How did the idea for your business come about?
My brother and I started a digital marketing agency back in 2010. Our dad is a dermatologist, and we thought that combining our backgrounds (skin care + digital marketing) would make for a very successful third business. We had several e-commerce clients at the time and wanted to start our own shop selling the skin care products that we grew up using and hearing about from our dad.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
I knew that the idea was special from the get-go because we had access to professional strength dermatology products, which not just anyone can get and resell (we are able to because of our dad). Plus, my brother and I had the marketing know-how and resources to build an e-commerce site and set up ad campaigns to bring in new customers. Then, once we started advertising on Google and seeing that the more we spent, the more new customers we were able to bring in, and the higher our returns, that’s when I knew we had something very special.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
It means everything to me. It means pouring my heart and soul into something that I believe in and stand behind with everything I’ve got. It means hard work, long hours, wearing a lot of different hats, and having to figure out a million things and solve a million problems every day. It also means feeling a sense of pride in what I do and in my success that I really never thought possible.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
This is my family’s third business in Columbus. The people here support and encourage entrepreneurship and small business and I’m thrilled to be a part of a community like that. It’s exciting to see the city continue to grow and entrepreneurs continue to flourish here. Not only that, but for an e-commerce business that ships packages all over the country, Columbus is an ideal location. We can get anything to anywhere in the country within a day or two and that is huge for a business like ours.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Expect the unexpected every second of every day. It may sound corny or cliche, but honestly, no two days are ever the same when you’re running a business. You have to expect that anything could happen at any given moment, otherwise you’ll get thrown off your game. You can’t let things rattle you and you just have to take one day, one challenge, at a time and keep on truckin’.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
People think that you start a business, you grow your business, you make money (or you don’t), and that’s that. There’s a lot more that goes into it though and there are a lot more pieces to the puzzle. Being successful in business or running a successful business isn’t always synonymous with turning a huge profit right off the bat.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)
So many things. Keeping customer happy, keeping employees happy, paying the bills, staying organized, not getting kicked off of Amazon, balancing work and personal life, the list goes on and on. And yes, I have actual nightmares about many of these things. What you forgot to ask, however, are whether the nightmares and headaches are worth it, and without hesitation I will say YES YES YES 100% of the time.
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
I try to do everything myself all the time. If you own a business you need to know when and how to ask for help and that’s something I constantly struggle with.
What was you biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
The first thing that comes to mind is overvaluing Amazon. We were very excited about this channel for us. It took us over 8 months to get through the beauty gates (which I would never say was a mistake because I think it will only get more and more difficult, so I’m glad we’re in), plus a ton of time setting up new products and brands. We thought we were going to kill it on Amazon and that it would change our business. Because of the nature of our business, however, we haven’t been as successful there as we imagined. This is the reason it’s so important, however, to diversify and not put all of your eggs in one basket. We have another main selling channel (our website), so the fact that Amazon didn’t pan out quite how we wanted was disappointing, but it was not detrimental to our business.
What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
ShipStation. We are shipping out packages every single day and ShipStation has made it a breeze. They integrate with WooCommerce, Amazon, and so many other platforms. All orders get pulled right in there and I can easily print out all of our shipping labels, keep track of tracking numbers/delivery, and so much more through this platform. It’s a lifesaver.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
When I physically could not handle the workload on my own. I was at a point where I felt like I needed to work every second of the day just to stay on top of orders and every day tasks. I was stressed out making any personal plans knowing how far behind I would get. Other than my sanity and personal life, I realized that my business needed me to be able to focus on growing rather than running day-to-day operations. You need to think about what you’re spending your time doing and whether or not your time would be better spent elsewhere, even if it means spending money to hire someone else.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
Hire our first full-time employee. This was a big step but it allowed me to have more time in my day to grow the business rather than spending every minute running the operations day to day.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out?
