Charles Camisasca learned from his mistakes that stopped him from starting his own company. However, he stayed true to his desires, and continued to work at his dream, which kept being deferred by other responsibilities. Still, he kept at it, and eventually he founded The Ecommerce Boardroom.
At Ecommerce Boardroom, Charles Camisasca helps other aspiring entrepreneurs either launch their startups from zero or scale their existing businesses. The company offers coaching and training sessions straight from an e-commerce expert. You don’t need to have any experience with an e-commerce brand to find success with The Ecommerce Boardroom.
While running his company, Charles Camisasca knows that work-life balance is vital to find happiness. However, if you want to be an entrepreneur, he wants you have a “singular focus,” especially for beginners who are working toward their own company.
According to Charles Camisasca, aspiring entrepreneurs need to dedicate some time to achieve their business goals, no matter how long it takes. You may not be able to dedicate a full eight hours to working on your business, but whatever time you can spare could be very helpful to get your business off the ground.
Charles Camisasca also says that this work will help you build “necessary habits” that will help you improve your work ethic and grow your business. He says that forming these habits was a significant factor in helping him launch his company.
Check out more interviews with forward-thinking entrepreneurs here.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Charles Camisasca: Of course. I was born and raised just outside of Tampa, Florida. My father came from no money and built a formidable financial advisory business from the ground up. From the time I was a kid, he encouraged me to explore entrepreneurship and instilled in me a keen desire to build something of my own.
That led me to study Accounting and Entrepreneurship as an undergrad at the University of Notre Dame. For a variety of reasons, I didn’t feel ready to start a business right out of college. Wanting to avoid a routine desk job, I began my professional career in Consulting. At the Huron Consulting Group’s Law Department Management practice, I was thrust into the world of software design and implementation. For an Accounting major, the learning curve was steep. Looking back, I am incredibly grateful for all that I learned there: The skillset that I gained in software and consulting has become instrumental to my new business.
During my time with Huron (perhaps hearing my Dad’s voice in my head), I never lost sight of my entrepreneurial goals. My nights and weekends became sacred times of reading and research. Fascinated with the idea of starting a business from my living room, I was drawn to eCommerce. For months, I read everything I could find about selling products through Amazon, Shopify, Facebook, and Google.
Finally, I started my first business: selling biodegradable disposable plates on Amazon. There were some (many) bumps along the way, but I won’t soon forget the excitement that came with that first sale!
Fast forward a couple of years, and I own (with my business partner) 3 eCommerce brands that have collectively done over $200k in sales.
In early 2020, floored with excitement about the opportunity eCommerce represents and armed with my software and consulting skillset, I set out to build a company that combines everything I’ve learned. The eCommerce Boardroom is that company: Part free eCommerce learning center, part consultancy, and part Software as a Service (SaaS), it is the best way that I can think of to share all that I’ve learned with the world.
Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Charles Camisasca: As I began to scale my eCommerce brands, I learned two striking things that contributed to the idea for my new company.
- There is a massive online community of aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs.
- eCommerce is really, really complex.
First, the community. I can’t tell you how many eCommerce Facebook groups, blogs, podcasts, forums, and influencers I’ve followed or subscribed to. And each one represents a community: often 10s or 100s of thousands of people that are just trying to “make it” in the world of eCommerce. Truthfully, I have been encouraged by just how engaged, supportive, and helpful these communities are. But the sheer number of people who are starting an eCommerce business is enough to overwhelm any newcomer to the space. After all, aren’t all those people technically my competition?
Second, the complexity. Starting an eCommerce business is hard. But scaling one? That’s even harder. There are so many touchpoints: systems, platforms, tools, and service providers that all work together to make the business tick. With many touchpoints, comes much data. And with much data, comes confusion.
