Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at Craft & Mason and how you got started?
Craft & Mason Coffee sells fresh roasted specialty coffee to individuals and businesses. We are Eric Craft & Jeremy Mason and our last names worked too well together to not name our business that! We saw it as two families coming together to further a passion for coffee roasting and sourcing. Eric and I were always into craft beer and good food, among other things, and our business developed from late nights spent at home roasting together.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
We needed to buy a roaster and then get a fully approved space set up. From there it was finding a green coffee importer and the knowledge to roast the coffee well. We roast the coffee fresh every week, package it up and then ship it or deliver it to local accounts. Our process has not changed much from day one in regards to getting a product to our customers.
How did you get your first sale?
We did online sales right away and started selling to individuals online from day one through our Shopify store. That was the majority of our sales early on.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
There are many challenging things about running a business and its important to identify your strengths and weaknesses. It helps a lot that Eric and I are good at different things and we found what roles in the business suit both of us best.
Running a small business requires you to be good at a lot of things and it can be hard to be great at all of them. We have learned how difficult it is to be great at making the product, marketing the product, running operations and being diligent about budget and long term profitability.
We have worked very hard at continuing to upgrade our knowledge and equipment to make sure our coffee is top notch. Roasting specialty coffee well, especially lighter roasts, is very difficult. We have been our own worst critic over the years, which has pushed us to be very detailed about our end product.
We have come to realize that many of the people who make great products are persistent and deliberate in creating something special. It can be difficult to continuously push yourself to be better but when you take great care to create a finely-tuned product, it is easier for you to naturally tell your story to others and have it feel authentic.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
Shopify was an obvious choice for us because we needed to hit the ground running. There would have been no way to build out the back end of an online store. What would have been impossible in the past is now fully achievable through Shopify and it empowers individuals to reach specific markets with their product. We set up our site, opened our online shop and were ready to go in short order.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
There are a lot of things we wish we’d known back then. Some things can only be learned over time, but it is just as important to pay attention to failures as much as successes.
Very few businesses go exactly as planned. If you can start selling a product but keep flexibility to change as time goes on, you can use your experience and understanding of what people want and how they behave to find long term success.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business and why?
Shipstation is huge for our business as it gives us a super clean integration with Shopify to create shipping labels and get orders out to each customer.
We just started using ReCharge but we are excited to be able to offer ongoing subscription service as there are a lot of people who want to pay monthly and have the product show up without having to go in and reorder or pay large payments up front for 6-12 months out.
Finally, Instagram Feed brings that marketing back to our website. We take quite a bit of time telling our story on Instagram so it’s nice to integrate that content right on our front page as it changes.
What theme did you choose for your site and why?
We recently switched to Brooklyn this year. We liked the large scrolling slides when you first open our website and the product layout below is really clean and straightforward. It allows you to tell a quick visual story of your brand and then quickly move to your product offerings.
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Craft & Mason?
Our business is a mix of both local relationships and online. In some ways those two things flow together and in some ways they are very separate. We are always building relationships locally which is important.
Beyond that, our Shopify store allows us to reach people all over the US. So, we have had the privilege of being featured in a number of online blogs and mentioned in different articles recommending our products over the years.
Telling your story online is a really great way to reach a broad market who might be interested in what you have to offer.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
I think it’s important to try to tell your story online and then connect with people in person as well, whenever possible. We are currently building a new roasting space where we hope to engage with people face to face more often.
We hope to be able to tell our story on social media, through our website and in person. If you can do all of that, it really helps define your personality and develop relationships with customers and hopefully builds loyalty beyond just the product line.
We love our city, so for us it is about connecting with local people in a genuine way and hopefully that carries through and makes an impact outside our city as well.
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
Revenue has increased over time, which is great, but we have learned that as your sales grow, there are often ways to save money as you get bigger. Whether it is shipping, or buying larger quantities of supplies at a time, you can increase your profit margin from overall revenue. This can be a powerful way to grow your profits over time, as you find efficiencies without making any sacrifices on the high standard of your product. Make sure to continue to study your different options and ways you can save money as you grow.
We have also split up revenue streams and tried to project what areas we’d like to grow in the future. Since we are a coffee roaster only, we have focused on wholesale growth with local coffee shops and businesses and have seen revenue in that area increase dramatically year over year as we have built a reputation for high quality and reliability.
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
We have always wanted to be consistent in our quality and in delivering on what we promise to our customers. They trust us to be a part of their small business and we want to deliver on that every time.
What are you working towards now?
As I mentioned earlier, we are in the final phases of opening a new roasting space with a brand new Probat UG-15 roaster. Our quality and production capabilities on the new roaster will increase for sure, but more importantly we are looking forward to using the space to interact with the people in our community who share our passion for coffee.
We also look forward to telling a visual story online by showing a lot more behind-the-scenes content so people who can’t visit us can still feel like they’re a part of what we are doing.
Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
Websites like this are wonderful for hearing other peoples stories before you start on your own adventure. After reading a lot of books, listening to podcasts, etc. we realize that anything gleaned from somebody who has gone before you is the most helpful advice you can get.
Based on your own success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting out with Shopify (or with eCommerce in general)?
I would say be ready to work hard and enjoy the experience. Also, being a kind human being to others, no matter what you are doing, is always the most important thing and goes a long way to long term success.
Always have a large vision of where you want to be in 5 years and make sure your journey to that point is positive for all who are involved.
Where can we learn more?
Eric Craft & Jeremy Mason - Co-Founders of Craft & Mason Coffee