Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
In January 2014 I was selected by Bulletproof.com's CEO to do a podcast about how their nutrition products helped counteract the injuries I sustained after a major accident in 2011. I actually got a hold of Dave by troubleshooting his email address; after about 7 different combinations, one went through! We talked for about 45 minutes about nutrition and working out. Towards the end he asked about what I did to counteract the scarring and abrasions I sustained through the accident. The truth is, I was nervous about letting 16 million viewers know that I was wearing a clay mask 3x a week, but decided to let it go and tell him every single detail of this mask that I created out of my tiny apartment! I didn't have a company name, a website or anything! I gave out my personal email address to millions of listeners and told them to contact me if they wanted to try it. Well, they did. Every time I refreshed my browser I had a different fresh set of emails in my inbox. It was the most awesome, overwhelming feeling I've ever experienced.
Dave reached out to me and mentioned the same thing was happening to him. Long story short, he invested in my company and we launched Alitura Naturals. Alitura is Latin for feeding, which we liked because we only use the best food-grade ingredients (and the skin is our largest organ). I hand-make every single jar based on meticulous research from spa treatments and my own experiments with ingredients that I thought would be beneficial to skin healing. I order my ingredients from various sources from all around the world.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Word of mouth! Friends loved it around town. This was when it didn't even have a name, and was only known as "The Mask." We also get a lot of traffic and sales from Facebook, Instagram and various referrals from podcasts I do. We haven't spent a dime on marketing yet.
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?
The Yotpo review app is my favorite. Reviews are so important in this day in age. As for shipping we use Shippo. It's incredibly straightforward on the order sheet. I click, enter address information, wrap the packages, and drop them off at the post office. I know it's not the best use of my time, and Mark Cuban would yell at me, but it's a fulfilling blue-collar way to work. I don't have a manufacturer yet who fulfills for me. This is all done by me. Every single part.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
My best advice would be to use your personal network to source people in the fields that you need help in. Backend web development, design, sales copy, imagery, etc. You'll be getting contacted by hundreds of people from all over the world offering their services. I work with people that I trust. It feels better and is so much more fun when celebrating a victory for our company!
Quality over quantity is also important. I only had one product for my first 10 months, and I'm 14 months into it now! I wouldn't rush into listing more SKUs. Listen to the product feedback, make adjustments when needed, and by all means MAKE CUSTOMER SERVICE YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.