At Subscription Box Basics, we typically recommend you use Subbly or Shopify to run your business. A few episodes back, I interviewed Stefan from Subbly and today, you'll meet Sarah Jansel, The Shopify Queen!
She is a speaker, podcaster, and CEO of Jansel & Co where she and her team build, brand, and grow awesome websites - on Shopify and Kajabi.
Sarah began her entrepreneur journey by launching a fashion boutique in 2018. She has 25 years experience working in business, operations and Human Resources. While working in corporate, Sarah held leadership roles for companies including TD, PwC, Scotiabank, and was the VP People & Operations at CARFAX Canada. Sarah holds diplomas in HR Management, Management Consulting, and her Masters of Business in Executive Management. Sarah is also certified as a Prosci Change Management Professional, and a Klaviyo Partner, Shopify, Kajabi, and Omnisend Partner.
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So you wanna launch a subscription box and don't know where to start? Girl, you are in the right place. I'm Julie Ball. And I'm Renee Gonzalez, your host here at Subscription Box Basics, a podcast for new and aspiring subscription box entrepreneurs wanting to avoid overwhelm. So grab a coffee, some pen and paper, and let's have some fun. In today's episode, I interviewed Sarah Janssen, nicknamed the Shopify queen. She's a speaker podcaster and CEO of Glynco where she and her team build brand and grow awesome websites on Shopify and Kajabi now. One of the two softwares that we recommend for subscription box business owners is Shopify. So if you're thinking about using it, listen up, this is the episode for you. Not only, well, she dropped some good advice on why it's a good platform, but she's going to tell you about how her team can help you if you're struggling on the tech side of things. So without further ado, it's time to meet Sarah. Hey everybody. Welcome back to Subscription Box Basics. I've got a guest on here today that I know you're gonna be interested in hearing from. We are talking about the website platform, Shopify, and so of course I'm gonna bring on the Shopify Queen, Sarah Jsel. Welcome to the podcast. Yeah. Oh my gosh. Thanks for having me today. Yeah, it's fun because we met just a few weeks ago back in May at the Ultimate Product Party, and that was such an amazing event. I had so many takeaways, but per usual, when I went, when I go to an event, the biggest thing that I take away is new connections, and so I'm super grateful to have met you at that event. Yeah, likewise. Oh my gosh. A what a great event because no one does anything on product. And B, same thing. Yes. I kind of went in with like, just gonna experience this. No expectations, but the people were so incredible. Yourself included. Aw, thanks. Well, a lot of people will be meeting you for the first time, so why don't you just give them a quick introduction of your background, where you live, little bit about how you got started. Yeah, for sure. So, hi everyone. Sarah Jank self-proclaimed, but I was actually given this nickname, the Shopify Queen, so I'm like, I'm just gonna wear it. I'm gonna own it. I think it fits pretty good, so I feel like people have kind of picked that up and it works for me. But I actually have a background. I spent 20 years in corporates. So business operations, HR worked for banks, consulting firms, the tech company. So completely different realm. And while I was doing that, I was really looking for something a little bit more creative. So I actually started my own Shopify fashion biz while I was running my VP role and realized, holy smokes, there's like this whole world of entrepreneurship. And online business and all kinds of things that I had never really anticipated or experienced. And so I was totally sold and in 2020 I started to scale that business and all of a sudden, you know what happens in March, I'm working with a coach and we are talking about some of the tactics for my fashion biz. And she's like, well, actually, People actually need this skill that you have, right? Like, so you've done a lot of things with coaching and business and you build brand and help companies with all kinds of things and you know Shopify, so long story short, I ended up taking on a few clients and was completely sold and thought this is the thing, it matches the creativity I was missing, but also marries the business end of things. And so I made the leap. Like two months later and here we are now in 2023 running in Jsel and Co. So excited to, to chat more about it. That's such a great story. Thank you for sharing. I too am a corporate dropout. A lot of my listeners might be working a full-time job right now while they pursue their side hustle or while they pursue their subscription box streams. And so one of the questions that I get asked the most as a subscription box business coach is what? Website platform should I use, and so many website platforms out there are like really easy, but they don't fulfill the needs that a specifically a subscription box business would need. So we typically. Recommend one of two softwares, and we've talked about this before, we recommend Suby or Shopify. And so I've already talked to Stephan of Suby, so this is why I'm so excited to talk to you about Shopify. So if someone's just hearing about this website platform for the first time, what do you love about it? Yeah. Okay. So when I was initially looking for a platform, I had absolutely no idea what platform to use and really took it to Google and was looking at all things, you know, like where am I gonna go and sell products? And there were a few websites that came up. So I know you mentioned Suby, of course there's like Squarespace and WooCommerce and like, there's all these platforms. So if you're new to this, It can feel a little bit like I don't really know where I should go. Yes. So I love that you've kind of got your top two and there are some pretty, pretty good reasons