SendAFriend is an online store that lets you send stuffed animal care packages to loved ones. At 18, Tyler Macke created this booming eCommerce business with the sole purpose of generating positivity in an increasingly negative time. With SendAFriend, you can send goodwill to the people who matter most, right when you’re thinking of them.
As an entrepreneur, Tyler’s aim is doing good. He’s doing very well at it. SendAFriend has enjoyed explosive growth since the pandemic, moving from his brother’s spare room into a new office and warehouse. Meanwhile, his company donates a full 10% of sales to children's hospitals in the United States.
With Easyship, SendAFriend has streamlined its shipping processes and effectively scaled into huge growth. For example, batching hundreds of shipments at once allowed the company to skyrocket its efficiency, saving valuable time and money. For all the details, read the SendAFriend case study here.
Inspired by SendAFriend’s positivity and success, we asked Tyler a few questions about how he built his company into an overnight success. Read below for tips and insights into growing and scaling your business during the tricky pandemic era.
What was your inspiration for starting SendAFriend?
I got into graphic design and eCommerce when I was 16 or so. I did freelance work for a couple of years. When I was 18, I had the urge to start my own brand. I wanted to do something with purpose and quickly found that positivity was more important to me than anything.
SendAFriend was born of the idea to create positivity, to give something back to the world; specifically to the Children’s Hospital.
The online gaming community ended up being a big source of entrepreneurial spirit. It’s funny how playing video games growing up turned into a whole business.
What were some challenges you confronted in starting your store?
The one thing I didn’t really know how to do was paid media. Up until this year, the biggest struggle for SendAFriend was gaining new customers. The biggest turning point was in January of this year. I finally found a skilled media buyer and he helped me on the paid social front.
For paid media, our primary spend is on Facebook and Instagram. For retention and retargeting we generate about 30% of revenue from email.
What is the value proposition for SendAFriend?
At SendAfriend, we’re not like a competitive product that’s fighting for market share. I think people just feed into the brand, into giving back and doing something positive. During the quarantine especially, we kind of have the perfect product: people say “Hi” to their loved ones, and tell them they're thinking about them, but in a different way.
How did you discover Easyship?
Until this February, we were using Shopify Fulfillment which limits you to 20 orders at a time. When we started to scale, our first big bottleneck was order capacity. So we looked at a couple of different shipping providers. From day one, Easyship had good customer relations and we always had a contact at Easyship we could talk to – even though we were only doing a couple of hundred orders at a time.
SendAFriend had some unique elements on the fulfillment side. Easyship approached these as problem-solving opportunities. Again, it was about having the reliability of being able to communicate with somebody. Now we’re doing about a thousand orders a day and we still have that same support. I think [support] was what hooked me on Easyship, and that’s why we’ve stayed.
How have you incorporated shipping automation into your workflow?
With any fulfillment network doing more than 100 orders a day, it’s crucial to have your basic rules set up. At SendAFriend, there aren’t too many [automation] rules needed because 96% of our customers are sending the exact same size, dimensions, and even using the same [courier] service. We’ve definitely done things to make stuff easy. The set up was easy with Easyship.
How did SendAFriend adapt to the pandemic?
SendAFriend was basically a side project until last January, but it’s seen exponential growth this year. When we brought on the media buyer we started scaling. We sold out for Valentine’s Day. Shortly after was when lockdown started.
In March and April, Facebook and Instagram became much cheaper. We could get results for little [investment] with more people online and fewer advertisers in the space. That’s when we scaled the hardest. We went from operating out of my brother’s old bedroom to scaling into over 500 orders a day, into a new office and fulfillment warehouse in less than three months. It’s kind of ridiculous. If you look at growth year-over-year, it’s like 6,000% growth!
It was wild timing. In January of last year, I just decided randomly that I was tired of SendAFriend losing money and being a side project. I believed in it so much. It’s such a positive thing. It could be such a good company. Obviously there’s been struggles and hardships with some of the inventory issues and shipping delays, but overall I cannot be more thankful for what we’ve been able to do this year.
How do you target your markets? Have you expanded internationally?
The cool thing about SendAFriend is that it doesn’t have a specific market. We always tailor our ads and brand to a certain demographic, but at the end of the day it’s like a modern way of sending flowers. You do it with anybody. It could be your grandma, or mom, or kid, any age range, any gender, and any occasion. We have a ton of growth left in the United States. I think international will be a focus in the future, but really hasn’t been a focus yet.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
I always tell people the same thing: if it’s not something you believe in, it’s never going to succeed. I think that’s the number one thing, whether you’re creating a product, a website or a brand. Just make sure it’s something you can believe in, give it a purpose, give it a cause, make sure it connects to you or someone around you. When you’re working 14-hour days and the sales aren’t there, you need something to keep pushing along until it works.
What advice would you offer for scaling your business around shipping?
It’s important to know your shipping rates and your shipping strategy. You can gain a customer on the shipping side just as quickly as on the marketing side. So if you’re offering free shipping or quick shipping, that can be a point where you gain a customer rather than lose them. So always have a strategy behind [shipping].
There are different strategies you can use to gain customers. Shipping is such an easy place to lose a customer. You don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize trust with your customers, and you want to give them the information they need, and the options they want. Make sure you have a [shipping] strategy because, if you don’t, it’s pretty clear to customers.