Before You Take a Trip to China Looking For a Manufacturer...

Before You Take a Trip to China Looking For a Manufacturer...

...there are a few things you need to know.

China is a hot spot for sourcing cost-effective manufacturers, and so many entrepreneurs seek out a factory there to bring their products to life. But as they often find, there's a lot to navigate.

Take Andrew Moore, the owner of Felony Case, who started off hand-making his unique iPhone cases before travelling to China to find a manufacturer.

In this episode of Shopify Masters, he'll share how to plan your trip to China to find manufacturers and make the best use of your time—including what time of year to go and how to work with a "fixer" in China.

I definitely recommend having someone that you hire who is more on your side working for you as opposed to you going to the factory not knowing Chinese.

Tune in to learn

  • What time of year to go to China to find manufacturers
  • What’s a fixer and how to hire them for your overseas trip
  • How to get the attention of busy big box retail buyers

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      Show Notes


      Transcript

      Felix: Today I’m joined by Andrew Moore from Felony Case. Felony Case makes unique iPhone cases and started off handmaking cases and was started in 2012 and based at Toronto. Welcome, Andrew.

      Andrew: Hey, Felix. Thanks for having me on the show.

      Felix: Yeah, I’m excited to have you on. I got to admit, when I heard the name Felony Case I didn’t think that it would be iPhone cases that you’re selling. Tell us about how did you come with the name, the brand Felony case.

      Andrew: The name story is a funny one. I was actually down in Miami just after getting the initial idea that I thought that I wanted to start an iPhone case company. We were out at a bar just grabbing dinner and it was an empty bar. There’s one girl in there sitting up at the bar, super unique. She had rainbow colored hair like super punk rock, big bullet-studded belt and six inch platform shoes. She was super unique. We ended up talking to her and she introduced herself, she said, “Hi, my name is Melanie but my friends call me Felony.” That word stuck in my mind and I thought it sounded cool, Felony Case with the double entendre. At the time, I was making very punk rock-esque high fashion metal studded phone cases so I really thought the brand name worked with the look the cases had at the time.

      Felix: Were you already making cases prior to turning into like a brand or trying to put a brand around the product that you’re selling?

      Andrew: Well actually, just before I left for that Miami trip, it’s another funny story. I was just lying in bed about to go to sleep, just reading through Twitter one night and this girl posted a photo of this crazy spiked iPhone case. It had like big two inch metal studs on the back and she said, “Oh my god, what is this? Where can I get one of this?” I looked at it and thought, “Hey, that’s cool. I think that would be popular.” I went on Amazon. I think I spent maybe $50 just I got ten plain black silicone iPhone cases and I ordered I think a hundred screw-in punk rock studs, they were called on Amazon. I ordered those off Amazon and then I tweeted the girl back, I said, “Hey, give me a couple of weeks and I’ll have something for you.” That’s how it started out with the whole iPhone case idea.

      I never really set out to start a brand. I got that shipment in from Amazon. I actually used a leather belt hole punch to punch the holes in leather belts, I actually used that to punch cases in the back of the silicone case and then I would hand screw in these metal studs. At the time I was making those for friends and then friends of friends saw them. They’re super unique and eye-catching and it caught on, friends and friends would ask and so I’d be making it for friends and friends and originally just to get a store set up somewhere to start selling them. I actually started on Etsy. I took some pictures of those ones that I was making and it’s been a wild past five years since then.

      Felix: Clearly, you knew to recognize this opportunity, you recognized that there was a buyer out there and you took action immediately which sounds like you must have some experience here, right? Have you launched businesses or other products in the past?

      Andrew: Not really, prior to that I was just kind of had graduated school a few years before in 2009 and graduated from college. I was just working odd jobs, doing deliveries. I was just working for maintenance at this cool art building here in Toronto. On the side, I did have an idea for an app so I got it, not a Shopify, like a web app. It’s actually like a gift, a wishlist app. I got that built and then I had the website live and then I thought, “Oh, I don’t know what to do now to get people to the website.” I took business and marketing in school and that was my first foray into entrepreneurship was that website. It’s a great learning experience but transition now into selling physical goods and I found that a lot easier to do than just having this app. I found it’s a lot easier to get people to come to a website where they make a purchase and then they actually a few days later receive a product.

