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Giving is at the Heart of EllaNora

Mother finds outlet for affordable fashions, charity with online women's accessory boutique.

Located in Del Mar, CA, Kari Dunn’s fashion boutique reflects the influence of coastal living with jewel-studded octopus rings and colorful dresses.

The stay-at-home mother of two calls herself a shopaholic because she loves to find fresh fashion accessories at bargain prices. To feed her obsession, she opened EllaNora.com in 2009 with no expectations but the pleasure of sharing her discoveries.

“I fell in love with the items I was finding and thought it would be fun to offer them to others,” Dunn says. “Our everyday prices are 15 percent to 40 percent below retail.”

Since Dunn had experience selling on eBay since 1998, it was natural for her to start her new venture on the marketplace, but she was soon put off by the high fees and stiff competition, she says. So she left the auction site and opened her own online store, which still allowed Dunn to maintain competitive prices.

Having her own store has also allowed Dunn to make supporting her favorite causes part of her business model. Through her EllaNora Gives Back program, a portion of each purchase on EllaNora.com is donated to local and national charities that are near and dear to her heart.

The design projects a clean, fun and sophisticated look that lets the vibrant accessories be the focal point

Site design lets products shine

The site is made to create a good first impression with a design that projects a clean, fun and sophisticated look that lets the vibrant accessories on EllaNora.com be the focal point, Dunn says.

EllaNora.com offers jewelry, handbags and other fashionable accessories that are “colorful, unique and hard to find,” she adds.

Even though the economy is down, Dunn’s store does well because customers across the U.S., who live in smaller towns, are able to access her unique products at low prices, Dunn notes. Yet she believes it’s not just the pricing, but the quality of her items, that keeps her customers coming back.

Dunn says the biggest challenge of selling online has been getting the word out about her store. She markets it through social media websites but is also making strides by participating in charitable events and some creative networking.

In the reality TV spotlight

For instance, on a whim, Dunn reached out last year to Shawntel Newton, a former contestant on ABC’s “The Bachelor.” It was a spontaneous decision to email the reality show sweetheart, but Dunn felt confident about the idea because the women both grew up in the same Northern California city, and their families had business ties.

“She seemed very sweet and down to earth on the show, so when the idea of contacting her came to me, I didn’t think much about it,” Dunn explains.

Dunn shared a lot about herself and asked if Newton would be willing to help spread the word about EllaNora.com. However, Dunn didn’t expect the speedy response she received from Newton, who said she’d be happy to help and encouraged Dunn to get on Twitter.

The two became fast friends, and Dunn attributes Newton’s “kindness of heart” for blogging about the boutique and wearing EllaNora jewelry on an episode of season 16 of “The Bachelor.”

Making a difference

“The more I give, the better it makes me feel, and I know I’m making a difference in someone’s life, which motivates me to keep giving”

Participating in charitable events also boosts visibility for EllaNora.com. One of the reasons Dunn started her own business was because she wanted to donate more to causes that are important to her—particularly organizations that fight domestic abuse and childhood cancer. She also enjoys participating in local fundraising events and will often donate high-end items from her store to their silent auctions.

As a consumer, Dunn knows she would be more inclined to buy something that supports a charitable organization. And, as a retailer, Dunn says she will continue using charity partnerships as her “No. 1 marketing technique” because it’s beneficial to both parties.

“In my personal experience, donating to charity becomes very addictive,” she says. “The more I give, the better it makes me feel, and I know I’m making a difference in someone’s life, which motivates me to keep giving.”

Family partnership

Even her 6-year-old daughter is following suit by partnering with EllaNora.com to fundraise for a local children’s hospital, which makes sense since the boutique is named after Dunn’s two girls.

It was important for Dunn to incorporate something personal from her life when thinking about a name for her boutique, she says. Using her two daughters as its namesake is special in that regard, but it also sounds classy and memorable.

Dunn realizes her children will grow up quickly, so it’s important to her to spend as much time as she can with them, she adds. They keep her busy during the day, but she finds time to process most of her store orders in the evening.

“It’s not always an easy balance, but my sights remain on the big picture, and I’m willing to do what it takes right now,” she says.

Visit EllaNora.com.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.



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