A dream of every aspiring entrepreneur is to create a sustainable business that aligns with their passions and interests and allows them to live life on their terms.
I cannot hear stories like this one enough. JapaMalaBeads.com was created from a passion and interest in yoga, motivation, and the desire to create a product that utilizes their creativity.
Interview with Timothy Burgin from JapaMalaBeads.com
To start off, tell me about yourself and your journey leading up to starting your own business. What was your inspiration for creating and selling Mala Beads?
Timothy: I started practicing yoga when I was 19, and in my early twenties, I bought a mala bead necklace that led me to practice mantra meditation or japa. When this mala broke in 2003, it led me on a frustrating search to find a new one. Disappointed in the options I found locally and online, I decided to figure out how to make one for myself. I already had experience with photography, web design and e-commerce, so after successfully making a few malas I decided to create a simple site online to sell them.
Who is the artist and who is the Yogi? 🙂
Timothy: At the start, I was doing everything. My B.A. is in studio art, and I’ve had my paintings shown in several galleries, so I draw on my artist background to design the mala beads. As the business took off, I’ve hired several assistants to make the malas who all have been avid yoga and meditation practitioners.
You’ve obviously had a long e-commerce journey having started in 2004! What was it like starting out online?
Was marketing easier in 2004? How have your efforts changed?
Timothy: Getting in early in the game allowed us not to have to do much marketing. Now we have twenty times more competitors, so this requires us to do more traditional marketing and makes us keep up an active SEO campaign.
What have been your main marketing focuses over the years? Any efforts in particular that you’ve found helpful? Unhelpful?
Timothy: Starting a monthly email newsletter has been a great ROI and has built up our brand and customer loyalty. Initially, social media was helpful, but now we don’t invest much in those platforms. Online ads have not been very helpful to us. We have a lot of repeat customers so making beautiful and high-quality mala beads, prompt fulfillment and standing by our products has been essential for our long-term success.
What tools do you use to help you with your site, your marketing efforts, and overall success?
Timothy: Having an excellent photography setup with good lighting and a pro camera is a huge advantage and essential for customers to feel confident in their purchases. Finding an affordable web host with great customer support, strong security and fast servers has been a big adventure but a crucial component of being successful online. On the site, we’ve been using a marketing automation email system for a few years now, and that has shown to be a great way to educate our customers and generate repeat purchases. We use several caching and performance plugins to make our website load about 50% faster than our competitors.
You have a pretty nice following across social media. How has that impacted your business?
Timothy: We get some good traffic from social media sites, but as their algorithms have changed to decrease businesses’ exposure, we put less and less of our efforts at posting on their platforms.
What three things are you focused on now to grow your brand & business?
Timothy: Right now we are finalizing our fall product lineup. We used to release new products intermittently but have switched to a biannual schedule to allow us to better market and promote our new mala bead designs. Overall, I want to add similar consistency and efficiency with how the business is run to allow for additional growth. We’ve also been doing a lot more SEO marketing over this last year and have been revamping most of the information and educational pages on the site.
What do you have planned or aspire to in the near and/or distant future?
Timothy: I’m just about to start a redesign of the website with the primary intention of adding new tools to allow customers to find and discover the best mala beads for their specific intentions and goals.
What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs who are wanting to get involved in e-commerce and selling something they’ve created?
Timothy: I’d recommend starting simple with a well-designed product and website. It’s never too soon to start a newsletter list. Also, don’t scrimp on getting professional photography for your product, or take the time to learn how to take great photos yourself.
Do you have any promotions going on now or in the near future?
Timothy: We’ve been running our “Mala of the Month” promotion for several years now. Each month we feature one of our mala designs with a detailed write-up and a 20% discount. Otherwise, we focus on keeping our prices low and only offer promotions to create some consistency in our sales.
How do you manage your time between work and life? Tell me more about the struggles you’ve faced and/or are facing and how you are overcoming them.
Timothy: A significant shift for me was letting go of the distinction between work and life and instead choosing to focus on just doing what I want to do when I want to do that. I allow myself to become immersed into working on a project until I feel that excitement and motivation wear off, and then switch gears to another project or downtime. When I’m happy and excited about what I’m doing is when I’m most productive, and it’s much more efficient to ride that wave as long as possible, rather than to try and catch a bunch of waves at the same time. I’ve also become ardent at taking walking and yoga breaks throughout my workday, especially when I feel my focus and energy drop. I also permit myself to take a morning, afternoon or day off whenever I’m feeling burnout and needing a bigger break from work.
What about your business & brand gets you out of bed in the morning?
Timothy: I always end my day by thinking of the best three things that happened during my day. I follow this by considering the main goals and tasks for tomorrow. I set and organize this list to be things that I’m excited to work on or things that I’ll be relieved to get off my plate. I also have a big and complicated master plan for Japa Mala Beads so whenever I see myself moving closer to accomplishing those goals I can jump out of bed and quickly get straight to work.
What is your favorite thing about your business and what you do?
Timothy: I feel incredibly grateful to run a business that allows me to utilize my creative and spiritual interests and also to produce a product that helps people have more calm, ease and healing in their lives.
It’s so inspiring to see someone able to take their passions and interests and turning it into a fulfilling and sustainable business and career. It’s the dream of every entrepreneur!
If you’re an entrepreneur, then you know easy it is to focus so much on work that you forget about the important things in life – especially the health of your mind! And you also know that your work suffers when the health of your mind and body suffers.
If you need to make that more of a priority, hop over to Japa Mala Beads and get your health back on track!