Category Archives: Maternity

Day 1316 – The Rebirth of Mummy Cool

Back in September 2009 I conceived an idea for a side project and Mummywear Maternity was born.

We were having dinner with friends and discussing possible ideas for a web project. Perhaps because they had 5 children, and at the time we had 2, the conversation shifted to child-centric websites and I mooted the idea of a comparison site for new parents. The concept was simple – to offer a showcase of the best maternity products available on the internet, allowing parents and parents-to-be the opportunity to compare a variety of maternity clothes and nursery products in one place, side by side. Monetisation was to be through affiliate links to the sites retailing the featured products. At the time, the idea was a novel one.

When we got home I further researched the idea. There seemed to be no sites that provided a similar offering and in my excitement I purchased a number of relevant domain names suitable for the project.

I also began to blog about the project. For all of 5 days. Read about days 1 to 5 here. (Spoiler – nothing much happens.)

Fast forward 4 years and I’ve done precisely nothing with the idea. My two children have been joined by a third, India, born in 2010. School fees and the demands of running a business while looking after a 3-year old mean that my finances desperately require a cash injection.  So here goes.

Follow my progress as I launch a new business in troubled times in an effort to achieve financial freedom, fire my clients and achieve that all-important work-life balance. Day 1316 is ground zero, second time around.

I intend to devote just one hour each day to the project, with the aim of building a business that generates £6k per year. By blogging about the steps I am taking, the strategies I intend to implement, and my success (or failure) I realise I am leaving myself completely open to someone else hijacking my concept. If you do succeed where I fail please get in touch and I’ll offer you my congratulations, while kicking myself soundly for being so stupid. Then I’ll take comfort in the fact that you’ve proved the concept and start over using one of the other 3 ideas I’ve sidelined to pursue this one.

I hope that I start from a position of relative strength:

As a web developer of 10 years standing I bring to the table experience in developing eCommerce websites and a strong knowledge of  design, internet marketing and SEO. Lets start by looking at the assets I have in place to date.

1. Domains

I already own a number of keyword rich relevant (ish) established domains.

These are www.mummycool.co.uk, www.mummycool.com, www.mummywear.co.uk, www.mummywearmaternity.co.uk and www.mummywearmaternity.com

2. Hosting

I have a reseller account with Heart Internet which means I can host the site/sites at no marginal cost.

3. Social Media

I have a Twitter account dating back to September 2009 – http://twitter.com/mummywear – with 114 followers. Oh, and a Pinterest account that I have just rediscovered at http://pinterest.com/coolmummies/ with 0 boards, 0 pins and that all-important metric – 0 followers.

4. Development Experience

I have a number of years experience developing Joomla!/Virtuemart and WordPress/WooCommerce websites. Specifically, I have developed a concept-proving affiliate site in partnership with a client which generates tiny, but consistent affiliate income.

It is my intention to be completely transparent in what I do – partly to document my progress and partly because I hope that this website will become an authority site for others attempting to do the same thing. With this in mind I undertake to share quite openly the steps I take in setting up and running the project. I will also publish full and open details of any profits and expenses incurred, starting on June 1st, 2013.

The time has come to test whether I can utilise these assets and apply these principles to enriching myself rather than my clients.

 

Day 4 – look and feel, baby

Yesterday, after everyone else was sensibly in bed, I burnt the midnight oil working on the new design of the Mummywear maternity site. I’ve taken what I feel to be the better aspects of the major retail sites in the industry and put them together in a fresh original design. Family feedback this morning was positive, so the next stage is to take my mockup design and convert it into a Joomla template.

I also need to give some thought to the best format for my blog which brings me back to the Joomla vs. WordPress conundrum. I’ll do some final research on this tonight and then make a decision. Certainly the sooner I can start adding copy the better, even if the site is still in development.

Hasta manana.

Day 3 – slowly but surely builds the site

Today was mainly spent on routine work for Generation X – confirming a new client order, chasing up payment from existing customers and catching up on some development work. It was a productive day and I felt that I’d achieved a lot. However, this has left little time to work on Mummywear Maternity. It was only after Jude went to bed that I thought I’d spend an hour on the project, and now almost four have passed.