If there was an “Aha Moment”, it was when I listened to a podcast that interviewed Tobias Lütke, one of the founders of Shopify. I can’t remember if it was Tobias or the Interviewer who called Shopify the ultimate “pick and shovel” play in eCommerce. In case you don’t know, this phrase comes from the California Gold rush. Who is guaranteed to make a killing in a gold rush? The people selling the tools (picks and shovels) needed to mine the gold.
Today, eCommerce is a gold rush.
After listening to that interview, I did a quick Google search. As it turns out, there are over 1 million active Shopify Stores and more than 2 Million active sellers on Amazon. Amazing!
That’s when I realized that, although Shopify might be the ultimate “pick and shovel” play, it can’t be the only one in town. The lightbulb turned on.
Instead of viewing those massive online communities as competitors, I saw them to be potential customers. And instead of feeling overwhelmed by the high degree of complexity involved in scaling an eCommerce business, I began to see this as an opportunity to coach others. And so, the idea of a SaaS / Consultancy hybrid for eCommerce entrepreneurs was borne.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Charles Camisasca: When I first started selling products online, I nearly threw in the towel a number of times. One such time came, as it did for many people, when the reality of COVID-19 set in back in March 2020. All 3 of my businesses floundered.
At the time, I had just spent about 6 weeks researching and setting up my very first Shopify store. My idea? A Travel Accessory brand that I called Yugenite. Yeah, I guess you could say that COVID had an impact on that industry! My store went to 0 overnight.
Another business that I co-own with my brother-in-law is a custom men’s suit shop called Destino Clothing. As we all know, COVID led to fewer events, less disposable income, and virtually 0 in-person business meetings. So, our luxury clothing business took a hit as well.
And of course, there was my B2B disposable plates business, Conscious Products. It struggled to stay afloat as its primary customer segment, event planners and catering companies, was decimated by the pandemic.
As you can imagine, there was a temptation to close up shop and apply for my old consulting job. Instead, out of necessity, we orchestrated a pivot with all three businesses. The result? We learned a ton and actually ended up turning a profit.
At Yugenite, I needed a complete overhaul. I saw the opportunity in creating a lifestyle brand that encourages people to adapt to the new normal of the pandemic and “shelter-in-place”. I sell products that empower my customers to work, exercise, and decompress from the comfort of their homes. My flagship product is a unique reusable face mask. (Not wanting to contribute to a medical supply shortage or price gouge in any way, I targeted the high-end, non-medical “fashion” mask segment, and did well!)
At Destino, we began to sell high-end casual wear that allowed us to adapt to market demand while remaining on-brand.
And at Conscious Products, I successfully pivoted the model to B2C by targeting individuals hosting small outdoor get-togethers.
The pandemic was truly a pressure cooker for my eCommerce brands. It was stressful. But it was probably also the single biggest learning experience of my life. I think the love of God, the support of my wife, and the determination to not go back to my old consulting firm were the key reasons I was able to persist in the face of every temptation to give up.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Charles Camisasca: Things are going well today! Yugenite, Destino, and Conscious Products are each still operating and producing sales each and every day.
Most importantly, grinding through the process of building up these 3 brands has given me a robust understanding of various eCommerce business models. The result is The eCommerce Boardroom: a neat marriage of my experience designing software as a consultant and my expertise in eCommerce.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Charles Camisasca: I made every mistake when I was first getting started. The funniest was probably mixing up the “Consignee Address” with the “Delivery Address” when importing my first product to the US. What does that mean? Well, my Freight Forwarder, per my instructions, was about to deliver 50,000 disposable plates to my apartment in Chicago! Fortunately, an agent noticed that something looked a little “off” (warehouses don’t typically have a Unit #…) and called me to double check. We had a good laugh on the phone, but can you imagine if the truck had shown up at my apartment? I’m not sure what I would’ve done! The lesson? Sweat the details. They MATTER.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Charles Camisasca: Well, I have to suggest that our Boardroom App, which will launch in Q4 2020, will empower eCommerce entrepreneurs to start and manage their brands efficiently with data-driven decision-making.
