When you’re a small retail business owner, you want your brand to stand out, especially online. But that can be tricky if you utilize a platform like Shopify, which (though incredibly helpful in some ways) offers a limited number of sections to customize your shop’s look and feel.
That’s where Design Packs comes in.
Co-founder Anne Thomas had previously worked as a theme developer at a Shopify theme company while co-founder Trudy McNabb had been working to create custom Shopify themes and apps directly for merchants. Realizing they had the skills to answer a market need, Anne connected with Trudy to see if she would be interested in building a section library into an app that could be easily leveraged by Shopify-run business owners.
Design Packs was born in 2021 and has been wildly successful since launch, largely because using the app is so simple.
“The merchant adds the app, and then chooses sections to add to any theme on their store with a single click of a button,” Anne and Trudy tell ventureLAB. “We also offer templates, which are pre-built pages that are pre-configured sections put together, so all the merchant has to do is upload their content and images.”
Unlike most of the competition, Design Packs’ layouts are built exactly the same as Shopify’s and can integrate into any page and mix/match with existing theme sections. The constantly growing repository of layouts are also built with performance and SEO best practices in mind.
The ultimate goal is to give merchants with a DIY attitude as much flexibility to grow their business as possible.
“Merchants often want to move fast and are on tight budgets, especially at the beginning, and often get frustrated that Shopify is pretty cheap to start with, but then to do anything after the initial setup gets really expensive,” the duo tell ventureLAB. “Design/setup agencies don’t have the developer talent in-house and so have to partner with development agencies. These agencies would love to have more control and options.”
Anne and Trudy credit much of their success to the support they’ve received from ventureLAB and its network of coaches and advisors.
“We applied to Tech Undivided because we are technical founders and need a lot of guidance when it comes to marketing and how to manage customer acquisition,” they say. “We also appreciate that they focus on Southern Ontario, which is where we are both based. The previous graduates had glowing endorsements of the program.”
Their biggest advice for entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses is to build a support network. Building based on customer feedback and practising tenacity and optimism is also key.
“You think starting out that people will want fancy complicated things, but our most popular sections are very simple - grid of images, slider, text with image. So the takeaway is that you can’t assume things about your customer, but rather you need to look at the data too,” they say. “It’s a difficult journey, but ultimately rewarding and it helps to have a cofounder to talk over issues with and bounce ideas off of.”
ventureLAB’s Tech Undivided initiative is creating an inclusive tech ecosystem that increases representation by removing barriers and reducing unconscious bias to give women founders an equitable opportunity to raise capital and generate revenue. Funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, as part of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, Tech Undivided leverages a merit-based, gender-balanced Strategic Mentor Network of entrepreneurs and business experts and a growing network of industry partners, enabling women founders to grow and scale locally, and compete globally.
ventureLAB is a leading global founder community for hardware technology and enterprise software companies in Canada. Located at the heart of Ontario’s innovation corridor in York Region, ventureLAB is part of one of the biggest and most diverse tech communities in Canada. Our initiatives focused on raising capital, talent retention, commercializing technology and IP, and customer acquisition have enabled thousands of companies to create over 4,000 jobs and raise more than $200 million in investment capital. At ventureLAB, we grow globally competitive tech titans that build-to-scale in Canada, for global markets.