Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at HUSKYBEARD and how you got started?
My name is Paul and I’m a 22 year old Korean American entrepreneur who started a beard care store, HUSKYBEARD, without having a beard, and generated $112,409 in sales in about 1 year. I have since sold my Shopify store, huskybeard.com, to another buyer and I now consult and mentor others on how to also build a successful Shopify store at ecomswift.com. I also have another Shopify store that I dropship with.
I started this business by first mastering Facebook advertising. The very few products I had on my store in the beginning were dropshipped from Aliexpress, using Oberlo. This dropshipping business model appealed to me because of its low-barrier and low-cost model, and as my business grew, I slowly transitioned out of dropshipping into in-house fulfillment. I knew that in order to build a strong, long term brand, dropshipping would not be attractive.
It’s crazy how the simple desire to grow a beard paved the way into creating a 6-figure online store around it. The market was there and I had the knowledge about beard care and beard growth, yet there were already hundreds of beard care competitors. I didn’t even have a beard, but I decided that I would enter this market anyway and capture at least a small percentage of it.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
At first I started with dropshipping a few combs and brushes from Aliexpress. Once these products were imported on my store, I marked up the listing price to 4-8x the cost. Having a 4x-8x markup would allow me to have “room” for advertising costs, which would leave me a moderate profit margin after all expenses. Simply marking up the price by 2 or 3x would’ve not be sustainable.
Once I found the winning products that were in high demand from my customers, I slowly transitioned out of dropshipping by ordering the best selling products in quantities of 200-500 to my house. At this point on, the majority of my orders would be fulfilled single handedly by me.
How did you get your first sale?
Before I spent a dollar on advertising, I scrutinized all of the advertisements (and media/content in general) I normally see, with a marketer’s eye and attempted to understand why they wrote the way they wrote, why they got the number of likes they got, and what the highly engaged ads all had in common. I understood things like urgency, utilizing incentives, scarcity, social proof, and other “tactics”.
I started with Facebook ads and advertised a beard comb to men who like beards, and also like men’s grooming, and also like online shopping, and also like beard competitors pages, and also press the “shop now” button on Facebook frequently, and are also in between the 25-34 age range. Having this much of a specific audience almost guaranteed that the product would resonate well with them. I reached product market fit, and got my first sale.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
The biggest obstacle I faced was an intrinsic, mental battle. My family and closest friends (the ones who had the biggest influence on my psychology and beliefs) all had told me not to do what I wanted to do. None of them believed in me and no one ever told me “you can do this man, I believe in you”. None of that. It was the exact opposite: “stay in school, get a business degree, keep working at your job, save your money, you’re not special, etc....”. They actively declared that I should not do it and tried to convince me. They almost did many times.
But had I listened to them once, I would not be where I’m at today, making the money I want to make, doing the things I want to do, and having learned the things that I’ve learned. I only listened to the advice of millionaires and successful people - through their books, lectures, Youtube videos, etc. These people influenced me and “gave me permission” to execute on my dreams while my family and friends advised against pursuing my dreams.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
Simply the fact that they’re the biggest and most talked about. All the Youtube videos had the titles “Shopify Dropshipping”, not “WooCommerce Dropshipping”. Haha.
Plus, using the free trial of Shopify made me realize how user-friendly the platform was, and how many apps are accessible. I would recommend Shopify for everyone looking to build an online store, and Clickfunnels for those who are consulting, selling high ticket services, or who are professionals.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
The beginning process was spent consuming too much information and not getting started. I probably spent a week just trying to see if Shopify was worth it, a few more weeks just watching Youtube videos of successful shopify store owners, a few more weeks learning about Facebook ads, and then I finally decided to open the Shopify store in November 2016. It’s unbelievable how unwilling I was to invest just $29/month to start a business.
From November to February, I spent most of my time researching competitors, thinking about the web design (without actually designing it), and basically being a perfectionist and having everything down on paper. It wasn’t until March 2017 when I finally decided to run a few Facebook ads at $5/day. With my precise targeting and self-designed ad creatives, I managed to get my first sale. I then scaled the winning products and ads from $5/day, $10/day, $25/day, all the way up to $100/day. (Side note: it took several months of testing to eventually lead up to a $100/day ad set).
The biggest thing I would’ve done differently is managing time and being more effective! I had spent so much time researching everything and trying to figure it out all, before I got to even doing anything. While I was actually learning and being productive, I was really just afraid of taking those risks and spending my money. I was afraid of not getting results and failing.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business?
I sell on every major sales channel: Shopify, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Wish.
*These 3 apps generate the most sales.
What theme did you choose for your site and why?
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow HUSKYBEARD?
It was just 45 days till the Black Friday - Cyber Monday craze. Advertising during this shopping spree would be extremely expensive, but I couldn’t just sit out on the side lines. So I started a free daily giveaway contest for our best selling product, and advertised it with Facebook more than a month before the shopping craze. I targeted only people who I have never reached out to before (through excluding custom audiences) and started collecting leads at an average CPA of $0.90. I scaled these ad sets and collected approximately 6,000 leads.
