Originally from Massachusetts, April Ritz, Owner of The Savvy Associates, moved to the Daytona Beach area in 1998. She was fresh out of high school and wanted a change. Ritz spent several years working as a 9-11 dispatcher for the cities of Port Orange and Ormond Beach before relocating to Flagler County after the birth of her daughter in 2007. The move provided Ritz with a quiet place to raise her daughter and served as the catalyst that launched her entrepreneurial journey.
"I first started an events planning business," she said. "It was a good business to have while raising my daughter. However, a few years later, the recession hit and the economy started to tank. I needed to do something else besides event planning. That's when someone suggested Etsy. I'd been making personalized gifts like ornaments and wine glasses for friends and family, but, until then, I never thought about selling them. I figured what the heck and put it out there. The first month on Etsy, I had 100 orders. That's when I knew I was onto something."
Ritz built a website and continued to establish her presence on Etsy. After several years, she reached a point where she couldn't keep up with her orders. From sun up to bed time, she was making, fulfilling and shipping orders. Ritz knew that model was no longer sustainable.
"That's when I started to research drop shipping," she said. "I learned all I could and incorporated it into my business. It made a huge difference in my productivity and ability to scale. After that, I built out several drop ship only sites including a jewelry store, a 'mommy and me' clothing store, a wedding store and a 'general store' where I sell random trending products."
In a nutshell, drop shipping allows a small retailer to have a website, along with an online store, and to partner with different manufacturers and suppliers whose products are sold on the retailers website. The customer buys a product and then, in most cases, the owner of the online store places the order with the supplier and the supplier ships the order to the customer. The retailer eliminates the cost of holding inventory. After learning all she could about drop shipping and identifying an opportunity to share her knowledge with other online retailers, Ritz shifted gears and started a service-based consulting business.
"There's so much information out there about drop shipping," she said. "It's all great information, but much of it goes in different directions. One site tells you to do this, but don't do that. Another site tells you to listen to this person, but not that person. It can be pretty overwhelming for someone just starting out. I decided to start The Savvy Associates to help people that feel overwhelmed with the whole process."
In addition to serving as drop shipping 'consultants', The Savvy Associates is also a web design company that specializes in all things e-commerce. Ritz, who loves being able to turn someone's vision into a reality, is there with her clients every step of the way.
"I focus on building brands and teaching my clients how to run their business so that it thrives long term," she said. "I don't just hand off a completed website and leave my clients up in the air about what to do next. I walk my clients through every aspect of their store and teach them how to manage all of the back end aspects - including adding new products. When they receive their first order I walk them through placing the order with their supplier so that they are comfortable doing so going forward. All of my clients receive a success kit that is loaded with videos, how-tos, check lists, social media content schedulers, step by step information on how to create and run ads, and so much more."
Ritz continued, "I also test out suppliers before I recommend them to my customers. I'll buy from that supplier several different times to make sure quality control is good and that shipping is fast and accurate. Everything I teach my clients to do I've done for my own business."
Ritz shared that she works with a lot of moms looking for a good stay-at-home business. Most clients discover her through word-of-mouth referrals or through the advertising she does on Facebook. She recently hired a social media manager to help her reach additional clients and will look to launch a Facebook group in January.
Ritz shared some additional future goals. "I'll be concentrating on creating a membership platform in 2020 where I can provide group coaching and give exclusive webinars on all aspects of running an e-commerce store," she said. "I'll discuss everything from how to set up ads on Instagram and Facebook to when to post on social media for different holidays."
What advice does Ritz have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Know your worth and don't undercharge because you are 'just starting out'," she said. "If someone isn't willing to pay you what your time is worth than they aren't your client. Don't take it personal."