How I Started A $100K/Month Business Selling And Designing Playing Cards Decks

$100,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
product
PlayingCardDecks.com
from HENDERSON
started April 2017
$100,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
354K
alexa rank
4.39K
followers
2.4K
followers
975
subs

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Will Roya and I own and operate PlayingCardDecks.com which launched in 2017.

Primarily we are a retailer of playing cards, but we also create and collaborate with others to create our own decks and accessories. Primarily we sell through our site but we also have a distributor partnership, have a presence on eBay and Amazon, and launch products on Kickstarter.

I have been a lifelong entrepreneur and before starting this business I was involved in the live entertainment industry and in-person sales at special events. I also dabbled in internet sites as well.

My inspiration for going all-in on the current business full time was that I didn’t want to travel anymore and wanted to do something with the potential to scale and possibly sell one day. I also saw the upward trend in the playing card niche as I experimented with selling decks on eBay and was selling 10k a month which was proof of concept for me.

I was able to scale the business to an annual revenue run rate of one million within 18 months with the help of a full time packing person and freelancers in areas of expertise I was lacking. Currently, we are averaging about 100k a month.

how-i-started-a-100k-month-business-selling-and-designing-playing-cards-decks My daughter and I doing an early Facebook live video

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Besides selling magic tricks and toys at special events such as fairs I was always trying different items to sell online, mostly on eBay. I also produced and sold instructional DVDs, mostly wholesale to magic shops.

Try to keep things as simple as possible with systems in place. Don’t be afraid to try something new but also don’t be afraid to give it up if it isn’t working.

I had noticed playing cards started selling particularly well and with the advent of Kickstarter, a lot more decks were getting produced. The more decks I stocked, the more I sold. I also noticed that playing card collectors would buy multiple decks and buy more frequently than other customers.

Once I started to reach 5 figures in sales a month on eBay I knew it had enough potential to take the step to make my own website.

I applied the customer service skills I had mastered at in-person sales to online and that really helped with customer relationships and developing a following. Also being a card player and magician for almost 30 years helped a little too.

I had been making a good living doing my live sales but I had to travel and it was a grind at times. There was no easy way to scale it and I knew it was not something I wanted to do into my forties.

Prior to launching the site, I was able to get an SBA loan to obtain an office/warehouse and a personal loan (my own funds) for stock, supplies, and equipment. I was just able to pay off the personal loan and I hope to have the SBA loan paid off within a few years. My wife has a “regular” job with health insurance so I was able to take little to no salary when I started.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When I first started the business I was only buying the products wholesale from various suppliers. My goal was to have as many different decks that I could.

In order to increase brand awareness, I started to produce my own decks and fund them via Kickstarter.

I was not too picky about the themes and collaborations on my first decks because I just needed to get started. There is a bit of a learning curve and even after backing a bunch of projects, it took me several of my own projects to get the hang of it in terms of rewards, promo, etc.

I got started on reproduction projects more recently as I knew there was a demand for them and I was very intrigued about the idea of bringing back historic decks that are pretty much unattainable now. I also have a very talented artist I am able to work with who is able to digitally recreate all of the images.

To produce the decks I worked with various artists and printers to get the final product. I produce about a dozen decks a year, some of which I directly launch but also still use Kickstarter.

A lot of people ask me about creating their own custom deck and crowdfunding it which is a very large subject to tackle. Soon there will be a detailed step on how to accomplish this in an article we will publish in our blog.

Here is the current project

how-i-started-a-100k-month-business-selling-and-designing-playing-cards-decks

Describe the process of launching the business.

I already had an eBay and Amazon storefront so the big step was launching a Shopify store and then syncing all the inventory with software.

I would put business cards in all the outgoing orders and interact with potential customers on social media.

It was a slow and steady process, a lot of word of mouth and networking online.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I would say the two most important things are great customer service and getting new products on the site as quickly as possible.

For customer service, we always include free samples in every order, and on larger orders, we will include gifts. I also personally handle all the customer service in a timely manner. This has helped us get over 200+ 5 star reviews.

Start slow and steady and have a plan. Maybe start with the end goal in mind and work backward and break it down into steps and daily goals and activities.

We also do a weekly email newsletter and a blog post. SEO has really helped with organic traffic. We have not done a lot in paid advertising but are starting to scale that more to attract new customers.

One of our best blog posts is 40+ card games for all occasions. In just the last 30 days that has attracted 171k visits. It has a low conversion rate but at least it gets our brand out there and we use retargeting ads so if they do have any interest in buying a deck, later on, they have a good chance of becoming a customer.

For both the SEO and paid ads I was able to find experts either on Upwork or by referral who have been able to help in those areas.

One thing I tried that did not work out well was an affiliate program. I have also tried PR campaigns with mixed success.

I also try to have social posts almost daily, whether it is a new product, a promo, a cartoon, etc. I do some of the posts myself and also have a freelancer who will do some for me as well.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We had a great start to 2020 and sales are still staying steady so far with the outbreak of COVID-19.

I have my playbook of promos I can use semi-regularly that I know work. An example of that is different mystery offers that our customers really love and help get rid of excess inventory or slow-moving items while giving our customers a good deal and a fun surprise.

I’m thinking of trying some new things such as SMS marketing and adding a “pay later” payment option to the site.

I stay pretty busy with the regular day to day stuff and mostly focus on the products and promos as I know that is going to be my best ROI on my time.

I know I really have to hire an additional person soon to outsource some of my activities and also I am in the process of launching a site for tarot decks and will need extra help with that.

how-i-started-a-100k-month-business-selling-and-designing-playing-cards-decks

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I think there are a handful of things that will work for any online business but then you just have to experiment with what works for your products and customers.

I also think you need to be authentic and true to your vision or you will not gain a loyal following.

Try to keep things as simple as possible with systems in place. Don’t be afraid to try something new but also don’t be afraid to give it up if it isn’t working.

Focus on the best ROI and double down on what is working.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use Ecomdash for inventory, ShipStation for shipping and Omnisend for email. Those are the three critical ones.

A few other useful tools /apps I use are:

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

There are a lot of eCommerce podcasts out there and I picked a handful that I really like and connect with that offer great practical tips. Here are a few:

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I always tell my friends who want to give it a go-to start out on eBay, it is a good place to get your feet wet. I also love the Shopify platform.

Start slow and steady and have a plan. Maybe start with the end goal in mind and work backward and break it down into steps and daily goals and activities.

It will take a lot of time, effort, and a little bit of luck. Also, the more capital the better but as many highly publicized venture-funded businesses eventually find out that you can’t buy your way to success. You need a solid model with a loyal customer base.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

This summer I will be looking to bring someone on full time to help with a little of everything; packing, listings, marketing, etc.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Will Roya,   Founder of PlayingCardDecks.com

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