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We met with Sean at his headquarters and distribution center in Brooklyn, NY. There, he gave us the rundown of how his business began back in 2009 when he and co-founder Kristy Hadeka took a trip to her family’s slate quarry in upstate New York. The pair brought back a few pieces of slate and started making gifts for friends. Before long, friends of friends were asking to buy their slate serving boards, so Sean and Kristy decided to produce a full line of products, including cheese boards, coasters, and more.
Since then, Brooklyn Slate has grown its business-to-business and business-to-consumer channels, offering a wide assortment of slate products, third-party brands, custom engraving, and corporate gifting. But as the business continues to expand into new categories, Sean and his team find that new problems pop up all the time.
“The greatest challenge is what I’d call the bottlenecks,” he says, “Experiencing growth in one part of the business can result in a bottleneck in another part of the business.”
Here are a few ways the Brooklyn Slate team works to prevent and solve for obstacles:
It may sound a little too simple, but many small businesses swear by using a checklist—whether digital or print—to stay on task. Sean explains:
“Our small team is often strapped for time and can’t sweat the small stuff—everything from putting garbage out for collection to watering the plants. A simple fix is to create a daily/weekly checklist. Our team members review the checklist at the end of each day and initial tasks to confirm they’ve been completed.”
Brooklyn Slate is active on social media, which is a great way to communicate with customers, but it also means you need a library of photos to keep content fresh. With everything else going on in a given day, it can be a big undertaking for a small business to hire a photographer and coordinate a photo shoot, so Brooklyn Slate found it worth investing in a quality camera to take their own photos in-house.
“For less than $150 we purchased artificial lights and set up a small photo studio,” Sean says. “To help bring our photos to life, we’ve amassed a collection of random and inexpensive props—everything from glasses and flatware from IKEA, to wood beams we’ve found on the side of the road.”
Brooklyn Slate has a small team, so they’re always trying to make the most of their time. One way Sean does this is by utilizing Facebook Ad Campaigns for MailChimp.
“When MailChimp announced its Facebook Ad integration, I was particularly excited, because it meant I had another means to reach our audience through a single platform,” he says. “We had used Facebook Ads before, but managing the ads through MailChimp is easier and faster.”
“In a lot of ways, MailChimp has become our customer relationship manager for direct sales as well,” Sean continues. “It’s really powerful for segmenting our customers and discovering people who are similar to those customers. It’s great that we can use Facebook Ads to reach those potential customers, too. For example, we’ve found that the majority of our audience is 25 to 44 and skews female, so we can create Facebook Ads to find potential new customers who are similar to that segment.”
And since he’s not manually searching for new customers, Sean is able to focus his energy elsewhere.
“One of the best things about MailChimp automation is that it helps save me time to do other things,” he says. “Less time working on our Facebook advertising strategy means that I can develop more concepts for custom engraving, print materials, et cetera.”
Part of the challenge for me is that I’m managing all of the social media, so you have to develop sort of a complex schedule and sort of hit the right dates.
So we’ve been running Facebook ads for about 6 or 8 months now, and we’ve found some good success. Facebook ads have really impacted our business in a great way. There’s so much going on on social media this is just one more opportunity for us to make a brand impression.
Creating the ad is important to what we do but it’s just one more step. I like the fact that I can go onto MailChimp, create my email campaigns and also do the Facebook ads at the same time.
The historical data that MailChimp has gathered for us has really helped us understand who our audience is. We found that a majority of our customers are females aged 25 to 44, so when we create a Facebook ad one of them will be targeting that specific age group with products that we think they’ll be interested in.
We sorta see MailChimp as our CRM. It’s a great way to segment our existing customers but use that information to reach potential customers. One of the best things about using MailChimp automations is that it helps save me time to do other things.
I feel like the internet is sorta like this dark place in a way where it’s hard to understand who your customers are. With all the automations that we do and the testing that we do, we’ve come to understand and sorta like paint a picture of who our customers are and I think that’s really
helped us understand what we want to do with the business.