Big-name celebrities may seem out of reach for the vast majority of brands.
However, there are certain types of partnerships that celebrities are more open to—if you have the tools to negotiate them.
Our guest on this episode of Shopify Masters is Jersey Champ's Sean Kelly, an entrepreneur who built a million dollar business by getting celebrities like Drake to partner with him. He shares what you need to get celebrities interested and how to structure a mutually beneficial partnership.
Jersey Champ is your one-stop shop for one-of-a-kind jerseys that make you stand out from the crowd.
With the celebrity partnerships, we usually sell those for a limited time—sort of like the Supreme model.
Tune in to learn:
- How to grow your Instagram to your first 10,000 followers
- What makes celebrities like Drake and 2 Chainz want to work with you
- What will getting an Instagram verified badge do for your business
- Store: Jersey Champs
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Sweet Upsell, Conversio (Shopify app), Trustpilot, Cameo.com, Unicorn Smasher, Watchcount.com
Felix: Today joined by Sean Kelly from Jersey Champs, Jersey Champs is your one stop shop for one of a kinds jerseys that make you stand out from the crowd. And it started in 2016 and based out of Bridgewater, New Jersey and has done over two and a half, $2 million in sales in two and a half years. Welcome, Sean.
Sean: Thank you Felix. I’m glad to be here.
Felix: Awesome. So you told us that your vision was to revolutionize the Jersey world with affordability and sleek designs just like Movement watches did with their watches. So why did you choose the jerseys specifically?
Sean: Yeah, so I love sports growing up as a kid,so I obviously love jerseys and I wanted to kind of put my own spin on it ’cause I already knew they sold well.
Felix: Got It. Do you have experience selling jerseys or any kind of apparel in the past?
Sean: In high school I would get the group orders going with everyone for NBA jerseys. So I knew how to organize big orders, but I never sold any Jerry’s prior to that.
Felix: And what about other businesses that you started the businesses in the past, other than, and then what you’re doing with the jerseys?
Sean: No, I just helped my father with his book business back in the days when I was a kid, but I never had my own.
Felix: Got It. Okay. So you had this idea, had this vision in mind for the kind of business that you wanted to build. You already had some experience, like you said, organizing these group orders for jerseys. What were the kind of first steps that you took to start building out the business?
Sean: I first started by growing an Instagram page that was basketball related and then I eventually converted that into Jersey Champs.
Felix: I see. So you are building this kind of audience that didn’t have a … Did you have an idea of what kind of product that you want to sell at that time? Or were you just trying to build up an Instagram profile?
Sean: Just trying to build it up with basketball memes and videos and stuff.
Felix: Okay. So you have building this up while you were trying, as a, knowing that you would want to sell products through it or just kind of as a thing that you do for fun or …
Sean: Yeah, I was doing it for fun back then. I think I was only 18 so I just liked posting content and then I eventually saw a business opportunity with it.
Felix: How big did he get? Did you remember when you were, before you realizing, hey, there’s a chance for me to, you know, turn his audience into a business?
Sean: I think we’re at like 12,000 followers.
Felix: Okay. You had 12,000 followers and you already had experience in the past with jerseys. What did you know you had to start putting into place to build a business behind it?
Sean: I was new to everything so I built a really crappy website on Wordpress and then started trying to sell stuff and slowly but surely it just started popping off and then, yeah, our website would eventually start crashing so we switched over to Shopify.
Felix: Got It. Okay. So you had this basketball related Instagram profile. You grew to 12,000 followers before you started to take it seriously in terms of turning to a business. How did you get it to 12,000? How long did that take? How often were you posting? Like give us an idea of the kind of work they get to put in to get to 12,000?
Sean: Yeah, it was a lot of manual work. I’d say took almost a year because the first 10 k’s definitely the hardest. And I would just manually be liking and commenting on other basketball pages, posts and following people and all that stuff. So it definitely took awhile.
Felix: How much time are you spending a day on this?
Sean: I’d say about eight hours a day.
Felix: Oh Wow. Eight hours a day. That’s definitely a ton of work. So you’re doing things like reaching out to other big profiles. If you were to give advice to someone that wants to follow in the footsteps that you’ve taken to get to 10,000 followers, were there specific things that you found that were kind of like the most valuable use of your time? Because you know, not everyone has eight hours. Let’s say they have like, you know, a few hours a day to work on this or something that they should focus on is during the time?
