Shayna Vest, of Dress Like A Pirate.com, an Authorize.Net merchant, shares her story and business advice.

Tell us about your business Dress Like A Pirate.com

Based out of Portland, Oregon, Dresslikeapirate.com is one of the world’s most popular theatrical costuming, pirate, theme wedding and roleplay garb sites.

I'm a single mom, entrepreneur, goddess and pirate and I started Dresslikeapirate.com in 1996. I was selling vintage clothing on eBay. One day I attended a co-workers wedding where all of the women dressed like fairies and the men like pirates! My passion found a niche market.

After receiving the first 75 pirate shirts and selling out in three weeks, I was told by the post office clerk “Did you know that September 19th is Talk Like A Pirate Day?” Well, I rushed home, looked it up, found out the Pirate Guys were right down the road in Albany, Oregon, and exclaimed, “You guys will be my friends for life!” I named the new venture Dresslikeapirate.com. To this day, the Pirate Guys are my friends, my son has played with Chumbucket’s son, and I dressed his wife for the pirate episode of Wife Swap.

What Makes You Successful?

I think what makes me successful is that I steer my vision to the road ahead and am constantly trying new ideas and ways of reaching people instead of trying to counter copycats and competitors. I've found my particular talent is the original ideas and designs.

What would be your advice to other small businesses out there?

My business advice to other entrepreneurs is based on inspiration I found in a book I read by Seth Godin, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. You have to have something that no one else has, or do it in a way no one else does, that’s what sets you apart.

How have you been able to reach this niche market?

Authorize.Net enables us to accept payments on our website so we can offer our high quality pirate costumes, clothing and accessories to the world. Authorize.Net is the only processing gateway I'll ever use. The customer service is fantastic. They've helped me in a number of situations that required extra information and help.

To learn more, visit www.Dresslikeapirate.com

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The Business

Since 1985, the Downtown Statesville Development Corporation (DSDC) has worked with the city, local downtown businesses and other community organizations to help drive revitalization efforts in Statesville, North Carolina. These efforts have included a massive downtown streetscape improvement project, a downtown marketing program and over 20 downtown events to help attract visitors and citizens to help grow the local business economy. 

The Challenge

In 2016, the DSDC wanted to find a way to promote downtown city events, including creating an online ticket purchasing solution and an online vendor booth application system. They also wanted their local bank, Yadkin Bank, to be the credit card processor.

DSDC Director Marin Tomlin contacted Cashklick, an innovative local marketing and technology company, to create various custom solutions to fulfil the needs.

The Solution

Cashklick created several custom pieces of software to help implement ticket sales and vendor applications, as well as promotional software to help market events. Cashklick’s solution included an events calendar on both the website and Facebook for ticket sales. Cashklick also provided DSDC with a promotional newsletter solution to help market events complete with "buy now" or "apply now" buttons.

This feature has proven popular with users who can now purchase tickets for events or sign up for tours. Vendors can use the system to apply for booth space and submit payment and gives DSDC the chance to approve each application via the backend.

“Cashklick is integrated with Authorize.Net and we are a resale partner,” says Sharon Wahrmund, VP product and operations. “Three years ago Cashklick switched to Authorize.Net when we started to experience some issues with another vendor. Cashklick takes ecommerce seriously, we searched for a reliable solution and a vendor that would work with us as a partner. Our team has been quite happy with the results too. The Authorize.Net solution is extremely dependable. We recommended using Authorize.Net's secure payment gateway solution and Virtual Point of Sale to DSDC to meet their online payment needs.”

The Result

The DSDC first event, a wine walk, sold out. The organization is currently setting up new events including a Ghost Tour, Hops & Harmony Craft Brew Fest, and Pumpkin Fest. Cashklick has future plans to expand even more programs with DSDC.

"By implementing these solutions, DSDC has helped spur our local economy and helped create our first sold out ticketed event," says Tomlin. “We’re very happy with the work that Cashklick provided and thanks to Authorize.Net we’re thrilled to be able to accept payments online and use our local banking credit card processor Yadkin Bank. It’s been a win/win for our local community."

To learn more about Cashklick, visit https://www.cashklick.com/

To learn more about Downtown Statesville, visit http://www.downtownstatesvillenc.org/

For more business tips and advice, visit the Authorize.Net blog weekly. Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Business owners face new challenges constantly. These challenges can be particularly daunting for new business owners as they trade their 9-5 job for a 24/7 passion. Learning the attributes of successful entrepreneurs can help new business owners understand they are not alone, and provide motivation to keep navigating to their own success.

