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Three weeks ago, I was in the gym when the idea came to my mind:

“Fuck, let’s start a tea company.”

For years I have been flirting with the idea of ​​starting my own tea business:

  • It has been on my “Life Goals” list on Evernote since that note was created.
  • In some of my best marketing articles I mentioned a fictional tea company.
  • For three years I have owned the domain “natlikestea.com”
  • I have previously written about tea on this site.
  • We often drink (and release) a new blend of tea on Made You Think.

But I never followed him seriously. I always did another project and didn’t have the time or the time to devote to it.

A few weeks ago I realized this was no longer the case. We launched the ‘Cup & Leaf’ Blog as a Growth Machines project to provide us with a site that we could use freely in case studies and serve as a training ground for new employees. The content was already going well and we were in a waiting game to see when it would start to rank.

But sales without sales are not particularly valuable. What are the benefits of having 100,000 monthly visitors to your blog if they don’t buy anything? A case study of the growing Cup & Leaf blog would only be useful if we could show that not only are we getting traffic, but that traffic is also turning into sales.

And so it went out of its way to start a tea company that would supplement the blog despite having no experience with e-commerce, physical products, distribution or any of the irregular issues that come with working in the meat space.

Three weeks later, the Cup & Leaf v1 store is coming out and making its first sale. Given that Twitter was interested in everything I did to get this validity, I thought I’d dive into more details here.

As a brief overview I will include:

  1. Find a supplier and get our tea
  2. Setting up an online store
  3. Packaging and preparation of initial products
  4. Designing a blog to drive sales
  5. launching

Here’s a little secret: Most tea companies don’t grow their own tea.

Some of those huge ones, like Teavana, power own some of your own tea farms, but most of the tea brands you come across buy wholesale teas from middlemen who buy huge quantities at tea farms around the world.

If you’ve ever wondered why most cheap teas have a weirdly similar taste … so. Once you get into the premium layer, you will get more of a difference, but most cheap teas come from the same bulk distributors.

And while I would love to have direct connections with tea farms or even buy my own, one day, it didn’t make sense to start with that. It made the most sense to find a wholesaler who could buy, repack, and sell them in bulk.

Finding it was as easy as google on Google, searching for a “wholesaler of teas” and clicking until I found some that look legal. There are tons of them, thankfully.

I was primarily interested in those who:

  • US based
  • He had a small initial purchase request
  • In stock a huge number of teas

Basically, I wanted the ones that would allow me to start cheap and fast while being able to grow together. However, as soon as I started looking into the wholesalers, it became apparent that I needed a job to put it all into my own.

You can’t buy directly from wholesalers directly the way you can buy it from Amazon. Most wholesalers want an EIN (Employer Identification Number) in which they can record sales, and I have not used it. I could have used the Growth Machine, but that didn’t seem quite right, so I decided to include Cup & Leaf ahead.

If I didn’t need the EIN, I’d delay this step, but since it seemed like it would be important, I went ahead and designed Cup & Leaf as an LLC.

I used Incorporate.com before and they are great. It took about 10 minutes to fill out everything they needed to create an LLC, and it wasn’t overly expensive. They also only needed 2 days to get me an EIN.

Funny thing, shortly after I submitted the information on Incorporate.com, I was contacted by one of the wholesalers I tried to sign up for without an EIN who told me I was approved for a merchant account using my Social Security number. I still didn’t need an EIN, but it was nice to have for the future.

Now that I had a merchant account, I had to figure out which tea to get.

I decided to go with a mix of interesting teas that I really like:

And some other “standard” safe teas that people would recognize

I also wanted to make sure I had tea that would replace every ingredient in my bulletproof tea recipe, which meant I needed a Yerba Mate as well.

With the tea ordered, all I could do on the product side was wait for it to arrive. In the meantime, I started working on setting up an online store.

Getting the basic store settings was one of the easiest parts. Shopify makes the whole process extremely easy and painless, I don’t think it took more than an hour to get the basic bone of the store up and running. And after the basic version was set, Cosette, who worked at the Cup and Leaf blog, was able to step in and design the store.

I kept going and started adding products using photos of other sites as substitutes for product images, but I still needed to figure out how I would cost everything.

I based my prices on two metrics:

  1. My target gross margin
  2. What other places with premium tea were you charging for

For the tea given, I started with what it cost me to buy it, in the three sizes I decided to offer (2oz, 4oz, 8oz).

Let’s say I can buy a 10 lb bag of Earl Gray cream for $ 10. Then my expenses for different sizes were:

  • 2oz: $ 1.25
  • 4oz: $ 2.50
  • 8oz: $ 5.00

And let’s say my target margin was 60%. Then I would have to divide each cost by 0.4 (1–0.6) to figure out what its cost should be:

  • 2oz: $ 3.13
  • 4oz: $ 6.25
  • 8oz: $ 12.50

I then went with the best price close to that number so everything on the site seemed consistent, usually rounding down. In this case, I would say:

  • 2oz: $ 2.99
  • 4oz: $ 5.99
  • 8oz: $ 11.99

I imagined that I could always update this later, and that provided me with a good enough place to start. And of course, I made it all into a large spreadsheet that looked like this:

After doing the pricing, I had to add a few apps that I thought would help me get more sales.