Yesterday I created a Statcounter account and added the code onto the Mummywear site, to run alongside the Google Analytics code. I hadn’t been sure which of these two stats package to use – I am familiar with the information provided by Statcounter and feel it will be more helpful (and interesting) in the early stages of the development of the site. I anticipate that Google Analytics will come into it’s own when the site begins to generate significant traffic.

I also captured some screenshots of the websites of the major maternitywear retailers I hope to partner with, to get an idea of how they present their products, and to seek some design inspiration. I looked at the main page of each site and the appropriate maternity and product pages in each case. Jude and I then agreed on a shortlist of  four which I’ll look at again later today. In addition to site layout I also need to consider the structure and navigation elements that need to be incorporated into the design. 

Tonight I’ve installed the latest version of Joomla, and then put the holding page back at the public front-end. I had also installed Virtuemart 1.1.3 but then discovered that it appears to have serious compatibility issues with versions of Internet Explorer prior to IE8. In fact the whole Virtuemart project shows few signs of activity in recent months, which is a little worrying. In the meantime I’ve uninstalled 1.1.3 and am in the process of installing 1.1.2. The upgrade was a maintenance rather than a security one, and I intend to upgrade to 1.1.4 when (if) it becomes available. In any case as an affiliate site security issues have less impact on me than if I were developing a full ecommerce solution.

I’ve also installed the Internet Explorer Collection, which contains multiple standalone versions of IE which can be used at the same time to enable me to test cross-browser compatibilty in earlier versions of Internet Explorer.

Just going to finish installing Virtuemart now and then bed. Tasks for later today are to work on the site design and putting together some relevant content. Only when I have done this can I start to establish the affiliate relationships that will lead to that all-important dollar one.

Day 2 – more baby steps

Moving on from yesterday’s post I’ve begun to work on my to-do list for Mummywear Maternity.

Logo ideas for Mummywear MaternityI’ve created a favicon, uploaded the favicon file and added the relevant code to the index page of the site. I’ve also been working on some logo ideas based on the same theme.

I’ve also been investigating the best content management system to use in developing the site. My initial feeling was to use Joomla! with the Virtuemart component providing the ecommerce functionality required to provide the comparison aspects of the site. I’ve also been considering three other major contenders for content management, each of which have much to recommend them:

  1. WordPress
  2. Magento, and
  3. Affilistore

WordPress is undeniably one of the best blogging platforms available, and I have for some time admired it’s suitability as a platform for the speedy development of not just blogs but informational and marketing websites generally. It comes highly recommended by those within the affiliate marketing community and across a number of affiliate marketing forums. Were I looking for an affiliate model which involved more of a blogging model, with recommendations as the model for lead generation it would probably be my CMS of choice. In this case however I am looking to provide the customer with more of an ecommerce shop interface. The site will however incorporate a blog centred around news, media reportage and celebrity maternitywear and given the current lack of an outstanding open source blogging component for Joomla I may still use WordPress to provide this.

I’ve also been looking closely at Magento for some time. It has a clean look and feel, and it provides a lot of features that would work well for the kind of the Maternity Clothing comparison site that I have in mind. I particularly like the “Compare Products” feature and the built in support for adding to  a wishlist. The Community Edition is free to download and offers much the same functionality as the (very expensive) Enterprise Edition, with the exception of support. However, the dealbreaker for me is that I intend, at least initially, to run the site using a shared hosting platform. Feedback seems to indicate that Magento has significant performance issues on this platform, and I don’t really wish to invest in a VPS solution at this early stage in development.

AffiliStore is a PHP and MySQL based solution that “allows affiliates to quickly and easily build and maintain multi-page affiliate marketing price comparison websites directly from multiple merchant product datafeeds”. Again I like the look of it a lot. Once Mummywear Maternity is up and running I have a number of ideas for further affiliate comparison sites and intend to  look very closely at Affilistore for those. However, I feel it is probably better suited to a straight comparison site in a market with homogenous or identical products such as books or brand products. The essence of my site will be to provide an overview of the different lines of maternity clothing available from different maternitywear designers and retailers. Furthermore, whilst it can be skinned or templated to an extent, all the stores I have seen seem to carry much the same look and feel and I’d like a little more artistic and creative freedom.

