Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
I was making our natural deodorant for myself as I couldn't find anything else on the market that would work. My search expanded from Montreal to Ottawa and all the way to Burlington, Vermont. I had exhausted all possibilities and so I decided to formulate one. My friends and family knew how hard the process and the search had been so when I told them that I created an effective formula, they wanted to try it. They were then asking for me to make more so that their friends and family could try it.
The results were incredibly positive so they said "you need to sell this!" Approximately 6 months later, I did. It all started in my kitchen. After all, I was only making the deodorant for myself. We then used a room in our basement, and as of last fall we have converted our double garage! Although the products are all hand-made in our workshop, countless hours were spent finding North American (only!) suppliers and making sure that everything we did was per the rules and regulations of Health Canada.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We created a sample size! We didn't like the fact that we had wasted so much time and money on products that didn't work for us. We would have liked to have the option to try it first so we did it. Deodorant is a very personal product and even today, customers are very reluctant to try it. Many people tell us that they had bad experiences with natural options. When we offer them our sample size, they are surprised and happy to try it. This is how we converted most of them into customers. We usually see the most traffic coming from referrals from either bloggers or other media coverage (Rouge FM, Journal de Montreal...). When they recommend us directly, it gives our products credibility.
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?
Langify has been the most useful app for us. As we live and operate in Quebec, it is imperative that our website be fully functional in both English and French. We use Shopify's Product Review app as it helps towards our credibility and with our SEO score. For shipping, customers always select Canada Post as it is always the most affordable solution. Their app has also been an asset. SEO Manager handles our internet score. MailChimp has been a great way to have customers sign-up to our newsletter without having to use to separate systems. We have just installed Geolizr as we would like to expand beyond Canada and the USA in 2016! Although we have an account with UPS and FedEX, customers always chose Canada Post as it is the most cost effective solution. We use their app and fulfil all orders right from our workshop.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
You cannot be an expert at everything. Most of us operate without an unlimited budget but Shopify has an incredible list of Experts & apps that will end up saving you time and money. When we are uncertain, we call a Guru and they always set us on the right path.