Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at Green Chile and how you got started?
I am a family man, avid motorcyclist, and network engineer. Since I was a kid I have almost always had a side hustle. Green Chile Adventure Gear started that way and grew into an actual business.
It all started when I bought my first dual sport motorcycle, which was meant to be flipped. I tried dual sport riding and decided to keep it. In fact, I still have it to this day. I ended up meeting a guy on Facebook named Ben Rainchild and we decided to start a business making motorcycle luggage and straps. I bought a bar tacking machine and mailed it to his house. We had never met in person. In fact, we were in business together over a year before I ever met him in person.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
Our first products had to be invented. We knew we wanted to make a system that would allow any bag to become motorcycle luggage, that it needed to be universal, and we wanted it to be tough enough to never break.
We made prototypes and had a working product in about 90 days. Our first ones were actually sold on Facebook and our original site built on SquareSpace. About 2 weeks after we sold our first 7 Uprising Soft Racks we came out with the 2nd generation design. It was so much better that we shipped a new one to all of our first customers for free. We appreciated them supporting us and we wanted them to have the new design.
We still develop products and we sell some items from other manufacturers that compliment our gear, such as dry bags and fuel bottle holsters.
Product development is one of the most challenging aspects of our business. It’s expensive, it takes time, and everything has to be thoroughly tested.
How did you get your first sale?
Our first sales were made on Facebook and our original SquareSpace website. We had been posting pics from the development process and as soon as we had them ready they were sold.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
Business is really a string of solving problems and overcoming obstacles. One of the bigger ones we have handled has been production volume. We have upgraded our shop as our business has grown, but equipment is expensive so we are usually desperate for the upgrade by the time we get it.
Working with a business partner 1500 miles away was also a challenge because you lose that face to face communication. We handle that by always being honest with each other, even if it was brutal at times.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
We just outgrew our SquareSpace website and needed some new features that they didn’t support. While evaluating platforms I looked at all the major players. I settled on Shopify because it had an easy interface, allowed me to access the code for further customization, and they had some great apps. Truly, the Shopify apps are one of the biggest differentiators.
One of the first features that made me start looking was being able to accept PayPal for payment. Ironically, the week we went live with our new Shopify website, SquareSpace announced PayPal support.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
I wish I had started on Shopify to begin with. The rest of it has certainly been a learning experience, but I wouldn’t trade those lessons for anything.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business?
Consistent Cart - I like to see my cart adds and I can usually forecast sales by how many abandoned carts I have.
Easy Tabs - Allows me to keep product descriptions on screen and prevents a lot of scrolling.
Infinite Options - Helps me reduce the number of variants for some of our bundles.
Instagram Shop by Snapppt - Lets me include my Instagram feed on my home page with shoppable links.
Klaviyo - Fantastic for email campaigns, though it is a bit pricey.
Bold Product Upsell - I use this to show related items when adding to cart.
Bold Sales Motivator - This is a banner letting customers see how close they are to free shipping.
ShipStation - Handles all my fulfillment. If I could only have one app, it would be this one.
Wholesale Pricing by Supple - I have some dealers that need separate pricing. This app allows me to change pricing based on login account without having to create hidden products or a duplicate store. Now, my dealers have the same easy shopping experience as my retail customers.
YotPo - I use this for reviews. I only have the free version, their pay version prices are ridiculous. I have been considering a change to Judge.Me for reviews.
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Green Chile Adventure Gear?
Facebook ads are our biggest sales generator. I use at least one ad to bring people to the site, usually a carousel ad. Then I have another ad retargeting those people with the products they looked at.
Influencer marketing has also been very successful for us. Several people that have large YouTube and Instagram followings have helped us out. We use specific discount codes for influencers and give them a cut if a sale goes through with their code.
Podcast ads and magazine ads have also raised awareness, but they are hard to quantify and track.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
Email is our biggest form of communication from the website, but social media and motorcycle events are very useful for getting to know your customers. We are lucky, our customers share the same interests we do so it's very easy to become friends with our customers.
Are there any metrics* you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
Our first year was live for about 9 months. We had 350% growth between our first and second year. Then each year afterwards has averaged about 30% growth in sales.
This year we are projecting to top $40k in sales for the year. Our business has had steady manageable growth. We are debt free and the business has funded its own operations since the 2nd year.
We don’t have excessive traffic on our site. We average about 2100 unique visitors and 7000 unique pageviews per month.
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
Consistency. We have steadily learned and improved our skills, created and improved our products, built our brand, and most importantly taken care of our customers every chance we get.
What are you working towards now? Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
My current challenge is finding a way to scale. I am looking for smart, high impact ways to bring in new customers. I also want to focus on growing our wholesale dealers with brick and mortar stores. Our products sell easier when a person can see them and touch them and understand the quality and craftsmanship put into each item.
I have studied a lot of blogs and listened to a lot of podcasts to help learn these skills and ideas. The single most helpful source of information has been “The Unofficial Shopify Podcast by Kurt Elster”. Eventually, I want to work with him on our site.
Based on your own success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting out with Shopify (or with eCommerce in general)?
Find a problem you can solve. Use your talents to create something new and bring it to market. Start paying attention to the everyday things that annoy you or that you wish were different, then fix them. Other people will have that same issue and be willing to pay to eliminate it.
It’s also important to realize that it doesn’t have to be something crazy and high tech. Just think, shoe strings fraying used to be a problem until somebody invented that little plastic thing on the end. It's so simple and everyone on the planet uses it.
In our case, we solved the challenges of rigging luggage to a motorcycle.
I suggest building an email list from the very beginning, even if you don’t have plans for it yet and making sure you gather accurate data on your website and business.
One final thought, owning a business is an emotional roller coaster. Some days you feel like you may retire next week and other days you ask yourself why you are even doing this. If you have good data and analytics you can temper these moods with actual facts.
That’s great advice! Where can our readers learn more?
Thanks! Our website is https://greenchileadv.com/.
We are also active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.
Lots of fun and exciting stuff going on there, so come and connect with us!
~ Adam Owens, Co-Founder of Green Chile Adventure Gear