First would be Amazon, which I already mentioned above. We also spent a lot of time reaching out to “Instagram Influencers” to promote products that we sell and it didn’t really do much for us in terms of generating sales or gaining new customers. Time spent reaching out to reporters, bloggers, and news publications to build our SEO has and will be much more valuable.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
Google advertising. If you think that you can have an idea, put up a website, and people will come, you’re wrong (this isn’t Field of Dreams!!). Google ads (and Bing) brings hundreds of new potential customers to our site every day and the value of this… Well, it’s priceless.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
I already mentioned Google ads (see above). The other is email marketing. Being able to collect email addresses from customers and potential customers and send targeted messages to people who you know are interested in what you’re selling is huge. It has been a giant source of revenue for us. I never realized how powerful email marketing was before starting this business, but having a consistent strategy in place is crucial. The crazy part is that you don’t have to spend a ton of time crafting your messages. Keep them simple and to the point and you will see the returns (especially if we’re talking e-commerce).
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)? Please provide name and business name so we can give them credit!
There are so many, but I’m going to go a little out of the box with this one. For me, my best and favorite Columbus resource has been the Columbus E-Commerce Group. Especially while we were just getting started with DermWarehouse, going to events with this group allowed me to brainstorm, ask questions, and maybe most importantly, meet people just as passionate (crazy?) as me who understood and could relate to the things I was going through, problems I was trying to solve, nightmares I was having, and questions I couldn’t always find answers to. Having access to this group has always excited and motivated me and as a business owner, just having someone (or a whole group of people) to vent to and bounce problems/ideas off of has been extremely helpful (and at times even therapeutic) for me.
What’s your most productive time of the day to work?
7-10am is my most productive. It’s the only time of day where I don’t have 100 people who want my attention. Least productive is around 1pm right after lunch and before I get my second wind.
How many cups of coffee do you drink everyday and what are your usual coffee drinking times?
One at 7am, another at 8/8:30 am and then sometimes another at 2pm. There are few things I look forward to more than my 7am coffee.
If you had one hour of free time what would you do (get more specific than “hang out with family”)?
Go for a walk. There is nothing more therapeutic for me than going for a walk, either with someone who is good/easy to talk to or by myself when I need to gather my thoughts or just zone out for a little while.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
My brother, Jason. He has his own business and is also my business partner. He’s smart, savvy, level-headed, and whatever advice he gives, I never think twice about taking it. He has seen and done it all in his own business, so it’s always nice talking to someone who I know can relate to whatever issues I’m having.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
Just looking back to the past year and a half since we launched our business and seeing how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown blows my mind. Ten years from now it’s hard to even imagine where we’ll be. Ten years from now I can only hope that we will have continued on the trajectory we’ve been on for the past two. Continuous growth, hundreds of new brands and products, new and innovative ideas on the table all the time, and a whole team of people to help me execute them. Most of all, I hope I am still loving every day as much as I do now.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
My dad. He’s a doctor (at Eastside Dermatology) AND an entrepreneur and I’m always so impressed that he has the mind for both. I’ve always looked up to my dad, but now that I’m running my own business, I’m in awe of what he was able to build for himself and our family, all without breaking a sweat (or at least without showing us that he was). My dad has been in his own dermatology practice for over 30 years, is a well-known and very highly respected doctor in Columbus, and still, somehow he always had all the time in the world for our family. Finding that balance is something I struggle with myself, so now, more than ever, I am so impressed by him and his ability to so (seemingly) effortlessly do it all.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
I would tell a visitor to walk all along high street from downtown through campus, popping into cute stores and having a meal (and a snack and a drink) along the way. You’ll get to see the areas that make this city what it is and if it’s a nice day, there are few things better to do in Columbus (plus there are so many local businesses you can support all along the way!). Depending on the time of year, I would say tailgate for an OSU football game or go see a Blue Jackets game too if you can. Eat at Thurmans, the North Market, Jeni’s Ice Cream. Go into one of the hundreds of bars along the way for happy hour and just spend a day exploring this ever-growing city.
Who are three people you recommend following on Twitter?I don’t use Twitter really at all (should I be admitting that?) but I will recommend the Paid Search Podcast. I listen to these guys every week and genuinely look forward to each and every episode. They know their stuff, and listening to their podcast has given me both new ideas regarding my Google advertising and also confirmation that I know a thing or two myself (always a nice feeling). Oh, and they’re super funny too!