Michael Moran was working in a Thai restaurant when he realized that customers frequently complained about the difficulty of preparing Thai food at home. This was in 2004, in Atlanta. He went to work developing the concept of ready-to-heat Thai sauces that became, by 2006, CurrySimple, a supplier of ready-to-heat Thai sauces. Fast forward to 2009 and CurrySimple offers 16 different Thai sauces on its ecommerce site, CurrySimple.com, and through a wholesale network of over 150 third-party retail stores.
Sales are roughly split between the online, retail orders and the wholesale shipments to companies such as Whole Foods Markets. “We ship about 400 orders a month from the website,” says Moran, “But that varies, too, from month to month. Some months are much higher.”
Moran was just 29 when he launched the business, and he brings much enthusiasm to his job. “I don’t really worry about sales or revenue,” he says. “I try to satisfy our customers and show enthusiasm for this business. Every day is a good day as far as I’m concerned.”
Moran runs CurrySimple with two other employees. The sauces are made in Thailand to Moran’s exact specifications and he then imports them to his headquarters in Atlanta, where he fulfills all retail and wholesale orders directly.
Practical eCommerce: Tell us about CurrySimple’s beginnings.
Michael Moran: “Customers came into the Thai restaurant I worked at and said something like, ‘I really enjoy your cuisine. Cooking Thai food at home is so extremely difficult.’ Their problem stemmed from getting the sauce taste-profiles right. I went to work developing CurrySimple.com’s inventory. My business partner, who comes from one of Bangkok’s best-known restaurant families, helped, too. It took months, but we refined the process and were accepted by the Food and Drug Administration in December 2005. This acceptance is necessary to sell imported food products in the U.S.”
PeC: Describe your core product offering.
Moran: “It’s restaurant-quality Thai sauces that are really simple to prepare.”
PeC: Did you have previous ecommerce experience?
Moran: “I had been interested in producing websites and ecommerce for the past 10 years, which was initially sparked during the dot com boom. At one point a friend and I thought we would run a web design business on our laptops while sitting on the beach in Hawaii. Then reality struck and the dot com boom went bust I went back to the drawing board (or really the keyboard) looking for my first real venture, which was years later. Since the launch of CurrySimple.com I have opened another online retail store, SnazzyGourmet.com, offering hundreds of gourmet food items. An online gift business is in the works and will be launched before the holidays.”
PeC: What shopping cart do you use?
Moran: “I chose ProStores because it was owned by eBay and I felt it would be a strong ecommerce platform. It was easy to launch my first online store. I really like that they are constantly updating the features of the cart as well as working with third party companies that integrate more powerful add-on tools. I recently integrated the services [of two third-party add-ons], Power Reviews Express, [for customer reviews] and imn’s Sales in a Click [an automated email marketing service].
“A recent ProStores update included more features including setting up multiple buyer groups and an affiliate program at a low price. The only caveats I have are sometimes I see features other carts have that ProStores does not offer yet, and I expect will be available in a future update. It’s hard being a techie and I don’t like to wait, though.”
PeC: Can you describe your business operations?
Moran: “I try to outsource as much work as possible. My accountant handles finances and my distributor handles providing the product to retail stores. I have an assistant that helps with smaller tasks and picking and packing online orders. I personally focus mostly on marketing and product development. I also handle all aspects of the website including updating and design.”
PeC: How do you market your online retail store?
Moran: “Marketing is everything. I have especially embraced social media with Facebook, Twitter and even created a “social rewards” website using the Ning platform that awards customers for creating recipes and cooking videos for CurrySimple, at iLoveCurrySimple.com.
“I use Constant Contact for email marketing and I have worked hard to make CurrySimple.com keyword-rich for SEO purposes. I contact blogs and develop link partnerships. I post our latest news on our blog.
“I recently launched our first sweepstakes using WildFireApp.com’s solution. I do product sampling at local farmers markets as well as in some of our retail locations, such as Whole Foods Markets. We sell and sample our product at large consumer food events as well. The most effective sources of marketing have been sampling the product at food events. Our [email] newsletter of over 10,000 opt-ins has been a great generator for sales.”
PeC: Tell us more about your email marketing.
Moran: “The CurrySimple newsletter is a huge revenue generator. We do our best to get new subscribers online and at food events. We offer a free PDF cookbook that has really helped increase the signup rate. It costs us virtually nothing but gives the consumer a valuable resource to use CurrySimple products. In the newsletter we focus on new recipes, cooking videos and coupons but never really a hard sell, which helps keep the unsubscribe rate low. Also sending out a coupon to over 10,000 people can really generate some great sales!”
PeC: Any advice on pay-per-click advertising?
Moran: “Using PPC is a major part of CurrySimple.com’s online advertising. We currently use Google and Yahoo!, and there are some great opportunities with the new popularity of Bing by Microsoft. I gained experience running PPC campaigns while working at a mortgage company about 4 years ago. Due to the saturation, there was a very high cost per click (CPC) of around $1. Luckily keywords related to “Thai food” are a much less competitive field and most keywords have prominent exposure for less than 15 cents CPC. This was very attractive and was the first avenue of marketing for CurrySimple.”
PeC: We’ve noticed you offer free shipping on orders over $100. How has this worked for you?
Moran: “It’s amazing. When we first started that promotion, we had more $100 orders in a single day than we had all year. So, yes, it’s worked out well.”
PeC: What advice do you have for other e-merchants?
Moran: “You only have so much time in a day. Embrace technologies that will save you time and money in the long run. Take good care of your customers. It is much easier to generate repeat business from your current customers and get referrals from them.”