When we came across Mini Materials, we were immediately mesmerized by the scaled-down versions of everyday building materials sold on their online store. We sat down with founders Mat Hofma and Erik Polumbo to size up the successes and challenges of running a business online. Today, the three-year-old Tampa-based business ships about 300 packages a month, exceeding 500 packages during the holiday season.
Read on to find out how they’re making waves with hobbyists all over the world.
How did you get started with Mini Materials?
Mini Materials began operations in 2015 selling realistically scaled-down versions of building supplies. We sell miniature cinder blocks, red bricks, wood pallets, lumber, and more! It began with just an eagerness to start a business and found small versions of everyday products as a novel way to enter the industry.
What have you found to be most valuable for strengthening your connection to your customers?
We have a very strong email subscription list, we send out discount codes and promote new products weekly. Our social media following is where a great deal of our customer base finds out about us and transitions to a purchase on our website.
What has been most useful to you for improving your customer experience?
We do our best to make the checkout process as fluid and simple as possible. We opened up methods of payment to as many options as we are able so that customers can click a few times to complete their transaction. We’ve developed our website so it is clean and simple to view all of our products to try and remove any frustrations customers may have during the buying process.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are just starting to build an e-commerce store and trying to decide how best to spend their time?
You have to be committed for the long haul. If you believe in what you are trying to accomplish, you have to go in at full speed. You have to stay on it regularly and make sure your customers are treated with the highest level of respect and care. They are your lifeline, so quality customer service is paramount.
What are some of the challenges you see in shipping your products?
International shipping fees are expensive. We have a huge following in Australia and parts of Europe so it makes it tough on the customer to make a purchase when the shipping fees are high. We work on making it as reasonable as possible financially for both us and the customer, but that’s been the toughest part for us.
What do you like most about using Shippo?
Shippo is convenient and quick. It’s a few clicks and you’ve printed a label and notified the customer of their tracking number. It’s sequenced into our Shopify platform so we don’t have to do a whole lot to get each shipment out the door as quickly as possible.
Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.