Sean: Yeah. Well if you have the money, I would recommend just buying Facebook ads or either shout outs because those will definitely grow your pages as well as bringing sales.
Felix: You’re buying like Facebook ads that are driving to an Instagram profile?
Sean: Yeah. So sort of like an engagement post but towards your Instagram page.
Felix: I see. Okay. Can you just give an idea of how that would be set up? Specifically the Instagram ads.
Sean: Yeah. So you would set up a PPE campaign, so an engagement campaign through the Facebook ads manager to a post of yours. So you want to use your most viral post if possible. And then basically that will direct users to your page.
Felix: Okay. Were you doing this when you were starting out too?
Sean: Yeah, it was one of the tactics I used.
Felix: Got It. Okay. So you said that, and you also mentioned shout us. Give us an idea of what that’s like, what our shout outs, how did they work?
Sean: Yeah. So shout outs are when another large page features your page and tags you. So basically you can simply direct message pages and they can give you their prices, almost all the big pages, sell shout outs and it’s a pretty good way to grow and usually you’ll make an ROI back if you’re buying off the right page.
Felix: How do you make sure that you are buying off the right page?
Sean: You don’t want to look at their followers. Exactly. You want to look at their engagement on their posts. So what I’d try to look for is a lot of comments and likes. I don’t ever look at the followers and then I calculate how many units I’ll have to sell it and make my money back. And if that seems reasonable then I’ll do it.
Felix: Is this a good approach you recommend someone taking if they are, they don’t have a product yet but they want to build up a profile? It’s kind of similar approach that you took and they maybe don’t have the time to do because they have a job or something, a day job and at the time squeeze it in. Do you recommend you would spend the kind of money up front without having a product to sell right off the bat or is that like not advisable?
Sean: I’d recommend having a product just you could recoup at least something, but it’s all on the user. I know some people just do it to grow their personal brands as well.
Felix: Got It. And you mentioned that you want to make sure that not only are the, the pages have a high engagement through the comments and the likes, but then you also have to have some kind of fit, right? With what you’re selling. How do you determine that? Like what do you look at to make sure that we have the right audience for you?
Sean: Yeah, so for me, my jerseys are very specific, so if I’m selling, if I’m collaborating with a rapper like Drake or 2 chains, I’ll go to a Drake or two Chainz fan page. I’ll go to a hip hop music page, stuff like that. Maybe even wWorldstar. And you want to just keep it in your niche and then if it does really well, you can spread out a little more broadly. But I’d start very specific at first.
Felix: Okay. Yeah. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about how you actually work with these collaborations. So usually you said, you mentioned some, obviously huge celebrities here. How did you begin working with a celebrity?
Sean: Yeah, so our first big partnership I’d say in the hip hop space was with 2 Chainz and I simply emailed their manager and they’ve never sold jerseys before. So they were interested. We gave them a great deal and basically they sold the jerseys on their website for two days. They moved around 5,000 units and then we handled all their orders and they basically gave us money to handle their orders. And then from there we signed a contract and now we’re like, they’re exclusive merch provider.
Felix: Got it. Okay. So when you have these kind of deals you got to set up, you then go out to find like the Instagram profiles that you might want to buy shout outs from. What’s the kind of promotion strategy after you’ve locked down a deal?
Sean: Yeah, so once we’ve locked down a deal their social media’s will definitely generate more than ours. So we love when they post on their stories and their feed. So that’s what 2 Chainz did. And then from our end we can run Facebook ads. If we have access to their account, we can use all their pixel data. So that’s really good as well.
Felix: Okay. Once you buy these shout outs and you’re driving the traffic to your page, I’m assuming you only want to be launching like one Jersey at a time, or how do you make sure that the attention is kind of focused on the right product when you’re running these promotions with the other shout outs?
Sean: Yeah, so with Jersey Champs, we sell thousands of jerseys, but five jerseys are usually 80% of our sales every month. So it’s all about finding those winners and then running ads to those jerseys. And then we’ll up sell with other stuff. But we usually find pages just by, once we find one, we see who they are following or we see the suggested users and it’s usually pretty easy to find pages, honestly.