      Felix: There’s definitely something to be said about producing or being in a market with a well-trodden path. People know to go online, they know about this product, it’s not something that’s completely new that you have to explain to them. It’s a very frictionless experience for them when you are creating a web app or even if you’re selling a physical product that requires a lot of complex explanations or specific use cases for them to use or buy your product then becomes much, much harder. I think that’s what you experience which was that when you created something from scratch, you didn’t know how to reach your audience but when you are selling something that is much more identifiable, much more understandable to your customers, it becomes a lot easier.

      Now, speaking of having something identifiable, merchandise is a huge industry right now. It’s easy blowing up more and more in terms of not just the products being out there but people are starting businesses for the first time by selling merchandise and cellphone cases is usually one of the first attempts at entrepreneurship for a lot of people. Yours is obviously a lot more intricate, a lot more involved than what you would typically see in a cellphone case merchandise store. At that time, I think even back then it must have seem like a saturated market where a lot of people are selling iPhone accessories, especially iPhone cases. What made you think that you could corner a specific part of the market, maybe not early on but then when you turn inside, take it more seriously, what made you decide that or [inaudible 00:08:06] that you could slice out your own piece of the pie?

      Andrew: I saw a need in the iPhone case market at the time they had the basic cases that you could pretty much buy at Dollarama or Dollar Store or at a kiosk in the mall where they are super, super cheap. Then on the opposite end of that they had super protective iPhone cases that were more expensive, offered great protection, more protection than the Dollar Store one but neither of those were very aesthetically pleasing. I saw a need there where a more fashion-forward people might be looking for an iPhone case something unique and it’s a woman with a handbag that’s worth a few thousand dollars, she doesn’t necessarily want that cheap case from the kiosk in the mall and then at the same time doesn’t want that maybe not as aesthetically pleasing case like a super protective phone case so I saw a need there where I was going to try and offer very aesthetically pleasing cases that also offer the protection.

      Felix: Makes sense. Now, when you were selling these or making these for friends and family, did you have a price figured out or how did you eventually settle on the price points you have today which looks like it’s about $40 for all of your products?

      Andrew: When I was handmaking them I pretty much just pulled a price out of thin air. I had no idea what to price them. I was getting the materials for fairly cheap but those cases were very labor-intensive, the handscrewed in metal studded cases. Those ones I priced at I think I started them at $50 and then when I started getting some interest from retailers I think I bumped the price for those up to $60. I think I could attain that a little bit higher than average price point for a phone case because it was a handmade phone case. I just pull that originally $50, I just pull that out of nowhere. Just figured it was more in the premium end and I was happy to sell it at that price to friends or family.

      Felix: Got it. Nowadays, do you test out the price? What is your strategy today to arrive at a price that makes sense for you and the customer?

      Andrew: Yeah, I did. After the next phone case design I got into, after those studded ones was a super high-end, super luxury genuine python, genuine stingray leathers so for those I was sourcing the leathers from Thailand, getting it shipped over to China to be produced there but because they had those luxury snakeskin and stingray skin I had to price them higher. The python ones were 95 and the stingray ones were 120. I went super high-end after that because currently there wasn’t anything available for phone cases at that price point and I wanted to target the high-end consumer. I did realize after doing that, after I did that I tested lower price point cases and realize that there definitely is that happy medium where you could charge a lot and not sell as many but I realize that it’s a lot easier to offer the cases at a more competitive price point and sell more volume.

      Felix: Again, when we talk about this, we mentioned this a couple of times that you handmade a lot of these case, handmade all the cases to start with and there’s this idea of doing things that don’t scale right away rather than trying to focus on scaling or automation right from the beginning. What you’re doing is you weren’t worried about being bogged down by producing the products yourself and what was you’re going through, what’s the plan? Did you ever think about at first you have to think about how can I actually scale this at a later point or what was your plan early on?

      Andrew: I think early on when I was sitting in my living room handmaking those cases, I was just stock that there was a market for them and that people were buying them. I was happy to sit there and make them because there was that market for them. Eventually, once I started getting more orders I did definitely had to think about how to scale.

      Felix: What was that inflection point for you from going from handmaking these into actually turning into a business?

      Andrew: One day I was sitting there making cases and my email dinged on my phone. I had to look at it and it was actually from the retail buyers at Apple headquarters in Cupertino. I guess they had seen photos of the spiked Felony cases and they were interested. His subject line was, “Opportunity at Apple Store.” Of course to me at that point I wasn’t even in my realm of possibility but that is of course a dream. They had requested some samples so I made a few samples for them, sent them down to Apple headquarters.

