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225: From T-Shirt Company to Lifestyle Brand (All While Saving the Turtles)

Posted by Austin Brawner on November 12, 2019


As he sat down at his desk on the first day at his first post-college job he thought, “The cubicle life just isn’t for me.”

If you’re an entrepreneur, I would venture to bet you’ve had a similar thought at some point along the way.

Today we’re joined by Matt Schroeder, the co-founder of Shelly Cove, who started the business in college with his family, and has been off to the races ever since.

Matt tells the story of how he taught himself marketing and his journey to eventually leaving his secure job to go all-in on Shelly Cove. He shares the unique ways the brand surprises and delights its customers to keep them coming back for more, and why, as the business has grown, he’s more open to just saying “Yes.”


Episode Highlights

  • 6:21 How Matt got started in ecommerce and the birth of Shelly Cove.
  • 10:39 The roles in Matt’s family-run business.
  • 13:57 Lessons learned from going to school full-time while also growing a business.
  • 16:55 How Matt became an expert in marketing and business.
  • 18:27 The strategy behind Shelly Cove’s product development and release.
  • 20:34 When Matt realized he wanted to put all his energy into the business.
  • 23:31 How Shelly Cove built a strong brand from day one and the delivery tactic they use to set themselves apart.
  • 25:54 Connecting customers with the company’s charity to build deeper brand loyalty.
  • 28:18 Some things Matt tried that ultimately flopped.
  • 31:36 The turning point from t-shirt company to lifestyle brand.
  • 33:26 Surprising sources Matt uses for his shipping supplies.
  • 34:44 Advice from Matt: don’t run sales too often.
  • 35:20 Looking to make a little extra cash with your business? Check out these sites.
  • 37:38 What’s on Matt’s mind right now as Shelly Cove continues to grow.
  • 39:26 The roles Matt hired for that allowed him to free up his time significantly.
  • 43:53 Matt’s advice for aspiring business owners.

Links And Resources

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Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome to another episode of The Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name's Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. Good to be with you, man. How are you doing?

Austin Brawner: Dude. I am doing well. I was up early this morning, took a really good meeting, an early 6:30 meeting, which I normally don't, but I have a new client who's based out of Bali, and we're trying to find times to connect. And that 6:30 meeting, I'll tell you what, that will get you going for the day.

Andrew Foxwell: Dude, I love it. I love early morning, so I'm huge on it. I already blew up my dad this morning sending him some Facebook messages because I know he's up, because he's a guy in Northern Wisconsin that's over the age of 65. So obviously he's up at like 5:00 AM.

So I'm trending in that direction, which I really like. This is a podcast for entrepreneurs, I have really identified with a lot of people have emailed, listeners saying, "Hey, how's it going? Love the episode." And the guy recently wrote and said, "Can always tell when you've had your coffee." Which, I was like, "Thanks, I appreciate that." A little bit more pep in my step potentially.

Austin Brawner: Little more pep, those early morning meetings kick it off. But today, we're pumped up because we have a really interesting interview today with a business owner who started a business in college with his family and has been really off to the races, been growing up. He's been a listener for a long time and we wanted to bring him on this show.

Andrew Foxwell: He has been somebody that I've followed on Twitter for a while and gotten to know for over the last couple of years, and is just a friend honestly. And he's done a lot of good work with his family, getting his business off the ground, his apparel business, Shelly Cove. So let's go ahead and welcome Matt Schroeder to the show.

Matt Schroeder: Happy to be here. Thanks so much for inviting me to be on the podcast.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, man. I was just telling the story about, we were talking about who else we could bring on and I woke up and I was like, we need to invite Matt Schroeder, longtime listener, first-time guest onto the podcast.

You're like somebody who I feel like I've known for a couple of years following you on Twitter. You really share the story of the growth of Shelly Cove, and I'm excited for our audience to hear that today.

Matt Schroeder: It's an honor. I'm very thankful you thought of me. I'm happy to be here. Really excited to tell my story, and hopefully provide some value to your listeners.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, man. Absolutely. I think what you have, you've been very transparent. If you don't follow Matt on Twitter, I would recommend doing that, and we'll put your handle in the show notes and everything.

