Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
We started a community outreach program called Great Gettysburg Addresses® as a way to create awareness for the many small and unique businesses that make Gettysburg special. Our tag line "Come for the history...stay for the hospitality"® pretty much sums it up. We have roughly 50 participating businesses and do a great deal of outreach via various forms of communication including a web site, Facebook page, Pinterest, printed brochures, digital and print advertising. GettysGear® was developed to generate revenue so that we could fund the community outreach efforts. We make most of what we sell. What we don't make ourselves is predominantly sourced right here in Gettysburg or in and around Pennsylvania. For example, the gentleman that makes the wooden boxes for our cigars...his wife sews our quilts and decorative treatments.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We try to leverage various channels of distribution. Our online sales are very important, but only one outlet. We enjoy a complimentary wholesale business as well as participate in key events that allow us to directly interact with our customers. At this point in time, we do not have a dedicated storefront. We are very active in social media, print, digital and event marketing. Our sales are relatively evenly split between our distribution channels. Generally speaking, when one is soft, we see stronger performance in another. Our online sales channel has allowed us to develop a solid national footprint as well as take advantage of tapping into the gifting of our products.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
In addition to using Shopify as our backbone, we employ a variety of add-ons and promotion tools. Since we sell cigars, we are limited with regard to how we can handle financial transactions and use PayPal as our financial gateway. Even though we are American made and hand-crafted, all tobacco products are lumped together and this makes for some unique challenges. We use Yotpo for our reviews, Yahoo Live Web Insights and Retention Grid for analysis, Revenue & Tax Reporting and Order Printer for some of our housekeeping functions. We handle all shipping on our own. We feel that it is imperative to control the total consumer experience. The first impression the customer gets is when their package arrives. We ship our normal packages via USPS Priority Mail and our oversized parcels via FedEx Home. Every order gets personally packed with a hand written note and a free gift. Our goal is to exceed our customers expectations when it comes to product quality, value and customer service. It's hard to do this when you outsource or drop ship.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Be vigilante and committed to what you do. Everyone thinks that online sales is an easy endeavor...it's not. It takes a lot of hard work and stamina. Test, modify, rethink and then try it all over again. Remember, it's not what you think that counts...you are catering to a customer demographic and it's their perspectives and opinions that matter. Don't underestimate the value of developing a strong following...these customers will become the foundation from which you can build a successful business.