Never ever Give Up!
When at the end of 2007 I started my own eCommerce site for Handmade Gifts called iCraftGifts.com (iCraft for short), connecting artists and crafters with those who appreciate their work, I had no idea how long and difficult this journey will be.
I designed the site pretty quickly, in less than a month, I think. I also coded all pages myself in HTML using old-fashioned tables, as that’s what I knew and because it was easy for me to do it that way (tables are gone now). At the end of 2007 the site was up and running and people were registering and setting up their stores.
I was counting members every day. We started with as small number as 5 (friends & family members mostly), then 10, 20, 50, 100. (Today we have over 2300 Sellers on the site)
It was somewhat easy to attract people to the site initially, even though we didn’t have many features built yet, like the shopping cart, because we were giving away free accounts.
Surprisingly, many people were interested to be on the ground floor of the new site, as they wanted to be directly contributing to how the site was developed. At some point, traffic to the site grew so much that it crashed our server and we had no choice, but to move to a more expensive (and more reliable) hosting.
The first few months were probably the most exhausting and the most exciting for me. I was working like a mad person, fueled by pure enthusiasm, leaving my laptop only to sleep. Even in my sleep I was still thinking of the website and of all the new and exciting things I could do when I got up.
I remember how everyone at the beginning was supportive and expecting a huge success in a matter of months. That, of course, didn’t happened.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
~ Thomas A. Edison on inventing a light bulb
I guess it all depends on your Definition of Success.
I knew why I started my own site, so I felt I was still succeeding, even though the site didn’t make me an instant millionaire. Actually, monetary rewards weren’t my main motivation.
My motivation was more professional in nature
Working with clients or within large organizations, I often felt too restricted, like my wings were chopped off. I was putting a lot of energy into convincing others of my ideas, but at the end, I was losing too many battles and was never really satisfied with the results.
Decisions for the site are often made by the Committees – a group of people who have very little understanding of the User Centered Design or what makes websites user friendly. The decisions are often based on their understanding of what users want.
I really wanted the opportunity to make all those decisions myself, at least, on one project.
So I was eager to build the best possible Social Networking & eCommerce site that would have a Community feel to it, be easy to use and offer quality handmade products. I also wanted to improve online shopping and make it as easy and enjoyable, as possible.
I think after a second year, that’s when I realized that I didn’t have many supporters of my project any more. My mom decided to surround herself with a puppy and a kitten, realizing she might not live long enough to see her grandchildren. My boyfriend at that time started saying that I am an addict, who needs an intervention, and was acting as if he was in a direct competition with iCraft. I’d often have to choose between working on iCraft and whatever he wanted to do. Actually, I stopped mentioning iCraft at home not to irritate him. Eventually, we broke up because of this situation.
I was pretty heart broken, because I was expecting people around me to be more supportive. I went after my dreams and was doing something I was passionate about. So if I didn’t succeed according to someone else’s definition of success, was I a failure?
Some people were saying to me that I need to know when to give up. I think it depends on the situation. If I was trying to do something that I knew very little about or if I was trying to sell a product that nobody wanted, I’d probably given up a long time ago. But I felt like my situation was different.
I knew a lot about designing and putting together awesome websites before I stared iCraft. I’ve learned even more in my 4-year journey – an experience I wouldn’t have gotten working for someone else! I know I am on the right track, even though I am moving slowly.
Plus, we have a lot of loyal users, who stayed with the site from the beginning, and whith whom I am in a close contact. So I know iCraft a good product that people like. It just needs a bit more exposure.
I can’t explain this, but I have this new found confidence now that I can succeed at anything. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve come a long way – I lived through so much building my own online community from the ground up. (And I can tell you that wasn’t easy!) … or maybe it’s the result of 10,000 hrs spent designing and perfecting websites (from “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell) – if you put 10,000 hrs into doing something, you’ll become an expert at it, even if you didn’t have the talent to start with… or maybe I am just too stubborn. I don’t know. All I know is that I am not going to give up, no matter what others are saying.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
~ Winston Churchill