See the Big Picture

Many new business owners get caught up in the present. They are focused on navigating the problems that arise each day. However, successful business owners focus on the future. It is key to see the "big picture" and remain on a path that keeps a company meeting long-term goals. The market moves quickly, so it is essential to stay true to your vision and map out a road that gets the job done for tomorrow and beyond.

Experience Failure and Move On

Failure is an inevitable part of life. However, the way a person handles setbacks can have a profound effect on their business. A successful business owner works to understand the reason for the setback and understand how to avoid similar setbacks in the future so that when the next opportunity pops up the business will be well-positioned to achieve a positive outcome.

Take Risks

Taking risks may seem scary, but it extends the possibility of achieving success. A strong business owner assesses a situation and tries something that has the potential to maximize success without causing unnecessary jeopardy.

Mark Pincas, founder of the gaming company Zynga, walked away from a guaranteed source of funding for his first venture. Despite being short on cash, he decided against the deal, which did not fit with his vision. Not accepting the investment was a worthwhile and successful risk. Pincas secured money from a different source, remained in control, and eventually sold the company, which allowed him to establish Zynga. 

Hire People Who are Better Than You

Winning business owners understand the importance of surrounding themselves with smart people. Learning to work effectively with others and use their strengths will help you gain success. For instance, if you develop a message that must be presented to the public but have poor social media skills, it might be wise to hire a person who knows the ins and outs of these platforms. A solid company has a team with various abilities and employees who unite their talents to form a powerhouse.

Find Trusted Partners

Partnering with trusted companies can help business owners run their business smoothly and effectively by taking the daily minutia off their plates so they can focus on growing the business. Partnering with Authorize.Net means business owners do not have to worry about how to accept payments from customers. From marketing needs to shipping products to customers, Authorize.Net has a Partner Directory and a Merchant Toolbox to help business owners find the right partners for their business needs. 

Have a Competitive Spirit

A strong business owner usually has a competitive spirit and enjoys winning. Since starting a business is a big challenge, it is the perfect way to harness this energy. A competitive spirit is essential to win customers and increase market share.

Help Others

Leaders of successful businesses recognize the importance of networking. Although it is common to take help from others, a successful entrepreneur gives assistance without haste. He or she shares useful information, helps finish tasks and presents opportunities to colleagues.

Conclusion

Beginning a new business is not easy, so it is important to examine the traits of successful business owners. Although these qualities do not ensure success, they can help provide a better chance of growing a business and enjoying prosperity. 

For more business tips and advice, visit the Authorize.Net blog weekly. Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Wedding season is in the air and Authorize.Net merchant Raymond Miller of My Wedding Reception Ideas, shares his small business advice including what inspired him to start his business and what lead to its success.

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
– Zig Ziglar

This Zig Ziglar quote inspired Raymond Miller, founder of My Wedding Reception Ideas, to create a business that helps couples prepare for what can sometimes be one of the most stressful times of their lives. Thirteen years later, My Wedding Reception Ideas has helped thousands of couples make one of the most important days of their lives more special and memorable.

How did you get the idea to start your business?

My Wedding Reception Ideas was conceived in 2003 when a friend asked me if they could use my fruit press to press grapes. They were making homemade wine to hand out at their wedding the following year. On the way home that evening after pressing grapes with my friend and her fiancé, I thought to myself, what a wonderful business it would be to help couples make one of the most important days of their lives even more special.

We’ve now helped thousands of couples make their wedding day extra special AND make the process as stress-free as possible. At the end of every day, my staff and I take great pride and satisfaction in knowing we are part of so many lives at such an important time of their lives.

What kind of items do you have at My Wedding Reception Ideas?

At My Wedding Reception Ideas, you will find an exquisite collection of wedding décor, gifts, stationery and accessories perfect for weddings and receptions. We invite couples to create their dream wedding with our creative and customizable wedding decorations, favors and reception gifts to add a unique and personal touch to their special day. 

What is your small business advice?

Always give a little more than you promise. Don't set customer expectations higher than what you can provide, be it service, product quality, or shipping. For example, let's say it takes four business days to normally turn your product around or provide your service, add an extra day and tell the customer that it may take 5 business days. This does two things; 1) an extra business day allows for any unforeseen delays; and 2) your customer will be elated when they receive their product or service faster than what you originally promised.

