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Todd Heyboer, CEO of Closet Barcode, Grand Rapids, Mich.

| 01.19.2016 |

Todd Heyboer runs Closet Barcode, an ultimate online boutique for female fashions from independent designers. We spoke with him about his entrepreneurial experiences.


Q: What was the genesis of your business and was this the first time you started a business?


Todd Heyboer: I wanted to start an e-commerce business for a while. The challenge was finding a product or service that I could be excited about, enjoyed dealing with, and something that could be marketed easily. I’ve always enjoyed fashion and shopping and decided that I would start a small ecommerce boutique that sold Misses’ clothing and handbags.


The reason I choose women’s over men’s is because women’s clothing is much more interesting. Plus, there are many more articles of clothing that women combine to make complete looks. Besides building store fronts out of Construx sets when I was a kid this is my first time starting a business.


Q: How long did it take to get Closet Barcode launched?


Todd Heyboer: From starting research into product sourcing to removing the password to the website, the total time was about nine months. I first researched what companies and designers to buy clothing from. Because there is an abundance of competition in this vertical I wanted to separate Closet Barcode by offering products that have unique design elements and details and also buy from small independent labels. Then it was a process of buying sample inventory from multiple sources to check quality. Once I became more comfortable with purchasing I moved into the process of creating a website.


For someone who is unfamiliar with creating a website this task probably is the scariest. However, this task proved easier than I had anticipated. There are a lot of great platforms out there that help make the process easy. Each platform comes with pros and cons so you have to think ahead on what you want your site to look like and also what you want the site to do for you and for your customers. After selecting my platform and purchasing a well-designed template I went to work. Creating the feel for the website and uploading the products took around two months.


Q: How are you marketing the business and how are your customers?


Todd Heyboer: Marketing the site to the right audience has been the most challenging part of this adventure. There are so many choices that it can seem overwhelming at first. In the beginning I mainly focused on Adwords and social media. Adwords seemed like a no-brainer because you can target people that are actively searching for your products.


However, after several months Adwords just wasn’t panning out the way I had hoped. Right now I’m focusing more on working with influencers in the fashion vertical. So there is more of a focus on bloggers, and bloggers that have a large social media reach.


Great marketing can happen when you partner with a blogger. A blogger builds trust between themselves and their audience. When you have a blogger that can say positive things about your brand and services that means something to the audience that reads the blog post. I continue working on the approach to social media. I initially began with Facebook and Pinterest. After a few months I expanded into Twitter and Instagram. The focus now is building a following on those mediums and once the audience is larger and more engaged we’ll start marketing more to our followers.


Q: What have been the greatest challenges and greatest challenges in running Closet Barcode?


Todd Heyboer: The biggest challenge was actually learning not to do everything at once. Before opening the site to the public I spent a lot of time reading articles and blog posts about what to do and what not to do. I felt that I needed to do everything at once: be on all the social media channels, market on Adwords, get on blogs, build a large email list, getting PR, etc.


However, doing all of those things at the same time leads to spreading yourself and your new brand thin. It is more important to focus on a few channels and do them well. Once you get those few channels working better than move on to the other items. Like I mentioned earlier the marketing of the site has proved the most difficult and you need to have patience and allow things to just grow. It’s best to think more long-term and have realistic expectations.


Q: What are your corporate goals for 2016?


Todd Heyboer: There would be three main goals for 2016. The first is working on getting the word out that Closet Barcode exists. The focus is to continue to work with influencers and build trust with our existing customers and those that are experiencing Closet Barcode for the first time. Also, continue to build our social media presence as way to create brand awareness and create an engaged audience.


The second is working on SEO for the website. Building backlinks from relevant sites and improving our domain authority so that we can get better rankings on search engines.


Lastly, it would be continually expanding our inventory. We want to keep building the product we have from existing designers, but we also want to look at other designers that can complement what we are already offering.


Closet Barcode is online at www.closetbarcode.com.