This year as we reflected on the growth A Better Lemonade Stand
experienced over the past 5 years, we decided that we wanted to
give back in a big way and invest in another business by giving
them free access to the same tools and resources that have also
helped us grow. We know the value of good tools when it comes
to running an ecommerce business and having access to some of
the best ecommerce tools in the industry for free can really go
far for a business on the cusp of growth. We first carefully
selected our partners to create
one awesome prize package, and then we just had to find the
perfect recipient for it.

When it came time to narrow down the business that was going to
win the prize package, we were overwhelmed with a daunting
task. Through A Better Lemonade Stand we’re constantly
interacting with cool businesses and hardworking entrepreneurs
whether we’ve met them in person, we’ve collaborated with them
on content, we’ve exchanged a few emails or we’ve discovered
each other through social media. We would have loved to be able
to pick more than one business to win this prize package but we
had the tough task to narrow down all the well-deserving
businesses on our radar and choose just one.

The winning business of this year’s Lemon-aid 2017 campaign is…

Drumroll please…

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to Oak & Honey on winning
the $35,000 prize package of some of the best apps, tools and
resources in the ecommerce industry, provided by our amazing
partners. We’re excited to get you started on each of the
different tools so you can continue to grow your business,
build out your customer base and get even more people buying,
wearing and using your beautiful products. Oak & Honey is
already in a great position to grow and we can’t wait for these
tools and resources to help you do achieve that growth faster.

Stay tuned for an interview with Oak & Honey down below!

Oak & Honey

Oak & Honey stood out to us as the winning business for
several reasons, firstly, they’re in a great position to grow
this year. Their founder Steven has already invested a lot of
time, energy and money into building out Oak & Honey and
has grown it to where it is today: a successful Etsy store with nearly 500 sales
and 150 reviews, plus his own Shopify store where he independently stocks his
handmade products. The beautiful products Steven creates plus
his passion for his work speaks for itself and we see a lot of
potential in what he has already created and where he’ll grow
the business from here. Most importantly, Steven lives similar
core values (read our
manifesto) here to our own when it comes to building
businesses.

In terms of the prize package, we know it’s going to be a huge
help for Steven because he’s the sole entrepreneur behind Oak
& Honey and the ability to outsource some of his work and
day-to-day tasks will free up his time while still extending
his business’ reach without detracting his focus away from what
he does best: creating beautiful products. With this prize
package he’ll be able to continue focusing on what he does best
and the new tools and resources he has access to will take care
of the rest.

The Prize Package

These are the new apps, tools and resources Steven’s going to
have free access to for a year to help him grow Oak &
Honey.

Conversio

Conversio has gone all in and they’re providing
Oak & Honey with free access to their Conversio Managed
program where Steven will be able to work directly with the
team at Conversio to manage, monitor and optimize their
marketing strategy. Converio is a hugely beneficial service
because of their automated marketing campaigns and automated
email receipt, follow up, abandoned cart and newsletter
deliveries. With Conversio Steven can set and forget his email
marketing system which will allow him to reap the rewards of it
without having to expend much time or energy on the process.

Shoelace

With Shoelace, Steven will be able to
create powerful retargeting campaigns that will keep Oak &
Honey at the top of any of his non-converting customer’s minds
without burning them out through ad fatigue. One of Shoelace’s
greatest perks is that they create a “Journey” for each
non-converting customer so no post-visit experience will be the
same. Whenever a customer abandons a cart on Oak & Honey,
Shoelace will keep them engaged with a series of ad experiences
post-visit so Oak & Honey can keep abandoned carts to a
minimum and make their retargeting strategy automated.

A Better Lemonade Stand

Having immediate access to all of these new tools is going to
be a bit of a learning curve for Oak & Honey, so we’re
offering our own mentorship and guidance to Steven to help him
use and integrate these tools in a way that’s going to be the
most helpful for his business. Beyond that we’re extending our
expertise to give him one-on-one coaching to help him grow his
business whether he needs advice, questions answered,
recommendations or a second opinion on things. We’re looking
forward to working with Steven this year and helping him grow
Oak & Honey.

