In this episode, we’re joined by John Merris, CEO of Solo Brands, a D2C brand that offers creative and emotional lifestyle products for its customers.
John describes how the founders of Solo Stove reinvented fire and created a beautiful, portable, smokeless product, which brings that campfire experience to any location.
His role at Solo Stove is to build a professional team and help Solo Stove reach its potential. Their competitive advantage consists of speed and a relentless focus on people.
John believes that being vulnerable with your customers, as long as you’re doing it in the name of delivering a better experience for them, ends up generating better results than intimidating them with your professionalism.
He describes their D2C business model, which implies direct communication with the customer. John also discusses the future of Solo Brands and their new products like the ORU kayak, shirts, and more.
Ken Ojuka: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement. The podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Otsuka.
Ken Ojuka: In today’s interview. I speak with John Maurice, CEO of Solo Brands, maker of the incredibly popular and fast-growing solo stove. We covered a lot in this interview, including John’s belief and passion for customer experience. This motivated solo brands to make an-intuitive moves, like stand up their own in-house global awareness.
Ken Ojuka: And the fulfillment platform has also inspired them to continually focus on D2C which drives the majority of their revenue. John talks about how this closeness to the customer has helped them not only quickly iterate on their initial product, but it’s also inspired the creation of their other products.
Ken Ojuka: John talks about their acquisition of other outdoor brands and the economies gained from leveraging their warehouse and fulfillment capabilities. I learned a lot from this interview. And so are you. Enjoy John. Hey, thanks for jumping on the podcast.
Ken Ojuka: Welcome.
John Merris: Thanks. Appreciate it.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Hi, how are you doing today?
Ken Ojuka: Where are you calling from?
John Merris: Doing great, mountain north, Texas DFW area.
Ken Ojuka: Okay, cool. Yeah, I think we overlapped a little bit, you know, we, we both lived here, here in Provo at the same time, you know? So when I saw you, I was actually, I was like, he looks so familiar, so I’m sure I’ve seen you around.
John Merris: Yeah, it was out there for five or six years. And then, and then my wife and I ended up back in Texas. I grew up outside of Austin and down here. And so we, came back down to Texas and have been here for the last 13, 14 years.
Ken Ojuka: And, she’s from Texas too?
John Merris: She’s actually from California, Southern California and then moved to Northern California in high school.
John Merris: So a little bit of both for her. And, so I drove her down to Texas for the old, the old two-year trick. It’ll be two years and I’ll get back to California and it’s been 14. So, I guess it worked out, but she’s loving it down here as well
Ken Ojuka: I might need to pull out that trick. I think I grew up in Arizona and I would love to go back to Arizona. So maybe I’ll have to try.
John Merris: And go the old two year old, two year Trek. So you might have to pull up the old honey, Hey, we need to go down for a couple of years and then we’ll get back right here for ya. And next thing you know, they.
Ken Ojuka: Well, awesome. Well, why don’t you begin by introducing yourself?
Ken Ojuka: Just tell us a little bit about your background and, you know, what you do, how, and then maybe we can jump into your business and, the inspiration.
John Merris: Yeah, for sure. So my name is John Maurice. I am the CEO of solo brands, formerly the CEO of solo stove, which is evolving pretty quickly.
John Merris: I’m sure we’ll talk about that a little bit today, but my background is in a variety of growth related high growth businesses, high profit businesses, taking anything from digital media companies to. Glass board manufacturing company to now outdoor lifestyle business, through, you know, pretty hyper growth phases, single digit EBITDA multiples, and growing them to 20, 40, 50 million and beyond of EBITDA and well beyond a hundred million of revenue across a variety of different brands that I’ve worked for over the past, seven or eight years.
John Merris: And, so it’s been really super fun. For me. And, you know, people ask me all the time, how did you end up at a solo stove? I was actually hired by the founders. I did not, I’m not the founder of solo stove, but, I was about the seventh or so employee that started here and was hired by the founders who.
John Merris: Started this business in 2011 as a lifestyle company where they were in love with e-com with the idea of selling products online. And they were in love with the outdoors and they put those two things together and built this incredible brand of solo stove. And, you know, I mentioned a little bit earlier that I grew up outside of Austin, Texas. I actually grew up on a 50 acre ranch, and spent most of my childhood outdoors.