Felix: Got It. When you’re connected to these celebrities and you, you’re working with them, what do you do when you find that they care about? What do celebrities look for in a business that they will want to partner with?
Sean: Something unique, something other companies aren’t doing because most of these celebrities never really sold their own custom Jersey designs before. So that’s something we could bring to the table and they want something that has a good brand image as well. Has some legitimacy behind the company. So that’s why it’s very hard to get someone at first. But now that we’ve built this reputation, we were able to work with a lot more celebrities.
Felix: And if you have a product that they might have experience with and as unique, how much kind of managing of that relationship do you need to do? How much hand holding or explanation you need to do with, I’m assuming, like you said, they haven’t done jerseys before, do you have explain the business to them? The business model to them? What’s your involvement in, in kind of explaining to them?
Sean: So luckily that all like these rappers, they do sell merch like shirts and hoodies and stuff. So jerseys was kind of easy to throw in there. We just explained to them the margins and all that. But it was actually super easy because they currently sell merch.
Felix: Were there any challenges there that you ran into or obstacles that you ran into that maybe you didn’t expect when when working with, you know, others or other partners?
Sean: We had to deal with some net thirties so that’s when you get paid 30 days after the product is delivered. So I was new to that term cause I actually dropped out of college. So I never learned what that was. But basically we had to deal with that and that kind of backed up our, our bank account for the …
Felix: Yeah, explain that. So if you’ve got a contract and it’s a net 30. What does that mean exactly and how can that hurt your business? What do you have to look out for in terms of like ways that it could hurt your business?
Sean: Yeah, so, a net 30, it could affect your business pretty negatively. Basically, they don’t pay you until 30 days after the product is delivered. And when you’re moving such high volume like that, you basically have to front the whole product cost. So at that time, that was a lot of money for us and hopefully you’re dealing with the right person and they’ll actually pay. So you got to worry about that, but you just gotta look for these terms in the contract.
Felix: Got It. Okay. I just want to jump back to the whole approach of buying these PPE ads. You’re looking for ads that are already performing well on their own first before you throw any money behind it?
Sean: Yeah. So if you make a post and it’s doing much better than others, I would just run a PPE to it worldwide. And that’s the cheapest way to gain followers.
Felix: How do you determine what kind of targeting you should do at that point? If you’re ever, ad takes off, are you targeting people that you think might like that more of that kind of content?
Sean: PPEs, you want the cheapest engagement possible so you actually want a very big audience because the smaller the audience, the more it will cost. So we try to keep ours above 20 million people.
Felix: Wow. So the idea is just to get this to go viral and then just kind of blow it up and not like be too targeted in the audience that you’re going after?
Sean: Yeah, keep it slightly broad and then from there you can retarget with more advanced features and you have, it’s sort of like the top of the funnel for us.
Felix: Got It. Okay. Cool. Now when you are working with a, in a partnership, actually, are all the jerseys that you sell, are they all partnerships? Are there some that are kind of just done, you know, just kind of solo with with the Jersey Champs alone?
Sean: Yeah, we have our own designs and then with the celebrity partnerships we usually sell those for a limited time. Sorta like a supreme model.
Felix: Okay. Is the idea that you bring them into learning about, the customers into learning about Jersey Champs through these partnerships and then they’ll kind of be repeat purchase, repeat customers with your other products?
Sean: Yeah, exactly.
Felix: Okay. Now when you are working with these celebrities, are you doing just kind of one at a time or like can you do multiple promotional time? What’s your ideal approach?
Sean: We’ll usually do a basketball and baseball jersey. That’s what most of them like some of them will like a hockey one, but those are our main two. And then we’ll sell them at the same time for usually two days to a week and then cut it from there.
Felix: And now when you are running these ads and you’re driving traffic to your site from these celebrities, how do you get them to kind of see more of your products and not just kind of land on that one product page with Drake or, you know, 2 Chainz whatever artists that they’re interested in. Actually kinda exploring more of the other products that you have.
