It all started with a tent at a San Diego street fair with just one product – a lightweight, ventilated shoe from France, called Glagla. Now, Coolest Shoes in California has a successful brick-and-mortar store, ecommerce store, two employees, and a loyal customer base.
The husband and wife team who started Coolest Shoes in California created an online store from Day 1, so that customers from the fair could see the events schedule and purchase the product online in-between fairs. What started as a tent with a single shoe has since grown to be celebrated as a successful and growing small business with a whole collection of comfortable and stylish shoes.
Coolest Shoes in California was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 and Entrepreneur of the Decade in 2013 from the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. This past year, Coolest Shoes in California has also been featured on the Channel 8, Channel 6, and KUSI, as well as being featured in the Carlsbad Business Journal, Carlsbad Magazine, and the San Diego Union Tribune.
CoolestShoesInCalifornia.com has a new online Miva store, which is growing rapidly, so we thought it would be interesting to find out the secret to success for this husband-and-wife venture. Founders, Bill and Christine Davis kindly sat down to let us know what they’ve used to grow and sustain their business.
1. Tell us a little bit about your business and what makes Coolest Shoes in California unique to other businesses?
After three and a half years of selling that one brand at street fairs and eventually also at our small warehouse with a front office showroom, we decided to go the traditional brick-and-mortar route and opened a store in the Village of Carlsbad. We were selling over 3,000 pairs of Glaglas at that time and opened our store with just that brand and two others. We had no retail experience at all but knew our customers loved the lightweight, easy-to-wear beachy lifestyle shoe we were selling, so we added other brands that embodied that same experience. And the customers came!
One year after hanging our shingle, we had 14 brands of shoes, all which embraced the “California lifestyle” and offered comfort along with style. We are unique in that we have stayed very focused on our mission of providing not just a shoe but a lifestyle; an experience. Comfort drives everything we do, but style is just as important. We do not believe that comfort and style are mutually exclusive.
We told Miva about the tremendous pains we were having keeping inventory accurate between our in-store counter sales and our growing online sales, and they had a solution.”
2. Why did you end up choosing Miva Merchant as your ecommerce platform?
We used a European shopping cart. While our old shopping cart was adequate when we had one brand of shoe with a dozen colors, we immediately outgrew it when we opened the store and added 13 more brands and expanded into children’s shoes, as well. Adding additional products into our previous shopping cart’s admin was laborious at best and not an efficient use of our time.
We chose Miva Merchant for a few reasons, but the underlying goal was to partner with a product and platform that could grow with us rather than restrict our growth. We also needed a product that would allow us an easy-to-use admin so that we could be more efficient when adding products and making changes to existing products. A real driving force behind the switch was Miva’s willingness to integrate T-Hub, an inventory management and processing program, with our Miva store and QuickBooks Point of Sale system. We told Miva about the tremendous pains we were having keeping inventory accurate between our in-store counter sales and our growing online sales, and they had a solution.
3. How have you customized your Miva store to fit your business’ unique needs?
T-Hub would be our biggest customization and one that has paid off more than we had imagined it would. With this addition, when sales are made in our brick-and-mortar store, the inventory in our online Miva store is automatically adjusted accordingly. There is no longer a need to manually update our online store following an in-store purchase and vice versa. We are saving an hour or more per day on this alone. We are no longer selling things online that we already sold in the store but forgot to update. In addition, packing slips are generated automatically and shipping labels are as well. We have taken the manual process of shipping a shoe from a 15-step process to a five-step process. We can literally process a shoe shipment in under 5 minutes now with the addition of T-Hub. Our “operator error” has been eliminated whereas prior to this customization we could make mistakes on many levels, including posting it wrong in QuickBooks, entering the shipping information incorrectly, choosing the wrong method of payment, etc.
The T-Hub integration has truly modernized our online capabilities, has improved our efficiency, saved us time and money, and has reduced or eliminated our operator error. It works perfectly with our Miva store.
With the Miva platform, you can grow your business as much as you want. Once it is in place, it is only up to your imagination as to how big of an online presence you want to have.”
4. In your opinion, what are the keys to success when operating an online store?
Providing a quick and efficient shopping experience is key. Customers should be able to find the product they are searching for quickly and check out quickly. The fewer the steps are to order fulfillment, the better. Also, inventory management is crucial. If you are a small business or just cannot keep deep inventory like some of the bigger operations, staying on top of what you do have in stock is critical.
5. What lessons have you learned as a result of setting up your online business?
Being online takes your business 24/7 every day of the year, but your overhead doesn’t change that much. I am always amazed to shop in a store that doesn’t also have an online component. With the Miva platform, you can grow your business as much as you want. Once it is in place, it is only up to your imagination as to how big of an online presence you want to have.
6. What’s your favorite part of the Miva Merchant platform?
Miva Merchant will help pull us forward; there’s no holding back now!”
Our favorite component of the Miva platform is the easy-to-use admin. I bring in new shoe styles and colors on a regular basis. I can add them to my display shelf in my store one minute after opening the box and receiving them into my POS. Being able to get them online so that my customers can start shopping quickly is important. The Miva admin allows me to do that. Adding a new product with new images, sizing attributes, meta descriptions, related products, etc., is not difficult to do and doesn’t take long.
Before Miva, the process was onerous and it often kept us from adding new products for days. Now, with Miva, a new product can be online in minutes following it being placed on the shelf in our store.
7. How is your online store doing today?
Our online store is doing great! With our new Miva platform and integrated T-Hub module, we are more excited and hopeful than ever before that our online sales will contribute even more to our overall gross sales. Now, rather than feeling that we had outgrown our capabilities, we feel that our capabilities are truly endless. Miva Merchant will help pull us forward; there’s no holding back now!