Small Business Interview / Llani Shoes

Starting your own business and needing some advice? Check out this interview with Alana Oates, owner of LLanie Shoes. Find out from an entrepreneur when to launch your brand, the best investment,  reaching out to influencers, and finding inspiration.  "Don't be afraid, don't delay, start now and worry about perfection later." Click through for more  from Alana and a free shipping code!

Today's interview is with Alana Oates, founder of Llani Shoes. She produces the most fun and stylish slippers, flats, and slides that provide the comfort of home from anywhere. Read on to learn about her experience running a small business. AND...if you make it to the bottom there's a little treat for you!

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I launched Llani in 2016, but the decision happened way before that. It was always a nagging idea in the back of my mind. I was working for a large corporate company in San Francisco, but my fiancee was on the east coast in the home we bought before I said yes to the opportunity that took me across the country.

My motivation to get home really propelled me to take the steps to start the brand. I knew I wanted to 'come home' and in doing so, I wanted to work independently.

What do you wish you had known when you were starting out?

I think for a few months when I was sampling shoes and figuring out how and when to launch, I took it all a bit too seriously. I obviously wanted to put my best work into the world and I thought that once I decided on an identity, a logo, a color story, it could never change and it would determine the brand ID forever.

I soon realized, it was better to launch and let the brand evolve it's self. Now, I let my customers choose what they want to see more of. I follow my sales patterns, for sizes I buy into, and I pay attention to the feedback I get on social media to determine my next steps.

Starting your own business and needing some advice? Check out this interview with Alana Oates, owner of LLanie Shoes. Find out from an entrepreneur when to launch your brand, the best investment,  reaching out to influencers, and finding inspiration.  "Don't be afraid, don't delay, start now and worry about perfection later." Click through for more  from Alana and a free shipping code!

For other product-based business owners, how would you recommend finding a manufacturer?

I was lucky that I had a strong background in sourcing from the larger companies I worked for, but I found a lot of my current vendors through Linked-In. Some approached me, some I sought out.

The best thing is to have an idea in mind of want you want. I knew I wanted to work in India. I have always been inspired by the culture, and I love their hand-crafted atheistic.

My collection features a lot of hand beaded work, and it's one of the only places in the world I can get the quality I wanted for the right price. Figure out what area will be best for what you need to produce, and work from there.

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What has been the most effective strategy for selling more products?

I do a lot of influencer outreach. For me, I like to reach out to girls who are also business owners, or creatives. Maybe they don't have the largest followings, but they have a curated feed and great fashion sense, while also having the integrity to showcase smaller brands and tell their story.

These girls are thrilled to get a pair of my shoes, and post a photo in return. Instagram has been a god send for me. I don't know how small businesses launched before social media!

Starting your own business and needing some advice? Check out this interview with Alana Oates, owner of LLanie Shoes. Find out from an entrepreneur when to launch your brand, the best investment,  reaching out to influencers, and finding inspiration.  "Don't be afraid, don't delay, start now and worry about perfection later." Click through for more  from Alana and a free shipping code!

What has been the best financial investment you've made in your business?

My largest investment has directly been into my product. I have really tried to keep all other costs lean. It's the most important piece of what I do, so investing in that first and foremost was the best move.

Just this year I took another big step and partnered with a PR firm in NYC. That was my second biggest investment, but waiting one year to take the step felt like the right timing. I hope it will be a game changer.

What is something you regret or wish you had done differently in your business?

I really can't say I regret anything to date. There are small learns I encounter everyday, like ordered too much of one size and not enough of another. But that can all be channeled into the next season to make that one a success. I'm forced to learn through trial and error.

What's your favorite business book, blog, or podcast?

I love to listen to Girlboss radio, in the mornings while I'm getting ready for my day. Sophia features amazing women who have started their own companies and listing to their journeys really inspires me.

Starting your own business and needing some advice? Check out this interview with Alana Oates, owner of LLanie Shoes. Find out from an entrepreneur when to launch your brand, the best investment,  reaching out to influencers, and finding inspiration.  "Don't be afraid, don't delay, start now and worry about perfection later." Click through for more  from Alana and a free shipping code!

How do you rest, recharge, and find inspiration?

I love to socialize and I gain a ton of energy from doing so. Trying to unplug on weekends is huge for me too. My husband and I often go to the shore on weekends with our dog, getting away from the office and taking a walk on the beach with my family is the best way for me to relax.

Anything else you would like readers to know about you, your business, or being a small business owner in general?

Don't be afraid, don't delay, start now and worry about perfection later.


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Don't forget to follow her on Instagram. Thanks so much for sharing, Alana!

