Running a lean organic-growth business with 30% annual growth with Andrew Lees of Grassracks (episode 346)

Andrew Lees is the co-founder at Grassracks and an ex-aerospace engineer who’s turned his hand to creating a line of bamboo board, bike, and ski racks. Founded in 2012, they are now doing $200k a year, with 30%annual growth.

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Getting To Know Andrew

From a young age, Andrew already knew he wanted to develop products and sell them.

With his degree in mechanical engineering and aerospace, he had a good background to develop products. And together with his realization that selling online was taking off, he began to go full steam ahead into eCommerce.

In deciding what product to develop and sell, Andrew turned to feedback from family and friends and the best reactions he got were for his bamboo line of board racks.

He got into CAD and started mocking up his ideas, and it took him quite a few iterations before getting his product right.

About Grassracks

  • Sells on Shopify as well as on Amazon and Etsy
  • Based in the U.S. with a warehouse in Pennsylvania
  • Manufacturing is done in North Carolina
  • Sells mostly in the U.S. and Canada but has been seeing an increase in orders from the UK and Australia

The Team

Andrew and his co-founder Evan are the main guys on the team.

They also have warehouse staff and fulfillment people they pay monthly for services rendered.

Apart from this, they don’t feel the need to hire any full-time staff as of now since there are many resources they can get on an as-needed basis. Outsourcing has been a good strategy for Grassracks, according to Andrew.

In-House Customer Service

When asked what part of the business they intend to retain in-house, Andrew says it’s customer service.

For him, it’s a simple thing to get right and it starts with understanding your customer. Find out what the problem is and address it in the best way possible.

The Brand’s Current Focus

Right now, Andrew says their focus is on sales and not on product development.

As a product developer, he was excited about creating new products for the business that he jumped from designing store and display racks to designing furniture. Eventually, they realized that it’s important to pick one product, focus your brand on it, and perfect it before expanding.

They do intend to go back to product development mode but their current focus is selling the existing product line.

Where Growth Is Coming From

One of the Grassracks’ biggest competitive advantages is they’ve perfected racks for every sport they cater to.

But aside from perfecting their products, they attribute the brand’s success to understanding their customer and figuring out what they want and what they’re willing to spend.

They’ve also seen an overlap in terms of customers who need racks for two or more sports, which may lead them to update their website and have a rack finder that combines different types of boards.

Plans For The Next 6-12 Months

What the brand is working on is driving sales to their Shopify store.

Understanding that their cost of goods is relatively high for their products, they’re looking to make an impact on their organic traffic by creating content and ramping up their affiliate marketing.

They’re also utilizing backlinks and reviews on different sites to drive customers to their website.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

  • Andrew is a visual person, so he prefers watching YouTube videos on something he wants to learn about. This usually revolves around strategic, tactical type of topics.

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • For Andrew, it’s content marketing and driving organic traffic. It’s better to invest in content and affiliate marketing than in paid advertising.

Tool Top Tip

  • Shopify eCommerce platform
  • ShipStation shipping software for streamlining your fulfillment process

Growth Top Tip

  • Content and organic traffic, with focus on keyword research. One tool Andrew uses is Keywords Everywhere which is a Chrome plugin that allows you to search a keyword and find out how many searches it has per month in different areas so you can optimize and create great content.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • 267: Organic Growth and managing Remote Teams with Ocushield’s Dhruvin Patel
  • 165: Create and manufacture your own products to increase margin with Nathan Resnick of Sourcify
  • 086-5: The Product Startup’s Filip Valica – should you create your product? And if so, how do you get it right?

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