Intro: Hey all, it’s Nathan Resnick from Sourcify and today we’ve got another epic guest on e-Commerce on Tap. This is a show about the Entrepreneurs, creators and agencies that make up the e-Commerce world and the stories behind how they grew. Crack your brew because here comes another amazing episode.
Nathan: What’s up, it’s Nathan Resnick, we’re back with e-Commerce On Tap. Today, we have one of my favorite e-Commerce entrepreneurs on air; Terry how are you? Thank you so much for joining us.
Terry: How’s it going Nathan? Thanks for having me.
Nathan: Yeah my pleasure, my pleasure, where you based at today?
Terry: In Ottawa Canada originally out of Calgary Alberta but I’m just doing a little bit of work in Ottawa so that’s where I’m out up north where it’s nice and cold.
Nathan: Amazing I got to ask you know because I know Shopify is right up in Canada as well and did you get into e-Commerce because Shopify was starting in that area? Tell me your background story and especially growing up if you want to start selling your own products? Were you always entrepreneurial?
Terry: Well, I’ll give you a little bit of context on the Shopify thing; basically, Shopify was my first search when I found out about e-Commerce so then I just dug a little bit deeper into what is Shopify and it seemed like it was the right platform to kind of launch on. Going back to when I got into all of that stuff, I grew up in a little place called Summerside, Prince Edward Island, pretty much is far East as you can go except for Newton man very, very small place about 10,000 people so all you pretty much knew everybody.
I grew up in a really poor family, we didn’t have much it’s typical there are people just struggling kind of getting through so I learned that I had a young age basically if I needed anything, if I wanted anything, I had to go out and get things.
So, at an early age in life, I started– I had a paper route at the age of twelve I remember I used to like shovel driveways and walkways I go knocking on doors asking “OK Do you need your driveway shoveled?” Anything kind of make a buck, in the summer I do all lawns, I had ice, I sold cards I remember I even remember selling jawbreakers in high school. It was in high school, it was like junior high just like stuff like that when I was– little things to make a buck basically just to get the things that I wanted to do right like I was it big in a staple or even begin to go snowboarding, hockey and my Parents couldn’t afford all that so I had to want to find money to kind of do all those things.
So, I mentioned the after all that stuff I finished high school moved out to Calgary, got a Computer Science degree, graduated, got a job in the corporate world did that for about 10 years where I just kind of was working full time.
Nathan: And I want to talk about it, because I think a lot of entrepreneurs that are listening in right now, you know some of them may be in that corporate of 9-5 and they’re wondering how to get out; if you kind of touched on in terms of you know you’re in the corporate world, you were in the corporate world for 10 years now you’re one of the best e-Commerce entrepreneurs and you know running multiple 6 figure stores.
What’s that kind of transition process did you have quitting your job and going at e-Commerce full time?
Terry: Well, I did quit straight away— I kind of did a side hustle for quite a while right, where it came down to it I was very thankful just because you hear about it all the time these people kind of just jumping ship and cutting all their ties. Maybe that would work but I just had a lot of things like I had a truck, I have a condo and all that good stuff and then kind of cutting your job where it’s that big piece of the pie that’s coming and yeah you’re making it whatever your salary and it was really tough Plus I just felt launching my first e-Commerce business, I wasn’t quite 100% sure that it was going to work.
But I wanted to start and I started by just dipping my toe into it right like. Me and my partner we launched a business called Ties and it was more geared towards the fashion space. It was a business that really was it’s that scalable because what we did, we turned it into a way I just came up with the idea OK– I ended up reading ten paresis for our workbook into thought what was it summer 2013.
Nathan: And that’s one of my favorite books
Terry: And on it’s the it was just kind of one of those it just opened up so many new doors and I was like OK after this book, I’m going to launch an eCommerce business I just have to. I don’t care if I’m going to fail or it’s going to just be a really crappy business, I just have to launch.
So, we went through the exercise of what am I going to launch with, right? I didn’t have any ideas so I basically grabbed a piece of paper and sketched out a bunch of ideas a kind of what I thought that’ll maybe some pain points and I just thought at that time, you go to somebody at that were a lot at that time you go to somebody if Bay wherever in Canada we have a bay or just some type places and there was really not than where there was a unique tie kind of more fashion forward a little more out there bright, different. So we said OK yeah, we’re going to go in the tie industry we just decided right?
And then, we looked it up on YouTube my girlfriend at the time and now my wife, we basically learned how to sew a tie and then eventually we bought a sewing machine, went through that whole process, we ended up that summer started get quite a few orders just through to friends and family for weddings and little events like that and then we just started spreading the word around through social media and it was like you launched your website through Shopify
Nathan: And what year was this?
