030: How My Student Brandon Created A Profitable Online Store Selling Backyard Games

Brandon Reinders

It always makes me really happy when I see one of my students successfully making money online. Today, I have Brandon Reinders on the show.

What’s interesting about Brandon is that he asked me a few questions early on in the class and then I didn’t hear from him again until he had launched his store. And what’s even cooler is that Brandon did all of this without any prior knowledge or experience on how to start an online store. Enjoy the interview!

What You’ll Learn

  • How much money Brandon spent to start his online store
  • Why he chose an open source shopping cart instead of going fully hosted
  • How Brandon sources his products to sell
  • How Brandon chose his niche
  • How Brandon made his first sale
  • How Brandon advertises his shop online
  • How hard was it for him to make his first sale and what allowed him to take that leap of faith
  • What Brandon’s main challenges were in launching his store
  • How Brandon handles customer support while working a full time job

Other Resources

Transcript

MyWifeQuitHerJob’s transcripts are done by Outsource2Africa.com, an awesome transcription service that is half the price of other competing companies. Highly recommended!

You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now, this isn’t one of those podcasts where I bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they’ve used early on to gain traction for their businesses. Now today, I have the pleasure of having one of the students in my Create a Profitable Online Store course on the show, to give a real life account of what it’s like to start an online store from scratch without any experience whatsoever. But before we begin, I just wanted to share a testimonial from Meredith, who won the free business consult for this month.

She said, “Transitioning to e-commerce from B2B wholesale has been quite an adjustment for me. Although I’ve been in business for nine years I’ve been feeling extremely overwhelmed with all the steps involved in trying to build a successful website. The feedback Steve gave me during the one on one consultation was such valuable information that it really cleared up a lot of points for me and established a guide as to what steps I needed to take next. I appreciate him for taking the time out to give such thoughtful insight and also for sharing his wealth of knowledge so openly.”

Now, if you enjoy this podcast please go to iTunes and leave me a review and if you want your own business consult, please enter my podcast contest, where I’m actually giving away free one on one business consults every single month. For more information go to mywifequitherjob.com/contest and if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini-course, where I show you how mywife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. Go to www.mywifequitherjob.com for more information, now on to the show.

Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. Today I’m really happy to have another one of my students in my Create a Profitable Online Store course on the show, Brandon Reinders. Now, if you recall a couple of weeks ago I had a different student on the show Sandy Donavan, but what’s interesting about today’s episode is that Brandon took an entirely different path. Whereas Sandy decided that she didn’t want to bother with an open source shopping cart and instead went with a fully hosted solution and Shopify, Brandon decided to embrace open source and ultimately went with open cart which is completely free.

Now, here’s what’s also cool about Brandon, I literally exchanged like three e-mails with the guy to discuss his niche and I have to admit when he first came to me with his niche, I was very skeptical because I had no clue what he was trying to sell. But what I found is that obscure niches tend to be– tend to often be the ones to go into, and after running the numbers I quickly realized that his niche was a winner. Now, after I gave him the go-ahead, he pretty much disappeared and then came back with a store that was making sales. Now, currently he’s doing about four figures a month with his online store BackyardWasherToss.com which sells high end Washer Toss sets and since that one went well, he’s actually launching another store called ThePolishHorseshoes.com which just recently got its first sale as well.
So, since I actually haven’t spoken to Brandon that much, I’m actually as curious as the rest of you, you know, for this interview so welcome to the show Brandon how are you doing?

Brandon: I’m doing well. Thanks for having me on.

Steve: Yes, so how did you come up with this niche for Backyard Washer Toss games for your online store?

