What You Need to Know About Supply Chain Management for Perishable Foods

What You Need to Know About Supply Chain Management for Perishable Foods
off the cob chips shopify masters

Optimizing your supply chain for speed and efficiency is a challenge on its own. But when you're selling food with an expiration date, it gets a lot more complicated. 

In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from an entrepreneur who has learned how to wrangle multiple vendors and suppliers together in a timely fashion to run his perishable food-based supply chain.

Cameron Sheldrake is the founder of Off The Cob Chips: tortilla chips made with real sweet corn.

Tune in to learn

  • The rule of thumb to help you prepare for delays in your supply chain
  • The requirements to label your product as organic
  • Why you should encourage comments rather than likes on Facebook

      Listen to Shopify Masters below…

      Download this episode on Google Play, iTunes or here!

       

      Just know your lead times for everything and know where there could be delays.

      Show Notes


        Transcript:

        Felix: Today I’m joined by Cameron Shelldrake from Off the Cob Chips. Off the Cob Chips sells tortilla chips made with real sweet corn, and was started 2012, and based out of Ithaca, New York. Welcome, Cameron.

        Cameron: Thanks.

        Felix: Yeah, tell us a little bit more about, I guess, the product, and the idea behind it.

        Cameron: Sure, so Off the Cob Chips are the first tortilla chips made with sweet corn, just like the corn you would boil or eat, or boil or grill, and eat right off a cob. It’s frozen, or canned, or eaten fresh. And it’s only 5% of corn. Most corn is commodity grain corn, which is hard and starch, so most chips are made out of that. We add in fresh sweet corn, and it gives them a sweeter flavor, and a lighter texture than normal chips.

        Felix: Got it. And where did this idea come from for a product like this?

        Cameron: Well, I was actually raised on a small farm in Ithaca, New York, where we grow sweet corn. And we, my family’s been, grown sweet corn for three generations, so every summer we’d wake up early and go out and pick it by hand, and then sell it on this road at a little road stand. And I, you know, I got tired of doing that. And when I was in college studying business I thought there’s gotta be a better thing, there’s gotta be something to do with all this sweet corn, so I developed a recipe.

        I guess I should say a lot of sweet corn goes to waste. It only lasts a few days, so you’re throwing out half of the corn you grow. And that was, for something to do with that waste, and I developed this recipe. And I started thinking about, how do I turn this into a business, while I was studying. And I should say I was studying at Babson College, which is a really good school for entrepreneurship. I was learning about other entrepreneurs that had started food businesses, and I heard about co-packers which are essentially contract manufacturers. And that was news to me. I thought if I wanted to start a food company I had to build my own factory, which isn’t the case at all. There’s plenty of manufacturers out there who can do it for you.

        Felix: You learned that there are these co-packers out there. Does it make sense for a business of any stage to start with a co-pack, or does it make sense more at a certain size of business?

        Cameron: That’s a good question, and it really depends what kind of food product you’re looking at, because smaller co-packers that may be a fit for startups, and then there’s larger co-packers, which are focused on more established businesses. But I started talking to them before I really had a business. I just had that concept. And I convinced them to make a test batch for me. And I sent the materials there, and they ran this batch of chips. And they tasted great. And I took that back to Babson College first and started sharing it around, and talking about, you know, how do you actually take this from just a product to a company, which is a whole marketing thing, and labeling. There was a big learning curve there, but I don’t think going to the co-packer was the hard part. If you have a good idea, a co-packer will work with you to develop it. That’s what they’re in the business of.

        Felix: Got it. Now, how did you find your co-packer? Did you have to go through a list of co-packers and then evaluate which one will be best for you in your business?

        Cameron: You know, I think they were the only ones that got back to me.

        Felix: Yeah.

        Cameron: They may have even been the first ones that I reached out to. They were the closest one to me. And it actually worked out pretty well. I’m with them currently. I should say we didn’t say with them for the full four years. We jumped around to a few other factories, and then we’re actually back at the one we started with.

        Felix: Got it. Now, nowadays when you, if you were to give advice for someone out there that is looking to go the co-packer route, how would you recommend they evaluate the co-packer? What should they be looking out for to determine if it would be a good fit for their business?

