Our Online story 05: Tony and Joanne Burke
Would you like to find out how other people just like you, with a passion for what they are doing, make the transition and turn their idea into an online business?
I have been interviewing small businesses who have already done it, to find out how they managed, and show you what is ( and isn’t) really required to take the plunge and develop a successful presence online.
The Burkes: Nordic Fitness Ireland and BurkedaleHouse and Cottage
Why did you start an online business?
Initially we started renting out our house in Ireland while living in the UK, then we bought a little cottage on the grounds and on moving back to live in Ireland began to rent the cottage. The Nordic walking started as a hobby!
What platform is your website?
We started with the house on Air B&B, then progressed to Bookings.com which had the option of a basic website and finally developed our own website on Wordpress. The Nordic Fitness began on Facebook and developed onto Wordpress.
With a great deal of help from youtube Joanne developed the Nordic Fitness site herself, on wordpress,in six weeks from scratch with no prior knowledge of web development.
How do your customers find you?
The Nordic Fitness business began with a local following on Facebook, once the website went up within six months it gained a prominent position on page one of google because it is a niche business in Ireland. This helps people across a wider geographical area or who are searching for Nordic walking to find them.
The cottage is completely different as there is so much competition for accommodation. They knew nothing about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) when they began and thought it sounded like a whole new language to begin with. Determined to find out more Joanne attended the local LEO training courses not once but several times to develop her understanding of how to develop the marketing and SEO for both businesses.
They also invested wisely in partnering up with a third party specialist booking company in the UK who have also helped them develop the SEO.
What is the best bit about your business?
The freedom of owning our own business is something we value having never experienced it before. We love to meet new people and really enjoy having turned a passion for Nordic Walking into something we can do all the time .
We also have discovered that the process of planning creating and developing a business is something we find very satisfying. Finding solutions to obstacles developing our knowledge and skillsets. Joanne started with no digital background at all and within a few years is now more than adequately equipped and competent to develop and manage two online businesses.
One of their most valuable lesson's in Joanne’s words is
“having a third party booking system for both businesses takes a lot of stress away if the system fails for whatever reason – its for someone else to sort out!!”
What is the worst bit of the business?
I hate the bookkeeping and accounts side of running the businesses, its my next project to find a digital solution to help me run this more efficiently.
What has been the biggest surprise?
Joanne is a retired nurse and has been surprised to find herself develop into an e-commerce Entrepreneur with completely new skills. The other surprise was turning a hobby into a business almost by mistake!!
What can you learn from Tony and Joanne
Niche Market: Once again the strength of a niche market online is illustrated by this story. Because the Nordic Fitness is so niche it was much easier to Rank highly on Google search. However, the Burkes have had to work much harder and learn a great deal more to understand how to promote an accommodation business in a saturated marketplace.
Training: Joanne combined her own self education online with taking advantage of every bit of training on offer locally. The Local Enterprise Offices in Ireland is a fantastic resource for subsidised digital training courses.
Trusting the web developer: Tony and Joanne applied for the Trading Online Voucher to upgrade their website and pay for SEO development. Between them they did all the required checks and due diligence before selecting a web developer to work with. Despite their level of experience understanding and a clear brief for the developer, they were disappointed by the results. The developer went off brief and was unapologetic when challenged on his actions. Sadly this is another example of how important it is to find a reliable professional website developer to partner up with.
You do not need to have ALL of the skills to create an online business. Joanne and Tony recognised that they did not have all the skills required and partnered up with paid booking services for each business. This has given them the added advantage of additional support, especially on SEO and reliability with the security and collection of payments.
Margins and profit:
The Burkes have developed both of their businesses with not only hard work and determination they have consistently made small changes that improve the overall profit margins. Their intelligent use of digital technology and its continued development has allowed them the freedom to develop an income and lifestyle around their home in a competitive marketplace on the accommodation side, and a niche market for the Nordic Fitness.
If you have found this story inspiring and would like to have your online story featured in this series, apply here I would love to hear and feature your story.