In 2007 Steve Chou’s wife, Jennifer, wanted to spend more time with their family. So she quit her job. The Chous launched Bumblebee Linens, an osCommerce-powered online shop. Steve, a former microprocessor engineer, focused on the engineering and marketing sides of the provider. Jennifer handled the operations.
Fast forward to 2020, and Bumblebee Linens is a seven-figure ecommerce company selling handkerchiefs, napkins, and other fabric products. Steve is now an ecommerce website, having found the”My Wife Quit Her Job” blog, podcast, and YouTube station, which jointly publishes educational content for current and aspiring entrepreneurs.
I talked with Steve lately concerning the Chous’ ecommerce business, his”My Wife” content portals, and, yes, the realities of using osCommerce in 2020. What follows is our whole audio conversation and a transcript, edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us about you and your company.
Steve Chou: My wife and I began our ecommerce shop selling handkerchiefs online. She desired a handkerchief for photographs. Couldn’t locate any. Ended up finding this Chinese manufacturer, imported a group, used maybe six or so, sold the rest on eBay. They went like hotcakes. Then, in the future, she wanted to remain at home with the children. We got back in touch with that vendor and found our shop, Bumblebee Linens, in 2007.
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Bandholz: That was approximately when Shopify was beginning. You’d Magento back then, osCommerce, Yahoo.
Chou: The large, fully hosted platform was Yahoo. But I am an open-source guy because I am an engineer. I want all of the source code. We went with osCommerce. We are still on osCommerce, believe it or not.
Bandholz: How many headaches has been?
Chou: Not too bad. Every five years or so, I do a major upgrade. It is fun to add performance to the shop. Most tools have an API now. If I am bored one day, I’ll fire one up and add a new attribute.
Bandholz: Is your platform supported?
Chou: That is a good question. I am not sure. At one stage, I went through virtually every line of code. I would really like to switch sooner or later. However, I do not want to eliminate all my traffic. I have had several friends who switched to various platforms and lost half of the traffic. It is too risky.
Our business isn’t on autopilot, however. I am constantly adding things. This year I added SMS. A couple of years back, it was Facebook Messenger — growing flows for giveaways, loyalty programs, and that type of thing. Whenever there is a new technology that comes out, I attempt it.
Sooner or later, something which will induce me to bite the bullet and change. It just has not gotten to that point yet.
Bandholz: What are you searching for?
Chou: I am searching for nothing at this time, which explains the reason why I have not switched. Things are good. It’s a seven-figure shop. However, these days I use it as a lab. So anything new that comes out, I will try it to the store and then write about it on the site and report real numbers. I am fully transparent. I don’t think anybody’s going to knock off a handkerchief shop anytime soon.
Bandholz: The contest is nonstop for Beardbrand.
Chou: Your market is significantly bigger than mine. We’ve got a subset of elderly clients that collect handkerchiefs.
Bandholz: what’s getting the most traction on the shop nowadays?
Chou: SMS is Remarkable. It is the next big thing. Our functionality is quite basic now. I have messages on my website to encourage visitors to text a unique word to a number and get free stuff. I have a spin-to-win popup where participants need to redeem the prize through SMS. Whenever people place an order, they get an SMS. I then send special offers.
We do a monthly flash sale. We do other earnings, and we send content — this type of thing. What I enjoy about SMS are discussions. I have saved many orders only through SMS. People have a question, and we supply a response. It is natural for them to answer. We can establish a conversation versus an email where individuals do not expect a reply immediately.
For us, an SMS subscriber is worth five to eight times greater than one on email.
Bandholz: Changing the topic, are you in tune with what is happening with Shopify, BigCommerce, and other platforms?
Chou: I’m. I must keep current. I try to prevent SaaS fees. If I can code a feature on the weekend, I will do it. I’ve found, generally speaking, that some SaaS companies (beyond ecommerce platforms) offer performance that is not worth the effort. Small things like popups or whatnot, I will usually code up those pretty quickly.
Bandholz: What else you doing? You have got a YouTube channel.
Chou: Yes. It is called”My Wife Quit Her Job,” the identical title as my blog. I am up to 17,000 subscribers. I started getting serious about it six months ago. I still don’t understand what I am doing, so I can not comment on it. I was going to have you look at it and give me suggestions.
Bandholz: Talk me through it. I enjoy hearing from entrepreneurs that are dipping their toes into YouTube.
Chou: If I can get people to watch my movies, there is a fairly good chance they’ll visit my blog and purchase my classes or an affiliate product. I have been blogging for 11 years and podcasting for six. Most folks remember me for my podcast because they listen to me for one hour. The YouTube viewers probably are not as severe as the podcast listeners since YouTube videos are merely 10 minutes or so. But having the ability to see and hear somebody adds a tremendous amount of depth. So that’s why I am doing it.
Bandholz: Your “My Wife Quit Her Job” is a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel. How do you divide your day between that content-creation side and running an ecommerce company?
Chou: The ecommerce company is roughly two days per week. The remainder is My Wife Quit Her Job. I work together with my wife on the ecommerce shop, but she is not involved with My Wife Quit Her Job, although she inspired the name. She does operations on the ecommerce shop. I do the development and marketing function. My Wife Quit Her occupation is mainly content creation, as you mentioned. Each week I publish a blog post, a YouTube video, and a podcast episode. I also conduct an annual event.
Bandholz: You are well connected. What brands, individuals, or companies do ecommerce well?
Chou: Every successful ecommerce company that I’ve had on the podcast sets out some kind of content. They are not a shop that only pushes products. Your organization, Beardbrand, is strong on YouTube. Others may emphasize social or blogging media.
I had someone on the podcast that sells goods dwell, like an infomercial, through Facebook. She makes millions of dollars per year. She has her own private label manufacturer of clothes and accessories.
You need to locate your one thing and do it well.