Learn how we built a unique product customizer app for our client on Shopify and how it impacted the user experience.
Each month we publish an in depth interview with a successful internet entrepreneur as part of our Fireside Chat series. We discuss how they’re leveraging internet services and platforms to start up product eCommerce businesses. This month we’re chatting with Taylor Sicard, a serial entrepreneur who previously held a partnership role at Shopify.
Hey Taylor! Thanks for joining this month’s Fireside Chat. Tell us about yourself and your company.
Hey Humayun! Thanks for having me. My name is Taylor Sicard and I’m a twenty-something year old entrepreneur that drinks way too much coffee. Last year I was at a friends wedding and, of course, I wanted to make sure I looked my very best, so I opted to get those whitening strips from my local drug store. After following the instructions to the tee, I ended up with VERY sensitive teeth. Sure they were slightly whiter but they were sore for an entire week straight and it just wasn’t worth it. So that unpleasant experience motivated me to find a better and healthier alternative.
Classic case of solving your own problem. Tell us about PerlaCoco and what makes it unique?
I started PerlaCoCo about a year ago to find a more organic way of whitening your teeth. It uses the 5000-year-old method of oil pulling, which is the process of swishing oil around in your mouth. The daily oil pulling packets literally ‘pull out’ the bacteria, viruses, and fungi from your mouth. It’s pretty awesome how it works. This process helps eliminate and prevent gum disease, cavities, bad breath, plaque and many other health benefits.
Outside of sensitive teeth, what motivated you to start your company?
I’m a huge fan of Tim Ferriss and the 4 Hour Work Week lifestyle. He’s a very self-sufficient and resourceful entrepreneur. I started PerlaCoco to fix a problem I personally encountered and continue doing it because there are thousands of people around the world who share my sentiments and depend on my company to keep their mouth clean and give them a pearly white smile.
Talk about some of the difficult challenges you faced when starting your online store and how you were able to overcome them.
A big one was picking the company name. It needed to be right and resonate well with the product. The first name I thought of led me to find out that the domain was taken and so I tried to buy the domain from the owner, but that didn’t lead anywhere. It’s definitely a hurdle when you’re fixated on a particular brand and vision for your company, the struggle is real! We eventually came up PerlaCoco and successfully built a brand around it. You need to have an open mind and look for numerous alternatives to a problem.
What eCommerce platforms have you considered using and why?
Simply put Shopify is awesome and I’m not saying that because I used to work there, but because the product and service is just unbelievably good. For first time entrepreneurs looking to start their first store, it’s a no-brainer because a majority of the technology platform is built for you. It’s a fully hosted platform meaning I don’t have to worry about blackouts or setting up my own server. It’s also very cost effective which is especially important when you start out with limited resources.
What are the top 3 most important things to consider for first-time entrepreneurs or brands when starting an eCommerce store?
1. Price. Don’t invest heavy early on unless you’re sure of the products success. It’s a costly mistake I see too many people make. You need something that won’t break the bank when starting out.
2. Third Party Integration & Apps. This is HUGE. I can’t express this enough because third party apps have helped my store tremendously. Think of them as software built by third-party developers giving your store added functionality and tools. You’ll want the core features first such as newsletter pop-ups, reoccurring orders, product up-sell, basic email marketing and targeting, cart abandonment and others. Basically, focus on anything that may increase your bottom line or improve your brand.
3. Scalability. If you’re focused on building a brand you want to imagine where you’ll be in the next 6-12 months. If you have aspirations of doing thousands of orders per month, then you need a system that can handle that without any issues. This is not just from a total traffic perspective but also order management and customer data analysis. You should be able to analyze different order types and target the right audience easily. Having the right tools and systems in place early on can make your life much easier.
Can you talk about marketing a product on a budget and what your team is doing differently?
Currently, our biggest source of marketing is word of mouth. We’ve been fortunate that many of our customers post pictures on Instagram and share their results. This is incredibly powerful because you have potentially thousands of brand ambassadors talking about your product. We’re heavily investing in Instagram because we can shares stories via image galleries and have created a mini lifestyle within the platform itself and because of this we have a large following on Instagram. It’s a great way for us to interact and share content with our followers. I would also look into starting an email newsletter and investing some serious time with content strategy. That’s definitely a long term goal.
Walk us through how you were able to get your product created and would you say that it was a difficult or easy process?
Product companies are super difficult because you have to create something, get a sample made then find a way to source all the parts, it’s never an easy task. You need prototypes with products. In our case, we had experimented with countless containers for the actual packet we ended up choosing, then we spent months experimenting with different oil solutions. There were so many kinds of coconut oil so we had to continue our research and find health benefits and reasons why some are better than others. The point I’m trying to make here is product companies are incredibly difficult to start because you have to continue to improve and tinker with your sample batch until you get it right. It’s long and tedious process, but it’s needed. You can’t half-ass any part of the product development cycle or else you’ll end up with a crappy product no one wants to buy.
What kind of logistical challenges have you faced starting an eCommerce company?
We’re based out of Ottawa, Canada and shipping has been a bit of a challenge, but we’ve been lucky to find ways around this. Although, I do foresee this issue continuing for the time being as we are struggling to get our packages delivered as fast as possible while keeping our shipping costs competitive. Be aware of cost of goods and shipping, that’s a big factor that often gets overlooked and dramatically affects your profit margins.
I would also look into automating and systematizing activities you use to manage your store. I have alerts setup when I hear back from our fulfillment center, setting up a simple CRM tool like Zendesk for customer help tickets and anything else you think could be automated to save you time. I thought I could do everything myself and then proceeded to burn myself out. It’s okay to ask for help.
What’s the growth strategy for your company and how do you determine that?
Our team is growing and right now we’re trying to optimize everything and make sure everyone is working on what suits them best. Automation and delegating responsibility is especially important in a small company because each person has a unique skill set and we need to make sure our skills are utilized as best as possible.
What would you say are some of the most common hurdles which prevents other entrepreneurs from starting their own product company and how can they overcome them?
I don’t have enough time. I hear this all the time and I’ve personally used this excuse for just about everything in my life. Ultimately I’ve realized that there is no time unless you make the time. The days aren’t going to become 28 hours long just because you want to start a business. You need to automate as much of your process as possible and make sure you spend your time most efficiently.
Taylor, do you have any hacks or tips that you can share with our readers to get motivated?
Automate as much as possible. Talk to a bunch of people in the industry or who have done it before and learn from their past successes and failures. Think about what they have done right and how can you improve on their mistakes. Track everything! Data is super important because you can always compare your progress and find ways to make incremental improvements. Finally, if you haven’t read it yet go pick up a copy of ‘4 Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris. It’s life changing!
Taylor is providing all of our readers with a special 10% discount using the discount code DBNY during checkout.