Brandon: Well, just going through the normal process through the course of finding a niche, I know for me personally it’s kind of important to find something that I was personally interested in. I know, I’m sure you can attest to that, I mean, doing something that you’re interested in isn’t technically required, but I thought that would be important for me, just to keep myself interested and trying to get it started so, I’m definitely interested in, you know, outdoor you know games, you know, things I could play with my friends or family, I like barbecues, camping stuff like that, so definitely a lot of games like you know cornhole also known as like bag toss [indiscernible] [00:04:29], Washer Toss things like that. And the issue with those is a lot of times it’s really hard to find a good, well you know high quality well-made game especially in like the big lock stores like Wall Mart or whatever. So, with my dad– he isn’t really, I want to say handy guy himself you know, he sees something that he doesn’t think is well made, he can– no, he’s just like, oh I can just make this something better myself.
So, we actually went ahead and you know, just made a few Washer Toss sets on our own and gave it to our friends and family and stuff and they really liked them and so that’s kind of where– it went from there.

Steve: So, you actually grew up playing these games, you know, with your friends and family and that’s basically how you got the idea. You went out and you looked to actually buy these sets and you couldn’t find any, is that kind of how it got started?

Brandon: Yeah, pretty much like I said I don’t know if you’ve seen them in like Wall Mart or whatever, but they mostly you know – if you see something that’s really cheap like 20 or 30 bucks for a set and really just like you know, cheap plastic or cheap wood you know, the stuff that breaks really easily so, that was always really frustrating me personally wasting money you know, you play it once or twice then it breaks so, that’s kind of where we got started you know, just building our own and people really liked them and that’s where we started.

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: Started our own line.

Steve: Yes, so everything out there was pretty cheap and you actually sell high-end sets right?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Okay. So, you wouldn’t describe yourself as a technical person would you? You know like a web developer or anything like that right?

Brandon: No, not at all.

Steve: So, what would you describe as some of the most difficult parts about getting started with your online store?

Brandon: [chuckles] About starting, pretty much everything. Then in even just following like your course videos, I’d have to watch the same video like three or four times just to make sure I installed something correctly. And then you know, just going through installing themes and plug ins and the opt card install, I couldn’t do a clean installation the first time, I always run into issues. So I was always you know, like I said before I wasn’t contacting you per say, but I was contacting the developers of the themes and plugins every single time I tried to install something.

Steve: So, just curious, you know I also suggested you know, fully hosted platforms to certain students, can you just kind of walk me through your decision making process, you know, why you decided to go with open source as opposed to going with something a lot simpler and that could get you up and running right away?

Brandon: Yeah. Two main reasons is, I’m kind of a control freak and I’m very cheap so…

Steve: [chuckles]

Brandon: That’s pretty much why I decided to go with the open source route. I mean, I knew going in was going to be really difficult since I had no prior web develop experience, so that’s where your videos really came in handy, but yeah I knew that I was not going to be happy going through something like Shopify or you know, Big Commerce or something like that because I knew– I just knew right away that my website needed to be exactly the way I wanted it and I didn’t want to have to you know, pay or rely on some you know, third party web developer to do all that stuff for me.

Steve: So, are there any specific features that are in your cart that actually isn’t supported by shop online? In other words is there anything kind of custom on your side right now?

Brandon: Not really. When I first started out, I did have a feature with the Washer Toss sets that allowed you to you know, choose the color option for you the paint on the carpet and it’d automatically change the display of what you selected, you know like a picture, so that you can get a preview of that but other than that no. I actually took that feature down.

Steve: Oh, okay.

Brandon: But nothing else really, my own customized.

Steve: Okay. So, how much– I was just curious, how much did it cost you to actually start your store then?

Brandon: Total, is probably a little over 6000 dollars. That’s just because you know, since we’re building on the other products that sells just the economies of scale – just– it takes so much you know, yet just having about so much money into the materials just to make it.

Steve: Oh, okay. So [chuckles] I meant like just for the website part.

Brandon: Oh, the website? Okay.

Steve: Yeah.

Brandon: The website, you know a couple of 100 bucks at most.

Steve: Couple of 100 bucks?

Brandon: Yeah. I don’t know how many plugins I had installed but yeah actually, not more than a couple of 100 bucks.

Steve: Okay. And then how much does it cost to kind of just maintain your store from month to month?

Brandon: Not that much. I really just have the– honestly the hosting fees and pretty much– that’s pretty much it you know, just to [indiscernible] [00:09:35] hosting stuff up and after sales it’s all back and that kind of stuff. You know, around 50 bucks a month maybe?

