Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
Bike sales annually began exceeding car sales, and our distribution business began niche selling bikes and accessories. Nutcase Helmets was a young brand only selling in the US since 2006. They had just signed European distribution and we became the Australian distributor in late 2008. Australia has mandatory bicycle helmet laws, but at that time, few stylish or fun choices of helmets. We source our products from our overseas supplier.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We decided to drive sales through generating consumer demand - we negotiated affordable print ads, set up the first Facebook page for Nutcase, and the Twitter account. These are now used globally by the brand. We contacted editorial pages for features in newspapers and when our products were shown in broadsheets or magazine gear guides, things began to move. Soon enough people began walking into bike shops demanding the product, or coming to us if they don't live near a store. Since then we have recommended Shopify to USA and Europe and some of them have migrated their stores so we can all have a consistently branded store in our countries.
Google search, email marketing and Facebook create a regular stream for us. Print ads in specific periods and sponsorships, word of mouth, and exposure via Roller Derby Teams, bike events or special causes also help. We also sponsor the Olympic aerial skiers development team. Instagram and Pinterest provide a lot of visual attention in the product and may be helping new customers find us. Editorial mentions, although time consuming and less controllable than advertising, still drive great sales when the timing and the place is right: blogs and print.
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 migrated to Brightpearl and it has revolutionised the day-to-day business and account management as it is synced with Shopify. We have less double handling, less mistakes and are no long overwhelmed by the volume of orders we need to fill, especially during hectic periods like Summer/Christmas in Australia. We have lowered our costs for order processing and this allows us to increase our attention on marketing. Our order turnaround is officially 24 hours to dispatch, but in general we actually get it down to a same-day dispatch, and in reality if we see an order arrive, it's usually booked into our warehouse in minutes and on the dispatch truck that afternoon. We can also do business from anywhere in the world, which is sometimes necessary with annual trade shows in the Europe or Asia, and a relatively small in house team. We use a local fulfilment partner.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Know what drives your desire to have a business before you start: is it freedom, wealth, flexibility, fun? Structure your business around your core anchors, otherwise you can miss the wood for the trees or spend time doing things that are the opposite of what you started out wishing for. Even so, often all startups involve doing all the jobs yourself. It takes many hours, sometimes long days so it's good to be aware at the start. Be sure to love what you've chosen as your product or focus, because usually that means you know something (or a lot) about it already. Whether it be finance, marketing, tech or just knowing a lot about the product itself - if you know something at the start, and you have passion, it'll take you far.