Natalie O’Brien is the definition of a self-starter. She has made a name for herself in the field of information solutions by teaching herself everything there is to know about information technology. Part of her self-education included building websites from nothing even before GoDaddy came on the scene.
This experience made Natalie O’Brien one of the precious few who could write HTML code to build a whole new website without paying for third-party websites like GoDaddy and Wix. Both sites offered templates, designs, and instructions for building websites, for a fee.
But IT wasn’t always in the cards for Natalie O’Brien. She says her parents bought her a computer, and her uncle hooked it up with internet. Her mother and father wanted her to become an accountant, but playing around with her computer hooked her to information technology. Since getting her first computer, Natalie’s passion for information technology just grew, citing the fact that the field is “always evolving and never repeated.”
In 2010, Natalie O’Brien started her own company, NOB IT Solutions. Intended for small and micro business owners, the company aims to offer information and digital solutions to SMEs so that they grow and become more competitive in the market.
Through her work, Natalie O’Brien wants “to become the Microsoft of the Caribbean,” and “a household name for SMEs.” With her background and experience, you know Natalie will make it happen.
Check out more interviews with self-starting industry pioneers here.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Natalie O’Brien: I grew up and still to this day live on the lovely island of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. I started off my career journey in the Accounting/Business environment and while working as an intern as a data entry clerk I was asked if I can help the company build a website. I said yes. I always love working on computers and this was a new challenge for me and I was ready for it I started off as a self- taught then took courses later on. Once I started down this path I grew from learning basic HTML Code to developing Web Application and as they say the rest in history and here I am today still learning and improving my skills.
Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Natalie O’Brien: My “Aha Moment” was after working on a few projects I noticed a trend that kept coming into play. My clientele’s fear of technology and not being able to grasp and understand the technical aspects that go into web/software development. From there I decided to focus on educating my clients while working on the Web/Software development.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Natalie O’Brien: Honestly, I don’t really see the issues I face as hard times but more as a challenge in getting to where I want to be and where I want my company to be. For example when I first started business was slow; instead of getting down and thinking of giving up, I decided to invest in improving my skills and started taking courses that would help me provide more services to my clients. I also look at different business avenues that would work for me and add beneficial value to my business.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Natalie O’Brien: With what is going on in the world globally things could be better but with any challenge I face I find a solution to overcome it.
Looking back at what I have accomplished over the years in business I see all the highs and lows that I’ve faced come into play in making me better equipped to handle all that is happening in the business world today.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Natalie O’Brien: One was overpromising and under delivering on a project for a client. I took the job on with the expectation of it going to be simple and without documentation (which is a must now). I was under pressure but was able to complete the project. The client was not too happy with me so in my mind I thought that was the end of the relationship.
Then I heard from the client months later inquiring about my services. The client said “Miss O’Brien we just had a misunderstanding on some things but we still need you and we may not all the time agree but we can work out things and come to agreement and move forward.” From this I learned that documentation is important and a must when starting a project and also communication is key for maintaining good relationships with clients.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Natalie O’Brien: Well off the top of my head the following platforms come to mind Shopify, Woocommerce, Magento, Big commerce, Squarespace and Wix. These platforms come integrated with the tools needed to run an e-commerce business e.g for marketing Mailchimp or Constant Contact, for payment processing Paypal or Stripe and for accounting and inventory Quickbooks. Generally most platforms provide the users with the tools needed to run their ecommerce and for a successful business one must know how to use these tools to their advantage.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Natalie O’Brien: Some of the best strategies are upselling, rewards programs for new and returning customers, running special promotions. Utilizing your offline marketing strategies to enhance your online strategies and in turn generate more sales.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Natalie O’Brien: By providing a good after sales service to customers, interacting and building a customer relationship via social media e,g by going live on one of the social media platforms, by asking customer to #hashtag you in the photos were then you can share via your social media
I would say this is where your marketing or PR comes in to play to work on building the brand.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
Natalie O’Brien: Five of the most import things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business are as follows:
- Technology/Software: Knowing what is the right solution and to keep in mind that technology is always changing and growing so you should always make sure you have the ability to upgrade and be compatible with the latest software.
- Inventory: This is important because before a customer can view or place an order you have to make sure you have items in stock then enter it into the system which involves a number of processes and some of these are done manual and may be subject to human error . So it is always good to have a good inventory management process and system in place.
- Logistics: Obtaining the product from your supplier then storing the item and then shipping it to the final destination This is part is sometimes overlook but this is important to optimization and avoiding potential disruptions when shipping your products.
- Pricing: Know how to set your prices now that you are competing with the world one has to know how to price items and over customer value for money.
- Online Systems and Process: This part is a key component. I recommend that you have documentation of your online system and process. This helps to troubleshoot issues and train new employees on how to use the system. Having these documentation makes things easier in the long run because you have a better understanding of how your ecommerce business functions.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Natalie O’Brien: You can reach me via:
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!