PANYL

My business partner and I have been friends since we were 15. He is a set designer for commercial photo shoots, and had been looking for a way to build high-end kitchen sets for photo shoots, without going to the expense of ordering fancy European cabinets. He found a type of self-adhesive vinyl that looks and feels like real wood, and that comes in zillions of colors.

Eventually we decided that this would be a great way to upgrade and customize the design of various flat-pack furniture products, such as IKEA. That's how PANYL was born.

How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?

Well, we're not entirely sure how our first customer discovered us, because it wasn't anyone we knew. But from the very beginning, we actively posted images of our products on Pinterest, and submitted photos and "how-to" articles to sites like Apartment Therapy and Ikeahackers. We now get a huge amount of referral traffic from both of those sources. But the most important revenue source is from repeat purchases by happy customers.

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 set ourselves up on Shopify right from the get-go. We needed a custom template to allow customers to see images of different furniture pieces as they browsed the various PANYL finishes, so we had an outside firm provide that.

Amazingly, we were able to get most of the additional store functionality we wanted without using any third-party apps. The apps we do use are Shipstation for order fulfillment and shipping labels, Myshippinginsurance.com for shipping insurance and TaxJar for calculating sales tax payments. RetetntionGrid has been amazing for detailed analysis of our sales and customer base, and we just started using Remaze for inbound customer service management.

What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?

Be prepared to spend some time tweaking and re-working your site as you go. No two stores are exactly alike, yet Shopify is set up to allow virtually any configuration. This occasionally requires the store owner to re-think how they've entered their products or store data into the system. We found several times that we were able to add functionality, that we had been prepared to hire custom developers for, by simply re-organizing our product listings within Shopify. In doing so we gained a much better understanding not only of how Shopify works, but also the best way to organize and run our online store.

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