One small bricks-and-mortar store in a regional town is proof that independence and a regional location are not obstacles to online retail success.
The birdsnest story began when corporate girl Jane Cay, 39, fell in love with a farmer and found herself in regional Australia. “I wanted to find a business that I could throw my passion into and it came in the form of country town retailing’”, says Jane.
It was 2004 and for the previous five years Jane had been working as an e-business consultant with IBM in Sydney. To her surprise, she absolutely loved working on the shop floor serving women. The true light bulb moment was when she realised the notion of retail therapy was real – the power to make women feel a million dollars, just from a great styling and shopping experience.
Jane became obsessed with theories in styling for women’s body shapes and by the online opportunity that was proving itself in markets like the US and UK and she wanted to translate the magic that was happening in her little store in a country town to women all across Australia – and even the world.
Selling clothing online is not original however when Jane started dreaming about it in 2006 most of the big names in Australia were not online. Birdsnest.com.au launched right at the start of the financial crisis in 2008, the business doubled in size for three years and continues to grow year on year.
By 2011, birdsnest was in the top 40 most visited online apparel sites in Australia and Jane realised that the online traffic was the equivalent to the entire population of the town walking into the store every day.
Today, the business employs a team of 140 and Jane has won accolades for her entrepreneurial prowess. She has created a workplace so vibrant that people move from the city to the country to work with her team.
Jane attributes the business’s rapid growth to the right timing and having the right offer. “We met an unmet need of women who were searching online,” says Jane “They not only wanted a dress, they wanted to know how to wear it: what shoes to wear with it, would it look OK on their body shape. We provide a free personal style guide for each customer. It’s realising you’re not in the product game, it’s a service business.”
Customer experience is at the core of birdsnest and keeping customers is central to the business structure: the largest team in her troupe is the one dedicated to tissue-wrapping items and writing personal notes to every customer. It has paid off, 80% of sales are from return customers.
“My story is interesting because it’s accessible. We have started small, we have self-funded, made mistakes, laughed, but also grown exponentially,” says Jane.