How to Juggle a Day Job and an Online Business (Hint: It Ain't Easy!)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

As you may know, I'm a social media manager by day and a small business-owner by night. After long hours maintaining the online presence of some awesome companies, I come back home to an anxious dog who wants to play fetch, a hungry husband, a heap of laundry and, of course, a jewelry collection to update. And, I didn't even start making babies yet!

Operating an online jewelry store in Dubai has proven to be a very challenging yet rewarding experience. The rewarding part is easy: utilizing my social media know-how to market my store and thus adding to my work experience (check!), picking out jewelry based on the latest trends, and making extra cash on the side (check, check!).

But the challenges lie in being able to do all the above and still maintain sanity. I went through a phase where I was losing my mind and I decided to get proactive. The results from implementing the below made me a better employee, business-owner and a wife. But be warned that it is not by any means easy and you will come across days when you want to quit it all, curl up in fetus position and die.

  1. Early Bird Gets the Worm
    One thing all mega-millionaires have in common is waking up early. It's simple: the longer you are awake, the more time you have to get sh*t done. I wake up at 6:30 am to feed and play with Charlie, my dog. Then I check my emails to see what my clients are up to (most of them are in the US or Europe and the time difference means emails at 4am).

    I then check my jewelry store emails for orders, shipment updates and customer feedback on social media (Customer service is key in this business, as I discussed in this blog post).

    Then, I go to work.
  2. Get Organized
    All I can say here is God bless Microsoft Outlook. If Outlook didn't have that heaven-sent calendar that syncs to my phone, I would be in deeeeeep trouble. I write my To-Do list for work, business and home before I start my day and color categorize them for efficiency. And I haven't missed a deadline, a customer email or doctor's appointment since.
  3. Take Some Time For Yourself
    If you are a workaholic, perfectionist, OCD/Anal Retentive type person, you will have a hard time with this one. I used to be like that until I realized every time I over-worked myself, I wasn't able to make proper business-decisions and I became consumed with negativity. That's why I take days off from blogging, Instagram-ing and updating.

    Delegation is so important when running an online store because you physically CAN NOT deal with it all on your own. If nothing urgent, I delegate the work to my sister. My husband helps, my BFFs, my mama. Anyone who asks to help, I take them up on their offer.
Now, it's your turn: How do you maintain a work-life-small business balance? Share your tips with us in the comments section below.

More Bad News from Cannes: 365 Million AED Stolen!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I posted after the Tiffany's robbery last month on how jewelry stores can take simple and smart steps to tighten security at their stores. I guess no one got the memo.

Jewelry retailers need to up their security game as yet another heist in the French Riviera makes international news.

A lone gunmen stole $50 Million worth of diamonds and other gems during an exhibition by jewelry icon Leviev. The robbery happened Sunday at the Carlton Hotel in Nice. Police told CNN the amount could reach $136 Million, as the damage is further assessed. No suspects have been identified thus far as the robber's face was concealed by a hat and scarf.

This is the third Cannes robbery since May, which is devastating. But what's more worrisome is that witnesses say there were guards in lobby but they were, get this, UNARMED! Why the hell wouldn't you arm the security guards?

I find that extremely unprofessional behavior from the hotel and the jeweler. Not to mention a bit fishy... you have millions of dollars worth of bling displayed in hotel lobby (where everyone can come and go) with no security? AND after several heists occurred only a few months before in the same city? Come on, now...

Check out this report from CNN, which is laden with 1950's movie references to make this retarded act seem glamorous.

5 Ways to Deliver Great Customer Service Online

Saturday, July 27, 2013

As an owner of a relatively new online jewelry boutique in Dubai, I get asked this question a lot: how do you differentiate yourself from the competition and how do you turn a prospective customer to a loyal one?

The answer is: Customer service!

Gone are the days when you can fool an online customer with a low-quality, expensive product. A scorned shopper will ruin your reputation on all social media outlets, not to mention the expression of wrath to their friends, families and co-workers. If they decide to go the social media route, it will be very hard to remove it when people search for your company.

That's why it's imperative to make the shopping experience as comfortable as humanely possible. One of the ways to do that is to provide them with honest and timely support 24 hours a day.

After a whole lot of research and from my own experience from shopping online religiously, I came up with a list to help my fellow online business owners achieve success in this area.

  1. Make Customer Service a Priority
    I know that launching a new site comes with a lot of challenges.The technical stuff is bound to take up most of your time. But this is no excuse to de-prioritize customer questions and concerns. If you have the capital, you can hire someone to do this. If you don't, you need to respond in a timely manner.