But I think what you've done, it's very cool is you've been very transparent about what's been successful for you. That's one thing. You've also been very open and honest about the growth story, and the ups and downs that you've had I think.

And being real about here's what I've faced and things like that, and you live in Chattanooga, which sounds like a really nice place. I've personally never been to Chattanooga, but why did you start the business in Chattanooga first of all? Why are you there actually? First question.

Matt Schroeder: Fun story. We actually started the business in North Carolina, which is where I grew up. I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I came to college, a really small college called Covenant College. It's up on top of a mountain, right outside of Chattanooga.

And so when you're at college, if you wanted to do anything, there's nothing up there besides the college. So if you want to do anything, you had to go to Chattanooga. So after college, we all like... It's such a cool town I wanted to stay. And so we eventually moved the business here.

Austin Brawner: And so you kick things off to... Maybe if you could walk through a little bit of the process of kicking things off. How did Shelly Cove get started? How did you come up with the idea? Why don't you walk us through a little bit about your journey and how you went from not owning a business to owning a business?

Matt Schroeder: Absolutely. We got started just over four years ago. Previously the only really experience I had in E-commerce was one of my friends started a hat company and he didn't really know how to build a website and he didn't really know how to market. He just wanted to do this as a little side hobby, and I was like, "Hey, I can figure that out."

I knew a lot about... I was the techie kid growing up, I feel like, so I was like, "I can help with that." And so I built him a website on Squarespace and helped him out with some marketing, and I felt like really quickly found out I loved that.

And I wasn't an owner of the company. We basically signed a contract that I would get commission on sales because they weren't making any sales, and so they were like, "Hey, if you can help us do anything, you'll get commission on it." I think I was getting $8 a hat or something like that.

We signed a year-long contract, and within that year I worked so hard to try to get anything. I was in college at the time. I think I was a freshman in college, maybe I was a sophomore, I don't remember.

I was posting about it everywhere, marketing it however I could, and I eventually, we opened up the website one morning, and we had gotten like 30 sales, which was outrageous for us. And it had been featured in this website, and the name of the website just left me, but it was like a blog that featured cool products, and these hats had a little strap to hold pencils in it or something.

So that was the unique feature hat had, so it got featured on this website. In any way, it got us a lot of sales and got us some more press. And so by the end of the year, they had done $25,000 in sales, which looked like... It was literally just like we did not know what we were doing at all. And the fact that we made any sales was pretty outstanding.

So by the end of that year I was like, I want to do something myself. I absolutely love this. And so that was basically how I got to thinking about wanting to own a business.

And at the time I was an intern, I was an engineering intern at this ATM manufacturer. And so I would get home from my internship, it was in my home town, so I lived at home. And I would brainstorm at the kitchen counter at night while my parents were making dinner or like doing whatever. And speak out loud and just run ideas off them.

And I finally landed... I was like, "Hey, we should just run like... I should just do like a tee shirt company." And I got the ball rolling, and they were like, "That'd be really fun if we did that as a family. We should do it as a family." And I was like, "Yeah, I could use some help, and I could definitely use some financial help because I have no money."

And so we eventually landed on the idea of Shelly Cove because I wanted it to be a charitable business. That's always been something that's been... I've wanted it to be charitable in some aspect, and so when we were deciding what charity to do, like I said, I grew up in North Carolina pretty close to the coast, and so when we would go to the coast, we would visit this sea turtle hospital.

We'd probably go twice a year growing up, and so I had been a couple dozen times in my life, and we've gotten to know the owners a little bit, and I was like, "Okay, that's what we should do. People love sea turtles, it's something that's close to... It's the charity that I'm closest to in my life, so that's what we should do."

And so we landed on t-shirts, we landed on Shelly Cove, we landed on the sea turtle hospital and got our designs going. And I handled all the marketing, and the website stuff, and we launched the company. And really it was just like, I hope we don't lose a lot of money. That was basically my thought. I was like, if we can just make our money back, I won't feel terrible wasting my parent's money. That was what it was.

Andrew Foxwell: This is how long ago? 

Matt Schroeder: This was four years ago. 

Andrew Foxwell: So not long ago?

Matt Schroeder: Yeah, this was the summer before my junior year of college.