Small Business Interview / Krista Rae

Take a sneak peek into the business of a web developer and hear  about the ups and downs of running a small business. If you're an entrepreneur, click through to learn about the most common website mistake small business owners make, some of the best financial investments Krista has made in her business, and her favorite business podcast.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Krista Miller owner of Krista Rae. She offers custom WordPress development and design strategy for brand and web designers and has been in business for two years. Kirsta hails from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. An interesting fact about her business is that she started out offering web design and really quickly realized it was not her thing. So she switched over to offering development instead and hasn't looked back! 

Krista has graciously provided an insightful peek into her business and opened up about what has worked for her and what hasn't. Keep reading to learn about the most common website mistake small business owners make, some of the best financial investments Krista has made in her business, and her favorite business podcast.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I decided to start my own business almost on accident. In December of 2014 I randomly decided to start a craft blog as I was teaching myself to crochet. I was amazed with all the other blogs out there and for some reason it felt like the thing to do. After a whopping two months of that I got super bored and decided to let it go. Around the same time, I started following John Sonmez who talks a lot about how important it is for developers to have their own online brand. Thanks to a great course he offered, I got my own website up and running where I was talking about being a female in the tech industry.

Through a whole lot of Pinterest searches, I ran across content from people teaching you to make money through your website. Specifically, Mariah Coz had just started teaching people how to make income through courses. I jumped straight on the bandwagon and attempted my first course launch. With two people on the VIP list, it didn't go well, but I learned so much. A few months later, I realized that I could make money in the creative industry with the same skills I used every day at my full-time job and that's where my current website and business was born.

Take a sneak peek into the business of a web developer and hear  about the ups and downs of running a small business. If you're an entrepreneur, click through to learn about the most common website mistake small business owners make, some of the best financial investments Krista has made in her business, and her favorite business podcast.

What do you wish you had known when you were starting out?

When I was first starting out, I did absolutely everything by myself. I was afraid to reach out to people because I didn't think anyone would want to hear from someone who was as new as I was. Since then, I've seen the insane power of making connections and how much it can accelerate growth. If I'd have known that right away, I would have been able to give my business a bit more of a jump start.

What is the most common website mistake you see small business owners make?

The most common website mistake I see small business owners making is not putting any real thought or strategy into their site. They might loosely base it off of what they see other people doing, but they don't think about how those things relate back to *their* personal goals. If someone else is doing web design for coaches and you're selling products, having a website similar to theirs is a sure way to guarantee that it's not nearly as effective as it could be.

Take a sneak peek into the business of a web developer and hear  about the ups and downs of running a small business. If you're an entrepreneur, click through to learn about the most common website mistake small business owners make, some of the best financial investments Krista has made in her business, and her favorite business podcast.

What has been the most effective strategy you've used for gaining new clients?

The biggest thing I've done to get new clients is build relationships and make new connections. Last I checked, about 80% of my clients were coming to me through referrals, which is huge. If someone is looking for a developer in a Facebook group, it doesn't take long for several people to chime in with my name. And sure, I'm good at what I do, but those people wouldn't take the time to refer me or give me a shoutout if we didn't have some kind of personal connection.

What has been the best financial investment you've made in your business?

The best financial investment I've made for my business are the coaches I've worked with. I've now worked with two business strategists and one life and business success coach. While the investments can be a little terrifying, it has paid off for me every time to let someone with a ton of experience get an inside look at my business and point out the areas I could improve. For example, I'm not sure I ever would have realized that I was better at targeting designers as my audience, rather than general business owners, if one of those coaches hadn't looked at what I was offering and pointed it out.

Take a sneak peek into the business of a web developer and hear  about the ups and downs of running a small business. If you're an entrepreneur, click through to learn about the most common website mistake small business owners make, some of the best financial investments Krista has made in her business, and her favorite business podcast.

What has been the biggest game changer in your business?

The biggest game changer in my business, besides the connections and coaches I already mentioned, was a live course I took in October of 2016. The course was Be Booked Out by Halley Gray and it taught me everything I needed to know to really zoom in on my ideal audience, craft services that they would want, and launch them in a way that leaves me booked for months at a time. It was quite the investment, but I wouldn't be where I am today without it.

What is something you regret or wish you had done differently in your business?

Something I wish I'd had done a bit differently is being pickier about the people I collaborate with. On a few occasions I've done webinars with people I barely knew or even larger collaborations with people I've been close with that haven't gone well. It's important to hold yourself back from getting over-excited about something and really evaluate whether or not you and that person would make a good team. I've always learned to start with some type of smaller collaboration before diving into something that generates income or is ongoing.

Take a sneak peek into the business of a web developer and hear  about the ups and downs of running a small business. If you're an entrepreneur, click through to learn about the most common website mistake small business owners make, some of the best financial investments Krista has made in her business, and her favorite business podcast.