Shameless plug aside, there are tons of software tools out there that streamline various pieces of the eCommerce puzzle. Here are three of our favorites:
- Product Research Tools: Aglopix, Viral-Launch, Sell the Trend. We use a variety of product research tools to get a sense for market size, competitive landscape, and the viability of launching a product on various platforms (Amazon vs Shopify vs eBay, etc.).
- ShipBob: A tech-enabled 3PL company that integrates with all major eCommerce platforms. I use them for inventory storage and order fulfillment. They have amazing customer support, automated order fulfillment, and low / no monthly minimums for fees. They definitely ease the headache that logistics can create for eCommerce brands!
- Sales Funnel Software: ClickFunnels and The Upsell Plugin (for WordPress) are great tools to help you build out compelling landing pages, up-sell and down-sell sequences, and focus on maximizing your Average Cart Value.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Charles Camisasca: The best way to increase conversion rates is to focus on the customer experience from start to finish. Here are some of the key elements:
- Retargeting Advertisements. Ads targeting people who have engaged with your brand get much higher conversion rates.
- Compelling Product Pages. This includes great pictures, titles, descriptions, and reviews.
- Offer a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee.
- Add free “Bonuses” to increase the perceived value of the product. For example, offer a free eBook with every purchase that helps the customer get the most out of your product.
- Use Urgency and Scarcity to encourage the customer to buy today. For example, a limited time sale.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Charles Camisasca: I think some of the answers to the previous question serve to boost customer trust and loyalty. Broadly, I would say that you need to focus on Customer Success, an area that many brands ignore. Customer Success is the process of ensuring that a customer achieves their desired outcome from using your product or service. It means providing 10x more value to your customers than your competitors.
Do this by providing “How-to-Use” instructions with every purchase, lenient Customer Service / returns policies, easily understood Rewards / Customer Loyalty / Referral Programs, and free bonuses and upgrades.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Your background matters. There is an old adage that I think is relevant here: “Let your life speak.” Don’t ignore your own experiences and areas of expertise when considering an eCommerce product launch. If you start a business that falls into a niche that you enjoy and understand, you’re far more likely to succeed and far less likely to get burned out.
- You can’t do it all yourself. To really scale your business, you will need to outsource different functions. The method is this: Learn, Do, Delegate. Study up and learn the best practices for something. Then, define success and figure out a process that achieves it. Finally, once the system is in place, hire someone to do it for you. A great example is Customer Service. For 2 months, I answered every customer support inquiry we received. I created an FAQ document and eventually was able to copy/paste 95% of my responses. That’s when I hired someone else to do the busy work for me and freed up my time to focus on high-value tasks.
- You need to test. eCommerce is one big science experiment. What products, platforms, ad targeting, creatives, etc. are going to work best for your business? You won’t know for sure until you get some data that you can evaluate. Which brings me to my next point…
- You will need to pivot. This one is hard for me: I’m a planner. I love to scope out every detail of my business plan, from product to market. But I am never afraid to toss it in the trash. If the data indicates that I should pivot to a new product, marketing strategy, or fulfillment service provider: do it. And trust me, at some point (probably multiple points), the data WILL sugg
- There is a repeatable process that you can follow. The good news is that there is a framework that you can leverage to generate predicable success with eCommerce. Answering “The 5 Fundamental Questions” of eCommerce (mentioned earlier in my interview) is that framework! We teach a series of strategies and tactics for making data-driven decisions at every step of the process. That’s what gets me so excited about eCommerce: anyone can do it! I firmly believe eCommerce has fundamentally changed the entrepreneurial landscape and flattened the playing field. It’s up to you to take advantage.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Charles Camisasca: The best way is to sign up for our newsletter on the eComm Boardroom site. There, we provide helpful eCommerce tips and resources and readers will have the exclusive chance to beta test our software for free once it is released!
And finally, we’d love to answer any questions your readers might have! Please feel free to reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to everyone, sincerely, for reading!
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
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