Business is tough and for some, may not even be successful. For Daniel, Heavenly Hammocks is his 4th e-commerce business, which has become his first successful business. This is a story where grit and perseverance is at not doubt, it’s strongest.
What is your business (include name) and when did you start?
Heavenly Hammocks & Swings (https://www.heavenlyhammocks.com.au/swings/) started in 2014. It started as Heavenly Hammocks, though as the product line evolved to include swings, we decided to change the brand so the swings would not look out of place. It’s now getting pretty big with 100CBM+ of stock on hand.
What inspired you to start your business?
Hammocks looked like a good niche. I did lots of research (eg. checking Ebay’s recently sold items to see popular items, sales speed and prices) and a business plan and it still looked good.
Tell us about the journey you have been on with your businesses?
This is my 4th E-commerce website, though it’s the first one to be successful. Yes, the first 3 all failed for various reasons.
Headphones – big brands wouldn’t agree to sell to me, so I quit before getting started.
2. Pearls – customer expectations mismatch, as they can’t see the items before buying, so too many returns / customer support for my liking, so I quit.
3. Gift boxes and display stands – slow sales and expensive delivery made the profit very marginal, so I finally stopped the business to make more room for hammocks.
I may sound like a quitter, but the hammocks are in their 4th year and I work on it a lot every day. This is just the first business that made sense to me to put lots of on-going effort in.
How do you handle the naysayers?
People are not really negative about my businesses, even when they’re failing. I only have myself to say yes or no.
How do you balance everything? What are your top tips?
We use a 3PL warehouse which frees up lots of time, as it cuts down on order processing time by a lot. That just leaves the rest of the business to run. With an endless stream of customer emails coming in, I find Thunderbird’s colour coding system helps to avoid getting confused. New emails are black, and once I’ve finished managing an email, I mark it as green, so it’s easy to see which emails are not finished yet.
Managing family time is another matter, as when I spend over half a day away from the business, I’ll come back to a big backlog.
Where do you envision yourself in the next 5 years? How do you plan to do this?
This seems like a good business, so I intend to keep improving it, though 5 years is a long time for a business that’s in its 4th year, so I can’t quite say.
What has been a challenge you’ve had to overcome that has shaped you and your business?
Defective products are the most annoying to overcome. It means much more customer complaints than usual, and then a costly solution to get it all fixed. It would be great to never have product issues, but it seems impossible to avoid completely, so we just have to solve them as they appear.
Who inspires you? Why?
Elon Musk. I can’t think of anybody else who makes me so enthusiastic about innovation, giving us a better future. His amazing achievements make him seem barely human.
What is a tip that you would give to a young person thinking about starting a business, but not sure how to start?
Businesses need continuous improvement to become successful, so get started first, then always think of ways that you can make it better. So don’t expect to be majorly successful immediately. A good business may start out minorly successful then grow to become much more successful after some time (maybe years).
What are your top 3 biggest lessons you have learnt in your business?
1. A courier price comparison site such as Temando really makes an E-commerce business have better margins.
2. Don’t focus on small items that China can compete with you directly. You’ll always be undercut by China. Even spreader bar hammocks vs regular hammocks – China can deliver regular hammocks easily and cheaply, though they can’t deliver spreader bar hammocks easily.
3. We’re using a 3PL warehouse for the first time, and it’s good. The main challenge was getting the business to have fast enough sales speed to cover their rent and fees.
If you could meet an inspirational leader, who would that be? Why?
I’d like a social meeting with people running larger E-commerce websites. I don’t know who exactly.
What was one of the first goals you smashed in your business?
Getting those first few sales and seeing the numbers (margins) actually match the business plan numbers was good. The business is in its 4th year now, so quite far from those first goals. Now I know that I can’t predict the success of each strategy, so the goal is just to grow the revenue and margins vs the year before – January vs January for example. I see January was up 113% year on year.
What would you say to your younger self?
Travel more before having a family. That’s definitely when it’s easiest and cheapest.
Where can we contact you?