Terry: This was this was 2014 so in May that’s incredible.
Nathan: I mean it’s incredible to see that you kind of take that handcrafted route with your first e-Commerce store, I think a lot of people now that to try to go into jobs at big or they go straight to China and you know it’s taken that handcrafted route, I think is something different something that’s it and that’s super cool that you did, what was that transition you know it sounds like you were doing this part-time working you know still that corporate job and looking to you know probably transition out of it and go full time as an entrepreneur and create more young companies, What was that process like and then how did you grow into other e-Commerce stores that you run right now?
Terry: Now, well we just got to a point where we were so busy that it came to a point where OK I just had to jump ship and one thing is I found with this this first entity in was it my like OK I wasn’t 100% passionate about it but I just wanted to kind of go down that route and what I learned that I kind of– well it was a business that was and we couldn’t really scale.
At that point where we were going to I know orders that it was just wasn’t feasible like it would take Monica an hour to an hour to an hour and a half to do a tie right? So, you can’t really charge $200 for it, I just because of man hours. And then we end up getting an order of like 10 for a waiting and it just wasn’t peaceable.
So, we learnt by building a business that isn’t scalable how to scale so what we ended up doing eventually stepping away from doing that and craft and then we moved over two sourcing a products. We had some good ideas on ties that were selling so what we did we took those designs and reached out to a manufacturer in China had them design it get a sample then when we were happy with it, we got a large order and just kind of scaled out that way.
Nathan: And what’s that– I just want to touch on that process real quick because I think that’s one of the biggest hurdles for any e-Commerce entrepreneur who is actually sourcing and manufacturing of products, so you have your own designs, that you made in-house which is great because some people just have an idea in their head you know you reach out to these factories overseas, how did you reach out? You know what was your process? How did you know did you face difficulties but what was that communication like if it was one? And then what was that process like when you first start your initial order?
Terry: Yes my process was I always use Alibaba what I would do is very similar to that interview type of process, I reached out to multiple manufacturers and kind of went through the process again this is what our company is about, this is what we’re trying to accomplish these are some of the designs we want and just waited for the replies back from the factories.
And in the final very similar to an interview process we kind of just evaluate who is the best: communication, their attentiveness, the relationship, the ability even after a few back and forth and decided OK we’re going to go with this factory this price has turned out.
Nathan: How long was that due diligence process?
Terry: It didn’t take long, it took about 2 weeks.
Nathan: OK yeah it’s interesting you know for every e-Commerce entrepreneur out there, everyone’s looking to bring ideas to life and so they’ve got to figure out a manufacturer them. So, I think that’s incredible part of the story but so once you get this order in you know you have ties that are made in China now, you have to you know obviously sell them how do you grow? How do you grow the store?
Nathan: Yeah, one of things we learned, so we decided to OK just got the niche of the ties, maybe wasn’t the best idea, so we got into watches. We partnered with a few companies and I decided in parallel to launch on Shopify with Amazon and we started getting some traction in the watch space.
And over the Christmas season what was it to sixteen we ended up one and over the Christmas, much just took off and we ended up doing a crazy amount of revenue and that’s like. Where we really got into kind of Amazon so it really opened up a bunch of new doors as we saw one product take off and then we started kind of going to down that route of similar products so it kind of brought us into another new channel of business and then we were still in the top selling ties but it was just kind of like OK, now we’re going to scale out into different areas.
And it was all just like trial and error, I had no clue about Amazon, I had no clue about Shopify when I first started. From what I heard, is like you launch your Shopify site and people just show up and see it as I launched my Shopify site. I actually was fortunate because I was a part of the Calgary startup community that I had some friends that shared it out so I ended up getting whatever about one hundred people view on my site over the first day and after that it just when the way and I was like OK, “Well, this sucks” because I was under the impression that you launch your Shopify site and people just start showing up out of nowhere so we’re basically getting like two or three views a day.
And then what I did I have to do? I had to go research right, go find out how do you get traffic? How do you traffic your website? “Oh you got to do this, you get it creates a social channels, you got to do some paid marketing, you got to do some blog posts”
Like I had no clue about as SEO from the get go, people used to talk about, “What are your keywords? I’m like, “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about” but I think one thing is you just got to start and you know there’s no way at it from the get go, you just continue to reach in a continuous learner and say, “OK well whatever it takes I’m just going to continuously learn” worst case scenario this is this is going to be one learning experience that can help project you into the future with your new business.
