Building a business is like entering an Ironman challenge that lasts for years: it’s fun until you hit the part where everything hurts. We all need inspiration at some point. One thing that inspires us is talking with other entrepreneurs who are passionate and driven. In this new series, Heels Down Media brings you the hard truths from entrepreneurs who are shaking up the equestrian industry. Teal Shoop saw an opportunity to create a new, improved version of a product that horsemen and women use daily: tack cleaner. Thus, Sterling Essentials was born.
HDM: In one sentence, what does your business do?
TS: Sterling Essentials manufacturers a line of natural, essential oil powered leather care products and is focused on developing and providing products that elevate the day-to-day equestrian experience.
HDM: What is one daily habit you have that helps you in business?
TS: I keep a notebook, and at the end of every day I write down my to-do list for the next day, complete with a check box alongside each to-do. This prep focuses me mentally on the next day and ensures that I at least start the next day with a plan, understand my priorities and have the resources I need in place to tackle the next day efficiently and without delay.
HDM: What was the turning point on your business journey?
TS: One of the most pivotal moments in our development was when I was able to “retire” from my corporate day job in order to apply myself to Sterling Essentials full-time. We had reached the juncture where growth would be impeded unless I was able to completely dedicate my time and effort. Being able to take this next step was very exciting and it has opened up a lot of doors for our products and our brand.
HDM: What business mistake you learned the most from?
TS: During our first year of business I invested a large amount of money in a webpage display ad with a prestigious equestrian publication thinking that the ad would create immediate interest in our brand because we were reaching our ideal audience and had the backing of a reputable magazine. I didn’t quite fully appreciate at the time the level and breadth of marketing and communication one needs to do in order to introduce a new brand and product. As you can imagine, our one time ad didn’t achieve the goals we had hoped and the ad put quite a dent in our budget without the reward of any return on that investment. As a start-up with a petite marketing budget, this instance taught us to think about marketing as a constant series of smaller – and more affordable – efforts rather than placing our marketing work into fewer, but more expensive, baskets.
HDM: Best advice you would give a young entrepreneur to grow their sales?
TS: Although it is tempting to want to grow very quickly and to try to force growth, young entrepreneurs should focus on organic, natural growth and the long game – strategies that will result in sustained growth and prosperity over years or decades. Do not be seduced by the opportunity to introduce your services or products to the market at greatly reduced prices in order to achieve a quick sales bubble, as this revenue bump will only be temporary and will often drop off radically once your customers see you raise your prices after the honeymoon period. Customers become wedded to prices very quickly and will establish and forever judge your value based on their first impression of your price. Therefore, make sure you price yourself at a sustainable price and a price that reflects the value of your services or products from the beginning.
Showing your customers and prospects that you are here to help them is a true way to build a bond between consumers and your brand and to grow your business. Illustrate your helpfulness and caring attitude by actually not pushing your products on consumers, but by providing educational tips, responding quickly to questions and inquiries, providing thoughtful, speedy, accurate, and supportive customer service, and by addressing and correcting any issues or complaints rapidly. Kindness and going the extra mile go a very long way, as customers have very long memories. Encourage customers to provide reviews, share your educational tips, and tell their friends and before you know it more and more consumers will be at your door.
HDM: What’s your favorite business book?
TS: No-Nonsense Advice for Successful Projects by Neal Whitten
HDM: Your motto is:
TS: Have a plan.