What's your favorite business book, blog, or podcast?

My favorite business podcast is The Strategy Hour from Think Creative Collective. I love that they don't hold back information and don't waste time chatting about random stuff, while still making it a blast to listen to.

How do you rest, recharge, and find inspiration?

This is something I'm not the greatest at. I'd like to say that I take random days off during the week or go for walks in the middle of the day to free up space and make time to be creative. Buuuut that's not how it is around here. I have gotten pretty good at taking nights and weekends off of work, which helps a lot. Now when I get to Monday I'm usually excited to dive into work, rather than tired from all the extra tasks I checked off over the weekend.

As far as inspiration, I think I'm lucky to be a naturally driven and determined person as well as someone that can easily identify actionable tasks out of goals I want to accomplish. So my form of inspiration comes from thinking of a goal I'm working towards and identifying the steps I need to get there. A more logical and nerdy approach than most probably use ;)

Thanks so much for sharing, Krista! If you'd like to learn more about website strategy this is where you can find her: Website / Podcast / Instagram

Small Business Interview: Yuliya M. Photography

Yuliya M. Photography | Letterform Creative

I'm excited to have Yuliya back on the blog! You may remember her from a website review I did with her back in May. This time around she let me interview her about her experience as a small business owner. Yuliya is a wedding photographer based in Sacramento. She has a beautiful photography style that is moody and rich. She loves NYC, is a minimalist in many ways, likes pretty latte art, loves discovering new cities, and her perfect morning is with a book tucked in a favorite corner of a local coffee shop. 

Read on to learn from her experience being a small business owner for seven years!

Yuliya M. Photography | Letterform Creative

How did you get started in your field?

"Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life" a quote by Mark Twain that sits on my desk defines my passion for life, business, creativity and summarizes my journey as an entrepreneur. Business has not always come easy for me, but one thing does, and that's making the most of every day. I love fresh starts and I believe it's never too late for anything. I wanted to do something artistic all of my life, and I still can't believe that I get to do photography full time.

I studied abroad in Israel during college and wanted to recreate a lifestyle of traveling, taking photos, blogging and meeting new people when I got back to California. Wedding photography has given me just that! I started with landscape photography traveling around Egypt and Istanbul and when I saw a wedding photographer's blog, I had immense curiosity to try to capture photos like his.

Yuliya M. Photography
Yuliya M. Photography

Where do you find inspiration?

Any white space inspires me to dream, work and photograph. I also love J.Crew catalogues for ideas. A fusion of fashion and weddings is my happy place.

What do you wish you had known when you were just starting your business?

There are two things I wish I knew when I started a business, that there are rules and that there are no rules. Businesses have rules, and if you don’t abide by them, well you might not be in business for too long. Marketing, social media, referrals, client evangelists, profit margin, positioning and so on, are all important components of a business that need to be nurtured, constantly empowered, improved and evaluated.

On the other hand, there are also no rules when it comes to running your own business, because you get to make the calls. I used to think there are rules for what photographers should wear, when it’s appropriate to eat at a wedding, and how they handle themselves with clients... and yes, I believe in being extremely professional, yet my biggest asset is my personality and I want my clients to feel the care that comes through my tone of voice, my hand written notes, and on the days I’m super productive, my baked goods ;)

Yuliya M. Photography | Letterform Creative

What has been the most effective strategy for getting new clients?

Taking care of your current clients. I get many leads, but it's the clients that come to me from referrals that tend to book much more often. People typically use services their friends have used, so taking care of the clients you have only makes them talk about you more to their friends!

What has been the best part of running your own business?

The flexibility with my schedule. I get to do coffee dates mid day when most people are at work. I can also take my work anywhere. It's also so rewarding to hear thank you's from my clients, I've never experienced that when working for someone else.

What has been the most difficult part of running your own business?

Not knowing how to get to my goals. Doing too many unnecessary things that don't actually get me to where I want to go in my business. Also, standing out. There are so many amazing photographers with gorgeous pictures, what makes me different is really hard to articulate to a client.

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What goals do you have for your business in the next 5 years?

I'd love to become a larger company. Either outsourcing any task that is not photography related to other companies, or having a team of local creatives that will want to be a part of a bigger company. Also, working on projects that play best to my strengths so I can serve my clients better.

Anything else you would like readers to know about you, your business, or being a small business owner in general?

Being a business owner is not easy, but finding your skill set and creating even a small string of income from it, is very rewarding.

Yuliya M. Photography | Letterform Creative

Thanks so much for sharing, Yuliya! If you'd like to see more of her beautiful photography visit her website and follow her on social media: Website | Instagram | Facebook.