Sean: Yeah. We have a post purchase upsell app, so it shows up on the Shopify checkout page after they purchased. And then from there we have post purchase email sequences that go on for a long time. So our customer return rate’s about 15%. We convert 15% of people that bought something already.
Felix: Okay. Tell us more about this post purchase checkout app. What app is it? How does it work?
Sean: Yeah, it’s called sweet upsell and basically each product for us has a trigger. So if they buy a Drake jersey, then this app will trigger on the checkout page and it’ll show similar products to whatever they bought.
Felix: Is this before or after they’ve already made their payment?
Sean: It’s before and after.
Felix: Oh, okay. Before they make a payment and they decided purchase without the kind of upsell you offered to get it to them again afterwards?
Sean: Yeah, for a cheaper rate.
Felix: I see. Which one sounds and convert better than the one before and one after the initial purchase?
Sean: The one after is doing about 8%.
Felix: Which is better than the one before?
Felix: Okay. Got It. And then the email sequence, what’s that like? What is the, what kind of emails are you sending and how often are you sending them?
Sean: Yeah, so we use an app called Conversio. I know a lot of people use Klayvio as well. It’s pretty similar. We basically have the abandoned cart emails, which do the best for us. We have one with our brand stories, so it’s like a sequence of articles we’re featured in and to learn more about the company. And then we have one where we promote our social media networks and one where we ask for reviews about their shopping experience and yeah.
Felix: And it’s an email once a day or how often he spread it out?
Sean: No, I’d say once every three days.
Felix: Got It. You test which kind of emails tend to kind of convert the best out of that bunch?
Sean: Yeah, we’re always tweaking it. The abandoned carts definitely work the best. And yeah, I’d say those work, the best.
Felix: That’s the very first email that they’ll get from you guys?
Sean: Yeah. So they’ll get one after an hour, one after 12 hours and then one off there three days.
Felix: I know certain stores have different sensors and getting customers to come back. Like what do you like to use to get the customers come back in and complete the checkout?
Sean: Yeah. The first one we’ll just remind them. The second one we’ll give 10% off and third one we’ll get 20% off.
Felix: Which one do you, which, which one of those do you see a get the best conversion rates?
Sean: The third one.
Felix: Then one of the best deal basically?
Felix: Got It. Awesome. Obviously you guys kind of, you’ve got this whole model figured out. When you’re first starting out, were there certain things that you mentioned you didn’t know, you said you started from scratch and didn’t really know what you’re doing, but you figured out all that along the way. What particular skills do you think that you learned have been the most beneficial to your growth?
Sean: Definitely learning how to network online helped a lot. We were able to get a lot of big partnerships from that to elevate the brand. Learning Facebook ads early on was very important as well. Now we’re doing Google ads and we’re getting into youtube and stuff. So I’m always trying to find the next avenue. I’m always adapting and I think that’s a good skill to have as well.
Felix: Yeah, I like that one about how to network online because you can go so much further with the right kind of partnerships, which is obviously the model that has worked really well for you. What do you think that you did right when it comes to networking online?
Sean: I just spent so much time on it, so I learned pretty much what works and what doesn’t and I figured out a good method to use and replicate and now I just try to do that once a month. Then I’ll try to email all these managers and I can usually land one big deal every month.
Felix: Can you say more about that? Like what is the method that seems to work for you?
Sean: Yeah. Two of them work really well. The first one is just Instagram direct message. So we shoot them a simple message and then from there we’ll get their number, email and negotiate and it really helps that the brand is verified so they know we’re legitimate. So they usually respond and they’re not skeptical of it.
Felix: So you said shoot them a simple message. Are you telling them exactly what you want right off the bat? Yeah. I Have Jersey company. I want to work with you to create, to brand, basically, to put your brand on a jersey? Is that that what you would do right off the bat?
Sean: We’ll pretty much say, can we make custom jerseys for whatever artists and then we’ll shoot them a mock up of their album artwork on the jersey. Usually they love it. And then we get these designs for free basically because these designers really like hip hop and music so they don’t mind designing them. And we’ll basically send that to every rapper and then from there we’ll negotiate a contract.
Felix: And this happens all through Instagram or like once they agree, do you try and take those to a phone call and email or something?
