Interview with Cynthia Oliver, Owner of Ethereal Decor

Tell us about your business.  What products do you sell?

We started our business in 2002 in Bridgeport, CT.  We sell wholesale, high-end event decorations and home décor products, specializing in chandelier replacement crystal prisms and crystal chains. Our signature product is Swarovski crystal custom length chains for home décor and architectural installations.

Our website is (runs on Shopsite shopping cart platform, hosted by Lexiconn)


How did you get started? Was there an “A HA!” moment?

I got the idea after planning my own wedding in 1996. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I did not want any of the run-of-the-mill, discount store-type decorations. I wanted something interesting, with a high end look, but at a great price. No tissue paper bells, bubbles, balloons or plastic cups filled with Jordan Almonds on the table for guests.

The wedding didn’t turn out as flawless as I had planned, however, friends and family loved the centerpieces. In fact, so much that two ladies from my mother’s church actually argued over the last two. To keep the peace, I gave up the centerpiece from the bridal table (which I was planning on reserving as my own keepsake).

That gave me the idea to sell similar items to other brides. In 1996, magazines were the medium of choice and I didn’t go about the marketing very well at the time. I lost tens of thousands of dollars, but I didn’t give up on the idea.

In 2001 I was actually recovering from an illness and I was still literally flat on my back in bed at home, unable to work and on disability. I put up a website using a laptop, propped up on a special contraption I ordered online (so that I could type while lying down), because I couldn’t sit up in bed. That first home-based business had only one product on it but it brought $120,000.00 in within the first year.

After that, it was a slow process of coming up with new items and then designing unique items that were hard to find elsewhere. That small internet business has now grown into a real brick and mortar business with a 2000 square foot office with 2 warehouses.

What is your marketing secret?

We focus on selling a smaller number of really beautiful things that are harder to get. We don’t sell masses of the same old things found on a thousand other websites. Basically, if something that we sell is also sold on more sites than I can count on my two hands, I would consider discontinuing it, re-designing it or coming up with something new.

We focus on offering higher quality products. We don’t focus on being the cheapest guys on the block because that ruins the market for everyone. Customer service can be nothing but completely lost if we compete purely on price. Our customers enjoy talking to us and getting tons of ideas and information even if they don’t buy a thing this time around. They appreciate the time and information and they know who to go to later or who to refer a friend to.

What is your advice to other small ecommerce retailers?

Find a niche, offer the best product that you possibly can and at the best price that you can. Don’t try to compete on price alone. The lowest price strategy just forces your competitors to do the same until prices are eroded to unrealistically low levels. And then, only the largest sellers can possibly maintain those prices. You will never be able to be the cheapest and if you are, you can’t stay in business very long that way. Focus on quality and service and people who can pay for it, are willing to.

How has Ordoro benefited you?

I have used other order management software before, and I was a little leery while starting with Ordoro due to that. We started with Ordoro about 9 months ago. It has helped by dramatically decreasing the time we take to ship our packages.

Before Ordoro, we would have to physically type every bit of every customer’s information into the UPS shipping system, including the full name and address and right down to zip code, phone and email address. When we had to do all that and go through the various screens to complete the shipment, it would take us about 10 minutes to ship every package. That was just crazy! Now, I take a package from picked and packed to labeled and shipped in about 2 minutes. Faster shipping means fewer customer emails and phone calls for order status information, leaving time to ship more orders.

Ordoro has also eliminated the need to re-type customer details. Typos can cost money. But, in our business which deals with big events like weddings, shipping errors mean high stress and angry bridal customers. With Ordoro, we have more confidence that every package is going to the right address.

Ordoro also keeps our orders organized and I can precisely see what was in each package – tracking numbers, when it shipped, etc. That makes phone calls and email status requests much easier and faster to deal with.

I must say that I am impressed with the level of customer service with Ordoro. They listen to their customers, take feedback seriously and actually incorporate suggestions into their new versions. I have seen a number of improvements after having made some good suggestions and I like that.