This is simple enough: people like to see reviews before they buy to provide social proof that you are the right site and that people love your products.

Obviously these are riskier at first not if I get them it has the opposite effect, but I decided to write reviews as soon as possible, the sooner I would start collecting them.

For this, I used the built-in Shopify reviews app.

The next thing to create social proof was to install Fomo, a tool that gives small notifications at the edge of the screen to visitors who browse your site to let them know that other people are doing the same:

I’ve seen some of their data in the background, so I can say that notifications are really effective for increasing conversions and shopping cart size. It won’t cost much at first, while my traffic is low, but similar to reviews, I wanted it there sooner rather than later.

I also wanted to set as many sales as possible, as I saw some information on how effective it was for increasing the size of the basket.

This is exactly what you expect: adding related items to every product page and shopping cart, to help attract more customers. With tea, I have seen this work well for me in the past, as I can hardly claim that I will not try at least one other tea that I have not had before.

The Cross-Sell app team made this extremely simple. I just installed the app from the Shopify app store and then they came in and customized it to my theme. Impressive customer support for $ 20 a month.

Next is adding subscriptions. Giving people the option to buy on a recurring discount schedule just made sense, because if you drink a cup of tea a day, you will go through most quantities in 15, 30 or 60 days.

Replenishing is kind of a tricky application, and I had the most problems with this correct spelling, but once set up, it was very easy for everyone to subscribe to one of the non-sampled teas:

An offer of free shipping followed. There is an extremely popular Shopify app that calls this pretty easy way called “Free Shipping” where you set a price for free shipping and then the little bar at the top of the screen automatically updates as people add more to their cart:

Simple and great incentive to increase your cart size. Plus, since tea is so light and the margin starts off good, the offer is not funny.

Back I set up Klaviyo to handle email marketing because it does an amazing job of integrating with Shopify and keeping track of everything going on in your store so you can send hyper-targeted emails.

For starters, I set up an email for:

  • Abandoned carts
  • Thanks to new customers
  • Follow the new subscribers
  • We are looking for reviews / cross sales

But this also allows me to send startup emails along with this post, it allows me to welcome and engage new blog subscribers, allow me to do sales funnels, etc. It is quite powerful and seems to be the preferred email marketing tool for most of my friends from the Ecommerce Store.

The final step was to add Privy to popup processing that offered people 10% off their first order when they started leaving the store. I have achieved this with an extremely high conversion rate in some of the other stores I have reviewed and it is a lot more useful to the CTA than it is to get some stupid free ebook on tea.

All the applications started me well in place, now I had to figure out the physical packaging.

For starters, I decided to make a simple packaging similar to how Teavana used to order online: labeled foil bags. I want fantastic cans in the future, but for now this is good for MVP.

I headed to Amazon and took 100 bags of roughly the size of foil I thought I needed, heat seals, shipping stickers, shipping shirts and sticky labels that I could use for tea bags. And then I headed to Stickermule and ordered 100 stickers that I could use on foil bags to give them a little stamp.

Somehow I had to guess the sizes for this step. I didn’t drink tea yet and didn’t want to spend a ton of time messing around the size of the bag, so I went with what seemed to be right based on the dimensions of the other tea bags I was laying around the house. I finished correctly, thankfully.

A week after ordering from the wholesaler, the tea has arrived! He came in those cool, vacuum-protected bricks:

And then my girlfriend and I spent the rest of the afternoon experimenting with packaging, which made the dining table a mess:

But in the end, we had a few packaged teas and are ready to send them to a customer who pays first (who may have been my mom), as well as Emily who designed the logo.

I also needed to photograph some products at this point. Fortunately, I already had a DSLR from experimenting with photography and I ordered a cheap “light room” from Amazon to take photos in:

I then uploaded these photos to the store to replace the product photos I “borrowed”.

Also, a friend on Twitter suggested I offer “sample” packages to people who weren’t sure what the teas were, which I thought was an amazing idea, so I added:

And it is likely to add more samples as the product library expands.

Everything was getting ready to go from a physical and a sales point, now all I needed to do was integrate a blog to showcase our products.

Shopify’s blogging platform isn’t particularly strong, and Webflow isn’t very great for ecommerce, so I wanted to keep them separate. Blog in the root domain www.cupandleaf.com, and shop at shop.cupandleaf.com.

But the downside is that a blog can’t drive sales as naturally as it can if it’s built into Shopify, so I had to get a little creative.

The first step was to add Fomo to the blog, pull the Shopify sales data, so people who read the blog also got CTAs:

At the end of each article, I also added a section suggesting some teas you would like to try:

And now tea reviews have been put in to recommend our teas rather than other teas:

And with that all seemed ready to go! The last step was to start a store.

I started the launch quite simply. I didn’t want to risk too many things that broke down, so for now I focused on the property I already own.

I wrote this post which, while informative, is also one great advertisement

I started promoting Cup & Leaf in the Made You Think podcast.

There was a presentation in my Monday Medley newsletter.

And now … we wait and see what happens. Assuming everything goes well, I’ll be back in the future with more posts about Cup & Leaf and updates to this last section!

Thanks for visiting our site. As a way of saying "thanks" here's a FREE course on how to make $688 a day online using FREE methods: 

(CLICK HERE TO ACCESS)



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