Have you wondered whether it’s worthwhile to bite the bullet and start a business? Did you have an idea for a business only to let it fade away through inaction and (perceived) lack of time? Well, in that case, you should read this interview we just did with our client, Jenni Reichert, Owner of Baja Baby Gear, a company providing baby equipment rental in Cabo, Mexico.
Jenni came to us for advice on websites, e-commerce and social media. She didn’t really have any background knowledge on any of this but she knew, without doubt that she had a great idea and wanted to be a self-sufficient business-woman. Add to this the fact that just a couple of months earlier she had given birth to her first child and I’m sure you get the picture… How could someone in this position EVER find the time to breathe, let alone start an e-commerce business from scratch… within a matter of weeks!?
Well, Jenni did it and did it that quickly. So can you, as long as you have an idea and the commitment to bring that idea to life, no matter what the obstacles in your way.
Check out the interview we did with Jenni below and leave any queries or feedback at the bottom.
1. Hi Jen, first of all, thanks for taking the time to give this interview for the Zenith blog. We launched your website three weeks ago; what’s the feedback on the website been like?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Friends and family have enjoyed the content, thought that it was simple to navigate, pleasing to the eye. Potential clients and business owners have also commented on the professional style of the website. As you know, there has also been a bit of constructive criticism, but that was more with regard to the content of the website as opposed to its structure and design.
2. You’re originally from Northern Ireland; how did you find your way to living in sunny Mexico?
I moved to Mexico by myself in January 2003 on a whim. I had heard that there was money to be made in the timeshare industry and, of course, the weather in Mexico was a draw too. I had no intention of settling in Mexico, I really just went to see a new country make a bit of cash and have some fun. Prior to moving, I had been working as a massage therapist on the cruise ships so I already had the travel bug. I had always known that I didn’t want to settle in Northern Ireland, but if you had told me that Mexico would end up being my home, I probably would have laughed at you!
3. So, from back home in NI, to Cabo; what made you decide to start your own business?
There are two things that a foreigner can do in Mexico (assuming you don’t want a lot of responsibility). You can teach English to Mexican nationals, which will earn you about 300 USD per week plus housing, or you can venture into the wonderful, weird world of selling timeshares, where you can make anywhere from $1000 USD to $30,000 USD per MONTH. Clearly, the latter appealed to me much more and I have spent the last 8 years of my life working in the timeshare industry.
After recently giving birth to my first child, it became clear that there isn’t a place for new mothers in the timeshare industry. There are no part time positions; there is no paid maternity leave. After having Wyatt, I decided it was time that I became self sufficient in Mexico. I also wanted to plant roots here and become a real member of the Cabo community. While planning our first trip with our son and buying a ton of baby equipment online to be waiting for us at our destination, I wondered what other mothers do when they come to Cabo for baby equipment. I have the ‘Aha’ moment.
I spent the night googling for a rental company in Cabo… couldn’t find one… sent an email your way that same night….
4. And what’s the support been like from other business people; do you find there’s a lot of positive opinion for starting your own company in Mexico as there would be in the States? (As opposed to the look of shock on people’s faces if you do it back in NI?)
There is definitely a more Americanised support system for anyone going out on their own here in Mexico. Opening a business shows that you have respect for the community, that you want to produce more revenue in the area and that you plan on sticking around for the foreseeable future.
5. And friends and family? Did they all think you were mad or was there overwhelming support for starting a business from scratch on your own… as you were (at the time) with a two month old baby?
My friends were hugely supportive. My family were really happy for me but (understandably) slightly apprehensive. My husband is 150% behind me, and I am sure if he could speak, Wyatt would be too, because he gets a stay-at-home Mum now!
6. Your website’s an e-commerce site – Before taking the plunge, did you know much about e-commerce?
I had ZERO…. I repeat ZERO knowledge about any of this online malarkey until we started communicating. I knew that I wanted my services to be reserved easily and I knew that my potential market were going to be from the U.S. and Canada, so I needed to create a site that I could accept payment. Your initial email to me (the big long one asking me to think about what I wanted from my website, who my customer would be etc.) was VERY helpful and insightful. Your direction toward Paypal was invaluable… it has proven to be a superb and effective way of dealing with customers. The best part about Paypal is that my clients are already familiar with it, and so they trust it 100%.
Yep, Paypal’s a great tool to use for e-commerce as it’s quick (both in function as well as to code) and inexpensive. This meant we could get Baja Baby Gear up and running within a matter of weeks for Jen.
7. You chose to have a blog on the site and a selection of social media pages; what made you decide to adopt these practices and what made you select the specific Social Media pages you chose?
Both the blog and the specific social media pages were suggested by Zenith… and I’m glad they were, as I had no intention of doing either prior to the launch! The blog was a way for me to continually add SEO rich content to the website, while plugging other local businesses and reassuring the general public that Cabo is a safe place to travel to. It is also a great way for me to keep connected to my site.
As for social media, I cannot believe how successful that has been for me. Twitter has by far been the best way for me to obtain maximum exposure to and from local visitors and potential international clients. The best thing about both suggestions is that they are essentially free ways to market yourself on a frequent basis.
8. And How’s that been going in terms of blogging? I noticed you’ve got two posts up already which are great information pieces on the company and for tourists coming to the area – basically one post per week which is perfect!