      Felix: This is still handmade at this point?

      Andrew: Those are still handmade, yeah. He got back to me a couple weeks later and thanking me for sending them. He said everyone in their office was super excited to see them. They ended up doing some test with them and Apple actually has some limits with the cases that they will sell in their store. Of course, they do so many tests and everything to make sure all the functionality of the case won’t affect any functionality of their iPhones, so they actually don’t sell any phone cases that have metal in them because it could interfere with I think he said the GPS function of the phone. When he said that I thought, “Okay, the studded design I could probably replicate similar look to this,” be made out of plastic. I booked a flight to China and went over and searched for phone case factories that would be able to replicate the same look of the cases I had but make it completely out of plastic, polycarbonate. That was the inflection point, that’s how it forced me to scale and go deeper into the business.

      Felix: What did you told Apple this time where you’re like, “Give me a minute while I figure this out.” How did you keep them on hold to do what you had to do?

      Andrew: Yeah, exactly. He said, “Yeah, let us know about any future development,” so I said, “Yes, I definitely will be letting you know.” I think a few weeks later I was on a flight to China and trying to get that new fully polycarbonate design worked out.

      Felix: Why did you feel you had to go all the way to China to figure this out? It couldn’t be done online or over the phone to get them to create some samples for you based on your designs?

      Andrew: Well, at that point I was working with some suppliers in China to source the base silicone cases. I was trying to work with a few different suppliers to get the perfect base silicone case and then I had another supplier for the studs as well. I was familiar with working with some of the factories and I figured that this would be a good time to use this to go over there, feet on the ground, meet face to face with them to really get the design and everything for how this new fully polycarbonate case was going to look and function and everything. I just figured that that would be a good time after having already, I’ve been working with them, the factory is there for a few months.

      Felix: Yeah, a lot of the more successful entrepreneurs that I speak to on this podcast will do something like that where they will be willing to pack their bags and go all the way to the other side of the world to meet manufacturers in person. If anyone out there is listening and thinking about taking this approach, what tips you have for them to prepare for a trip like this?

      Andrew: Definitely, that first trip I went out was a huge wake up call. A lot of the suppliers that I was working with already, they weren’t actually factories or manufacturers. They were just agents or trading companies so I would show up to their office and it was just a tiny little office with a whole bunch of sales people. Then, I found out that they would just outsource their work to the factories. I kind of before that trip went on Alibaba, found a few phone case factories and set up meetings with them. Some of them did end up being factory, some of them were trading companies so that was a good experience to figure that out and see exactly what I was working with. Also, I learned from being out that first time that there are trade shows that you can go to.

      They happen a few times every year. There are some in Hong Kong and some in Guangzhou. The second time I went to China I made sure I went during one of the times of that trade shows was happening. It was great compared to the first time where I was running all over China felt like I was lost all the time trying to go meet at these different factories. They were out in rural areas. Sometimes I would have to drive five hours just to get to a factory whereas when you go to a trade show obviously all the vendors have booth set up and it’s huge. There’s like multiple building so every industry will have a trade show or be incorporated into a trade show. The one that I went to there I think the general name for the trade show is called Sourcing Fair.

      The general name of this one was I think gift and electronics so there was a section within this huge trade show that specifically cater to phone case manufacturers and laptop sleeves and skins and all that stuff. It was definitely a lot better and I could get a lot more done that second time where I could just bang out a whole bunch of meetings back to back to back in under one roof than having to travel throughout China. Another thing that I was lucky to have was a translator. She met me in China. She spoke English and Chinese and she took me around and she was my tour guide and she would go to all the meetings with me and help translate and everything which is I definitely recommend having someone that you hire who is more on your side working for you as opposed to you going to the factories not knowing Chinese.

      Potentially the factories when you’re in the meetings they could be saying stuff in Chinese and you don’t know what they’re saying. It was great having someone working for me in those meetings and she would be on my team and help mediate and she could let me know what people in the factories were saying and she would always let me know how she felt about the factory because she has a lot of experience visiting different factories and stuff so she was great. I definitely recommend trying to hire. I think sometimes they’re called fixers but yeah, there’s companies who have this set up and you can hire them to be your right hand man or woman while you’re over there.

      Felix: How do you begin looking for a fixer or someone out there that can help not just translate for you but actually understand the kind of business that you’re in? How did you find them?

