Let’s Get Personal: If You Build It, They Might Not Come – Lessons Learned From Starting an eCommerce Arm

Image: CapRoStore via Lauren Louise Photography

This post has been brewing in my mind for a while. I don’t necessarily have some grand message to convey with it, but wanted to share the ‘status’ of the Capitol Romance Store – and everything I’ve learned to this point about it all.

When I was thinking about starting an ecommerce branch of the Capitol Romance brand, I was swept up in the usual “how hard could this be?” and the whirlwind of passive income. I had multiple people tell me “it was such a good idea” and I had an awesome new email from someone looking to get into the wedding business, that had product design experience. The signs were all there!!

So I went through rounds and rounds of design creation, and then started on the “it can’t be so hard to set-up a wordpress site” journey. Turns out (shocker) it’s not that easy to just set-up an online store. I got the domain, and started tinkering with WooCommerce … but then came the PayPal integration, the SSL to ensure payments were secure, the selection of which ecommerce company I was going to use to print/ship the items.

Then came picking which designs, on which items, writing product descriptions, setting up appropriate shipping options & ensuring taxes were in order, writing pages on the site about how I would handle returns …. and the list goes on. Wow it was SO MUCH MORE than I thought would be required to get this up and running, and quite honestly it would have NEVER happened without Kara taking over the reigns. But finally, last Fall, the shop was officially launched and I was THRILLED.

And then came another smack of reality – just because you built it, doesn’t mean they will come. Meaning, just because I spent all this time with Kara, pouring over designs and products and descriptions and getting promo photos & a marketing video DOES NOT EQUAL actual sales. And therein lies the biggest thing I’ve learned so far with eCommerce: how the hell to market this online store & turn it into sales.

And I don’t have that solution yet – the truth is I am learning and trying and struggling to figure that out. But I have learned so far that holy crap, ecommerce success requires so. much. marketing. And marketing isn’t exactly my strong point. Our plans for 2017/2018 are to push our CapRo products into wholesaling spaces & try and get our stuff in local shops – but like marketing, I am not exactly sure how to do that, other than some old fashioned cold emailing (which as of yet, has gotten us exactly no where). So if you have suggestions, articles, online courses, advice to share – I am all ears and open to all kinds of learning and attempting right now.

And so while the online store hasn’t been this huge, instant success, I am not close to giving up on it yet, because I really love my designs and still believe the shop can be a successful part of Capitol Romance LLC – I just need to figure out how :)

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Reaffirming Our Commitment to the LGBTQ Community & A Giveaway to Celebrate PRIDE!

Image: Two Grooms Mug on the CapRoStore by Lauren Louise Photography

When I started Capitol Romance ~ way back in 2011, I was adamant that this space (and whatever it might grow to be) would be a place for EVERY couple. Not just the affluent ones, not just the traditional ones, not just the religious ones, and not just ‘magazine-worthy’ ones. I wanted Capitol Romance to be reflective of the true fabric of Washington, DC and place where couples of all budgets, religions, races, and sexual preferences, could find help & inspiration to plan their DC area wedding.

One way I set to accomplish this was through actively seeking to publish same-sex weddings on this blog – a pretty obvious way to convey our stance and support of the LGBTQ community. Another was that we confirm that ANY vendors that get featured here, apply to be in our Vendor Guide, or advertise with us, confirm that they are LGBTQ-friendly. Finally, which I find to be one of the most important, we strive to use entirely INCLUSIVE language here on the blog and throughout our other business arms .. which means no bride-specific or ‘Mr & Mrs’ or Husband/Wife only speak here. We try to use inclusive language wherever and whenever possible.

But, I know we could do more – and I think now more than ever, we need to do more. It’s on us to attempt to combat the gross amount of hate, vitriol & divisiveness that seems to be rising in our country. So I am all ears for how we can do more – but I also might need your help in the ways of submissions & guest posts, that further the message of love & inclusiveness & support of the LGBTQ community. So send them on over (bree [at] capitolromance [dot] com).

And now, in continued celebration of PRIDE month & the upcoming PRIDE DC Parade & Equality March this weekend, we’re hosting a giveaway of our original TWO BRIDES DC FLAG print! (note: the design currently on the store has been tweaked slightly to include different wedding dresses). The print is 11×24 and would make a great Guest Book poster for your wedding or pretty print for your home! Don’t forget that we are giving 10% off the ENTIRE suite of TwoBrides & TwoGrooms designs in the CapRoStore this entire month too.

Enter to win by Monday, June 12th!

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Jeannie & Chris’ Intimate, Beautiful November Wedding at Morrison House in Alexandria, VA

Images: Andrea Rodway

It’s been embarrasingly long since I’ve blogged a real wedding, but I am excited to share Jeannie & Chris’ self-submitted, intimate Alexandria Virginia wedding with you today! With just 65 guests, 6 months to plan, and a $25K budget, Jeannie & Chris threw a beautiful, fun affair that stayed true to their personalities and love of DC. They’ve also shared some AWESOME advice for other couples looking to plan a wedding on the faster side of things, without hiring a planner to execute! Take it away guys!

Why we chose an intimate wedding:

We got engaged in June of 2016 and knew we wanted to get married sooner rather than later.  In the DC area, larger wedding venues often have waitlists over a year long.  As much as we would have loved to have a large wedding, it would be too expensive in the DC area and we would have to wait a long time to reserve a venue.  We considered a Caribbean destination wedding but realized many of our relatives could not travel that distance and many of our close friends would not come because of Zika virus.  We had to prioritize; the most important thing to us was to celebrate our day with our closest friends and family.  Most of our families would need to travel so we wanted a location that was convenient and could also double as mini-vacation for out of towners.