John Merris: Spent tons and tons of time around fires. And, so when they called me about three and a half years ago and said, Hey, we’d love to pay you to play with fire. I took the job immediately. That sounded like, you know, like as a kid, everybody has their dream job. And most of the time it’s like, I want to be a policeman or a firefighter.
John Merris: And, I think at the time, if somebody would have. You know, you can have a dream job or where you get to play with fire and people pay you for it. I probably would’ve picked that over any of the other dream jobs as a kid, but I joined a few years ago and, that, we’ve been growing ever since it’s been a super fun ride.
Ken Ojuka: You know the size of the company, how many employees, that kind of stuff.
John Merris: Yeah. So, we are today about 250 employees and, you know, continuing to add talent across the organization. When we find great people, And, you know, continuing to grow as well from, you know, really in all aspects of the business,
Ken Ojuka: You guys were gracious enough to send me one of these little stoves and I thought it was, you know, I didn’t know what to think.
Ken Ojuka: Actually, initially I looked at it and I was like, you know, what’s so great about this product, but I got to tell you, I whipped it out on a Sunday evening with my family. I’ve got five kids. We had the neighbors over and we’re doing smores. That’s when I kind of saw, okay. I think they’re onto something. This is a great product.
John Merris: It’s really amazing. You know, listen I grew up on a 50 acre ranch. I probably sat around hundreds of fires as a kid, and that’s probably not an exaggeration. And when the founders of solo stuff said to me, you know, we’ve really kind of reinvented fire. I thought fire had been around for a really long time.
John Merris: I mean, that’s a pretty bold statement, right? I mean, we’ve made fire better. It is pretty bold, and then I experienced the solo stove the way you did last Sunday night for the first time. And it blew my mind for a variety of reasons. First off, it’s a wood-burning fire. That burns, nearly smokeless, which is incredible.
John Merris: Anybody that’s sat around a fire knows that there’s this thing about the laws of the earth, that if you’re sitting around a fire, the smoke will find you no matter what seat you sit in. Everybody played the musical chair game around the fire and smoke in their faces. and, you know, women hate sitting around them because their hair smells like smoke.
John Merris: And then they’ve got to go shower before they get into bed and all that kind of stuff. And, these guys. Just created this incredible product. There’s no electronics in it, but it’s the way it’s engineered in the way the air flow works. It actually creates a secondary combustion where hot air, which has smoke and it actually combust this preheated air combust, and it takes the smoke with it.
John Merris: And you end up with just very minimal smoke. And then on top of that, You add this portability component? You know, for me, when I was growing up as a kid, the reason I enjoyed hundreds of fires as a kid was because I lived on a 50 acre ranch. My friends weren’t enjoying fires every weekend or every night. They were in the city with a solar stove, allowing you to live anywhere and truly can enjoy a campfire experience on your back patio or in your backyard.
John Merris: Anytime anywhere you can take it tailgating. You could take it onto your front, on your front driveway. I, one of my favorite things to do, which you’ll have to do now that you’re introduced to this is Halloween night. When you’re passing out candy, the kids in your neighborhood, just go set your solo stuff out on the driveway.
John Merris: Grab a couple of. It is the perfect night, almost every year to enjoy just an incredible fire, handing out kids candy, and having a great experience. So it’s beautiful, that way it’s portable, it’s smokeless, and it brings that campfire experience wherever you want to take it, which is pretty.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Yeah. I thought it was great. I mean, we did it on the front driveway and I thought it was just pretty cool to have the neighbors just, you know, pop by and visit for a little bit. it was a good experience to get to know the neighbors a little bit more, you know? Yeah. So anyway. Yeah, definitely a cool product.
Ken Ojuka: Does it burn warmer? It seems like there’s something going on with it. You know, we didn’t actually have to put that much firewood in there. But it burned for a longer time and it seemed like the heat was more concentrated or something. Is there something to that?
John Merris: Yeah. So this product has really amazing air flows, a traditional fire.
John Merris: I’m a visual person and people can’t see what we’re talking about, but I’ll try to describe it verbally, a traditional fire pit. Let’s just imagine one of the bowl type fire pits that you can buy at Home Depot, right? A hundred bucks. You put the fire, you put the wood in, you put the starter in, or the canceling or whatever, and you start the fire and you get it going.
