In this interview series, we are talking to leaders of ecommerce businesses who can share their strategies for creating a very successful ecommerce website. As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Cutter
Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you got started?
I’m Lisa Cutter, President of faith & honesTee, which was launched in late 2017. That was when I was at the height of my marketing career but unfortunately ended up being included as one of the layoffs before the company went under a couple of years later. As the breadwinner of our family, I was financially and emotionally devastated
Silver lining? About 10 or so years prior, I dreamed of having a Christian t-shirt business, and every time I had a new design or message idea, I'd jot it into my notepad on my phone or in one of my journals. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur so I could manage my own time, rely on myself to be financially independent, and be there for my children as they grew up.
I missed out on that opportunity, though, because of our financial situation, and the kids are now young adults. I always had to work for someone else...growing their businesses and making them wealthy. I knew I was capable of transitioning my skills and talents to start my own business at any time during those 10 years, but there was one business operation I didn't know how to implement.
Voila, an ad appeared on my Facebook feed addressing this exact need and also introducing me to Shopify, which I love. I learned this last bit I needed in about 1-2 weeks, and faith & honesTee was born in September 2017. It was definitely an incredibly exciting time for me! Now I have the opportunity to bring God’s word to more people in a fun way so I can encourage, empower, and inspire them through collections that bring more joy, love, peace, and happiness to their lives each and every day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? What lessons or takeaways did you learn?
I don’t know about the funniest mistake I made when I was first starting, but I’m happy to share the biggest mistake I made. LOL, I didn’t fully flesh out the functionality of my shopping cart with a test product that was set at $0 and had no shipping charge, either. Not testing my website thoroughly before going live and announcing my business online was definitely not a smart move. But I learned from it. Now I remember to check every process when I create anything new or connect any apps or integrations to my website.
As for some smaller mistakes, make sure you have clear refund, exchange, and shipping policies on your site that are easy to access—meaning: don’t have them hidden where the only place you can find them, for example, is your FAQs page. Not only does this clearly outline when customers should expect to receive their order, but it also defines the specific circumstances in which you will accept an exchange or return and what that process looks like. Furthermore, it builds trust with your target audience, and building trust online can be super hard to do.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?
I wanted to start this business so many years ago. At that time, though, I was a single mom raising two beautiful and brilliant baby boys. My husband and I didn’t meet until 2010, and we didn’t wed until 2014. I’d love to give a shout-out to James Nolan for being all in with the business idea, falling in love with the reasons I wanted to go for this business in the first place, and even sometimes helping me get more done to continue growing faith & honesTee—mind you, that’s after working 40+ hours a week at one of the local hospitals.
What does your ecommerce company do? What was the “aha moment” that led to the idea for your current ecommerce business?
In short, I sell faith-inspired items for the faith-inspired. This includes t-shirts, jewelry, hats, other accessories, books, home decor, and swag. Some I curate, while others I create. But essentially, the idea came because I wanted Christian t-shirts that didn’t exist—yet. And I found out that I wasn’t the only one! Our Savage Believer tee was designed for a special veteran friend of ours. Hi, Anthony!
My desire, way back when my sons were just kiddos, was about the time I started taking notes for all of the t-shirt designs I wanted to create. And I’ve barely even begun climbing that graphic design mountain.
What was your original vision for your company? What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?
The original vision for my company was just to sell t-shirts. Sometimes when a customer wears a shirt, it’s the only connection someone they encounter might have with God. And that message can help draw them near to Him. It can even start a conversation or prayer.
That’s the kind of almost “pay it forward” impact I want our products to have in the world. And it does. For my husband, who is too shy to evangelize, the t-shirts help start conversations naturally. I’m sure there are many people out there like my hubby, and that’s okay because we all have our own gifts and strengths.
Besides this main reason for sharing my creations with people, they also serve as wonderful, meaningful, and heartfelt gifts. And while I initially envisioned tees only, I realized quickly that expanding to other types of products that will help my f&h family be spirit-filled was the way to go.
There are more than 12 million ecommerce businesses out there. What do you think makes your company stand out? What are you most proud of?
Honestly, I don’t think my company stands out all that much just yet. One thing that makes us different is that we pray for and with our customers. Right now, we’re praying for everyone’s 2023 blessings. But we also ask about personal prayer requests in our social media and/or email marketing.
As for getting to the point of standing out, that’s going to change as soon as possible. On the horizon, we have a new podcast brewing, “The Girl Who Did It All Wrong.” It’s about learning to live a Godly life when you think you're a great Christian, but your actions say otherwise—and you not only know you need to change for the better, but you want to. It will give us the opportunity to connect with our audience on a much more deep and personal level.
I wasn't raised a Christian. In fact, growing up, I only knew about Catholicism. I thought that's all there was, other than Judaism. In middle school, I asked my mom to put me in CCD classes. Yep, I was the only one who actually wanted to be there. LOL.
After my confirmation in ninth grade, I began volunteering as a CCD teacher to first graders. Now, I had always volunteered and usually did so with younger children teaching them in some way, so this wasn't really much of a change for me. I've helped kids learn to read better, learn their alphabet and colors, etc. Yes, I know, long story already—just giving you some background.
