Today’s episode is for the person that has maybe a not-so-secret dream of having some e-commerce business—fun fact about me. I have had a lifetime secret dream of owning my own online boho clothing boutique. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And it is something that will be coming to fruition in the new year. So stay tuned!
I’m thinking about my own desire to launch an e-commerce business and to be selling merchandise online. I have been connecting with a lot of incredible people who are in that e-commerce, Shopify space. And our guest today Sarah Jansel is a lover of all things e-commerce. She has a special place in my heart because, like myself, she is a former corporate badass who has left that world and has fully launched into full-time entrepreneurship. Sarah is the owner of an incredible boutique online https://sadiandsari.ca/. Please check it out. She has such beautiful boho-chic clothing. She’s also a Canadian, and you guys know how much I love my Canadian friends! After she started her online boutique and you’ll hear in the episode that she started this boutique while working full time on her nights and weekends. She gained so much information on how to launch and run and market a store online that she’s become an expert on how to do this, and now she is teaching business owners how to do it themselves and empowering them on how to set up and run their online stores. Sarah is so, so lovely. You guys are gonna connect with her so much. Her website, if you want to check it out, is https://www.sarahjansel.com/ And then the boutique is https://sadiandsari.ca/, and then on Instagram, She is @sarahjansel. I hope you guys love this episode.
Regina: So, Sarah, welcome to all things podcast!
Sarah: Awesome. Thanks for having me excited to be here.
Regina: Sarah, welcome to all things podcast! So happy to have you! So, you are recently celebrating your full-time transition from corporate America to full-time entrepreneur?
Sarah: 100% this is week four. Y’all feels amazing. It’s so good. I think looking back on all the thoughts I had about transition and where I am now. And I feel so good about having made that decision, and you know, taking the leap.
Regina: Totally. So you’re four weeks, and what were you doing before you transitioned out of corporate work?
Sarah: I spent the last 20 years building a career in HR, so kind of in and out of business and HR roles. And you know, in my last role as the vice president of HR, I had people in operations underneath me at a tech company, which you have in the US as well, CarFax. I was here in Carfax, Canada, and you know, I was in Toronto, lived in Vancouver and a few places across the country, and moved back to London, Ontario. To work there and be closer to friends and family. And you know, about a year into that, I started to realize I’d been transitioning through several roles and organizations and was just missing this whole, creative piece of things. And so, about a year into being there, I started Sadi and Sari, which is my online clothing boutique, and was excited about that. And then, about a year after that, I was trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. Do I want to be this corporate HR professional? I loved that and worked so hard for it, but it just was not lighting me up the way it used to. I didn’t feel as though I could be as creative as I’d want to be. Working for a corporation, there are some boundaries. And so I was working with a coach Jackie, near and dear to my heart. Through the course of a couple of months of chatting with her, COVID happens of all things. As things start to get shut down, we started having some conversation about why not use all this expertise, year and a half, into Shopify, my own online business, and helping others get online. I started with a couple of clients and just fell in love with it and thought, “Oh, now I’ve got some decisions to make.” And here we are a few months later. It happened quickly.
Regina: So what was that decision like? To be in a corporate HR position for 20 years, building that career, and then deciding to leave the security and the identity that you created for so long? What was that like for you to make that decision?
