Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
As avid world travelers, my wife and I have always been on the lookout for unique, durable, and useful bag designs. After a trip to Barcelona, where a poorly chosen leather bag tortured my shoulders, we decided to set about designing the ultimate adventure bags that will last a lifetime. We wanted our bags to fill an untapped space in the market between high-end business leather bags (think Wall Street) and gritty raw leather bags (think cowboy), to get a perfect combo that both the Professor and adventurer, Indiana Jones, would theoretically love. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the growth has been fantastic. Recently, we ran our second successful Kickstarter campaign to expand our line of leather bags and products for the modern day explorer.
Humanely sourced materials and fairly made products our among our top concerns. Our leather is sourced from the highest quality US hide, and then sent to be processed in one of the best facilities in Mexico, in terms of quality, cleanliness, fair wages, and environmental friendliness. This then goes to a small artisan shop in Leon, Mexico with some of the most experienced craftsman around, who are paid very handsomely for their incredible work. This results in much higher production costs for us, and much smaller profit margins than most, but we can sleep at night knowing that every step of the process is responsible and humane and our customers appreciate that commitment.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
A successful Kickstarter campaign generated our start up and first sales. We used Kickstarter as a proof-of-concept test and a method of low cost marketing. After the Kickstarter, many additional sales kept rolling in from residual traffic visiting our campaign page.
Blog outreach, giveaways, and reviews. We are constantly contacting major tech and fashion blogs and offering review units. We have been featured on many top name websites, and are even featured in the print edition of the upcoming fall issue of CNET magazine. Additionally, Pinterest is turning into a great source of traffic to our site, though it is very hard to measure the sales generated from it.
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 LOVE the apps available on the Shopify platform. Yotpo is fantastic at getting our customers to give us great reviews, since it sends out an easy to fill out form automatically. Justuno is great for growing our community and email list and engaging our visitors with the coupons it offers automatically. Abandon Aid is good for getting our cart abandoners to come back for one more try with an attractive custom email. And Pre-Order Manager is a great app for getting sales on products not yet available and making it clear they are pre-ordering the product as well as providing us with a list to keep in touch with about the status of their order. We handle shipping internally and use ShipStation to manage our order and fulfillment.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Be unique in what you offer, sell something you love and are passionate about, and be prepared to work *extremely* hard to get others to be passionate about it too. Don't underestimate the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes in terms of logistics, customer service, and production. Good customer service makes a big difference. We have found great success on Kickstarter as a way of pre-selling our products, and generating buzz around our brand. However, that enormously depends on what you are offering and how you present it.