The business I own now, I tripped into. In my previous career I was a video game designer who always dabbled in graphic design. When I left video games in 2010, I decided to become a freelance graphic designer. Right at the beginning of 2013, I decided I wanted to focus strictly on "beer art" i.e. graphic design only dealing with beer based logos, flyers, designs, etc.
What I did was create a piece which put all the names of the then current San Diego based breweries in a crossword format, which is now called the "San Diego Beer Matrix". I shared that piece on the Facebook pages of the breweries...and there it went, viral. People started to share it and then people started to "want it". When they asked me they wanted it, I was perplexed as to what that meant; they wanted a PRINT of my design. So I made some. Sold out. I made more. Sold out. I then made a small run of that print on tees, again, sold out. So there "Craft Beerd' was born and I ran with it. A company was born out of one design, and here I am in May of 2014, still cranking with more design, more ideas, travelling from city to city spreading the beer art love.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
My first sales were all pre-sales. I made a pseudo contact form using my www.craftbeerd.com and people would simply state how many of the "San Diego Beer Matrix" prints they wanted and what size.
When it came to tees, I made a run of them, put them in my backpack and would sell them at beer bars or breweries. Word spread and people were on the lookout for Craft Beerd.
Then, online sales were my dominant force. Now, its weighted heavily on booth sales when I attend events, or "pop-ups" I do at beer bars or breweries. In fact, when I have pop-ups at venues, I will work out a deal where if people show up wearing Craft Beerd gear (or purchase on site) they will get a $1 off each pint for "X" amount of hours. Its a beer art investment!
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?
My toolbox for fulfillment come down to Shopify for commerce, ShipStation to pool my orders and ship them via USPS with Endicia and Express 1. Mailchimp is also my preferred email marketing tool.
In terms of physical tools, I have a DYMO thermal printer and a USB scale. With all that combined, I have a live business out of my home office.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
- Predict your true shipping costs. Actual postage, supplies needed to ship your products (packaging materials, etc)
- Decide early if any one of your products will sell to 0, and then customers can't purchase more until you get more inventory, or track the inventory, and let customers continue buying past the "empty" point as long as you are continually replenishing inventory on a regular bases
- Tax - make sure to collect it
- Make sure you have a strong mission statement and stick with it - it will help provide a solid foundation on how you interact with your customers, the products you release and the overall quality
- Promotions. Come up with a good scheme, including "branding" of your promotions and timeline. If you are perceived as a premium brand much like Craft Beerd, "flash sales" or "buy 1 get 1 free" deals will dilute the brand. Make sure it aligns with your vision and mission statement for the company.
- Map out your current financial resources to what the demand could be. Most don't plan for success so early, so if it happens, you have to be ready for it to alleviate "gaps" in replenishing inventory and introducing new products to the market