Building a business is a long journey. A journey filled with ups and downs, moments that make you feel like you’re the king of the world and moments that feel like nothing is working, nothing adds up, or you just want to quit — especially when you’re just starting out and all the burden is on your shoulders.
We’ve all been there, when you can’t find the right product or the right audience, when the margins are too low, or the supplier you found is not as trustworthy as you thought.
This week, we share Josh Sprague’s story with you, an entrepreneur who built the amazing brand Orange Mud. Orange Mud is a sporting goods store that launched in October 2012 and Josh takes us through his successes and failures of starting a highly successful eCommerce business. We hope you’ll find his story inspirational and motivational.
First step: How did you decide what to sell?
I’ve done a lot of training and racing on foot, bike, and kayak. Over the years I just despised all the other packs that I bought for the sport. After an Ironman event I competed in, I was simply fed up and decided to make a pack design that had been in my head for 10 years. I theorized that moving the hydration weight higher up on your shoulders would yield a more stable ride. Then, I wanted quick access to my phone, nutrition and safety items. Little did I know that it would take off so well!
Do you manufacture, use a supplier or drop ship your products?
We manufacture our packs in the US and Mexico with two amazing suppliers. Finding a good manufacture is not easy, so once you find a good one, be a good partner and make it a win win for both of you.
All of our products come to us first, and we ship to our consumers via our warehouse as well as a third party distribution center. We do drop ship as well for a few brands that we work with.
How did you make your first sale?
Our first sale was made on our website. To this day web sales are the primary source of our revenue, with our B2B retail channel being strong too, as well as event sales.
How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
We use a software service called Shipstation. It’s a wonderful platform that syncs to our amazon store and Shopify website. From it we can choose to ship through our warehouse or our 3rd party warehouse. Our B2C base generally uses USPS, where as our B2B base primarily uses FedEx.
Success and failures: Share some details on your most profitable sales channels.
Online sales are king. We’re carried in over 400 specialty retail stores, and we love them, but we make a wide offering of products and some don’t fit the traditional retail store model. Or might not be the right fit for our current customers. This is where online is key.
We’re able to do targeted marketing to the right customers for all of our products, largely through Facebook advertising. In many cases we’ve found that retailers didn’t want to carry something brand new when their customers weren’t asking for it.
As a brand, this is very disappointing since many stores don’t like a brand to sell online, but they won’t demand first before they bring in a product. Something that doesn’t make sense when you really think about it, at least in terms of stores being upset that we sell online. So in our case, we had to sell online to get our products in use across the globe, which has driven demand to retail.
What was the biggest mistake you’ve made — in terms of money invested in the wrong channels or time spent?
We spent $10k on a TV advertising spot. This was hands down the biggest waste of money spent and I hope the sales guy that got me on that put the money to good use. I get at least a call or email per day of someone wanting us to spend money on something, you will too, so be careful. Really drill down and cross-check with others that have used whatever medium it is to see if there is a positive ROI.
Also, be careful when you ask for references. I’ve been given many bogus references, plus I’ve talked with some that simply didn’t know if they had a positive ROI or not as they weren’t measuring it but assuming things are positive. So really drill down and ask for details.
How is StoreYa’s Traffic Booster helping you with your business?
Traffic Booster has been really cool. To be honest, I was quite skeptical given the typical sales pitch I get on these type of things. But the link you’re using is a UTM link I provided and we’re actually seeing and measuring traffic with a high conversion rate, strong time on site, and pages visited. So aside from the dollar conversion being positive to the spend, the time on site and page visits show that it’s hitting the right audience. That’s something that makes me happy.
What is your no.1 recommendation for new store owners?
Get an email pop up on your site to collect email contacts. We use a landing welcome mat and the conversion is amazing. I see so many brands dump money into advertising, but then they don’t collect the email address of those that they are driving to their site. A crazy thing! Email is your #1 tool that you own. We love Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, but we/you just lease and borrow followers there.
Looking to learn more about Josh’s success view the below video and visit his site at: www.orangemud.com
Nicole is a content writer at StoreYa with over fifteen years experience and flair for story telling. She runs on a healthy dose of caffeine and enthusiasm. When she's not researching the next content trend or creating informative small business content, she's an avid beach goer and coffee shop junkie.
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