To find out more about My Wedding Reception Ideas, check them out at www.MyWeddingReceptionIdeas.com.   

For more business tips and advice, visit the Authorize.Net blog weekly. Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Setting up shop to offer your products or services online and using Authorize.Net to accept payments are great first steps towards attracting new customers for your business. Still, many businesses face a constant challenge of attracting new and existing customers to their websites. 

Here are six ways to drive more traffic to your site, potentially increasing sales and online success. 

Create a Strong Opt-In Offer

Building a strong e-mail list is one of the first steps to online sales success. In order to build a list, though, you'll need to do more than just ask visitors to sign up for e-mails. You'll need to incentivize them to do so. How? Use an opt-in offer such as a discount or coupon code. For example, you might give all new e-mail subscribers a special code for 20 percent off their first purchase on your site. Of course, you'll need to promote your offer both on your website itself and through your social media profiles. 

Using MailChimp is an easy way to stay in touch with your customers and generate repeat business. Plus Authorize.Net customers get six free Inbox Inspections ($28 value) and free Advanced Reporting ($49 value) automatically added to their account. Learn More.

Build a Sense of Urgency

A highly successful sales tactic is to make customers feel as though they have to buy your product now. Talented sales people can do this in-person, but it's possible to pull it off online too. You can create urgency among customers by offering limited-time coupons and discounts, counting down available inventory of popular items, offering freebies for visitors who buy products by a certain time and advertising flash sales that last for 24 hours or less.

Create Sharable Content

You've spent a lot of time refining the product pages of your website, but it's essential to pay attention to your blog and social media opportunities too. Instead of broadcasting information about your products exclusively, share free info or tips that customers will be drawn to naturally. Linking to a helpful article orwriting a quick post with tips related to your industry appeals to new and old customers alike. The trick is to create content that your viewers will not only want to read, but will feel compelled to share with friends and co-workers too.

Incorporate Responsive Site Design

To provide your customers with the best experience possible, consider incorporating responsive design into your website. What does that mean? Put simply, it means that site visitors will have a high-quality browsing experience whether they're using a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The goal is to make sure that potential customers can easily browse your products and complete an order no matter the device they happen to be using.

Post Your Customer Reviews

Posting customer reviews on your website itself and on your social media profiles will help to engender a sense of trust with shoppers. After all, people want to know what others think of your products before they buy. Of course, it's important that you're careful not to edit or cherry pick your reviews. Don't hide negative reviews but respond promptly, clearly and professionally so that potential customers know you're serious about fixing problems and meeting their needs.

Make Paying Easy for the Customer

Once you get them to your site, you want to do everything you can to make it easy to purchase. If you have the type of business that has repeat customers, you can reduce shopping cart abandonmentand make it easier for customers to pay by using Authorize.Net’s tokenization service, Customer Information Manager (CIM). By securely storing your customers' payment data with CIM, you eliminate the need for customers to re-enter information for every subsequent transaction, providing a quicker checkout process. 

For more business tips and advice, visit the Authorize.Net blog weekly. Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

 

Authorize.Net merchant Caruh Salon Spa in Seattle, Washington has been voted one of America’s Top 200 Salons for 10 years in a row by Salon Today Magazine. We asked Chief Beauty Officer and Owner Cyndi DeSoto to share her small business advice.

"Our secret? Focus on developing great humans and the business takes care of itself," says DeSoto. "As a business owner, parent, mentor and a woman with big dreams of my own, I find over and over again that the barrier to success is our own self-worth.  While our revenue comes from salon and spa services and product sales, the real work is exploring who we are, what we do and why it matters." 

That work, according to DeSoto, includes several core principles.

"We start each shift with a team huddle to set intentions for the day, identify opportunities for guests and discover what support is needed for each person to show up ready to give their best. We have quarterly personal development retreats and we organize our work flow to require ‘all hands at all times’ so everyone is busy participating as a team and not left alone."

DeSoto’s commitment to excellence begins with herself: "To lead a business rooted in people and the art of self-expression, I have to be committed to my own personal development path. Never easy, but always worth it," she explains.

In addition to serving as chief beauty officer and owner of Caruh Salon Spa, Cyndi DeSoto makes regular appearances at industry events speaking about her innovative leadership style and beliefs about beauty. To learn more, visit www.caruh.com 

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Today we celebrate America’s favorite summer food, best enjoyed at the ball park or on the grill on a hot summer day. Authorize.Net merchant, NorthStar Bison, makers of high quality, 100% grass-fed beef and bison hot dogs shares its story and business advice.

