After launching her online shop, Lavender & Slate, on Weebly roughly a year ago, Stephanie Dabrowski found the build-your-own-website service an ideal fit for both her business and her technical skills.
Dabrowski, a designer for a children's clothing company, wanted to be her own boss and make "upcycled" accessories for grownups. Friends, impressed with the bracelets she assembled from things in her Manhattan apartment, had encouraged her to get online and sell them.
“I work in the fashion industry and I work in mass market and I always wanted to do something a little more eco-friendly," says Dabrowski, who had no web-design or coding experience.
After researching different web options, Dabrowski chose Weebly, a novice-friendly, feature-rich DIY service, and quickly figured out how to build her own site. Within a year, she became a Weebly Ambassador—that is, an enthusiastic Weebly user and champion who shares her know-how with other entrepreneurs and creative types interested in launching websites.
Dabrowski has found Weebly easy to use, with clever tools to support her vision for Lavender & Slate and strong company and community assistance for those moments when she needs help.
“I'm not technology driven and I'm pure creativity and it's really user friendly, that's the best thing about it," says Dabrowski, who also sells hand-made pouches and chokers from her site.
Almost from the start, Weebly reached out to Dabrowski to participate in engagement projects, inviting her to join other small-business entrepreneurs to showcase their goods and talk about their Weebly shops at a Brew Up a Website in a Night event at Brooklyn Brewery; she participated on a Q&A panel there. She also sent Weebly a 10-second video about being a female entrepreneur and using the platform.
Dabrowski also participates in the Weebly Referral Program, which allows users to earn credits for referring friends who purchase Weebly subscriptions. She has referred her mom and shared her referral code with friends and Weebly event guests.
Recently, Weebly asked Dabrowski to host an in-person session on how to build a Weebly website. That's when she became an official booster as part of the ambassador program.
"They reached out to a few people across the country to be ambassadors, to host this little workshop," she says. This involved finding the space, promoting the event and hosting.
“I said yes, so I did my little workshop in the city and it was nice and intimate and small, and I answered everybody's questions about starting a website." Dabrowski was also asked about Weebly's eCommerce features and her favorite tools on the platform.
Dabrowski held the workshop on a Saturday afternoon in a workspace in midtown Manhattan. While only two potential Weebly users attended her first event, she says, "it was nice because we got to do a lot of one-on-one work." Dabrowski showed the attendees—both designers, like herself—the back end of her website.
"We talked about starting the website as a personal blog," she recalls. Both of her workshop students said they wanted to start first with "inspiration," then move on to eCommerce.
“I showed them how to use it as a personal site, portfolio site, how to upload photos, edit, all that," says Dabrowski. She told them about SEO and keywords, writing descriptions to help Google find their sites, how to insert video and flash, opening links in new tabs, and where to find stock photos. “We talked about the super basics, like the whole drag & drop feature of Weebly."
Dabrowski also highlighted one of her favorite tools, the new "section" feature that allows users to drag blocks onto a page and edit colors, background images and text. “It's a really great tool because it organizes things so easily."
That's not her only favorite, though. “I like creating the slide shows because I have a lot of customer photos and I want to showcase how people wear my products."
The workshop attendees expressed interest in starting with a free Weebly site and building from there. "It turned out to be a surprise for them how easy it was to use," she says. “You can just make it look pretty."
Dabrowski enjoyed the event, and learned from it herself.
"Talking with people about my brand helped me learn more about how customers see and use the site to shop. This information then helped me tailor my site even more to be an inviting place for customers," she says.
"The greatest takeaway from hosting a workshop was passing along all the tricks and shortcuts I've learned from working on my site for the past year. Starting from scratch can be daunting and it felt great to show guests some key timesaving site-building tips."