Steve: 50 bucks a month, and just curious, are you using a shared hosting account? I can’t remember which web post you ultimately decided.

Brandon: Yeah, yeah. I went through Blue Host.

Steve: Okay, Blue Host, okay. And then you’re taking credit cards through pay pal or?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Okay, through pay pal. Okay, so yeah, it’s probably under 50 bucks in a month to maintain your shop. Okay, so let’s talk about, you know, how you actually obtaining these products, so you’re making everything yourself? So, how does that process kind of work? Is it all your dad or? [chuckles]

Brandon: Pretty much. Yeah, with the Washer Toss, yeah that’s pretty much all him. The– actually the original plan was to just have him do the finishing stuff and we actually have like the frames of each set made by like a finish carpenter. And we actually did find somebody local who was willing to do that now– it’s actually a carpenter here in town, and he and the son were working together and you know, we showed him what we wanted him to make and all that and you know, we’re good to go and then we placed our order with them, and then it was actually his son that was supposed to make the frames for us and right after we placed the order, he decided to move to Florida, like just okay.

Steve: [chuckles]

Brandon: So, because of that his you know, the regular carpenter, he allowed us– my dad to use his shop, all of his tools and what not to actually make the frames themselves and then he could finish it off as well so, the plan wasn’t for him to do everything himself, but it’s just kind of the way things worked out you know, he’s doing it all now, which actually works out well so I don’t have to pay somebody else to do some of the work.

Steve: I was just curious though like you know; let’s say sales like start blowing up, let’s say you get featured on some media say, and all of a sudden you got thousands of orders, is there kind of like a plan?

Brandon: [chuckles] Yeah, just try to pump them out as much as we can. There’s unfortunately, I mean we – the good thing is you know, since it’s kind of seasonal, we did try to stock up here through you know, this past winter and spring you know, to get ready for the summer so, yeah I don’t know what you’d consider.

Steve: [chuckles]

Brandon: But, I guess that would be a good problem to have but…

Steve: Yes, it would.

Brandon: But, yeah, unfortunately we just have to you know, just sell what we can and go from there.

Steve: Yes, so when you first started I imagine you were kind of pretty nervous about launching your store, can you kind of describe some of the things that you did that just kind of validate your niche before you actually started investing a lot of money into building these sets and that sort of thing?

Brandon: Yeah, well pretty much it was just the normal stuff that you taught in the course, just going through you know, key words, search numbers, you know all of that and like I said, we did get a little bit of validation just from a few people that we made sets for at the time. They really enjoyed, they really thought they were high quality, really well made you know, all that kind of stuff, so the only bad thing– the only thing that I was concerned about is, a fact from a few friends that we knew, majority of the people around let’s say you know, who live in the Mid-west, Washer Toss wasn’t really well known.

Steve: Mm-hm.

Brandon: It’s more of a Southern, you know southern part of the states so, that was the only thing I was concerned about, not a lot of people knew about it, but I just kind of had to trust my instincts with the search numbers you were telling me.

Steve: Okay. And how did you actually make your first sale?

Brandon: Just kind of damn luck, like for about a week when we got our first sale, I believe it was a just an organic search sale that we got from what I recall, so like I said we had only been about a week so probably I’m like the sixth page in results or something like that so, I don’t know how the heck they found us, because like I said it wasn’t through an ad or anything but, yeah.

Steve: Okay. Wow, that’s amazing. Okay, so you weren’t advertising or anything when you first launched, you were just letting it go organically?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Okay, and so, have you tried anything else since then to market your site or has it just been kind of organic for your Washer Toss game?

Brandon: Yeah. Shortly after that I did start the I would say the Google ads and the Google Shopping ads. We did try a little bit with the Facebook ad but they really weren’t that successful.

Steve: Mm-hm.

Brandon: I think that’s just you know, the product of the niche itself, it’s really not that well known, it’s kind of like say, kind of nichy.

Steve: Right.

Brandon: So, I don’t know if that had something to do with it but we just had you know more work with just from you know, Google ads.