So after researching the available solutions I am back to Joomla/Virtuemart. I am experienced in developing with it and know enough about making it SEO-friendly to feel confident of securing good search engine returns for my targeted serach terms.

My next stage is to take screenshots of my target retailers sites and of the competition in my niche with a view to coming up with a best-of-breed design, both in terms of  “look and feel” and functionality. Oh, and do some paid work! More later.

Day 1 – baby steps

Update on day one of the creation of new maternity fashion site, Mummywear Maternity.

Today I have re-jigged the holding page, tweaking the layout slightly.  I’ve also signed up for a new Google account for Mummywear and added the latest Google Analytics code to the website. I wanted to get a good web statistics package in place from the very outset, and although for simpler sites I am a strong proponent of Statcounter, Google analytics would seem to provide many of the tools required for more complex marketing analysis.  I’m also considering the use of some ppc (pay-per-click) advertising at some future point, and there are useful integration tools within Google Analytics which I’d like to explore. I’ll blog in greater depth on the subject of Google Analytics when I have some feedback on how effective a marketing tool I find it.

I’ve also been doing some fairly intensive reading around the subject of affiliate marketing online, and have been further investigating competing sites in my niche. One thing I am keen to find out is whether or not I need to develop an information-rich site before I approach potential new retailers.

Next tasks also include:

  1. Creation of a favicon and perhaps a standalone logo.
  2. Investigation into whether Joomla/Virtuemart, Magento, or another platform represent the correct content management system for the site.
  3. Mocking up a site layout and getting some feedback on design/colour scheme/navigation.
  4. Installation of CMS.
  5. Checking which Affiliate Programmes I currently have relationships with – I’ve signed up for a couple but without going any further in terms of marketing or development – offer suitable retailers.
  6. Making a list of target retailers.
  7. Signing up to new affiliate sites.
  8. Developing content for the site in terms of original articles and web copy, suitable topics for blogging and useful tools or applications. I like the idea of a newsletter for expectant mothers, date predictors, links to baby name sites and so on.
  9. Generating some income by making that first sale.

More tomorrow I hope.

Day zero – a brand is born

mummywear_maternityOver the past 5 years I have developed a skillset combining graphic and web design, web development, ecommerce, Joomla! development, Virtuemart customisation and search engine optimisation, along with an in-depth understanding of internet marketing. Every time I develop a client project there is a part of me that resents the fact that my work will provide a continuing business tool and income stream, of which I share no part except for ongoing hosting and maintenance income.

I’ve long flirted with the idea of developing my own affiliate marketing site and applying my skills to give it search engine prominence. I’ve even bought a number of domains with projects in mind and have a joint venture in development for an ecommerce bookshop. Affiliate marketing appeals because it offers the enticing prospect of developing a (relatively) passive income stream, using a model which can be duplicated in a number of niche markets.

Talking with friends over dinner at the weekend the idea of a comparison site for maternity clothes cropped up. When we got back late on Saturday I surfed around and had a cursory look at the maternity wear market and competition. Jude and I talked it over, and yesterday I purchased three domains: www.mummywear.co.uk, www.mummywearmaternity.co.uk and www.mummywearmaternity.com – a brand is born.

The idea is to set up a website featuring a range of maternity fashion from a number of UK maternity retailers. Customers will be able to compare products from all the major retailers before going on to purchase the products on the retailer site. I’ll take a commission on the sale, without the headache of order processing or fulfillment.

Day zero involved purchasing the domains, setting up shared hosting using my reseller account, creating a logo (which will no doubt evolve as I develop the site) and putting up a holding page.

I intend to spend a working hour each day on managing the project and any free time I have developing and promoting the site.

I’ll blog, hopefully daily, on progress. This will act as part social marketing, part blueprint for further niches. I intend to give the site a full year to develop, but to keep a tally of income vs expenditure as I go along.

Day zero expenditure:  £18.93 (domain names)