Our business, MSTRMND Collective, is essentially two friends who came together to find a solution to common problem we shared - bulky, uncomfortable, wallets.
There was nothing in the current market place that met all of our expectations in the realm of "slim" wallets, so as designers, we hit the drawing board and designed something that fit all of our personal needs, and that became our first product brought to market - The Slimplistic Wallet.
Since we sell our own custom product(s), sourcing was a little different than say a common storefront who is just a reseller. In short, we spent a lot of time making phone calls and sending emails, searching all over the US to find an outstanding manufacturer as well as quality suppliers for our custom materials.
Keeping our product made in the USA is something that is very important to us. We found Thomasnet.com to be a great resource. Even if a company we contacted through them was not the right fit, in most cases the companies we spoke to were able to refer us to another company, and so on.
Once we had working prototypes, we decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to test the waters and see if our idea was worth pursuing. Of course we loved our new wallets, but would the world? That was really the litmus test to see if the demand was there and if we had something worth going into production with. Ultimately, Kickstarter backers the deciding factor for opening an online store to help fight the good fight of ridding the world from the clutches of bulky, uncomfortable, unfashionable wallets. The response was overwhelmingly positive with our Kickstarter campaign, so we quickly got things rocking with Shopify.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
As mentioned before, our very first sales, pre-Shopify, were from our Kickstarter campaign. However, once our campaign ended we immediately opened our storefront on Shopify.
Our initial sales from Shopify came as referrals from our Kickstarter campaign - even though we didn't have product in hand, we were offering all the wallets that we offered though our previous campaign (now at full retail price) available as a pre-orders with about a month lead-time for delivery.
Since then, most of our traffic and sales have come in the form of referrals from blogs and websites that either caught wind of what we are offering or have scooped them up themselves and loved the product.
We've been playing catch up since day-one in regards to our supply meeting the demand. This has been going on for almost 6 months now... We are roughly a month out from having the supply caught up to the demand, and at that point we plan on really reaching out and marketing ourselves. It's something we've been dying to do, but know we can't dig us deeper in demand until we can fulfill orders in a timely fashion. Up 'til now though, it has just been word of mouth that has been driving our sales.
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 the beginning, regarding the back-end, we kept everything pretty low-tech and did most of our fulfillment manually. We didn't use any apps and just have the basic Shopify plan. While this may not have been the absolute most efficient way to execute these procedures, we liked the hands-on approach because it gives all of our orders a personal touch and another chance for us to ensure quality control.
As orders continued to grow, we had to make a choice as to where to put our finite amount of man-hours to best use. We knew that the process of manual order/shipping fulfillment was becoming just too inefficient. We've since integrated the ShippingEasy plugin to handle order fulfillment/shipping. In addition to its seamless integration with Shopify, and all the time (with easy label production) it has saved us, it's also saved us a pretty penny on shipping. There are a range of plans to choose from, but the bottom line is any plan you use saves you on postage expenses and includes free tracking. In hindsight, we probably should have made that move a little sooner but that's just another part of the learning curve.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
I can only speak from personal experience, but for anyone out there just starting your online store, I'd highly suggest getting some exposure from blogs/websites that relate to your product. That has been the driving force for our sales, and took little to no effort.
Make it clear as day that you offer free shipping (if you do). We experimented with shipping options and only when it was offered for free (domestically), and plastered all over the place, did we receive the results we were looking for.
Make sure you have a smooth check out process as well! We still get quite a bit of abandoned carts, but the percentage has dropped significantly since we streamlined that portion of the front end.
Last but not least, if you believe in what you are selling, don't give up. This isn't my first rodeo and I can tell you that not every business comes blasting out of the gate full speed. All it takes is some determination and you could get that single link or post that changes the course of your entire business!