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Have friends, will sell

Read how these three entrepreneurs grew their businesses by tapping the social networking boom
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Want to set-up shop but don’t have the resources for it? Even in that aspect, the internet has a number of answers to anyone who knows an opportunity when he sees it, one of which is the popular networking website, Multiply.com

Multiply.com is just one of the many social networking sites, but differentiates itself by emphasizing more on photo albums, blogging, and video storage, rather than giving priority to networking.Internet users with an entrepreneurial spirit quickly recognized a potential avenue where they could sell their wares and services, sans the hassle of securing permits and slogging through paperwork.

Entrepreneur.com.ph recently spoke to three such people: Kathleen Uy Lianko owner of Bling Finds (blingfinds.multiply.com ), Josephine Chu owner of iPrints (iprints.multiply.com ), and Mina Felix-Mejia owner of Tiny Footprints (tinyfootprints.multiply.com ). Bling Finds specializes in unique glam rock apparel and accessories; iPrints offers personalized gift tags, notepads, sticker labels and desk calendars, while Tiny Footprints specializes in creating personalized products such as bag tags, stickers, stationery and compact mirrors.

Here they share how they started and how Multiply.com has made their business dreams a reality.

Entrepreneur.com.ph: How did you start your business in Multiply?  

Kathleen: When I was younger, I already had the passion in business and fashion. I was an aspiring designer back then in 2006, when I was still a senior in high school, I then decided to create my own shop.

Josephine: I'm a preschool teacher by profession.  I was working part time and was also taking up my masters in Early Childhood at De La Salle University when I started with iPrints.  In 2007, I made some desk calendars as gifts to friends.  I like personalized stuff and enjoy giving them out to friends.   I made several designs and wanted my friends to choose which one they preferred so I posted them on Multiply.

Mina: Every year since 2004, I help make year-end videos for the pre-school where I used to teach.  I wanted to specialize in those kind of videos--- thus, Tiny Footprints --- The videos are like tiny footprints left to remember their classmates and their childhood years in that school. So when I started my Multiply site, I wanted to offer both printing and video editing.  But later on, I dropped the editing because the printing drew clients faster.

Entrepreneur.com.ph:  What made you decide to sell via Multiply?

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Kathleen: Back then (2006), Multiply users increased as well as the vast demand for online sellers. Multiply particularly is one the easiest and hassle-free to shop! I personally shopped internationally online, so I thought: why not create my own shop?

Josephine:
Signing up an account in Multiply is free. It is easy to use and has features that make it possible to sell online.

Mina: A co-teacher of mine suggested it because she said she was part of the Ateneo group [in Multiply] and she saw a lot of sellers there. So she encouraged me to also post there.

Entrepreneur.com.ph: How did you set-up your store in multiply?

Kathleen: I did everything myself, really. You just have to explore. Also with the help of my friends who are in the same field as mine.

Josephine:
Setting up the store was done in small steps.  At first, we only accepted bank deposits as the mode of payment.  Later on, due to some request from customers, we decided to accept payment through G-Cash as it was more convenient for them.  Utilizing the order form also made the ordering process more efficient.  Customers need to fill up specific details about their order and this will be sent to us through email. 

Another important aspect in setting up the store is how to get the goods to the customers.  Courier companies play a major role in making online shopping possible.  When the volume of orders started to pick up, it became necessary to set up a set of rules or "terms of conditions" for your customers to understand.  This eliminated possible misunderstandings and made the ordering process smoother.

Mina: I took pictures of my products then I had Ann of Design.Create.Art -- also a Multiply user -- design my site.  Through other sellers' sites, I got ideas on which courier to use and modes of payment and free forms for orders.  The convenience of just receiving payment through bank deposit and G-Cash was perfect. And couriers that just come to pick up the package was another bonus for online sellers like me. 

Entrepreneur.com.ph: How are your sales since you started your store in Multiply?

Kathleen:
Thankfully, we’ve been getting positive feedback. Over the years, our consumers increased as well as the orders we’re getting.

Josephine:
In the beginning, sales were slow.  During that time, people were just testing the waters of online shopping.  If there was no feedback on your site, people were hesitant to try and make a purchase.  At that stage, it is critical that your customers are happy about your product or service.  Happy customers are the best advertisers after all.  I got a lot of referrals from satisfied customers who recommended me to their friends.  That started the ball rolling...Presently, sales are steady but we expect to peak during the "-ber" months because of Christmas.

Mina: The peak is Christmas season.  And [also] now because it's the start of classes.  Every now and then I get bulk orders.  I've had a few orders from other countries, which I think I won't reach if it weren't for multiply.

Entrepreneur.com.ph: What tips can you give to other people who are thinking of selling via Multiply?

Kathleen: Business ethics is vital. It’s not just about selling but building good relation with clients. Most important is, never ever fool a customer. There are a lot of bogus buyers and sellers out there! Precaution is necessary before transacting.

Josephine: Try to give the best service you can to your customers. Providing clear photos and descriptions of your products is also important; especially since they are the only basis where customers will depend on in making a purchase.  Regularly respond to inquiries and orders. This is your responsibility as an online shop owner.

Mina: I see more pros than cons in selling through Multiply.  I get to transact with people for other parts of the Philippines and the world.  But please look for tips from other sellers that were already victims of bogus buyers.  I’m quite lucky that I haven’t encountered one.
 

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