Big Shoes, big ideas

Busi­ness­woman who turned her prob­lem into prof­its shares tips to help out oth­ers

Daily Mercury - - NEWS - AI­DAN CURETON Ai­[email protected]­ly­mer­cury.com.au

SMALL Mackay, Mo­ran­bah and on­line busi­ness Big on Shoes is one of 30 re­gional busi­nesses fea­tured in the Facebook and In­sta­gram An­nual Gift Guide, and now owner Melissa West­cott wants to share the key to her suc­cess with other small busi­ness own­ers.

Mrs West­cott and her busi­ness were in­vited to sit on the small busi­ness coun­cil with Facebook and be part of the first an­nual gift guide in Septem­ber where she will be in a po­si­tion to pro­vide in­put and sug­ges­tions on how the sites can im­prove life for small busi­nesses.

The ru­ral busi­ness started as an on­line only provider, un­able to use tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing and re­ly­ing solely on so­cial me­dia to de­velop a com­mu­nity.

Now the stores have two shops and nearly 20,000 fol­low­ers on their so­cial me­dia and Mrs West­cott said the best ad­vice was to get cre­ative.

“So­cial me­dia from the very start has been key for us, so mak­ing con­ver­sa­tion with our cus­tomers find­ing out what they want is all some­thing we can achieve on things like Facebook,” she said.

“It’s al­lowed us to con­nect to our cus­tomers in real time, we have email mar­ket­ing and our web­site to have an of­fi­cial pres­ence on­line, but so­cial me­dia al­lows us to re­act when stock comes in so our cus­tomers to know about right away.”

While so­cial me­dia was a great tool, she said, it re­lied on the staff to breathe life into it for it to truly de­velop a cus­tomer-busi­ness bond.

“The key for us is we have some di­verse per­son­al­i­ties and the whole love for our busi­ness is our love for the cus­tomers and our love for the shoes and prod­ucts we stock,” she said.

“Our posts are more than a writ­ten blurb on a web­site, it’s us talk­ing on a live video or us muck­ing around and ex­plain­ing prod­ucts.

“It feels em­bar­rass­ing as hell the first few times you do it, but you just have to jump on and do it and it will do won­ders for your busi­ness.”

Big On Shoes was started 10 years ago when Ms West­cott was on ma­ter­nity leave with her first son with a goal to of­fer shoes to cater to all sizes from size 5 to 15.

“I come from hav­ing very big feet, hav­ing size 12 feet when I was 12 years old, def­i­nitely not nor­mal for a girl my age,” she con­fessed.

“We had the fun of fly­ing down to Bris­bane or do­ing mail or­der, to get shoes for my deb or for­mal and I spent the ma­jor­ity of my life in men’s shoes or in thongs un­til I was 25 and look­ing at Big On Shoes.”

Af­ter a few years of re­search and con­tact­ing providers on shore and over­seas she was fi­nally able to open in 2009 on- line, be­fore open­ing the first store in Mo­ran­bah in 2012 and the Mackay store in 2015.

For fel­low small busi­ness own­ers Mrs West­cott of­fered some ad­vice.

“The first thing, without sound­ing to sales pitchy, there’s Facebook blue­print on the site which will walk you through set­ting up a page which was re­ally help­ful,” she said. “It’s just get­ting in and hav­ing a go at it.

“When you see the en­gage­ment you get and how much your cus­tomers love see­ing that side of your busi­ness that’s where the re­ward is.”

BEST FOOT FOR­WARD: Big On Shoes owner Melissa West­cott.Photo: Con­trib­uted

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