This business started by accident. Well more by chance and circumstance. When I first started flight training, one of the first things that I was asked to do, was find some tools for being a pilot. Things like a small flashlight for night flying, different chart holders, etc. The main item that I was tasked with acquiring was a headset. Now a headset is a very personal thing, as most of us have experienced with headphones. Some fit, some sound great, some look cool, and some don't. Well this was no different in finding a headset as a pilot. What I found was that all of them had some part of what I wanted, or needed, but none of them had it all. Well since a headset can cost upwards of $1000.00, I wanted something that had everything, not just some.
That's when I decided to build my own. I knew that I was technically proficient, and had a creative mind for construction of weird items, but this was a different type of venture, because this was not only a cool item, but it was designed to save my life, and others, if the situation presented itself. Never-the-less, I was determined to figure it out, and so I did.
Next thing I knew, another pilot in training said, “hey where did you get those?” I said “I made these.” “Really? Can you make me a pair?” he replies. Wow, I never thought of making some for someone else, until now.
Next thing I knew, I realized that we had stumbled into an untouched market. A personalized custom headset. Now this just had to be done.
By the time my brain caught up with what I was actually doing, we had started building headsets for friends, and friends-of-friends, etc. Paul was hunting down parts suppliers, and I was crammed in an 8x12 building in my back yard until late into the night soldering wires together and painting ear pieces. That is how this madness all started, and I'm so happy.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We had searched for several months, attempting to find a good ecommerce platform. I have a background in graphic and web design, so I knew how to build a drupal or zencart system, but I didn't have time to do it by hand, and I knew that there were some great modular ecommerce systems that were already packaged and ready to go. So we tried a few different ones, and I felt like I was back searching for a headset again. They all had pieces and parts of what we needed, but none of them had it all. And again, after a few months, and more wasted money, a business buddy of mine told me about Shopify. I didn't have high hopes, but needed to check it out. Boy, talk about a wonderful moment! When I started looking at the Shopify system, it was like watching that first Victoria's Secret Angel collection commercial. Oh boy, it was sexy and we were sold!
Once we got a taste of their customer service, and the way the platform was so modular – for a designer/developer like me – it was a dream come true. We got our first sale just by having the site live, and someone spotted one of our pink headsets we had put on Instagram, and they bought a pair. Our website is still our highest trafficked arena and we don't see that changing with how we've established ourselves using Shopify.
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?
The one's that we can't live without are the apps by BoldApps. Specifically their Product Options app in particular. We're a custom order business, so we needed a way for our customers to be able to pick and choose the different options for their selections. Well Product Options was the golden ticket for that, and it will be for the forseable future. Point-of-fact, we would not have a business today, had it not been for BoldApps integration with our Shopify platform.
As far as shipping and handling, we are forced to handle that in house. Being a build-to-order system, it is impossible for us to warehouse any ready to ship inventory.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Take your time, do your research in-depth first. Figure out what everything is going to cost. Factor in every single thing you can think of, because I promise, you won't think of it all, and that's the one thing that will jump up and bite you bad.
The second piece of advice, is to be very patient. Remember, when you first launch, nobody knows you even exist. Think about that, how would they? You have to take the time to develop that line to your customers. You have to put yourself out there, and keep doing it until you get someone to like what you're doing. Then they have to tell someone else, and so on. Your job is to perfect your product or service, and then keep selling yourself to others until they believe in what you're selling or doing, repeat that, and never stop.
The last thing, and this was the hardest task for me to accomplish as a new business owner. Be humble. That sounds simple, but it was very difficult to master, and I had no idea how amazing it would be once I did. Being humble with who you are, and what your business is. Don't overstate what you are, or how many people you have, or how much money you make. Don't pretend that you are a big company solving an ancient mystery of the ages. People, and I mean a single stranger to you, will respond to a humble display of who you are much better than a big giant stranger with lots of imposing characteristics. Show your customer / lead / potential who you really are, and what you're really doing. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and people will love you for it! It will make them interested in what you've started, and all the things you've had to do to get there, and how it makes you feel to be “doing it yourself”. I promise, that if you can master being humble, and providing something that people need or want, you'll have a loyal customer base for all your days.