Andrew Foxwell: Okay. This isn't that long ago at all. I didn't know the family connection, so you started it with the fam. So your family, were they just the funders or were they everything routed through them too? The first designs, this is what we're going to do.

Matt Schroeder: We were all one-third owners and we were very, very involved in the company, all of us. My dad would still had a career as a furniture designer, but he would come home at night and on weekends and help pack shirts and stuff. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, so she did it basically full time.

And then when I had to go back off to school, I would work on it whenever I could. And so it was like trying to grow this thing while we all have a lot of stuff going on and I'm 400 miles away at school. And we eventually had to move out of our garage and get a little office.

And my parents would pack the shirts, my parents would help with the designs and stuff. I would do a lot of the designs. I would do the marketing, the website, all the tech side of stuff.

This had been going on for two years. We had been growing steadily doing as best as we could. I would say, not thriving, but definitely going along as a business. I have the problems of getting out numbers here. I think our second year of business, we almost did a million dollars. We'd done like $920,000 or something like that.

That was our 12 to 24 month time period of owning the business, we did that much. We weren't taking any pay. It was all going back into the business, and we were like, "What are we doing here? How are we doing this?" Kind of mentality. Like, "can we keep this going? Is this a trend?"

Eventually, I graduated college, and I was still in Chattanooga. While I was in college, I got a job offer at Tennessee Valley Authority, which is the power company in Tennessee. They generate all the power as a data scientist. I was really, really torn. I was like, do I run Shelly Cove, or do I take this job and have security?

Because I've been basically having a full-time job at school, running Shelly Cove deep. Can I still do it? And I opted of like, yes, I can still do both. And it's probably good to have security, I don't know if we're quite there with Shelly Cove yet.

So I took the job, and I worked at TVA for about two years, and then finally in March, or late February, I quit my job. And so now I do Shelly Cove full time as of like six months.

Austin Brawner: Man, that is a really awesome story. It makes me think about, people always feel there's this idea that entrepreneurs take a lot of risk and are very comfortable with the risk. But the way that you built the business, it seems like it was very methodical, and you actually covered your downside in many ways where it's like you took a job.

You were in college while you're working on it, but you took a job and you were able to let the business grow on its own without being all in and everything like that. What have you learned from your time running a business really like on the side while you were full time in college, and then also working a job full time? Was there anything you learned during about time management or priorities?

How did you actually even continue to grow a business? It's hard enough growing it full time, but doing that while also doing something else that was quite demanding.

Matt Schroeder: I would say, my senior year of college, I think I learned the most about time management, and understanding what you can say yes and what you can say no to. That was the year. Senior year, I basically said yes to everything and it was really good. I grew so, so much as a person, but I could not do that for more than a year. I think I would burn out. I was student body vice president, I was finishing up my senior thesis. I was on the JV soccer team at Covenant. I had a girlfriend. I was running Shelly Cove, and I was also a student.

And it was so, so overwhelming, but it made me structure my days to the T. I had to find pockets of time to get anything done. And I'll say the thing that came last was school, which may or may not be a good thing. My GPA definitely suffered, but like I learned so, so much about like when you have so much on your plate, how to pick what's the most important thing and get it done really quickly and really efficiently. Just efficiency was key.

And now thankfully I don't have that situation where it's like that much going on.

Andrew Foxwell: Too much.

Matt Schroeder: Yeah, it was.

Andrew Foxwell: That's too much.

Matt Schroeder: It was too, too much, but that was like, it was a huge learning year for me and I grew so, so much as a person. And I'm actually thankful that I did all that. I learned a lot.

Andrew Foxwell: I think to Austin's point, you're right. You did a lot. You did kind of cover the downside.

Let's go back a little bit to talk about Shelly Cove. So you're sitting down, this is four years ago. You're like, I think I can learn about Facebook and Instagram ads. I think I can learn about the marketing side of it.

I guess two questions. How did you first think about marketing and then learning it? And then I guess also like how did you develop products that people wanted? Did you just design stuff that you know you would want, or did you do research? How did you even come up with the first set of product lines as you go forward?

The reason I ask I think is because the products that you have that you've released since then I've watched, they seem to be very methodical releases. And so that's why I am curious of that process.

