Can you recall a decision you made that changed the course of your life forever?
The bootstrapping ecommerce entrepreneurs turned millionaires I'm about to introduce certainly can.
A bold decision to switch their ecommerce platforms to Shopify Plus took their businesses from struggling to unstoppable.
Let’s examine their early entrepreneurial challenges, experiences replatforming, and impressive results to inspire you to become the next ecommerce millionaire on our list.
5. Mika Casey | MMA Warehouse
Years in business: Since 2007
The Collision That Changed His Life: Mika crashed his car into a house while chasing a UPS driver after work one day. Soon afterward, he quit his day job to focus entirely on his ecommerce startup business.
“I was so tired I didn’t have the energy to drive an hour round trip to the UPS store so I figured I’d try to chase him down somewhere in the neighborhood,” he said.
A Costly Lesson: Mika and his team switched ecommerce platforms a number of times to support increased demand for their popular mixed martial arts products.
Being told that he’d have to spend $200,000 and wait months to upgrade to a mobile responsive website was a deal breaker. “That was not what we signed up for, and we should not have to pay huge sums of money just to keep our site current,” said Mika.
The Game Changer: After replatforming to Shopify Plus, Mika and his team feel like they now have a “future-proof” ecommerce platform upon which they can rely.
Replatforming Ripple Effect:
- MMA Warehouse has achieved a 60% (average) improvement in mobile conversion rates since moving to Shopify Plus
- 35% of sales came from mobile traffic in a recent 30-day period
- The company now generates $10 million annually and continues to grow
How Much Shopify Plus is Saving MMA Warehouse: $400,000 per year! Mika now installs most of the website upgrades himself – reducing the need for developer support. And he says “it’s as easy as installing apps on an iPhone.”
4. Mike Brown | Death Wish Coffee
Years in business: Since 2010
Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Mike’s struggling upstate New York coffee shop had left him broke, and he had to move back in with his mom.
A Common Customer Request: “Give me your strongest coffee!” One day he realized a business opportunity was staring him in the face. Mike quickly called a coffee bean importer and began testing different brewing and roasting techniques to create a blend that would satisfy his tired customers.
The Ecommerce Reboot: Once his Death Wish Coffee blend was mastered, Mike decided to try selling it online to help pay down debt. After building the first website on his own, using a drag and drop platform that could sync with PayPal, Mike set his annual sales target at $5000. He quickly realized he was aiming too low.
Success Came Too Fast, Too Soon: The increased popularity of Mike’s new coffee blend, coupled with a lucky call from Good Morning America – asking to feature his product on the show – increased orders so quickly (10,000 just from the TV segment) that the company couldn’t keep up with fulfillment. It was clear Death Wish Coffee had outgrown its existing ecommerce solution.
Switching to Shopify Plus Saved the Day: The company replatformed with Shopify Plus to support its rapid ecommerce growth and regain customer trust. Since making the switch just over two years ago, Mike says the results have been “absolutely awesome”:
- Last year, revenue spiked to $3 million in coffee & merchandise sales
- Death Wish has doubled in size each year
- 2015 holiday sales estimated at 50,000 lbs/month
3. Russell Saks | Campus Protein
Years in Business: Since 2008
The Freshman Entrepreneur: During his first year at Indiana University, Russell Saks discovered that his frat brothers were spending $250 to $300 on vitamins and supplements to help them get ripped at the gym to impress girls. He saw an opportunity to create a more affordable ecommerce solution, offering rush delivery directly to college students just like him. Campus Protein was born.
An Early Win:By receiving a $100,000 entrepreneurship contest award, Russell and his team of college buddies were able to grow the business quickly.
Endless Platform Problems: From 2012 to 2015, the company struggled and changed ecommerce platforms three times because service providers either couldn’t support its rapid growth or didn’t follow-through on promises.
Platform #1 couldn’t scale to meet the company’s growing, 1,000-person strong salesforce and nationwide, and rush delivery needs.