Steve: Okay. So you’re just buying these search ads or are you in the display ads, which form of Google advertising, are you using?

Brandon: Both, yeah the regular ads and the display ads.

Steve: Okay. So, which one has been working the best for you? Just curious.

Brandon: Definitely, the display ads.

Steve: The display– the search ads or the display ads?

Brandon: Yeah, maybe I confuse there– yeah, like the– see like display like Google Shopping.

Steve: Oh, okay, okay.

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: You’re right, great. So, the product listing ads.

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: So those are working then?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Are you also doing the search ads as well or?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Okay. And they’re both converting for you at a rate where you’re actually making money on your ads, is that pretty accurate?

Brandon: Yes.

Steve: Okay. Yes, so there’s actually a lot of– I sent out a recent survey, just telling my readers and there are actually a lot of people on the sidelines who actually are just kind of curious how hard it was for you to actually just kind of make your first sale and just start making money. Is there any sort of advice or is there anything that you did to kind of push yourself to just take that leap, launch a store and invest all that money into your shop? And what advice would you give people just starting out?

Brandon: Just starting out? Well, if you’re going to do it, just go ahead and do it. Just jump right in. Definitely with online, in most cases– excluding mine, it’s more work and actually in most cases you don’t have to invest that much to start out. The only thing that I can really say is, try to keep the moment from going, just try to do something each day to– whether it will be you know, install a plug in or contacting potential vendors, something like that. What I found is you know, if I don’t do something one day then it’s easier to not do something three days and it turns into a week and then two weeks and then also you’d– you’re becoming complacent not making any progress so, that was the biggest help for me. Just try to you know keep making some sort of progress, little by little, every single day till the shop’s up and running.

Steve: Okay. So, these are some of the questions that I’ve been getting from my readers at the blog and you know, since you’re kind of in the heart of the trenches, I thought I would ask you some of these questions that people are curious about. So, number one, you know, how hard was it to put up the site? Can you kind of describe the process and the process that you went through to just get the site up since you decided to go the open source shop. So, yeah a lot of people have been asking about going open source or fully hosting and…

Brandon: Yeah, I’m sorry. Yeah, I think I touched that a little bit earlier. It was definitely really hard for me just because I had no prior experience before, but yeah like I said, it definitely worth it.

Steve: So how much time did it take you? Let’s start with that.

Brandon: Like well, from when I started to when I actually went live, we went about 14 months total, but there was some time off in there between where I didn’t really work on anything because of personal issues but so…

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: Really it’s probably between like four to six months total work.

Steve: Okay. And this is from scratch like knowing nothing it would have taken you about four to six months, is this what you’re saying?

Brandon: Yeah, yeah, from just signing up, for your course to actually going live.

Steve: Okay. And what were some of the big pieces in that process for you?

Brandon: For me? Trying to balance, not only building the website but also trying to set up a manufacturing process at the same time. That was really difficult to juggle both of those, so like I said the biggest thing was just trying to organize what, you know just prioritize everything that I needed to do next to move forward and so, you know whether it’d be getting supplies or you know, getting the set up and running, stuff like that, that was really important to prioritize.

Steve: So, from a pure website perspective though, I was just curious about what your experience was, so you installed open cart onto your site, what were some of the other steps that you had to go through to make it exactly how you wanted it to look?

Brandon: Definitely, first starting out I installed a lot of different plug ins and a lot of them didn’t quite mesh with each other right away, so it was a lot of going back and forth between developers of the theme and the plug ins to try get everything matched up you know, make it look the way I wanted it to.

Steve: So, where did you get your theme from?

Brandon: It’s called selegance, I believe it’s on theme forest.

Steve: Okay, and did you have to edit that theme significantly or was the theme just kind of out of the box what you were looking for?

Brandon: Yeah, it’s pretty much what I was looking for, out of the box you know, thankfully it was probably 95% to all the way there, it was just
moving a few things around.

Steve: Okay. And did you do that yourself or did you hire someone to move things around for you?

Brandon: No, no. Thankfully you know the theme developer was very patient with me, he actually did most of that himself for me.