Sarah: I would say it’s kind of funny, like, if you had to talk to me in March of this year, it wouldn’t have even been an option. Even though in the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to leave and have a very entrepreneurial spirit. And I always take in roles where I could come in and do something completely revolutionary or different. And then when it got stale, I moved on, like that was the way that I kind of manage things in my corporate life. And then, a few months later, I started thinking, “My goodness, I’m doing this online boutique business, which I love!” I’m loving e-commerce, I’m loving working with clients, and there are a lot of similarities in terms of how I would have worked with business partners as I do now with clients, which is kind of cool. So the things I love have carried with me the things that I didn’t love did not carry with me. And that was a great experience for me. As I said, it’s totally off the table. And then as I started getting into it a little bit more and working with three clients and realizing, Oh my god, I like this, and I realized, and again, it shot a light on the fact that I maybe wasn’t as lit up on some of the things that I was doing, and was doing them because they were comfortable. I was doing them because they’re habits. And then, of course, all of these things pop into my mind like, “Well, you’ve worked 20 years for this, why would you transition? It’s such a risk”. And “I’m gonna have to start from the bottom up.” And all these crazy things that you tell yourself that aren’t real, just kind of, feel like the fears that are coming out. So I think making the decision to leave was the uncomfortable part, knowing I wanted to do it. But coming up with all the reasons why I couldn’t, and try to figure out how I could just fit all these three things in my life, which would not have been sustainable, was extremely uncomfortable. And I think Finally, when I did make that decision, it was like, this crazy amount of calm that just came over me like I just knew that I’d made the right decision. People would ask, “Are you afraid?”, “You’ve worked in this group for so long?” And I’d be like, “Heck, no… I can’t wait!” I started to realize that what I wasn’t doing was holding me back.
Regina: Why did you decide to start a clothing boutique? Of all the things you could start?
Sarah: Yeah, HR clothing boutique seems a little, you know, out there. But I would say it’s funny. It’s a bit of a long story. But when I was young, my mom wasn’t well, and I found myself out on my own at the age of 16. And so I had to work and kind of figure things out and was really into fashion and kind of played a space in some modeling and different acting gigs and things like that. So this creative spirit has always been a big part of my life. And, during that time, I’d always had this dream to do something in fashion, but very quickly realized that that wasn’t going to pay the bills right away. So I made the transition into business and found a few great mentors that saw something in me and kind of progressed from there. It was just sort of something that I really did enjoy throughout my career but kind of lacks some of the things I loved on the table. So later in life, you kind of fast forward a little bit, then that nagging voice of always wanting to do something was kind of always there. And in my mind, a few years ago, I felt like I was in a position where I could do that and kind of manage that and support that and try to grow that. I was incredibly excited to do something cool.
I was on vacation with my husband. And literally, I was like, “This is it!” I’m just gonna pick a name, I’m going to get a business license, I’m going to start something, and I just started the boutique, bringing in clothes that I love. So 99% comes in from LA and tried to emulate my sort of customer as myself a little bit and try to grow it from there. It was an interesting, roundabout way to bring fashion back into my life.
Regina: Totally! Where did you get the name from for the boutique?
Sarah: So there are two nicknames, actually. So Sadie was one for my grandfather, and Sari was one for a lady that looked after me when I was young. They were both two people in my life that really inspired me to do things like art, and this creativity, and no boundaries. It just felt like the right fit, and it’s a little catchy.
Regina: I was like, “Whose names are these?”
Sarah: “Me and my alter ego,” haha.
Regina: What are some of the big lessons that you’ve learned in starting this? Because I think people either think like, “Oh, it’s so easy, you can just do that.” Or people think, “Oh, it’s hard. I could never do that”.
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. I think, no matter where you are, there’s always a way to get into this and to start it. And I think the mistakes that I made along the way are not so much of a stake, but you kind of get into it, and you have to start somewhere, I think, right? So no matter what it is that you do, it’s probably going to evolve. You’re going to meet more vendors, and you’re going to like different clothing, you’re going to find different merch, like these mugs are better than those mugs, you know, whatever it happens to be. And I think you just need to make sure you’re open to the possibilities that the thing you start might not be the thing you end with, and then like being cool with that because I think that’s progress. And it really starts to kind of paint a picture of what your brand could be. So I think that one thing is just “go.” Please don’t go into it and think it has to be perfect. Just pick somewhere and start with that. Right? Not saying you don’t have to put thought into it, but you know, pick a place to start. And I think the other thing that I did Is I really wanted to learn e-commerce. I had come out of my MBA, which also kind of gave me a bit of confidence to start this thing, and I was like, “I could do this! I could figure this out!” That MBA almost killed me, so I’ll be fine. And here I am trying to figure out Shopify, and as simple as the tool is, as amazing it is, there are a lot of overwhelming bells and whistles and features, and like you can get caught up in that right. And so I spent a lot of my time YouTubing, Googling, just reading help files, and different things like that. I ended up launching my business a couple of months later than I wanted to because I was just trying to make sure everything was set up, everything was perfect. And what I tell clients now is that there are three things you need to do to launch that business. There are three simple things. And if you just do those things, you can get that online store up in no time. And then you can start to continue to kind of build and make it something else as you start to learn a little bit from your clients. So those are a couple of things that I learned that I think are really valuable things to start with.