Matt Schroeder: How I learned about marketing and stuff, because I wasn't a business or marketing student in school. I mentioned I was an intern when I came up with the idea for Shelly Cove and when we launched it actually. I had this internship and I was basically given a project to do over the summer, and they expected it to take the whole summer and I was able to get it done in just a few weeks. I think it was just their misunderstanding of how long it should take, or maybe they underestimated a student to be able to get it done.

But anyway, it didn't take very long. And so I had like two and a half months of just nothing. And so I read so much information on marketing and entrepreneurship. I browsed the entrepreneur subreddit probably four hours a day.

I read anything I could because I genuinely loved and I wanted to be in a position that some of these people that were posting in that subreddit were. They were like, "Oh, I own this business that's doing $200K a year. How do I do this, this, and this?" And I was like, Oh my God, $200,000 a year, that's unbelievable.

I just wanted to learn more, and I read so much. So anyway, long story short, that's how I learned marketing and business and stuff like that. Kind of like the toolkit of what you need for ecommerce. You got to have, you start out with MailChimp and all that kind of stuff, these are the things you need to do.

As far as product releases, that was another thing is like, I basically just studied like 10 to 20 companies who were releasing like preppy t-shirts and just looked at the kind of things they did, like looked at color palettes, looked at how intricate the designs were, how big they were on the shirt, that kind of stuff. And just took notes on it because like everything had to be perfect.

If you're launching a company and there's like 10 points you want to hit and you only hit eight of them, there's so much competition out there, it's not going to be as successful as you would want. So we had to hit everything 100%.

And so we just studied what other people were doing and put our own twist on it, emulated their ideas, but just seeing what other people were doing, what was like... Because I'm not a designer, so I had to learn the design on the fly, and try to figure out how to make it work.

And I remember sending our first file to our screen printer and they were like, "This is not the kind of file that we need to do screen printing." He's like, "I don't even know how you made this, but you need to send it to somebody to get it in the correct file type."

And thankfully we were able to find somebody who was able to do that, but I felt like such an idiot. I was like, how can I not figure this out? They were like, "It looks good, but I don't know how you built this in Photoshop. I don't know what you did." And I was like, "I don't know either, but here's the file."

Anyway, sorry, I'm rambling a lot, but I think that answers the question generally.

Austin Brawner: I want to go forward a little bit. You were talking about how as your second year of business, you did about almost seven figures, but you didn't really take much money out of the business. You and your family were like, we don't know exactly how we're doing it, but we're doing it, we're moving forward.

Then you graduate, you take this job, the business continues to move forward. At what point did you realize that we've actually got something? This is really legit.

Matt Schroeder: I'll tell you when the moment it was... I remember it. It was the day that I went from being an intern at this company to getting a full-time job offer, and then sitting down at my desk for the first time as a full-time employee and thinking, "while I have about 40 years left before I can retire, and this is what it's going to look like every single day."

And I was like, "man, this is going to suck." And then I look at my evening life of running Shelly Cove, and I'm like, well, I really, really enjoy that, I got to find a way to make this be sustainable to do full time.

And it probably was at the time, I'm pretty risk-averse as a person, or at least I was at the time, so it probably was. My parents didn't want me to quit my job because they were like, "This is an incredible job right out of college." And it was a decent job, but I did not want to stay there.

And so I made an agreement with my parents that I would stay there a year to see how it was. And I stayed there exactly a year and I left. It wasn't anything like Shelly Cove is getting too big for me to handle, I probably still could've handled it without being too overwhelmed, but it was just out of pure, like, this is eight hours a day of me being generally unhappy. It's not for me.

The cubicle life is just not something for me, and I realized that pretty quickly.

Andrew Foxwell: I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast can identify with that, where we took our first job or whatever and sitting in a cubicle, in an office and then just being like, you know what, this isn't it. This is not what I am built to do. And so you find routes.

I think your story of like, yeah, okay, so here's what I did. I basically read the entrepreneur subreddit for hours a day. There's a ton that you can learn, there's a ton of free information that's out there that you can learn obviously for you to take advantage of.

One thing I've always been struck with Shelly Cove's story is from the outset to even with the design, you're saying, okay, this is what I've studied to put out with product design. But from the outset, the brand is a big part of it.