Steve: Okay. Did you pay him? Or did he just kind of…

Brandon: No, yeah once I paid for the theme and he did that free.

Steve: Okay. How much did you pay for your theme? Just curious.

Brandon: I believe it’s you know, 20 or 30 dollars.

Steve: Wow! Okay, that’s really inexpensive. In terms of your plugins, were they free plugins or did you have to pay for those?

Brandon: No, I paid for those. That’s probably where most of my costs came from, you know installing all those. So, just stuff like you know, like a Mail Chimp plug in, you know that might be like 15 bucks to you know something like PayPal plug in, you know that was like another 30 bucks, stuff like that.

Steve: Mm-hm.

Brandon: You know, five or six of those can really add up.

Steve: Okay. And you know, after that just all the finishing touches regarding you know making the site look the way you wanted that was just kind of all done by the theme developer? Like for example, your logo on the upper left, did you put that in yourself or?

Brandon: Yap, I designed the logo myself but yeah, I did most of that. I was able to do all of that myself but you know like I said, just you know specifically install like a specific plug in, you know, something might not be aligned right or you know, something like that, that was something where I’d have to contact them for.

Steve: Okay. Yeah, I was just trying to get an idea of how much you could do by yourself versus having to contact someone else to do the work for you. So, what are some of the things that you did yourself with open cart?

Brandon: Well, after a while I’m sure they got sick of me contacting them all the time. So just looking out you know after– because they’ll send you the file back that you install where you want it corrected, so I was able to actually go into the files themselves and see what changes they made and I just kind of picked up on what they were doing from then on. So as I got further along I was contacting them less and less as I had learned more about how to change things myself.

Steve: Okay. So, did you end up learning HTML or PHP or anything like that?

Brandon: Not really. I mean, I can go in there and recognize things but yeah, as far as like actually learning that stuff no, not really.

Steve: Okay. Okay, I was just curious because that’s actually one of the advantages of going open source and I was just wondering if you had taken advantage of that. Okay, so another concern that a lot of people have when they’re first deciding whether to start a business is how hard it was to find your niche. So, how long did it take you? And describe your process.

Brandon: Well, really a little over let’s say a month, probably around six weeks I’d say it took me to find it. I actually– before I knew going in that it had to be something that I enjoyed you know myself. So, I kind of knew that you know back to outside, a lot of games, stuff like that, that was something I kind of wanted to go in, and I did find you know, three or four that I was kind of interested in. It’s just that based on the numbers and the competition that I found throughout the process I thought that you know Washer Toss was the way to go and started out.

Steve: Okay. And then, in terms of marketing, which forms of marketing have worked the best for you and were there any ones that were just bums? Like you mentioned Facebook didn’t work out for you and you’ve used Google. Have you tried anything else outside of those?

Brandon: No, not really. Next step is part – that’s part of my weakest things that I haven’t really done too much of that. The next thing is you know try to work on some e-mail campaigns, that being building up by the e-mail list obviously you know, throughout this past nine months or so.

Steve: Mm-hm.

Brandon: So, that’s probably going to be my next thing but I really haven’t done too much advertising outside of Google.

Steve: Just curious, how do you obtain your e-mail list? Is it just people who’ve purchased your products or do you have other ways of gathering e-mail addresses?

Brandon: Yap. Through the orders and then actually have a little thing on each page like if you enter on your e-mail, you get added to the list and…

Steve: Okay. Are they incentivized in any way or?

Brandon: Yes but I actually haven’t had too many people sign up for those specifically, so I haven’t really like– I mean, I have it on there, like you’ll get like a discount code, but really nobody has actually signed up for those yet.

Steve: Okay, so in terms of– I noticed you’re on the first page of Google for several of your search terms, have you actually done anything to get there? Have you been building links and that sort of thing? I’m just curious.

Brandon: Actually, yeah. Now you mention it, yeah, we did build some links. Actually it got as high as three or four for a lot of them, but recently I actually got a lot of– from spending low quality back links, so I’ve actually been dealing with that for the last few weeks so– but it’s really more of there are a few Washer Toss forms that the person links to, yeah that’s pretty much it.

