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E-Commerce Business Success Story: The Critter Depot

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Welcome to this e-commerce business success story! In this profile, we interviewed Jeff Neal, the owner of The Critter Depot. Our hope is that you find this interview to be enlightening and inspiring as you seek to start and grow your very own online brand! By the way, one great way to grow your online brand is to optimize the images on your website. Check out this beginners guide to ecommerce image optimization!

Thank you for joining us for this Boardroom e-commerce business success story! We’d like to start by getting an understanding of your backstory. How did you come to own your business?

My kids had a bearded dragon.  They loved him and he ended up living for 13 years!  But buying crickets for him was becoming a huge undertaking.  So I started breeding them.  Crickets are easy to breed, and I ended up with more than I needed.  So I went on reptile forums and offered them to other reptile owners.  I was really surprised for the demand, so I started doing it more frequently.  Then I realized I could create a website and reach a broader audience If i tried advertising.  And eventually breeding and selling crickets for reptile owners became a viable business.

Terrific! Now, this article is about profiling successful e-commerce businesses. So – can you share your top 3 keys to running a successful online brand?

The best tip is you have to hustle. It’s going to take a few months or years to really know who your customer is. This will take a lot of trial and error, knocking on doors, soliciting, and trying to meet new people and get feedback. This isnt easy, but it’s how you need to get started, which will reflect in your brand. And then you have to deliver. If you don’t deliver, your brand will become impaired, and you could jeopardize your own reputation. And communicate well with clients. Let them know when their order will ship, and when it will arrive. Be available and ready to ask questions. Because this will provide a great experience with your customers.

Excellent. Now, I’m sure it hasn’t always been that easy. Can you tell a story about one challenge, setback, or mistake that you’ve had to overcome on the road to success? How can others learn from your mistakes?

New online business owners need to rebound and persevere from problems. In our first year of selling crickets online, we got hit hard during our first winter. Nearly every package we shipped died in transit. This was terrible for profits and for customer experience. We had to quickly identify how to increase the survival rate, and recover our lost customers. We changed some packaging, tried different carriers, and ultimately found a system that yielded a high survival rate. It took a few weeks to get it figured out. And we certainly got our fair share of bruises. But we’re now a few years removed from that and have strengthened our business and customer serivce because of that trial.

Thanks for that. Now – we want to know what’s next! What new initiatives are you rolling out at your business and what results are you hoping to see? 

Right now, we primarly offer live feeder insects for zoos, pet stores, and reptile owners. We feel that we are well suited to transition into a more broad pet store, and are looking into products for dog owners, cat owners, and other types of common and uncommon pets.

Sounds exciting! Any final words of advice for our readers?

Don’t give up. sometimes it can take years for an idea to flesh and out and become profitable. But as long as you stick with it, you’re more likely to discover what it takes to create a viable online store.

Brilliant! We want to thank you for participating in today’s interview. Hopefully our readers agree that there is a lot to be learned from your brand’s story. What links can our readers use to follow along with your journey?

Thanks! You can learn more about us below:

The Critter Depot is an online pet store selling live crickets and roaches to reptile owners, zoos, and pet stores. Visit their store to see a wide range of live crickets and bugs for your pet.


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