The brand, really all-encompassing of what that means, the look of it, the feel of it, the why, and by extension of that, all of these, what I'll say are like the little touches to customers. And that I think really you guys do really well.

Can you talk about the brand and how you set that forth from day one, and then some of the ways that you continually integrated that brand story for the customer journey?

Matt Schroeder: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things from day one that we wanted to make sure we did properly was make our customer experience really, really good. We wanted to blow people away. Because with the competition in the online space, especially the apparel space, you have to do that.

And there are a lot of things that companies do already, like really good customer service, really good communication, really good photography and all that kind of stuff, but we wanted to take it a step further.

And so one of the things we were brainstorming on that we decided to do was we're like, "When somebody opens our package, it should feel like getting a present." Because you get really excited on Christmas, you open presents. We were like, "We should make it a present."

So what we decided to do was hand wrap each shirt in tissue paper and tie it up with twine, and then tie this little hang tag with like a metal turtle charm on it. We're like, "That way, it feels like you're opening a present every time you get our package."

And so we decided to do that and that's something that the feedback on that was phenomenal. Everyone is so blown away anytime they get a package. If they've never shopped with us before and they weren't aware that we did that, they're like, "Oh my goodness, that's such a nice little personal touch that you added."

And that's one of those things that we still do to this day, even though we've grown the business and it does take time and money. I have two girls in our office right down the hall right now that are... They literally just wrap shirts.

It's almost like a full-time job, they do it for hours a day. It's one of those things that you're like, yeah, it does take time and it does take money, but it's part of our brand now. It's ingrained in our brand, and I feel like if we changed that, it would almost take something away and our loyal fans will be really disappointed in us.

We've contemplated taking it away sometimes, like when financial times get tough, you're like, "okay, how can we cut our costs a little bit?" And that's one of those things that comes up and we're like, "you know what? No, it's not worth it. We got to keep that." So that's one of those things that we've kept.

Another thing that we recently added was, we work really closely with the sea turtle hospital that we donate to, and so I was communicating with them and getting... I basically asked them if they could give me all their information on their current sea turtle patients. Like pictures, descriptions of why they were there, their story, their weight, name, all that kind of stuff.

And so we decided that it was a really good thing if our customers were able to get involved in our mission because they love our mission of donating to the sea turtle hospital. But if they could get even more involved or they could feel like they were a part of it every time they purchase something and see what their purchase was going towards, that would be taking it a step further.

So what we did was we had this little custom program developed that anytime they make a purchase, they get this postcard, and every postcard has a unique code on it. No code is the same. And they go to our website and they enter that code and it'll randomly assign them a turtle that's at the turtle hospital, and they can see like all the information about it.

They can see like pictures and the descriptions. And then any time that turtle has an update, like if it gets released or if there's updates on its health condition, they'll get an email about that. And then it's on their account, they can log in and it's still there every single time. And we just launched that in April, people have loved that. It's been so cool. It's been so cool to see how excited people get about that.

Always thinking about how you can get your customers involved in the brand, and how you can get them thinking about your brand just outside of it just being a product is so, so valuable. And it's something we always try to do.

And some of the things we've done have been successful and that's why we still do them. Some of them haven't, and that's why I'm not talking about them right now. But you'll always got to try new things, and that's something that we've always done, and we're always open to is trying new things, just seeing if it works.

Austin Brawner: You alluded to it earlier and really is true. Running an apparel business online is extremely, extremely competitive. And it sounds like some of these touches that you are doing are differentiating you from competition, which is really important because as quickly as you can get away from just being an apparel brand to something different, it makes it a little bit easier.

I'd love to hear some of the other things you've tried that haven't worked. I think sometimes they're just as interesting as the ones that have worked. Was there anything that you had outlined that you thought, "man, this is going to change the game for us," you launched it and it just totally flopped?

Matt Schroeder: Yeah. There's been a few things that we've tested out. We tried a campus rep program where... It was a small batch campus rep program. People applied and we literally had like 10 reps, and they would get boxes of stuff and they'd promote it on their campus.

And I would be in direct contact with them, we had a group chat and stuff, and that was... A couple of our reps did really good and did a lot of work, but generally it just wasn't worth the time and effort that I put into it, and I ended up not doing it again.