Flippo

With Flippo, Oak & Honey will be
able to turn user generated content into social proof that
helps vouch for their products. User generated content such as
reviews, question and answer forums and social mentions posted
to Oak & Honey’s website will help boost their sales,
increase customer time on site and encourage user involvement.
With Flippo, Oak & Honey can advertise their customer’s
experiences and input which will help encourage others to
purchase their products as well.

Kickstagram

Instagram is Oak & Honey’s biggest social platform and
Kickstagram is going to help them
kick things up a notch. Kickstagram’s service is going to be a
big advantage for Oak & Honey because Steven will be able
to work directly with their team to create an Instagram
marketing strategy that fits Oak & Honey’s brand and is
tailored directly to their business. Kickstagram focuses on
performing large scale outreach, demographic research and
audience engagement techniques which will give Oak & Honey
more reach and exposure on Instagram without having to do all
the work themselves.

Conversion Machine

With all the new traffic coming to Oak & Honey’s website,
Steven’s going to have to make sure he has all the appropriate
strategies in place to convert traffic and make sure the system
is optimized to the best of its abilities. This is where
Conversion Machine comes in. A professional
online training course taught by one of the marketers in
Google’s Expert program, this course covers topics related to
profit optimization, data collection, data analysis &
hypothesis, execution, testing and more. With this course
Steven will be able to understand the fundamentals of
conversion optimization and the strategies and processes
required to help him grow Oak & Honey effectively.

Carson

With Carson’s service, Steven will be able to make
design, style, graphic and image edits, app configurations,
theme tweaks and other troubleshooting, adjustments and
modifications to Oak & Honey’s website so it functions and
looks exactly how he wants it to. Making edits and tweaks to an
online store can be a time consuming process for entrepreneurs
no matter how small the job is, so with Carson’s services
Steven will be able to outsource that workload so he can focus
on other aspects of the business that need his attention and
let Carson’s experts do what they do best.

Fomo

Fomo is an incredibly simple yet powerful tool
that boosts conversions by broadcasting social proof to online
visitors. By using Fomo’s service, Steven will be able to show
his website visitors what other customers are buying and in
turn it will help advertise his product offering and encourage
other visitors to make purchases, too. Social proof builds
credibility so Fomo helps businesses build their credibility
and broadcast it to their website visitors in order to boost
sales.

PixelPop

Pop-ups work and PixelPop will help Oak & Honey
create beautiful, custom pop-ups and banners that can be used
to direct visitors where they want them to go. Whether Steven
wants to share a new product, encourage visitors to sign up to
the email newsletter or broadcast any discounts or offers,
PixelPop can help him engage customers, give them specific
calls-to-action and ultimately, boost Oak & Honey’s sales.

Shopify

As it’s the best ecommerce platform out there, partnering with
Shopify was an obvious option to help Oak &
Honey grow their business. Shopify provides a robust service
that gives store owners all the functionalities they need to
run their online business the way they want to, but they also
keep tabs on the backend of things so entrepreneurs can spend
their time running their business and not worrying about the
safety, security and capabilities of their online store. Oak
& Honey is in good hands over at Shopify and Shopify will
continue to scale with them as they grow throughout the year.

An Interview with Oak
& Honey

We wanted to give you the chance to get to know Oak & Honey
a little better so you can get a sense of who they are, what
they do and the methods behind their business. Here’s what
their founder Steven has to say:

Why did you start Oak & Honey? What circumstances
lead you to starting your own business? Did you have any
experience making leather goods before you started Oak &
Honey?

I started Oak & Honey about two and a half years ago when I
decided to take my passion for leatherwork from a hobby to a
business. I was tired of buying leather goods that would fall
apart after six months to a year and wanted to make some items
for myself that would stand the test of time.

Can you discuss more about why you choose to make your
products from scratch in your own shop. You could outsource
production to another factory, what value do you see in making
the products yourself? 