      Andrew: I actually got lucky. My dad and uncle actually have an import business where they import construction materials from China. She is actually their employee who lives in China full-time. She met me, that’s how I found her but since working with her I’ve seen, you could find them on Google searches or in Shopify groups or chats. I know I see people posting export help and they would be based in China. That’s how I would have gone about it if I didn’t already have that in.

      Felix: Obviously, you would want to interview these people to make sure that you’re choosing the right translator. Based on your experience, what are some key attributes that you recommend people looking for when they are looking to hire a translator / fixer to help them when they are in China?

      Andrew: One thing, it would be very beneficial if they knew the area in particular that you’re going to so the area that I went to was Shenzhen and Guangzhou which Sally who I met up with there, she used to live in Shenzhen so she knew the area. That made it super helpful for getting around. There’s taxis, subway, buses, so many different methods of transportation. A lot of time the factories will come and pick you up from your hotel so that makes it easier. That’s definitely one of the things. If they’re from or familiar with the general area that you’re going to, I would really help.

      Also, I know Sally who I worked with is a great negotiator like I said she comes from the construction material trade so she had a ton of knowledge with negotiations. Actually, when we were over there for the first time I had paid for a mold like a new phone case tooling to be made. One of the factories that we were visiting they kept delaying it and stalling it and it still wasn’t completed by the time that they had promised so she had actually … It took two hours and she was arguing with them and negotiating with them and she actually ended up getting my money back that I paid for that tooling that weren’t completed yet so that was huge to get back a few thousand dollars on something that wasn’t made by the time that they promised it had been.

      Felix: Certainly sounds like worth the investment to get a really great translator. Now, when you go to these factories or go to these meetings at the trade shows, what’s your goal? What are the top two to three things that you want to accomplish on a given day at a factory or in a day full of meetings?

      Andrew: If it’s your first time meeting with the factory, you definitely just want to have those normal conversations, get to know each other, get a feel for the people, the people who are in charge of the factory that you’re meeting with. After all, you’re going to be emailing them back and forth every day while your product is getting manufactured and you want to make sure that you get the feeling that they’re there to help you out and that they’re a good fit. That’s just personally wise like on a personal level. You go to their showroom and you see what other products they’re capable of manufacturing. You want to see the quality of the products that they’re making.

      If you can try and get some information from them in regards to what other brands or what other companies, potentially your competitors, if they’re manufacturing similar products for other like I said competitors, that could be great. If you know that competitor of yours or just brand in a similar space, if you know that they are a bigger name than you are at the time and if they’ve chosen to work with this factory then … Can be like a green light potentially. Yeah, definitely testing the products that they have on their showroom floor and that they are able to make the product that you want them to make at a good price point. For phone cases there are the initial tooling cost which are very expensive and then there’s the individual per unit cost of all the cases coming out of there.

      Definitely, get a price quote. Make sure that they’re quoting on all the correct things, make sure it’s very … You have laid out to them very clear exactly what you want quoted on because one time in the past I guess the manufacturer that I was meeting with we had discussed one way or making a case and we didn’t end up going with that or I didn’t think we ended up going with that but that’s what they ended up quoting on and it ended up being the tooling was four times as expensive as it should have been just from a simple communication error. You really have to make sure that you have everything very clear laid out as to what you’re getting quoted on.

      Felix: You had the attention of Apple and now you have actually sold into a number of physical retail stores. Can you tell us which ones you sold your cases or have sold your cases?

      Andrew: Yes, there’s Holt Renfrew which is luxury retailer in Canada, Nordstrom sold them, Free People, Urban Outfitters, Indigo are some of the popular names.

      Felix: How do this happen? What was the timeline for you getting into all of these retailers?

      Andrew: It’s funny actually when I had started making the cases I dreamt that the goal would be to get into Holt Renfrew Canada’s luxury retailer. That was actually one of the first retailers that picked up the initial metal studded cases and it’s funny how it happened. It was being in the right place at the right time. My friend Tony [Fam 00:30:26] was sitting front row at a Toronto fashion week event and he was sitting beside the vice-president of Holt Renfrew and he had one of my cases on. She said, “Oh my god, what is that? Tell me all about this, I need to know,” he said that it’s a local Toronto designer and she said, “Okay, setup a meeting.”

      I had a meeting setup the following week in the vice-president of Holt Renfrew’s office and all the buyers were there and I brought some handmade samples, laid them out on the table and they ended up placing an order right there for 200 and something units. That was my biggest order at the time from a huge retailer Holt Renfrew which was a dream to get in. It was surreal that they’re actually one of the first retailers that ended up picking up the Felony Case phone cases.

