Melissa Westcott was working with at-risk youths as a guidance officer before she had her first child and decided to start a business selling larger-sized ladies’ shoes. She also helps her husband with the running of their mango and cattle farm.
How did the idea for the store come about?
My mum and I joked for years about opening a larger shoe store. When I was in year 8, I struggled to find shoes for myself, as most of the larger-sized shoes catered for ladies of a much older demographic and not teenagers. What started as something to do and entertain me manifested into a business plan, supplier lists, and then a meeting with the financial advisory and accountant to see how we could get it to happen.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while starting out?
On a personal level, I had to quickly learn to juggle and manage a home-based business so that it did not impact my young family. It is all too tempting to duck into the office and then I find myself lost in work an hour later when the boys are with me. On the business level, it was hard to get people to see that we were a serious business, lots of international suppliers had no interest in supplying Australia as they did not see it as a market for them (many still do not export to Australia at all).
What has been the most effective form of advertising for Big On Shoes?
We have tried many types of advertising from print to Google Ads to Facebook but out of all of we have found that it is our naturally high organic Google rating, as well as Facebook, that has seen the biggest benefit. However, over the last six months with the continuous changes within Facebook, we have seen that customers are engaging with the network less as they feel that it is very commercial now and we have focused on our email campaigns and we are seeing huge results.
How did you grow your Facebook following to over 3,000 likes?
We got our first 1,000 Facebook likers fairly organically, but then we started a marketing campaign on Facebook with ads and now we use some promoted posts. We continue to have our likes coming from people on our website going to Facebook to check us out, but it was the use of paid ad campaigns that saw a huge jump for us. Since the changes at the end of last year we are working to get the most out of our Facebook advertising and we continue to do this in-house as we have full control and so I can learn as I go.
What do you think Federal and State Governments could do to help make things easier for small business owners?
I believe access to training and support is some of the best support they can provide. You might have the money to start the business with a grant, but if you do not know what you are doing then success is questionable. I would encourage people to look outside the government as well for help. There are many small organizations that support local businesses. I am currently working with one community program that focuses on small businesses and we are helping ‘mum and dad’ businesses realize their potential in the online world as well as ensuring they have business self-esteem.