Sean: Yeah, we’ll try to get their numbers soon as possible because they’re Instagram inboxes are flooded.
Felix: Got It. Okay. So that’s, that’s one approach. You said that you had a couple of different approaches that work well for you?
Sean: Yeah. The second one is an email. I know a lot of people really aren’t doing this to reach out to people that much, but we basically email all their record labels and their management and we have a template that we use and it’s pretty clean. And that’s how we got 2 Chainz, Logic and a few other rappers.
Felix: Can you say more about it? It’s like the email as simple as the direct message or do you provide more information? Like how’s it different than the direct message?
Sean: Yeah, that one’s a little more information. We’ll basically provide a several pictures of jerseys we made with partnerships in the past, so it shows that we’ve worked with people related to them and we’ll also say our Instagram channel, we’ll promote it on there and we’ll send it to our email list. We’ve got about a million people on our email list and we’ll just help them promote it and sell it and yeah, but basically, that’s it.
Felix: Do one of these methods work better than the other when you’re first starting out?
Sean: Oh, when I was first starting, email worked a lot better and now Instagram works a lot better.
Felix: Got It. With email, because you have a lot more kind of assets that you bring to the table like that. A huge email list. The customers on the past already, the Instagram following, you have a lot to bring to the table. When you first started, when you didn’t have as much to bring to the table, what we’re already kind of advantages that you presented them for working with you?
Sean: Yeah. The only thing we had when we first started it was the ability to create the custom jerseys. We didn’t really have a large following at the time, but now we have both. And I think that helps.
Felix: Yeah. That you mentioned then now on Instagram it works better for you. You also mentioned, being, having a verified profile has had a, also helps a lot with the credibility. When did that happen for you? When did you guys get the verified badge for Instagram?
Sean: Right after Donald Trump got our Trump jersey, we were verified the next morning. I think that was about two months ago.
Felix: That’s amazing. So once that happened, like, how much difference did it make in terms of getting people to come to hit you back?
Sean: Absolute game changer. Our profile visits went up like 100 x and Instagram DMs. I’d say like about 20% of celebrities respond now and before that it was around one to 2%.
Felix: Wow. Okay. So like a lot people are willing to work with you. So now you had the stage where you probably had to be a little more selective, right? because you’re probably still scaling up to reach that, the kind of responses that you’re getting. How do you determine who you should be working with at this stage?
Sean: Yeah, so if they’re over a million followers, we’ll make them a custom jersey. If not, then we’ll just send them up a few jerseys from our regular website and that being, because if they’re under a million and they probably won’t be able to sell a lot of custom jerseys and it wouldn’t be worth the time.
Felix: Got It. Okay. You’re selling these customizing jerseys, but then you’re also just kind of sending to them as like influencers, having them wear in their photos or were stories. Is that the idea?
Sean: Yeah, we’ll basically send them a free jersey. They’ll send us a photo so we can use on our website because we have an influencer tab and also we could use on our page, they can post on their page as well.
Felix: And how many of you working with at a time now, nowadays, now that you are scaling up so fast, like how many, I guess, partners do you have in terms of influencers then also in terms of people that you’re creating these custom jerseys for?
Sean: Yeah, we have a whole team reaching out all day. We got about three people direct messaging people all day. So we send about 15 to 20 Jersey a day, I’d say.
Felix: Amazing. So that’s the approach that’s working the best for you right now? Instagram, influencer marketing?
Sean: Yeah. It’s just so powerful for branding and that’s what I care mostly about and not the sales. So I just care about the brand and the image of Jersey Champs.
Felix: Why do you say that? Why do you care more about that? Was that always the way that you saw things that you care more about the brand and then a sales or has that changed recently?
Sean: I used to care about the sales more, but now I just focus on the brand cause that’s where the longterm value is. And most of these drop shippers don’t have a brand so they can’t go to sell their company in a few years.
Felix: That makes sense. Would you also take that same approach that you took if you were to do it all over again? Focus on the sales at first and then eventually focus in the brand? Or would you have started with a brand from the very beginning?
Sean: It’s very hard to start from the beginning with a brand because you really don’t have much to provide. I think you’ve got to kind of build up the customer base first and that turn them into loyal customers.
