Being open to mentoring and learning has helped ‘cat crazy’ start-up owner Caroline Moore successfully grow her ecommerce business. “It’s about making use of the knowledge around you,” she says.
When Caroline Moore decided it was time to take the plunge into online business ownership in 2018, it took her a while to figure out exactly what line of business it would be.
The idea for Fang & Fur first came to mind when she started looking for leather collars for her cats.
“There just weren’t any really nice quality ones available in New Zealand, so I started looking overseas and found some beautiful ones in the UK. This prompted me to assess what else was lacking in the local cat market, and I realised there was a real gap for cool, high-quality cat products,” she says.
Fortunately, Caroline had some previous retail business management experience to draw upon.
It gave her some solid knowledge about what people want to buy and what they’re prepared to pay.
In her 20 years of retail experience, selling everything from mid-century furniture to gifts, fine jewellery and lingerie, she had learnt a lot from her employers’ techniques and mistakes.
She also has an entrepreneurial flair – forged as a kid making “horrible creations out of plasticine which my family had to buy with toy money”, and later as a teenager marketing vintage clothes.
Launching Fang & fur as an online business made sense because it’s a niche market, she explains.
“However, I had very little experience with ecommerce, so with Fang & Fur I was pretty much starting from scratch in this regard – pun intended!
“This meant I had to go through a lot of self-education, trials and tribulations around finding the service providers and platforms that were right for me and my business.”
Help along the way
To start with, the business was just Caroline and her supportive partner.
“I didn’t know anyone else with an ecommerce store, so I just used Google to seek out info and service providers. Since then, though, I’ve had some truly amazing people help out.
“Back when I had a Woocommerce site, I had this wonderful WordPress specialist who would do free jobs for me, and give me advice, all out of the kindness of his heart.
“Then last year, I got on board with Business Mentors NZ. I was aware that there were pretty big gaps in my business knowledge so it was a bit of a no-brainer really.
“My mentor, Richard Conway of Pure SEO, has been bloody brilliant. He has really opened my eyes to how to create and leverage opportunities, along with providing a raft of other invaluable knowledge.”
“For a mentoring relationship to work, you must be open to learning and not be too touchy about where your business is at and how you’ve been doing things.”
Caroline says Richard has changed the way she thinks about the business too.
“He’s encouraged me to get less caught up with nit-picky things, and to always have the bigger picture in mind. This includes focusing on marketing opportunities and having clear long- and short-term goals and a strategy of how to achieve them.”
Caroline believes for a mentoring relationship to work, you must be open to learning and not be too touchy about where your business is at and how you’ve been doing things.
“You’re inevitably going to have things pointed out that you haven’t necessarily been doing that well, so you need to take this on as a positive.”
Caroline has also teamed up with “an amazing designer” – Hannah Jensen of Studio Shrimp.
“I decided to do new branding and a new website late last year and a friend put me in contact with Hannah. She 100-percent understood what I was after and really nailed the brief of ‘fun, fashion, and cats’.
“She continues to design for my website, social media, and newsletters and has added so much purr-sonality to the brand.”
With limited time and resources Caroline admits to having a ‘slow and steady wins the race’ approach to her business.
“I started on a shoestring and I work another job, so I was always aware that it would be a slow build, and that it would require patience and stamina.
“But I’m really happy with where the business is at now. I have a loyal customer base, with new customers coming on board every week. People are really passionate about their cats – as they should be – so there’s a lot of appreciation for the fact that Fang & Fur is about cats, cats, and only cats.”
Long term she wants to break into the Australian market and focus more on producing her own line of products for wholesaling to other stores.
“I currently have leather collars made locally, so I want to expand this range as well produce other product lines such as toys and giftware.”
Advice for newcomers
Caroline is a fan of tapping into the knowledge of people around you.
“Talk to as many business owners as you can, and suck as much info out of them as possible,” she advises. “What platform do they use and why? Who designed their website? What courier company do they use?
“Even though I didn’t personally know anyone with an ecommerce business when I started out, in hindsight I should have looked at my network on a larger scale. For example, asking friends if they knew anyone in ecommerce, or reaching out to ecommerce businesses of which I was a customer.”
Go to: www.fangandfur.co.nz
Fang & Fur is holding the Cat Art Auction to raise money for Pet Refuge – an amazing new organisation who provide temporary shelter and care for pets affected by domestic violence. The auction is to be held on August the 28th, 2022 at Everybody’s in Central Auckland and is currently securing artworks from both amateur and well-known artists, as well as New Zealand celebrities.
Photo: Caroline with her cat Suzy Q.