Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Nick Sfikas and I’m the owner of SFKshop, an eCommerce store that sells smart home appliances and garage door motors to individuals and other businesses throughout Greece. I am 21 years old and currently, I am a student at the Athens University of Economics and Business in the Department of Business Administration and Management.
SFKshop was created because I wanted to help my dad to quit his outside the office job to a more comfortable job and since he is a garage door installer, I thought that garage door motors will be a great product to sell online. The first 6 months of SFKshop were very tough due to family reasons, but we didn't stop at the first difficulty! In the meantime, I saw the potential for growth and the opportunity to create a 7-figure business that can create a new era in the industry of garage door motors.
The business has been turning over $17,000 a month in 2020 due to increased marketing efforts, word of mouth, and the impact of COVID-19. 2021 looks to be a breakout year with opportunities to turn SFKshop into an even larger player in the industry.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have a background in web development, iOS development, WordPress, and digital marketing. For a long time, I was a freelancer creating and managing WordPress websites for my clients. I've been creating websites and doing digital marketing for over 7 years now. The first success was an iOS app that I did the marketing planning and execution that generated over $60,000, with a starting budget of $350. I also spent a couple of months as an eCommerce manager in a very big eCommerce store with beauty products. So, it made sense to me to create an eCommerce business.
Treating your existing customers as VIPs will encourage repeat business, reviews, and referrals and it's much easier than finding a new customer!
Before SFKshop.gr I was looking for an opportunity where I could make a bigger impact and build a ‘real’ business I could be proud of. Then, I thought that if I took advantage of my father's collaborations I could do a great business with infinite possibilities.
I’m excited about the next few years as I see where I can take the revenue, and the impact SFKshop can make.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Many of the products we offer on our website are existing products from recognized brands in Greece, especially larger and more complex products such as parking bars. However, we have also been launching/importing our own brand of remote controls. These are products that either didn’t exist in the marketplace or which we felt were lacking features and often overpriced.
We are still learning about product development and working with overseas manufacturers however we now have 3 of our own brand products performing really well and more in the pipeline.
The process has been to listen to what our customers have been asking for and to identify the best performing products and see what we can do to improve them / offer them at a lower cost. We also look at what people are saying in reviews to see what improvements can be made.
Then I look overseas to see if a product is available we can import to ‘test’ the market and often it is. We import a small quantity of this product to gauge demand and then if successful find an overseas manufacturer to produce an initial run of an own-brand product with some improvements based on feedback and our experience.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Many of the products are sourced from established Greek suppliers, however, we have recently started designing and importing a range of garage door motor accessories from overseas. This has been a big learning process dealing with overseas manufacturers and especially delayed freight during COVID-19 (6 months delay)!
Don’t worry about getting everything perfect or completely polished, it will never be finished. Just concentrate on getting something out into the market, get feedback, and pivot from there.
However, we see our own brand products being a big part of the growth of SFKshop over the next few years and we plan to increase the range of garage door motor accessories while continuing to source more products.
I learned it was important to be really specific with the manufacturers and organize prototypes and samples at each stage of the process to ensure things remain on track & to spot any potential issues before it was too late to fix them. This slows the process down a little but ensures the result is what you wanted.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Initially, the business focussed mainly on SEO. I did SEO optimized product descriptions in Greek for all of my products and started a new blog. But over the past 6 months, we’ve increasingly focused on Facebook Ads and the results are starting to pay off. We started with simple retargeting campaigns and now we run funnel ads.
If you start a new business, I think SEO is the way to go since it will help us build a more sustainable business in the future but is a longer-term process and requires some initial time and financial investment.
We’ve also had some success working with larger corporate clients and this has been successful as well.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are growing and profitable, and after navigating a difficult period during COVID-19 which led to product shortages and increased delivery times, I am feeling really positive about the future.
As of today, we are 6 people working for SFKshop and me. We have 2 people on sales, 2 people on tech support, 2 people on accounting, and me on marketing.
Currently, the majority of our customers find us through search engines or referrals from existing customers.
My focus over the next 12 months will be to increase our range of own branded garage door accessories (which have much bigger margins) and ramp up the SEO and Facebook ads campaigns we are already running. I also want to develop more relationships with big corporations to fulfill larger orders.
2021 is shaping up to be an exciting year!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
It's been a massive learning experience since starting with SFKshop. I already had years of experience in managing marketing campaigns and running content-based websites. However, this is the 1st eCommerce website in this industry I have run and I’ve had to learn quickly about the ins and outs of running this kind of business.
I think the biggest learning, which might sound obvious, is to focus on customer care. At first, I was focused on increasing traffic and new customers but quickly realized it’s better to focus on your existing customers first. Treat your existing customers as VIPs and go the extra mile to deliver quality customer service, and above all be honest when there are delays or problems rather than burying your head in the sand.
This will encourage repeat business, reviews, and referrals and it's much easier than finding a new customer!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use WooCommerce to manage our eCommerce website & MailPoet for our email marketing. I am always creating new business automation tools and that's the beauty of WooCommerce, it is customizable! I made tons of new automation helping me reduce the time spent on easy tasks like creating vouchers for couriers, track the tracking numbers, and more.
My favorite business tools are Slack (communicate with my team members), Dropbox (Cloud Storage), Notion (Roadmap), LiveAgent (Cloud Call Center), and the Doer's Notebook I use to keep my daily to-dos, weekly plans, and more. I find there’s something about writing down plans and goals with a pen and paper rather than an app. That said I also use Trello for project management.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Like many entrepreneurs, The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris was such a powerful book for me. Many of the tactics are outdated now but the principles remain very true today and I try to keep my business flexible and to suit my lifestyle.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My advice would be to just start! Don’t worry about getting everything perfect or completely polished, it will never be finished. Just concentrate on getting something out into the market, get feedback, and pivot from there. In my experience what you think is the final solution isn’t in the end!
I also think it's important not to chase money but to focus on fulfilling a need and creating a meaningful business. I got caught in the trap of focusing on creating money overvalue and ended up doing neither. Once I started to focus on making an impact the money also started to flow.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking to hire a part-time sales manager to help us build relationships with organizations and corporate clients. This will have a base salary and commission based on sales generated.
I will continue to do SEO, Facebook ads, and design myself :)
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.