John Merris: And you know that the oxygen that’s feeding that fire is really coming from the. Of the wood, right? Cause it’s sitting on a solid surface, right? What’s unique about the solo stove is that the holes at the bottom of the fire pit, which obviously people that are listening can’t see, but that you can imagine it, it has holes.
John Merris: Around the bottom, the base of the fire pit and the wood is sitting on an, on a great, with a lot of holes in it. And there’s a floating Ash pan underneath that allows the air that’s coming through those bottom holes to actually travel up through the bottom of the fire pit and fuel the bottom of the fire with oxygen.
John Merris: No different than the top. So you’re actually getting oxygen to all sides of the fire. And because of the hot air, it actually becomes somewhat of a vacuum. And it’s sucking in oxygen through those bottom holes, which creates almost a furnace. It almost looks like there’s a fan inside your fire pit when you’re using it, especially as it gets hotter.
John Merris: And in this particular case, the, that, that oxygen that’s coming from the bottom of the fire and fueling. Is creating a higher fuel fire and ultimately leading to that secondary combustion that we’re talking about, which creates a hotter fire, which you’re referencing. So as an example, a traditional fire is going to burn generally between seven and 800 degrees or so.
John Merris: A solo stove. Fire can burn up to 1400 degrees. So almost double what a traditional fire will burn out. So, your intuition around burning hotter is absolutely spot on.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. It was interesting. And it was like, you know, we didn’t actually put that much firewood in here, you know, and, and this thing’s just blazing.
John Merris: Coolest thing about it is because of how hot it burns. And because of that air flow, I don’t know if you notice this, but you can burn for a couple of hours and actually you end up with only like a cup of fine Ash leftover. So, you know, whereas you’re used to a fire where you’ve got a couple of half burnt logs leftover and a bunch of chunks.
John Merris: So on and so forth, this thing burns so high and with such efficiency that all of the little particles of wood burn down all the way to find Ash and it, you know, in a general burn. And then you just got a very light cleanup afterwards. So it’s a much cleaner product to use.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Yeah. And I would add to the cleanup, it seems like it’s something that you guys put a lot of thought into, even just being able to put it away and store it, you know, and, and the little bag that it comes in.
Ken Ojuka: And, anyway, so sold me on the product. Definitely that. So that’s awesome. So let’s actually go back a little bit. Why did these guys reach out to you right? To come in and help them build this business? You know, what were you doing at the time? And what do you think the particular skill set was that they were looking for?
John Merris: Yeah, I’ve got a track record of hiring and building teams. And I have a track record of helping companies grow. That’s really been my background before, this opportunity as a solar stove and now solar brands. The last three or four positions that I’ve held have all been VP of sales or chief revenue officer type role.
John Merris: So all very high growth oriented roles, you know, focus on driving new business and you couple that with this team building experience and what the founders are looking for me to do was to build a team and then really help this business. Solo stove first, to reach its potential, to capture, you know, the opportunity that existed in the marketplace.
John Merris: And it was a category creating a business. This, you know, if you would’ve asked me what the market size or the total addressable market for fire pits was, you know, three years ago when I started, I probably would have given you an answer that’s much smaller than even our total sales today.
John Merris: And it’s growing rapidly. Again, we’re creating this opportunity for people that maybe historically might think that I can’t fire in their backyard is kind of out of touch or not possible. And, and helping them realize that you can take the campfire to your backyard, but you can also take it to your front yard.
John Merris: Like you did on your driveway. You could take it to the tailgate. You can take a camping trip, you can take it to the beach. You can take it a little. Having all the shore, you really can’t put it wherever you’d like, and then have that experience. And so they hired me to really try to go and figure out what the opportunity really looks like and how to, how we could go about acquiring additional customers and, and continue to grow the business.
John Merris: And that’s really been the focus for the last several years.
Ken Ojuka: And so I’ve heard of the company just more recently and just, you know, sort of high growth trajectory that you guys are on. What did it look like when you joined a couple of years ago?
John Merris: Yeah. So, like I said, it was just a handful of employees.