We do have like a rep program where anybody can sign up and there's rewards and stuff like that, but having like a very... I feel like I... It just didn't work for us.

Another thing, I remember this, I was going through our old Shopify assets, like really old pictures and stuff, and I saw this one uploaded from like a year after we started the business was we tried this Shelly Rewards thing.

And my thought behind that was like, GoPro does this. We were like every day they have a GoPro photo of the day and the person who's selected gets a free GoPro. And I was like, that's pretty cool, and maybe it'll incentivize people to post more on social media, like tag us and stuff, and we have user-generated content.

So I tried this Shelly Rewards thing where every week we choose a picture of somebody who posted something and we give them like a $25 gift card. And we literally saw like no uptake and user-generated content. People didn't care. They didn't see the care at all. Literally the people... Some of the people we chose were like, "Oh, that's cool. I didn't know you did this." They would've posted anyway, they didn't even know it was the thing.

Andrew Foxwell: They weren't incentivized.

Matt Schroeder: Yeah, I guess the incentive wasn't there. It's just not something that gets... It's not, I don't know. So we dropped that too. There's not really like a huge risk involved with it. There's something like the time and a little bit of money, but overall the return could have been great. If it had been a success, it could have been awesome. So it's always worth trying out new things.

And I think as we've continued with the business and grown it more, and more, and more, I'm more open to just say yes to things. I used to be very tentative about trying out things or saying, yes, you're taking a leap, but I think I've grown more and more to just be like, "yeah, let's just give it a shot." If we're going to do it, let's do it right, but let's give it a shot. And I think that's yielded a lot of good results.

Austin Brawner: Do you still think... You mentioned that when you were brainstorming the ideas at the kitchen table with your parents, and you're like, "Maybe we should try a t-shirt company." Do you still think of Shelly Cove as a t-shirt company? Or what would you categorize the business and the brand that you built as now?

Matt Schroeder: I would almost venture to say that it's like a lifestyle brand now because we sell so much more than just t-shirts, and people, they get excited about the things that we bring out that aren't just t-shirts.

We actually do have a following, and when we have a big collection drop, it'll be like some shirts, some fleece, a lot of accessories and things like that, and people buy it all. Which I think was the turning point of we just sold t-shirts to start bringing out some of these accessories and things like that, that made sense for the brand. And having people, a lot of people do repeat purchases, that's where we went from being a t-shirt website to being a lifestyle brand.

And I think we're continuing to try to expand that as much as we can to make it more and more like your... if we can like a household name of like, oh yeah, there's Vineyard Vines, there's like Patagonia, there's Shelly Cove.

And that's the end goal. That would be awesome, but we're obviously not there yet. But that's where we're trying to head as much as we can.

Andrew Foxwell: You set that intention, and clearly that's the direction that you're going. I think you've also... There's a lot of little things that you've done that you've talked about on Twitter that I want to get out here for the audience.

You did a whole thread on things that are like running a business, couple of different things. Let's go through these rapid-fire, if you don't mind. You buy your shipping supplies from eBay? It's the cheapest place you found. Is that true?

Matt Schroeder: Yeah.

Andrew Foxwell: Do you want to talk about that for a second?

Matt Schroeder: Yeah, sure. I get direct messages all the time from people that are just starting their business, and they basically will just ask me little questions like that like, "Hey, where do you get shipping supplies? How do you get stickers? Or what should I use for this?"

And so I basically was like, okay, I'm going to make a thread on Twitter of just all the things that I get all the time, and that's just like... It's just answers. They should be simple questions, but they're actually hard. You can't find answers to them when you're starting a business.

Andrew Foxwell: Right.

Matt Schroeder: Shipping supplies, our cheapest way of getting boxes and little padded bubble mailers and poly mailers was eBay. If you're not getting branded stuff, it's cheaper than Uline. It was surprising to me, but when you shop around, you can find some stuff cheaper than Uline on eBay.

Andrew Foxwell: And packaging the inserts from Uprinting, that's the cheapest one you found?

Matt Schroeder: Yeah. We started out with Vistaprint, and then I started searching around for another printer and Uprinting. If you're ordering over a thousand of something, Uprinting is definitely the cheapest.