I’ve always been a hands on kind of guy. The love that I have
for what I do is in physically creating something with my own
two hands. If I was just taking orders and having them
fulfilled in a factory somewhere, I wouldn’t get the enjoyment
or satisfaction that I do now. For the customer, the benefit is
being able work with and speak with the very person that is
making their item. Every piece I sell is made-to-order, and can
be customized to the client’s exact needs or vision. That level
of detail just isn’t possible when outsourcing production.
Aside from those benefits, quality control is a huge factor –
if I’m not happy with how a piece is turning out, I start over.
With all of that being said, I can’t see myself ever
outsourcing.

When did you realize there was potential for a business
around your products? Was there a certain moment where you
realized you could be selling the products you were
making?

When I started leatherwork as a hobby, I had made many pieces
for myself, friends and family. As I started to get more and
more people asking if I could make something for them, I
realized how much of a market there was. All of the problems
that I had with the cheap, disposable leather goods found in
department stores, other people had as well.

The leather goods industry is a heavily saturated
market, meaning it’s hard for most businesses to survive and
compete. How do you differentiate yourself from your
competitors?

I think there are two distinct sides to this industry – the
mass produced side and the independent side. When I say “the
mass produced side,” I’m referring to what you see in
department stores and big, national and international brands
like Roots, Fossil, etc. I don’t think that these companies
have been or ever will be a competitor to small shops like me.
Making a wallet with the same design, I will never be able to
compete on the price, but someone buying a wallet from me isn’t
buying it because of the price. They’re more interested in the
material, the craftsmanship, and the bespoke nature of the
production.

Regarding competition with all of the other independent shops
out there, I don’t think it’s harmful to my business. There are
plenty of other guys and gals that do incredible work and there
are enough customers out there for all of us. The community is
really tight-knit and we all support each other. I have no
desire to be the biggest company – just the best that I can be.

How important are the materials you use? How does the
quality of the leather and threads that you use factor into the
products that you make?

The materials I use are fundamental to my work. When you’re
putting hours and hours of labor into a piece, it doesn’t make
sense to use anything but the very best material available to
you. My clients are purchasing a premium product and have high
expectations of the material – look, feel, smell, durability,
etc.

Have you experienced any challenges when sourcing
materials for your products? How have you overcome these
challenges?

The single biggest challenge running this business has been
supply chain. It’s still something that I struggle with but
it’s getting better. The leather tanning industry is very old
fashioned and can be tough to work with. Even contacting some
of the tanneries is nearly impossible, let alone buying from
them. When I first started out, I was buying small quantities
from a few different distributors but when I would run out and
need more, they wouldn’t have any left. This forced me to go
directly to the tanneries which required larger minimum
purchases, but not having a steady, reliably supply of your
main material is a deal-breaker.

How do you design your products? Do you work with a
product designer or do you create the designs yourself? How do
you balance functionality and aesthetics in your
designs?

I design all of the products that I sell myself. Most of my
work is very traditional and minimalist, so the designs
themselves aren’t anything revolutionary. Pretty much any
layout for a wallet or bag has been done before by someone
else. In this craft, it’s much more about all of the little
details like the stitching, edge polishing, and so on. I really
admire Japanese leatherwork for its refined minimalism – simple
clean lines, crisp polished edges and an understated look.

When you first launched, did you have an audience to
launch to, or did you build your audience as you went? How did
you build your audience?

I launched my brand with zero audience or following. I spent
about a month putting together my own website, my Etsy page, my
social media accounts, working on the brand image, creating /
photographing products, etc. When I was ready, I pushed
everything to being live and then waited. Over the first few
weeks, I had two orders and they were both from family members.
Then after about a month, I got my first order from a complete
stranger. I’ll never forget that feeling. I put a large effort
into growing my social media presence (Oak & Honey’s
Instagram and Facebook) and getting involved in online
communities and message boards. The key is provide value to
your demographic without always trying to make a sale. For me,
a lot of that was educating people about types of leather and
leather care. If you can provide a great product and also be
involved in relevant communities in a positive way, I think
you’ll do well.

I launched my brand with zero audience or following… Over the
first few weeks, I had two orders and they were both from
family members. Then after about a month, I got my first
order from a complete stranger. I’ll never forget that
feeling.