Steve: Okay. So with the most part, just by nature of choosing your niche you just naturally started ranking for a lot of your key word terms, is that it? –

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Okay, okay. Yeah, that’s good to know. So, the next question I want to ask you kind of relates to just your experiences. Is there anything related to your experience or you just kind of made a big mistake? And you know, what sort of obstacles did you face since you’re just kind of new to this whole thing still in my opinion? What are some of the obstacles that you went through and how did you overcome them?

Brandon: Well, the biggest obstacle for me was something you know just being brand new to everything, setting up the website myself and you know, setting up like the whole manufacturing process as well as at the same time. So that’s probably the biggest thing. The other thing was, you know, first starting out with five we were a little too ambitious as far as the production was concerned. Because when we first started, we offered that you cannot customize each set with like 20 different colors for carpet and you know the painting. Just from a production stand point, that was just not feasible so, we had to scale that down quite a bit so, just offering a few different you know, colors of carpet and no painting options now. But, that was probably the biggest thing.

Steve: So, let’s talk about your manufacturing process since we haven’t really touched on that. So, an order comes through and they order a set from you, are these just pre-made or do you just kind of make them on demand?

Brandon: Yeah. Yeah, at first they were made on demand- so like I said they customized it and say they are like red paints and you know black carpet, we’d actually go ahead and make that and get them all in like three to five business days, but now since we’ve kind of scaled that down quite a bit we are able to pre-make them which definitely makes things a whole lot easier.

Steve: Okay. And are you doing this while working a full time job or?

Brandon: Yes.

Steve: Oh, okay.

Brandon: Both.

Steve: Yeah.

Brandon: Both myself and my dad, both work full time jobs.

Steve: Oh, okay. So, that brings up a whole another series of questions, and so how do you handle customer support?

Brandon: Actually, it’s really quite easy. That’s one of the pleasant surprises that I found is that not too many phone calls or e-mails throughout the day. It’s mostly just orders that I can take care of at the end of you know once I’m done for my regular job, so you know the customer service has been really easy, I would say I won’t get more than one or two phone calls and e-mails total per week.

Steve: Let’s say you get a phone call, how do you deal with that during the day?

Brandon: If I’m not down like a break or lunch or anything, well the phone have a forwarding service like you know, so all the calls go straight to my cell phone.

Steve: Mm-hm.

Brandon: So, if I’m not able to answer it, then they’re just– they’re able to leave a message or I do on the other messages where they can just send us an e-mail also but then the next opportunity that I get, I give them a call back.

Steve: Okay. And have you had any returns or troublesome customers thus far?

Brandon: No, that’s the other great thing. I’ve only had one total– one return total so far so…

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: From all the feedback that we’ve received has been great you know, with our products which so definitely something we’re proud of.

Steve: Okay. And just, how many hours would you say that you actually spend a week on this business then?

Brandon: Yeah, just the day to day you know, just normal week, probably around anywhere between 10 and 20 hours total.

Steve: 10 and 20 hours? And how is that time allocated?

Brandon: It’s mostly during the week, just pro– you know, processing orders each day, that’s probably no more than an hour total each day.

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: And then, there might be some other stuff or just managing inventory like contacting supplier during the day or you know, then trying to you know arrange for the delivered or pick up you know for us– one of us to pick them up or stuff like that during the day. Then during the weekend for me, I might just do some maintenance on the website or you know stuff like that, that’s the majority of the time actually about 10 hours or so.

Steve: Okay. And then materials, are you sourcing those locally or?

Brandon: Yeah. Both locally and online you know as far as the wooden stuff, that’s pretty much through the carpenter you know the finish carpenter that we go through– that we work on this shop and yeah. But the other stuff like the washers we found a supplier online that produces them for us and then we actually take them to a local powder coater here, that powder coats into all the different colors.

Steve: Okay, and then the inventory, you just kind of store in your place then?

Brandon: Order.

Steve: Okay. And let’s talk a little bit about your newest shop that you just launched, which is Polish Horse Shoes. So, what made you decide to launch yet another shop instead of just kind of selling these on the same site?
Brandon: Yeah. Well, the biggest thing for me is, you know just as far as…

Steve: Yeah.