Nathan: That’s right, I want to touch on you know the difference between Shopify and Amazon and in your own experience, what was that difference? Sounds like you can employers into both you know who is your Shopify store in the Amazon Marketplace at the same time? Was it that hard to manage? And now that you have a great understanding of both, you know both selling channels what do you think someone should start with? Should they start with both? I mean what are the differences that you see?
Terry: Well, I didn’t have a kind of clue what was the difference because I made sure and running the coverside, I find the difference between a Shopify site when you first launch is like, opening up a store down the road back in the country where nobody exists. That’s what it feels like to kind of launch your first Shopify site.
So, nobody’s there, nobody is aware of your business and you’ve got to kind of bring the crowd there meanwhile launching on Amazon is like launching in your busiest mall in your city right? So, people are there, they’re finding your products.
It was just easier and I was very fortunate to kind of launched Amazon because that’s what really kept this going because that’s where most of the revenue started coming in and it was a bit depressing at first where I was expecting a lot more sales to Shopify by and it when I say I put in hours, I put in on believable hours to just kind of get it to where we were doing fairly well but really it was like most people would have given up, it’s just like ridiculous how many hours and consistency that I put into it to get what we got out.
But it was a hell of a learning experience in your life everything you did in the past, you project into the future.
Nathan: And when you were going through the hours spending those hours are there any like go to resources at your utilizing I mean, I know you guys run one of the best Facebook Shopify groups if you want to mention that as well, it’ll be awesome as a resource but it was you know when you were first starting out, what kind of resources were you reading to learn, I mean what was the best kind of go to source back then?
Terry: Yeah, well one of the reasons I got into e-Commerce was one of my good buddies he was a Software Engineer and he cut ties to the corporate world. Probably about 2 years before I did and I saw online kind of like Facebook and so I just traveling the world seeing things he’d be at the beach while I’m back in Canada in the winter and it just seems like I was always intrigued at what he was doing.
Nathan: And someone to be by the beach while I’m in office right?
Terry: Exactly! And just kind of give up the whole corporate world it was very intriguing so he kind of was a little bit of my mentor to kind of like OK “What is this? OK I got my site launched now what do you do? I’m at this point now, what do I do?”
Yeah so, he was a really good resource I’ve always just Google search right before I came in to Shopify stuff the Shopify, they produce a lot of really good content there’s a lot of resourcing around Shopify across I even running into just people producing some really good content so I really read through that and I applied a lot of just in time learning where I come down to if I if I had to read some of the Google Adwords technical documentation that I do it, if I was launching an ad right Same with Shopify, I either reach out to their supports or look for someone post and so on.
Probably about 3 years ago, I just OK- bring in a like-minded people together, I launched a Facebook e-Commerce group wrote in the show notes but now it’s at about 20,000people and it’s a good resource just kind of like reach out find like-minded people, doing the same thing that you’re going to doing right it’s always good to have someone to like bounce questions off of because even in my day to day world, I’m really probably about maybe 5% of my friends that really understand e-Commerce so you really can’t talk to them right and bounce ideas is really tough, for those Facebook groups always help.
Nathan: Really that that’s awesome, I mean it’s incredible that you’ve grown a community to you know not only help each other but also you know provide value to a kind of in your day to day right now what’s been your main focus? I mean are you continue to focus on surge or is that you growing are you focusing more on selling on Amazon? What’s going on with you this year in 2018?
Terry: Yeah, so I have a couple walls in the air, one I run an agency called ‘Hopper two’ and we’re basically a whole full circle kind of e-Commerce agency and we do everything from store set up, to Google AdWords, Facebook ads, anywhere from like social media to SEO.
So, you get a lot of business running through that and then my latest biggest project is a company called ‘Yana Life’ where an outdoor sports company and I’m really working on scaling that and blowing it up throughout North America and next year into Europe.
Nathan: Nice, what are some of the products that you guys are have mentioned some of the outdoor for like is it just outdoor category type of products?
Terry: Like running backgrounds of always been really into trail riding in the winter time in particular there are a lot of people use like a trail spike; so when the well I feel that we develop the most advanced trail spike on the market the most like, the technology is a little more advanced the riveting the product is a little bit better than all of the products out there.