We spoke with Sean Graese about his family’s ranch.

How did NorthStar Bison get its start?

NorthStar Bison is family owned and operated and was birthed in September 1994 with the purchase of two young bison to fulfill a life-long dream of both of my parents. Shortly after, in January of 1995, we added six bred cows which contributed to the growth of the herd reaching 14. During that time, the decision to market the meat directly was made. In pursuit of learning how to raise and produce the highest quality of meat, we realized that 100% grass-fed bison was the best all around; good for land, good for the animals and good for people. This became our motto. We were determined to make quality products and excellent customer service our primary commitment to our customers.

The meat offerings have expanded to include bison, beef, lamb, pastured poultry and pork, elk, ostrich and venison. Our market includes retail and wholesale customers ranging from restaurants to grocery outlets and ranch stores.

How has NorthStar Bison achieved success?

Authorize.Net enables us to accept payments on our website www.northstarbison.com so we can offer our high quality meat and products to customers around the country. But the website offers even more than online ordering. Our family is passionate about health. My parents were both power lifters and my mom was a dietician before starting the ranch. They wanted to consume and offer high-quality, red meat protein, so healthy, even trained professional athletes could enjoy its health benefits. Our website, social media and newsletter offer education, articles, interviews and even recipes for a healthy lifestyle, from the health benefits of nutrient-rich, grass-fed meat to the benefits of CLA and Omega 3. We believe in taking the best care of our animals to produce nutrient enriched food to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

What would be your advice to other small businesses out there?

We truly believe in the quote, “Worry about being better, bigger will take care of itself. Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can.” – Gary Comer, founder of Land’s End.

Satisfying our customers' requests is our number one priority. Because of this, the growth of our business has been through the word of mouth of our happy customers.

To learn more visit: www.northstarbison.com

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

July 17 and all month long, we celebrate a favorite cold and creamy treat perfect for those hot summer days. Authorize.Net merchant Yuengling’s Ice Cream shares its story of how America’s oldest brewery started making award-winning ice cream and gives their business advice.

We spoke with David Yuengling about what makes Yuengling’s Ice Cream so special.

How did Yuengling’s Ice Cream get its start?

My family has a long history of making quality products in Pennsylvania. 
We first began making ice cream back in 1920 when my great grandfather, Frank Yuengling, started a dairy business during Prohibition to help support the family brewery. Yuengling Dairy Products made incredible ice cream for more than 65 years before closing its doors. Then in 2014, after 29 years, my partner Rob Bohorad and I decided to bring back the great tradition of Yuengling's Ice Cream. 

What makes Yuengling’s Ice Cream award winning?

We have taken the utmost care to create a product that we believe customers will love and will stand up to my family's tradition of quality and value. Our product is all natural, starting with local milk and cream that has no added hormones. We produce all of our ice cream in a small dairy in central Pennsylvania and, whenever possible, source our ingredients from local suppliers. We were recently honored to take home a Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Dairy Competition in the "Premium Vanilla Ice Cream" category for our Madagascar Vanilla. We believe it is one of the best products you can buy anywhere. 

What would be your advice to other small businesses out there?

Put 110% into everything you do. Listen to your customers and your employees. When you are successful, give back to your community. They are the ones who helped you get there.

What is the secret to the company’s success?

We focus on quality and taste at a reasonable price.

We believe we provide one of the highest quality ice creams on the market. Using very select high-quality ingredients with low overrun makes our product creamier, richer and smoother. We also provide new and unique flavors that set us apart from our competition.

To find locations where you can try Yuengling’s Ice Cream or to purchase Yuengling’s Ice Cream merchandise online, visit http://www.yuenglingsicecream.com/

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Specializing in signs and labels that prevent accidents and save lives, Authorize.Net merchant HCL Labels shares its business advice.

“Our business is safety. Keeping workplace safety in mind in all that we do, we care about each client and each order whether big or small,” says Ben Nell, VP. “It’s a great feeling knowing the products we sell can prevent an accident, so we don’t focus on selling more, we focus on informing better.”

How does HCL Labels prevent accidents and save lives in the workplace?

