While at a telecommunications startup in LA, I decided to do something dramatically different and start a luxury ecomm website.
I fell in love with sake over the years by traveling to Japan to visit my brother who ran Gorilla Glass for Corning in Tokyo. I saw an opportunity where there was very limited options to buy sake other than the typical options at the local grocer or sushi restaurants.
One night, I bought the domain, launched the store, and the rest is history. I painstakingly: worked through the license to sell alcohol online and across state lines, sourced premium sake out of Japan, found an outsourced warehouse, use Shopify on the front-end and Netsuite on the back-end, and now own all things SEO relating to sake.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Through content marketing and Adwords, I have built an interesting business and have double digit growth year over year dating back to 2009. By far my largest channel is organic search.
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?
I use Shopify on the front-end and Netsuite on the back-end to manage finances/inventory.
I did some custom API's to my 3rd party warehouse that picks, packs, ships every hour on the hour for sake purchases. Once a package ships (within 24 hours of placed order), they send an automated email with a UPS tracking number. Very scalable/slick system we have built. I have also integrated a number of apps via the Shopify store to increase rev/sales.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
With very little risk, time, effort, you can get a store up and selling product through Shopify. All you need is a small budget to get started on Adwords and you are off and running.
I advise/invest/sit on the board of a number of companies (including being a mentor with TechStars and Capital Factory in Austin) and tell them how Shopify has killed it for me.