Case Study

Spotlight On A Store: Grown Man Shave

Welcome to Storetasker’s Spotlight On A Store series where I interview entrepreneurs about their Shopify stores and more, connecting our readers to ideas and advice from the minds of store owners just like them!

1. You started your store in 2017, so it’s not very old. What inspired you to sell Men’s shaving products online? What did you do before you started your store?

Wet shaving was something that I was personally into and it felt like there was room for another store, but one that would be in a more curated fashion, so that’s where I came up with the idea to pull mine together. In answer to the next question, this isn’t my only source of income so it’s not the only thing I am focused on.

2. How is your store performing in terms of leads and sales so far? What do you feel you still need to do to improve?

I think it’s progressing fairly well. I think with all of these things it’s finding your audience and then scaling your audience, so I think I probably haven’t focused on it a lot through the first year and a half but recently I have started focusing on scaling out my ads and really starting to get in a groove of being able to grow consistently.

3. As a first time visitor, I was immediately attracted to your store for a few reasons. One is that I liked the background you used with the old wood and the wood handle straight razor. I thought it really fit with the name of the store and the brand you seem to be promoting. I also liked that everything was easy to see and find in your store, so it was very easy to navigate it, and quick purchasing would definitely be an option.

 I even felt drawn to things as simple as which fonts you used for your content and logos, as well as the fact that you didn’t add so much content that it became overwhelming. How did you come up with the design concepts for your store that made it a welcoming place for people to shop, and what tips would you give to other storeowners about how to create an environment that attracts more traffic?

I think the beauty of Shopify is all of the power you can get by loading on many different apps to give you functionality. I think where store owners can run wild, and I probably did in the early days, is that there are so many things you can end up creating an environment where so much is happening in your store that it makes it a very uncomfortable experience for customers. So I’m pretty painstaking in all of my choices to make sure that visitors have an experience that I would want to have and I make everything very easy to find. I actually get a lot of people to use the store and I watch them to see how they are doing and see where they get stuck, what they like, and what they don’t like.

I initially worked with a designer who helped with creating a very clean layout. We were very painstaking in each choice and looked at a lot of different versions to try to make sure it was very easy to use and easy to navigate. Then anytime I add in a new app I make sure it really fits my store and spend a lot of time making sure that the colors match and the fonts match so there’s a very clean environment. I think it’s important to defend and protect that. Even when I choose brands to go into my store, if they don’t have great photos or they don’t have a great way to display their product then I just pass because I want people to have the experience that you are describing where they come to the store and they are comfortable. If I get an email with a question from someone, I make sure to update my product description or I update my FAQs page or something else, because in the world of e-commerce they should never have to come to me. It should all be there and available to them already.

4. How did you decide to go into this particular niche market of men’s shaving products? There are so many different markets you could be in, so I’m wondering how you chose this specific one?

So I was looking to sell something that I use myself. I looked at a bunch of different products that I could sell. The first thing I looked at was Japanese teas and then I realized you have to buy quite often in bulk, they also have shelf lives, so the more I looked at it the more I came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t a great fit for me personally. I started thinking, what is consumable but doesn’t really expire?

I didn’t want to dropship, so I wanted to actually own stock and inventory so I could control my store a bit better. I figured while the inventory is not inexpensive, it’s not going to go out of style or expire. The more I looked at it the more I realized there was room in this niche for another shop curating things the way that I’m doing. It seemed to make sense as I started talking to people and I fell into it a little bit.

5. You told me in our email correspondence that your store is located in Newton, Massachusetts but that you are actually located in Tokyo, Japan. As I’m sure you know, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who start Shopify stores partly so that they can have the freedom to travel or live where they want to live.

 It does offer location independence to a degree, however some of the members of Storetasker’s FB Group, Shopify Entrepreneurs, have expressed that they tried living in a different country than their store is located but they found it more difficult to be far away from where their business and fulfillment centers are. How have you managed this, and do you have any advice on how to run a business from another country?

In my whole career I have always worked very internationally, so I’m used to working on virtual teams and being geographically separated from things. I think as you look at your store and ways to design operations around it, you have to look for ways to not be the single point of failure. I set up my fulfillment center in a way where I am completely out of the loop so if someone places an order there is nothing that involves my being involved, unless there is a direct question from a customer because I still handle that part myself. If your fulfillment center isn’t able to fulfill orders without you being involved then I think you need a new fulfillment center. I don’t see any reason why I need to be physically there.

While being geographically disperse probably does bring some additional costs with it, or at least certain issues. For example, I’m not physically looking at my products, so if I’m not able to get great photos from the supplier, I either have to send myself samples in Japan that I can then photograph, or I need to hire a professional photographer to take photos of those products. There may be some setup costs that you might not otherwise get if you are fulfilling from home. So for me in my financial model I assumed some more costs than others may have when they were setting up their store. 

I have tried to make sure that for each part of the business I am not the single point of failure. I set up a virtual team that has helped me with each part of the business, whether it’s advertising, legal, accounting, web development through Storetasker, fulfillment, and that way I’m able to run it without me being there. It may be different than the dream of somebody else, but I have thought about everything from a scaling perspective.

6. Which one of Storetasker’s Experts have you worked with and what did they do for your store? What was your experience like with Storetasker?

I have worked with only one Storetasker Expert multiple times. His name is Mikhail Arden. I actually contracted him four times through Storetasker. The first time was to upgrade my theme. The second time to update some pages, the third time was to help me clean up some things around the site. The fourth time he helped me to upgrade my theme again.