for that. And so I ended up going with Shopify for a few reasons, and these reasons still stand true to today. And actually I would say they continue to get even bigger and better. So first of all, I do not work for Shopify. I will promote them because I am a partner and I just love this product. So a couple of things I think you need to know is. You want an all in one product. And so what I mean by that is you are going to get your inventory management, your customer CRM base, your email marketing and automations, which we can probably talk about more if we need to. Now getting bigger and better than even when I was in there built in. You are gonna get your website and you know you're gonna be able to manage all the things that you need to do as a business owner, literally in one place. So, love it. There are. Apps and things, of course that we can add for some of the subscription components that you're gonna need. But a lot of those actually in my favorite one, starts out as being free, so that's even better. Nice. Yeah. So yeah, so there are obviously a lot of things involved with that, but what I would say is Shopify is methodology that I really love, and if you're running a subscription business or any product-based business for that matter, is obviously your website's. A component. And it's critical. And it's important and you want it to represent your brand and all the things that you're trying to get across to the ideal client, but it is one of many places that you can sell your products. So imagine going to a conference you were just at a conference the other week. God Summit. Yeah. Yeah, so you know, if you had a booth there and wanted to do some in-person sales, well, they have a point of sale for that. If you wanted to promote your subscription box on Instagram and have your inventory and everything connected to Instagram, so you could sell your subscription boxes, well you can do that. You can do that on Pinterest. So you can do that on Facebook. So there's like just all of these different things that you can do, and I feel like it's really becoming more of, I'm gonna use a term like the omnipresence that you can have with your business where it allows you to do those things. And you might think, well, I can already create a shop on Instagram or Facebook and things like that, but how are you managing the inventory? Like Shopify literally connects, and with a button you can say, I want my stuff to show up on these channels. So it just makes it a lot easier. There's probably a million other reasons, but I think all in one to me is like make my life easy because I already have enough things to deal with. Yes, I'm all about keeping things simple and one of the challenges I think is if you wanna be on multiple platforms, it can be a challenge. To have a gazillion different logins and yeah, keeping these orders straight from these orders. So tell us a little bit more about like, what does it look like to operate in the backend of, Shopify?, you mentioned email automations, which is super important for e-commerce, like receipts or renewal reminders, things like that. Yeah, absolutely. So I would say, when I was talking about customers, so anybody that subscribes to you purchases your products, like all those things, you can add lists. If you have them now and you're like, well, actually I'm using MailChimp or Flow Desk or whatever you can still use that, of course. But you can also import those things if you're wanting to do things with Shopify for your inventory. I mean, there's a whole gamut of ways we can manage that. And it depends on the clients. So obviously you can add your products there, we can make them available. If you're bundling certain things or you're using something for your subs, like all the subscription boxes are a little bit unique that we've worked with. Sure. So it just depends on how you're gonna manage it, but there's a place for that you can report on and update simply as you need to. Especially I'm thinking as you have different new products. And then I would say we touched on subscriptions, so there's some software for that. My favorite. By, far is Appstle. There are plenty of brands out there. Julie, you and I were talking about this the other day, but this is a really cool company. Again, I don't work for them, but we can give you a free trial link or whatever you need. But they're really cool because I feel like they're really flexible and they offer a cool kind of tiered plan. It's changed over time and it could evolve again, you know, depending on when you're hearing this podcast. But the nice thing is, that it's a great way to get. Started with subscriptions without paying a ton, and they can make it flexible. So say your box goes every month, or you have a couple of different things in once every month or every six months, or whatever it is. You know, letting people know what it is that they need to know very easily about how to make changes to that subscription or update their credit card or like all the things we don't think about, like. It's just the one go-to place for that. And then I would say there's other little perks as well. So like managing if you wanna have a blog that's tied to your subscription box right, you can do that. Good for seo. Yeah. So huge for that content is gonna be king for people, you know, on the search end of things. We can actually manage your SEO very easily in this platform. So yeah, there's a plethora of, yeah, there's a lot of places we can go in and actually update the description. So what you see on Google is different from the actual thing you see in the store. So it's like one thing when someone's landed in your website to say, This is the product, here's what's in the box, here's like the terms, all those things. But that's not what we wanna use to actually attract someone. So we can have the same product with two different descriptions. It's more like, what is someone actually searching for? And then when they