1. Tell us about yourself! (Anything you want to share!)
a. Brian Wu and Maria Papageorge are the co-founders of Amalfi Décor. We met in 2013 while attending Penn State University, and have been dating ever since. Brian was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and Maria was born near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. After college, we moved to Los Angeles to start our business.
2. When did you start your business? How did you start your business?
a. Amalfi Décor was founded in May of 2015 by Brian Wu and Maria Papageorge. We were both 21 years old, and just graduated college. Brian’s parents have been in the manufacturing business for over 40 years, and we thought why don’t we try to start a company selling some of the products they manufacture. We first launched in May 2015 with around 30 products. We set up a website and started selling on Amazon, and the business really took off quickly. Soon, we had to move our business form our one-bedroom apartment into a small office/warehouse.
3. What got you into retail? What type of products do you sell?
a. Retail was never something Brian or I ever planned on doing. Brian graduated college with a degree in Hospitality Management and I graduated with a nursing degree. Brian was always running the business full time, but I was working as a nurse and part-time for Amalfi Décor for about 6 months. By the end of 2015 the company had grown so fast that I had to quit my job and run Amalfi Décor with Brian full time. With that being said, I would never ask for another job now. Running an e-commerce retail company is one of the most rewarding jobs. I love being able to look on our website, marketplace storefronts, and social media pages and thinking, “I can’t believe we’ve come this far.”
b. Our most popular product category is our dessert stands. We specialize in metal cake and cupcake stands. Our signature look is very ornate patterned frames and cake stands with crystal accents. We also sell mini crystal chandeliers, candle holder centerpieces, and our newest category decorative vanity and serving trays.
4. What does a typical day look like for you at work?
a. Every single day is completely different, and I love it! When you’re a small team like we are, there are so many tasks to be done every day. I typically spend the first hour of my day responding to emails and customer service issues. I then look at our order processing system and make sure everything is working smoothly for when our warehouse workers come in to ship the orders. After that, my day is usually all over the place. Some days, I spend hours on Excel working on business reports, other days I am writing content for our website, product listings, and then there are days that I spend the whole day setting up photoshoots and taking photography. I spend a lot of time speaking with customers and vendors, and I’m constantly thinking about how we can grow and improve our company. Brian manages all our design work, and his day is spent mostly on Photoshop and Illustrator. He is also learning how to code websites, so that he can take over a lot of our web development work.
5. What is the best part of your job?
a. The best part of my job is the knowledge I have learned over the past 2 years. I have learned more from starting Amalfi Décor than I have in my 4 years of college. When you run an e-commerce retail company there is so much to learn that’s not related to just your industry. We are now applying this knowledge not only to Amalfi Décor, but other business adventures. Once you learn how to sell one product successfully, I feel that you can sell any product successfully.
6. How long does it take to design and create a product?
a. Our design process can take anywhere from 1 week to 3 months. Brian’s father is the most talented product designer I have ever met. Last year we were in talks with Costco, and they had asked us for a more modern collection. Within 1 week Brian’s dad had designed the product, made physical samples, and had them shipped to us. However, this is not our typical design process. Brian is a very talented artist, and hand sketches most of our new designs. We then send the drawings to Brian’s dad, and he finds all the raw materials required to make the product, and hand-makes a prototype for us. He will then either send us photos of the new product or ship us the samples. We’ve designed everything for Amalfi Décor from the product packaging, to the paint colors, to where and how each crystal is hung, to the assembly instructions, and product tags. We are constantly looking at how we can improve our existing products as well as expand on our current collections, and introduce new product categories.
7. How do you market your business? Any tips for other small business owners?
a. Our products are available for sale on our website, as well as 10 additional marketplaces, including Amazon, Wayfair, Houzz, eBay, etc. Marketplaces are a great place to grow your business quickly with a low overhead cost. I advise any retailer who is not selling on Amazon to start now! When we first launched our Amalfi Decor we were doing 90% on Amazon. They have so many valued Prime customers, who shop on their daily, so you really don’t have to work or spend a lot of money to get your products in front of a lot of people. When we launched our website, we expected to see the same results. However, getting traffic to your website is really hard at first. I think for the entire 2015, we only had like 20 sales on our website, and very low traffic. Over the past 2 years, we have spent a lot of time and money into growing our website. I can’t say there is one thing in specific that is going to grow your website, but spending a lot of time on many things, will slowly grow your website visitors and customers. A lot of our website customers come from social media: Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest primarily. We also get a lot of sales and traffic by advertising with Google. We are very thankful to have a lot of repeat customers that we remarket to and send regular email campaigns with promo codes and new product announcements. Last year we started a reviews program on our website, and we have seen an increase in our conversion rate. I think reviews from other customers really show potential buyers that they can trust your brand. My best marketing tips for small business owners, first try zero upfront cost advertising. You can do this by growing your social media following, working with affiliates who direct traffic to your site, and you only have to pay them a commission after the item sells. Always remember your repeat customers. They are the bread and butter for your business. Try starting a rewards program for your repeat customers and send them exclusive offers to try to get them to come back and shop with you again.
8. Where is your store front (if you have one)? Where can customers buy your products?
a. No storefront at this time, but maybe in the future! You can buy our products at amalfidecor.com or any of our 10 marketplaces.
9. Where do you see your business in 5 years?
a. I see Amalfi Décor as a household name for event and home décor! Last year we launched in Australia and Sweden, and we will be launching in the U.K. in February 2018. I would love to have our items available for sale in every single country in the next 5 years.
10. What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
a. If anyone is interested in starting an e-commerce retail company, I would be happy to set up a meeting to give you business advise in person. But I will tell you, as rewarding as starting your own company is, it’s not always going to be easy. When you run your own company, you think and worry about it 24/7. You will go through 50 emotions every day as a business owner. One day you’ll think wow my business is doing great. I love my company! Then there will be something that happens that makes you want to throw everything away and close your business. You’ll have issues with suppliers, buyers, competitors, and employees. However, if you are willing to persevere and work hard every day on your business, you will succeed.
11. We know starting a business takes a lot of patience and work, how do you balance personal life and your business?
a. When Brian and I first started Amalfi Décor, we had no personal life anymore. Everything was business all the time, and even our relationship had become 100% about business. This is a very unhealthy way to run a business. We lost friends, we were both emotionally unstable, and really struggled to maintain a healthy work/life balance. We have come a long way since then. We have now made a rule to not speak about work when we come home every night. We also work out every morning to start our day off with positive vibes. We also have a rule to never work on Sunday’s. Like I said above, when you run a business, you think and worry about it 24/7, and when you live with the person you run a business with, all you want to talk about is that business. We’ve found a lot of hobbies outside of work that helps us keep our mind off of it.
How can readers/clients get in reach of you?
Phone Number: 213-458-7740