Andrew Foxwell: Okay, cool. And then you talked a little bit about not overdoing it on sales. Obviously I think that's something that a lot of us can agree on. So being conscious around not selling too much. How often a year do you have sales?

Matt Schroeder: We have two big ones. We have one going on now, it's like a summer clearance sale because we have to make room for our fall collection. But we have our anniversary sale, which is in late July, and then Black Friday, Cyber Monday.

Andrew Foxwell: Okay. That isn't that many. I feel like more and more people as the competition has gone up on Facebook and Instagram too, they're doing more sales, which I feel like is the opposite thing you can do instead of doing what you're doing, which is like doing less sales and playing the loyalty game a lot more.

Which does lead into the one question I had about, you talked about Faire for wholesale boutique selling about it being a big thing. What is that actually as a little way to make a little cash on the side for a lot of ecommerce businesses?

Matt Schroeder: I was getting ads on this for Facebook and it's Faire, F-A-I-R-E. Feel free to look it up, and it is like a wholesale marketplace for boutiques, little like trinkets and goods and things like that.

So if you have like a jewelry business or an accessory business, or anything that could go well in a little boutique, set up an account on Faire, because there's literally thousands of boutiques that are on there that buy their goods.

And so we sell these packs of stainless steel straws, and they sell super well on our website. And so I was like, oh, I'll just throw them on Faire. There's no inventory issues, I won't oversell because somebody bought it on Faire and it's not tracked on Shopify. We have so many.

And so I threw it on Faire, and we'll get like one or two orders a week. No marketing, literally. I've spent like an hour creating our account and throwing it up there, but you'll get an email come in is like, hey, this boutique ordered $120 worth of stainless steel straws. And you pack it up and ship it out, and then 30 days later you get paid.

It's super easy. You don't have to like even talk to them. And so that was one of those things. It's such easy side cash. We've made a profit of like $1,500 to $2,500 a month just for nothing basically. It's really, really nice.

And Tundra is another one. Faire, F-A-I-R-E, and Tundra, T-U-N-D-R-A. They're both basically the same thing. They're just competitors of each other, but you can sign up for both.

Austin Brawner: That's awesome. It's a great little tip someone could just take and plug and play. I'd be interested to hear. You talked a little bit about how your senior year was so packed with activities, and you ended up having to really get serious about time management.

As the business has grown and you've now, obviously it's full time, it's continuing to grow quite quickly. What are you focused on now? What are your thoughts when you wake up in the morning? What are the things that you're focusing on every day that you've evolved into? And what are the big things on your mind right now as the business is continuing to grow?

Matt Schroeder: Really until about six months ago, we didn't have really any employees. We would be the ones shipping out the shirts. I would be handling customer service. And so that was my day, it was like, I need to get this stuff out really quickly and do this so that the end of the day I can have like two or three hours to actually get work done.

And it would be like the necessary work. It wouldn't be like, oh, I need to take this to the next level. It would just be like, oh, I need to order more products, or I need to create designs really quick for our next collection or something like that.

But then we started hiring people, and that was the best decision ever. It freed up so much of my time. Now my day is just growth. How do we grow? How do we take it to the next level? We're at a level right now, what is in between us and like a Vineyard Vines and a Patagonia? How do we get there?

Now it's a lot of strategy, it's a lot of managing content, managing money. It's just different, and so that's my day, and no day's ever the same. I think any entrepreneur will say that.

Austin Brawner: Sure.

Matt Schroeder: It's always a new task, a new project to try to handle. But that's the beauty of it is like I'm not scrambling anymore to get to a point in the day where I can actually do stuff. It's like I have eight hours, eight to 10 hours a day to try new things and just run ideas on a whiteboard and just see if it sounds good.

Austin Brawner: Diving into hiring a little bit, who did you hire, or what roles did you hire for? And what was the most important for you to be able to unlock that time in terms of roles you hired for?

Matt Schroeder: Shipping orders, first thing. After going through Black Friday and Cyber Monday this last year, I vowed to never do that again of me shipping the orders out, me and my dad.

This is another thing, I'm just going to throw this in there. Not to dampen the mood or anything, but my mom actually after... She basically our whole time running the company, she had been battling cancer. And so finally in mid-December she actually did pass away. But now it was just my dad and I.

