Published in Issue 20, December 2012
Written by Tracey from WowThankYou
The Rise and Rise of Wow Thank YouLet’s start by going back in time – to 2009 in fact. I was feeling particularly sorry for myself during that summer as a massive writing contract had been discontinued through no fault of my own and I was licking my wounds. Working as a freelance writer had its perks (working around the demands of my young children for one thing), but I’d had enough of working short-term assignments, not knowing if I’d find the next one. I still wanted to be my own boss, but the time had come to look to pastures new.
The eureka moment occurred during autumn 2009 when, over a coffee with a friend, we jointly decided that it would be good fun to set up a competitor website to – well – the ‘other’ marketplace we all know. So we set about designing a website and deciding on terms that would make us favourable – the key to this being lower commission rates and increased advertising. We signed up a graphic designer friend to put the website together, and we thought we had it all covered … hmmm
Version 1 of WowThankYou was launched in the early hours of 5 March 2010. The week leading up to the launch was so hectic – we converted our dining room into a multi-laptop office; the four of us, myself and Huw (husband), Georgena and her husband Steve, worked in shifts – loading products and looking after our four young children, and when the website finally went live, we stood outside the house and popped the cork on a bottle of champagne (that in honesty we were too tired to drink! – I can’t actually remember sleeping during that time!) It was a lot of fun though. Launch day was my mum’s 71st birthday and we spent the day at the zoo with my children, and my friend and her children. It was a nice day out – though tense, as we wondered how well the site would be received. Before that week had ended, we realised that the website was not remotely user friendly – we had to load all the products ourselves because of the complexity of the system. We persevered anyway and although we did ok, we certainly didn’t strike any kind of fear into our competition! Alas the workload became too much for my business partner, and we went our separate ways, leaving me with a website that certainly couldn’t be managed singlehandedly. So I was faced with a ‘do or die’ situation – throw everything I had into it, or walk away. Not one to shirk away from a challenge, I cashed in my savings account and took on a top notch website developer to sort the business out. I asked all the sellers on the site what they needed it to do; I told them that I needed it to be as automated as possible, so I could manage it myself …. and the upshot of that was 9 solid months of website development, starting from scratch again.
Version 2 of the WowThankYou website was launched in May 2011 – much, much better! It was still early days, but the site looked good (we were mentioned on a lot of worldwide web design sites, which was promising!) There were lots of new features – the sellers managed their own stores, the site was faster, so much more professional … but I still wasn’t entirely happy. There were still features I wanted to add, but had exhausted my funds so had to sit back and hope the site carried on getting stronger and growing … it didn’t help that all this was happening during a recession (I couldn’t have timed it any better had I tried!)The first real test of the website was the Christmas period 2011. I had held funds back for a full-on advertising campaign in lots of national magazines – but even with these in print, would we get sales? The answer was yes – we did ok … but can you hear the lack of excitement in my tone?! I guess I just expected more. I was relieved that we’d had decent sales, but at the same was disappointed that we didn’t take the world by storm. I guess I’m never satisfied!
Version 3 has totally changed the fortune of WowThankYou. Not all features have been added as yet, but as soon as the site was made live, sales that had been trickling in started to flow – and we’ve seen some surges too! I’m hopeful of a sales tidal wave at some point – but I really cannot complain about where we’re at, right now, in November 2012. I have a website that I can manage (just about) on my own; it has a fabulous SEO-friendly design; it is full of amazingly talented designer makers; and I just find it a happy and positive place to hang out these days! We now have 972 sellers listing on WowThankYou and since this new design was launched we’ve had over 10,000 products listed. We average 6500 unique visitors every single day. We have been well received in the press too, which is hugely important and something we intend to build on during 2013.
Why have things turned around for us? It’s a good question, and I’d like to think that the answer lies in the phenomenal support that I’ve been shown by all the sellers who have probably hoped as much as myself that the site will ‘fly’! Without their constant support and advice, I wouldn’t have got this far. I still vow to keep commission rates to a minimum and to make the whole selling experience an affordable and enjoyable one. I also will continue to offer features and opportunities that the ‘more costly’ competitors offer their sellers … I have no overheads as such, other than this laptop that I am typing on, and by having an automated website that pretty much does everything for me, I don’t have the worry of thinking about staff and offices (and the costs associated with these). I believe that once you start thinking about employees and premises you have to change the way you think regarding your business, as you are committing to pay wages, rent … To me, this is when it becomes a job – and I don’t want that! I want to work from home, have the freedom to take an afternoon off – yet work late at night or during the weekend when needed – I don’t want a 9-5 job! My children (aged 6 and 4) benefit from having mummy at home all the time and we can go away on family holidays, just as long as there’s a good Wi-Fi pick up wherever we go! I firmly believe that there’s no limit as to how far WowThankYou can go – we don’t need plush offices to prove our success! Some people see this as a lack of ambition (WowThankYou has lost out on some business awards because of this I believe) – but I see this as my way of keeping my commitment to sellers of having a low costs selling platform. You’re helping me grow the site and establish the brand – why should you then pay more for the same service just because we’ve hit the big time? It doesn’t make sense to me … there’s nothing I can’t do with perhaps some ad hoc freelance assistance – we can be as successful as the best of them, but I don’t have to sit in a posh chair in a contemporary office block to achieve it! I love being part of WowThankYou – especially now it’s doing so well
Where next? Simple – more of the same, with yet more refinements. The lesson I’ve learned since those early days back in 2010 is that there will never been an end point – a website of this nature has to keep up with technology and therefore will be constantly changing and advancing. So long as the funds are in place to make the changes, the changes will continue to be made! Without giving too much away, we have plans to perhaps launch versions of WowThankYou into new markets, we are constantly looking at possible strategic alliances that will benefit the brand as well as the sellers, and we’re not frightened to think outside the box and trial new ideas. At the end of the day, sellers are happy if they get sales, and I’m happy as I get the commission to put back into the website
I’ve recently dipped my toe into the world of Blogger and have set up a blog about me … it’s not all about WowThankYou, because there is more to me than this website you know! It’s still early days and I’ve a lot to learn with how it all works etc. – but please do take a look, all nice comments will be most welcome! http://ohwowtracey.blogspot.co.uk
To end this article I’m going to tell you a secret … Earlier this year, at the time when I was putting together a business plan for bank loans, I was approached by an agent working on behalf of a large High Street organisation enquiring whether I’d be interested in selling WowThankYou. Rather thrown by the whole thing, I played it cool to find out more, and the figure they mentioned was over three times the amount that I was hoping to raise at the bank! It would have paid me back with a handsome profit, but they mentioned buying the ‘goodwill’ that I’d built with my sellers … and I didn’t like that at all. And I said NO. I have too much emotion invested into WowThankYou to see it swallowed up by a big brand, and I don’t want to see it go … so please carry on supporting me and the website, and let’s see how far we can take it together – deal? J If you are not yet a seller on WowThankYou, pop over to Creative Connections – you might just find a tempting joining promotion …
Have a great Christmas – there’s still time to buy last minute stocking fillers on WowThankYou, wink wink xxx