Sramana Mitra: Was the value proposition that you were going to contribute a portion of this to the cause of saving elephants?
Nathan Coleman: Exactly. That was the mission from day one. We sell these pants but we also contribute a portion of every sale to different elephant organizations. That’s how we ended up getting connected with AWS. They were our charity partner in the beginning.
Sramana Mitra: After the Kickstarter campaign where you raised $8,000, what was the next
customer acquisition move?
Nathan Coleman: We continued the same process and strategy of grinding on social media and creating a lot of those authentic relationships by commenting, liking, and finding more about our customers. We did that for a while. We tried to get influencer placement by sending out products and doing collaborations with other brands so we could get cross-posting. This was on Instagram. We saw direct results because we were always ranked. That kept it going.
We did some newsletters when we had stuff to talk about. It wasn’t as much as it is now. Then we kept chugging along with that. In about February or so, we started investing in display ads – Facebook for the most part. That really helped us scale the business a lot quicker. That got us in front of a lot of people. We use Facebook ads for prospecting as well as retargeting.
Sramana Mitra: What scale are you at now?
Nathan Coleman: In 2016, we did about $5 million.
Sramana Mitra: How much have you contributed to your cause so far?
Nathan Coleman: Around $130,000 since the start. We had a little bit of an issue at the end of 2015. We switched e-commerce hosting platforms and were blindsided by two to three times the cost we were told. It was a lot. We ended up having to book a $300,000 loss. It took us a bit to get out of that hole. Now we’re back to being able to focus more on the donation and getting more money out the door. My goal is to get at least $200,000 through the end of the year. That’s a really important piece for us.
We’re also going to focus more on the specific things. We want to provide the customer with some very clear and tangible results of what that donation is doing. We’re also working towards helping an elephant hospital in business. They’re struggling to keep the lights on, so we’re gong to come in and fund them through donations and other things to be able to sustain operations and keep saving the elephants. That’s a big thing that we will be doing.
Sramana Mitra: All the people who are transacting on your site and generating this $5 million in revenue, would it be fair to say that these are all elephant lovers or animal lovers?
Nathan Coleman: Yes. I’d say 99% of them are. As we’ve been growing, it’s about balancing and understanding the donation versus the product. What’s driving the demand. The donation is very important for a lot of people. The fact that it goes towards something good. That’s the expectation. That’s the desire for all of our disposable income. We can spend money to buy a pair of pants that does something good. There’re so many options out there. That’s the gold standard. That’s the norm now especially as the millennials grow up and start getting jobs. They have a strong desire that they need to make a difference and they need to make some sort of impact on the world bigger than themselves.
Sramana Mitra: Very interesting. Thank you for your time.