Step number 1 to starting a business- Build a community. Always. A community of people who have similar interests and show similar preferences will do your marketing for you. From word-of-mouth marketing, and referral marketing to helping you critically evaluate your products, a community is a pot of gold.
We talked to Happily Ever Laughter, a military merchandise brand on Instamojo, that gave us a first-hand account of how their community was their backbone.
Let us tell you their story.
An IAF brat and an army wife
Ankita Bhatnagar is the founder of Happily Ever Laughter. A NIFT graduate with a background in design, Ankita has always been a passionate illustrator. Her creations had a unique theme.
A daughter of an Indian Air Force officer, (or what they call a military brat) and now a wife to an army husband, Ankita represents the millions of family members who are the backbone of those serving our nation even if they haven’t worn the military uniform themselves.
After working in the corporate for 6 years, Ankita chose to move in with her army husband where the seeds of this brand were sown.
She drew inspiration from her life and experiences in the military and that became the theme for her comics and illustrations.
From this special perspective, Ankita’s drawings struck a chord with this incredible group of people. And once more folks discovered her amazing work on social media, they couldn’t get enough!
And that’s how Ankita Bhatnagar ended up as the proud owner of Happily Ever Laughter, a small business that brings joy to people’s lives.
Happily Ever Laughter – serving a niche audience
When Ankita started her business journey, she knew 2 things:
- The business had to be online – Being an army wife meant relocating frequently and sometimes to remote locations. This is why Ankita chose Instamojo to start her online store way back in 2019.
- Her community came first – People associated with the army have a sense of togetherness and belonging. This helped them connect to the kind of products that Ankita made. Products that were quirky, funny but also had an emotional tinge.
The products of Happily Ever Laughter sees demand in a very specific audience segment. When Ankita first sold on Instagram, it was purely by word-of-mouth marketing that more buyers came her way.
This community gave Ankita newer ideas for her products, helped her refine her existing products and also helped get her new customers.
This is the power of Niche marketing – once a cohesive group of people like your products and relate to them – it’s easier for you to thrive in that space. The best part? There is minimal competition so it’s easy to stand out.
Challenges and other learnings
Ankita has seen the proven effect of building a community before running a business. Here are some other important business learnings that Ankita had when growing Happily Ever Laughter:
Managing RTOs can be a pain
For a solopreneur who has to manage so many other tasks in a simple day, managing returns can get quite hectic. Returns can cost eCommerce business owners lakhs in losses.
Not getting the product back in one piece, constantly tracking where the product is on the return journey, handling refunds – it can be a messy affair.
Out of Stock doesn’t have to be a bad thing
As someone who sells art online, having your creations go out of stock creates a sense of exclusivity. This is what sets an art business apart from a manufactured business. Art cannot be duplicated in hundreds.
Also, personally, Ankita would prefer out-of-stock, over dead stock.
Going beyond jingoism
This Instamojo online store is seeing massive success not just because of its patriotic nature – but because of everything it represents.
Her products don’t violently assert the need to be patriotic. It evokes a sense of community and brings to light everyday things for a military family. It acts as a welcome comic relief for them.
It’s the beauty in the simplest of things. Waiting for your army spouse to come back, the fun of shopping in a military canteen, the pains of moving about constantly and so much more.
Some of her best-selling products are themed photo frames, long-distance themed products, and Ankita’s personal favourite: A drinking card game designed exclusively for the military fraternity.
Happily growing on Instamojo
Ankita has moved about quite a lot. Even if she was in South India, or in Delhi, she has been able to take her business along with her. That’s one of the biggest advantages of having an eCommerce business.
She started her journey on Instagram when she had 200 followers, but today she has a community which is more than 14 thousand strong. Connect to her on Instagram.
As a solopreneur, Instamojo has helped her manage and run her business from wherever she is. Today Ankita sometime also sees over 100 orders a day during peak season.
What she likes about Instamojo Premium:
- Since shifting to the Growth Plan, Ankita has been able to access features that have given a boost to her business. It has also become easier to manage orders, show more product images and connect to WhatsApp.
- She likes the versatility of the discount coupons that come with the Growth plan.
- Her recent favourite is the custom fields feature – where she can request her customers to leave behind custom requests for their orders.
- Instamojo’s customer support has been tailored to her specific needs and challenges.
Happily Ever Laughter is also a Mojo Star! ⭐ This store won the award for “Innovator of the year” in the Mojo Star Championship 2023! Heartiest congratulations to Ankita and her team.
Ankita is looking at a bright future with Happily Ever Laughter. Her long-term goals include selling her products wholesale, putting out more customised orders and taking in bulk orders!
And we at Instamojo will be there to help her rise to new heights every day!