In this episode, we hear from Concrete Camouflage, a 20 year old business born out of the need to solve a problem faced by the business owner himself
What influenced your decision to start your e-commerce store?
I started Concrete Camouflage over 20 years ago before the concept of e-commerce even existed. I had previously owned a decorative concrete contracting company. Over the years, I tested just about every concrete stain and sealing product on the market. There were very few options available at the time and I knew there had to be a better way. I decided to try to develop our own products. Concrete Camouflage started from a problem I faced in my work. I knew that if it was something I struggled with, it was likely other people were as well.
Tell us about your business?
We manufacture and design our own concrete staining products, which we sell through our online store. Our products include concrete acid stain, concrete sealer, floor wax, and cleaning and prep supplies. Concrete acid stain is a less expensive alternative to more traditional flooring design options such as hardwood, carpet or tile. We are proud to help individuals across the country achieve great results for their indoor and outdoor concrete flooring projects. Our customers include homeowners, floor designers, concrete contractors, and hardware stores.
Do you currently run your store full time or part time? Tell us about the experience.
It’s a full time job. In the early days of the company it was just a part-time commitment so I worked several side gigs to supplement my income. As the company has grown so has my responsibility. The business is somewhat seasonal. Things tend to slow down in the winter when the weather is colder. We use this time to rejuvenate and prepare for the upcoming spring and summer months.
Which e-commerce platform do you use?
How did you get your first products stocked?
Since we design our own products, getting the first products stocked was simple. We didn’t have to negotiate terms or purchase from suppliers. We did everything ourselves.
How do you interact with your customers?
We use a variety of different mediums to engage with our customers including phone, email, and social media. We also frequently publish informational articles and tutorial videos on Youtube to help educate our customers on how to stain concrete floors.
What are some of the challenges you’re facing now or have faced, if any?
Our biggest challenge has been educating our customers. We began over 20 years ago when concrete staining was still in its infancy. We had to educate the public on what concrete acid staining was and how to use our products. Initially, our phone lines were constantly ringing with customers asking the same questions. This was taking up a lot of our time and we realized we needed a more efficient way to provide customer service. Eventually we uploaded a series of concrete staining tutorial videos and blog posts on our website, which answered the most common questions we were asked. This almost immediately reduced the amount of phone inquiries we received and allowed us to focus on scaling our business.
What apps/plugins are most useful to you?
We use a PayPal plugin so shoppers can complete the checkout process on our website using their PayPal account if they like. Most of customer still use their credit or debit card, but we want to provide them with as many options as possible.
Are there any personal business strategies you’ve developed with time?
I decided to move our company from the city to a rural location in a small town in Missouri. It was a big risk and fortunately it has worked out. Our new office sits atop a mountain with a beautiful lake view surrounded by trees and wildlife. Our team uses wireless phones and laptops so everyone can work outside. We believe providing our employees with the opportunity to be surrounded by nature and the outdoors ensures a happy and healthy work environment. Our philosophy is that a happy employee is a productive one. Moving our company to a rural area was a business strategy that has improved employee satisfaction and company culture.
If there was something you could change about your e-commerce journey so far, what will that be?
I would have used one of the more common e-commerce platforms such as Shopify or WordPress. We use an older and little known platform, which is a bit outdated and can complicate updates we need to make to our website. If I could do it over again I would have spent more time researching the different e-commerce platforms.
Any advice for upcoming e-commerce entrepreneurs?
I recommend outsourcing work when it is an area outside of your expertise and you are not sure how much work the job will require. When you launch an ecommerce store for the first time, you quickly realize there is a lot that goes into it and one person can’t do everything.
I understood our industry and products as well as anyone. However, I had little knowledge about how to design a website or set up an online store. Outsourcing initial assignments helped me find people whose strengths covered my weaknesses. The advantage of outsourcing work is it can allow you to stay nimble as a company early on. The last thing you want to do is onboard a new employee, train them, and then realize there isn’t enough work to keep them busy. Depending on the requirements for the role, you can hire freelancers or a consulting firm.
About Merchant Stories
Merchant Stories is a blog series by Kudobuzz (a startup that helps you grow your business with social reviews, product listings, and AI powered SEO) that highlights the stories of online merchants to give them more exposure and to serve as inspiration for upcoming merchants.
This is the first season in a long running series.
Want to get your story featured? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.