Have you ever wanted to get insights on how entrepreneurs took an idea and turned it into a successful business while utilizing ShipStation? Twice a quarter event series, Ship and Sip allows you to do just that.
Hi! My name is Erin and in addition to being the Manager of the ShipStation Community, I also have the honor of hosting Ship & Sip. We had our first Ship & Sip with a live studio audience on April 28th and I’m here to break down all the sweet insights from our guest Ken Shenkman, Co-owner of Bulk Candy Store, and guest moderator Matt Crawford, General Manager of Shipping from BigCommerce.
A Family Run Business with a Growing Need to Scale
Bulk Candy Store is a family-run and owned business that has been around for over 30 years. Ken co-owns this business with his brother Brian. Even Mom Carol Shenkman gets in on the action as the CFO of the business. In my talks with Ken you can truly tell that Bulk Candy Store is a business built with much love and care.
Like many other businesses, even though Covid hurt his in-store business it boosted their online traffic drastically. Ken stated that they tripled their online sales within 3 to 4 months during the pandemic. While this was amazing news for the business, it made it very clear that their website was due for an upgrade to keep up with all the new traffic.
When Ken first built the Bulk Candy Store online storefront, it was important to use an open source web framework that allowed him the freedom to fully customize everything. As the business grew, so did his responsibilities, which meant relying more on developers. The growth from Covid made Ken realize he needed a solution that allowed him to make changes faster and without a middle man.
The Search to Replatform: Finding Jamersan
Like most savvy business owners, Ken decided to consult the almighty Google to research his options. This is when he found T.J Gamble of Jamersan’s YouTube videos comparing ecommerce platforms. T.J. ‘s care and candor ultimately led to Ken working with Jamersan.
While on the search Ken observed that there were platforms that were plug and play, and platforms that- like his existing site- that was more geared towards developers that allowed for more customization. Bulk Candy Stores needed to find a platform in the middle that allowed for customization was user-friendly for all and could be quickly updated even when on the go. BigCommerce’s ecosystem, user-friendly interfaces, and built-in features and plug-ins ended up being the perfect match.
BigCommerce & ShipStation
With the care and pure interest Jamerson took in learning the business and its needs, Ken was able to find the solutions that actually worked for his business and this has led to big wins for Bulk Candy Story.
BigCommerce’s third-party plugin calculates dimensional weight to save popcorn customers from getting overcharged for shipping. Also, BigCommerce’s new Multi-Storefront feature that allows users to multiple storefronts all filter into one unified backend experience, has allowed Bulk Candy to meet their customers wherever they prefer to shop while still delivering exceptional post sales service.
In addition to helping Bulk Candy Store find their new platform BigCommerce, Jamersan also introduced Ken to ShipStation to help address some of the shipping inefficiencies they were facing.
ShipStation’s Print to Scan and Print to Verify features have helped reduce packing mistakes that led to expensive returns and reshipping. The mobile app allows Ken to help customers wherever and whenever they might need him, and the third-party billing has made it easy for him to keep up with doing fulfillment for other companies.
I could go on and on about how all of the changes Ken made with the help of Jamersan, but why take my word for it. You can take a more in-depth look into the process that Ken and the team at Jamerson went through to transform Bulk Candy’s ecommerce in the first four episodes of the Ecommerce Makeover series.
- Ecommerce Makeover Episode 1
- Ecommerce Makeover Episode 2
- Ecommerce Makeover Episode 3
- Ecommerce Makeover Episode 4
How Erin Sees It
As the host of Ship & Sip, I have the honor of talking to many merchants and hearing their stories. This honor makes me uniquely qualified to share some lessons I have learned after speaking with Bulk Candy Store.
Don’t be afraid to hop on existing trends by making them your own
In today’s ecommerce landscape it is very rare that you will be the first to sell a specific product and more likely that you will have to compete with bigger companies. Ken and Bulk Candy Store have already proven that when you take care of customers as people first and approach your sales with transparency and care, you can win that fight to stand out, but they also prove that you can still stand out while following product trends.
You may never be the first to come to the market with a product or may come late into a trend but that should never stop you from making it your own. For example, when Bulk Candy Store introduced a focus on chocolatiering, they went all in and created a 4-pound Peanut butter cup. This crazy confection became the star of their holiday season and promptly sold out.
In our talks, Ken was also the first to admit that Bulk Candy Store was a little late to the pandemic trend of freeze-drying candy, but that did not stop them from going for it. That instinct has paid off for this business, with Bulk Candy store ranking as the second top non-advertisement result for “freeze dried candy” on the first page of Google search results.
Find partners that treat you like a person and not just a wallet
When you are looking for partners remember that they are not just a third party contractor, but they are a partner to your business. Make sure that you take your time to find partners who are willing to talk to you with candor and that care just as much as you do about your success.
For Ken, Jamersan was not only a partner but a great ally as they took the time to understand what his current pain points were but took time to learn about his business all around. That trust that both parties put in each other has certainly paid off.
Ken’s big piece of advice here that I thought was poignant was that any business partner you are meeting with should have an interest in hearing your needs, where you want to go, and should ideally be able to present you with solutions you did not think of. If they are not meeting these needs, it might be time to find another partner who will.
Don’t be afraid to be transparent and put ownership on your customers
One of Ken’s bigger struggles is that he sells candy shipping out from Florida which means all of his perishable shipments first have to survive the heat on their journey to their final homes. Ken has made it a priority to allow his customers to take ownership of the shipping they choose since his customers are the ones who pay for it. But he also wants to make sure that his product arrives as it should. To solve this problem he has made sure that all of his products have a big warning on the page that advises them of the melting risk and recommends the fastest shipping method to ensure safe transportation. He says that since putting this ownness on his customer he has noticed that he no longer gets complaints.
Thank you again to Ken Shenkman for sharing his story, Matt Crawford for being an amazing co-host, and to our Partners BigCommerce, Jamersan, and SkuVault for sponsoring this event. If you liked the video recap and what you read here, we would love to have you join us live for our next Ship & Sip event on June 16th. If you still want more Ship & Sip content you can check out February’s recap blog or you can watch the February recap video.