This week’s work at home profile features Ally Compeau, who is an entrepreneur and founder of Woof Signs, an online sign manufacturer that provides small batch and one-off customization that is both simple and beautiful. Prior to her entrepreneurial life, Ally spent her career in enterprise sales in the tech, retail and consumer goods space, leading account teams and working with Fortune 500 companies to define and execute their advertising and marketing strategies.
1) How did you get started working from home?
Previously I worked in tech sales, I was travelling most of the time all over the US and Canada, when I would come home for the weekends, a large portion of my time was still spent working. I decided to start working from home in order to get more control over my time and spend my time working on something for myself.
2) How did you choose the work-at-home career you do?
Woof Signs evolved from an initial discussion with my brother, who also happens to own a manufacturing firm that specializes in custom fabrication. He had mentioned that their company had been getting regular requests for signs, however their team was not currently focusing on development for that type of product. With an already existing demand through my brother’s company I started to do some initial market research. I connected with prospective sign buyers as well as local sign suppliers. There were a few key things I noticed:
– Customer service didn’t seem to be a strength in the industry – I had reached out to 10 suppliers with a friends logo to be made into a sign, I only heard back from one and it took over a week.
– There was little to no price transparency – suppliers did not outline pricing on their website, everything was done through custom quotes, and pricing from supplier to supplier differed greatly.
– There seemed to be an opportunity to productify the industry – again, everything seemed to be customized per quote with a plethora of materials, hardware, etc. to choose from. To me that seemed overwhelming for the consumer who was only purchasing signage on a seldom basis
With these three key learnings in mind, I decided it was a great opportunity to address the current industry gaps by providing a selection of fully customizable signs online, allowing for on-the-spot pricing, and a 24-hour turnaround time on customer inquiries.
3) How did you get started (basic initial steps)?
– Saved Money – made sure I had a solid financial backing to start my business, I ensured that I had a financial plan for both my business and personal life
– Market Research – met with prospective buyers to get their feedback on the idea/model and determined the market need
– Set up my website – Established a minimum viable product to get my products online and ready for selling
– Started developing sales channels – from Adwords to Facebook to direct selling, I started testing multiple channels for selling my product and began analyzing the data to see what worked and what didn’t
4) How did you get your first client or customer or job?
My first client was a close friend of mine who owned a hair salon and needed a custom sign made. This offered me an opportunity to understand her needs through the buying process and also offered me my first opportunity to photograph and document my product in a real life setting.
From there, my other first few clients came from outreach to local businesses – I had reached out to a few via email and was very transparent with my story and being a new business, this helped in getting people to chat with me and resulted in some sales as well.
5) How do you market your business?
My two current focuses are Partnerships and SEO.
Partnerships: I work to sponsor local consumer and trade shows, I find this is a great opportunity to connect with the businesses who are exhibiting at the shows. It also presents an opportunity to connect with them at a time when they actually need signage (for the show), and start to build a long term relationship to help with their signage needs in the
SEO: SEO needs to be a huge focus for any online business, however, it is a long term game. I spend a lot of my day working on implementing my SEO strategy and using search data to help improve the strategy. I have made some gains in the space, but also know that as a new and small business, it is going to take some time to realize the full benefit of a successful strategy.
6) What does your usual day look like?
I normally start each day at the gym with my spouse, we do group training and use this as an opportunity to spend time with each other while starting our day off productively. The time at the gym helps in a few aspect – gets me out of bed brightly and early, makes me feel accomplished and gives me energy to put my best foot forward. From there I come home, grab a coffee and reflect on the previous day and goals for the current day. Each week I plan out my high level goals for the week and then try to break that down into daily sprints that I refer to each morning. From there, each day might look a bit different depending on if I have meetings planned or if I’m working on a larger project, like SEO (my current focus). Each day I have a call with my brother at 11AM (business partner and fellow entrepreneur) where we discuss our accomplishments and struggles and keep each other accountable (very key for me as I am normally working on my own). I normally finish up my day around 6PM. I try to end each day by answering and following up on any emails so that I can go into my evening with most of the odds and ends tied up and try to disconnect.
7) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
I absolutely wish I would have started working on a solid SEO strategy from Day 1. As I have embarked on building an online business, I have been trying to learn as much as I possibly can. The main thing I have learned is that SEO is likely the most important channel to you can build to drive traffic to your site and that it takes some time to build successfully. I wish I had used my time more effectively earlier on to start working on this.
8) What advice would you give someone who wants to work from home?
– Develop a Routine – when you’re at home there are a lot of personal distractions, try to combat those by having a daily work routine that you can stick to whenever possible
– Leverage Strategies to Keep Yourself Accountable – when working from home and working solo for the most part, it is important to keep yourself accountable. It’s helpful to connect with someone that you respect and trust on a regular basis about your commitments and accomplishments. You’ll likely have more luck getting things done when you’ve committed out loud to someone else
– Get Out of the House – working from home has a ton of benefits but it can also be an easy way to isolate yourself. Ensure that you’re getting out during the week to keep the creative juices flowing. Meeting with people, working from co-working spaces, etc. Ensure that you’re always talking to people about your progress and ideas to get their valuable feedback
Find Ally Compeau Online:
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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