Tips for Becoming an Online Entrepreneur: Selling Custom Robes

Today's I Want to Be features Sandy Donovan, who is a online shop owner, part-time communication instructor and full-time mom of a three year old boy. She lives in fabulous Las Vegas, NV, but will always consider Pennsylvania, and her alma mater - Penn State - “home.”  Find out how to connect with Sandy at the end of this article.

How long have you had your business?

I officially opened Get Unrobed in June of 2013 - so, about 8 months now. However, I really didn’t start making consistent sales until I moved platforms in August of 2013. It was kind of like a grand re-opening. Or, a re-do as I like to call it :)
What led you to pursue it?

The main reason for starting an online shop was the goal that I had set of homeschooling my son. When I decided to do this, he was 2 ½ (3 at the time of opening). I knew that it might take a while to build the business, and I wanted to give myself some time before he was school aged. I am a single mom and need to both provide and nurture. This means I need to look for a source of income that frees both my time and provides the money needed to support the lifestyle I want. I needed a business model that didn’t have me trading time for money, because as a single mom, I didn’t have that time to trade. Owning an online shop seemed like the most logical solution.

Are you full time or part time?  If part-time, do you anticipate switching to full time?

Right now, I am basically a part-time everything. It is my goal to eventually allow my online businesses to fully support me. I am really lucky to have a day job that allows a lot of flexibility. I am a part-time communication instructor, so there are lots of breaks for holidays and time during the day to sit down at a computer and work here and there. So, it is working out at the moment. What is really nice about having an online shop is that I don’t have to do something every single day. I can block out time during the week to work on a particular task, but that task will benefit the business for a long time. For example, I use AWeber to set up my auto-responder email. It took me a few hours one day, but I won’t have to touch it again until I want to make a change. This lets my website work full-time while I work part-time at my day job, or while I spend time with my son.

How do you market your business?

I don’t have a large marketing budget, so I mainly rely on an SEO plan to put my website in front of my target audience. Basically, I selected 3 keywords related to my products that I thought I could rank for on Google. I now work to build backlinks to my site, using those keywords. I do this by writing articles on other people’s site and by allowing bloggers to review my products on their site. Both of these options are great because they not only help my site climb high in Google rankings, but also expose Get Unrobed to new audiences.

What is your favorite part of the business?

I have learned a lot about myself since I started Get Unrobed. One of those things is that I am a “starter.” This means that I love to initiate projects and find new and more efficient ways to do things. That is the side of having an online shop that I love. I get to initiate change and start new projects whenever I can. It is fun! It is also a great creative outlet as I would otherwise be limited to toddler activities. :)

What one question do you get most from people about your business? 

“Do you actually make any sales?” - I think that for some people, the idea of working online is still a bit unrealistic. I’ve actually had friends say to me, “Wow, that is so cool that you decided to do that! I never could because I’m too much of a realist.” :) The reality is, e-commerce is alive and well. There is a lot of opportunity for growth, and the business model actually isn’t too far from traditional brick and mortar stores but comes with much less of a start-up cost.

What one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about the work you do?

I would like to dispel the myth that those who work from home/online are less than ambitious.

My all time favorite show is Sex and the City. In an episode, Miranda is complaining about the lack of good men left in the city (surprise). She complained that the last guy she dated sold socks on the internet. They laughed. I thought, “Oh my goodness! That is me!!! I sell robes on the internet… not much of a difference!”

What I gathered from that scene is that the internet-sock man was looked at as either shady, lazy or pathetic. I’m not sure. But, it certainly wasn’t a positive comment!

However, owning an online shop is a legitimate opportunity to generate income, and there are so many opportunities for growth that simply aren’t present in a lot of jobs. In meeting other online shop owners, I can say that most are very hard working, ambitious and innovative people.

What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity?

I suggest planning thoroughly, but swiftly. Understand first who you are serving and what problem those people are experiencing. Once you understand that, developing a plan to solve that problem becomes easier. After that, take action immediately to solve that problem for a select few. This will give you a really good idea as to the process you’ll need to create to make the business successful in the long run, and whether or not it is possible and desirable for you. You might not make much by helping those first few people, but you’ll have a clear vision moving forward.

What is the first step? 

As mentioned above, the first step is understanding who your audience is and the problems they experience. Take time on this step. Write it down. Talk to people. Find these people online, in real life, wherever you can. Understand what motivates them, what they fear, what they are frustrated with, where they go for this product or service already (if they even do go somewhere for it).

As you gather information, create a profile of your ideal customer. This is called an avatar. Everything you do going forward will be for this one, ideal person and it will make all of your marketing, product development, blog posts, emails and branding just that much easier.

What you don’t want to do first is worry about all of the technical aspects (building a website, sourcing product, creating a logo, etc.). There is information about all of that online. and when it is time to do it, you can learn. Just know that there are inexpensive and very user friendly options. If you do this first, you’ll spin your wheels and end up having to redo a lot once you actually do figure out who your customer is.

What websites or books do you recommend for tips?

I found a lot of really good information from the blog, My Wife Quit Her Job by Steve Chou. I eventually joined his class, How to Create a Profitable Online Store, and that is where I learned exactly how to build a website, source product, market my products, etc. I knew next to nothing before I joined.

I also found a lot of inspiration from the website/podcast, Entrepreneur on Fire by John Lee Dumas. I honestly don’t think I would have moved forward without this podcast. As much of the step-by-step information that Steve provided in the course, John complimented that with daily motivation. I needed a lot of both.

As for books, I always like to recommend one that I am currently reading (I think I have a short term memory when it comes to reading). So, I’ll recommend the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It really is a great book to read before you jump into owning an online business (or any business). It helps you put your ducks in a row so you can build an efficient and sustainable business right from the get go.

You can visit Sandy's shop and check out the kimono robe selection or connect with her on Twitter @GetUnrobed or Facebook. If you have any questions, or want to talk shop, you can email her at, and she’d be happy to chat!

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