Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
In 2011, we traveled to Nepal for 2 months. While there, we learned that illiteracy was at 75% and the average wage is $100. We became very good friends with Kamal our guide and ended up sponsoring Kamal's niece Resmi to pay for her lifetime of schooling. We stayed in touch with Kamal and he told us he was having a first child. Upon the birth of his first child, Kamal phoned and asked us to name his first born son. Lenard (my husband) and I met while backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, so we suggested the name Jasper.
Now we wanted to help Jasper. Thus Jackets for Jasper was born. Through Kamal, we found a small family manufacturer of light weight down jackets. We designed three different models of jackets in 4 different sizes for north american sizes. All of the jacket sale profits go to fund Jasper, Resmi and soon to be announced Comal to go to school. Jackets come in 140+ colours, sell at half the price of the major manufactures and make a huge difference in kids lives.
And oh ya, the buyers of our jackets helped to raise approx. $23000 after the Nepalese earthquake. All the funds went back to ensure the families were safe and we helped rebuild their homes. We found a small family manufacturer in Nepal. We have 7 people working on our jackets which probably supports about 70 people. Nepal is a crazy place to get things made as they only get about 4 hours of power per day during much of the year. We are a vital income source for many Nepalese.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
An article in the North Shore News. We had only planned to make 100 jackets to see if this business worked, and then it exploded after the article. Worst comes to worst, our families and friends were going to get jackets for birthdays and christmas for the rest of their lives! It didn't work that way and we ended up selling about 250 jackets in our first year. We have a pop-up shop at Deep Cove Outdoors in North Vancouver where they sell our jackets and all the profits come back to our business. They have been awesome. We have also been invited to a few pop-up shops around BC. The problem isn't sales, it's making enough jackets.
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 previously used a different platform and it just didn't work. We now use Shopify online and retail. Last year we produced jackets in 100+ colours, 3 different styles and 4 different sizes. Shopify can handle them all and it has been awesome to use. We use Shopify retail for our pop-up shops and then provide the retail app to Deep Cove Outdoors who can sell the jackets at their store. We ship directly from our home. We also provide an option for customers to pick up their jackets at Deep Cove Outdoors. We bring them there and then a customer picks them up there. Having the flexibility of these options with Shopify is awesome.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
A. If you are a manufacturer, be sure to think about the import duty taxes of where you are getting things manufactured. That can have a big impact on your margins. Nepal has no import duties for our products for instance B. Think about fulfillment strategies upfront if you are successful. Boxing and shipping products could easily (hopefully!) become a full time job. C. Shopify has great customer support so don't be afraid to reach out to them. Part of the reason for staying with Shopify is that they have become a real partner in helping us. D. Look at the Shopify Apps. There is a ton of them and they can really streamline your business and reduce the manual efforts.