The global supply chain is filled with businesses of all sizes, from mom-n-pop shops to Fortune 100 behemoths. In our new blog series, Upstream, we’ll be taking a peek behind the curtain to talk with business owners of all kinds – in all stages – about how they fought to get their dreams off the ground. We’re spotlighting the good, the bad, and the mindblowing levels of tenacity that go into building a business from the very beginning. Many of these companies will be local to our neck of the woods, Northwest Arkansas.
Up first is Jennifer Adair of Fayetteville, AR. She is the co-owner of JuBe (GiveJuBe.com), an online curated gift box site launched in August 2017 that cleverly mixes national brands with local, regional and small-run items in each box. A true Jack of all trades, she is also a homeschooling mom, blogger, content manager, and consultant for brands utilizing Amazon Seller Central and Vendor Central.
We picked her brain about how JuBe came to fruition, what brands could do better to stand out on Amazon and the importance of saying “yes”.
How did you come up with the name JuBe?
“My co-owner, Jennifer Ridge, and I are both “Jennifer Brooke” and have the initials: JB; but we’ve always given gifts…just because. Why do you need a holiday or special occasion to give a gift? It’s more meaningful when you don’t feel obliged by a specific date.”
What sets JuBe apart from other gift giving options?
“We want each gift to be unique, not just what you’ll find in your everyday boutiques. We may carry some of the same items, but they’ll be mixed with items you haven’t seen before.
Say you want to get a loved one a personal gift, but you don’t have time to grab more than a bottle of wine or a gift card. With JuBe, you’re giving a box filled with multiple goodies that you chose to fit their tastes or hobbies.”
How do you find local products and vendors?
“Our friend, Bryan Gott, co-owner of The Handmade Market in Fayetteville, has great relationships with a lot of local artisans so he helps us find some unique brands.
Sometimes brands will reach out to us directly, like these two brothers who started a confectionary brand this year called Simkins Brothers Sweets. We met up for coffee one day, and as soon as I tasted their peanut butter cups, I knew we had to have their sweets in some of our boxes.”
Could one of the “secrets” to starting a new business be saying yes to opportunities?
“I’m a yes person. I don’t want to get older and look back and say “Why didn’t I try it?” Even if I end up failing, I’ve learned so much from this experience; I want to show my kids it’s okay to take the plunge. We’ve met so many amazing people in this Fayetteville community.”
How do you find your target market?
“It’s all trial and error. We started this e-commerce business with a broader focus. Right now we offer a box for so many different demographics and occasions – paleo eaters, home bartending, pet owners, road tripping, etc. We have to do little growth tests to see what sticks. What boxes and items are people gravitating towards? What are our customers not interested in? From there, we’ll be able to narrow our focus to what our buyers want most.”
What is your order fulfillment process like?
“There are four different ways to order a box:
- Pre-picked box on the website;
- Customizable box: you can choose different flavors, colors, etc, depending on the item. You can also build a box around a theme, giving you the price point you desire;
- JuBe Bitty Boxes are smaller for quick gift giving;
- Amazon boxes with two-day Prime shipping.”
Let’s switch gears for a moment to your consulting and management services for brands using Amazon Seller Central and Vendor Central. What are the biggest mistakes you see being made by brands on these platforms?
- Having listings with terrible content. Brands will use stock images, have one sentence descriptions, or useless descriptions filled with keywords, thinking that’ll get their listings more discoverability. Why would you want your listings on one of the world’s biggest websites to look bad?
- Only having a Vendor Central account for their products. Having a Vendor Central account means you provide Amazon with the products and they complete the fulfillment process. If they run out of your product…that’s that; consumers will check out with your competitor’s product in their cart. If you have a Seller Central account, your product is still available to consumers through you directly, even if Amazon runs out.
- First-time sellers often don’t realize you have to be approved to sell in certain Amazon categories such as grocery, gourmet food, and beauty. This means you have to purchase directly from a manufacturer a certain number of items on a set number of invoices.
- First-timers on Seller Central may not realize the fees Amazon charges such as a 15% referral charge for any item you sell. If Amazon is completing your fulfillment, they will charge you a $2.99-5.99 “Pick and Pack” fee per item.
What would you say to people wanting to start a small business?
“Have a strong stomach. It’s going to be hard. Stick it out for a year and see if it works out. More than anything, you have to be kind to yourself and do the best you can manage. The small goals matter, too: go to bed knowing that even if you didn’t make sales or hit your lofty goals, at least you updated your website, got your kids fed and did the very best you could.”