Regina: So you have the conversation with your husband on vacation, “I’m launching a business, this is the name,” what’s the very next thing that you do?
Sarah: Well, for me, I was like, “I’m gonna hold myself accountable to this. We’re getting a business license”. That’s the first thing I did. And then it was, “Okay, so what am I going to call this thing?” And, it’s got to show up online. So, where’s the business logo? So there were some tactical things I’d say that I started with. And I think when you’re getting started like that, and you’re trying to figure out what to do, it’s okay to start and to do those things. Because to try to take everything on at once is, you know, a little bit crazy. Even so much as picking some of the items and things that you end up putting in the boutique, I was like, “Well, where am I going to find these vendors?” So start with what you know, is what I tell people. For example, I was ordering my clothes from the US, and I wasn’t even purchasing them here in Canada because there were some boutiques and things that I liked. So I walked into my closet and started taking a look at some of the labels, and started reaching out to some of these companies. And, as you start just to do these tactical one-off things, it makes things less overwhelming. And when you stick to what you know, you start to build momentum. Like one thing, leads you to the next thing, and you know, so on and so forth. And so, I think it’s just picking a place to start and get going.
Regina: Once you had your Shopify store up, did you run ads right away? Or did you organically market to start?
Sarah: I did not run ads right away. And I think I was probably four months in before I even launched the boutique. I waited a little bit. I started honestly, just with an Instagram account and a Facebook account. And for the two, three months that I was actually building the store and bringing in products and all those things, I was just dripping on people and trying and following people and saying, “Hey, it’s coming!” and little flashes of things and just trying to generate some excitement. And even the smallest thing like just starting with the people that I know, right? And then they tell two friends, and they tell two friends…etc. It was a little while before I did that. You can have ads, and you can be very successful at it. But you might also be working from a budget. So you have to be mindful of what you might be doing at the beginning.
Regina: I also think when you’re first launching a product-based business because you ship the products, the organic marketing, the slow drip, in the beginning, is good. So you develop a system and a process like, what if you run a really great ad right out the gate? With all these orders, thinking, “I don’t even know how to do this.”
Sarah: Yes, exactly And you know what’s so funny? I’m glad you brought that up. Because a lot of clients say that, they’re like, “I want to build this really great website, and I want to do this…” people actually asked me, “How do I make sure I don’t get too many clients off the hop?” And I’m like, it’s almost counterintuitive, but it’s true. There’s a level of readiness that people need to feel, and they need to feel like they can do this, order this, make it, and a lot of times, it might just be you or maybe you and a VA or something like that. And so you’ve got some internal systems and things to kind of work out into your schedule as well.
Regina: Also, because you’re using the tech Shopify, and you’re learning that system, there’s going to be glitches and things that could come up as your first orders are coming in. So now, running the shop full time, but you’re also coaching people on how to start their own Shopify business. Tell me a little bit more about that.
Sarah: I’ve been meeting different types of entrepreneurs. You kind of hit it right on the head when you said, I’ve worked with a few coaches, I’ve got a couple of clients right now that are coaches, and one of them has a completely different, cool cleaning product, and the other one wants to sell merchandise. And so, for some of those clients, these are really cool things that are like extensions of their brand. And in this case, I’m building the stores for them and trying to retrofit, kind of the look and the feel and the vibe to match what they already have so that it feels like a very consistent feel.
