Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at Mirza Swim and how you got started?
My name is Ivy Rashid and I’m the Founder of Mirza Swim, an ecommerce boutique selling luxury swimwear, accessories, and eco-friendly / cruelty free beauty products. I launched the store in 2015, during the Thanksgiving holiday rush. I was working on it as my side hustle while I had a day job in the advertising industry.
The idea came to me when I was pinning swimsuits on Pinterest as inspiration for my next vacation. I was working a lot and it gave me something to look forward to. After researching the market I realized a lot of the swimwear brands were local to Los Angeles, and being a newbie to the city I started making connections with these brands face to face. I went to showrooms in Downtown LA and attended Swim Collective to meet with sales reps or the designers themselves.
When I started, I was on a mission to provide women with products from small and independent brands that were owned and operated by women. I felt the need to support more female entrepreneurs in the business world, which helps us all in the end. I also saw the need for eco-friendly and sustainable luxury products for women who are like me. They want to live as conscious and responsibly as possible and make a minimal impact on the earth, but not sacrifice style in the process.
A lot of us want to rely less and less on fast fashion and more on quality products that are better for the planet. We’ve added more eco-friendly and cruelty free brands to our store to do what we can!
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
It took contacting a lot of brands and showing them a demo of what the site would look like to get them to take a chance on me. You also have a tough time negotiating minimum orders or dropshipping deals when you are first starting out. It’s basically impossible, so you will need some capital to invest in your stock right away. It was not easy, but with persistence and determination I was able to secure a handful of luxury designers for my launch.
Most brands don’t want to risk working with a company just getting started, so I’m grateful for all my launch partners for taking that chance on me. Now I’m able to secure pretty much any brand I want to work with because I’ve had the time to develop my presence online as a trusted brand myself. The majority of my inventory is in-house, but I do have a few dropshipping deals in place with designers who are flexible and have the capabilities to do so.
How did you get your first sale?
I was lucky enough to have supportive friends who saw my store launch on social media channels such as Facebook and purchased products from my store in the beginning. I was able to test out processing orders, shipping, fulfillment, and even returns and exchanges early on so I could set up the right apps to make it a smooth process for people who didn’t know me or my store.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
There are ups and downs when it comes to any business, especially when you’re running things solo in the beginning. You need to stay in the game even when sometimes you want to give up. There will be days when you’re less motivated, but you’ll need to push through and get things done. There will be times that are discouraging, but you’ll need to stay positive and keep going.
You learn a lot along the way about the business and yourself. Testing and experimenting helps you figure out what’s successful for your business as something that works from someone else might not work for you. It’s all about learning and tweaking so I recommend reading a lot and exposing yourself to things that are inspiring to stay motivated.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
I researched all the ecommerce platforms and kept coming back to Shopify. I loved that you were able to plug in apps from developers to customize the store to your liking or make running the business smoother.
There were a lot of great themes to work with and if you are technically savvy enough to customize the code on the backend, you’re able to have a unique store without the need to hire web developers. The platform is user friendly and the company really cares about their small and independent merchants.
It’s a community and we have a place to learn and share ideas.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
Because I had built Wordpress blogs before, it was pretty intuitive for me to setup my store quickly. You can do a mass import of products if you can organize it on a spreadsheet. Making the store visually appealing with the right kind of imagery and graphics was a fun challenge for me, as I’m into photography and graphic design.
One thing I wish I had known then was the importance of SEO and building my audience on social media before I launched the store. Getting people to the store is the most important aspect of getting that conversion.
Sales were slow in the beginning and picked up once I started optimizing my meta descriptions, titles, alt tags, and building my audience on social.
Using other sales channels such as Pinterest Buyable Pins, Amazon, Ebay, and Google Shopping (which are now all seamlessly integrated within Shopify) has helped a lot too.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business?
My marketing apps are probably the most important apps for my business, but they all have their purpose and I like to test out new apps to see if it helps run my business better.
Kit and Ping are my virtual assistants for quickly creating marketing assets for social media posts on Facebook and Instagram, sending thank you emails to new customers, and sending one-off marketing emails when I have new arrivals.
MailChimp to build my email list, setup email campaigns, send out abandoned cart emails, etc…
Gatsby for my micro-influencer program
Order Printer for printing invoices and packing slips
Returnly for processing returns and exchanges
Minifier for image size optimization
Partial.ly for customer installment payment plans
Refersion for my affiliate marketing program
Wishlist Plus for a customer wishlist
Lookbook by EVM to create shoppable lookbooks
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Mirza Swim?
We are working every day to build out our presence on social media as this is a powerful way to connect with our existing audience as well as build awareness with new audiences. Part of that plan is to work with more influencers and build credibility in the space.
We’re also working on a national sweepstakes campaign where we are partnering up with like-minded brands to offer some amazing products to our collective audience!
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
We try to connect and interact with our customers at every touch point. On the website, we are trying different formats of shopping such as lookbooks and style guides. We send out email newsletters informing our customers of new arrivals, discounts, holiday sales and giveaways.
We have branding on our packaging and include ‘thank you’ postcards with free samples for purchasing from us. We want to provide our customers with the quality and value that they are looking for shopping at an independent boutique and exceeding their expectations.
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
Sure! Our total sales have increased by 497% when compared to last year at this time.
Online store visits have gone up 34% since last year this time.
We’ve seen an 8% increase in returning customers.
Direct visits have increased by 105% and our organic search has increased by 414%.
That’s amazing! What are you working towards now? Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
It takes time to develop a brand that we can all be proud of. We are taking the ‘slow and steady’ approach. It’s important for us to find the right brands to partner with and provide quality products to our customers that delight them. We are working towards adding more cruelty free and eco-friendly brands to our store and that is our main goal.
As for blogs and other resources, I love reading the newsletters Shopify creates. They not only provide a lot of useful information, but also keep you thinking about your next goal/tactic to incorporate into your store. There is always room to learn new things when it comes to business and staying competitive. We also love Built with Shopify! It’s great to see what your fellow store owners are up to, their stories are inspiring and relatable.
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)?
Learn the tool, whether that is Shopify or another ecommerce platform. Don’t just hire someone to build your site. It’s so important to know how the backend works because you’ll want to be in there everyday working on your business. When you are large enough you can hire and train others to use it and know exactly where things are.
Ecommerce platforms are becoming easier for people to set up shop, but that doesn’t mean the store will be successful. You will really need to be savvy with your digital marketing, social media, graphic design, business development, merchandising, and finance. You need to have a product(s) that people want to buy. Researching and testing are key for the success of your business.
Ecommerce is the future of how we shop and the retail landscape in general. You are getting on the ground floor to learn how to run an ecommerce business right now so take a chance and just do it!
That’s fantastic advice - thanks so much for sharing. Where can we learn more about Mirza Swim?
~ Ivy Rashid, Founder of Mirza Swim