What’s the best tool you use to stay organized with
your business? What tools help you run your business
better?

I use Trello to stay organized and keep up to date
with my orders. I have quite a few projects going on at any
given time so I need a system to keep notes, patterns and
reminders visible at all times. I have a window open on one of
my monitors 24/7 just with this info.

Which ecommerce platform do you choose to sell on and
why?

I’m now using Shopify for my website and I’m
incredibly happy with it. I started by using another provider
but switched to Shopify about six months ago. There is just so
much more functionality through Shopify. A few of the big ones
are more customizable options for products, better shipping
integration, and plugins/apps for little things like local
currency conversion.

How do you take your product photos? Do you hire a
professional team or do you take them yourself?

I take all of my product photos myself. Fortunately, my
background is actually in film production/photography so I
already have the gear and know-how. It would have been a
struggle for me to grow my social media without this ability.
Instagram is huge for this market and because it’s so visual,
you always need current, fresh content to post. If I had a
professional come in and do photos of a few items for me, I’d
run out of content within the week. Currently, I photograph
every single product before I ship it out.

What challenges have you faced shipping your products?
Are there certain methods you use or practices you have to be
cognizant of? What tools/apps/products do you use to help
streamline your shipping strategy?

Anyone shipping products in Canada knows how difficult it can
be. It’s so just expensive up here compared to other markets.
On more inexpensive items (keychains, cardholders, etc), it can
be hard for a customer to justify $10-$15 on shipping when the
item they’re purchasing is only marginally more expensive than
that. It’s also very expensive for tracking on international
packages. At least with Shopify, the customer can see all of
the options and make a decision whether it’s worth the extra
price to them. A few months ago, I purchased a 4”x6” label
printer to buy and print my own shipping labels and it was one
of the best investments I’ve ever made. I’ve saved so much time
waiting at the post office since then.

How do you approach the unboxing experience of your
products for your customers? Is it important to you? Is it an
extension of your brand or do you choose to keep it
simple?

Packaging is certainly something that is important to me. Of
course, the product needs to stay safe in transit, but it also
needs to look good when it arrives. Most of my items are gift
wrapped in rigid boxes that have cotton padding inside. The
boxes are branded with my logo as well. For irregular shaped
items, I use large cotton, drawstring bags also branded with my
logo. No one wants to spend money on a premium product to have
it arrive floating around in a soggy bubble mailer.

Which marketing channels do you find the most lucrative
(your own social media, working with influencers, email
marketing, paid advertising, etc.)? How do you get the word out
about Oak & Honey?

Instagram is a big focus for me.
It’s so visual which lends itself so well to a product
line/craft like leatherwork. I typically post a photo of every
piece that I produce and it really gives potential clients a
big source of inspiration to draw from. Email marketing is also
a great platform. My mailing list is comprised almost entirely
from past clients and repeat business is big for me. It’s rare
that I work with a client only once.

On the flipside, I’m really not a fan of “influencer”
marketing. I think that currently, influencers have lost a lot
of their value. Despite what they say, I don’t believe follower
count is any indication of ROI or engagement. I’d much rather
speak to 100 highly targeted, interested people than 100,000
completely random ones.

How did you make your first 10 sales? Your first 100
sales?

It probably took about 4 or 5 months to make my first 10 sales.
When I started getting a sale once a week, I was ecstatic. I
was focusing on my full time career and this business was a
side project for me so I really didn’t put much focus on
acquiring customers other than running my social media. I made
sure my SEO was working well and let organic traffic come to
me. It worked, but slowly. After a while, I started get much
more involved in online communities (shout out to r/leathercraft on Reddit) and my name started to
get out there a lot more.

What’s your business’ biggest failure to date?

Very early on, I took on a large wholesale order for a local
retail store that wanted to carry some of my products. The
margin that they wanted was pretty big, but I was excited and
romanticized the thought of having my work on display in a
proper “boutique”. After all of the material cost, packaging
and margins to the shop, I made almost no profit for all of my
labour. Not only that, but it caused quite a few of my usual
web orders to be delivered quite late. While the lack of profit
was unfortunate, I felt terrible knowing that I let down my
existing clients and promised myself I’d never make that
mistake again.