      Felix: Yeah, definitely one of the great benefits of having a super visible product like a phone case that stands out. What about the other retailers how do those pan out?

      Andrew: Yeah, they’re all different stories, I wrote out a list of retailers that I thought would be a great fit that fit for the brand and I thought that the cases would sell really well in. I just would on LinkedIn search Urban Outfitters buyer and find their profile on LinkedIn, try and connect with them or send them a message. That was my initial step and see if they would reply then, I would just send them everything they needed in that first message. Photos of the cases, line sheet with the collection photos along with retail and wholesale, pricing and I just made sure I gave them all the information that they needed right then to make the decision. I was worried that maybe if I just said, “Hey, I have this phone case company, I thought you might be interested,” but didn’t include photos or whatever they might just pass that by.

      Sometimes the buyers would reply and say, “Yes, and send over samples,” or if I didn’t hear back from the buyer that I had reached out to I would just look up where their head office is and I would put a little sample pack together and put attention accessories buyers. If I could find a name on Linkedin I would definitely include their name on the package and make it a little bit more personal like that but if not, yeah I was just sending boxes of cases to head offices. That’s actually how Urban Outfitters started buying, I had reached out to them on LinkedIn or email, to start I didn’t hear anything back so I just sent them samples and then few days after the samples were delivered the correct buyer from Urban Outfitters hit me back and yeah that’s how that one started. Yes, all different ways and tactics of getting the products in the eyes of the buyers.

      Felix: Yeah, I like how you take this actually offline and not just message and email these people out but actually try to send them the product to their offices. I bet they still get bombarded all the time whether it would be through regular mail or through email or through LinkedIn messages. What do you think it was about you or your approach that helped you standout to get the attention of these buyers?

      Andrew: Yeah, definitely they’re a 100% getting emails and samples sent to them all the time. At the end of the day I think it’s just about having a catchy product that fits with the assortment and the aesthetic of the store and yes something that just catches the eyes of the buyers that they feel synergy with, they feel will be a good fit their store I think. At the end of day that’s what it comes down to you, you have to really carefully pick out which retailers you think your products will work with and focus on them. If it works with others that’s great but at the end of the day it’s the buyer’s decision and they really have to feel like it’s going to do well, so well in their stores.

      Felix: Yeah, I often hear from entrepreneurs that selling to these big box retailers is that getting initial purchase order is the easy part, the hard part is actually working with them. Following into their process and making sure you abide by their process. What’s it been like working with so many different retailers? Are they all the same? Are they all different? What’s your experience been like?

      Andrew: Yeah, that’s been a huge learning curve. Every retailer has a specific routing guides to how they want the product received whether it be in their warehouses or if you ship it direct to their stores that are going to sell it. A lot of the big box retailers will have warehouses like one central warehouse or a few warehouses throughout the states or Canada where you’ll ship all of the products to and you have to make sure all the proper stickers are on them, the barcodes, everything. Some retailers have specific request like they want theft prevention stickers put on, that is all the brands job to do prior to us shipping it to their warehouse.

      Felix: Who handles all that? Is that you or do you outsource all of these nuances between all the different retailers?

      Andrew: I handle that. I personally still handle that to this day actually just because I don’t want to jeopardize a big retailer receiving a shipment and something is done incorrect. Yeah, I still handle that. For all of our website online sales that’s all through a fulfillment company but yeah I do all of the retail orders still.

      Felix: Got it. What preparation did you have to do or did you have the time to prepare for that initial purchase order to make sure that you line up with all the thing that they wanted?

      Andrew: Yeah, it’s a lot of reading, get a PDF document, the first big and really confusing one that I got was Nordstrom in the states. I think their routing guide is like a hundred page PDF. It goes into specifics all the way down to what boxes to use, what cardboard boxes to use to ship and what tape you actually use on the box. It has to be like only specific types of tape, only specific types of packaging material inside, like you can’t use peanuts, like packaging filler peanuts. You really have to [inaudible 00:38:13] these documents and make notes and study it and there’s always someone at the receiving warehouse if you have questions. If it’s your first time hopefully they’re helpful.

