We started in 2012 selling frozen Grass Fed Beef steaks over the internet. We found out quickly that our frozen products were costly to store and ship and it was limiting our ability to scale. I had the idea to launch a single shelf-stable product that would basically be a healthy version of Slim Jim's.
We set out to find the right partners - Grass Fed Beef suppliers and a co-packer that could package such a product. We eventually found both, figured out the best recipe we could for our first flavor (Original) and got some samples made. We started out just passing them out to friends and family to get some feedback. The response was overwhelming enough to convince both my partner and I to move forward with further test marketing.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We earned our first sales on the first day that we launched the Shopify website in early 2013. It started as a test and we put some ads up on Facebook in order to get some quick exposure. The test was to see if we could actually get people we didn't know to buy the product and this was the most inexpensive way to do so (over the internet).
The feedback we continued to get from our first customers, friends and family was phenomenal and actually better than we had expected. We realized that we weren't the only ones that thought Chomps were a great product and we knew that people would be willing to buy it. We jumped in feet first and haven't looked back since!
As of right now, our biggest channel for sales is via our website and the hottest markets for us is in the CrossFit and Paleo space. We've had some big spikes in sales after being mentioned on some popular blogs and then we were featured on Uncrate.com. Uncrate really showed us that Chomps isn't going to be limited to a niche market and it appeals to anybody looking for a healthy, convenient and tasty snack. Since then we've gained new popularity with celebrity customers and professional athletes, which is really cool. We've also gained traction in new markets.
Some of our best customers now are "Mommies" that are looking for healthy snacks for their kids, businesses that buy Chomps in bulk and stock them in their office kitchens, Outdoorsmen and people in the fitness and bodybuilding industries.
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?
We use a few different apps in our store that we've found to be very useful. Customer Pricing allows us to set different pricing levels for specific customers (retail, wholesale, etc), Retail Tower allows us to feed all of our products to other syndicated websites, AddThis is a great tool to promote sharing of our blog posts and products on social media and ShippingBee allows us to push all orders directly to our order fulfillment partner.
When we started, we were fulfilling all orders ourselves out of our homes. After a few months of pushing sales we quickly outgrew that setup and had to partner up with a third party order fulfillment partner. The entire ordering and fulfillment process is automated thanks to Shopify and the apps we've implemented. We take all orders, both retail and wholesale, directly through our website. All orders are then pushed via ShippingBee to our order fulfillment partner in Chicago and they ship all products to our customers across the country.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
My best advice for anyone looking to start a new e-store would be to maintain a risk averse attitude no matter how anxious you are to bring your product to market. You can use Shopify as a quick, easy and inexpensive way to test market your product. You should prove the product and business model before spending too much time and money. Your friends and family are a good (free) way to get feedback, but sometimes friends and family might be reluctant to tell you the truth. Paying customers won't lie. Either they'll buy or they wont, plain and simple.
It's up to you to prove that the product you have will sell before you make any major life-altering decisions and investments. Once you've proven the concept, the next piece of advice is to hustle hard and stay focused.
No successful business doesn't face hardships and hiccups, especially as a start up. It's up to you to work through the problems and to keep on trucking toward your goal.