I moved to New York City in 2009 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati to pursue a career in design. I freelanced for a succession of companies, including Calvin Klein. While instructive and financially necessary, these opportunities didn’t bring me and closer to my true ambition to produce, market and distribute my own design goods.
One random night at happy hour in Fall 2010, a friend knowing I liked designing and figuring out how to make things, suggested I make premium leather iPhone backs. A few weeks earlier he had bought a faux leather back that fell apart after a few days. Around Thanksgiving I was laid off because of cutbacks and without any other options, I took up my friend’s offer and started making samples. I scoured the city for the best leather and materials and assembled a small collection of the best leather I could find.
I had been making samples in NYDesigns’ fabrication lab for months without realizing it was part of the business incubator on the 7th floor that specialized in supporting design entrepreneurs. Working out of my girlfriend’s living room eventually proved ineffective and as money and other resources were drying up, I had few options Summer 2011 other than to move back to Ohio.
The day I went to pack up my supplies in the lab, NYDesigns offered me a trial spot in its business residency program. Putting my plans to go back to Ohio on temporary hold, I moved into NYDesigns that very week. Valentine Goods started with one product in a few different styles and since then the collection has come to include products for many more Apple products as well as a number of other leather accessories.
Valentine Goods’ premium leather accessories mediate between technology and a way of life that champions quality, craft, and traditional aesthetics. My products reintroduce an enduring look and feel to the devices you use most and love best. I source the finest grade leathers from respected New York City-based purveyors. The pressure-sensitive adhesive, developed exclusively for Valentine Goods by 3M, simplifies the process of application and respects your device, leaving no residue upon removal. Each product can be applied and reapplied multiple times to the same or similar devices.The production process is a hybrid of the old-fashioned and the high-tech. Every individual product is made by hand with the help of some cutting-edge technology. Each and every Valentine Goods product is proudly designed and fabricated in New York City.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
My first sales came from friends and family, as word spread I was featured on various blogs that rapidly expanded my exposure.
From there, word of mouth was a big influence and a lot of traffic has come from Google searches. Recently the biggest traffic/sales generator has been Instagram.
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?
Before I knew about Shopify, I coded a simple website and used PayPal buttons for each product. It was a good start but as sales grew, my product selection expanded. With this growth, I needed a platform to keep me organized and Shopify has been an amazing asset.
My favorite app is ShipStation, I ship products to every continent besides Antarctica without any issues. I love Yotpo for reviews and am transitioning to Shopify’s review app. Chimpified is another great app to keep my newsletter subscriber list up to date. Now in store is great to keep my product catalog updated to send to potential wholesalers and retailers.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Whether you're a big company or small, transitioning from another platform or brand new, take advantage of all of Shopify's assets. The support, themes and apps can easily make your store look like a million bucks in a small amount of time.