This is a follow up story for Woodies. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Cory Stout, Captain of Woodies.
Woodies is America’s #1 seller of wood sunglasses. Most sunglasses have plastic or acetate temples, ours are made from sustainably sourced wood.
Our top seller is the walnut wayfarer with black lenses for $35. This product accounts for about a third of overall sales.
We sold 70,000+ pairs of sunglasses in 2021.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Woodies have grown 20% per year for the last 3 years with very little additional effort.
I’ve decreased the Amazon ad spend, I’ve increased prices, and we continue to see an increase in overall sales.
The organization looks like this:
6 months ago, I officially named my mom, Pamela, CEO of Woodies. She does a great job at customer service, she orders inventory, and she makes sure it gets into our warehouse and eventually the Amazon warehouse. She also answers every customer service email.
Our warehousing is done by Warehouse Republic (my bro over there is Mark Taylor). They receive all of our inventory from our supplier in China, and they send it to Amazon as needed.
I use Flexport to send everything over.
Early last year, I hired an email marketer (Ruslan at Tegra.co) and he utilizes Klaviyo to send out email campaigns and flows. We are breaking even on the cost of his service, but I see an email list as an essential asset. I’ve hired email marketers in the past that didn’t work out. This guy is a pro. I met with him a lot, in the beginning, to get it all set up, but now I let him do his thing without much supervision.
I have a virtual assistant who is like a swiss army knife. She posts on Instagram, she schedules lightning deals on amazon. She probably does more tasks that I’ve even forgotten about at this point. She’s essential.
I barely have any responsibilities at this point.
So, I’ve done everything I can to simplify the business. The biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make is to offer too many options and variations too early. I have a little rule of thumb. Sell at least 5,000 of something before you offer it in a different color.
Facebook ads are out. Nobody likes them, they’re too expensive and complicated, forget about them.
Amazon represents close to 95% of my business. They move the weight. If you master Amazon, you’re set for life. I prefer my sales to go to Amazon instead of my site because it means you will rise in their search rankings, which leads to more sales, more reviews, higher rankings, and on and on and on. I raced to get as many reviews as possible, as early as possible. This advantage has worked in my favor for many years now. If you’re struggling to get ranked on Amazon, go to every one of your friends, tell them to open the Amazon app, buy your product, you can Venmo them the entire cost, then ask them to leave a review. These are full-priced sales and they will help you get ranked.
In the beginning, I tried to get more sales on my website, because I wanted to ‘own my customers and my list’ but that’s just ego talking. Amazon’s not going anywhere, if you establish yourself on Amazon, then you will likely prosper for a long time.
For Amazon ads, I use a company called AdBadger.com It’s simple, straightforward and the owner Michael is an awesome guy. Based on my settings, I’ve been able to generate 200k in ad sales over the last 90 days with a 4.0 ROAS.
I continue to only sell in the USA (and a little bit in Canada) because I LOVE TO KEEP IT SIMPLE.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
My biggest lessons have come in life, not in business. Life is for living, I wanted to run my business and make sure it didn’t run me. Woodies could be a lot bigger by now, but I make sure I spend my time exercising, reading, calling my loved ones, and being outside.
I am grateful for the lifestyle that Woodies allows me to live, but there have been too many days where I worked longer than I needed to and I missed out on real life. The biggest lesson is to keep it simple. You don’t need to be every solution for everybody. Focus on creating value, and then SCALE that specific thing.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I would like to expand to every country that has a robust Amazon FBA system. For now, that means EU, UK, UAE, India, they’re all a hard pass for me. Too much compliance, not enough commerce. The juice has to be worth the squeeze, and my juicy requirements have gone up.
The biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make is to offer too many options and variations too early. I have a little rule of thumb. Sell at least 5,000 of something before you offer it in a different color.
I plan to keep Woodies resilient. As Covid taught us, prices of shipping could skyrocket, inventory could become difficult to get. Growth is DANGEROUS and people don’t talk about that enough. It’s much more important to stay IN business than to DOUBLE your business.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I read The Fountainhead and I highly recommend it. It’s about finding your true purpose in life and not compromising your vision.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Just make sure you love what you’re working on. Life’s too short.
I’ll try to be more helpful.
There are enough tools out there that you don’t need to hire all sorts of contractors. Learn them yourself. It’s worth it. Learn basic Shopify design, pick one ad network and learn it, hire a good bookkeeper (trust me on this one) and then happily ignore all of the other people trying to sell you stuff.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m always looking for good content creators. If you’re a photographer and you like road trips in classic cars, you can email me.
Where can we go to learn more?
- I’m at [email protected]
I promise I’ll read every email, but I cannot promise I’ll respond.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Discover the best strategies of successful business owners
Join our newsletter and receive our handcrafted recap with the best insights shared by founders in Starter Story each week.
Useful, convenient, and free:
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.
Companies using Klaviyo see a 95x ROI (yes, 95x)
Use Klaviyo to turn hard-earned customer data into hard-working emails and texts.
Try the platform that 265,000 brands use to grow their business.
Try it now (it's free) ➜