Felix: Got It. So like build up to the customers, the repeat buyers, people following you on your social media profiles, and then you can start establishing a brand.
Felix: Makes Sense. Cool. So you mentioned that you also know moving towards Google and YouTube. Are you buying ads through there or are you working with influencers on YouTube? Tell us more about the strategy you want to take in that direction.
Sean: Yeah. We hired a Google ad words agency recently. They’re killing it. I think we’re getting like 12 x ROAs, which is very good compared to Facebook ads because that sort of got saturated in the past six months. And then with YouTube we’re using influencers and pages and stuff. So we’ll basically pay them to feature our website before the video starts.
Felix: So starting with a Google ad words agency, what’s your involvement with them? There’s obviously a lot of value they’re bringing in your case, there’s proven results, but how do you make sure that you’re not working with someone that just going to take your money and then you know, not do much for you. How did you determine who to work with and how to be, how much to be involved?
Sean: Yeah, so actually we regret not starting earlier, but basically this agency was a referral from my friend and they are based in the United States, so they speak very good English and it’s all signed with a contract and everything, so they’re super trustworthy. I did a lot of research on them prior and they had been killing it and I like how we can just talk on the phone whenever I needed a new campaign launched with them.
Felix: What kind of research would you do if you were to kind of evaluate an agency?
Sean: Yeah, so simply Google the agency, see they’re mentioned any press articles. See their reviews on Trustpilot This Consumer and Google and if those are all good, you should be good to go.
Felix: Got It. Now when you are working with YouTube, YouTubers, are you using the same process where you’re kind of doing that in house and you manually reaching out to these influencers?
Sean: Yeah, so I haven’t found a good automated way because on Instagram is so easy to just find influencers. But YouTube you kind off, they click a bunch. But basically I just look for their email and then emailed them.
Felix: And you mentioned that you are, are they like doing these kind of advertisers in the beginning of the video? How’s it done?
Sean: Yes. So I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but before their actual content starts they’ll usually have like a ten second to a minute long ad and they basically charge you a set amount for that.
Felix: Is a new thing or like is this like go into the video that the recording or like is it something that’s supported through YouTube’s platform?
Sean: No, I’m not sure if it’s new. It’s not through YouTube at all. It’s through the influx or directly. I don’t think YouTube is getting a cut at all.
Felix: Got it. Okay. Makes sense. Now, when you are working with YouTubers, is the kind of, well I guess we can go back to that. Let’s go back to the Instagram real quick. So when you work with an Instagram influencer, what’s like the ideal kind of outcome that you want? Like what do you want them to be? I mean I’m sure that you’re not telling them what to say, but what would you want them to to say? Or how would you want them to present the brand?
Sean: Yeah, so an ideal way would be to record a video of maybe them unboxing it are wearing, it’s somewhere. Or take a photo with it and then tag us in it on their story and post. And that’s pretty much it.
Felix: And you do any kind of follow up if they don’t do this or how do you make sure that you’re kind of, you know, getting some kind of ROI?
Sean: Yeah, if they don’t do this, which I’d say 30% don’t. We don’t send them any more jerseys. And if they do do it, we’ll send them one or two jerseys every month.
Felix: Oh, awesome. Has anyone ever come back, and been like, “Hey.” Asking for, to work with you again and, but you know, they haven’t kind of held up their end of bargain?
Sean: Yeah, yeah. All the time. It happens to every company that’s doing influencer marketing.
Felix: How do you gracefully handle that kind of situation?
Sean: I just either ask them to post or ignore them because frankly you don’t want to be wasting your time on people like that. But it’s not a big loss for us because the jersey cost is all we lost.
Felix: Right. Makes sense. And then when it comes to YouTubers, or is that, is that going to be different? What kind of content do you want them to produce?
Sean: Yeah, so that’s different. So with the YouTube pages, we just pay them every time they feature our video and we use a video of just a compilation of celebrities wearing our jerseys and shouting us out. So it’s not really like an influencer posts on Instagram.
Felix: I see. So you produce the content for them and the putting in front of their video.
Sean: Yeah, it’s already a pre made content on our part.
Felix: Okay. Do you try to work with any influencers to do these kinds of reviews or unboxings? Has that been an approach that you’re taking?
