We design and build high-end solid wood AV furniture for enthusiasts. My Grandfather began making TV cabinets for TV manufacturers way back in 1946. My Dad joined him in 1961 and took over after my Grandfather's passing in 1969. I joined my Dad in 2001.
In 2004, we were Sony's largest supplier of projection TV cabinets. In 2005, we closed that company when flat screens took over the TV world and the remaining projection TV production moved to Mexico.
I started Standout Designs to literally reclaim in some way the space occupied by my family for generations. Despite many people telling me that you can't make furniture in the USA any longer, you can't sell it online, and even if you could, you can't deliver it in good shape to customers, I forged ahead. Eight years later, we count every happy customer as a strong rebuttal to that negative outlook. We do make our furniture in the USA, with the help of skilled craftspeople.
We do sell it online, thanks to the amazing e-commerce platform Shopify. And we do ship it all around the country, with the help of smart packing and a caring freight company.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Before the old business closed, we built an AV console designed by my wife's cousin and sold it on eBay. I put the last of the lot - the last product of that factory - on for $.01 and sold it for more than the others. That motivated me to solider on. Shopify is our primary channel.
We are now developing a reseller channel and will use a second Shopify shop for it. We also sell through Amazon, Houzz, and BestBuy.com.
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 use Quickbooks for accounting. We use Softcookies (the app not the food) to import order info from Shopify. We use StitchLabs to tie our two Shopify stores together for inventory.
Stitch also publishes to Amazon for us - a huge timesaver. We ship UPS orders and our free wood samples through ShipStation. On the Shopify retail side, we use custom shipping rules for freight. On the Shopify resellers side, we use a custom app created for us by an awesome Shopify Expert to pull real-time rates from our freight carrier. Other apps we use with Shopify are Desk.com, Olark, and MailChimp. We use Zapier to tie them together.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
I would like to share the advice my brother gave me when I started this business: "You need to do three things to be successful. Focus, focus, and focus."
His point was to not get distracted from the central mission. To elaborate, in no particular order, focus on the customer. Make every customer contact, every experience, a meaningful one, even when there is a problem. Treat it as an opportunity.
Focus on the products. Make sure you are delivering quality, value, and solutions to a particular need.
Finally, focus on your resources and make sure you are making the most of them so you operate smartly and efficiently. The systems and tools available today are amazing. Your business runs at internet speed. So maximize what you do with your time.