        Cameron: I think you really want to make sure that you get along with the people running the company, the culture of the management team. Because you’re gonna have to be communicating with these people frequently, and if you’re a very small company still trying to figure things out, and they’re a large corporation with different departments, and stuff, it’s gonna be really difficult to communicate with them. But if they’re a small, family run operation, and you can just call them up and have a phone call, and you don’t have to go back and forth with all this emails to different departments, it’s a lot easier.

        [inaudible 00:06:25], actually our second and third co-packers went bankrupt. They got bought out. The second one that went bankrupt got bought out by a larger company. It was a third-generation family run business, and it got bought out by this big company, and everything started going downhill. And yeah, we just didn’t really agree on a lot of things. They were really big money, and they were just looking for products that they could, you know, take to a huge level really quickly with a lot of money behind them. And I didn’t have a lot of money behind me, so it wasn’t really a good fit, so things kind of fell through with them. But with a smaller, family-run business that deals with a lot more companies …

        That’s the other thing you want to look at, how many companies does this co-packer work with? Do they have a few clients that are huge? Or do they have a lot of clients that are smaller? Obviously you want to look for one that has more smaller clients if you are just starting out. And then you want to look, also look for a company that’s willing to grow with you. And that was a big thing with this company. When I first started with them, they thought they had a little capacity to grow, then one of their other customers started taking off, and they didn’t have any more capacity, so that’s why I had to go somewhere else. Then that company got sold. I was able to go back and work with this original co-packer. And it’s been great since then.

        Felix: Now once you have decided on a co-packer, what kind of, I guess, deal terms do you need to work out when someone is sitting down and negotiating a deal, a contract with the co-packer? What do you recommend they pay attention to?

        Cameron: Well, for me it’s been, it’s all really a word of mouth contract. We don’t have any sort of written agreement with these guys. It’s, sometimes you’ll get assigned non-disclosure, non-compete agreement, which just means that they’re not gonna share your recipe with your competitors, or go market your recipe under their own brand. But that’s not gonna stop a co-packer from doing that if they want to. I’ve had that happen to me in the past. But, yeah, I don’t have a contract. Your contract is the purchase order. You send them an order, and then they make it for you.

        Felix: Yeah.

        Cameron: Until you really get to a large scale, that doesn’t really become relevant. I mean, we have contracts with our suppliers for ingredients, and, but we, again, we just, really just started doing that, and we have been in business for over four years. At first you really, it’s all word of mouth, and it’s … They have to trust that you’re gonna be able to sell this product, that they believe in you. There’s a certain measure of confidence that they have to express, or else it’s not gonna go anywhere.

        Felix: Right, it makes sense. Now, so once you have the contract, or not contract, but I guess in your case a handshake agreement in place, you have the purchase order with them, how do you work with them? Do you just give them your ingredients, and then, I guess your recipe, and then your suppliers send them your ingredients? Like, how does the actual day-to-day interaction work with these co-packers?

        Cameron: That’s a good question. It’s different with different co-packers. Some want to supply different materials, like, for instance, boxes. Or some want you to supply your own boxes. It’s pretty common that packaging, the actual bags, it comes on a roll, so it’s called film. That is supplied by you. That’s pretty common. Ingredients, it depends. Some ingredients, the supplier, the co-packer will supply. Some, you’ll supply. Depending on these things, you’ll have to deal with shipping various materials to your co-packer, which is a little difficult to get the best rate, to figure it all out, logistics-wise, you know, sending like one pallet. But as you grow, and you get economies of scale, it starts to become more affordable. But I spend a lot of my time doing logistics, shipping stuff the factory, and shipping stuff out of the factory.

        Felix: Yeah, and then one of the most frustrating things, or one of the things that I hear a lot of entrepreneurs say is super-frustrating is these kind of delays in the supply chain, because you have so many companies involved. You have your co-packer, you have your suppliers that providing the ingredients. How do you manage the logistics? Because you don’t want, the last thing you want is the co-packer ready to take on work, but then one of the ingredients is not ready to come in, and then all of a sudden there is a delay for everybody. Any tips that you’ve picked up along the way on how to manage logistics like this when there are multiple companies involved?