Platform #2 held the website hostage when it went down for 48 hours – asking for $20,000 to add a new feature that Russell thought was part of the original deal.
Platform #3 promised development of a new website that would optimize conversions. The result was a poor UX that generated customer complaints and not enough positive results.
Beefing Up the Business: With warehouses set-up nationwide to support same-day deliveries at scale, Campus Protein made the decision to replatform to Shopify Plus in September 2015 and never looked back. “Switching to Shopify Plus was the best decision we ever made. It’s the best ecommerce platform I’ve ever seen,” says Russell.
Since replatforming with Shopify, the company has achieved:
- A 2X increase in conversions
- Significant year-over-year sales growth
- Partnership with UberRUSH to deliver same-day sales locally
2. Paul Goodman and Griffin Thall | Pura Vida Bracelets
Years in business: Since 2011
The Vacation That Changed Everything: After graduating from college, friends Paul Goodman and Griffin Thall went on a surfing trip to Costa Rica. It was there that they met a local homeless man selling bracelets on the beach. They bought 400 bracelets from him and went back home to San Diego with an idea for business.
How Bracelets Transformed the Lives of Local Artisans: The bracelets sold out in just a few days at a boutique in Goodman and Thall’s neighborhood. That proof of concept was the inspiration behind the now popular ecommerce company Pura Vida Bracelets.
The business has transformed the lives of not only the homeless man they met but 100 Costa Rican artisans they now employ full-time, paying them 4X the minimum wage in their country.
Home Where They Belong: Pura Vida was lured away from Shopify for a while by an ecommerce provider that wasn’t able to deliver on the promises it made. The company recently made the switch back to Shopify Plus to help scale their already impressive business growth.
After replatforming, Pura Vida Bracelets:
- Earned $95,000 in a seven-day period
- Made $3 million in a ninety-day period
- Generated 60,000+ orders in 2 months
- Now has a responsive website that easily integrates with Shopify apps to support the two-thirds of its traffic that comes through mobile devices
Loving Life: The company has generated $12 million+ in revenue and landed Goodman and Thall spots on the 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 list. “We were just blown away, my mom was crying, and the staff was super excited,” said Thall. “I’m running a multimillion dollar company, staring out my window at the ocean, and loving life.”
1. TJ Mapes | RIPT Apparel
Years in business: Since 2009
$3000 and a Killer Business Idea: Mapes and two buddies gathered their money together to bootstrap the launch of RIPT (Rest In Peace T-Shirts) Apparel ecommerce business. Their vision was to sell limited edition pop culture themed t-shirts designed by budding artists. After 24 hours, the designs would “die” and were no longer available for sale on the site.
Impressive Sales Despite a Poor UX: The company outsourced the development of a custom site that served its purpose for three and a half years. Notwithstanding a poor user experience, the t-shirt business was alive and well. Unfortunately, the platform could no longer support the company’s 174% growth rate and $4 million+ annual revenue.
“It was bloated and slow,” said Mapes. “It was just a mess especially when the cart would go down, and people could no longer check out.”
Bachelor Party Blues: At 2 am on the night of TJ’s bachelor party, the RIPT ecommerce site crashed, and he and his friends spent an hour on the phone with their hosting service, trying to get it back up and running. It was the wake-up call the team needed to find a better platform.
Sleeping Well Thanks to Shopify Plus: Since replatforming with Shopify, Mapes no longer loses sleep worrying about whether the site will go down. And now he says the RIPT responsive designed cart and checkout process is “ironclad” and conversions have increased significantly. In fact, the site recently achieved the following results in a single day:
- 3.19% of visitors added an item to cart
- 2.28% reached the checkout
- 2.27% made a purchase
Want to know how Shopify Plus can help you become the next ecommerce millionaire? Leave a note below or send us a message here.
About The Author
Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing, and digital media trends. Follow her on Twitter.