We had the remarkable opportunity to interview Adam Tie, founder of The Novel Encounter, to learn more about his personal experience with e-commerce and entrepreneurship.
1. How did the idea of mystery-wrapped gifts come about?
It came from the saying “don’t pick a book based on its cover”. I found a kind of beautiful irony in having people literally choose books based on the packaging – a short sentence to hint to what’s hidden inside. And then the wax seal was just for that added *chef’s kiss emoji*.
2. We understand that The Novel Encounter actually started out in retail, what made you decide to go into the e-commerce business?
Oh actually it’s always been an ecommerce business. I never intended to open up a storefront because of the overheads, so an ecommerce business seemed the most practical way to go. But in the start of things, in order to raise awareness about my brand I participated in live events & placed the mystery books in retail spaces.
3. Did your e-commerce business pick up immediately? What did it take for The Novel Encounter to become what it is today?
Definitely not. It was quite some time before anyone even caught wind of me – in fact I think it was a Straits Times article mixed with a couple of successful live events that made me start churning a profit. If I had to pinpoint a specific instance though, it’d have to be during a live event when I was selling mystery books – the booth across from me was selling typewriters. I purchased one from him and started clacking away furiously at the event. Soon after I started making my customised typewritten poems available on the website. That really helped garner awareness. I think it shows (not my poems per se) that in any business, when you show sincerity & a bit of your soul, people really do appreciate it. People want to connect with a brand, they want to feel like the founder is engaging directly with them with his passions and his purpose.
4. Did you face any challenges building an e-commerce website on your own?
Definitely. Lots of them. I’m not the most tech-savvy person in the world but luckily because of e-commerce builder platforms I was able to crawl my way towards building a website of my own. Then there’s all these external apps to create to make sure the website runs faster, has SEO tracking, counts inventory, offers special discounts etc – it took studying up on to properly understand. No way am I an expert now, but the years of running my own website has definitely lifted me above incompetence.
5. Typically, how many hours a day do you spend on your business?
I run multiple businesses – The Novel Encounter counts as my passion project. So I’d say I spend about 2-3 hours on The Novel Encounter a day on average.
6. How do you stay connected with your audience on The Novel Encounter?
Every Friday I have Q&As where I invite people to ask & tell me anything and the engagement has always been great, something that I’m very grateful for. I think with every business, there needs to be a way of engaging with your followers in a way that’s sincere and two-way: rather than just blasting promo codes or upselling messages all the time. It helps if you love doing it. I really do enjoy these Friday sessions – so that’s a win win.
Also recently I started a Telegram chat for my followers to interact and chat with each other about books, poetry, popular culture, everything & anything under the sun. It always makes me happy to see them engaging with each other. Feels like a safe house.
7. Share a tip on how to grow a brand’s online presence organically.
Do content that you enjoy doing. It sounds like very fluffy advice, but if you create content simply for the intention of growing your presence – there’s a chance that after a while without results you’ll get sick of it and give up. However if it’s content you genuinely enjoy creating, the audience will feel the sincerity (I really believe this) and you’ll have fun doing it yourself. In whatever you create for your audience, make sure it’s something you want to do yourself. That’s my advice.
8. What is the one thing that you enjoy the most about running your own business?
You are able to decide the direction of the business. So whatever you set out to create, is entirely on you. It’s both terrifying and liberating at the same time.
9. What is one advice you would give to the aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to start their own online business?
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Being an entrepreneur is tough & boy is it lonely sometimes. That’s why you need to conquer a fear of leaning on people. Learn as much as you can and then pay it forward. Starting your own business, whether online or offline or anything – it requires a lot of dedication and a willingness to fail and fail again till you get there. Thank goodness we have each other – and we should always be open to collaboration & advice.