      I know I’ve reached out and usually get someone there who will help out but yeah that first shipment that I did to Nordstrom … So much stuff went wrong, they were held up in customs because they didn’t have country of origin stickers on the packaging, customs didn’t release them, it actually ended up getting returned to us. I had to get Made in China stickers made and then re-sticker all of the packages and then reship them and yeah thankfully, eventually they receive them but that comes with a price. There are always charge backs if you do something incorrectly the retailers will just take money off the amount owed to you for the products.

      Felix: You’ve sold in store at these retailers, you sell through your own websites at felonycase.com. You mentioned to me that you sold Etsy to start with and you mentioned offline that you sold or selling through spring and then you’re also setting up your shop on Amazon. If you look back on all this and if you could give advice to someone out there that’s just starting. Which of these avenues would you recommend people focus on first? Your specific kind of best, on your experience best order of operations to launch in all of these different market places?

      Andrew: Definitely focus on your own website first, make sure all of your product images and copy and everything is up to snuff for your own website first. That way when you are expanding into whether it be other online points of sale like Amazon or Etsy or into retailers then you already have all the information, all the photos of your products and all the copies for the website and you can just send that … You can pretty much just copy and paste that from your Shopify store, onto Etsy list of products there, onto Amazon list of products there with the same copy and then even sometimes retailers.

      It’ll be a perk to a retailer if they don’t have to do their own product photography. A lot of them do want to do their own because they have their own aesthetic but I always whenever we get a new retailer I always let them know ahead of time that I have all the product photography on plain white and I have all social media post that they can use to share to promote the brand. Yeah, I found that it works as an upsell and retailers will appreciate that if you could send them the product photography so they can use the same photos on their website and they don’t have to worry about having a photographer take more pictures.

      Felix: You recommend focus on your website first not necessarily because it might be the greatest volume of traffic or sales but because you can reuse a lot of that work in all the other marketplaces.

      Andrew: Yeah, definitely and yeah for us it has been like our own website and then retailers have been the two biggest sources of traffic and sales. I find if sometimes people might come across your product on say in Etsy or in Amazon and from there they will do a Google search and they want to find your website directly just to validate the brand, make sure it looks legit. They probably want to check out your social media Instagram, Facebook, see what you do in there as well. See, I think all those touch points work hand in hand and work really well together to give your brand that full 360 view on online from people who … New people who find you and just come across your brand.

      Felix: Yeah, especially if you’re building a brand you can no longer just rely on the one site that the customer might have landed on that they discovered you on whether it be on Amazon or Etsy. They’re going to seek you out or they’re going to seek you out by Googling you, they’re going to look for your socials, they will look for your own website. That’s a very important point when you are building a brand you want to make sure all the messaging is out there and available for people to take a look at. You had a lot of success at least with collaborating with a lot of celebrities, talk to us about that. What kind of celebrities have you worked with and how those come about?

      Andrew: Yes, that’s been cool. We worked with The Weeknd on a iPhone case for his XO clothing line, that was a collaboration case I worked with his creative director and we came up with some case designs and yeah they actually released those on their website as part of a collection, that was with The Weeknd. There have been a few other phone cases with some other celebrities, Travis Scott we did samples of phone cases for him. Theophilus London, those ones didn’t end up making it to for sale but it’s a cool learning curve.

      Sometimes it’s hard to work with these celebrities, their team have so much other more important stuff going on that, yeah, stuff might get forgotten about or whatever but that was cool working with The Weeknd for that for sure. Then even working with celebrities as influencers and sending them our cases. Hailey Baldwin has been spotted with our phone cases. Back in the day actually one of the first big ones was DJ Deadmau5 and one of his marketing people saw the case and actually bought it online so I had no idea and then he ended up posting a picture on Instagram with it so that was super cool.

      Felix: Nice. You’re not just getting them or you haven’t done this in the past but you’re going beyond just work with them as influencers, you’re collaborating with others too. Now, in the cases that it has worked out and you’ve sold these products, do you find the kind of customers, the kind of customers, the kind of attention that you get when collaborating with these celebrities will often create the [inaudible 00:45:17] and bring in repeat purchases from these customers or are they usually there to buy and support their celebrity and go off after that?

      Andrew: Yeah, it’s hard to say. I think especially with The Weeknd one because all the sales were done through his website and at his shows, with that it was only our brand name inside the case and on the packaging, it was his brand name on the outside of the case. In instances like that I think they’re really buying it to support their favorite musician but if some of them notice the case brand and then become fans of the case because of that then, yeah, that’s super cool too.

