Your own Shark Tank reruns aren’t something to be feared...in fact, they can be quite exciting.
Just think about being featured on the show, striking a deal with a famous shark, and experiencing massive spikes in website traffic and sales each time the episode runs.
For one group of entrepreneurs, Shark Tank reruns have been great, but have also proven to cause some unnecessary stress and discontent.
“Oh shit, let’s check the website was my first thought,” David Heath, co-founder of Bombas, a maker of premium comfort-performance socks, recalls thinking recently after learning the company’s original 2014 appearance on Shark Tank was re-running on CNBC earlier this spring. “When I went to look at our site during the airing, the product images were broken, and customers couldn’t check out. Even worse, I wasn’t one bit surprised.”
The site crash was costly; Bombas estimates they potentially lost between $10-$15,000 in sales that night, with the site down during part of the episode. Even worse, the backlash from frustrated customers could last even longer and may prove much more difficult to repair.
“The site is a representation of us, and when it’s down it reflects poorly on us,” says Andrew Heath, David’s brother and Bombas COO. “It is our responsibility to deliver a positive and easy customer service – and we look to our partners to help us do so.”
It wasn’t just a stinging financial loss for the company. Founded after they learned that socks are the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters, Bombas donates a pair of socks to the homeless community for every pair they sell. So any obstacle that stops Bombas from being able to sell their product, also affects their ability to get more socks on the feet of those who need them the most.
The Request That Started a Movement
You might call the birth of Bombas an accident, though nearly one million people less fortunate than you would call it a blessing.
David Heath and his co-founders were working other jobs when David stumbled upon an article spotlighting the surprising number one request of homeless shelters. “It was socks,” Heath says. “When you think about it, for those who are homeless, walking is the main mode of transportation and socks can make a big difference when you’re spending nights on the streets; however, socks aren’t often donated to shelters, because as consumers, we often view them as wear-through items.”
Today, Bombas has donated more than 900,000 pairs of socks across all 50 U.S. states. Getting to this point was thoughtful, strategic, and took years of hard work and planning. In fact, it’s a level of effort often mistaken as overnight success or something consumers never get to see behind the corporate curtain.
“We knew if we wanted to donate a lot of socks, we had to figure out how to sell a lot of socks,” David says. “It meant we needed a great product that was engineered from a different perspective.”
It’s why the Heath brothers, along with co-founders Randy Goldberg and Aaron Wolk, began looking at athletic socks from the consumer’s perspective, rather than a manufacturer’s. What was missing from current offerings that would improve comfort?
After two years of getting feedback from family, friends, and even strangers, the company had what it thought was the perfect sock; a beautifully designed premium offering with honeycomb arch support and many other technologies and innovations.
The company launched on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to validate what family, friends, and gym rats had been telling them; that their socks and their cause were both premium in nature and something that’d resonate with a larger audience. So Bombas launched a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising $15,000.
“We needed proof this was going to work online,” David says. “We wanted to be sure consumers would love the socks we spent about two years developing as much as we did.”
Love it they did!
Thousands of backers threw more than $142,000 at Bombas, its socks, and its cause; or 950% more than the company had originally sought.
Upon closing the campaign, the team officially launched Bombas.com in October 2013; however, as they’ve continued to grow since then, Bombas has continued to experience trouble with the ecommerce platform they initially partnered with to sell its socks.
Outgrowing a Platform
Fast forward one year after the launch and the Bombas vision was being pitched on Shark Tank – eventually earning a deal with Daymond John, who now works alongside the company and its founders, to help scale the business, consult on design, and help ensure Bombas is regularly featured in major media outlets.
The media attention has helped fuel the company’s hyper growth ($300,000 in 2013, $1.8 million in 2014, $4.7 million in 2015), and the company is on pace to do between $7-$8 million in 2016.
It’s a blessing, but the company has definitely experienced growing pains along the way – especially with their website. These issues made it abundantly clear that Magento was no longer keeping up with Bombas' incredible growth. In the span of just a few years, Bombas had outgrown its original platform.