get there, we tell them the goods. Yeah. Cause they might not know about your box yet. So they're searching for a solution to whatever their problem is or hundred percent they're searching for some sort of gift. So just to take it back a second, so when it comes to this platform, out of the box, You can't run a subscription product on it. You have to add, plugins, right? Yeah. Yeah, so that's what she's talking about. If you're thinking about, okay, can I just run through Shopify? Yeah. You can run your subscription box through Shopify. It's a great platform. You will have to add a recurring cart app, and that's what App store is. That's what that is. Yeah. Yeah. So that allows it just like. It just takes it to the next level. It Shopify is your base and then you can add on these plugins or these apps based off of your particular needs. So if you are a really big business and you have all these really unique things, that might cost a lot more. But for us, we're running very simple models. Very simple. Basic membership subscription box. Yeah. And so you can run that out of the box with just one app, probably. Yeah, 100%. It would just be the one app. You might want your Instagram feed on there, you know, that again, that's free as well. So there's lots of little like quirks that we can do to get those things. All the sales channels I mentioned are free. Yeah. As well. So you don't pay for any of that stuff. So it can be as simple or, as complex as you want it to be. Yeah. And I would say, or you want to grow into it to be of course, right. Because you're just trying to get your product up, so, yeah. Yeah. That's such a good point because a lot of times we tell our students to start simple. Get the ball rolling, see what that looks like, create your standard operating procedures, your SOPs, and then as you grow and you get feedback from your customers, you may want to add more bells and whistles. And so then you can add on anything via app as you go. So that's great to know that you could grow with it. Yeah, definitely. And I would say probably still fairly limited depending on what you know, you're wanting to do on the subscription. And like from my experience, what we've seen is you'll have, a box or maybe a couple, like, depending on what you have or the actual frequency of that. Usually not too many. And then if you have individual, like limited time items that maybe didn't sell in the box or something like that, you have leftover no sometimes. Will have clients that will port those up and be like, limited time. You know, if you didn't get the June box, but you're interested in this product. Or they ended up having a vendor that gave them more or something like that, or a promotion. Then you can actually sell them individually and then you don't need anything really for that. That's beautiful. You're just plug and play. So yeah, there's. There's, it's so often that we will either buy more than we need because we're buying as subscription box owners so far out 30, 60, 90 days out from actually shipping these things. So sometimes , we might run into excess inventory, but that's a great way to increase the average cart value too, is adding Yeah. You know, offering a special deal as someone's already subscribing. It's, kind of like on Amazon when they give you Those recommendations of You just bought this, other people bought this as well, and it's a great way to offload excess inventory and increase your average card value. But it's, a good experience for the customer too. They're gonna get more of the product that they want. Definitely. And you're not gonna feel like, well, what do I do with this now? Yeah. It's like, well, hey, like, I mean, sure you could discount it, but you probably don't need to. Right? Like, that was probably a coveted item. Or maybe someone just didn't know about it yet. And so, you know, some people might be like, oh, that's the whole box, but I actually want that thing. Like, you might actually be able to, spin that a little bit differently. I think. So that's one of the tactics that helped us the most when I was running Sparkle Hustle Grow., when someone would subscribe, they were essentially, Pre-ordering the next box. But maybe it wasn't gonna ship for two weeks or maybe even three weeks, depending on when they ordered, because we batch shipped. And so would say, while you wait, do you want last month's box? And so often they would just add that to cart. So we would ship that immediately and then they would get another shipment when the batch went out. Yeah, definitely. I've seen a few different brands doing this recently too. Like it's like a thing, like maybe they do over order or they do it intentionally. Like Beach Lee is one where it's like, you know, you can always get their cute beach sandals or like different things. And so I feel like it's just another way for them to add a, a diversified income stream, still in one store, still the same process, like not a lot of extra to-dos there I would say. Love it. So, okay, so I know exactly what my listeners are thinking of, they're thinking right now. Am I gonna be able to design this? So let's talk a little bit about the designer , and then tell them what you do, because this is your sweet spot. You and your team, you guys build these in your sleep. Yes, it's true. It's true. We kind of have our process down now and what we feel is gonna work. Yeah. So I mean, can you design this yourself? Yes, of course you can. That's what I did. That's how I started YouTube University. So you can do that. If you're techy and you feel like that's a skill, like you, you might be fine. You know what I mean? To go off and to do those things. But I will say for me, there was a point when I was like, holy smokes, this is a lot. I'm trying to figure out when I have my store, my product. My marketing. Like, you know, and also at that time I was working a full-time job. You know, so for the side hustlers out there listening, I know that