Friday, July 3, 2015

    


     Most Americans believe that it is the small business that built this Country and keeps this Country great. We know that well-knit communities are resilient communities.  A business with longevity makes us feel that they are trustworthy. 
     The Childrens Dress Shop is an online children's dress store that was started by Jennifer T. in 1999 in Uncasville, Connecticut. So many years ago she had a dream of owning her own business and she loved pretty little dresses.  Childrens Dress Shop is the same as it started, family owned, transparent, faithful and trustworthy.  This is the story of how it began. This is a story of resiliency.
     Childrens Dress Shop is her brain-child. A single working mom and full time college student; Jennifer needed to supplement her income. But her young children also needed her to be home so she created an online store where people from around the world could conveniently shop for flower girl, pageant dresses and various related accessories. She wanted to be a successful business woman. So, she started by borrowing a few hundred dollars from her dad to open an Ebay store.  I remember back in the 90s many people thought it would be easy to run a small business as an Ebay store.  But, the profit margin was so small that Jennifer decided to build her own website --- from CODE.  Today most businesses use templates and modules to build their websites. Like the ones you see on Wordpress or Wix or Blogspot.
     Her first website was completely hard-coded which took thousands of hours to develop by herself and with the help of a lifelong friend from high school who had studied computer programming.  I believe they used .php and oscommerce for the first online website store.  Together they knitted together a program that really worked.  Each time a page came up right, or a shopping cart worked, or a picture popped in on the page where it was supposed to be there was cheering and celebration.  The hard work paid off and she spent a number of years above her competitors on the search engines.  The store made enough money to support her children.  The profit margin was a modest income but it allowed her to realize the dream of being her own boss and supporting her little family.
     In the beginning most of her friends and family were skeptical that Jennifer could pull off this Herculean endeavor.  They said, "No one could do that much work and go to school and take care of the kids!” There are only so many hours in a day. And there were so many questions to answer: where would she get the money for start-up, where would she have the extra time with work, school, and the children? The doubts came and surrounded her like a ring of fire. Nevertheless, she was undeterred by the naysayers. She kept her nose to the grindstone focusing on the business. I watched her work with great entrepreneurial spirit and dogged determination. She worked into the wee hours of the morning learning how to build the code, to construct the website, about the rules of search engine optimization (SEO), engaged to understand terms of service agreements (TOS), learned small business skills i.e., how to apply for business permits, and paid particular attention to quality customer satisfaction.
     Within four short years she was number one on the search engines and remained there for many a long time. A long time that is until --- search engine algorithms changed and her rank on the search engine plummeted.  At that time thousands of online small business owners simply went out of business but not Jennifer. She did not become discouraged but instead encouraged those around her saying, “Don’t take this setback personally because it’s not personal it’s an algorithm. We just have to figure out how it works and do it.” She kept her hands at the ready to remain in business. A financial storm ensued.  Daily she was told to "give it up", "let it go", and “You will not come back from this.”  Jennifer's business advisers, family, and friends believed once knocked off the search engines she could never regain her high ranking that once was (high rankings are what a business needs to survive online).
     Turning away from negative chatter she rebuked them and continued forward.  Jen's children were growing up and away at school by this time, she closed her brick and mortar shops, let her employees go, consolidated her inventory and, utterly alone, got to work to chart the course for breathing life back into her online business.
     She is still working faithfully today bringing quality flower girl dresses, first holy communion, pageant, quinceanera  to anyone who wishes to purchase from Childrens Dress Shop.