I feel we have a big opportunity, there’s nobody really in the Canadian market to a point, we have one big competitor, I feel there is room for competition and what I really want to do is just build one of those outdoor brands and I feel that there’s a big opportunity, we want to really target just the recreationalists, the person that’s just likes to get outside and enjoy being outdoors and being in nature right and this is going to be just one product it’s going to be a large company and this is just the start of it so now we’re on our hands on Canada, Amazon US, we’re running business and Facebook on Shopify. I have some experience, we’re going to launch into Amazon in the UK and that was a support to Europe
Nathan: Yes, that’s what I love because you know you’re selling a product that you created yourself and then you use yourself you know, I see a lot of e-Commerce entrepreneurs go out and try to start a company and run a product they wouldn’t use. I think that’s one of the biggest question you have to ask yourself when you’re going down this route, “Will I buy this myself?” and you know you obvious of credit company now where you buy a product, you love it, they did something you would raise you have a lot of e-Commerce offer especially the ones that are up shipping, you know to selling products, they don’t care about you know and I think when you put your heart and a lot of branding into a product, it has a much higher likelihood of being successful.
And I think that’s really the kind of dynamic that I’m seeing you know listening to how you grow your stores that you’ve put you know time into these products you’ve invested into the brand and you’re growing great companies that whereas you know the drop shipping entrepreneurs; I mean what are your thoughts on drop shipping of the I mean I need to have you drop ship products through like AliExpress before?
Terry: I haven’t dropped through AliExpress but we have partnered with one company out of Toronto when we do all a bit in the fashion space and that is for male ties. It wasn’t that bad but I can see where there’d be a lot of pain points especially when it comes down to the customer or in multiple pieces and then them getting it from multiple sources.
I do have a friend that’s done it through the AliExpress and has the dilemma of the never knowing when the package is going to arrive plus the package showing up with a bunch of Chinese characters, it tends not really appealing to the customer for a long term.
Nathan: Exactly! so yeah, I always like to end with two questions in and the first and foremost Well, it would be, if you were to start again tomorrow from the ground floor with the knowledge that you had through the past you know few years running e-Commerce stores, what would you do? What would be your first you know what would you really do to get it started again?
Terry: Well, it’s all about the dots they kind of all accumulate right when Steve Jobs talks about that and that’s kind of how I feel with all my e-Commerce ventures. It’s like one that’s just on helping me catapult to the next one right and a lot of it is like you said, is just having passion for it, a little bit of passion for your product and not always be looking at the money.
The money and that’s one of the lessons that I learned with my first business was I wasn’t really into the product and I was just about the money and really having that big picture mindset where drive forward and have a big vision like 2-3-4years down the road what is the business going to be about? And trying to narrow down on that vision of how do you progress to get to from where you’re at to where you want to be.
So, a lot of the things is like OK we’re going out trying to think bigger this year, we’re reaching out to retailers had a couple big meetings with some potential retailers that will bring our products and so we’re kind of hit it from a different approach by using all my knowledge, all my network to see what I can do is to scale it a little bit faster than all my original businesses.
Nathan: That’s awesome, that’s incredible and then I mean that’s amazing to see the growth and to see that route that you’re taking with this current company what would you say you know last question I always like to think about is the future of e-Commerce you know retailers have been going bankrupt and e-Commerce has been growing; how do see that transitioning? Not only this year, but in the next 5years? Is everyone going to start buying online and retailers will just be really hurting, what’s that kind of dynamics that will look like in the next 5years and you think Shopify will be it and Amazon will be as popular and as relevant as they are today?
Terry: Well, I’m a big, big answering to Shopify so I have a lot of like hope for it and I feel Shopify is by far the best company out there. I deal with Amazon and even when it comes down to the support, Shopify is unbelievable their support. Just reaching out to any of their support guys is very a pleasurable experience. That’s why I’m investing in them.
But I feel like the whole retail sector is in trouble right, there could be the whole pop up shop that’s a guy made history that might really blow up because there’s going to be all these bacon stores and there’s a big pain point where if I had the opportunity to maybe come Christmas time to be able to grab a space that for a reasonable price then I would consider getting my maybe my e-Commerce into a quick retail for Christmas.
So, I think that there’s a big opportunity there, I think storefronts will become easier available, I feel some of these big box guys they’ve got a lot of talent competition the rest of the smaller guys that are putting in the hard work and a little more passion about it can run them out of business right and the mission was especially with Amazon and they’re getting into a lot of new areas and seem to be they a powerhouse right?
Nathan: Right now that’s an amazing insight right there and you know I appreciate you coming on the show e-Commerce on Tap, it’s always a pleasure talking to you. Thank you again; it’s really been an honor.
Terry: Yeah, thanks a lot Nathan, I appreciate it.