We interviewed Liz Bertorelli, of Passionfruit, as she seeks to create inclusive clothing and accessories that enable her customers to show their pride all year round, while also giving back to the community.
What’s your name, your background and what business do you run?
My name is Liz Bertorelli. I have what you might call a “tech background” but funnily enough, fell into marketing through my jungle gym of a career.
Although I majored in Geography and Environment Science, I ended up working at Apple. I then moved over to Shopify where I began my journey working in Tech Support, moved over to Social Media, then Studios Production, and Brand Strategy!
I currently run Passionfruit, a business that strives to achieve a colourful and bright future for all LGBTQQIA youth. Our mission is to create inclusive clothing and accessories that enable our customers to show their pride all year round while giving back to the community.
How did you come up with the idea?
I wanted to create apparel that my friends and I could wear to pride. I didn’t want to buy pride shirts from large organizations who only use Pride as a marketing campaign, so I created them myself.
Originally the brand was called Bobo Academy and it started back in 2013 we rebranded to Passionfruit in late 2018.
Is there anything in your past that led to opening the business?
I would say that coming out and being part of the LGBTQ+ community was the biggest inspiration for me. I wanted to create a product that let me wear my heart on my sleeve at pride and all year round. That being said, the brand is definitely an extension of me.
The journey I experienced through coming out, and the confidence that came with that, I think is encapsulated in the brand. Passionfruit is all about being proud and enabling others to express themselves.
“I wanted to create a product that let me wear my heart on my sleeve…the brand is definitely an extension of me”
What was the process of designing, manufacturing and bringing your first product or service to market?
I started looking into the concept of dropshipping and discovered Printful — a free app in Shopify’s App Store. It was love at first click. Printful handles everything from printing to shipping apparel so that shop owners can focus on all the other good stuff; from marketing to design.
The only problem with this whole concept was that I knew nothing about design, except for that fact that I might have had a copy of Adobe Illustrator from 2010 installed on a PC somewhere.What I did have was a box of wine, a free trial of Pixelmator, Printful tutorials and knowledge about the Shopify platform. Despite a headache the next morning (from the wine, not the process), a password-protected site had been built.
I’m happy about the store and products I’ve created so far, but it’s about considering your progress at a specific point in time for me. The more you learn, the more you’re able to update the site and your marketing.
I’m also just a hard critic, especially on myself. I don’t think I’m ‘there’ yet; there’s always something to change, edit or iterate on. I will say, I am a MUCH better designer now and I also collaborate with other artists to bring my designs to life.
My friends have been really helpful in sourcing artists, as has social media.
Describe the process of launching the business and any issues you had at the beginning
I made a lot of mistakes, so I learned a lot. If I did it all over again, I would have a long checklist of every little detail from setting up the right bank accounts to making sure your Facebook pixel is setup and ready to fire, an email marketing strategy, etc. The list is neverending.
What strategies or marketing channels do you most rely on?
To date, I’ve mostly focused on non-paid traffic via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook in tandem with Email marketing. Instagram in particular has been great for me, and my audience is growing.
Most of my sales are from what you’d classify as ‘strangers’, but I’d rather call them my internet pals or followers!
I’ve only recently started to dive into influencer marketing, but as I work at Shopify in the marketing department, I’ve been able to learn a lot from the people and the resources around me.
What platform, tools or software do you use for your business?
- I use Shopify for my store
- Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
- Printful, for on-demand, print, warehousing and dropshipping
- Gooten, which is an on-demand print and dropshipping platform
- SendOwl, which helps me sell digital products
- Buffer, for social media management
(Editor – if you’re looking for more great Ecommerce resources, then check this out)
What does the next 12 months look like for your business, and for yourself, professionally?
Passionfruit is starting to look for wholesale opportunities which I really know nothing about (we’ve landed one so far but you’ll have to check out our future “stockist” page on our site).
Professionally, I’m still working full time and doing this part-time and trying to continuously learn more every day. Mostly I put in the hours after work, between 5 and 9pm a few times a week, and Sunday mornings with a big pot of coffee. It’s hard to stick to the schedule though!
What have you learned through this process that you didn’t know or think was important beforehand?
I think the biggest thing I’ve learnt is empathy for business owners. Building a business is a hard, lonely journey.
I’ve joined groups like Shopify Entrepreneurs are I love poking my head in there, so that’s helped a lot. I also get to talk to entrepreneurs on the daily via work, so that helps too!
“the biggest thing I’ve learnt is empathy for business owners. Building a business is a hard, lonely journey”
What did you wish you knew before starting?
I really enjoyed learning from all the things I did know and I’d like to think that things wouldn’t have turned out the way they did, without the learning curve.
What resources would you recommend for others looking to start a business?
I’m biased of course, but shopify.com/blog is an amazing resource, with lots of helpful articles and guides, as well as shopify.com/academy.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs looking to start their own ecommerce business?
Stop overthinking every little detail, just launch and learn from it.
Where can we go to learn more about you and your business?
You can follow me on twitter @liznlbee, and the business at @pppassionfruit, or on Instagram at @lizbeee9 and @shop_passionfruit.