        Cameron: Just know your lead-times for everything. And know where there could be delays. If you’re buying anything from overseas, expect delays. And plan based on that. That’s a real important issue in the food business. Especially when you’re dealing with different ingredients that have different shelf-lives. You know, when they’re gonna expire, you have to use them by a certain point, so you’re not only managing the raw materials, but then you’re managing your finished-goods inventory as well. Yeah, really it’s just know your lead times, and plan everything out in advance the best you can. And obviously don’t be a hoarder, so when you get that order you have to say, “Look, I’m gonna need three weeks to get it to you.” Most of the time that’s fine. But you have to know if it’s gonna take three weeks, or if it’s gonna be six weeks, because that makes a big difference.

        Felix: Now when you, you mentioned that you need to recognize that there may still be delays even though you know your lead times. Do you have a rule of thumb that you follow in terms of how much you overestimate in terms of lead times? You double what they give you? How do you figure it out?

        Cameron: I have a two week lead time with my co-packer. I place an order with them, and it takes them two weeks to make it, or less. But they also have to have all the ingredients. Now, most of the ingredients take less than two weeks. All of the ingredients, all the supplies should take less than two weeks to get there. We kind of have an adjusted time model. In the past we’ve had to stockpile different ingredients and buy them in large quantities. And if you have the money to do that, and you can, it’s a lot [inaudible 00:13:36]. But yeah, it really depends on what kind of product you’re selling and where your crops are.

        Felix: Got it, so now that you have the co-packer ready to go, and you have the product made, you say you brought it back to the school and then realized you have all of this great product, but now you actually have to turn it into a business, get people to try and buy it. What was the next step once you got the initial order from the co-packers?

        Cameron: Well, before I placed the initial order with a co-packer, I had already … Well, not the initial order. The initial order was just a few bags to taste and to share with people. But after that, I took those bags, and I actually, well I did a [inaudible 00:14:24] and then I got a little bit of funding. I won from Babson College their entrepreneurship competition that they held every year. And then I actually took those same samples, and I went to Whole Foods. And I sat there with one of the buyers in Boston, still a senior in college. And they loved the concept, they loved the taste, my story being a sweet corn farmer. They expressed support.

        They said, “You get this to market, and we’ll put it on the shelves,” basically. I guess the turning point, I was like, [inaudible 00:15:01] I needed to invest in packaging, figure out how to do all these things, nutrition facts, labeling, what do I want the package to look like? I had to do all that. And then, before I started selling it. But Whole Foods already said that they wanted it, so I kind of knew that I was gonna get a chance to get it on the shelves. But it took me a long time. It took me about a year from that point to actually get it on the shelves at Whole Foods.

        Felix: And how did you get it, I guess, in front of Whole Foods? Because you didn’t have a company. You didn’t have a product yet. You just had your story, which was convincing enough for them to say, “Yes, we’ll take it once you’re ready.” But how did you get in front of them in the first place?

        Cameron: Yeah, that’s a good question. Whole Foods gets thousands of products sent to them, and requests from meetings, so it’s really hard to get space. I was lucky enough to get this connection through Babson. It’s a connection called Youth Trade. And it was a partnership [inaudible 00:16:08] and the Youth Empowerment, they basically were trying to create jobs for young people by finding young people that had companies with potential to grow, and connecting them to companies that wanted to support this idea of conscious … This whole triple bottom line … It was, there was a lot of successful companies that were in this youth trade. There was only 20 or 30 companies, and so we all got to go meet with Whole Foods individually, and they kind of helped us learn the industry and get started.

        Felix: Wow, that’s amazing. Even before then you mentioned that you had to learn about labeling, and packaging, nutritional facts, that are things that I think non-food products, non-food entrepreneurs don’t have to go through. It sounds like another step along the way that you had to take. When you had to do the labeling and packaging, did the co-packers help with that at all? Or did you have to go somewhere else to have that done?

