I thought I’d share a previous post from Network Solutions “Solutions are Power” about how I started 17th and Riggs. Thanks to Steve Fisher for the interview!
Rebecca Malik is a traditional entrepreneur with her online store “17th and Riggs” based out of Washington, DC that sells high-quality, affordable home furnishings in a range of styles. In the interest of full disclosure, she is wife of Raj Malik Sr. Director, Legal & Business Affairs here at Network Solutions. It is really saying something when employees think so highly of its products that they want their spouses to use it for their business. At 17thandRiggs.com, Rebecca takes each piece seriously and says that each of her offerings are hand-selected to provide customers with style and affordability. Rebecca graduated with a degree in business and art, and then segued from a career in sales and consulting to working with an interior design firm in Washington, DC, Lori Graham Design. She was simultaneously working on her own line of women’s shoes, which are now being produced in Portugal. She is currently focusing her energies on bringing her design style to online shoppers at 17thandRiggs.com.
I was able to spend some time with her recently and here is a transcript of our interview:
Steve: How did you get the idea for 17th and Riggs?
Rebecca: I’ve spent countless hours searching for furniture for our condo in DC as well as looking for items while at Lori Graham Design. It would often take a significant amount of time to find design and furniture pieces that fit my criteria – beautiful, well-made, and within my budget. I thought it would be fantastic if I could pull together items that I love (and that I think others will love too) into one convenient place online. I really think there is a need for a centralized place for shopping for stylish decorating and furniture pieces online.
Steve: For the uninitiated, could you explain your vision for the business?
Rebecca: To be a customer-focused source of beautiful high-quality, affordable furniture and décor. I want to have a website that can become a destination for online shoppers who know they can come to 17thandRiggs.com and rely on it to have a large selection of stylish and affordable design and furniture pieces for their home, condo or apartment.
Steve: You have recently opened 17th and Riggs. What was your motivation to do this online only?
Rebecca: I decided to open an online store because that is how I primarily shop. Living in DC, we do have access to great stores but I like having a broader view of what is available and the ability to see if I’m paying a good price for the piece I would like to buy. I knew that I could price my items lower by avoiding a lot of the overhead that a traditional store would have.
Steve: You are currently a Network Solutions customer. What services do you utilize and why did you choose Network Solutions?
Rebecca: I currently have my domain name, web hosting and ecommerce package with Network Solutions. Their customer service is very good and as a beginner, I can say that the ecommerce platform is easy to set up and use. Also, it is compatible with QuickBooks merchant services so it made it fairly easy to get the website, payment processing, and accounting integrated.
Steve: As a new entrepreneur, what do you find are your greatest lessons learned from starting your business?
Rebecca: The fact that the result is completely dependant on your efforts is driven home quickly. Working independently you can really only hold yourself accountable, even if, say, a vendor doesn’t deliver an expected result on a product. So it has been interesting looking at, for example, how my instructions had an effect on a particular outcome. The lesson I’ve learned is to keep improving and learning and moving forward, despite minor hiccups.
Steve: What is your philosophy on being an entrepreneur?
Rebecca: To me it is an opportunity to develop something that you have envisioned and hopefully that you enjoy doing. It is also so fulfilling to work for yourself and have yourself be accountable for the success and (hopefully not as many) failures that occur in being a small business.
Steve: What would you like to see happen over the next 18 months for 17th and Riggs?
Rebecca: I’m constantly researching and looking forward to adding lines and items and broadening our product offerings while maintaining the focus on style, quality and price. I’m also excited about making continued improvements to the site to make it more customer friendly. One of the many improvements I’m excited about is integrating a mechanism for obtaining feedback from customers, to help us keep in touch with what they want and to respond accordingly.
Steve: Sometimes I like to close an interview with a “Do This List”. So for you, what are the top five things you have learned getting this online store ready that all businesses considering a B2C store should do?
Rebecca: If you are like me and new to the selling side of internet retail and ecommerce, be prepared for a steep learning curve. Luckily, there are tons of resources out there and lots of wonderful people willing to share their expertise. Take advantage of free online resources including the great webinars and forums that Network Solutions hosts. The webinars give you an overview of the basics of various subjects, such as Search Engine Optimization. Be prepared to do some legwork to find great products. And, of course, pick a reputable company to host your site and provide the ecommerce capabilities. I know my husband works for Network Solutions, but the benefit and comfort of live help by phone 24/7 is huge when you are building a website and managing an online business. Lastly, be persistent and do not take “no” for an answer. No one will take your business as seriously as you will so you have to keep pushing all the way to success. Its not an easy journey, but it is fun especially when you are doing it for yourself and your business!