Sean: Yyeah, so we recently started using cameo.com. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that website, but it’s basically a site where celebrities can basically, you can pay celebrities and they can say anything you want them to say. So you have a 250 character limit and you can basically use those content, use that content in your ad creatives.
Felix: Even if there’s like a marketing message, they’ll say it.
Sean: Yeah, yeah, I know Kevin O’Leary Shark Tank’s on there. So a lot of my friends had been buying his for like business related content.
Felix: Wow. Very cool. So let’s talk a little about the kind of operations and the whole supply chain of running this business. And it sounds like you obviously already had experienced in the past all the way back to to high school with kind of at least organizing the this, the orders and everything. But what is your system looking like today to manage a big, you know, you know million dollar business?
Sean: Yes. We have a sourcing agent in China so the factory has a close relationship with him. He gets all the products, he puts the Jersey and a custom bag and stuff and then shipped it out to our customers. And when we first started I was ordering everything to my house and just, it was really rough. I would have to use scissors and tape and stuff to put the shipping labels on the bag.
Felix: How many orders are you doing at that time before you were like, “Hey, I can’t be doing this in my house anymore.”
Sean: I’d say we got to the point where I was like 25 to 50 a day and it was just taking like five hours just to pack orders.
Felix: Wow. And how did you find the sourcing agent?
Sean: Actually, I found him at an ecommerce event I went to. So the power of networking I guess. And then he’s a super great guy and he cut our shipping times down and I think it’s really good.
Felix: At that time were you looking for a sourcing agent or what made you realize that hey, this is somebody that we should be working with?
Sean: Well, I always wanted to keep the inventory costs down because we ordered way too much inventory to my house and we were stuck with about 40 grand of the inventory for a while. So I wanted to kind of switch over to just shipping from the factory directly. And that’s kind of why I made that move.
Felix: Okay. Did you have to do any kind of research at that point because this is like, you know, trusted someone that’s such a big part of your business. How do you make sure that everything is kind of, you know, up to par?
Sean: Yeah, so it was another referral. I really trust referrals from my friends because they would not try to screw me over obviously. And the guy that referred me does over 10 million a year or so.
Felix: Your kind of circle your network today where you’re getting these referrals for agencies and a sourcing agents. Did it come from the Instagram influencer world where you’re, you got a presence on there and now you’re meeting people that are doing the same things that you’re doing? How did you build a network that can refer you such great partners?
Sean: Yeah, almost literally almost every entrepreneur I’ve met has been from Instagram and it’s honestly changed my life and I try to associate myself with entrepreneurs and just people that are trying to do something good. And I think I have a really good network now.
Felix: That’s awesome. Now they’re now the sourcing agent is, is handling all of that. What is your kind of involvement in the rest of the, what is your, you’re in New Jersey. What does it, what does that involvement in the entire supply chain?
Sean: We get the returns here because it would cost too much to return them to China and then I’ll have to reorder it, through the factory Whatever size they need or whatever. But basically we don’t ship anything from here unless it’s during holiday season. Then we’ll use our US fulfillment center.
Felix: So most of the headquarters in the US is focusing on like is marketing and sales?
Sean: Yeah. So that’s pretty much what I handled the brand partnerships and the celebrities and just the big partnerships now cause I used to do everything myself, like all the customer service emails, social media posting, but now I outsource all of that.
Felix: Got It. And when you are, when you, when you were growing the team, what kind of positions do you hire for first and what did you want to staff for the team first?
Sean: Yeah. So first person I hired was a graphic designer to make the designs. Then I hired a few more of Craigslist, I believe it was free to post. They’re not back then, but now it costs money. And then I hired a VA agency. So basically they handle my emails and phone calls because I was doing the emails for the first year and it was just getting really annoying. Cause when you’re CEO you shouldn’t be handling customer service emails.
Felix: It makes sense. Now, I’m looking at the site and there’s like a ton of different kinds of media mentions on here. How did that all happen? How were you what to get featured on Fox business? Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Times, LA Times. ESPN. Like all of these massive publications.
Sean: Yeah. So the sports ones are from athletes wearing our jerseys, like Thompson from the Warriors Wore a flinch topics jersey from us. And then the more business related websites are probably when Trump got the Trump jersey. And then we have a few co brand stories just about how we started and stuff on other websites.