Brandon: Being able to rank up higher in Google, I just thought that it would be a lot easier to do with two separate shops…

Steve: Mm-hm.

Brandon: But as far as starting this one, we actually got interested in Polished Horse Shoes is you know, I just went camping with my friends one weekend and as we had you know the usual stocks you know, self specks for you know, games like Corn Hole, Wash Toss and all of that and then somebody brought this Polish Horse Shoes game and everybody wanted to play that, nobody else touched all the other games so…

Steve: [chuckles]

Brandon: So that’s what you know– originally I picked my interest about it and just going through the again like the normal process of you know, seeing if it’s a niche worth going into, I felt it worked out well and you know the manufacturing process definitely a whole lot easier. If I had to do it again, I wish I would have done the Polish Horse Shoes first because it’s like a million times easier than making Washer Toss sets, but yeah that’s pretty much how we got started with that.

Steve: Okay, so was your friend’s set kind of chippy? Is that why you wanted to make it better or a higher end set or?

Brandon: Yeah, yeah. It’s pretty much the same process you know as the Washer Toss. The stuff that you find in the stores is really not really high quality and again that’s something we thought we could do better.

Steve: Okay. And I’m just really curious, since you had already gone through the entire process with Back Yard Washer Toss already, how long did it take you to put up your new set and get everything set up?

Brandon: I– yeah from when I first started the– just studying the niche to going live was like about two months.

Steve: Two months? Okay. And how much was that in split between vetting the niche versus getting the website up?

Brandon: It’s hard to say. Actually, majority time is just begun setting up the manufacturing process so.

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: Yeah. So, that was probably about, let’s say about 75% of the time spent.

Steve: Okay, what about the website?

Brandon: The website– that was– I used the same themes and you know plugins and all of that so, it was really not that hard at all.

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: Yeah, I could have broken down; I’d probably get it down within like three weeks.

Steve: Three weeks? Okay, and so it’s just a matter of taking your photos again and just kind of…

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Changing the colors around and the logo and that sort of thing right?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Okay. Did you find yourself having to contact any developers this time around or?

Brandon: No. That’s a– I’m very proud of that, I did this [laughter]

Steve: [laughter]

Brandon: I didn’t have to contact anybody else. I learned from all my mistakes from the first time around so…

Steve: Okay and then this time around also the expenses– what were the incremental expenses of running another shop? Is it on the same account or did you start a new account or?

Brandon: Yeah, I did that. Yeah, a whole new account, through Blue Host and all of that so yeah, that’s pretty much it. Like I said, I was able to use pretty much all these you know, same plugins and themes for that from my first site so…

Steve: Okay. That’s awesome. So, things have been just really smooth in terms of this second site?

Brandon: Mm-hm.

Steve: And you got your first sale recently so congratulations on that. How did you get that first sale?

Brandon: That was through a– like Google products search ads so.

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: Definitely, happy that I got one so quickly you know again, we’ve only been open for about a week before we got that first sale so…

Steve: That’s awesome. And you mentioned you know, just manufacturing this product is just so much easier right?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: So, let’s see, your dad’s probably– does your dad need to get involved in this at all or?

Brandon: No. This is actually all me pretty much. I do have a secret friend who you know helps me a little bit when I need it, but this yeah, this is just pretty much all me from [indiscernible] [00:33:11].

Steve: That’s great. So, I did have one more question– oh yes, yes, so I noticed you know I was looking at your site and I was looking at the pricing…

Brandon: Mm-hm.

Steve: And I noticed for your Washer Toss sets, they’re actually– since they’re high end and they are more expensive so kind of how– when you’re buying like a product listing ad you just see these little tiny pictures with the price tags on them right? So how did you kind of position yourself and how did you know that people were willing to pay a lot more money for these high end sets as opposed to the cheapy ones that are in the store?

