Mom takes boutique online, leaves day job behind
By Shelly Bradbury
After three years running a homemade custom bow shop, Coral McCaskey is used to strange requests from customers. But even she had to pause when a mother asked for a singing, light-up, “Frozen”-themed hair bow late last year.
“I was like, ‘Are you serious?’” McCaskey remembers, and laughs. “I get amazed at what they want. But I never turn them down — I’m excited to make it.”
Besides, her ‘over-the-top’ bows are a big part of what sets her online shop, Little Lady Boutique, apart from the competition. From her apartment in Walterboro, McCaskey uses Facebook, Etsy and social media to market and sell her bows across the United States.
“It’s all online,” she says. “To be honest, my online business does so well that I don’t need a storefront.”
A family business
She works from home with her 3-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, squeezing in bow making after they go to bed or when her husband gets home from work.
McCaskey fell into the business almost by accident; she started making bows for her daughter while she was pregnant in 2012. She got so many requests from family and friends that she decided to start selling her creations. Most bows sell for between $5 and $12 (though the “Frozen” bow goes for $25.99.)
She started with a Facebook page, but soon realized she needed a better way to manage invoices, shipping and payments. So, she launched a shop on Etsy to automate those processes.
Once her pages were up and running, the next challenge was figuring out how to attract customers to her online shops. She tried buying promotions to push her products but found the real key is to interact with customers online.
Talking to people, playing games and adding informative tags to product descriptions all help, she says. “You have to be as descriptive as possible in the tags. Because people will search for [bows] but they don’t know the phrase ‘over-the-top bow.’”
She also uses the Internet to connect with models for her sites. After finding models online, McCaskey mails bows to them, and the models — often a mom-and-daughter pair — send back photos.
“That helps me sell as well,” she says. “Would you rather see a bow on a table or on a girl?”
Looking back at the last three years, McCaskey is thrilled and thankful that she’s able to be both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom. She gave birth to her son when she was 19. And for years, she worked late, long and hard as a waitress.
Now, she makes more money, can work side-by-side with her daughter and sets her own schedule.
“I don’t have a day job,” she says. “And that’s what is amazing.”