Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello everyone, My name is Shamanth Suresh and I’m the co-founder of Tarot Stack.
We sell gorgeous Tarot, Oracle, and affirmation decks produced by independent artists. We also help artists with publishing, printing, marketing, and sales of their Tarot or Oracle decks. Our customers are seeking alternative divination tools like Tarot or Oracle decks and have a keen eye for artwork.
We currently are working with creative artists on publishing their Tarot and Oracle decks and have built up a wide affiliate network of social media influencers. In our first quarter, we sold more than half of our initial acquired inventory, thereby promoting the indie artists who we list on our web-store.
Some key figures we’re proud of for achieving in a short period (4 months):
- Total decks sold: Over 250
- Total number of followers in affiliate network (YouTube, IG & TikTok): 1 Million
- Gross Sales: Over $15k
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Coming from a background working in the tech-corporate industry for over 10 years, Eve & I always had a hard time finding Tarot and Oracle decks with beautiful artwork, imagery and which had a good blend of interpretation and meaning to the cards. Etsy and Amazon are not great for discovering new, gorgeous indie Tarot decks and are not designed specifically for the Tarot industry as they just focus on mass selling and we decided to fill this gap by starting Tarot Stack.
Don't work with affiliates who don’t align with your mission, vision, and business strategy.
Eve has been interested in and learning about Tarot and Oracle readings and decks for the past 7 years and has done a lot of professional readings and got great reviews, so this was a huge advantage during the inception of Tarot Stack.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
We enable buyers to discover unique tarot decks produced by creative and independent artists. We strive to provide a thoughtful and enlightening experience, right from discovering the right deck to unboxing.
We find talented artists who make amazing Tarot, Oracle, or affirmation decks that focus on spirituality, artwork, aesthetics, colors, and just anything that would inspire someone who’s on a journey of self-discovery. Closely monitoring art platforms, tarot and art hashtags, and the Tarot industry in general, we’ve discovered there is so much talent and beautiful artwork that is to be presented to the right audience.
Our Vision is to create a meaningful space for independent artists to turn their creative passions into opportunities. We enable them to focus on their creative pursuits by helping them connect with the right audience.
To help independent artists see their artwork published, Tarot Stack offers printing and publishing services. Our service includes working with high-quality printers and offering complete flexibility on all aspects of the deck, which can be tailored to the artist's specifications. For instance, the deck's box's finish - matte or glossy, the cards' dimensions and thickness, gold foiling on the front and back.
Additionally, we offer a "Trial phase" where a limited number of decks are printed and artists get access to the over 1 million Tarot audiences our affiliate network nurtures, where they receive feedback and first impressions about the yet to be published deck from Tarot readers and creators. The same wide audience along with our customer base will provide artists with their target audience.
Artists who use Tarot Stack get all this at no upfront cost, since Tarot Stack funds the printing and publishing process, which would otherwise cost between $8,000 and $10,000 for artists to publish themselves. Artists retain complete ownership of their artwork and intellectual property.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The first step was to write a detailed business plan outlining different strategies, competitor analysis, financial projections, and plans. We vetted the plan with other entrepreneurs we knew and updated the plan based on their feedback. This was critical for guiding us during the initial launch phase.
Designing our web-store took 3 long painful months as we focused on aesthetics, colors, imagery, and trying to make the website a functional e-commerce platform.
The business was financed via the savings that we set aside for our business ventures.
We soon realized spending a whole month writing a detailed business plan came a long way as we still look back at the plan often when we get stuck. Lesson learned - spend as much time as possible on planning as it pays off.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Worked great for us so far. Finding the right affiliates is key to success, keep in mind that it's a very slow process and requires a lot of planning. Over the past 3 months, we’ve worked with plenty of social media influencers and found that only 2-3 fit our business model and sales strategy.
After a few weeks of starting to reach out to affiliates, I quickly learned that writing templated emails and just replacing their names didn’t work! I set aside a few hours every week to review the affiliate’s content, theme, and branding to design personal emails targeted for them. This got us our first social media influencer!
Metrics like follower count are great but having the right followers is important. Don't work with affiliates who don’t align with your mission, vision, and business strategy, focus on filtering out and narrowing down affiliates.
I can’t stress how important of a lesson this is for me - “Build long-lasting relationships and think about the big picture”. Having reasonable, well-defined expectations from your affiliates, tone and voice play a huge role in winning the hearts of your partner (Yes, try to think of them as your business partner and not a salesperson).
The hermit Tarot doing an IGTV live of an unboxing of our products;
Just something as simple as our affiliate partner starting the post with “The lovely humans over at @tarot.stack was kind enough to…”
Social Media Content Management:
Guest posts, collabs, and UGC (User generated Content) have worked well for us to gain consistent followers. Again, as mentioned earlier, spend time filtering your affiliate partners and actively reaching out for collaborations and guest posts. Before creating self-content, please spend time thinking about what “value” you’re bringing to your audience if they were to stumble upon your posts.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
So far, we’ve been profitable and have almost made back our initial investment. We are using this to add more stock to our webstore and pursue the next steps in our printing and publishing process. As we are just a few months old, it's hard to add any more detail and look forward to updating this a year later.
Never stop experimenting and trying.
Below is the monthly trend of our sales volume (4 months revenue):
Overall Traffic (Google Analytics)
The spikes in traffic are when our affiliates post content.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Analytics of top 10 countries and Conversion Rate:
Initially, our business plan mainly focused on capturing the US market and we anticipated 80-90% of traffic from here. However, via analytics and sales numbers we quickly realized we were getting almost half of our traffic from other parts of the world and saw good conversion rates in Canada and Australia, this helped us take some quick strategic decisions like subsidizing international shipping (we absorb $7 of the cost for international shipping) while still maintaining a good profit margin.
IG advertising was something we highly relied upon for driving traffic, sales, and conversions. We ran trials with different Ad sets on IG and TikTok and found that we did get traffic and engagement and absolutely no sales:
This is when we realized Ads were something we’ll have to revisit along with learning the skills or finding the right experts. This way we didn’t spend too much money on Ads in the beginning, which would affect our cash flow and the health of the business.
SEO and Organic sales:
As a small business owner, it was intimidating to learn something like SEO and implement it in a quick time frame. We spent a few hours every week learning basic on-page SEO for our website like adding alt-text, good product descriptions, hashtags, and improving site load time. This is something that takes time but will help in the long run and our sales via organic channels have constantly been improving. Don’t forget to learn how to measure this progress via the Google search console and other SEO tools out there.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Plenty of Shopify apps that are indispensable for our business’s success:
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Reading help docs on all platforms that our online business uses helped identify what is needed. Building an action plan to schedule time, amount of effort and implementation of what is learned helped accomplish small things and more to learn.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Cut out the noise and focus on what works for your business.
There’s a lot of buzz about “social Ads”, “Search engine Ads”, “Influencer marketing” and more. Having a 100% understanding of each of these channels, a well-thought-out strategy, goals, and expectations will bring value to your business. Do not invest any time or money into something you don’t completely understand.
As mentioned above, building a well-thought-out business plan will go a long way and guide you when you find yourself stuck.
Never stop experimenting and trying. We found great success via our affiliate marketing and social media and this was possible after working with multiple social media influencers and finding our superstars. This will take time, patience, and investment. Also, make sure you maintain good relationships with all your affiliates and have a good legal agreement. Please respect your affiliates and build reasonable expectations.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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