Posted: Fri 14th Jan 2022
For Laurelle Darroux, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of huge change. Made redundant from her role in international maritime policy, mother-of-two Laurelle turned to self-employment as a way of progressing her career.
Having spent early lockdown making silk pillowcases to protect her baby daughter’s hair, Laurelle saw an opportunity to turn that endeavour into a viable business, Sleepgoddess.
The interest and encouragement Laurelle received from friends motivated her to make and sell her pillowcases more widely. However, though she believed in her product, her lack of experience in entrepreneurship meant she was unsure how to start a new business. So she turned to Google for help.
“I’d shared the pillowcases with friends and they liked them,” Laurelle says. “But taking it to the public meant getting a prototype. And so I set on finding a manufacturer. I started searching on Google, as it was lockdown and that was all I could do at home.
“Most manufacturers I contacted weren’t interested as they were all focused on making face masks. But I was determined. And so I continued searching and emailing. Wouldn’t take no for an answer! Eventually I found a local manufacturer who was willing to work with me, and it all went from there.”
Learning digital skills from a mentor
With her product designed and manufactured, Laurelle was ready to sell to customers online. But she needed a working website and a strong social media presence. Lacking the technical knowhow to build these herself, Laurelle signed up for the Google 1-to-1 Mentoring programme for some additional support.
“I didn’t have the digital skills to create a website or a social media following, but I used Google to learn them,” Laurelle explains. “Then once I got followers, it became all about how to keep them. It was through emails from Enterprise Nation that I found out about Google 1-to-1 Mentoring. I signed up straight away and it’s been like university for me!”
Through the mentoring, Laurelle was able to learn more about the fundamental elements of an e-commerce site. Her mentor emphasised the importance of knowing the customer by researching their behaviours and habits while online.
He also told Laurelle to study her competitors and use that information to understand what kind of content she could create to drive interest from her target audience.
The importance of a good story
“I got so much value from the sessions,” Laurelle says. “Things that I was struggling with, my mentor would help. Getting traffic to the website, for instance. Obviously I’ve invested in the site and it’s new, so I’m anxious not only to attract customers but to know the site is converting. I had opportunities to ask my mentor about conversions, and we did audits and so on.”
The mentor also taught Laurelle about the benefits of a compelling story and using her website to educate people on the company’s mission and values. Fortunately, the narrative that underpinned Laurelle’s business was one that would resonate.
“I started Sleepgoddess during the pandemic, at a time when a lot of people were feeling isolated or had lost their jobs. They’d suffered throughout this period, and the importance of sleep had never been more glaring. Also, more people seemed to be striving for a more sustainable way of life, having recognised issues around mental health and wellbeing.
“I really wanted to create innovative, multi-functional, good-value products. I have the name Sleepgoddess, so people were coming to me for help with their sleep. Because I’d suffered insomnia myself, I was able to offer that kind of support.”
Peeling back the curtain
On her mentor’s recommendation, Laurelle began using social media to give customers a glimpse into the inner workings of her business. Initially nervous about the prospect of peeling back the curtain, Laurelle soon found it a tactic that could really pay off.
“I’ve been showing some of the behind-the-scenes action, and showcasing what happens when I create a product,” Laurelle says. “I share things that are little interactions in my day. When I receive orders, for instance, or restock products. I’m still new to the business world so I just try to show whatever is authentic, and people seem to appreciate that.
“And it isn’t only customers; there are other business owners interested in my journey as well. I’m happy to share it all with them. Because everyone has to start somewhere.”