I think I answered that above, but to add to that… blogging is great because it constantly challenges me to think of ways that I can entertain my web audience and find relevant content to add to my site. I want to give my clients interesting, factual and informative content and the blog is the way to do that. I also think that it personalizes my website, which is key to the service that I offer. I need the general public to feel at ease when reserving my products and by reading my blog, they can get a feel for who I am and what I care about.
9. You’re in Cabo, We’re in Northern Ireland; How did that work? Did you find any obstacles to working with a company so far away? Any issues with communication, time-difference etc?
I have to tell you that after I sent that first email off to you, I immediately thought ‘Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. What if we cannot communicate effectively? What if the business I am trying to set up is so far out of the realms of a typical Northern Ireland website that we can’t work together effectively?
Luckily, it all worked out well. Perhaps the time difference wasn’t such a big deal for me as often times I would be emailing you in the middle of the night when I was up with my son! Ultimately, I felt that the time difference worked to our advantage. The time difference allowed for ‘digestion’ time (as I like to call it!)… time to take in the information sent, digest it and think about it.
As for worrying about the type of business that I was creating, that really was irrelevant as the fundamentals of an e-commerce website are all the same.
10. So, the future’s really exciting at the minute for the company; how did you go about marketing the company initially? Was it All done online or did you hit the streets, use previous contacts etc to get the word out? What are your plans for the coming while in terms of marketing?
- Got great business cards made (thanks Alex J). Found a local printer and had 2000 printed along with a postcard size also done (English and Spanish). I made a stack of price lists, had them laminated and put a business card on top of each.
- I also had several hundred promotional tote bags branded with the ‘Baja Baby Gear’ logo. Each and every client will receive one of these when they rent from me. They will contain family friendly items: wipes, hand sanitisers, tissues, bandages etc)
- I launched my social media sites and invited all my friends and family to support me
- I went to (and am still visiting!) as many resorts, hotels, B&B’s that I can think of and met with the head concierge face to face. I gave them a 5 minute presentation of my company and my services, I left them with price lists and a supply of business cards
- I followed up with each of the above concierge with an email to thank them for their time and also to remind them of our website.
- I then started my online marketing campaign. I applied to join ‘Baby Travel Pros’, which is a baby equipment rental association from the U.S. This has been a GREAT marketing tool as it gets my companies name out there and they immediately launched press releases about Baja Baby Gear becoming an affiliated company. I also did this with ‘New Parents Guide’. I have joined many online forums for travelling mothers, new mothers and stay at home mums who are now forging new businesses from home. I make sure that I ‘tweet’ every day and follow as many people as I can. I already have over 100 followers.
- Local marketing: I am a sponsor for the Humane Society in Cabo this year for their annual fundraiser (a round of golf at a prestigious golf course in Cabo). I am donating $500 USD and having my company logo included on all paperwork, as well as being allowed to put my marketing material in everyone’s ‘Thank you baggie’. I am marketing through 2 online local sites also (it runs about 60 USD a month to do so). www.loscabosguide.com and www.todoloscabos.com. These sites are like the yellow pages for locals and travellers coming to Cabo.
- Finally, I have my ‘cold calling’ and emailing marketing. I am in the process of contacting all realtors (who specialize in holiday home rentals), catering companies, travel agencies and wedding planners to inform them of my services and send them my price lists.
11. That’s fantastic Jen, glad to hear everything’s going really well for you and the company. Final question; would you have any advice for someone (particularly a new mother) if they’re thinking of starting out in business?
The thought of venturing out on my own particularly at such a precarious time in my life, and fronting an investment that I hoped would be successful was frightening. Add to that, I am in Mexico, where Spanish is the predominant language. Add to that, I am a new Mum… yep, it’s been an interesting few months! I cannot stress how important it was to work with a company like Zenith. To spend the money on having a personal guide to navigate me through my endless and at times confusing train of thought was probably the best thing I did for the successful launch of my business.
I started my business plan on New Years Day and my business was 100% in full motion within a few weeks. There is no way I would have been able to achieve that without Zenith. Certainly it would have saved me money to try to self-navigate WordPress, but there is nothing like being able to contact a real live person 24 hours a day to ask for help.
I know for a fact that had I tried to do this website by myself (have a vision of going out and buying ‘Dummies Guide to web programming etc), I would have taken twice the amount of time to probably produce something a fraction of the quality that my website currently is. I think if you are trying to do something that you know you are incompetent in, then that will translate and show when others see the finished product. Why wouldn’t you employ someone else to do the work you know nothing about?
It is also worthwhile to have an objective opinion. There were a few times when I thought I had a great idea for the website. Zenith was able to (gently) tell me either the idea was impractical, impossible or just plain silly! FYI, every time that happened, they always came up with a better suggestion!
Thanks a million Jen for your time; I know your flat out busy at the moment, really appreciate it. I also hope the experience with our team was enjoyable and beneficial! Speak soon.
My business is like my baby and I had a very definite vision of what I wanted it to look like and how I wanted people to feel when they visited my site. Today, I can say with confidence that when I look on my website, I feel like my vision was translated by Zenith perfectly. They were able to capture the essence of my personality and put it into a webpage. I feel confident when I walk into a meeting when I am about to pitch my company, as I know I have an amazing website to back it up. I feel excited to send someone an email with my website address on it, as I know how good it looks.
Setting up a business and sustaining it is not for the faint-hearted, but with the right team of people working with you and supporting your aspirations, it’s going to be successful.
You can see Jenni’s site here