        Cameron: At first, no, they didn’t. Later on, I had a co-packer that did help. They said, “This is okay, you can make it,” ’cause we redesigned our packaging, and they gave us the go-ahead. And it turns out that it wasn’t really, we shouldn’t have really said what we said on the packaging. Because basically on the back we said, in our story we describe our ingredients. And we say, “We use organic corn.” But you’re not allowed to say, “organic,” anywhere on the package, unless you have a certification, so they were kind of wrong by telling us that we could say it without having this certification.

        And it was a huge mistake, and we had to physically put stickers over this word on thousands of bags. Yeah, finding someone who is an expert to review your packaging before you invest and get it printed is a really good idea. And that’s a mistake I think a lot of entrepreneurs make, just thinking that they can figure it out themselves. It’s always changing. There’s new laws, new labeling requirements. Yeah, if I talked to an expert about that, it’s worth it.

        Felix: Did you end up getting the certification to label your products as organic?

        Cameron: No, we couldn’t. The thing is, the sweet corn is not organic. It’s organic grain corn, but sweet corn is not organic, that we add in.

        Felix: Oh, it’s just in your story itself, that it said that … That you weren’t specifically talking about the product, you were just stalking about in your story.

        Cameron: Yeah, we were like, “We use the highest quality ingredients, like organic grain corn,” [inaudible 00:19:06] below the nutrition facts, but you’re not allowed to do that. Well, I should say it’s not against the law, but UNFI, the largest natural food distributor, said they won’t take it unless we cover it up, so we have to sticker each bag for them until we reprint, so we’re almost, we’re gonna be reprinting here pretty soon, so we shouldn’t have to sticker again. But it’s been a real pain in the butt.

        Felix: Got it. The nutritional facts, now. What’s that process? How do you get nutritional facts for your food-based product?

        Cameron: That’s something that the co-packer should create for you, because it’s their lives. If they produce something that’s labeled inaccurately in terms of nutrition facts, and any other sort of certification. So they want to make sure that it’s labeled correctly, but they’re not always the best experts.

        Felix: I see, so once you had all the labeling, the packaging, you had the product ready to go, what next? How did you actually get people to start buying the product?

        Cameron: We had almost every, we haven’t talked about distributors yet, but Whole Foods introduced me to a distributor who would … Once I had that, which was … I, it hit the shelves. And I graduated college. I was living in Boston. I just went around to Whole Foods, and set up sampling events, and gave out chips in the store. And talked to people about my product. And tried to get people to buy it. And it was way harder than I thought it was gonna be. My product was too expensive. I was charging $4.39 for a 4-ounce bag. And I thought, “Oh, people will pay more because it’s a high-quality chip.” Not even at Whole Foods. You have to … Your price has to be close to your competitors for people to even consider buying it. You can’t expect people to pay more for something that’s a new product. You really can’t.

        Felix: Now I want to talk really quick about the sampling events. Once you had this deal with Whole Foods already, was it pretty easy to just walk into any Whole Foods and set up a sampling even with that store? How did you go about arranging that?

        Cameron: Well, in the beginning it was pretty easy because they were all really psyched about this … Entrepreneurs, you know, I was only 22 at the time, so I was pretty charged. I’d come into the store and just be vomiting corn passion all over everyone. And maybe I’d sell a case. You know? I’d be there for a couple hour and sell a case. I wasn’t even paying for the gas to drive to the store. I was losing money quick. I did that for like, I don’t know, six months and ran out of money, and had to move back home to upstate New York. But yeah, it was easy to get the demo set up, it’s a lot harder to sell the chips. On the weekends it’s busy, so you want to go there during the weekends, but then there’s other brands that are competing with the same spot, so you have to schedule it a month in advance. And then you have to call the store and make sure that they order the product on time. And then just be there and not be shy, and get people to try it, which seems like it would be easy, but sometimes people aren’t hungry when they’re walking through the grocery store.

        Felix: What have learned about that? How have you gotten better at getting people to try brand-new products.

