Meet ecomom

Photos courtesy of Neon Brand

I sat down with Jody Sherman, the founder and CEO of ecomom.com, in their offices downtown. Here’s some of what we talked about.

So, what exactly is ecomom.com?

We’re a store on the internet for moms: newly pregnant women to families with grade-school age children. The biggest difference with us though, is that our product is not the things we sell, it’s the care we take in selecting the things we sell. Everything is very highly curated.

And that curation process…is that an internal process or is that done by users?

It’s a combination of things. We actually have a 70 point checklist of things we look for with every single product. We’re focused on what goes in, on and around a growing family so if there is anything that is bad contained in that product, we don’t sell it. We actually work with many experts in the field and stay up on all the science so that our users have the best information.

Once it’s passed the test of being safe, we make sure it’s useful and cost-effective. Because a product can be healthy and safe and simply not work. A good example is cleaning products. There are a ton of products out there that are safe, but they just don’t do the job you want them to do.

We also look at the companies themselves and make sure that they are companies that we want to work with.

How do you decide which companies to work with?

Any company that wants to list products on our site has to go through our audit. You can see all of the questions we ask them right on our site.

So, all of the items listed on your website, you don’t just scan the internet to find all of these items…you actually have relationships with all of these companies.

Oh yeah, we have strong relationships with every one of the companies on our website. That is key to what we do. We have about 400 brands and about 4,000 products on the site. That will go up to about 10,000 by the end of this year.

What amount of your products are drop-shipped vs. warehoused?

We don’t drop-ship anything. I don’t believe that drop-shipping, for us, is the right thing to do. Our customers want the items they’re buying from us immediately. They want it right now. So, if we had to rely on other companies to fulfill those orders, we don’t control the relationship we have with our customers. We are fanatic about our relationships. We call customers, we send them hand-written thank you notes, we do a lot to make sure we keep a very strong relationship with them. And our customers appreciate that. And if we simply sent an order to a company, we would lose all of that.

Photo courtesy of Neon Brand

How did you get investors interested in the company?

At the beginning it was very difficult. We boot-strapped everything and funded it all through my credit cards. We were able to get some early investors to give us some money and as we gained traction we were able to raise about a million dollars. Then, we went back to people who were paying attention and who knew me for a long time and we started showing them metrics. We showed them good conversion rates and good average order value. We were able to show them that the unit economics worked. Then, the investors introduced us to more people. And those people introduced us to more people and it went on from there. It was persistance. It was keeping them informed. And in our latest round (the 2nd equity round) Tony Hsieh got involved as an investor. And obviously that was a very big deal for us.

 

How did you end up in Vegas?

When I first approached Tony about investing in our company he told me that he was only interested in investing in companies that were in Vegas. And I said to myself “That will never happen! I’m a surfer from California.” He convinced me to come to Vegas and check out what they were doing here. That was in August of 2011. And I knew that Zappos had left the Bay Area for Vegas for many of the reasons we would need if we were to grow. I saw what they were doing downtown and I really felt like we could actually be a part of building something bigger than our own company. In Santa Monica, there is literally nothing that we could do to change anything there. But there are great opportunities here in Vegas for us to make an imprint. Plus, things are so much more affordable here. It just made sense for us. So on January 15th we moved into our offices here.

What has been the biggest challenge for ecomom?

The biggest challenge for us, and what we’re most focused on is how to acquire new customers in the most cost effective way possible. So, right now we’re really focused on ways to help our audience help us find other customers. Because every one of our moms knows people. The best referrals are word-of-mouth referrals and that’s what we’re focusing on right now. We have a really active Facebook page and we’ve always been focused on social because our moms are really social. In fact, on Black Friday our site went down and I immediately jumped onto our Facebook page was able to communicate in real time with our customers. It was a life saver for us. We use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. We email. We pick up the phone. We send thank you notes. We very active with our customers.

What is the one thing you know now that you wish you would have known when you started ecomom?

It’s actually a combination between knowing and wishing I had the money to take action on it. Had I built this as a tech company first, instead of just a marketer of goods, than I would have gotten much deeper tech strength involved in the company early on. I would have brought that in-house much sooner. We would have been able to iterate much faster. But because we were not as well funded at the beginning, we did what we could do. But if I had to do it all over again, I would have found someone on the technical side so that while I was iterating on the business side, they would be iterating on the technical side.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ll tell you one of the best things I’ve gotten from my interactions with Tony was the advice to Be Humble. It’s one of the core values of Zappos. I’m not always the most humble person but I’ve learned that humility is a very powerful thing. It’s what I want to be. I’m lucky to do what I do every day. Some people don’t love what they do and I get to spend all day doing something that I love. I’m lucky.

Finally, what’s next for ecomom?

We’re launching our brand new website this summer and that’s really exciting for us. It’s really incredible and has a ton of great new features like a new subscription model for things like consumables.

We’re also really focused on giving and we’re going to be making some big announcements this year. From day one we’ve always given a percentage of our sales to charitable institutions but we’ll be taking that to a whole other level this year. That’ll be happening along with the launch of our website.

We want to thank Jody for his time. We also want to remind everyone out there that ecomom is hiring. You can check out their open positions here.

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