this is gonna be evenings and weekends or when you got the time. Right. So things like that. So, you know, there it can take you a little bit longer or, you know, in some cases clients come to us, they're like, I tried to do this and I just know I need someone else. So. Right. That's where we come in. Well, and you don't want to, the website is the first foot forward and if your website one doesn't work because you couldn't figure out the tech or two looks amateur, that's gonna hurt your conversion rates, that's gonna hurt your launch. And so tell 'em what you and your team offer. Yeah, exactly. So we do full out website builds, redesign, the email marketing custom work. Like if you're not sure how to do an app, like literally end to end, we can help you with. We could also do consults and things. So all that's. Stuff kind of blended in. But what we do that's a little bit different is, yes, you can DIY it. Like I said, I did, but I probably went through like four or five iterations of my DIY and, how many days? Yeah. So many, right? Yeah. Were you there? Yeah. I know the feeling she, excuse me. Right. Just that like frustration. But also like a lot of learning and I mean that helped me in my current position now, but the things that I didn't know back then was what you were talking about is like the placement of the things that we need to put on the website, where we need to put things, what we need to have on banners. What we need to say, you know, if you have a box, how are we describing that? I often say it's like if you went to a party and someone asked you about your subscription box and you're like, oh my God, it's so amazing and this is what I'm doing and this is what's in it, and here's why it's so great. We need to replicate that. Online. So love that. We need to do that through text and visuals and things like that, and we can do that. But there are some tricks of the trade that we need to do to make sure that we've targeted the right customer, pulled them in, got them excited, and have them adding to cart. So that looks like things on the homepage, things we do on the product page and things that we do to follow up with them if they're not ready yet. But they're thinking about it or they've added it to cart. How do we actually send them a message to be like, Hey, come back. Like don't forget about us. We still love you. This subscription box is awesome. So there's just those things that we've really nailed as a process that I think will really help you take it to the next level. Like that's where you wanna start. Probably not so much in, I'm trying to get this off the ground. I've invested money in this. I wanna sort of do this and like I'm not really getting the traction right? I 100% believe in as entrepreneurs, we can get scrappy, but there's a time and a place. And sometimes if you don't get your website in a professional manner and it doesn't speak to the audience and it doesn't lead with the transformation, then you're not gonna make any money. You're not gonna sell any boxes. And so if you're going to, if you're thinking about hiring out, you need to think about things like, Is this something I can do myself? Do I even like to do this? Is it gonna cost me more time, money in tears to try, do it myself first and then eventually hire out? And so that's why we bring people like you on, as part of our subscription box Bootcamp Dream team, and so that people can just go right to you or go right to a specific vendor for whatever they're looking for, whether it's graphic design, box printers, Shopify websites. So where can they find more information? Maybe see some of the websites you've built, see some of the services that you offer. Our website is Jsel and Co, J A N S e l a n D C O. So jans and co.com. And we have our services listed there. We have a form you can fill out if you wanna just connect with us and be like, what's this gonna look like for us? Yeah. Here's kind of what my needs are. We'll quote you on the spot, or we'll get on a call if, you know, we need to get more info. We've. Got some of our portfolio up there, but also clients ask for this all the time. So I'm happy to share examples of sites and things that we've done with anybody who's interested in that. And just keeping in mind, they're all gonna look really different. Yeah. And the reason for that is because we are trying to represent you. And your ideal client and your product. And so that's actually a good thing. Like we want these things to be as unique as the thing that you are putting out there. So yeah, you can find more info there or connect with me on Insta. Nice. I like that. That's so good about being very unique and I think that's important too. And a lot of times if you're trying to build it yourself, sometimes we get in our own way. I could build websites or, you know, do design for. A million different boxes. And then if I try to work on my own, it's like I get stuck. And so I think that is one of the things where we lose time, we lose that momentum. So hiring someone like you and your team is such a win. I'm super grateful to have met you. If you're a subscription box bootcamper and you're listening, guess what? Sarah's now in our bootcamp group, so if we have Shopify questions, she's there to help answer them. Sarah, thank you so much for joining me on today's episode and any closing thoughts. Yeah. My gosh. I feel like you've hit a lot of the key ones for your group. Really excited to be here. Can't wait to ask your questions. Ask your questions, like don't ever feel like I do. I wanna ask this question. Yeah, you wanna ask it. And honestly, things change, I would say as well. And yeah, think about your online store, like Julie was saying, as the vehicle that's going to produce the revenue with that box. So it is important and it should be as unique as you. So, yeah, a hundred percent. Well, thanks again everybody. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you in the next episode. Bye.