Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
I am a funeral director and owner of Storke Funeral Home in Bowling Green, VA. Every day, flowers flood my funeral home and ultimately go to waste as they die on the grave that evening. The gift of food is always appropriate and has been a long tradition for a sympathy gift but people that live far away can't cook, or don't have the time to prepare and bring a meal. I came up with MealGifts.com so folks can send a chef-prepared meal gift to anyone in the continental United States for all gift occasions, not just sympathy. A delicious meal is a practical and useful gift and is a comforting alternative to flowers! We have a USDA kitchen and a shipping facility centrally located in the United States so that we can ship in the continental United States in 1-3 days (excluding Sundays).
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Before we had an advertising budget, we focused on our affiliate program through the Share-A-Sale network, blogging, commenting on relevant blog posts, and social media. Our affiliate program is generating the most traffic and sales for us at the moment. It has taken some time, since our website is relatively new, but our organic traffic is slowly increasing and we are seeing more conversions from organic. It's great because organic traffic has the best analytics and there is no commission payout which is the case with our affiliate traffic. We pay 10% commissions through our affiliate program for all orders referred from our publishers.
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?
Shopify has allowed us to customize our store as needed which has been great for us. We ship meals that are frozen and packaged on dry ice so we needed to build a calendar in our checkout that allows the sender to choose the exact delivery date for their recipient. This way the sender can give their recipient a heads up and make sure the recipient isn't out of town that day since the package is perishable. We also use the app for Klaviyo, our email marketing program, and we have built an API with our shipping facility to transfer orders after they have been processed. We are getting ready to upgrade our Shopify account and offer gift cards to our customers so the senders can gift a meal and the recipients can choose the meal they receive. We use a third party fulfillment center that is centrally located in the United States. This way, we can deliver the package within 3 days of being shipped (including Saturdays, excluding Sundays).
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Take the time to get to know Shopify and all of its capabilities. With Shopify you are able to customize your website to your needs. Also, you must have a marketing plan! People think they can have a great product, build a website, and customers will come but that is definitely not the case.