My father (and business partner) and I opened Raw Generation after I had just completed a health coach certification course from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
I wanted to create a business that would provide truly healthy and convenient foods to busy people, since there are so few easy options out there.
We started off with fresh and raw juices because it is the easiest way to get highly concentrated nutrition into your body, and the most time consuming, pain-in-the-butt thing to do. People start juicing at home only to give up relatively quickly due to the time it takes to prep, juice, and clean up.
The number of people who are sick, tired, and suffering from disease is ballooning despite the number of medicines available, but the holistic way of living (a.k.a. using what Mother Nature provides to nourish and heal) is becoming more popular in replacing pharmaceuticals. I have seen first hand in my own body what fresh fruit and vegetable juices can do (and I'm just a relatively healthy 30 year old professional).
We started with juices, but with time we will be expanding into other raw foods and will one day (soon!) be a one-stop-shop for raw foods.
What are the key factors that have helped your store be successful?
I rebranded Raw Generation at the beginning of this year (2013) after being in business for 6 months making virtually no money. The product we originally introduced had very little appeal because it was made for a small niche market and we hadn't figured out how to tap into it yet.
I decided to jump on the juice cleanse band wagon since it was becoming very popular. It was right up our alley anyway since all it was fresh juices packaged together and marketed as a weightloss product. This was Major Lesson #1: if it isn't selling, change it.
Right around the same time I was introduced to using deal sites as marketing avenues (Living Social, Groupon, Gilt, etc). We started with one of the smaller sites, Lifebooker.com, and found that it worked well. Instead of spending money on marketing that didn't guarantee sales, we were paying for sales. After a few months, we hit a lull with sales from Lifebooker.com, weren't getting anywhere with generating sales through social media and decided in order to increase sales we needed to try focusing our attention on one marketing avenue.
Major Lesson #2: figure out your options, make an educated guess as to what the most effective way is to generate more sales, and focus all of your attention on it.
We had a few options as to what we could focus on: deal sites, health fairs, social media & Adwords. We decided that based on our history with social media, it wasn't the place to focus; we hadn't tried health fairs yet so that was a crap shoot; Google Adwords can get really expensive really fast; our brief experience with selling on a deal site had proven to be a small success.
I gave myself 2 weeks and focused 100% of my time on getting our products selling on as many deal sites as possible. After 2 weeks, I had several deals scheduled and decided that this was a marketing avenue worth continuously exploring. It has been my major focus for the past three months.
What have the results been of my focus? In May (2013) our sales were roughly $8,000, in June (2013) about $33,000, and in July (2013) over $96,000.
We found a formula that worked, and continues to work for us. Once we reach a plateau (if it happens) we will figure out our next best option to increase sales and I will focus all of my time on that.
What someone can accomplish in any given workday is limited to the resources available. When you are starting out in business, resources are often very limited. This is precisely why it is that much more imperative that you create a goal with a deadline and focus every waking moment on achieving that goal. If at the end of the deadline, you feel you need more time, extend the deadline. If at the end of that deadline, you are not seeing results (or the possibility of results) change your goal and refocus.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
1. Pick a marketing/sales avenue and focus all of your time on generating more sales. Do not worry about the little things that seem important. Many of them will naturally go away and you will find they were not really so important.
2. If a product isn't selling, change it!
3. Do not spend a lot of time developing products. Go out with a minimum viable product and make small adjustments as you get feedback from customers (or lack there of). Once I get an idea for a new product, my goal is to get it up on our website within a week.
4. Set measurable quarterly & yearly goals. It is not as important that you achieve your goals every time, but more important that you are always striving for something better.
5. Failure only happens when you accept it as failure. If you can learn from something that doesn't work and use that knowledge to create something else, you have not failed. Thomas Edison tried over 10,000 "failed" experiments before he completed the 1 successful experiment that created the light bulb. Keep moving!
Any Closing Remarks?
Everything seems simple when you are just getting started. But as soon as you get one foot in the door, reality starts to unravel all of the little details that will determine whether your business survives and thrives. Pay attention to the details, they will make or break you. The beginning of any business isn't sexy. It's sitting in your bedroom in yoga pants, working 12 hour days, figuring out which shipping provider to go with, what your hard costs are, and how you are going to actually get people to buy your product.
Find the balance between your day to day tasks and seeing the forest through the trees.