    I wrote a post about how to discern a reliable website from one that might screw you over when shopping online. One of the tips I include is sending an email to customer service (if a telephone number is not available) prior to the purchase to check the response rate. If 24 hours go by and you haven't heard from them, ditch the site (through out my experience, the biggest names in e-commerce took LONGER to answer my emails than the small, lesser known boutiques.)
  2. Be Honest
    If you made a mistake, admit to it right away. If delivery time takes longer than expected, communicate that with the customer and apologize for the delay. If they ask a question and you haven't gotten a clue, tell them you will get back to them ASAP and actually get back to them when you do have an answer. Simple transparency will go a long way in putting the customer's mind at ease.

    A good tip here is to provide Live Chat on your site to take questions instantly. I found that works best on my site.
  3. Deliver More than Expected
    Nothing makes my day more than when I receive a little extra something with my order. I once got a pen with the company logo on it. It was a cheap ball-point pen but I still use it I really enjoyed the sentiment. So, I did the same at Lavalier: when a customer makes a purchase I always slip in an extra item.

    I also hero my loyal customers by giving them a promotional code to use at check out. 20% off an order will not eat away your margins and your customers will be more inclined to visit the site and, better yet, actually make a purchase.
  4. Clarity is Key
    The main concerns people have when contacting customer service are either related to shipping or related to returns/exchanges. That's why you need to communicate your shipping and returns policies clearly. It should be included on every page and under every item's description.

    A great way to reduce the amount of questions regarding shipping is to provide a tracking number as soon as you get it. Or acknowledge that you received a returned item and you are working on a refund or exchange. 
  5. Offer Easy Returns
    Increase customer confidence by assuring them that they can simply return the item if it doesn't meet their expectations. Some sites offer a refund, others offer store credit. Some will bare the shipping costs for the returns, others will not. Whatever you decide, it's important to have a return policy. A "this sale is final" attitude will not bode well with the customers.
Now it's your turn! Let us know how you provide great customer service in the comments section below.

Jewelry Inspiration Straight from the Catwalk: Vivienne Westwood 2013

Owning an online jewelry boutique in Dubai takes a lot of work, but what makes it worth my while is checking out jewelry trends from the Middle East and across the world.

That's why I started a new segment called Jewelry Inspiration Straight from the Catwalk. Today, I'll be focusing on the ever-talented and excentric designer Dame Vivienne Westwood.

Westwood catapulted to the limelight when she was the head designer at renowned London hightreet boutique named SEX (owned by Malcom Mclaren, manager of rock band the Sex Pistols.) It was her efforts that brought punk-rock chic into the fashion industry.

Her main inspiration? Biker, fetishists and prostitutes. Thus, she became known the world round as The Queen of Extreme.

Here are my favorite pieces from her Fall 2013 Ready-to-Wear collection.

Jewelry Inspiration Straight from the Catwalk: Dior 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

For some reason, I never thought of buying fine or costume jewelry from places like Dior or Fendi.  Not only are they generally over-priced, but high-end brands should stick to what they do best: clothes, bags and shoes. Leave the jewelry-making to the jewelry-makers.

And when I say over-priced, I mean selling pieces for a ridiculous amount of money. A pair of vintage (aka. USED!) Chanel earrings will set you back 2,200 AED. That's 700 USD for something GOLD PLATED.

Even though I would never buy from them, I do like to check out their latest arrivals for inspiration.

This week, I share the best picks from Dior's 2013 jewelry collection.

(Just FYI: While researching for this post, I realized that the Dior stitching that we know and love actually has a name: It's called "Cannage".)

Newest Collection: My Dior
My Dior Ring in Yellow Gold & Diamonds (Available in Pink and White Gold)
Bois de Rose Pink Gold with Pink Diamonds
Oui Mimioui Thread Ring in Yellow Gold & Emerald
Oui Ring in White Gold & Diamond Accent
Oui Earrings in Pink Gold & Morganites
Miss Dior in White Gold & Aquamarine Stone Ring
Rose Dior Pre Catelan Ring in Yellow Gold & Red Coral (Buy Now for 19,400 AED)
Rose Dior Pre Catelan Ring in Pink Gold & Pink Quartz (Buy now for 34,600 AED)
Grenouille Ring in Gold & Yellow Chrysophrase
Gourmande Earrings in White Gold & Aquamarines, Mother of Pearl and Pink Sapphire
Gourmet Link Ring in Yellow Gold

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Jewelry Hacks You Need to Implement Right Now

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Owning an online jewelry boutique in Dubai is a lot of fun... until you get to the part where you have to organize, store and find jewelry when someone places an order.

