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Contemporary Furniture Expert, SmallBiz Owner & Blogger, Rebecca Malik, Talks to KikScore

April 13th, 2010 | Interviews,Online & Small Business Resources,Small Business,Small Business Tips,Social Media | No Comments »

Today’s small business interview is with the President of DC-based, 17thandRiggs.com’s Rebecca Malik.  Rebecca holds a dear place in KikScore’s hearts for a number of reasons besides the fact that she is just a very cool person, but she is also one of KikScore’s very first customers late last year when we launched.  Lucky for us she is very happy with KikScore.  Well, enough about us…..Rebecca comes from a family of a long line of entrepreneurs.  She has recently been tapping into that entrepreneurial lineage by working on a line of shoes, getting 17thandRiggs.com designed, developed and launched and blogging for two woman’s based small business and lifestyle community websites.  From these experiences and especially from her work that she has put in at building an ecommerce site from the ground up, she has some excellent guidance for our small business readers.

1. Tell us about 17thandRiggs.com and who you focus on serving?

17thandRiggs.com features contemporary furniture, lighting and home décor.  We focus on carrying pieces that have sleek, simple lines and evoke a sense of space.  The pieces are also chosen because they work well in many types of décor – they are not hyper-modern or too formal.  I feel that our customers are people who love a sophisticated, modern look, and focus on the overall picture.  They realize that an accent piece is as important as a focal point.  Also, I may be biased, but I think our careful selection of furnishings ensures that prestigious interior designers turn to us for their furniture and lighting needs.

2. How did you get your started selling online?

I’ve shopped online almost exclusively for years and know how hard I would look for items that fit my aesthetic and that I knew were of high quality at a good price.  This site is truly a way for me to pick and choose items that I love and make them accessible to others.  Beyond that, my father actually started selling handmade fireplace mantels online years ago.  His ability to reach customers across the country from his small shop in Florida was eye-opening.  After I left my last job at an interior design firm, I decided to take my interest and passion for design, contemporary furniture, lighting and decor and launch an online store.  That is the way 17thandRiggs.com was born.

3. Where will 17thandRiggs focus most of its energy in 2010?

We will be honing our product lines to ensure we carry our favorite designs.  These are furniture and décor pieces that are high-quality, beautiful and a great value.  We will also be steering our efforts to create an even more specialized lighting category.  Our lamps and pendants are consistently some of our biggest sellers and with their broad spectrum of designs they are always such fun items to handle.

I will also be continually reviewing my business and my marketing plan.  I feel like that is something that every business needs to do on a regular basis.  Otherwise you run the risk of not being focused and not having an underlying theme to everything that you are doing as a business.

4. If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

I would say to start out simply – don’t try to offer everything but pick items that make the most sense from an inventory/availability perspective and that are cohesive with your vision for your site.  That and SEO is key.  Integrate your keywords as you go along.  Small businesses like mine can spend forever trying to keep the product information on your site up to date let alone trying to update SEO information so my suggestion would be to do it well the first time around. Here is a post I wrote on the subject titled: How To: An Entrepreneur Improves SEO For Her Ecommerce Site.

5.  What are 2 new trends in your business this year?

Of course, anything eco-friendly is as popular as ever.  As far as new trends, I see people getting more and more adventurous with their lighting choices.  Fun pendants and table lamps are great ways to push the envelope in your décor without making a huge purchase.

For an overall business trend, I would say that outsourcing from a small business perspective.  But it would not be outsourcing as the “four letter” word we know it as.  This would be focusing your small business on your core skills.  Then getting experts, freelancers, consultants, and virtual assistants to fill out the rest of your business and support you as you grow your business.  I now source resources and support for website design, virtual assistants and marketing support from places like Craigslist and Elance.  But you have to be careful and rigorously interview these folks before they are hiredbecause they will never care about your business and your customers like you do.

6. How have you used social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and your blog to help 17thandRiggs?

For me, Twitter has been a great way to learn about other organizations and companies out there with similar or complementary businesses.  It has also been a great place to get leads and also converse with other small businesses. My blog  (http://blog.17thandRiggs.com) has been a unique way for me to process things and continually think big picture regarding my business and the 17thandRiggs.com brand.  Sometimes having to hone into choosing a topic for an article forces you to think about the direction you are heading in and evaluating whether it fits your overall vision of my website, the business and my brand.  That can be very beneficial, especially when your business is at a crossroads.

I have also had the honor of being a guest contributor at the woman’s entrepreneur, startup and small business community site called  Women Grow Business that has been run by the super awesome Jill Foster and Shonali Burke (though I have been on a short hiatus lately since my lovely daughter, Asha, was born at the end of December!)  I recently started contributing to LVC Mag, a woman’s lifestyle community. Guest blogging has been a great experience for me and a nice way to connect and network with other entrepreneurs.  I recommend it for small businesses, especially those that are just starting out.

7. Do you have any parting thoughts?

As this is an interview for KikScore, it makes sense to touch upon my thoughts on the KikScore seal here.  I appreciate that it is a centralized way for customers to share thoughts about my business.  I also think the information they compile provides a fair and verified representation of my business to visitors of 17thandRiggs.com.  As a regular online shopper, I feel that combining financial and management information, website history and polices coupled with interactive customers’ reviews is a genius way to prove that you are a reputable company to deal with and give shoppers a good idea of what they can expect from the experience.  I also think the level of transparency it provides is invaluable in instilling confidence in visitors to our site and helping us convert them into customers.



We want to thank Rebecca for this interview. If you have any specific questions for Rebecca, please leave a comment and we will make sure we get them answered.  Also just for full disclosure, Rebecca somehow married one of my partner’s in KikScore, Raj.  My wife and I wonder every time we see Raj & Rebecca, what was Rebecca thinking!!!

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