        Cameron: I think a lot of it is just … A lot of it is sales. You just have to be bold, you know? Sell your product to people, don’t shy away. And then be able to read people. You can tell if someone is shy, or if someone is not interested, but you really have to just be able to judge, is this person potentially gonna buy it or not, so you don’t waste all your time. But then when you see someone who is potentially a buyer, you sell like Hell. But really it was about, it wasn’t about just learning how to sell. It was about learning how to develop the product. And getting feedback. Learning, okay, the price is too high. Okay, maybe it could use a little more salt. Or, the packaging isn’t working. We learned all those things, we went back to the drawing board. Changed the packaging. [inaudible 00:24:09], you know, we sell hundreds of bags in a few hours.

        Felix: Wow, so talk to us a little bit more about this. Let’s start with the pricing. The four or so dollars for the four-ounce bag. Did Whole Foods at any point say, “Hey, this is much more expensive. We don’t think that this will move off the shelves,”? Did they give you any feedback on that?

        Cameron: Oh yeah. I mean, Whole Foods knew it. The customers knew it. The distributor was the problem. Once you set your pricing with a distributor, it’s really hard to lower it. It’s a lot easier to raise it, so you’re better to start lower and raise it if you have to. I tried to lower my price several times, and they just didn’t pass through the price reduction. It’s really difficult to say, “Okay, my product’s not selling because it’s too expensive. I need you to trust me and just lower your price, make less money on it, because you’re gonna sell more volume.” They’re like, “We don’t really think that that’s why it’s not selling.” We’re selling now for $2.99 for a four-oz bag, and like I said, we can sell a hundred bags at a demo. Where when we first started at $4.39, you know, we could sell like 12 bags, maybe 24.

        Felix: How did you end up convincing the distributor to trust you and lower the price?

        Cameron: Well, it just took time, really. It’s about Whole Foods has a schedule, and they don’t make changes instantly. It happens like once a year. We lowered it, you know, the price still isn’t right there. It’s still like $3.99. And we’re only in one Whole Foods now. They all stopped ordering because it wasn’t selling. And now I’m trying to get it back in there at $2.99 a bag, but it’s difficult. If it’s not a success at first, they don’t really want to give you a second chance.

        Felix: Got it. Now, the packaging, you mentioned that you changed that too, and it had a big impact. What was the packaging like prior to the change? What change did you make to improve the, I guess, conversion?

        Cameron: Yeah, so the packaging was a photo of my farm, like, this corn field. And then there was superimposed over it was this hand-drawn corn cob that was rainbow-color. And I had commissioned this artist to do it. And the test was blue and orange, and it was really hard to read. And then there was chips coming up out of the bottom, so you could kind of tell it was chips, but it was like, “What is going on?” There was way too much going on. We changed it when my girlfriend started helping out with the business. She went to school for fashion design, and she just has a really good design sense. And we got this idea to make a … You know, like a checkered-blanket sort of pattern. It’s like, bright green, and white checks with a big yellow corn cob in the middle. And it’s really catching, it catches your eye off the shelf. A lot more than other chips.

        Felix: A picnic tablecloth, almost.

        Cameron: Yeah, so it’s kind of like, you know, summertime, picnic, corn on the cob. We started to think more about how do you develop a brand that makes sense? The packaging has to relate to what the product is somehow, and just having a picture of a cornfield, it wasn’t enough.

        Felix: Right, so once you were … I want to kind of get the timeline down, because you not only were selling into Whole Foods, or working through Whole Foods. You also had a Kickstarter campaign, and also had an appearance on Shark Tank. Talk to us through, well talk, I guess, about the Shark Tank experience first. You came in, I think, looking for $100 thousand for 15%. Didn’t end up leaving with a deal, but talk to us about the experience. What was it like to get on the show like that?

        Cameron: It was so intense. I was not expecting it to be so fast. They are all shouting questions at you simultaneously, and they’re all really smart. It’s almost hard to process everything at once. And then to decide who do you respond to. I just wasn’t ready for that part of it. Kind of just a deer in the headlights, but to prepare for it just know everything about your business and your numbers, because they really do grill you. You don’t see it when you’re watching the show, but there’s a lot of really tough questions that they ask you about your business, and your numbers. And they want to make sure you know how you’re spending your business’ money, and what’s really going on.