      Felix: Yeah, that’s one thing that I’ve seen where you can certainly explode your sales from collaborating with the celebrity but a lot of times it’s a detachment of not necessarily I guess hiding your brand but you are sometimes white labeling I guess your product and their brand is going to be more prominent in that case. That’s certainly something to weigh the pros and cons with versus just working with a celebrity as an influencer and getting them your flagship products and getting those in front of their audiences. Now, I want to talk about the team that you have working behind this. You mentioned that it’s pretty much just you and then you’ve also hired some freelancers. Talk to us about that, what kind of freelancers have you hired to help out?

      Andrew: I hire creative people, photographers and graphic designers, 3D designers too for some of the more geometric designs that we do. Yeah, a lot of the freelancers I work with are more creative leaning where I work with a few local photographers around Toronto who do lots of shoots for us and that’s great content for social media Instagram and we use it on ads and then as well on our website. Yeah, I work with a lot of graphic designers, all conceptualized new case designs and get them to put their spin on it and, yeah, make something out of it. That’s really how I’ve been working up until now, I kept it super lean.

      I’m the only staff or employee, I did mention that I have the fulfillment company so that took a lot of weight off my shoulders and freed up a lot of my time when they came in and started doing a lot of the online order fulfilling. Then also I have people come into office when we’re super busy with big retail orders to help package those and get those all ready for shipment. Yeah, that’s who I’ve been working with. Now, I am in the process of looking to hire a more full time creative person to take that in-house and be a creative lead to put their vision in the photo shoots and new case designs and overall branding for Felony Case. I’m starting out that hiring process now.

      Felix: Nice. Now, what about applications, what kinds of apps or services or tools do you use to help run the business?

      Andrew: I started on Shopify a few months ago and one of the main reasons why I wanted to make the switch was actually from listening to Shopify Masters Podcast and hearing people explaining different apps that they … Previously I was on WooCommerce and all that. I think there’s an app marketplace there but it is just very confusing and I didn’t end up using any apps there. Shopify since making that switch it’s been great, one of my favorite app is Consistent Cart, it’s the cart abandonment, they’ll follow up with an email and it’s great. They have a tracker on top to show what the value of abandoned carts that they recovered for you. That’s my favorite because I can see that number there and see that it’s far more than paying off each month, that’s been great.

      Felix: Cool. Any other apps that you recommend?

      Andrew: Other than that I keep it pretty basic. Pixelpop I use for a capture email addresses and a little bit of an upsell with like a 10% off coupon. That’s been great enough to use that same Pixelpop for when people in Canada visit our felonycase.com website it pops up to them saying, “Would you like to shop in Canadian Dollars,” and it send them over to the felonycase.ca website. That’s another great one. With apps, it’s great that they work like you just set them and forget them. A lot of the time I’m not actually thinking of the apps but they’re always there working for you and it’s great, yeah.

      Felix: Yeah, one thing I noticed on your site was that you’ve implemented the Facebook Messenger I guess live chat features that’s message us in your bottom right hand corner. Is that something new that you’ve add or what’s your experience been like with adding Facebook Messenger into your I guess customer support?

      Andrew: Yeah, actually that’s one that I just added a couple weeks ago that I’ve been testing it out and it’s great. Yeah, being right there when the customer has a question, being able to answer it right away from them and then it’s cool seeing that order with their name come through a few minutes after you answer that question. I was like, “Okay, yeah, this is definitely worth it,” being right there and having that immediate customer support is great. That’s a new one that we’ve been testing out and it’s been cool so far.

      Felix: Awesome, thank you much for your time, Andrew. Felonycase.com is the website. What’s next for Felony Case? Where do you want to do take the brand next?

      Andrew: Well, right now we’re getting neck deep into iPhone 8 development. Yeah, definitely I have some exciting new designs coming out for that when it’s released later this year.

      Felix: Awesome, thank you so much, Andrew.

      Andrew: Yes, thank you, Felix.

      Felix: Here’s a sneak peek for what’s in store the next Shopify Masters episode.

      Speaker 3: Just because you give back doesn’t make your business unique anymore.

      Felix: Thank for listening to Shopify Masters, the eCommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30 day free trial. Also, for this episode’s show notes, head over to shopify.com/blog.

       


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      About the Author

      Felix Thea is the host of the Shopify Masters podcast, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs, and founder of TrafficAndSales.com where you can get actionable tips to grow your store’s traffic and sales.

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