Why we chose the Morrison House in Old Town Alexandria:

We really wanted our wedding ceremony and reception to be in the same location so that guests could start celebrating immediately after the ceremony.  The Morrison House also offered complete wedding packages that included all catering, an open bar, and even a beautiful cake from Fluffy Thoughts bakery.  We felt like the Morrison décor reflected both of our styles: traditional with elegant and modern accents.   We immediately booked the venue when we saw it was available on Veteran’s Day.  We were fortunate to enjoy a Friday discount on the wedding package.   The Morrison House was the perfect location and size for our small guest list and the all-inclusive wedding package made for stress-free planning.   Our photographer, Andrea Rodway, took us to picture-perfect cobblestone alleys and streets in Old Town for our first look and portraits.

Cherry Blossom Designs ~ Get Them Before They’re Gone!

I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend. Thanks to our car dying on Thursday (and it’s STILL in the shop), we were land-locked to NE DC, but we didn’t mind it at all! We got so many park trips & bike rides in ~ visiting Pow Wow Murals & having fun in the spray park, it really was a great weekend to hang in DC. We celebrated my birthday with some friends, family, and PIE and we spent some time starting to pack (eep!).

I cannot believe May is almost over – and with that, half of 2017. Where is this year going? REALLY? We haven’t sold many of our cherry blossom designs in the CapRoStore, but in case you wanted something, we’re taking them off the store tomorrow – so it’s your LAST CHANCE to get some cherry blossom goodness in your home, until next Spring! I got my mom the Cherry Blossom love mug for Mother’s Day, but I think the Romance Cherry Blossom designs would also make great wedding party gifts.

I also can’t get past the idea of getting a Our Capitol Life blossom pillow for your guest book (or perhaps for your nursery??) to have your guests sign with fabric markers (available in square OR rectangular shape).

 

And if pillows and mugs aren’t your thing – we have a few of the blossom designs in all different sizes of prints – which would ALSO make a great guestbook or a gift for someone you know that loves the cherry blossoms!

Let’s Get Personal: Life Is Insane at the Moment

I feel like I am always apologizing about my inability to stick to my blog calendar. And I hate giving excuses (because let’s be honest, I am still keeping up on Twitter AND watching some quality TV), but things are just insane at the moment. I wanted to share a little life update just to let you all know why the blog hasn’t been what it used to be, and make a renewed promise to you (and myself!) to be better about it. But I think I also need to make a pact here to just stop apologizing, and instead, reset the expectations for the blog.

So first, why life has been insane. Well for starters I did what I always say I shouldn’t do: back to back to back weekends of weddings. With my day job, I’ve officially worked 20 of the last 23 days of this month. 3 days “off” to enjoy my family, catch up on some sleep, and catch up on some OTHER things happening in my life, well it’s just not enough! I am TIRED!

Second, you probably saw on social media, but if not, Andy & I are selling our rowhome! After a few weeks of cleaning, de-cluterring, and staging, we put our home on the market and were thankful to receive a handful of offers – one of which we accepted. We close in a few weeks – so we’ve been busy trying to de-clutter more, and start to PACK. We close in a few more weeks (just after celebrating the big 3-2 & memorial day) and then we enter a super fun time of living in the words tiniest 2-bedroom apartment. I’m not sure this has hit me yet – that we are officially leaving our first real home together and where we started our family.

On top of selling our house and moving into a temporary living situation – we are renovating the home in Brookland that we’ve been renting out for the past 3 years. This is exciting (and ok, somewhat fun – interior design! woo hoo!), but it’s also TIME CONSUMING! There are SO many decisions to make, that I didn’t realize we would have to make (picking the location of outlets, picking out cabinet pulls and towel racks, etc etc), but fortunately Andy has been owning most of this work, like a boss. I just try to keep us on our budget ;) We’ve been having fun on our Brookland Dream Home Pinterest board and are SUPER thankful to have Jenn Heller Design Co working with us on consulting. Lots of Instagram updates coming soon on that front!

On top of selling a home, moving into a rental, and starting a major home renovation – the wedding coordination business is BOOMING. We have a few remaining slots for 2017, but we’ve collectively booked 35 weddings this year – our best year yet). Lately we’ve been in process of getting Amanda (our newest coordinator!) on-boarded and I already feel behind on 2018, as those inquiries are just starting. 2018 pricing is on the website and I am trying to get our 2018 contracts in place – AND I am trying to get a new workflow & contracts management system setup for 2018 too – but man I am struggling to get that running. I am leaning towards 17hats if anyone has any input there. Their tagline is: chaos. simplified. That sounds exactly like what I need right now ;)

Along with prepping for 2018 wedding season, I have BIG PLANS underway for the blog & my brand in general. I am starting the early work of moving to a brand new wordpress template, with some updates to our logo. I have a goal for myself to finish this by the end of this year and I really hope I can stick to this. We’ve got Stacy Kleber Design on board starting our wireframes & site mock-ups and we’ve got BIG DREAMS about how this is all going to launch, including a new brand video to better outline the services CapRo LLC provides. More to come here too … it’s been over two years since the blog has gotten any love, and it’s way over-due for a site update and a look at how I can better align my brand across the multiple services we provide (blog. coordination. store).

Finally, I have a lot more plans for the end of this year and early next year to tackle with the ecommerce shop, email marketing, and monetizing other facets of the business. I hope the new site and streamlined branding will be the start, and I hope with having the renovation and moves behind me on the personal side, that it will set me up for an awesome 2018 … I guess we will just have to wait and see :) but for now, at least you have an update and a little more insight into why the blog has been riding the struggle bus lately. As always, I appreciate all of you that are still riding this journey with me!

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