Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
In every segment you can name top-of-mind brands. You know the brand of your sneakers, you know what brand your watch, your pants, but 100% of the people we knew couldn't name a single pet brand. We created Zee.Dog to become the world's number one top of mind brand and fill that gap in a $50BN/year market.
We launched in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 3 years ago and took over the market there. On July 23, 2015 we officialy launched our U.S. online shop and chose to use Shopify as our platform to enter the U.S. market because to grow fast, we knew we needed to have the foundations well set. Shopify was just what we needed. We had the idea for Zee.Dog back in 2009 and we knew we needed to source the best materials in the world at an affordable price. We didn't want to make expensive pet products, just top quality. So, we launched a Kickstarter campaign (we were the first Brazilian guys on Kickstarter practically) and with the money we flew to Asia. Today we've built an amazing relationship with our factories, and because of our growth many of them ended up buying each other and consolidating. We never believed in using middle-men or trading companies. We go there, have dinner with these guys, show them a good time, eat their food, and show respect to the culture. This has enabled us to get the best prices as well as the best payment terms that 1% of companies in the world have with Asian manufacturers.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Our first sales came from word of mouth. A lot dog lovers found out what we were creating and all of them jumped right into our products. Today we've built a huge online community of dog brand ambassadors and influencers and celebrities that use and show off their dogs using Zee.Dog. We have several channels: wholesale, online, and our own stores. Our U.S. online shop was just launched on Shopify so now we're just growth hacking away, but from what reports show, we are in the top 2% of traffic and sales compared to stores launched at the same time. Today the channel with the most sales is still wholesale, but we intend on making our online store the biggest.
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?
One thing that always fascinated me with Shopify was the amount of apps ready to install that helped conversion, tracking, marketing and shipping. We use Friendbuy for our referral program, we use Olark for chat, Mailchimp for email, ShipStation for shipping, Product Bundles, Receiptful, QuickBooks, Adroll, Autofill Discount, and Plug in SEO. We have outsourced a fulfillment warehouse in North Carolina to do the picking and packing. Our HQ is still in Brazil, so we manage a global online operation easily thanks to Shopify.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
There are several things we learnedly doing, but the first thing I would say is, read, read, read. I learned a lot reading Shopify's blog before launching our US online store. Secondly, build a team of people who know and have experience with online. Another important thing is, make sure you test product market fit before. You need to make sure you're selling something people want and are willing to pay what you are charging. Lastly, have fun. Without that, it just becomes too harsh.