This is a follow up story for 3D Universe, LLC. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi, I’m Jeremy Simon, founder of 3D Universe, LLC. We are an e-commerce value-added reseller, providing digital fabrication solutions, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and vacuum forming machines, as well as related supplies and accessories. We represent several different brands, but the Ultimaker line of 3D printers is our strongest product line.
Our customers include educational organizations, government entities, commercial organizations across a wide variety of vertical markets, and individual consumers.
We have developed a business model that leverages online technologies to minimize operational overhead, allowing us to conduct a profitable business with significant revenues using a very small team of employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to make certain adjustments, but our business remains strong, especially compared to other harder-hit industries.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Our business has been growing steadily since our last report. Then COVID-19 came along, and things have started to change. In the first couple of months of the pandemic, our sales increased significantly, which is not what we were expecting. It seems that other supply chains were being interrupted by the pandemic, so people were having a hard time finding the 3D printing supplies they needed. Our stock levels were good, so we started to see a lot of new business. March and April 2020 were some of our strongest months ever. After that, things started to taper off and are now fairly slow.
A large part of our business comes from educational organizations, and they have pulled way back on their spending because most students are learning remotely right now. We suspect that budgets have had to be reallocated to provide Chromebooks, Wifi access points, and other tools to facilitate the remote learning environment.
While we wait for schools to adjust to this new way of operating, we have been focusing on marketing our products to other verticals. For example, government and military organizations seem to be spending more than before. We assume this is because the government has increased its funding to try to stimulate the economy during the pandemic. So we have been targeting those kinds of organizations in our marketing efforts.
We are also in the process of completing our GSA certification, so we can have our products listed on the GSA Advantage website, a government purchasing platform, which we hope will increase our exposure to these kinds of organizations.
We have increased our spending on remarketing ads, targeting customers who have previously visited our website. We have also increased our investment in YouTube video ads, which have been performing well for us.
We continue to add new products to our offerings, and we’ve hired someone to help us develop those new product pages for our website. We’ve also invested in a new tool called Shogun to help us build our Shopify product pages more efficiently, using a visual drag-and-drop page design platform.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The biggest lesson we’ve learned in the last year has been that we were smart to keep our operational overhead as low as possible. By relying on software and automation to keep our staff small, we’ve been far less impacted by the current pandemic than many other organizations. Our sales have slowed, but since we’re not carrying a large operational overhead, our cash-flow is good.
A situation like this pandemic can cause significant difficulties for many businesses, but it can also create new opportunities.
We’ve always been a company that strives to make a positive difference, and the COVID-19 pandemic has afforded us new opportunities to do so. We have invested hundreds of hours in working with a talented team of medical professionals, engineers, and other business professionals to develop reusable respirator masks using 3D printing technology for prototyping our designs. We have also sent out dozens of spools of free 3D printing filament to support those individuals who are using their 3D printers to make face shields and “ear saver” straps to donate to medical professionals and emergency workers.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We continue to be excited about the growth in the 3D printing and digital fabrication market, but there’s a lot of uncertainty right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We continue to expand our product offerings, seeking to offer high-quality products that have gone through in-house testing.
We hope to continue to grow our business, but we’re not looking to grow too fast. We enjoy having a small, family-owned business, and we do not have any desire to turn 3D Universe into a huge company with lots of employees.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
There is so much uncertainty right now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to be flexible and nimble. Keep operating costs low, and be prepared to adapt your business model as needed to address ongoing changes in the market.
Even once a vaccine is available for COVID-19, likely, things will never go completely back to the way they were. People will likely continue to do more things online or remotely, which will have an ongoing impact across many industries.
A situation like this pandemic can cause significant difficulties for many businesses, but it can also create new opportunities. Find ways to make the most out of the changes taking place.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Given the current slow-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not looking to add any new positions at this time.
Where can we go to learn more?
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