Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
My son started skateboarding at age 6. Even as a skateboarder myself I couldn't find anyone making a high quality skateboard in the right sizes for younger kids. We would run into other parents at the skatepark and they would share the exact same frustration. You could find a smaller toy board made out with low quality parts, or a go with a full size quality board made for teenagers. We knew that by launching a line of smaller high quality skateboards we could provide kids with a much better and safer introduction to skateboarding. We partnered with a eco friendly company to build our very own SkateXS branded smaller sized bamboo decks. We then selected the top names in the skateboarding industry to provide our other components like trucks, wheels and bearings. We aggregate all these parts at our shop here in California and then we custom assemble each complete skateboard to order. Kids get to choose the design they like best, the color of the grip tape, the wheels and we even offer a personalization service to put the skater's name right on the skateboard.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We've been extremely fortunate to have great word of mouth referrals for the skateboards since day 1. We also have an awesome skateboard team made up of the most talented young skaters out there today. So many of our customers have become SkateXS brand ambassadors. Typically they invested time to find us, they read reviews and ultimately made a leap of faith to invest in SkateXS. Once they actually get the skateboard and the skater can feel what skating an appropriately sized real board is like, they are excited to talk to about us. That is pretty awesome. Organic search is by far our number one channel. We also have some great 3rd party reviews from trusted bloggers. We really appreciate the traffic from these sources. It means a lot to have a customer hear about us first from someone else. We try and provide a lot of helpful information on our website about youth skateboarding. When someone comes in with an existing level of trust, it just makes that information so much more accessible.
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?
Overall I think we do a really great job of taking advantage of the Shopify platform. The system made it easy to offer the customer's just the right amount of options to make each skateboard special, while not having an overwhelming number of choices. Adding the personalization feature was even something our theme provided underlying support for. We have a responsive theme so we feel good about our mobile support, we use the blog and social features pretty much right out of the box. Our primary 3rd party app is probably Yotpo which we've found super helpful for reviews. We have over 500 5-star reviews on the site. We try to leave a public response to each review we get. Those responses offer a unique way for us to share our personality and voice that just might not come across as well in other traditional content areas. It definitely shows we are human, I hope we come across as fellow parents more than simply retailers. We use Order Printer every day to print the day's orders. We actually build the skateboards one by one by looking at those orders. We also offer protective gear like pads and helmets which are often part of an order. We pack each order up and use our ShippingEasy app to actually purchase and print either UPS or USPS labels for each of our packages. ShippingEasy is completely integrated with our Shopify store. It knows all the info about each order and as soon as we print labels even tells the Shopify system that the order has shipped, shares the tracking number and then Shopify emails our customer their shipping confirmation.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Don't wait till everything is perfect, because it never will be. Put your customers first. With them in mind, you will make the right decisions. Bootstrap when you can. It takes time to build up sales! It took 18 months before SkateXS was able to become a full-time focus. Another 9 months and we moved the family and company to Southern California and couldn't be happier, but it took a ton of patience and hard work.