Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
Our mission is to inspire creativity in others and spark innovation in art, science, design, and technology. One of the biggest things that my co-founder and I found holding us back in our creative endeavors were the tools we had available to us. Especially the notebooks we were using. We couldn't find a single notebook that met our expectations for craftsmanship, usability, and style.
We decided that if we were going to truly champion creativity we needed to design a notebook that would make people want to use it, and inspire people to keep pushing toward new ideas. It took us a little over 2 years, and a lot of time agonizing over every detail, but our first product, the First Draft Co. Notebook, is exactly what we set out to create - the highest quality, most thoughtfully designed and skillfully assembled notebook we have ever used.
We partner with manufactures in the US who share our same commitment quality and craftsmanship. It certainly wasn't easy though - almost everyone we talked to urged us to move manufacturing overseas. We chose to keep it in the U.S. and it is one of the attributes to the First Draft Co. Notebook we are most proud of. It is more expensive, but you really do get what you pay for. Also, designing and manufacturing in the U.S. allowed us to have complete control over the process and be much more involved than we would have otherwise. "
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Once we launched, a couple of posts on social media was enough to get the ball rolling. People really resonated with the decisions and design choices we made. Our first sales were very exciting, watching years of hard work finally pay off was a great validation to all of the decisions we spent so much time worry over to get just right. Social media and referral channels equally drive the most traffic and sales to our shop. They seem to feed off each other and create this virtuous cycle of exposure where a blog review will drive social media mentions, which in turn drive more blogs posts and reviews. We've been lucky that people seem to really gravitate to our brand.
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?
Shopify is, by far, the biggest factor in our ability to run a successful store. The built-in tools and reporting allow us to make quick decisions and plan strategies based on trends. We can focus on the big picture while Shopify takes care of the behind the scenes part of our business. The MailChimp app has also been a huge help to keep our email lists synced with customer lists. We knew from day one the biggest impact we could make on our brand was building relationships with people who might use our products, and designing the type of products they want to use. Fulfilling orders and shipping orders would take away from time we could be spending at those tasks, so we knew we had a find a partner that could take on our products, house our inventory and fulfill and ship with the same care we have given to every other decision at First Draft Co. It took some time to find the right fit, but we are extremely happy with our fulfillment partner and customers are very happy with the service they receive.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Be committed to your vision. There were many times over the years that temptation would creep in and I would get impatient and want to launch with whatever we had. I thought if we could just start making sales we could figure everything else out as we went along. Thankfully, I had a partner that much more patient than I was. We stayed the course and launched when our notebooks were perfect, our website design and photography was stunning and our business processes were scalable and repeatable. Because we stuck with our vision, I am confident First Draft Co. will be inspiring creativity and innovation for years to come.