Brandon: Yap, yeah. So, based on what the experiences I had and from what I’ve heard from other people they’ve had similar experiences just you know they’ve got one of those cheap sets you know like Wall Mart or something and they are really disappointed in it. So, I really thought that a higher end– higher priced product would be a whole lot better. So yeah, just basically from my own experience as well or those other people from what they said, I thought that would be the way to go.

Steve: And how did you kind of arrive at your price point?

Brandon: Just basically, obviously well, where we were as far as costs were concerned and then just looking at the competition and obviously didn’t want to be the cheapest, but also you know we didn’t want to be the most expensive one as well.

Steve: Okay. Okay, so you kind of just based on the materials cost?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Were you– okay and then you came up with a reasonable mark up and then just went with it right?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Have you played around with the price at all or have you just kind of kept them kind of constant over the last nine months or so?

Brandon: I’ve raised them a little bit mainly just because you know costs of materials increased here recently.

Steve: Okay.

Brandon: Other than that, no we haven’t really played around.

Steve: Okay. And what about shipping, what carrier do you use and how do you handle that so these things are kind of heavy right?

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: Yeah. So we go through EPS and just talking to local EPS web designers they actually like those really heavy, dense packages so shipping is not really that bad obviously, you know they’re really big so the average is probably around 20 bucks an order but you know as far as weight is concerned, it’s really not that big of a deal.

Steve: Okay and do you kind of roll that in the cost, or do you actually charge 20 dollars for shipping during check out?

Brandon: Yap, yeah. I’m actually playing around with that with Polish Horse Shoes, now that you’ve mentioned it yeah. For the Washer Toss, we are not– that is a separate cost, but we’re just trying to see how that’s going to work just trying different things with the Polish Horse Shoes, offering the free shipping, now I’m just kind of working on that a little bit with the regular price.

Steve: Okay, cool. Well Brandon you know, we’ve been chatting for like 35 minutes, I was just wondering if I could just get your overall opinion on that, just the whole experience and just how you felt about starting your own business.

Brandon: Yeah. It’s definitely a little bit overwhelming at first, like I said, I think for me you know, it’s more because just having to set up both the website and the manufacturing at the same time, but other than that overwhelmingly positive. One of the obviously, one of the biggest things that I’ve done on my own, so definitely happy with the whole experience, definitely have learned a lot about myself, definitely taught myself a lot of new skills that I can apply, not only to new potential businesses going forward but also you know like, regularly just job skills that helps me with my regular job as well, so definitely a positive experience.

Steve: Cool and if anyone out there has any questions for you, is there an e-mail address or twitter account where people can just kind of ask you questions if they have any?

Brandon: Yeah. You can actually contact me through my store e-mails, that’s customer.service@backyardwashertoss.com and customer.service@thepolishhorseshoes.com

Steve: Okay, great. One thing I did forget to ask you – just this question just came into my mind, do you have some sort of blog, and are you marketing yourself with content in any way for your Washer Toss game site?

Brandon: A little bit. We do have a blog set up, just have a few posts in there, just basic stuff. Stuff like, whether you should make your own game or you know buy your own, stuff like that, you know different rules and things like that. But yeah, not really too much you know.

Steve: Okay. That’s amazing that customers are just finding you organically and you know, just mostly based on what you chose as your niche, I think that’s awesome.

Brandon: Yeah.

Steve: All right Brandon. Well, thanks a lot for coming on the show. Like, I learned a lot and I’m glad I actually got to talk to you by voice instead of you know, you go off on your own and coming back with an awesome store, it’s actually good to hear the entire process that you went through, so thanks for coming on.

Brandon: All right, you’re welcome. Thanks for having me on.

Steve: All right, take care Brandon.

Brandon: Thank you.

Steve: So there you have it. Up until this point, I’ve had three students from my Create a Profitable Online Store course on the show, and they have all taken completely different paths. Now, Sandy who I had earlier on the show did not want to deal with the technical side at all, so she went with the fully hosted route. And then guys like Brandon and Sean were very successful going with an open source shopping cart. Now, what’s cool about Brandon is that, he’s not technical at all; never run a business before, and now he has two successful online stores.
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3 thoughts on “030: How My Student Brandon Created A Profitable Online Store Selling Backyard Games”

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