I was trying different sites before, so I tried Upwork and the experience was terrible, but I didn’t know of other options. When I used them, I would post a job, it was my job to vet all these people, and when I posted I got people trying to work outside of Upwork asking if I could work with them on the project directly. I got people calling me on my cell phone, I got people contacting me on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. It was crazy. You get people who are not even remotely qualified or experienced, and it’s my job to figure out if those people are real or not and if they are vetted or not.

I got to Storetasker because Shopify suggested I try it, and with Storetasker I ended up getting someone who was qualified, and they knew what they were doing.

On Upwork, I hired someone and then they contracted the work to someone else and they weren’t managing the quality. I asked for a popup and I got a popup that was so far from what I asked for, it didn’t even look like it belonged on my website, it was bizarre. The person should have said “you should use an app, not have me build something,” but I wasn’t getting great advice.

With Mikhail, I get someone who advises me correctly on what I should be doing, and it’s not always development. I am very careful to make sure my site is pixel perfect, probably painstakingly so, and he is very understanding of it, because he knows that I want everything to look very good and feel nice. I have someone who understands that and is helping me to do that, and he knows how to fit everything together with the image I want to present to people. When I hire through Storetasker, I’m not having to fight quality issues or make sure the person I hire is trained, so when I make upgrades to my store I don’t have to invest all my time in micromanaging somebody. It feels like I am just bringing on a team member who is now responsible for that piece of the work, as opposed to previously when I felt the need to be very committed to the process because it wasn’t necessarily going to get to where I wanted it to on its own.

7.  I like how you offer free US shipping on all orders over $75, and that you displayed this special offer right at the top of the page so customers know about the deal. What else would you like to say to potential Grown Man Shave customers? Why should people shop at your store over one of your competitors or a brick and mortar store that sells men’s shaving supplies?

I think when you are in a resale business, at the end of the day you are all selling the same products more or less. There are other stores that carry the same products as I do. So, you have to give a great customer experience on your website. When people go there they have to feel comfortable and feel like it’s easy to find. They need to feel like you are someone they want to do business with, so you have to have great customer service and really go above and beyond expectations. I have established some good personal relationships with quite a few of my customers so they feel comfortable saying, “Hey I noticed you don’t carry this product but it would be great if you did because I want to keep buying from you.”

It’s not hard to do good customer service for people. I remember there was somebody who ordered three or four jars of soap and they emailed me and said one of them broke, would you mind sending a replacement. I said, “that’s terrible, here’s a new one and let me know a different one you want and I will include it with it.” Maybe that cost me ten dollars or something, but those little gestures go a long way, because they make people happy and they make them into repeat customers.

It’s easy to become focused on whether you were profitable or not on a particular transaction. I think it is important to view every situation by asking yourself the question, how would I want to be treated as a customer? I always try to put myself in the customer’s shoes. I am not trying to compete on price, I am not trying to compete with Amazon or Ebay or auction sites, but I think there is room for me to carve out a niche for myself.

That said, I think you should build out your store thinking about how you want to drive profitable growth to your store. You have to think about what offers you put in front of people that make sense for you. It is important as a store owner to continue testing and figure out what works well for your store. 

8. I like that you have a blog that is easy to navigate to from your site. I especially like the article on the cost of shaving because I learned about the history of the Gillette razor, and the fact that shaving with disposable razors is way more expensive than other methods, not to mention the detrimental effect on the environment caused by millions and millions of people throwing out plastic razors every week.

 I especially liked it because you presented a great case for why people should buy your products. What is your advice to someone who hasn’t ever used a straight edge or a non-disposable safety razor and may be nervous to switch after so many years of shaving with disposable safety razors? Is there any maintenance involved with the blades you sell on the straight edges?

Straight razors are more involved, so the starting point for a lot of people is safety razors. I think for most men shaving is a chore, it’s not something we enjoy, it’s not a comfortable experience. It’s this sort of painful thing you have to do every morning that irritates and dries out your skin. I have sensitive skin so when I was in a barbershop a woman said what are you using to shave, I noticed your neck is really irritated. She ended up selling me a safety razor and some soap and a brush and I was surprised how well my skin reacted to it.

Over time as I bought better and better products, shaving turned from a very painful, boring chore to more of a relaxing ritual that I would leave feeling refreshed. My skin looked better. We are all busy, so who wants to start their day irritated? If you can shave for less money over time, I think that is what anyone would want.  

9. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you, your store, or your experience with Storetasker?

One is that if anyone who is reading this has any feedback for my store I would love it because I am always trying to improve it. If you are building a store, be proud of it. What I like about Storetasker is that you guys are doing all the vetting of the Shopify Experts and making sure everyone has the skills they need in order to help people with their stores. I also like that hiring with Storetasker is like hiring a virtual team member. I don’t know what kind of processes you have in the backend, but the experiences I have had with Storetasker are night and day different from those I had with other services I tried. I don’t have anyone trying to get me to work outside of the system and everything is really professional, so whatever process you guys have in place, make sure you don’t change it, or as you scale make sure you maintain that same level of quality.

I really like your Facebook community as well. It’s the only Facebook community I participate in, and I like it because I don’t just get spammed with messages, and if I do get a direct message from someone trying to get me to hire them, one of the moderators always jumps in to let them know the rules. It’s great to have a place where we can go to get advice from other store owners and communicate with each other.

The Grown Man Shave Philosophy

Grown Man Shave has a humble yet ambitious goal: to help you transform the daily chore of shaving into an exquisite ritual.

Want to check out Dave’s store, Grown Man Shave? Click here and you could be one step closer to a more comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable start to your day!

Feeling inspired? Interested in working with Mikhail or one of Storetasker’s other brilliant Shopify Experts? Get a free estimate for a custom design, development, or marketing project or choose from one of our many pre-packaged projects at Storetasker’s Marketplace. Who knows, one day you too could be featured in our Spotlight On A Store series.