I’ve always appreciated other companies opening up about their business. So I’d like to share a bit of details on our technology platform. As of January 2016, our business is in its fourth year. We are privately held, and have bootstrapped our way to growth. We are now a seven-figure (revenue) business. It’s always challenging to grow through profits. It forces you to make decisions that may move you forward but aren’t necessarily the best for the long run.
The thing with building a business is there is no one right or wrong way. Every day you are taking risks and making decisions based on the current information, the available options, and time constraints. Since we bootstrapped, we didn’t have the cash to invest in what is required to build our technology from the ground up.
Beardbrand is a men’s grooming company. Most of our revenue comes from our two online retail stores: one for European shipments, and the other for the rest of the world. Roughly 20 percent of revenue is generated through our wholesale channel.
Our day-one decision, based on a recommendation of a friend, was to go with Shopify. At the time, Shopify charged a percentage of revenue for the standard package. But the unlimited platform did not charge that percentage. We looked at our goals for the business, where we wanted to take it, and decided we could bear the costs of the unlimited package, to get off the ground. We were able to launch our online store within a couple of days of that decision.
At that time we only had three products and business was 100 percent ecommerce. Once we got a little volume, we found that a shipping-software solution was a huge benefit in cost savings and operations. We used — and still use — ShipStation. But we have heard good things about ShippingEasy, too.
Once we added the wholesale channel, we needed a better way to manage inventory. That led us to Stitch Labs. We were a fairly early customer and have been through some of Stitch’s growing pains. But its system has improved over the years and serves as a core unit within our business. We use Stitch Labs for our wholesale and retail orders.
On the marketing spectrum, we use Yotpo for our review engine. We signed up with that company because of the pricing — it was free — and because it was very easy to integrate with Shopify. As we’ve grown, we’ve upgraded to Yotpo’s premium features.
We also integrate our Shopify store with MailChimp, for email marketing. We use ReCharge to handle our subscription service. Like most other ecommerce businesses, we use Google Analytics to keep an eye on traffic patterns. To improve the experience of our shoppers, we use Visual Website Optimizer — VWO — for A/B testing.
The thing with cloud-based providers is that they frequently change their pricing and features. Packages that were available to us early on may not be available in the current model — or pricing may have changed. We’ve been loyal customers to these companies and it’s been interesting to watch how they have changed, upgraded, and improved.
There are limitations to Shopify. It doesn’t serve our business perfectly. At times it feels like we are tying our technology stack together with a shoestring. But, there are plenty advantages to this route.
The biggest advantage is that we never have to worry about our website going down because Shopify has built a robust infrastructure. We’ve been on the Shark Tank television show and the episode has rerun twice. Our website didn’t flinch. In theory, building a custom platform would help our business. But when you factor in the time to develop the platform, the costs of development, and the risk of downtime, it becomes clear that cloud solutions are the way to go.
There are plenty of risks, however. What if Shopify or Stitch Labs goes out of business? How would that affect us? How quickly could we change to other providers? We are putting faith in these companies that they will develop technologies that will make our business better. We recently launched a completely redesigned website. We decided that Shopify will suit our needs for at least the next three years. We are looking forward to Shopify and the other providers taking us to an eight-figure business.
Ultimately, we are a men’s grooming company — not a technology company. The energy and brainpower we devote to technology is time we could spend making the experience better with our customers, developing better products, or working on our marketing message. Having that core vision for what your company is will help you make technology decisions.
Here are the software platforms we use.