Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
We thought of a creative product that didn't exist. Inspired by the vibrant and eye-catching work of the marine artist Wyland and our desire to bring a glass drinking vessel to market, we combined the two and created a beautiful, artistic, reusable glass bottle that people can use both as a drinking and serving vessel as well as a piece of art unto itself.
We weren't initially planning to sell it online, but we soon realized that e-commerce suits our product perfectly — direct to consumer, direct to Wyland fans, without the challenges of wholesale pricing and pavement pounding. We sourced our product very carefully, particularly because it didn't exist! We went through quite a few different manufacturers because no one was set up to help us create our product in a way that was true to our vision. We kept getting pushed overseas and we refused to do that. After many prototype trials and two years later, we were able to find someone LOCALLY (our bottles are made in California) to produce our bottles.
What made it so difficult to find someone to produce our bottles you may ask? We had to find someone who was willing to take on the challenge of bringing our vision to life, a company which understood how complex the art is and how difficult a double-sided decal is to create without the art bleeding through to the text side and vice versa. Baking a double-sided decal onto a rounded bottle without burning it while also keeping the integrity of the art intact is no small feat.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
One of the cornerstones of our company mission is to market to the fan base of the much-beloved artists' work we feature on our bottles. We are able to access the enthusiastic fan base of these artists that already exist, over social media in particular. Our first sales have been through social media advertising, marketed directly to our artists' fan base as well as people who have similar interests (marine life, eco-friendly products, ocean themes, etc.). Social media is by far our best traffic and sales channel. In addition to that, Google Ads have been helpful, as well as the Wyland newsletter which is sent out quarterly (we've been featured in it twice over the past six months and we noticed a distinct spike in our website traffic and sales in the weeks when we've been featured in their newsletter).
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?
Apps have been very helpful for us. Yotpo has been fantastic for garnering product reviews from our customers (both for SEO purposes and the opportunity to show potential customers how satisfied buyers have been with our products). Mailchimp has been a great way to collect email addresses from our customers and visitors to our site; to send mass emails to our lists regarding special offers and company/product news; and sending out our quarterly company newsletter. Email Pop-up Box has been a super way to collect email addresses and offer a deal to first-time customers. Keeping an almost-daily blog has been an invaluable way for us to build unique content for our website and connect with our customers in a more personal way. And Denver SEO, now Constructive Roots, our Shopify SEO experts, have been incredibly valuable for laying the foundation for a successful e-commerce business. We are less concerned about sales right now and more concerned about building a strong foundation and website presence, which Constructive Roots is helping us to achieve. Also, the regular Shopify emails that we receive have been so helpful in guiding us to apps we never knew existed, offering videos that provide tremendous knowledge, and giving us tools we can use to improve sales as well as content. We handle shipping completely internally. We touch every bottle and ensure that each one is sent out in optimal condition, along with a hand-written note from us to the customer.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Ride the ebbs and flows. With any new business comes both overwhelming challenges and triumphant moments. Manage your expectations — there will inevitably be weeks when you consider giving up and other moments when you can't believe you're able to have your dream job. There are extreme highs and lows, but every bit of it is worth it. It is crucial to teach yourself to enjoy the journey and embrace the process. On a more practical note, use the Shopify customer service! We call Shopify regularly for advice, guidance, and clarification and we cannot express more strongly that this is the most helpful resource we have. Learn the layout of your Shopify store — get to know your theme and make sure it's the best fit for your individual product and mission. Be proud of what you've created and never forget that these are the grassroots moments in which greatness is born.