Both Yahoo.ca and Empori.com have invited her to climb aboard their high-traffic, virtual-mall Web sites. Korolak believes such associations could quadruple her volume.
This woman’s a human fuel cell. But to succeed, even an obsessive achiever needs to vault hurdles higher than Bankers Hall.
At first blush, her business sounds prosaic, even dull. She sells maternity wear in a classy Penny Lane boutique called From Here to Maternity.
But in a subterranean war room, Korolak quarterbacks an online empire which matches her larger U.S. competitors, hit-for-hit, sale-for-sale (18,000-20,000 hits daily).
Anyone pondering a leap into the bog of online sales should meet her.
She was plagued by set-up woes. She hired pricey, vid-kid “experts” who thought flashing bells and Web whistles were more important than a clear, attractive, obstacle-free site.
She burned midnight oil, searching for congenial sites to link with.
And she shuddered to discover that some mercantile giants give back 34 per cent of their revenues to pay for online advertising.
Fortunately, patience is not one of Korolak’s virtues. Still in her early 30s, she’s an ex-tax lawyer who got bored after articling at Bennett Jones.
She hustled off to earn her C.A., and saved her seed money working at Deloitte Touche and Price Waterhouse.
So when her Web consultants screwed up, the fools weren’t suffered gladly.
“I process in Canadian and US dollars. But this company couldn’t figure it out — they couldn’t physically get the code working so I could transact business,” she explained.
“Anyone who came to my site could shop all they wanted — but they couldn’t buy anything.”
Solution: “I fired them.”
Luckily, she found an independent who hand-coded her site from scratch, after she diagrammed a working model on huge sheets of paper.
Once up, she learned another sobering lesson.
“It’s not like: ‘Build it and they will come,’ ” she grimaced. “No one comes.” Korolak spent the wee hours Web-snorkeling through pregnancy and clothing sites, weeding them out and ultimately doing reciprocal links with about 50.
She registered with all the search engines. “You have to keep doing it, over and over, to jockey your ranking up. You can’t pay Yahoo to put you on top of their list — it doesn’t work like that.”
And, gadzooks — those U.S. shipping costs.
“Textile tariffs can run to 30 per cent,” she explained. “And since I compete against U.S. companies, my shipping charges and fees have to fall in line with theirs.
“I build in some charges, and hide others. Customers get upset when they receive their $1,000 order and find another $200 to $300 in duties.”
So in spite of strong revenue, the cyber-side of the business trails the boutique in profitability.
As she prepares for the Big Leap into Yahoo.ca and Empori.com, Korolak is trolling for new backers.
“My bank is very NOT pro-Internet,” she said, piqued.
“We’re in a high-growth phase, but we need to take another step to produce enough sales to justify the advertising cost required in this business.”
A visitor wished her luck, and two laser eyes drilled holes in his cheeks.
“I WILL track down financing — there is no Plan B,” she said.
Even in this risky business, who’s dumb enough to bet against a human fuel cell?