The contest platform I used was Gleam.io, which allowed me to have customers submit more information and do certain actions in order to get more entries (like “watch this Youtube video”, “visit this page”, “refer 3 friends”, etc.)
Weeks before Black Friday started, I launched a bunch of curation emails, specifically to prime them about who we are as a company and sent them a bunch of free value content (like “how to take care of your beard” blog posts). One week before the shopping craze, I sent them blog posts specifically on the products that would be massively discounted during BF/CM, and then I promoted the deals in advance, in order for them to plan.
During BF/CM, I blasted them with 2+ emails a day notifying them of the sales. I used Facebook to advertise my leads again, using custom audiences, about the massive sales going on. I didn’t spend much money on Facebook advertising to strangers, I advertised solely to my audiences (30-day page viewers, 180 day ATCs, 180 Purchasers, email leads, look-a-like audiences, etc.). The costs of the purchases ranged below the $10 range, which allowed me to have an ROAS of at least 250%.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
The best way to communicate with customers, I found, was to communicate to them like they are your friend. Positioning yourself as a company can distance the relationship and make it seem like you are just another corporation trying to get a sale. Instead, in all of the emails and blogs, I wrote as if I was speaking to them: using words like “brother” and “man”.
The personalization didn’t stop there. In many emails I would just ask them how their beards were, what their biggest problems were (like beard itch, etc.), and only offered them a product at the very bottom of the emails/content.
I nurtured them, offered them a lot of value, and then only ASKED if they wanted to purchase whatever I found was most relevant to them. This approach of writing basic, non-formatted, non-template emails worked a lot better than the well-designed email templates with email headers and a bunch of colorful sales discount codes and so on. Less was more.
What are you working towards now?
I am now working on another ecommerce store with a business partner, that will follow the similar steps I took with HUSKYBEARD (except without the mistakes). On the side, I am taking 5-7 clients/month for personal, 1-on-1 consulting and mentoring. With these clients, I guide them on how to build their own successful Shopify store, how to implement effective branding practices, and how to succeed with Facebook advertising, brand ambassadors, and influencer marketing.
I also post content on my Youtube channel, ECOMSWIFT, where I teach others the lessons I’ve learned from my experience in building a $100K+ Shopify store.
Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
My top 5 books (business & non-business) are:
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)?
Here are some lessons and advice that I hope will help anyone reading my story:
* When starting, ONLY listen to those who are where you want to be, or those who are masters at the craft you are learning. Everyone gives their opinion (even me right now), so you need to only give weight to qualified people/sources. It’s very likely your parents/friends are giving you the WRONG advice. Instead, go to books, mentors, consultants, etc.
* Everything has an ROI to it. And no I don’t mean monetarily. The things you do either produce positive benefit, or negative consequence, in the short or long run. Drinking beers with your friends could have a positive ROI if it means you’re in desperate need for a break and need to loosen up. Contrastly, this could have a negative ROI if it means you’ll be hungover the next day and incapable of any productivity. Choose your behaviors wisely.
* The mainstream narrative is almost always wrong. Not wrong in the sense that it’s not true (although many times just outright not true), I mean that what the general masses think and do, is exactly what you’ll get. And if you want to achieve massive heights, you absolutely cannot do what everyone is doing. You have to be willing to go against your social conditioning and belief systems, and go for what you want and do it all the way.
* The man working smarter achieves more than the man working harder. Working hard and hustling doesn’t always get you results. You only have so much energy, time, and willpower in a day, so you have to strategically prioritize the most important and effective actions, as quickly as possible. Essentially, the 80/20 principle.
* Starting a business is the best way to learn about business. It boggles my mind that anyone would pay $40,000 for a degree in business/marketing/related studies, and after 4-8 years, expect to be ready to start their business ventures. Save that $40K, learn the education online (which is mostly free), pay money to people who are actually millionaires (and not to business professors who have MBAs yet have never sold anything ever), and be empowered to do it on your own. You’ll learn much more this way.
* Know your numbers. Use Quickbooks. Know your net costs. Aim for 400% ROI minimal, after all expenses. How much are you making today/this month/this quarter? You need to know this or else you are running in the dark.
* Do not do it alone. I cannot stress this enough, for your own success and your own sanity, you need to have support. Whether that’s a friend cheering you on when you hit those sales numbers, or if it’s a mentor telling you why you can’t scale your Facebook Ads. Going at it alone, like I did, is extremely expensive, and takes forever.
* Do ONE Thing and do it with all your might. The more cups you have to fill, the less amount you’ll have in each cup. Your focus and time are your biggest assets. Knowing this, I dropped school; quit my job; quit social media; moved into my parents (away from friends and the city life); limited time playing video games, hanging with friends, and dating; and focused SOLELY on my business.
That’s amazing advice. Thanks so much for sharing your insight. Where can we learn more?
For personal, one-on-one mentoring/consulting, you can reach me at ecomswift.com.
I also share my lessons and experiences on my ECOMSWIFT Youtube Channel. Check it out!
Finally, you can follow me on Instagram at @impaullee.
~ Paul Lee, Founder of HUSKYBEARD