Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
Back in 1998, along with two co-founders, I launched MarryingMan.com which was a content and commerce-focused business geared toward the groom. Shortly before selling it to Modern Bride magazine, we saw a rise in interest for groomsmen gifts over the web. I worked at Modern Bride for a couple of years, and once I left I decided that I wanted to focus heavily on the groomsmen gift side of the business - so I launched GroomStand.com. The goal was to provide grooms with an amazing selection of gifts, free personalization on everything, and an incredibly fast and hassle-free ordering process (especially given that guys generally wait until the last minute to purchase their groomsmen gifts). I personally still get very involved in the process. We have an amazing group of suppliers and we work extremely close with them to continually find unique products.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Back in 2002, we didn't have as many marketing avenues as we have today. Our first sales came from an article in the WSJ that featured our toast writing service (still available on our site). That traffic quickly lead to sales of groomsmen gifts. Obviously Google and Microsoft Advertising still drive a majority of our paid search traffic and revenues, but channels like Pinterest are really starting to show some impressive traction.
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?
I'm a big fan of the Shopify app ecosystem. In terms of GroomStand.com we rely heavily on several key apps to streamline our business. We use Duoplane to manage our orders and inventory feeds, we use Pipemonk to sync our transactions with Quickbooks Online, we use Signifyd for fraud management, Taxjar for sales tax compliance, Instant Search to provide our users with great on site search, Edit Order to help customers with those last minute order changes and Judge.me to a great product review experience. Given that our business is focused on gifts that can be personalized our trusted suppliers handle fulfillment.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Always think like an entrepreneur...don't be afraid to take risks, be an early adopter of new technologies that can help your business. Write (and update) a simple business plan, be diligent about reviewing your financials. Work hard, but remember to take time to reflect on your successes and even your failures (you'll learn a lot from them). Pay it forward and volunteer or get involved with organizations that can help other entrepreneurs succeed.