Felix: How did the whole Trump jersey thing work out? How was that all organized? This sounded like a huge kind of boom to your business. Lots of press and lots of attention. You got verified on Instagram. Sounded like first of related to that. How did that all work out?
Sean: Yeah, so it was pretty crazy. A high school student war, Trump baseball jersey to a football game and the principal of the school kicked him out for wearing the jersey. So that made national headlines. And then a week later someone brought that same Trump jersey to a Trump rally and gave it to him and he just took it and took a bunch of pictures in it. So it was super cool.
Felix: Wow. That’s crazy. Okay, awesome. So let’s talk about your website a bit. Tell us a little more about the I guess the approach to design the website. What was important for you to get right in the design of the store?
Sean: I think social proof was super important. So we have a tab for testimonials. We have a tab for partnerships. We have a tab for … Trying to think. We basically, we have pictures of our Instagram and Facebook at the bottom if you’re on desktop. So we basically just want to show new customers that were legitimate because it’s all about getting their social. It’s all about getting their approval on our website cause if they don’t never heard of the brand, they don’t know if they can trust us or not.
Felix: Yeah. I’m looking at this on desktop. Are most of your sales and traffic, are they coming from mobile sources?
Sean: Yeah, most are mobile because our audiences, our audience is mostly millennials.
Felix: Right. That makes sense. Now when you are sitting down to two to look at testing that you wouldn’t want to do on this site, like what are some things that you’ve done maybe recently that has increased conversions? Is there something that you’ve been, you’ve added recently that has helped a lot with sales?
Sean: Our conversion rate is around 2% and we’re always trying to improve that. Quarter one is the slowest for sales, so it usually drops during January to March, but quarter for the conversion rate goes all the way up to 5% and I know one thing that’s super important for that is website speeds. We hired a coder to just improve our website speed. And definitely everyone’s listening should hire a coder as well to do that. If they haven’t.
Felix: You have someone on staff or is it just like, hey, for one off projects to to do things for you?
Sean: UI actually he found him on Instagram and now he’s on staff full time and whenever we need him he’ll come in and fix something.
Felix: That’s cool. Awesome. So where do you see the business going over to the next, you know, the rest of this year. Where do you want to see Jersey Champs grow too?
Sean: Yeah, so our sales are going up every year, which is great. So hopefully we can keep that momentum. So as long as that happens, I’ll be perfectly happy. And we’re getting heavily involved with e-sports this year, so we’ll be doing jerseys for a bunch of professional Fortnight teams. So that’s cool. And we’re always just looking for that next avenue. We just started using Tic Tock and we’ll see where that goes.
Felix: Yeah. So you mentioned a couple of apps already. Suite Upsell and Convergio. You also mentioned Cameos, other kind of source that you can use for influence or marketing. Any other kind of resources or apps that you either use on your site or offsite that you recommend others check out?
Sean: Yeah, I got a couple definitely. Unicorn Smasher, great chrome extension. It shows you the top sellers on Amazon and it shows you their monthly revenue. So that’s a good tool for product research and you can already find winning products before you start spending money on Facebook ads. So you know they’re selling. Another good one is watchcount.com which is basically the same thing as Unicorn Smasher, but for Ebay. So it shows you the most watched products. And then I’d say just to grow your Instagram for sure, because that’s the most powerful platform right now from millennials.
Felix: Did you see any other kind of platforms? What you see as the future? Five years from now? Do you see Instagram, there’ll be in the top, the top one or do you think that people just are focusing their attention on maybe another platform?
Sean: It’s hard to say, but right now they’re, I think they’re the top platform from millennials, but we’ll see what happens to a Tic Tock because that seems to be trending a bit now as well.
Felix: Got It. Awesome. So Jersey Champs.com or Jersey Champs is the brand so just champ.com is the website. Thank you so much for your time, Sean.
Sean: Yeah, thank you so much Felix.
Felix: Thanks for tuning into another episode of Shopify masters, the ECOMMERCE podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs powered by Shopify to get to exclusive 30 day extended trial. Visit shopify.com/masters.