I also work with a lot of folks who are just starting or they were like me, and they had a side hustle. Like, they have an Instagram account, and they sell things from there. And there’s a lot of like, DM me to order, and things like that. And you know, some of them are a little bit afraid of Shopify, thinking, “I don’t know anything about e-commerce,… I’m not a designer-developer… I’m not going to technology… How am I going to use this thing?” And, I try to tell them that neither was I! Not a designer-developer, I was an HR professional that learned a ton about e-commerce. And the thing about some of those business models is Shopify is actually such a perfect model for them because it does give them more reach, it connects to their social accounts, but it takes out a lot of the painful work they’re doing, like literally filling out shipping waybills and, having to do these DMS and automates these things. You can personalize them, and you press a button, and you ship it and like have it sent out… It just saves them time to do things like have those social interactions where they want to sell where they want to, and just do what they’re friggin good at, instead of wasting all this time.
Regina: So what ways are you working with people right now and helping them set up their Shopify businesses?
Sarah: Yeah, so right now, I’m doing a lot of custom coaching. So I have sort of retail customers that are kind of their own animal because they’ve got stock and usually storefront and things like that. I do support them to get online. I’ve worked with a few clients. I also do a three or four-step program that I’m working one-on-one with clients on right now to help get them set up and really just show them the ropes. And my model is really all about empowerment. So I can do something for you. But in that three or four-step program, what I’m trying to do is give people that empowerment and comfort and show them exactly what needs to be done. So when I walk away, they can take the business back into their own hands. And if they want to get somebody to manage it for them, for fulfillment, agencies, or things like that, great! But I hear a lot of horror stories about how people have someone build them a website. And when they walk away, they have no idea what they’re doing. They don’t know how to use it and things like that. And that’s the opposite of what I want. I want people to feel good and really focus on how they can promote that product.
Regina: Will you do some sort of like group coaching experience for people?
Sarah: Yes, absolutely. There are a couple of things I’m doing right now. One is, I’m working on building a group coaching program. It’s probably looking like eight or nine weeks… I think I was originally thinking six. But what I’m starting to do is bring some folks from my community. So, people who are photographers that take amazing photos or videographers talk about branding and influencers that I work with within my business. To have some different modules on these types of things. Because although I really am using the Shopify platform, that’s what I’m coaching. I’m helping people get their business online. There is a lot more to it than just getting the store online. And so, I’m trying to take this level of expertise. I have to round out exactly what somebody would need to have a successful business and really pick up where I’m leaving off, which is like the best part of having a coach. So that’s in the works right now. I also have a free Facebook group. So it’s called Simplify Shopify, and I’m doing free weekly master classes there. So if people want to get a feel for what I do or what it might be like to work with me, that’s an awesome place to start. And I’m just in the process of getting a bunch of different businesses who have Shopify stores already, and I’m going to do live coaching with them in the hot seat about their store, and places that could improve, and what they’re doing awesome… that the group can learn from that. So I’m really excited about that into 2021
Regina: Oh my god, that’s so awesome. And that’s going to be so helpful because I know so many people that listen to the podcast are online entrepreneurs, and they have a desire to start, whether it’s coaches who want to have merged, people that have live events and want to create around the brand that would be so helpful for them. Where do you hang out online? Where can people find you? Where can they find your shop and check out your amazing clothing?
Sarah: Yes, if you love boho chic, come check me out at SadiandSari.ca or Sadi and Sari the handle. That’s all my boutique biz. And for my coaching biz, my Facebook group again is Simplify Shopify. Or I’m at Sarah Jansel for my handle and sarahjansel.com. So you can find me all over the place right now.
Regina: I loved having you. I hope you guys love this episode. If you love what you heard, take a screenshot, share it in your story, and let Sarah and I know what you love. Make sure you tag us both. And don’t forget to check Sarah’s website and boutique and all of her social media.
Regina Lawrence Esq. is a former trial attorney and law school professor turned soulful business & life strategist. She has found that so many entrepreneurs have these brilliant ideas and dreams but don’t know how to take the dream and create a system or structure to make that dream & idea profitable. That is where Regina comes in. With discipline, consistency, systems & structure, we can’t help but create profit & fulfillment from our soul-driven business ideas.
Regina’s approach to coaching marries her background in legal analysis, spirituality, mindset coaching, holistic nutrition, and neuroscience to create an experience that will assist you in getting into alignment, get clear on what you are here to do and what steps and systems to implement to make that dream a profitable reality.
You can find Regina on Instagram @reginaalawrence