Site Spotlight: Arcanadea.com

In this edition of the Site Spotlight, we interview Nathalie Thompson, Founder and Designer of Arcanadea.com.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you got Arcanadea.com started.

Nathalie Thompson: I’m a recently self-employed mom of a toddler and a preschooler, and I currently run two internet-based businesses, both hosted with IceStorm. Arcana Dea Design is a hand-crafted artisan jewelry design company that I launched about a year ago. It started off as a hobby thing on Etsy.com, just because I like to play with beads and sparkly things so much that I ended up making more jewelry than I could ever hope to wear on my own. After being on Etsy for a bit, I decided to take things to the next level and launch my own web site, under my own domain name. Shortly after I launched the business, however, my family and I were hit with two really, really difficult circumstances:

· In October of 2010, my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. He has since undergone two rounds of chemotherapy (he’s currently on his third round) and both bowel and liver surgery to remove a number of tumours. We are waiting to see whether the current round of chemo will help with the recently discovered tumours in his lungs.

· In March of 2011, I lost someone very close to me to suicide. He had apparently been very depressed for a long time, although no one had known about it. There was just such shock afterwards, with everyone wondering how someone could be that sick and have no one be aware of it. And, of course, the guilt of thinking that maybe you could have done something differently or that things might have turned out differently if someone had known, or if he had gotten help.

In any case, I think that both of these events affected me more than I really realized at the time. I wanted to do something to help other people who were dealing with the same things, so I launched a charity line within Arcana Dea Design called the “Hope Collection”. It was a special line of jewelry with partial proceeds from the sale of any item within that line going to cancer awareness and mental health awareness charities. This year, I’ve made some major changes around this line and am now donating partial proceeds from the sale of any and all items in my shop to these charities.

2. How was your site designed? Any particular software you used?

The ecommerce section of the web site is built on a Zen Cart platform, with a purchased third-party template for the look of the store itself. The blog section is built on Word Press, and I bought a premium theme to design it. I installed both Zen Cart and Word Press through the oh-so-handy cPanel interface that came with my IceStorm web hosting account, so that part was really easy and painless. There was, however, a little more pain (teeth-gnashing, hair pulling, and maybe even one or two expletives uttered…) involved with customizing my templates.

Within the site, most of my graphics are done with an older version of Fireworks. I do all of the design work –coding for customization, graphics, etc. – myself, hence, the occasional aforementioned expletives…

3. What are some of the challenges you face when running your website and business?

I guess there’s really two main challenges – the technical issues, obviously, would be the biggest ones. I do have a background in web design, but that was an area I worked in over ten years ago; the web and all the associated technologies have evolved exponentially in that time, so it’s been a bit of a learning curve trying to keep up with all the techy stuff. Especially the coding – I’m not sure PHP even existed when I was doing web design, and style sheets were just being introduced when I left the field! Sometimes I just have no idea why something isn’t working or what to do about it, so I spend a lot of time in support forums for things like Zen Cart, Word Press and my theme templates. And luckily for me, IceStorm support rocks; I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love these guys! I think that’s probably what I love most about IceStorm, actually – the customer support is just incredible. I suspect they must get sick of hearing from me sometimes, though; I have visions of my name coming up in the queue and all these poor tech people sitting around drawing straws for who’s going to have to deal with me this time!

Beyond the technical stuff, it’s really a time issue for me, especially with two businesses to run. My kids are still very young so they still really need their Mommy lots, and they do take up a lot of my time. They are currently part-time at a daycare they love, which is their fun time for playing with lots of other kids; it’s also huge as far as giving me time to get things done, and I find that knowing I only have a set amount of uninterrupted time to work helps to keep me really focused and in the zone when they are away. And then, having worked that intensely and consistently for those hours, I am so ready for playtime or crayons or messing around in the sandbox once they are home again, so it seems to work out well. Most of the time.

4. What do you enjoy most about running your website?

I think what I like most is that there is always something new to learn. Arcana Dea Design is a one-woman show, which means I have to be on top of everything from graphic design, to book keeping, to coding, to social media and marketing. And I also have to actually make some jewelry once in a while, too! There is just no way to get bored when you’re running your own business; when you’re the one wearing all the hats there is always, always something to do. And there’s just such satisfaction with seeing the end product – the web site and the blog – evolve and change as a result of all your efforts. At the end of the day, you can see that you’ve accomplished something really cool, and there’s just no substitute for that feeling.

5. Any other sites you’re working on?

I’ve recently launched a web site at Get-Government-Jobs.com. It’s a job coaching business that helps people get hired in the Canadian federal government, and the site is completely built on a Word Press platform. I’ve also branched out into the world of video with an associated YouTube channel for this one, which has introduced a whole new set of technical challenges to master!

I also have an older site at TTG-Creations.com which has, unfortunately, been rather neglected of late. I hired a fantastic designer to do the template for this particular shop, and it’s actually a Cafepress shop that’s been integrated into my own domain with something called CP Shop. This particular site is on my radar for revamping later this year.

6. How do you see the future of the Internet?

I think the Internet will continue to be a fantastic means of bringing people together. It gives us the opportunity to build communities where none could have existed before — or at least not in the way, or with the ease, that exists with the Internet. It opens things up and allows people from all over the world to freely and easily interact with one another and share information and ideas and concepts. It really is a global community these days, and I think this particular aspect is just going to increase. I think we’ll continue to see international friendships and business connections growing through these means, regardless of what politicians and world leaders are up to. And maybe, at some point, we’ll even reach a tipping point in terms of things like world peace, because when you have friends, colleagues, clients and customers in every part of the world, understanding and tolerance of cultural, religious and regional differences kind of automatically increase as well. They have to. And I think it’s going to be grassroots thing, growing under the radar of international politics.

7. Any final comments?

Just another huge thank you to the IceStorm support peeps! The more I get into running my own business, the more I realize how critically important customer service and responsiveness is. I’ve also noticed, however, that there aren’t a whole lot of businesses out there that are able to keep their client service standards up that high when they start growing the way IceStorm has, so I think that, as a company, you should definitely be applauded for that. I’d also like to say that I’m not sure my web sites would be where they are today without the help of those in the IceStorm support team, and I am so grateful to them for all the assistance they’ve provided as I’ve gotten these sites off the ground. You guys are fantastic, and I appreciate you so much! 🙂

Thank you, Nathalie, for the fantastic interview and the kind words for us! We wish you continued success!