We were getting major press and our site couldn’t scale on demand like we needed it to, often leading to a poor experience for our customers and supporters.
A $150k Horse & Buggy
Entrepreneurial growing pains are often difficult to navigate.
However, constantly worrying about whether your site is up isn’t something entrepreneurs who pride themselves on product development, marketing, and helping the homeless community should have to worry about as they grow.
As Bombas grew, its founders felt they needed an ecommerce platform that could grow just as quickly.
That meant switching from Magento to Shopify Plus.
When Bombas made the jump from doing as many as 500 transactions a day, to as many as 4,000 transactions a day (as a result of high-profile media appearances like Shark Tank), the company needed the customer experience it offers newcomers to be flawless – in order to positively impact retention rates and turn samplers into brand loyalists.
Unfortunately, the Magento-backed Bombas site simply wasn’t offering the type of experience customers deserved, in the time they needed it to do so.
It could take two and a half weeks, even for talented developers, to scale, test, and launch an updated site that can handle spikes in traffic, according to Heath. To top it off, Bombas also began paying thousands of dollars a month in server maintenance fees to prevent crashes.
“It’s a horse and buggy story where the horse is the infrastructure, and the buggy is the platform,” David describes.
The bigger the buggy we built, the more horses we needed and the more expensive it got just to keep from crashing.
A proposed fix, according to Heath, would cost Bombas an extra $150,000. The company compromised with a less expensive rebuild, while simultaneously hatching a secret plan to fix its platform and infrastructure problems once and for all.
It’s a decision Bombas estimates will save it six-figures this year.
Shopify Plus = Peace of Mind
The decision is to migrate to Shopify Plus, an enterprise ecommerce solution for high volume merchants.
With a re-launch on Shopify Plus in mind, Bombas now has a dedicated account manager available to answer questions and introduce Bombas to the platform’s latest innovations, capabilities, and functions. “Our account manager Neal walked us through all of it,” Andrew says. “It’s really nice to have someone you can go to with a question and get an immediate answer.”
Through the early stages of the migration, Bombas has been impressed with how easily they can now do mass product uploads, how simple and clean the back-end system is to operate and the ease with which they were able to set up a separate POS system to link the digital and physical worlds for a recent kiosk the brand launched in NYC. “We are not tech guys, that’s not our strength,” David says. “I don’t care about all of the technical stuff; I just want it to work.”
Besides the ability to scale on demand and the need for a platform that boasts of 99.99% up time, Bombas made the switch to Shopify Plus, in part, because of the flat pricing model that eliminates dreaded server maintenance fees, especially given all of the maintenance fees Bombas has encountered in the past.
“We’re going to save $108,000 a year by switching to Shopify Plus. Eventually, it’ll all fall to the bottom line, but we’re projecting to be ROI positive in year number one, even with the data migration and replatforming costs.”
Even more valuable, is the confidence that the site won’t crash during unexpected traffic spikes.
Whether we’re doing 500 or 5,000 orders a day Shopify Plus automatically scales with us, without us having to do anything extra. Stability is key, and it’s better to be up all of the time, and that’s the peace of mind Shopify brings us.
This level of confidence (and savings) allows Bombas to do something it hasn’t in a long while.
Thank God We’re Moving to Shopify
The newfound consistency and stability Shopify Plus affords Bombas is positioning the company to reinvest the money it saves and focus more of its time on developing great products that also serve a higher purpose.
“We recently launched our newest collection, Invisibles, which took us over a year and a half to develop, and they’ve already started selling out,” said David Heath. “Knowing that Shopify Plus will allow us more time to focus on even more great product launches, rather than spending that time worrying about technology, not only means we’ll be able to deliver thoughtful new product to our customers, but it also means we will be able to donate more socks to those in need.”
Plus, it will be nice not having to fear future Shark Tank reruns.
“After the last rerun of Shark Tank and the site crashed we were like- thank God we’re moving to Shopify,” David says. “The move can’t happen fast enough.”