Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
Our first products were created out of a desire for something that didn't yet exist — a natural mustache wax with a good hold and good smell. Everything else on the market had petroleum, and we didn't like that. A number were given to friends as gifts, and it sort of took off from there. It was never intended to be a business, but when you have people loving what you're making, that's kind of what happens. We make our own products in house from raw materials, but we also sell a number of 3rd party products and accessories that complement our own. We only carry stuff we like and use ourselves, so it's pretty easy to find new things to stock, we just have to reach out and get a relationship set up.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
The first sales were really just friends of friends that caught themselves downwind of our Woodsman Mustache wax and wanted some of that delicious cedarwood scent for their own 'stache. In the beginning there wasn't a storefront or online sales — it was all Facebook and SMS messages — Jeremiah would ride his motorcycle all around town making deliveries in person. Part of our business is online through Shopify (and Amazon, but that's just getting off the ground), and the other part is wholesale. We're lucky to have a network of small barbershops and salons that believe in natural products that smell great that carry our products.
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?
When we first went online it was all Etsy and Ebay. Shipping was a nightmare, and it was impossible to track anything after it left for the post office. We set up Shopify but didn't know how people would find us. That turned out to be a non-issue, and Shopify's tools for managing orders and inventory started to give us some structure around fulfillment. We used ShippingEasy for a long time to import orders, purchase postage, and print labels. We've since moved up to using ShipStation, which provides us more robust tools and the ability to import from Amazon so we can fulfill everything in one place. We also use Ordoro, who technically competes with ShipStation, but we just use their inventory and purchase orders. They pull in orders from Amazon as well as Shopify, and we place our wholesale orders there — by having one app handle inventory and sync back to all of our sales channels we're able to stay on top of placing orders for third party product as well as making sure our own stuff stays in stock.
We're in the early stages of setting up a customer service app (e.g. Zendesk or UserVoice) so we can scale and improve our interactions with customers — right now it's all over email and feels a bit like using Etsy again. We handle all of our own shipping and fulfillment, except for a few products that Amazon fulfills via their FBA program. Every morning we import orders into ShipStation, verify each order, and print labels and packing slips on a Dymo 4XL. We have separate pick and pack operations, so there are two opportunities for us to catch mistakes. We've also added product photos to our packing lists recently so there are fewer accidents with similar product names. We ship everything via USPS and FedEx, offering customers a choice. Shopify made integrating shipping calculators into our website a breeze — we just had to provide API credentials and set up regions.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Find someone that has handled an online retail business in the past that you can meet with regularly to ask for advice of. We did a lot of extra work early on that could have been avoided had we just known better. Things like turning on Google Analytics, setting up shipping calculators, and handling inventory are a lot easier when you have someone to guide you through the decisions.