        Yeah, I was there for 45 minutes filming, and they edited it down to like three minutes, so there’s a lot that you don’t see. Yeah, they were intense. They were fun. They had really big egos. And they were nice. I liked, I really liked Mark and Damon. They seemed really down to earth, and, like, they really just wanted to give me some positive feedback. And then Mr. Wonderful was just way more rude than I expected. He was on his phone texting. He wasn’t even listening to me. He told me, you know, he misunderstood the number of years I had been in business, and how much money we made. Like, well you weren’t listening, so don’t be rude to me.

        Felix: Leaving the tank, any lessons? You said that Mark gave you some … Wanted to share a little bit about his business experience, and share that with you. Any things that you took away from that experience that you decided to implement into your business immediately?

        Cameron: Well the packaging. Lori [Phonetic 00:30:28] gave us some really good feedback on our packaging, so we went back and we did another revision to our packaging. She said, “The word ‘sweet corn’ isn’t big enough. You need to make it bigger.” So we took that advice and it’s a lot easier to read the word sweet corn now from a distance, and it makes it easier for people to find our product in a crowded space. That was definitely one thing, and then Mark’s just general words of encouragement really went a long way. He basically just said, “You’re hustling. Keep at it. You just have to keep doing that for a lot longer and you’re gonna be successful, because this is good stuff.”

        Felix: That must have been awesome to hear after the grilling. Now, what was the impact of the traffic or the sales, if you remember, after the show aired?

        Cameron: Well, it was huge. I don’t know exactly how many visitors we had, but we had doubled our sales. Leading up to that point we had sold like $40,000 worth of chips, and we doubled sales within a month. Mostly from online orders. It was really overwhelming, the response we got. I wasn’t expecting that much. And then the next month we did it again. It was really overwhelming. We couldn’t keep up with it. We literally didn’t have enough capital. We couldn’t finance another production. We had to wait a little while. We had to wait ’till we got some checks in the mail so we could buy ingredients, so we could make another batch of chips. We ended up having to make a lot of these people that ordered after Shark Tank, we made them wait for like a month, and they were really unhappy. You know? We had a lot of people cancel their orders. We ended up giving everyone 10% off, just because we had to make them wait.

        Felix: Now, you also mentioned one of the keys to your marketing is through email marketing. Tell us a little more about that. What is your email marketing strategy for your business?

        Cameron: We like to send out really nice photos, recipes … For holidays we’ll do a photo shoot with our product and a recipe. Some way you can share it that’s some kind of seasonal … You know, just a sale. Usually when we do an email blast, we do like a 20 to 30% off sale, just because people love sales. And that works really well for us. You know, because we have a large list of customers that have bought this over the years. And it’s a little more expensive than your normal chips, so it might be something that you buy and then you don’t have it for a while. But then when the sale comes along, you buy it again. Absolutely, sales in emails.

        And then beyond that we have found that the type of sale matters. If you say, “Use this discount code to get 30% off,” it is nowhere near as effective as if you actually have $100 strike through in red, and then below it $70. There’s an app that you can use to do that, and we’ve started using it every time, because it works way better than the discount code. It’s called Simple Sale, and I would definitely recommend that.

        Felix: You’re saying that rather than just saying 20% off, tell them the exact dollar amount that they’re saving, and compare it to how much they would have paid without the sale?

        Cameron: No, no. I’m saying instead of just using a code. They go to your website, the product says $100, and then they checkout, and then they enter a code, and then they get to see that it’s $70, not $100. You want them to see that it’s $70 right when they go to your website and they see the product.

        Felix: Got it, so you want it to be front-and-center.

        Cameron: Yeah, you want to make sure the actual dollar value on your website store changes when you do a sale.

        Felix: Got it, because you don’t want them, you don’t want to have to wait until they get all the way to the end before they see it, because who knows, they might have dropped off by then because they don’t see that sale that they came for. Makes sense.

        Cameron: Exactly.

        Felix: Also you mentioned that you don’t just send these promotional emails, you also send them emails with useful content, like recipes, photos. How did you know to create these kind of emails, and how did you know what kind of content to put in them?