The biggest issue I face is knotted necklaces. I place them neatly and separately almost everyday but somehow, they manage to get closer together and tangle in ways you wouldn't believe.

So, I found ways to fix the issue without spending an arm and a leg and my life has gotten so much easier.

In It To Pin It: Buy, or make your own, felt board. Use t-pins or cute push-pins to hang your jewelry.

Straws: This hack will make it physically impossible for necklaces to tangle.

Cheap & Effective: Mount a cutlery tray on a wall to see jewelry easily.

Use old bottles to fasten your bracelets in the right place. 

Your turn! Share your best jewelry hacks in the comments sections below or tag your pictures using #lavalierdubai on Facebook and Instagram.

New Segment! Jewelry Inspiration Straight from the Catwalk: Fendi 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013

This is the best part of owning an online jewelry boutique in Dubai: checking out the latest trends straight from the catwalk and being inspired when making my own designs.

Since there are so many fashion shows going on, I decided to turn this into a segment! For this week, I'm going with my favorite: Fendi Summer 2013 Read-to-Wear.


And here are some of their Fall/Winter 2013 Collection

Your turn! What do you think of their collections and would you ever wear them? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Most Beautiful (and Expensive) Celebrity Engagement Rings

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Check out the latest celebrity engagement ring trends and share your own rings by using #lavalierdubai on Facebook and Instagram.

Amber Rose

Anna Paquin

Blake Lively

Khloe Kardashian

Dania Ramirez

Gisele Bundchen

Halle Berry

Holly Madison

Jamie Lynn Spears

Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Kate Hudson

Natalie Portman

Why You Need to Tap into E-Commerce Right Now!

I moved from Lebanon to Dubai in 2011 after getting married to the love of my life. It was a great decision for us to to come here for obvious reasons: tax-free salaries, higher standard of living and a great place to kick start our careers (oh, and no wars, assassinations and the occasional car bomb.)

I spent 6 months applying and networking to find a job since it can be fairly tough. I also spent a lot of time doing what I do best: Shop!

That probably sounds like a waste of time to some, but what I learned from spending countless hours at the mall and online helped launch my online jewelry business, Lavalier Dubai.

After only a few weeks in the country, two things became vehemently clear:
  1. Dubai is a shopping haven
  2. The e-commerce market is a virgin territory only a few have attempted to conquer

The World's Top Retail Destination

It's no surprise that Dubai has become synonymous with fashion and luxury. It has a slew of record-breaking achievements under its belt like the world's tallest building, tallest residential tower and the only 7 star hotel in the world.

Not to mention, The Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world in terms of square-footage, and the only shelter one has when the heat hits record highs.

Tourism in Dubai is a cash-cow and trying to retain their status as one of the top-5 fashion destinations in the world helps fuel the economy.

London is still number one but Dubai has managed to overcome Paris, Moscow and New York for second place, an outstanding feat to say the least. 

Even with hundreds on international brands, consumers are hungry for something new. That's why more and more U.A.E residents are heading online for their electronic, fashion and lifestyle needs.

Uncharted Territory

Find More MENA E-Commerce Infographics

When it comes to e-commerce, the Middle East is relatively far behind. Only 15% of businesses have some sort of online presence, a low number considering that it's a multi-billion dollar industry in the MENA region.

My simple SWOT analysis prior to launching Lavalier proved that while there is loads of demand, the supply was low to non-existent.

Of course, you have the Goliath of online shopping,, and it's fashion counterpart Namshi, who I'm sure occupy the most U.A.E market share. But the rest of the pie, it seems, is up for grabs.

Why Start an Online Business

  • It's cheaper: Enjoy lower over-head costs since expenses like rent, electricity and wages are greatly reduced. A lower cost for the retailer translates to a lower cost for the consumer. And we all know the main reason people shop online is to find a good deal.

  • It's easy to learn: A few hours watching YouTube tutorials will teach you the technical ins and outs of e-commerce. Personally, I invested my time into learning it on my own. I can now claim I am a junior expert as making websites, SEO and dealing with logistics (like shipping and payment options). If you don't have the time (and you have the capital) you can pay someone to set it up for you. 

  • Going global doesn't seem impossible: I often get asked if we ship to other GCC countries. And while we haven't offered that service yet, it has become a priority next step for Lavalier. Imagine being able to sell products internationally, while still maintaining a healthy margin. 
The list can go on and on and the wealth of information can't be summed up in one blog post.

Now, it's your turn. Would you ever launch a business online? If so, what products / services would you sell?

Let us know in the comments section below.