Here's an excerpt published online, hope it adds value!
1. Can you please tell us more about your business?
A. Flatlay Studio supplies photography styling boards direct to the public. Pretty marble, cement, and wood backdrops that uplift your brand and product images instantly. Our products are used as portable backdrops for content creation or website images. They’ve become an essential tool for shop owners, entrepreneurs, bloggers, photographers, stylists, foodies, and more!
What’s great is that beginners, as well as professionals, can get good use out of them. It demystifies the beautiful images that you often see on social media – now anyone has access to a marble kitchen counter or trendy white subway tile backsplash! And for the professional photographers out there, it means no more lugging around heavy wooden planks or fragile marble tiles.
2. When, how and why did you start your business?
A. I launched in South Africa in 2019 after stumbling across the idea browsing overseas social media accounts. I thought styling boards would be great for South Africans to enable us to have access to portable backdrops in beautiful designs. And making it an online store was a logical next step – I had just sold my beauty salon franchise and wasn’t ready financially for the investment in another brick-and-mortar retail store.
I also have an appreciation for design, photography and the arts and so was well-armed with enough passion in my product to pursue the challenges of entrepreneurship.
3. Where did you study and what did you study?
A. I studied at the University of Pretoria, completing a BA in Languages, specialising in Journalism. I am currently looking into completing a short course in digital marketing and strategy, as well as graphic design. I hired an accounting firm to manage the financial aspects that owning a business requires – this saves me a lot of precious time!
4. How did you finance your business?
A. I used my savings as capital. Positioning my offering as an online business, I didn’t have a lot of up-front expenses. I invested most of my capital into researching product materials and developing my own unique product. I saved a lot by doing my website by myself using Shopify, and of course, I took my own product photos and create my own content, using my own photography boards.
5. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.
A. I have two small pre-schoolers so my workday is a mix-up of packaging and processing orders, as well as trying to be a hands-on mum and wife. In my gaps, I still spend a lot of time researching new products and innovations, tweaking my website, and trying to master using Google Ads for new business leads! Waking up early is the best for me, sitting with a cup of coffee and preparing for my day before the rest of the house wakes up.
6. How do you balance your home life and your work life?
A. When my pre-schoolers are around, I try to give them my full attention and make up for lost work time by catching up at night when the kiddies are asleep. I’ve ensured that I can run my website, and orders with my iPhone, meaning I can work from anywhere and still be in touch with my clients. And my pressure cooker and AirFryer are lifesavers for quick meals!
7. What drives you and inspires you?
A. I love being able to offer products and services that help fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners. The styling boards empower others to take professional-looking photos on a tight budget. I love giving South African consumers more choice, and I love creating new products or designs and seeing them succeed.
8. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
A. When I'm cooking! And when I’m browsing Instagram late at night I see things that spark an interest.
9. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?
A. I use Instagram as my main marketing platform and run Instagram ads through this. I also use Google Ads. Because mine is an e-commerce store, using specific email strategies, sales campaigns and referral programs are also great for new leads. I spend a lot of time on my website improving user experience and trying to improve conversion rates.
10. Give us an idea of your average client?
A. That's hard to pinpoint! One minute a professional photographer will be contacting me for backgrounds for a food shoot, and then the next a budding entrepreneur will be messaging me for advice on which backgrounds to buy for their homemade candle business.
At the same time, I'm proud to say that I've supplied backgrounds to big brands such as Starbucks SA, Superbalist.com, Nicci Boutiques, Terbodore Coffee Roasters, Chateau Gateaux and more. This is testament to the quality of our products being good enough for professional use, as well as easy enough to use for amateurs and beginners!
11. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?
A. Get to market quickly! Launch quickly and don’t wait for things to be perfect. Just make sure you have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and get it out there. You can refine everything else as you go and rather invest your time and energy into something that has potential, but you’re not going to know unless you get it out there.
Be sure that your profit margins are realistic from the get-go. There are a lot of expenses that creep in when you start to scale and you want to plan ahead for that without too many price increases.
Don’t look too closely at competitors. Rather focus on your own brand and values and look forward to forging your unique future.
Be sure to have balance in work and personal life. There’s no point embracing the flexibility of having your own business if you can’t carve out quality time with your family.