And so now that I had this full-time job, my dad had retired from his career. We were like, "We need to hire somebody to ship these orders. We cannot continue to do this and grow as a company." So that was our first thing, so I posted on Facebook. I was just out of college, so I had a lot of friends that were still in college in the town that we moved the company to.

So I was like, "Hey, we just need some part-time people to help ship orders." And I immediately got a lot of people that were interested. So we hired for that. It was really easy to train for. And then I had about four people that helped wrap and ship orders, and one of them was really, really outgoing and friendly.

And so I asked her if she'd be interested in doing some customer service in the mornings, and so she was like, "Yeah." And so now she does customer service and basically until like noon, and then she helps pack orders in the afternoon.

And then I brought on one of my friends from college who... He is an entrepreneur as well, and he had just sold a business and he was like, "I want to stay in the entrepreneur world, but I don't want to start anything new right now. I just need to take a little bit of a break."

And so I was like, "Yeah, sure, absolutely." I was like, "You know what, actually I have something for you to do." And so he was like our wholesale manager. He would try to get us into retail stores and I would give him a commission on some of that.

And now it's evolved into, he helps me with everything, and he's actually going to be coming on as a partner. My dad just turned 65, and so he's going to just retire. He's like, "I'm ready to just retire and be done."

And so he's going to phase out of the business, and Brad, my friend who I hired is going to phase in as a part-owner. So there's a lot of transition happening right now and a lot of new people coming in and a fresh perspective on a lot of things.

Another person I hired was a graphic designer and social media manager, and a rep program manager. That is all one person. She is fantastic. She does a lot of design for us. She was an art major in college. I knew her in college, and she does our rep program.

She will pop on our social media and do stories sometimes to make it really personal. And not having to schedule our social media anymore is another thing that's just so nice and not having to worry about that.

And everyone works so well together. That was my one thing that I was worried about is handing over the reins of something that you built in any capacity is pretty hard. Like taking that first leap of like, okay, you do this and I hope I can trust you to do it was really, really hard for me.

Delegation was really hard, but I'm so thankful that I hired the people that I did because they've all been so fantastic, and they've made my life so much easier. And it works beautifully. It's a beautiful dynamic process right now and I absolutely love it.

And so as far as the hiring process goes, I think we're pretty good right now. It runs beautifully, we can scale up if we need to. Just hire some more people to pack orders, but as far as the business operation goes, everything's running beautifully.

Andrew Foxwell: That's awesome you're able to wrap in your friends to it, which is always a good feeling to keep it in the family to some degree. Matt, it's been awesome to have you. Is there any other thing you want to mention? And then second question that you can answer at the same time, which is, how do people get ahold of you if they have follow up questions and things like that?

Matt Schroeder: Absolutely. I think if you are at a position right now in your life that you want to start a business and you haven't done it yet, and you're just ready to take that leap but you don't know how to do it. You learn so, so much from actually just starting something.

 It is more than you'll learn in school, it is more than you'll learn on any online resource, any podcast, just actually doing it. If it fails, it doesn't matter, you learn so, so much. And I've failed a few times. I didn't mention them in the podcast, but I failed a few times before Shelly Cove, and I really, really value those takeaways that I got.

Oh yeah. If you want to reach out to me, my Twitter is SchroedsBiz. I'll spell it out because it's weird. It's S-C-H-R-O-E-D-S-B-I-Z. You can reach out to me. My DMs are open. You can also reach out to me on Instagram, different name. It's a BoomSchroasted, really unprofessional. It's like boom roasted but SCH before roasted, so BoomSchroasted. You can reach out to me on there too. I'm happy to try to answer any questions you have.

Andrew Foxwell: Just tossing a hard follow out there on that one. So it's awesome.

Matt Schroeder: Go for it. I'll give you that follow back.

Andrew Foxwell: Thank you so much, man. It's really good to have you on and chat with you.

Matt Schroeder: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Austin Brawner: Hey there, it's Austin again, and I have a quick message for you. If you enjoyed this podcast, I have something really exciting for you. For the last year and a half, I've been coaching Ecommerce business owners and marketers inside a group called the Coalition.

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Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome to another episode of The Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name's Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. Good to be with you, man. How are you doing?

Austin Brawner: Dude. I am doing well. I was up early this morning, t...

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