In college, I was blessed to learn about Christianity and found out that non-denominational churches existed. Great right? But because my foundation of spirituality was Catholic, I never really understood why certain things were considered sins, etc. As an adult growing in my walk of faith and drawing closer to God, getting pregnant in college, marrying the father who ended up being the completely wrong person to be wed to, and having another child with him during our marriage, I began to understand the “whys” that I was missing before.
I want to help other young people avoid the same life mistakes I made. I would hate to see another young woman literally miss out on her entire 20s because she's too busy raising kids she wasn't really ready for and working full-time desperately trying to make ends meet while also trying to heal from the pain of a failed marriage, life dream, etc. So why not learn from me? My sons have. One is 21 and is away in the Army in a long-distance and long-term relationship with a young woman here at home. The other graduated high school, is earning a certification in coding from the Georgia Institute of Technology while working part-time and has been building a beautiful relationship with his girlfriend for the past year and a half.
As we call it, the foundation of an incredible and amazing marriage. The boys didn’t date a ton of girls in middle and high school because we taught them to learn from our mistakes so they could be happy adults that weren’t carrying baggage from one relationship to the next. I really wanted to spare them broken hearts, and while it’s outside of my control to do that, I do believe our education and advice spared them quite a bit of drama and heartache.
I didn't have these resources, tools, and knowledge growing up. So I want to pass it on to help others make the right choices for their lives because I believe they can also have true happiness, joy, inner peace, and above all, God deep within their hearts and souls. I’m able to do so through my ecommerce business, blog, and forthcoming podcast.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things you need to know to build a highly successful ecommerce website?
1. Embody and share your story: Create a connection between the customer and yourself. People like to buy from people. At the end of the day, your brand is your purpose, so let it shine!
2. Be transparent: It builds customer trust and loyalty. The best way to do this is to incorporate an FAQ page on your ecommerce site. This is often overlooked but can be a differentiator in capturing new customers. And without a doubt, include a blog on your site too. Publish a new article at least once a month, if not once per week.
3. Create a flawless user experience from the first web visit through to purchase and even easy communication for customer service. This boils down to your chosen ecommerce website builder, hosting service, and web design/theme, and includes additional features like live web chat.
4. Make sure you're leveraging integrations and apps that automatically push your inventory to third-party shopping experiences like your Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest shops as well as Google Shopping.
5. Ensure there's a streamless checkout process with multiple payment options that showcase shipping costs as soon as possible (if it's not offered for free). Ideally, price your products to cover shipping costs and always offer free shipping.
If there were one part of the ecommerce website development process you would have spent 50% more time on, what would it be and why?
Without a doubt, app integrations. Trying to do everything with the theme is a Sisyphean task. It’s important to leverage apps, both free and paid options, for two reasons:
- Ensure your website functions as you envision it.
- Create an optimal user experience.
Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging ecommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Shopify is by far the best ecommerce platform that exists right now for business owners and entrepreneurs alike. It’s super easy to use, including app integrations, and if you don’t need custom features via custom coding, you can literally create and launch your ecommerce website quickly. You also don’t need to worry about website backups, theme updates, or implementing and paying something extra for the secure sockets layer certificate because all of these are included with your Shopify hosting.
Some of the first apps to integrate are Meta, Google, and Pinterest because they are free and automatically push your products to your Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Pinterest shops. This eliminates the need for posting your products manually to each of these platforms. This way, you can focus on the creative content instead that engages your target market on a deeper and more personal level.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an ecommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Budgeting incorrectly for website needs is the most common mistake I see CEOs and founders make when starting an ecommerce business.
Oftentimes, websites that are too strict with the budget lack functionality, thereby causing a poor user experience. Poor user experiences lead to increased visitor bounce rates and, eventually, lower SEO rankings. To avoid this mistake, make a detailed list of all website requirements from design to functionality, and get proposals based on this list.
If you need a lot of custom work, which is really web development work, not web design work, because it requires coding expertise, do not try to hire a web designer for a flat-rate project fee. You need a web developer and should be paying hourly to get the website up to the level you and your clients need.
In your experience, which aspect of running an ecommerce brand tends to be most underestimated?
Most people don’t realize how time-consuming it is to add new products to the website regularly.
It’s not a matter of just popping up a picture and/or video, then naming and pricing the product. You have to consider SEO best practices and user experience too. It’s best to also include engaging and compelling copywriting for each product that incorporates one of the keywords from your keyword research.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
I would love to help guide people to eat and drink the things their bodies need so they feel great, have tons of energy, and help reduce their chances of getting cancer. But it’s not as simple as “eat this, don’t eat that” because everyone is an individual.
I’m hoping to start working on an app with a partner later this year so people can hop in the app and, for example, look for foods that are high in potassium because, per your doctor, you need to increase your potassium intake. Or perhaps you have a condition, and you need to find foods that will help reduce or even eliminate the systems the condition causes.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can stay connected with me at faith & honesTee:
- On our website: faithandhonesTee.com
- On Alignable: alignable.com/bethlehem-ga/faith-honestee
- On Facebook: facebook.com/faithandhonesTee
- On Instagram: instagram.com/faithandhonesTee
- On LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/faith-and-honesTee
- On Pinterest: pinterest.com/faith_and_honesTee
- On YouTube: youtube.com/@faithandhonesTee
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