evolving, it’s not static. I continue to add a new features, change the color, modify the layout, etc. I’ve found that doing it this way keeps it fresh, both for my customers and for me.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business?
Privy: Helps with building a database of emails. It’s free and creates pop up on the web page to make people sign in to receive discounts.
Mailchimp: Awesome, most important app! I was using it before starting with Shopify, but now can connect it directly to the website. It’s the best way to reach out to customers. Plus you can segment your customers and make specific newsletters for retailers, interior designers, etc.
AdRoll: Not currently in use, but I am planning to use it in the next few weeks to expand my marketing efforts to a broader audience.
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Happy French Gang?
I try to be active on Instagram, which seems to be the best social media platform for my products so far. Organizing pop up shops locally in San Francisco where we are based, going to trade shows, etc. have also been helpful strategies for growing my audience.
I have used ads on Facebook sparingly in the past, but I am planning to try more online ads soon. Pop up discount codes on my website is another strategy I use to gain more leads from visits to the site.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
Instagram has been a super effective platform for reaching customers and interacting with my audience. Local shows are really great for connecting with people as well.
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
30% of my sales come from shows (direct contact with customers), 40% from retailers, 30% from my webshop. 23% are returning customers. Our main customers are based in USA (mostly in San Francisco Bay Area, as well as New York City). Two thirds of our social media referrals come from Instagram.
It’s also great that we can check on Shopify theme on mobile devices. One of my priorities is to be sure that the webshop is well-designed for mobile.
Sales by traffic source: Direct: 85%, Social Media: 15%. We could bring in way more people if we were working more consistently on social media, so we need to improve that. Online store visits by device type: Mobile: 52%, Desktop: 37 %, Tablets: 1%.
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
We have an awesome, unique, high-quality product. People love the quality of our products and the uniqueness of the brand, so they tend to come back.
What are you working towards now? Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
One of our biggest areas of focus right now is expanding our email marketing. Online classes with Udemy have also been very helpful during the process.
Based on your own success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting out with Shopify (or with eCommerce in general)?
My advice: I lost my time to creating websites on other platforms. If I had to do it again, I would just start on Shopify and save myself some time and hassle!
Great advice! Where can we learn more?
~ Sandra Dejanovic, Founder Happy French Gang