Recently I had the chance to meet the crew over at BnB Tobacco and the founders Brad and Brian (thus the BnB) and how they are making waves into the online e-commerce space as well as their inroads to the performance marketing industry. These are two local guys who have done well for themselves and I wanted to share their story. Brad was kind enough to take the time to do this interview, hope you enjoy it.
Brad – please tell us a bit about BNB, specifically when and how it got its start.
At the time, I was providing IT support to my wife’s family and their online Tobacco business. I knew their online store for them was a side business and not their primary focus. I threw out the idea of creating my own online store with the understanding that they would provide the order fulfillment. I knew the key to being successful right out of the gate was getting the traffic. It was at this point that I teamed up with my partner Brian. Brian had extensive experience in SEO and online marketing. With hard work and some luck BnB Tobacco really took off. Given the volume of orders, we eventually took over complete control of operations and moved into our own warehouse.
Can you talk a little bit about the year over year growth you have experienced and more importantly how you have been able to effectively manage that?
The first three years we more than doubled each year. These last two have been very close as well. Moving forward, we anticipate this trend to continue with more of an emphasis on mobile commerce and performance based marketing. Hard work, attention to detail, and long hours.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
The day-to-day operational issues. There are a lot of moving parts especially when fulfilling and dealing with thousands of orders and customers on a daily basis. This can be quite time consuming. I have to make a real effort to carve out time to focus on longer term objectives and goals.
What are some things you do at BNB to build and reinforce the culture?
Typically anyone who starts with the company is required to spend a few days working in the warehouse. We want people to not only understand the products we carry, but also the effort that goes into fulfilling an order. It’s not just a click of a mouse and that no job is too small. What we do is really a team effort!
What are some of the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?
Lead by example. I can’t expect someone to give 110% if I’m not. Also, expect people to make mistakes, just not twice.
I see there is a big push to capture the online retail share, what are you doing that separates you from the rest?
Selection, pricing, service and quality are the keys. A majority of our customers are individual consumers looking for products they can no longer easily get or find at their local brick and mortar store so we want to be sure they are able to find what they need at very reasonable pricing with top notch quality and service.
You have had a successful affiliate program on ShareASale – what % of sales does that account for roughly?
While it is currently a small percentage at this point, it is an avenue we see immense value in. We have recently brought on an in house consultant to build this piece out and working diligently with all data feed, coupon and blogging affiliates.
Mobile commerce is the next wave – what is BNB doing to position itself to take advantage of this?
We recently pushed out a mobile version of the BnB site. You can find it at http://m.bnbtobacco.com. We have noticed an increasing trend of our customers accessing our products via a mobile device and want to make their purchasing process seamless.
Where do you see yourself and the company in 3-5 years?
At some point, I would like to be big enough that the larger competitors in our space will have to take notice, if they have not already. It will either be merge/acquire or move out of the way.
Any words of wisdom for anyone looking to get started in the online retailing industry?
A clear vision of what you want to do and make sure you have the right technical expertise in place to execute. Also remember, the harder you work, the luckier you get!
Finally – how does someone get in touch with BNB (FB, Twitter, email, etc?)
Anyone can get in touch with us via our Facebook page at http://prfm.us/tb2