HCL Labels Inc. has been helping companies comply with federal environmental and workplace safety regulations for over 20 years. Knowing that the health and safety of our customers, employees, and the safety of general public is of the utmost importance, we adopted the phrase "Preventing Accidents, Saving Lives" and use it as a daily reminder as to why we're in business. We help companies keep their teams safe and stay compliant with the latest OSHA/GHS requirements. Over the years we’ve created highly visible labels. This has allowed first responders quick reference to the information they need to ensure they are following proper procedures and able to provide the quickest treatment. Of course, we don’t like to hear about accidents in the workplace, and hope that our products prevent them, but we’re happy to know that they minimize injury as well.

Tell us a little bit about the safety products you have.

As the frontrunner for GHS labeling, and with the largest selection of GHS secondary container labels, we carry an extensive inventory of health and safety signs, labels, and placards, safety products including software and publications and drug testing kits — all ready for rapid delivery to our customers. In addition we have the capability to produce custom-made signs, labels and safety products with a fast turnaround time. Foreign language labels are also available.

All health and safety signs, labels and placards are carefully researched to ensure the information is current and accurate, and complies with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards.

How have you stayed current in the market?

Over the years, HCL has endeavored to meet our customers’ needs in every way possible. We add new health and safety products and services as necessary to keep apace of those needs. HCL also offers Environmental Health and Safety, and Hazard Communication Training and Consulting by employing experienced and knowledgeable professionals who are available to assist companies on-site with compliance challenges. Our instructors are equipped with the most up-to-date information available to ensure employees receive the best and most complete training in all areas of environmental health and safety.

Our goal is to provide customers with knowledgeable and courteous customer service before, during and after the sale. We work hard to ensure complete customer satisfaction.

How has HCL grown over the years?

In 2012, we launched the new website, www.hclco.com which allowed us to easily sell our health and safety products to companies across the country. We're excited that Authorize.Net enables us to quickly and easily take orders online. Their low fees and easy integration with our website helps to maintain a professional presence, with the ability to accept all major credit cards in a secure location.

To learn more about HCL Labels visit www.hclco.com.

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

June is National Candy Month!

Authorize.Net Merchant Amy’s Candy Kitchen named “BEST  CARAMEL APPLE” by the Wall Street Journal and featured on the Food Network, tells us how their small chocolate shop in Cedarburg, Wisconsin achieved their success.

We spoke with Paula Heupel, VP of Sales, about their journey that began 20 years ago with a goal to perfect the art of the caramel apple.

What makes Amy’s award winning?

It comes down to our passion for quality, that's the Amy's difference. We use extra fancy jumbo granny smith apples in every luxurious caramel batch we make.  Our caramel is always freshly made by hand in small batches. Our toppings are hand packed and garnished on every single apple we produce by our chocolatiers. We use only velvety, world-class Belgian Chocolate from Brussels as our base chocolate in everything we make. This uncommon attention to detail gives you a gourmet apple beyond compare.

How did Amy’s go from being a small chocolate shop to such a big success?

We started by making Amy’s Candy Kitchen a destination for locals and tourists. People walking through downtown Cedarburg couldn’t resist the heavenly aroma of our caramel that fills our store. Our award winning caramel is hand made from premium quality natural ingredients in old world copper kettles which cooks our caramel at a slow consistency to provide a gourmet, buttery flavor that no one can match.

In 2002, our owner expanded the business and launched www.AmysGourmetApples.com making our best-selling apples available everywhere in the US and Canada. It's a favorite treat for so many people, so we're excited that Authorize.Net enables us to quickly and easily take orders online so we can offer our award winning caramel apples to customers even outside our Cedarburg community. 

How has the word about your amazing apples spread?

Our gourmet apples have been featured in many different media outlets including winning the "BEST OVERALL" by the Wall Street Journal. We have also been featured on the Food Network as well as Roker on the Road, Martha Stewart, Epicurious magazine and local news media.

What would be your business advice to other small businesses out there?

Focus on one thing and do it well. Once you’ve achieved success give back to the community that supported you and helped made you successful. Amy’s Candy Kitchen / Amy's Gourmet Apples takes pride in being a stronghold in the local Cedarburg community. We donate to the local Festivals, Chamber of Commerce, Santa’s Workshop, the local food pantry and rescue farms. By donating products and providing discounts to the local schools, churches, the Humane Society, among other county programs, we help to make Cedarburg a great place to live, work, and visit.

Amy's Candy Kitchen/Amy's Gourmet Apples would like to thank our customers, as well as the local community of Cedarburg for supporting our business for the past 20 years! Try Amy’s Gourmet Apples for yourself. www.AmysGourmetApples.com 

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.