How the founder of Tightplate.com is carving out his niche with automation and hustle
This is the first in a series of posts featuring new, growing and established Shopify store owners. Read through our short Q and A with Adam Leach of Tightplate.com for his story and key lessons in carving out a profitable niche Shopify business.
1. Describe what Tightplate.com sells in one sentence
Tightplate sells t-shirts, outerwear, and aprons designed for and inspired by hard working cooks, chefs and restaurant folks everywhere.
2. How did your business get started? Give us a rundown of the history/lore.
The idea of Tightplate came from an observation that I had from years of working in restaurant and hotel kitchens of how the staff were dressed. There was a correlation between the cook’s personality and what clothing they wore. Restaurant peeps, for the most part, unique individuals who’s careers often define them as people.
In this setting, and due to the formality of most kitchens, cooks wear the typical chef’s uniform of a white coat.
What they wear outside of the kitchen, or on the way into it, is all the more important to them as individuals. My observation of the brands that these cooks and restaurant staff wear showed that most are relegated to brands commonly associated with action sports (DC Shoes, RVCA, Vans, Billabong, etc.). Tightplate aims to give the restaurant community something to call their own.
A brand devoted entirely to the all encompassing lifestyle of being a cook, chef, server, restaurant manager, and the people who love them-“foodies”, bloggers, chef groupies (they do exist, and are more numerous than you think), etc.
3. Tell us about one recent major success and one recent epic failure.
The biggest success as of late would have to be the ability of Tightplate to basically run itself. What I mean by this is that all I have to do on a daily basis is update my social media accounts (my primary marketing avenue) and fulfill orders. From the beginning I wanted to design the back end of the site to be as automated as possible, so that I could have this store as a side gig and get a “day job” at some point.
The genesis and growth of Tightplate has been super rewarding for me, but I’m one of those people that likes to stay busy all the time. I was able to get Tightplate to basically run itself through all of the great apps available to Shopify store owners (Shipping Easy, RetentionGrid – now AVARI, Campaignified) and the help of the great Robert Morrow over at Tomorrows Designs (magnificent dude).
Now for some failures (Of which there is only one currently, but there have been more than a few bumps in the road.):
Above I talked about the ability for the site to basically run itself, and my being able to work somewhere else for all those pesky adult situations…Health Care, Retirement Planning, and all of those terrible necessities of modern life.
That being said, I’ve currently run into what I believe to be the most dangerous to all burgeoning entrepreneurs…Time Management. I cannot stress the importance of getting a feasible, well thought out plan together, and sticking to it. Things like fulfilling orders in a timely fashion, updating social media, and instituting discounts and sales, have fallen by the wayside as of late.
The plan that you get together for your new store has to include some attainable goals. Every entrepreneur can dream big, in fact they should, but always keep in mind that dreams are dreams, and reality is reality. The future is most certainly what you make it, but proper planning has to include pragmatism. Don’t dwell on the negative, just entertain the thought of disaster (if only for a moment).
Entrepreneurs are the bravest and smartest of the bunch, and the most successful have concrete plans in place before they pull the trigger or get funded.
4. What has been the most successful sales or marketing campaign you’ve personally executed?
Monetizing my Facebook page has been the single best driver for the sales at Tightplate since I instituted it a short time ago. Advertising on Facebook is remarkably easy for anyone to do. Tailor your target audience as best you can, and use eye catching and relatable content to that target demographic.
5. What is one piece of advice you would give to yourself if you could have a conversation with your previous self (pre-store owner)?
Don’t spend so much on inventory. This goes back to talking about having a feasible and attainable plan in place. If I could go back in time and do it over, this was the single biggest mistake when I first started Tightplate back in January of this year. I was so concerned over having enough stock to keep up with sales that I all but overlooked where those sales were coming from.
What I took from that is to focus a good part of the planning process pre-opening to setting up all of your marketing outlets (in my case building a following on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook), and letting everyone know who’ll listen what you have cooking. Don’t worry about any other entrepreneurs or other companies stealing your idea. I can all but guarantee that they won’t.
6. What is your biggest goal for 2015 and are you on track to reach it?
For some time I’ve been developing a new apron line that could revolutionize kitchen aprons. I’d like to see that come to fruition soon. I’m taking my time with it, and listening to what my current chef clients, some baristas and even some textile manufactures are saying. I want to get it right, and I’m not going to rush to launch a subpar product into the marketplace.
This is a good segue into my last thought on planning the launch of a new ecommerce store: Customer Service is the lynchpin to a profitable and longliving store. Listen to what your customers say. Encourage a dialogue with your customers. Interact with them and be sure to showcase that interaction on the front page of your store. Social proof is like gold to the unsure buyer. Let them know that your store has a face and a personality all it’s own.
Good luck to all of you new entrepreneurs. In the words of General Joe Stillwell “Illegitimi non carborundum” or “Don’t let the bastards keep you down.”