How it all Started

In September 2018 I attended the national NRF conference in Washington DC with Kate Baker, Virginia Retail Federation’s (VRF) advocate. It was an introduction to my position as chair of the Retail Alliance board of directors. I’m the type of person that loves to continue to learn and utilize resources and the experience was great. As a result of that experience I was on the National Retail Federation (NRF) email list and I paid particular attention to their emails throughout the pandemic.

Keeping on Top of News

In April of this year there were questions about experience with the PPP and the EIDL. I responded to some of the questions in an email and was asked if I would be willing to speak with a Bloomberg reporter. Of course, I said yes.  Ben Bradley, a business reporter with Bloomberg, contacted me for a phone interview. We spent about 45 minutes together. I was at the beginning of the application process on both of the grants. He and I continued to email throughout my process until I was awarded the funds. It was a great experience.

Winning one of the 20 spots in National Small Business Spotlight Program

My contact person at the NRF is Megan Cruz suggested that I apply for the Qurate Small Business Spotlight Program (Qurate owns QVC, HSN, Zuzily among others). I was told they were going to select 20 businesses in the country to be spotlighted on QVC and HSN. In addition, there would be a mentorship program that would come with it and another opportunity to speak with political leaders about the experiences with the pandemic.

The idea of this program was to provide assistance to businesses during the pandemic by bringing greater attention to them through wider audiences. There was a large application to be completed and part of the criteria was an interest in women owned businesses that were both brick-and-mortar and online. In addition, they wanted people who had a background in community service. I told Megan I thought I fit the criteria and I would complete the application.

Garden Gazebo flip flop stepping stones
Pam Katrancha in Garden Gazebo store

Overwhelmed by customer support

I was beyond overwhelmed and delighted to be selected and from there things moved very quickly. May 14 was my day to be spotlighted on QVC and HSN. One week prior to that I was interviewed on Skype and then taped on Skype so that a video of me and my business could be used to promote the initiative. Of course the same was done for the other 19 businesses.

On May 14 sitting in my store at Pembroke on the set that my assistant and I built and using Skype I did four live spots. Two were on HSN and two on QVC. I was interviewed by four of the popular people who are on QVC and HSN and my website went crazy. In fact, we were so overwhelmed with orders it crashed but we got it back up fairly quickly.

Up to that point our website was doing OK but mainly only taking orders from local people who knew about us. Our geographic area with the website was Virginia and North Carolina and maybe a few people in Maryland. The small business spotlight experience introduced gardengazebo.com to a much broader audience and our orders were coming from all over the country. We continued to have a very comfortable busy time for several weeks following the spotlight. They have died off now and we’re back to our typical online business.

Upgrading an E-Commerce Store

Interestingly enough I had been working with a local website company prior to the pandemic and had received a proposal at the beginning of March to improve my website but when everything went crazy in mid-March I had to put that project on hold. The small business spotlight showed me why I need to improve the website because business in the stores has not come back. We are currently doing about 55% of our sales goal.

Additional Promotional Opportunities

I also participated in an interview with Elaine Luria, US Congresswoman from Virginia,  who was in Washington while I was in my store and people from QVC and NRF allowed her to interview me which was taped and then used to promote the small business spotlight.  I took her on a virtual tour of the store and talked to her about my experience with the PPP and the EIDL during the interview.

Mentoring from National Experts

The final piece due to my selection in the small business spotlight program came in late August and early September   I had a two week mentorship with experts based on topics that I requested. I selected website, social media, and merchandising.

Expanding Customer Base to National

Before the spotlight, our online customers came from geographic areas in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. However, we occasionally received orders from buyers living in other States along the east coast such as Pennsylvania and New York. QVC and HSN’s Small Business Spotlight introduced Garden Gazebo to a broader audience, and we saw interest from all over the United States. Active buyers now include customers living in California, Alabama, Montana, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Connecticut, and more states across the country.

Measuring Digital and E-Commerce Success

During the airing of our first live interview, the organic website traffic soared to over 5,000 unique visitors causing us to hit our monthly traffic goal in one night. The dramatic spike in website traffic we experienced after appearing on HSN and QVC extended into the following weeks. During the week of our on-air appearance, our webpage views increased 2,300% and online sales rose more than 300% from the previous week. Facebook page likes rose to over 4,500% for the week. The program increased our total reach through social media by 136% and increased engagement by 76% from the previous month.

Even though sales have now decreased, I believe there are some residual effects of the spotlight on our e-commerce. It strengthened our credibility with those not living in the local area and made an incredible impact on Garden Gazebo as a small, local business. It came at a time when help was most needed.

If you would like to get in touch with the author, please contact:

Pamela Katrancha
Garden Gazebo
CustomerService@gardengazebo.com

Visit their two locations at:

MacArthur Mall
300 Monticello Ave, Norfolk, VA 23510
Monday – Sunday 12 PM to 6 PM
(757) 616-0490

Pembroke Mall
4554 Virginia Beach Blvd #800, Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Monday – Sunday 12 PM to 6 PM
(757) 490-8922

Garden Gazebo - Pam Katrancha with mentor girls