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BPD helps Ottawa hammock retailer enhance online sales and marketing efforts

Location
CompanyHammock Universe
Industry:Wholesale Trade
City:Ottawa, Ontario
Amounts: various  Find what funding programs you qualify for

Expand your business with a strategic business plan

Ten years ago, Philippe Bourdeau went looking for a hammock. But try as he might, he couldn't find exactly what he wanted. "I had a difficult time finding a hammock in a city the size of Ottawa," he says, recounting his frustration. "And that just got me going. One thing led to another. I found a supplier down in Mexico. I started importing hammocks. I got a website made. I guess it all took off from there." Ten years later, HammockUniverse.com is still going strong, and thanks to a renewed focus by Bourdeau and his partner, Simon Letourneau backed by a strategic business plan it's ready to grow even bigger.

Side project gets more attention with new partner

For years, Bourdeau ran the e-commerce site as a part-time project while continuing his day job with the City of Ottawa. "Back in the day, it was just a source of extra income, something I did on the side," he says. "But as the years went on, the business just generated more and more revenue, to the point where we've just recently gone full-time with this." The site pretty much ran on its own. "I didn't pay too much attention to it," says Bourdeau. Then, three years ago, Letourneau joined the business as a partner and the pair began to pay a little more attention to the operation. "Ever since he's been on board, we've kind of taken it more seriously. We've really given it a lot more effort than before."

Strategic business plan crystallizes thinking

That effort included putting together a solid, strategic business plan. "We sort of had a business plan in our heads already," says Bourdeau. "But we needed to put it down on paper." The partners turned to the Centre for Business Plan Development and very quickly put together a plan that crystallized their thinking. "It sort of reinforced a lot of what we were thinking already," says Bourdeau.

Operating the business full-time

From here, Bourdeau quit his job with the city and the two men began devoting themselves full-time to the business. Letourneau took control of the operational end of the business accounting and administration which freed Bourdeau up to focus more on marketing. Last fall, they travelled to China, where they found a new supplier and arranged to import a large order of hammocks & hammock stands. That meant another step forward. While Bourdeau originally ran the business from home, the company now has an office and a warehouse in an Ottawa industrial park, which can accommodate their new inventory.

Online business remains successful

While the new location has allowed for some retail trade, the company remains a successful online business (and some experts have suggested that 10 years online is equivalent to 100 years for a traditional bricks and mortar operation). So, enhancing the website for marketing and customer service and focusing on search engine optimization is key to the company's future.

Choosing a hammock according to your needs

You might think that choosing a hammock is pretty simple. But Hammock Universe opens your eyes to the variety of styles, sizes, materials and innovations out there from a double Brazilian-style hammock on a stand to a Mayan hanging hammock chair. The site includes a handy comparison chart of materials, so you can determine what's best for your needs and your climate.

Understanding search engines key to success for online businesses

As he has watched his business grow from a part-time project to a full-time enterprise, Bourdeau has learned what it takes to run a successful online business. "The best advice I guess I could give honestly, is be willing to put in the time. The way the online world works, most of your sales will come from search engines and it takes a lot of time and effort to understand how to rank well. Don't underestimate that. It takes a long time to get established so that would mean that companies need to be well-financed to keep going through those first years. I had a full-time job, so it wasn't a problem for me, but to do it full-time, they'd certainly need proper financing."


www.hammockuniverse.com

Imagine how a professionally prepared business plan could help grow your business. For a free consultation, call 1-800-481-8434.

Please note our Centre is not affiliated to programs profiled in the above article and no claim is made that funding is due to our Centre unless stated.
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