        Cameron: Good question. We spent a lot of time trying to develop stuff. I mean, we’re always looking for recipes to pair our chips with. It’s really anything that’s happening in the business that we think these customers are gonna care about. Like, we just got in the Whole Foods in California, and a bunch of other stores, so we sent an email blast to all the customers that have bought the chips that live in that region. And we’re like, “Hey, we’re now available in these stores. Check us out. Take a photo of the chips and enter to win a free case.” And giveaways, that’s a big thing. Not necessarily with email marketing, but more on, like, Facebook and Instagram. Giveaways are pretty successful.

        Felix: And what do you include in these giveaways? What do they have to … Well you mentioned that you can win a free case of the chips. What do they have to do to enter these giveaways, usually?

        Cameron: Usually it’s just like, “Like this status and comment with,” something like, “Comment with what you’re gonna do over this thanksgiving weekend.” Or, “Tag your Valentine.” Or something to get them engaged and write, because if they write a comment on it on Facebook, it actually makes it way more viral than if they just like it. Yeah, anything. It’s usually specific to a holiday, or something. And then sometimes we’ll do it for no reason, just giveaway. Like, “We’ve got some extra inventory we’ve gotta get rid of, let’s do a big giveaway.” And it just gets people talking about it on social media. I mean, you can’t rely on it, but from time to time it’s a good way to keep your customers, keep your brand on your customers’ mind.

        Felix: And jumping back real quick to email marketing, how often are you sending these emails out to your customers?

        Cameron: That’s a good question. Probably about once a month. You don’t want to bother them too much, but you have a … That’s for a reason. They want to receive your content. And you don’t want to abuse it, but it’s a really useful tool if you use it right. And we just started doing this less than a year ago, and I wish we had been doing it from the start.

        Felix: And you mentioned Simple Sale as one of the apps that you use. Any other favorite tools, or apps that you use? Either on Shopify, or outside of Shopify, to help you run the business?

        Cameron: Yeah, we use Mail Chimp for the email blasts. And we use, well, Mail Chip basically is just a easy way to keep a large number of emails organized, and then to send them marketing campaigns. I think they limit your account to like 2,000 emails. But it’s free up to 2,000 emails, so it’s a pretty useful too. And then for order fulfillment, we like to use Shipping Easy. And I know Shopify does fulfillment now, but we’ve been using Shipping Easy since before Shopify did fulfillment, and it’s just a really useful tool for taking your order, and then turning it into a label, buying postage. And it makes it really easy to see what the cheapest postage is, be it USPS Priority Mail, or USPS Parcel Post, or UPS Ground. And you can just click through, and if you have a lot of orders, it makes it really easy to stay organized and managed your day-to-day shipping.

        And then we also like to use Amazon. Fulfillment by Amazon, we keep a lot of our inventory in Amazon’s warehouses, and we sell it on amazon.com. But then we can also go into their back-end. And say we get an order to California. Well, it’s really expensive to ship a case of chips from upstate New York to California. It will cost 20, $30. I go on Amazon, and I can send it from their warehouse. So having a fulfillment system outside of just you shipping it yourself, was really crucial for us.

        Felix: You’re using fulfillment by Amazon for fulfillment, even for sales outside of Amazon.

        Cameron: Yeah, for select sales, so sales that are expensive for us to ship.

        Felix: Makes sense. Any other apps or tools that you use?

        Cameron: I think that’s … That’s pretty much it.

        Felix: Very cool.

        Cameron: Yeah, we’re not too high-tech. I run everything on Excel.

        Felix: Yeah, I can’t imagine what that spreadsheet looks like. Thank you so much for your time, Cameron. So offthecobchips.com is the website. What do you have planned for the future? Where do you want to see the business be this time next year?

        Cameron: Well, we would hope to still be in all the stores we’re in now and be selling really well, and maybe have a second flavor there, too. And probably be in some, a lot more stores, and in new areas.

        Felix: Awesome. Thank you so much, again, for your time, Cameron.

        Cameron: Thank you, Felix.

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

        Speaker 3: It is actually a great business, because you’re making 97-point-something percent per sale.

        Felix: Thanks 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.

        Ready to start a business of your own?

        Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify today

        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.

        Topics:

        Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify