|Kirsty and Sarah of CherryPickMe.com.au|
The sprightly, affable Sarah is one half – the younger half, by five years, she'll have you know – of the business-minded sister duo behind successful online retail business Ciao Bella Travel. Five years on from the site's launch, she and sister Kirsty Keane are gearing up to launch their new business, Cherry Pick Me.
Built on the back of the deal-a-day site momentum, the sisters will be using their discerning taste to cultivate the best online offers for savvy female shoppers. "We wanted it to be a really cool mix of things - the focus groups said what they love about the daily deals site is the surprise factor," says Kirsty. "It's a topic of discussion for them at work."
In the online-deals marketplace, Cherry Pick Me stands out for its girlie aesthetic, as well as its curated selection of goods and services (members can tailor their experience, thereby staving off deal-a-day fatigue) and attention to customer service. In addition to a Facebook page, the site has recruited a bunch of 'Cherry Ambassadors', including MsCritique.com and GWAS, to help spread the word.
Clients include boutique businesses such as NearlyNude.com.au, BanterBanner.com, MuseliMixer.com.au, LoveConviction.com and homewares label Ada & Darcy, all brands the sisters hope will benefit from exposure to their growing opt-in member database. With their experience in getting Ciao Bella off the ground (the travel accessories site now boasts two other full-time staff and a stylist), they hope to help other boutique businesses grow.
"There are so many fabulous online stores out there," says Sarah. "What we're doing is connecting really great stores to a really targeted, qualified market – females who enjoy shopping online, in Australia, aged between 18 and 40."
Cherry Pick Me members are given the option of tailoring their deal notifications according to their interest areas. There are 30 categories, including fashion, stationery, books/mags/music, interior design, shoes, beauty and accessories, with the girls' artful eye for gorgeous things ensuring only the best products and services are selected.
"We want to put something out there that's beautiful and warm and a nice place to be for a while," says Sarah. "We're taking all the positives from Ciao Bella – people say they love the navigation and the look – and applying them to Cherry Pick Me. But also in terms of the customisation, you're choosing what you want. I get annoyed when I receive things that aren't applicable to me."
Sarah runs the operations side of both businesses, while Kirsty, also a mum of two, manages the marketing. Both worked for mining companies before deciding to channel their skills into their own, more flexible business. Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, they would spend Sunday afternoons working at their father's engineering firm, so from a young age they were familiar with bootstrapping – while they have help now, in the beginning it was just them and a great idea.
"I've always enjoyed reading profiles of how women have started their businesses, like Kikki-K founder Kristina Karlsson, and brother and sister team Sahar and Bobby Hashemi from Coffee Republic," says Kirsty. "A lot of people have dreams, and say, 'I'd love to do this', but they don't action them: the difference is that these people did it, in a very practical sense."
While both girls obtained business degrees, Kirsty is responsible for marketing and big-picture planning, while the more detail-oriented Sarah runs things on a day-to-day operations level.
"I think the UK leads the way in terms of online initiatives," says Kirsty. "I sign up to a lot of online industry newsletters for tips and case studies, so I can apply them to the Australian market. But if we have a question, we'll go back to our customer or member base, via Facebook or e-newsletter or a poll. For example, we asked, 'Do you want us to stock male travel accessories?', and the response was a resounding no. In terms of adopting leading practises, we look to the UK."
As with Ciao Bella's value-added options, including its travel tips, advice, downloadable packing lists and and 'Remind Me Before I Fly' function, Cherry Pick Me aims to give customers a more engaging experience than your average flash-in-the-pan deal site. In addition to the Cherry Ambassador program, which taps into social networks, its own Facebook page, and a highly edited product offering, the site will also offer a glimpse at the retailers themselves, adding to the community feel.
"We want to bring out the store personality a bit more - so we have a section on the site that's called, 'The Story Behind the Store'," says Kirsty. "We love reading about how people started something, and if it's a success story how they got on their way, so we wanted to bring more of that to it, rather than it being a cold, hard deal. The deal, to us, is the cherry on top, not the main element. It's shining a light on them and bringing them to life."
CherryPickMe.com.au goes live on Wednesday!
Girl With a Satchel