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Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Vivalatina: From Failure to Product-Market Fit Selling Online Jewelry

Nicolas Tranchant
Nicolas Tranchant
March 17, 2018
Category of startup
Country of startup
Revenue of startups
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Vivalatina: From Failure to Product-Market Fit Selling Online Jewelry

Nicolas Tranchant
Nicolas Tranchant
March 17, 2018
Category of startup
Country of startup
Cause of failure of the startup
Bad Marketing

Nicolas started an e-Commerce that imported sterling silver jewelry from Mexico and resold it in France. His lack of knowledge on marketing made it impossible to him to achieve customers. After some big mistakes, he decided to shut it down and start re-thinking the business model. He is now making $7,200/Month.



Hi Nicolas! Who are you?

Hey there! I am Nicolas Tranchant, a 37-year-old French mechanical Engineer.

Before starting my own business, in 2012 I worked in the Aeronautical Industry in France as an Industrial Engineer. However, I had to left everything to follow my Mexican wife to Mexico, where we settled down in Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific coast.

As I had traveled before, I already knew Mexico and spoke Spanish, English, and Portuguese. Back then I had no specific skills in web, coding or marketing. In this scenario, I decided to start an e-commerce, which ended up failing.


What was Vivalatina about? Which was your business model?

The idea of Vivalatina rose when my Mexican wife moved to France to live with me, in 2010. We wanted to set up an e-Commerce to sell Mexican sterling silver jewelry that we would import from Taxco and resell in France.

I had lived a while in Mexico so I had lots of contacts in Taxco to source the jewelry. Moreover, as my wife could not work in France (her medical degree was not approved by French authorities), this was a big opportunity for her to make a living.

However, living in France we almost didn't try to turn our idea into a real product as I was very busy with my full-time job, and my wife was trying to work in the health sector while selling Mexican jewelry through eBay.

Founders Photograph

It was when we moved to Mexico in 2012, to a town with no industry and where we didn't know anyone, when I decided to give a try to this business idea we had in France and put all my efforts to succeed with it.

At these times, the idea had changed a bit. I wanted to find some local sterling silver providers and make an e-Commerce that would sell Mexican jewelry to France.

My selling argument was the low price I could offer. The plan was to run the business alone, doing it all by myself: finding providers, taking pictures, managing the web, and marketing the site. I wanted to cut costs and offer really good prices, as this was my main advantage.

Which technologies did you use to build it?

In the beginning, I tried to code the e-Commerce site using the OScommerce platform but it was a heck. Too much code to learn and write. 

Suddenly, someone hacked my website, so I gave it up and looked for an easier solution. That’s when I found Shopify and decided to give it a try. I completely loved it! 

With Shopify, I could get my hands off the code and spend more time designing the shop appearance, editing product images and doing web marketing. However, I still wanted to manage the design and template of the e-Commerce. It ended up being a pure loss of time with really bad results.

Vivalatina Website Design

Which marketing strategies did you use to attract your first customers?

I focused only on one strategy: Search Engine Optimization. The reason why I didn't carry out any other tactic was that I was far away from my clients and couldn't interact with them personally.

I started learning SEO on my own, especially through tries and failures. In 2012 there weren't many online courses, so I started reading blogs and a few books that explained some tactics and concepts about SEO.

Growing the e-Commerce that way was a big pain. As you probably know, SEO is slow if you are not an expert. And if you commit many mistakes (as I did) is even worse!

It was in spring 2013, when some of my mistakes led my website to get hit by a Panda Penalty, that I decided to get a true formation on SEO and stop losing my time with pure errors.

Vivalatina SEO

The Panda Penalty forced me to improve the quality of my content, learn more about SEO and clean the website. The positive side of losing a lot of visitors and possible sales? I learned a lot about Search Engine Optimization.

Which were the causes of Vivalatina's failure?

The main reason for failure was my lack of experience in digital marketing and SEO. I lost a lot of time trying to do it by myself. I should have learned with a great onine course or hire someone to do it.

The second reason was that I knew very little about my market, which was really small and full of competitors. In fact, online silver jewelry market in France is much smaller and competitive than gold (or even diamond!) jewelry markets.

What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?

As I have said, my biggest obstacle was the lack of knowledge about digital marketing. Now, I truly believe that my businesses depend 100% on my knowledge. It gives me the vision of what is possible to achieve and how to do it.

Which were your investments? Did you achieve some revenue? Did you lose any money?

The good thing about VivaLatina failure was that I had the opportunity to keep all my investments really low. I think I only spend $3,000 dollars in jewelry stock and Shopify fees.

I made 87 sells (from July 2012 to December 2014!), which only meant $5,450.

The biggest problem was that at the end, I wasn't able to resell the whole jewelry stock I had.


If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

In fact, I have already started over! 2 years of failure weren't enough. This time, I feel more confident about myself. I have spent a lot of time discovering my market and experimenting with digital marketing. My actual business (which has the same domain) keeps the jewelry concept. But I have completely changed the business model.

Here are some things that I have done differently:

  • I bought an expensive Shopify theme that looks very professional.
  • I switched my service from jewelry re-selling to jewelry making.
  • I created a great marketing strategy.
  • I am now targeting clients who are willing to pay expensive custom jewelry designs.
  • I got a CAD software specific for jewelry design. I am now offering custom designs to my clients.
  • I bought a jewelry 3D printer to be able to print my 3D models.
  • I have a long contact list of local jewelers who are willing to design the models requested by my clients in silver and gold.
  • In 2016 I opened my own jewelry workshop in my town. I now have 3 employees.
  • Lastly, a few days ago I launched a new Viva Latina e-Commerce for international orders. It is now only in English. But I am planning to translate it to Spanish in 2019.

This is how the actual website looks like:

Vivalatina Redesign

Our analytics:

Vivalatina Analytics

And a yearly revenue comparison:

Vivalatina Revenue

What did you learn?

I learned that riding alone is much more difficult than with a team. You will lack the help of experienced guys on different topics.

I also learned how important is to focus on clients willing to pay expensive products. Everybody is already selling cheap stuff online, so why don’t you try to sell high-quality items with real personalized services? Some people will definitely be happy to be your client. That way, you won’t need so many sales.


Which entrepreneur book would you recommend?

Here are 4:

  • The 4 Hours Work Week: It was the first book I read about online business. It inspired me a lot and helped me a lot when starting the business.
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad: It shows how important is the knowledge. It can lead you to the way of success or failure.
  • Bold: It is a great inspirational book that shows the amazing number of opportunities we have right now.
  • Elon Musk Biography: Just an awesome book!

Where can we go to learn more?

Well, I am not so active in social media, but you can visit our website here. Furthermore, you should definitely check out our latest work here

Thanks for reading the interview. I hope you enjoy it!


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