Sean Walsh is the first to admit that ecommerce wasn’t his dream industry when he was young. “The thought never even crossed my mind,” he says. “Why would it? My profession was carpentry.” Walsh started a custom woodworking and cabinetry business in 2007—just before the American recession hit hard. “Needless to say, this was not my most lucrative startup,” Walsh remembers. “However, I learned a lot about cabinetry during those years. And if I had not learned what I did then, I sure would not be where I am today.”
After his carpentry business was hit by the recession, Walsh started a home developing business where one of his major roles was purchasing. “I would shop and shop looking for the best products and the best deals possible,” he says. This gave him an incredible familiarity with what was available to homeowners. “I learned back then that profits were bought not sold,” he says. “If I could shave a few hundred here, and some thousands there, then there would be profits.”
Walsh decided to apply that philosophy to kitchen cabinets, attempting to save thousands of dollars on cabinets for one of the homes he was working on. Very quickly, Walsh found an online cabinetry retailer, ordered some samples and decided to make a large order. Even with this level of effort and research, the outcome was unfortunate. “It was by far the worst purchasing experience I have ever had,” he says. “At the time I did not even realize I was doing research! But I was. That experience opened my eyes to the power of selling online. Heck, if someone could do business that badly, and still become a big deal, what if I just did it better?”
So Walsh set out to do it better, and the result was his business Walcraft Cabinetry. He started searching everywhere for affordable yet high-quality kitchen cabinets to purchase for his home development business. He wasn’t having any luck online in the US, so he started contacting factories overseas. Drawing on his experience with sourcing and importing from a past business venture, he emailed and called numerous factories across the globe before finally finding a manufacturer that had their product warehoused in the US.
“Our very first supplier was great… at first,” he says. “They truly went above and beyond the call of duty to earn and keep our business. Then one day, things just started changing. The way the cabinets were assembled changed, and the finish on them changed. And we were the last ones to know about it.” Customers expressed displeasure—a real danger for Walsh’s business, which was still in its infancy.
The importance of rigorous quality assurance was a hard-learned lesson for Walsh, one that could have been simplified by a verified supplier directory like SaleHoo. "I developed the concept for SaleHoo to help others sell online more effectively and efficiently,” says SaleHoo CEO Simon Slade. There is a direct and undeniable connection between a supplier’s reliability and an entrepreneur’s success, as Walsh quickly realized when his first supplier failed.
After this negative experience, the Walcraft Cabinetry team was a lot more picky. “We spent a lot more time vetting our suppliers from that point on,” says Walsh. “We have learned that this is the only way to start the process off right. When we can meet the people behind the company face-to-face and ask the hard questions, we can discern if we're going to be a good fit together. All the while, we can dig up the dirt about their supply chain, company history, processes and their commitment to their brand and product reputation. This is what it takes to build the assurance we need for us to stake our reputation upon theirs.”
It’s always important for a dropshipper to have a reliable supplier, but especially so for more expensive products. Because cabinets are a large investment that has to fit into an even larger project (usually a kitchen remodel), customers are less patient with errors.
“When selling widgets online, your customer is expecting their widget to arrive on time, well packaged, and undamaged,” he says. That’s all true for cabinetry, but with some added pressure. Customers spend an average of about $7,000 purchasing from Walcraft cabinetry and with such a large purchase comes equally large expectations. “When selling cabinetry online, your customer is waiting for their dream to show up,” Walsh says. “They've saved, planned, argued and longed for their new kitchen. So the stakes are very high.”
Walsh has clear advice for dropship entrepreneurs who are on the hunt for a supplier: “Don't elope. Date. When you form a partnership with a supplier, make dang sure their the one for you before you get overly invested.”
Do It Better
His decision to “do it better” was what set Walsh apart from the industry competition, and he says identifying what makes your business unique should be the first order of business for entrepreneurs. “Spend adequate time researching your competition and developing your unique selling proposition,” he says. “If you do not have a brand identity that is unique, move forward with the ambition to find one. You will need it.”
For more information, visit walcraftcabinetry.com.