What’s your business’ biggest success to date?

I don’t know that I can point to one single moment or project
that was my biggest success, but rather the ongoing growth and
improvement that I’ve made since I started. When I see some of
my very first pieces now, I feel embarrassed. While I’m
confident and proud of my current work, there is always so much
more room to grow. So I think my biggest success is the
constant drive for improvement. I never want to get comfortable
or complacent.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs just
starting their first business? Would you encourage them to
start their own business hand making products?

The biggest piece of advice that I can give is to just start something. You don’t need to
have the grand plan of where your business is going to be in a
year, five years or twenty years – just do something now and
figure out the rest along the way. And of course, don’t be
afraid of failure. No one can do everything perfectly and you
just have to learn from those mistakes.

Regarding hand making products as a business, I absolutely
recommend it if you have an interest. It’s a great way to turn
a hobby or creative talent into something that can make you
some money on the side or even be your full time career.
Additionally, it usually doesn’t take much capital to get
started. My entire business was started on maybe $150 worth of
tools and leather. Everything since then has been reinvested
profits and my own labor.

To go along with that, don’t underestimate yourself. It might
sound obvious, but you are your own biggest asset. You may
think you’re going into a business with only a few hundred
dollars in tools, inventory, etc, but you’re forgetting about
yourself. What are you worth to the company? What would it cost
you to get another one of youself? Every company gets one free
employee, so make the absolute most of this.

Don’t underestimate yourself… you are your own biggest asset.
You may think you’re going into a business with only a few
hundred dollars in tools, inventory, etc, but you’re
forgetting about yourself. What are you worth to the company?

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in regards to
business?

Some of the best advice that I’ve gotten has come from my
parents. As much as they’ve both believed in me and given me
support, they’ve always stressed the point of being realistic
with yourself. Don’t get visions of grandeur in your head –
stay grounded and take things slow. In so many words, “strive
for success but be prepared for failure”. For example, I could
have transitioned to running this business full time much
earlier, but I wanted to make absolutely sure that it was the
right decision before I left my previous full time job.

What is one goal you would like to hit with your
business 1 year from now? In what ways would you like to see
Oak & Honey grow?

One year from now, I’d love to be able to look at the work that
I’m currently so proud of and see the kind of improvement that
I see looking back at my work from one year ago, now. I have no
plans in being the biggest leather goods company out there, or
being in retail locations across the country, however, I do
plan on shifting my focus to slightly more boutique pieces. I’d
really like to start spending even more time with every piece
and use some more exotic materials to produce work that is on
the next level of quality up from where I am now.

What is the one thing you attribute the majority of
your success to? This could be a strategy, a tactic, something
that happened unexpectedly. What was the one thing that made
the biggest impact for your business?

I can only attribute the success of my business to the people
that have touched it in so many ways. In the end, it’s people
that make the world work. My wife that has dealt with the long
nights of me working, my family that has been there to give
advice or pick packages up for me, and great suppliers that
made sure I had the material or tools I needed. Having that
support network is so key, because there is only so much you
can do (mentally and physically) by yourself. Of course, I’m
also so grateful for my clients/customers. Even after over a
thousand orders, it still is a strange feeling to me that
random people over the internet are willing to pay me for my
work. As for a strategy, as I’ve said before, don’t let
yourself get complacent or you’ll get left behind.

Conclusion

This draws our first ever Lemon-aid campaign to a close. A huge
congratulations to Oak & Honey, we look forward to seeing
your business grow this year. We’d also like to extend a huge
thank you to the partners of this campaign for lending their
valuable services to Oak & Honey as we know their
contribution will do a lot to help facilitate growth for the
business. As we continue to run this campaign every year we
hope that it scales to provide even more value and support to
the entrepreneurs in the ecommerce community and can’t wait to
build on it in the coming years.
The winner of our
Lemon-aid 2017 campaign & $35k prize package of ecommerce
tools & resources is…Click
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