At Foundr, we’re all about education—giving you the knowledge and resources you need to start your own business. Look around this site and you can read all about how to start an ecommerce store, how to grow one, and much more.
But as you’re well aware, it’s one thing to know how to do something, and another entirely to feel like you can do it. You may know the basics of what to do to start your first online store, but when you’re starting out, it can be tough to visualize what success looks like.
In other words, you need more than knowledge—you also need inspiration.
Fortunately, we know a ton of people who can inspire and motivate you. We teach them (and learn from them!) every single day. They’re our students! In fact, we’ve taught thousands of students through our online courses, and they all have incredible personal stories.
That’s why we’re starting a brand new series focused on showcasing the inspiring, real-world stories of our very own Foundr students—members of our community who have learned, taken risks, and found success with their businesses.
And today, we want to start with the story of Tania Eves, former Start & Scale student and the entrepreneur behind Me and the Brave, an online store that generated over $30,000 in revenue in its first seven months of operations. Here’s Tania’s story.
The Story Before the Store
Some people are born with an entrepreneurial drive—one that pushes them to start new ventures and try new things.
Such was the case of Tania, who after six years working in the corporate world, realized it wasn’t for her anymore. Despite all the perks such work brought Tania and her family, she decided the time had come to quit her job.
As the mother of two—Charlie, 5, and Grayson, 2 and a half—she needed something that would fulfill her but also keep her family afloat. She wanted a new career that, as she explained to us, “was going to challenge me creatively, but also allowed me to work around my two sons.”
To her advantage, Tania had prior business experience. For six years, she and her husband had a boutique wedding photography business called Sadie & Co. What’s more, she had founded New Zealand’s only mobile photobooth in a Volkswagen Kombi van, Photokombi.
She eventually sold both businesses, but the entrepreneurial experience wasn’t going to waste in her future venture.
With an abundance of time she had after ditching the 9-to-5, plus her entrepreneurial and marketing experience, all she needed was a new business idea.
Fortunately for her, she came up with one that turned out to be a hit.
How Me and the Brave Got Started
Fedoras are an iconic style of hat associated with the early 20th century’s hat craze, one that represented both a status and fashion symbol for men.
Worn by iconic actors from the film noir era, like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and The Big Sleep, jazz artists, even gangsters like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, the fedora is a classic fashion accessory.
These days, hats are much less popular in day-to-day life, but there’s been something of a resurgence among the very coolest among us. That’s presented a real business opportunity for those with an eye for style, and Tania set out to update the iconic fedora hat for the present day.
After a lot of research, Tania came up with the idea of Me and the Brave, a company that would sell 100% wool, wide-brimmed fedoras. Inspired by her boys, she decided she wanted to launch a hat label that produced every product in matching kids and adults sizes.
With this decision made, she now had to bring her idea into reality, something that would prove harder than originally expected.
While she was going over the details of her new store, she found Start & Scale. At first, she thought it may not be necessary to enroll in a course given her previous entrepreneurial experience, but after some pondering, she decided to take the leap and sign up.
“Even though I have business experience, I thought the new course would give me some valuable insights into the ecommerce world, and a head start,” Tania said.
And it did. The course proved to be highly useful to help her validate her idea and develop an outline for her launch and growth. In short, she says, the course helped her realize “there was some real validity in my idea, gave me the kickstart I needed.”
When the Rubber Meets the Road: The Launch
There’s hardly a worse feeling than starting a business to the sound of crickets. That’s why ecommerce entrepreneurs put so much time into developing the launch, something that instructor Gretta van Riel highlights throughout Start & Scale.
In the case of Tania, she decided to do a “soft” launch for three weeks. This means she built a list of interested people before opening the doors to her store and then message them with the news.
That would guarantee that by the time she made her store public, a highly focused audience would be ready to visit her store and, hopefully, buy from her.
By the end of the three weeks, she had some 50 people subscribed. When she opened the store, she gave them exclusive access to her store for the first 24 hours.
And then, the sales came through.
On its first day, Tania received about 20 orders, many of which were for more than one of her hats!
When asked about this experience and her first sale, she said “ amazing!! I cried. Especially when I saw that it was someone I didn’t know (instead of my mum!).”
That’s the power of pre-launching, and for Tania, it made all the difference. It gave her the confidence that she had a viable and highly profitable business in her hands.
The Future of a Young Ecommerce Entrepreneur
In the months after her launch, Tania has received over 430 orders, bringing in $30,000 in revenue, a highly respectable number for a one-woman shop like hers.
What’s more, she has seen many repeat customers who came back to buy gifts for their friends and family or just a new hat in a different color.
With such a promising start, the future for Tania looks bright. When asked about what keeps her motivated, she said:
It’s actually my customers. Although I have an ecommerce business and majority of my sales are online it’s the reviews, thank you emails or social messages from my happy customers that keep me going and make me realize I’m doing something people love!
The love for her customers is clearly one of the reasons that explain her success, too. Success, however, doesn’t come without problems.
Tania currently faces one of the most typical challenges for most entrepreneurs: the lack of cash flow.
“As a small, cash-based business, it’s hard to keep up with the growth, especially when new products need to be developed so far in advance!” she told us.
She doesn’t let it get to her, though, and all things considered, it’s a good problem to have. Tania remains excited about all the momentum gained since the launch and the opportunities lying ahead.
Currently, Tania is working on a new summer style which will complement her current product line. What’s more, she’s considering adding “adventure products” beyond her hats. Finally, she’s exploring Amazon as an international sales channel so she can expand even faster into new markets.
Looking back, she thinks there’s nothing she’d change: “Starting out with more cash in the bank would have obviously been great but other than that I think the journey I’ve been on has shaped the brand and the success I’ve had so far.”
Advice for the Foundr Family
Tania has experienced impressive success in the past year, thanks to her relentless passion and attention to her customers. Also driving her success is an entrepreneurial drive that errs on the side of action. And that’s exactly what Tania recommends to all new ecommerce entrepreneurs:
Just start! Don’t wait for things to be perfect, they never will be, so just keep moving forward and learn from every single step. There’s nothing better than being your own boss and working from anywhere in the world!
Now that you’ve heard Tania’s story, we want to hear from you:
What have you learned from her story? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.