Diana Berulytė is a co-founder of Softy, a fully-fledged luxury homeware brand that began as a side hustle. In late 2018, Diana was on maternity leave thinking about the day she’d have to go back to work when she made the business decision that would change her life. “We launched our first online store in 2019 and grew little by little. Now we have multiple warehouses in Vilnius, and I never went back to my old job.”
Like all good business ideas, Softy started small and set out to provide the answer to one simple problem: finding high-quality fabrics at affordable prices. For Diana, it was a decision based on everyday life. “I just wanted to buy some towels. I went to stores like Senukai and Ikea and the prices were just ridiculous for the quality.” So, with the end of maternity leave on the horizon, she and her husband decided to start out on their own with one idea in mind. “Well, let’s do it, let’s try to sell towels,” they said, and thus, Softy was born.
Supply & Demand
Having identified a niche, Diana focused on the core of the problem — supply. “We practically lived in Poland for about a month.” Valuable time spent wisely, the pair set about visiting as many manufacturers, importers, and suppliers as possible.
“That’s how we bought our first goods during that one month.” Diana and her husband had opened up a little shop in Druskininkai, a quaint spa town in Southern Lithuania. A fitting location for a traditional family-run store selling artisanal fabrics, but the couple quickly set their sights on something bigger.
Diana enlisted her mother-in-law to manage the shop in Druskininkai and spent the next six months finding the best fabric suppliers around the world. “I know a little about fabrics and I tried to speak to people in the industry that I was hoping to work with. I started asking questions and found that a lot of businesses couldn’t even distinguish weaving methods and materials.”
At that point, Diana knew for certain that Softy had something different. “We really know what we are selling, we know how it’s made, and understand the whole weaving process. We know what makes certain fabrics good or bad, and what could happen if you choose the wrong supplier.”
Diana spoke to suppliers all the way from Pakistan to Portugal to make sure she could meet the demands of her customers and find the inventory to scale Softy with its first online store.
Scaling for Success
While the online store was growing steadily, Diana and her husband were looking for agile solutions to take Softy to the next level. “We always tried to play it safe with marketing. We tried not to annoy our customers, but it was just because we didn’t understand the process.”
It would take over two years of slow and steady business before the big change came. Diana reached out to an external marketing agency in November 2021, hoping to really level up. “First, they said we didn’t spend enough on marketing.” No surprises there. “They said we should triple our marketing budget at the bare minimum and it worked.”
Softy was Diana, her husband, and her mother-in-law – a three-person family business making a modest living. After consultation with external experts, their operations grew exponentially. “We went from a turnover of about €1,000 per month to €300,000 per year.”
Still, the division of labor remains the same as it always was: Diana runs the online store, her mother-in-law runs the shop in Druskininkai, and her husband handles all the marketing decisions.
Analytics and agile solutions have proven to be at the core of the success of Softy. “Every day, we check our ad analytics. Google Ads, Ads Manager, and Facebook Ads are our main channels, and we will tweak them through the day until we can see traffic patterns that we are happy with and use them to plan our next day.”
Once Diana and her husband could see how fast their business was growing, it became clear that they would need to upgrade their web hosting to deal with the demand.
Hosting for the Future
Softy’s rapid growth as a business meant that the online shop and the hosting providers were always in a constant state of flux. “We just kept outstripping the capabilities of other providers. They couldn’t keep up with us.”
“We were getting really annoyed at how slow the website was running.” Diana felt like Softy was losing customers as a direct result of poor quality hosting, “So, we migrated the Lithuanian website to Hostinger and everything changed immediately.”
Switching to Professional Cloud Hosting was a transformative move for Softy – it is currently in the process of transferring the other sites over. “We plan to move our Latvian, Estonian, and English websites over to Hostinger too because it has definitely made our website faster, and our customers happier.”
Looking back on Softy’s growth, Diana is adamant that it was building the first online store that changed everything. “You can’t just build a basic website – you really have to work on it to keep your customers happy. We added express checkouts, started listing our products on eBay, and we’re getting the .co.uk version of Softy ready to launch in a new market.”
“We knew we were ready to expand and we knew that Hostinger wouldn’t let us down, that our online store wouldn’t crash, and that we would be able to keep on growing.”
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