Openness to mentoring and learning has helped “crazy cat” start-up owner Caroline Moore successfully grow her e-commerce business. “It’s about using the knowledge around you,” she says.
When Caroline Moore decided it was time to get into online business ownership in 2018, it took her a while to figure out exactly what line of business it would be.
The idea of Fang & Fur came to her mind when she started looking for leather collars for her cats.
“There just weren’t really great qualities available in New Zealand so I started looking overseas and found some great ones in the UK. That prompted me to assess what else was missing in the local cat market, and I realized there was a real lack of cool, high-quality cat products,” she says.
Fortunately, Caroline had previous retail management experience to draw on.
This gave him a solid understanding of what people want to buy and what they are willing to pay.
In her 20 years of experience in retail, selling everything from mid-century furniture and gifts to fine jewelry and lingerie, she had learned a lot from the techniques and mistakes of her employers. .
She also has a sense of entrepreneurship – forged as a child by making “horrible plasticine creations that my family had to buy with toy money”, and later, as a teenager, by selling vintage clothes.
Launching Fang & fur as an online business made sense because it’s a niche market, she explains.
“However, I had very little experience with e-commerce, so with Fang & Fur, I was practically starting from scratch in this regard – pun intended!
“That meant I had to go through a lot of self-education, trial and tribulation to find the service providers and platforms that were right for me and my business.”
Help along the way
To begin with, the company was just Caroline and her support partner.
“I didn’t know anyone else with an e-commerce store, so I just used Google to research information and service providers. Since then, however, I’ve had help from some truly amazing people.
“Back when I had a Woocommerce site, I had this wonderful WordPress specialist who did free jobs for me and gave me advice, all from the kindness of his heart.
“Then last year I joined Business Mentors NZ. I was aware there were some pretty big gaps in my business knowledge so it was really a no-brainer.
“My mentor, Richard Conway of Pure SEO, was damn brilliant. He really opened my eyes to how to create and take advantage of opportunities, while also giving me a whole host of other invaluable insights.”
“For a mentoring relationship to work, you need to be open to learning and not too susceptible to knowing where your business is and how you did things.”
Caroline says Richard has also changed the way he views the business.
“He encouraged me to be less caught up in finicky things and to always have the big picture in mind. This involves focusing on marketing opportunities and having clear long and short term goals and a strategy on how to achieve them.
Caroline believes that for a mentoring relationship to work, you need to be open to learning and not too susceptible to knowing where your business is and how you did things.
“You’re inevitably going to get noticed that you haven’t necessarily done well, so you have to take that as a positive.”
Caroline also teamed up with “an amazing designer” – Hannah Jensen of Studio Shrimp.
“I decided to do a new branding and website late last year and a friend put me in touch with Hannah. She understood 100% what I was looking for and really passed the “fun, fashion, and cats” briefing.
“She continues to design for my website, social media and newsletters and has added so much buzz to the brand.”
With limited time and resources, Caroline admits to taking a “slow and steady winning the race” approach to her business.
“I started with limited means and I have another job, so I was always aware that it would be a slow build and would require patience and endurance.
“But I’m really happy with the current situation of the company. I have a loyal customer base, with new customers arriving every week. People are really passionate about their cats – as they should be – so there’s a lot of appreciation for the fact that Fang & Fur is about cats, cats and only cats.
In the long term, she wants to enter the Australian market and focus more on producing her own range of products for wholesale to other stores.
“I currently have locally made leather collars, so I want to expand this line and produce other product lines such as toys and gift items.”
Advice for newcomers
Caroline loves tapping into the knowledge of the people around you.
“Talk to as many business owners as you can and suck out as much information as you can,” she advises. “What platform do they use and why? Who designed their website? What courier company do they use?
“Even though I didn’t personally know anyone with an e-commerce business when I started, in hindsight I should have looked at my network on a larger scale. For example, asking friends if they knew anyone in e-commerce or contacting e-commerce companies that I was a customer of.
Go to: www.fangandfur.co.nz
Fang & Fur is hosting the Cat Art Auction to raise money for Pet Refuge – an amazing new organization that provides temporary shelter and care for pets affected by domestic violence. The auction will take place on August 28and2022 at Everybody’s in central Auckland and is currently securing works by amateur and well-known artists, as well as New Zealand celebrities.
Photo: Caroline with her cat Suzy Q.