This time around, we interview James Grasty from TheBroBrasket. He shares with us his insights on ecommerce as well as the story behind the success of the company that he started with his peers. He has actually started numerous other businesses until he finally found success in his first ecommerce venture. With that, let’s get started.
How did the TheBroBasket website start? What inspired the idea of gifts for men?
Its actually a pretty cool story. Our MBA Entrepreneurship class at CSU Channel Islands was creating a business from scratch as our class project and the basic idea started as “If women get flowers, then what should men get? A bucket of beer!” which in 2013 was not really a thing you could send. A few of us liked the idea so much we turned it into a real business after the class ended in 2014 launching out website in December of that year. We started out with just a few gifts at higher price points, and a bucket of beer of course, but over time with customer feedback we added a bunch different gifts and made our old ones better. Now here we are almost 5 years later humming along, its been an interesting journey. You can read more details about our genesis here.
What are some of the major challenges for TheBroBasket?
Shipping gift baskets full of glassware, glass bottles, food, and accessories AND having it arrive in one piece looking good has been very challenging. It has taken us a lot of time and effort to get it right and things still break on occasion but from where we started we are light years ahead.
What has been the biggest challenge for the company?
Getting initial funding from venture, angel, or any kind of investment was a pretty big flop. We had to pile our own money together with some friends and family and launch the business. Honestly, we would have not made it out of our first year without our friend and fellow former classmate investing $10k. That helped us get us through ’til we received our SBA loan. Once we had the funding from that we were off to the races and were really able to start properly growing the business.
What are your tips on how to make a business startup a successful one?
We, as my above example shows you, either be well funded or run a tight ship and really boot strap till you have proof of concept and get off the ground, or both! As someone that started over half a dozen businesses, I would say there are a number of things that I have learned from my successes and my failures.
- Get proof of concept and figure out if there is actually a market for the product(s) you are trying to sell before you go all in.
- Have management level experience in the business you are trying to start – I have gone as far as getting a job with a competitor to try and see how they operated.
- Properly plan, like really get in the nitty-gritty – I can’t tell you how many business I have failed at and seen other crash just because they, and I, didn’t do the proper planning and market research before launching the business
- Be willing to pivot – we launched the business as a gift basket delivery service, we quickly realized that was not a viable idea and pivoted to a full eCommerce company.
- Be consistent & persistent – pressure over time will always yield you results.
- With that being said, know when to fold your hand – I have seen too many people waste countless years and money on businesses and products that suck, just kill it and move on!
How do you think eCommerce has changed over the past 10 years?
Well, I have only been in the game for 5 years, but I did try to start an ecommerce company way back in 2002. I realized I didn’t know enough coding to launch on 3dCart and had to move on. So I would say that the ease with which one can launch an ecommerce business has been one of the biggest changes. You don’t have to know the first thing about coding/programming, and hell you don’t even need that much money. The biggest downside to all that is its so easy now you get a lot of wannabees that think its easy to become some ecommerce stud, and yeah its easy to launch a business online but its still hard as ever to make that business succeed.
What do you think is the future of ecommerce?
I feel like it will continue to get easier and easier to own and operate a business in the ecom world, which is great for society as a whole, but means more competition for us that are already here and more expensive advertising. Amazon will continue to get bigger and Google will do the same, so hedging your bets and diversifying marketing channels and income streams is always a good idea.
How did you get started with WooCommerce?
Funny story; we paid way too much money to a local “website development” company that gave us a terrible website that I could probably make in a day these days, and it happened to be on WooCommerce. Thinking back, we should have been on a hosted solution like Shopify or BigCommerce, but it was what it was. It worked out for the best when we redeveloped the entire site and relaunched it less than 6 months later. We utilize a ton of customization and have customizable products and we would struggle to have these unique product offerings on a hosted solution.
What advice can you offer for aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Come up with or find a really cool and or unique idea and build a product/brand or service around that. We are looking at acquiring another ecommerce company and I really get annoyed when I find these companies that are just practicing retail arbitrage and/or selling cheap crap from China. Amazon and others are just going to get bigger and they will eat those people’s lunch sooner than later! So your best bet is to have a unique private labeled product and a solid brand that you can stand behind, that will help you become successful and stand the test of time.