How Hardtofind’s Erica Stewart Turned Her Hobby Into A Multi-Million Business

Libby Jane Charleston
on 23 February 2017

Erica Stewart launched online marketplace Hardtofind in November 2008 as a hobby. She then used her maternity leave in 2010 to make the business a priority and realised the full potential of her idea.

That lead to Erica leaving her day job as a National Sales Manager at News Life Media.

Eight years later, Hardtofind has announced a turnover of $15 million in 2016, which is expected to increase to $20 million this year.

Women Love Tech asked Erica to share some of her tips and tricks behind her successful business and how technology has helped Hardtofind grow.

What makes Hardtofind so unique?

Hardtofind is Australia’s leading, award-winning curated online marketplace celebrating fun, innovative design from the best small creative businesses in Australia and all over the world. Stop, look and ‘where did you get that?’ pieces, made by talented people who love what they do. Our site brings together an expertly sourced global community of cottage industries, independent studios and hole-in-the-wall retailers with people looking for something different – and creating a much more personal maker-to-customer shopping experience.

How has technology helped you grow the business?

We’ve been very focussed on automating our internal systems and processes, which has allowed us to scale the business without having to spend more on resources. Features like self-service returns and seller-to-customer messaging have been game changers for us, and the added benefit (apart from a business that runs more efficiently) is a happier customer. We also recently implemented zipPay and the results have been promising – customers who use zipPay at checkout spend more.

What are some of your favourite apps and tech gadgets?

My dad is an early adopter, so I bought him a couple of very cool techie gifts from Hardtofind for Christmas, including a Bluetooth Finder that helps him find his keys with his phone (or find his phone with his keys!), and a Wine Minder to help him manage his wine cellar and track the health of his wine collection based on how the bottles are stored over time. He loves them both! Tech is one of our fasted-growing categories. As for my favourite apps – I couldn’t live without Weatherzone or Google Maps.

What are your favourite social media platforms and why?

Hardtofind is such a visual brand so social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for us, as they allow us to showcase the amazing products on the site. We get loads of engagement on the likeability of our products alone, and our tone of voice is always friendly, funny and slightly irreverent – perfect for social media.

Is there any advice you can give start-ups re technology and social media?

There’s a lot to get distracted by in terms of new technology and SAAS platforms. A good discipline is to first decide what the business needs, and then look for the technology to support it (not the other way around). I learnt that the hard way! I’d also focus on SEO and building up a social network. Having a Facebook page, Pinterest board or Instagram account is free, and a clever, engaging social content strategy can really help drive traffic. Likewise, with organic Google rankings, it’s worth consulting with an SEO expert to help you build a solid, long-term strategy.

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