This is a follow up story for No Cold Feet LLC. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
We’re Matt and Mari and we’re the founder of No Cold Feet. We primarily sell socks for groomsmen gifts but have started expanding into other related products/accessories. Despite our primary market being people getting married, which took an interesting turn in 2020 due to covid, we’ve actually seen an increase in business since we were last featured on Starter Story.
In 2020 we were up a little under 10% which was less than we had hoped but more than we could’ve asked forgiven 2020. 2021 is shaping up to be our best year yet with double-digit growth so far.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
As mentioned above, in 2020 we were up a little under 10% which was less than we had hoped but more than we could’ve asked forgiven 2020. 2021 is shaping up to be our best year yet with double-digit growth so far. Despite weddings getting canceled left and right last year due to COVID, we think we were able to stay in the positive for two main reasons:
- For people who were more price-sensitive due to job loss, general economic climate, or something else, we present a fairly affordable option compared to other products in our market
- If you’re going to host a smaller wedding, the people who you keep on your list are those closest to you including family and best friends, who make up your bridal party? Best friends.
We don’t know that the reasons above are correct, but they intuitively make sense to us.
In 2020 we invested pretty heavily (for us) into several marketing efforts last year. We’ve yet to see a positive ROI from those but believe much of the work will suit us well as we dive into some marketing efforts this year. We focused primarily on SEO and PPC campaigns and are looking to make some website improvements this year that amplify those efforts.
Also in 2020, we had an individual helping us with fulfillment out of our office but because of the lockdown rules in Chicago, we couldn’t be in our office. The work she did for us (fulfillment) couldn’t be done remotely by our employee and eventually, she had to try and find another income source and so we parted ways. It was a bummer because she was our first hire to help alleviate some of the tasks that are critical but don’t help grow the business which was a huge part of our plan for 2020.
While we kept our office, we moved the critical equipment back into our home so we could comply with our lockdown rules but still get orders out the door. At the beginning of this year, we moved everything back and hired a new individual to help us out with fulfillment and other tasks. She came from a wedding-related company that shut down and was a great fit for us. She’s been such a help to our company especially since we welcomed our second child.
And with our second child will come to a move for our family to a new home and more than likely we’ll move our office to be somewhere close to the new house as well. We’re very much looking forward to getting past all of this and focusing on growing our business. The last two years have been great but busy with new children, COVID, career changes, and more.
While Etsy has been great for us, we plan to continue investing in our own website and looking into getting on Amazon (not so much for our custom items, but standard products).
Oh, and we were secured our first trademark for the name of our company. After spending what felt like way too much money for the submission with a law firm, we ended up taking over the process and finishing it ourselves. Definitely a snag or two, but in the end we were successful!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Obviously, 2020 was an interesting year for all sorts of businesses and we weren’t expecting much positive to come given we focus on the wedding market and those were being canceled or rescheduled left and right. We ended up doing quite well given the circumstances but it was definitely touching and go in March and April of 2020.
This past year highlighted the importance of several lessons.
First, keep overhead as low as possible to reduce exposure in downturns or at least make them predictable and manageable.
Next, be flexible and go with the flow. We definitely didn’t want to move our office back into our house after just moving it out less than six months prior but we had orders coming in and needed to keep them moving to survive as we never knew if/when the orders would stop.
Also, continue to invest to the extent possible to maximize when the economy/consumer interest does rebound. We spent a significant amount of our revenue last year reinvesting into the business and so far a bunch of it is paying off.
Lastly, be compassionate. It became clear that so many weddings were being canceled or postponed and there was little people could do about it. We adjusted our return/exchange policy when it needed a bit more flexibility than the default and we offered reprints of anything with a date for a flat fee that pretty much just covered shipping.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
It’s hard to describe our long-term plans as we’re not 100% sure what those look like yet. We know we want to grow and we have some ideas but the growth over the last year or two has been so good that we haven’t had time to execute true growth initiatives despite our best intentions. A good problem to have, I guess.
I do know we’ll likely move our offices, ideally to something a bit larger so we can expand some equipment. On the equipment front, we plan to upgrade some of ours to increase capacity/speed and allow us to delve into new products. We want to expand existing product lines and create new lines as well.
On the marketing side, we’ll look to improve our photography, continue SEO efforts, dive into other areas like PPC, and maybe others as well.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Honestly, we haven’t read anything new. We continue to listen to podcasts, though my windshield time has decreased substantially since I’ve been working from home the last year. Nothing new added to my playlists, but going strong with a mix of business, “maker”, and some generally thought-provoking podcasts.
Keep overhead as low as possible to reduce exposure in downturns or at least make them predictable and manageable.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I think the key is having a good foundation. You need solid products that have a unique selling proposition, your brand needs to be clean, you need to work your butt off (and even harder when a pandemic hits), and you have to keep trying new things be its marketing tactics, new products, new hires, etc. Oh, and you have to treat your customers great.
Other than that, it's difficult for us to offer advice on how to grow your business because much of our growth has been organic. Yes, we’ve released some solid new products but the foundation items are what have really propelled our growth.
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.
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