John Merris: We had a single digit count for total employees in the building. And it was, you know, like, in a lot of ways, very similar to what it is today. It was a very scrappy business. We were outsourcing a lot of the services that we needed to function as a business. For instance, our fulfillment was being executed by a three PL and, and then we very quickly started, bringing, you know, different things in house, including warehousing and fulfillment.
John Merris: We have a massive operation today. We do all of our warehousing and fulfillment ourselves. So. We’re able to deliver a much better customer experience, than a traditional, e-commerce business that is relying on somebody else to ship their product out to the customer. And, then we’ve grown exponentially across every function of the business, from, you know, again, Our marketing departments to accounting and finance, to logistics, supply chain, warehousing, fulfillment, and HR.
John Merris: And, and it’s been a wild ride building out the team that’s generated, you know, the type of growth that we’ve seen as business.
Ken Ojuka: I’m trying to think of, you know, sort of a big picture, your strategic plan. You’re tagged as a new CEO coming in, you know, and help them grow.
Ken Ojuka: You know, what was the playbook that you ran in order to start generating some of them?
John Merris: Yeah, it’s really twofold. The first is I am a big believer in the practice of speed as a differentiator, as a competitive advantage. I truly believe that you’re better to deliver at 80% and get twice as much done than to deliver at a hundred percent and get half as much done for a lot of people.
John Merris: That just is hard to do. To believe, and it’s hard to execute. People want to do a great job. And I do too. I just have a different philosophy about getting there because I love iterating. I’m also a big believer that when you deliver an 80%, especially in today’s world where, you know, people are.
John Merris: Everything’s just more transparent. Right? Social media has made things more transparent. Technology has made things more transparent. I think that being vulnerable with your customers, being human, being raw. As long as you’re doing it in the name of delivering a better experience for the customer actually ends up generating better results for you than being super polished and coming off really professional and almost intimidating your customers with your professionalism.
John Merris: So I tend to err on the side of 80%. But twice as much output versus a hundred percent, right. And half as much output. And that speed to market with ideas and execution has been a huge differentiator. And then the second one has been a relentless focus on people and that the first people that we focus on our customers and, and our employee base internally is, you know, right next to them.
John Merris: In fact, I feel like my employees are really my customers. And our customers, Sola stoves, customers, and solo brands, customers are the customers of our employees. And so treating my employees the way that I want my employees to treat customers is a big part of winning. And we’ve been very focused on building an amazing team over here.
John Merris: That’s then been able to go and generate incredible experiences for our customers.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah, I love, I love those points. Do you have an example of using speed as a differentiator? You know, the audience, you know, it’s typically is some, entrepreneurs as well, and they’re looking at doing some of these things with their own brands, you know, I mean, I’m curious if you have an example maybe around a product or marketing of how you were able to use that principle.
John Merris: Yeah. I mean, with products, you know, it’s just a matter of. Getting products to market faster and iterating more quickly. And that means failing fast. I’m not making it perfect right out of the gate or trying to make it perfect right out of the gate, but getting your ideas to market and getting people, using them and testing them so that you can then get to a viable product that you can launch faster.
John Merris: We’ve done that consistently as a brand over the last several years, and then on the. On the operation side, I talked a little bit about bringing warehousing and fulfillment in house, but one really good example of speed, is just before the holidays of 2018, when our three PL partners were not, delivering from an experience standpoint and from a service level standpoint for our customers.
John Merris: And we went to them and said, Hey, it’s gotta be better. And their response was. Sorry, this is as good as it’s going to get. And so we responded with, well, if it doesn’t get better, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. And they said, good luck. They didn’t think there was any chance that we would stand up an operation before the holidays, to execute and ship products on our own.
John Merris: We were able to pull that off and ultimately deliver a much better customer experience, but in the end it actually ended up saving us a lot of money, by doing the fulfillment ourselves. So not only did we get it. A better customer experience, but we actually saved the time when in the process. And today we operate an extremely successful warehousing and fulfillment operation globally.
John Merris: So now we have six different warehouse and fulfillment locations across the country, Canada, Europe, and Mexico. And, that’s made us tremendously competitive and created some modes around our business that make it hard for others to compete with.
Ken Ojuka: So senior guys are doing a lot of online advertising.
Ken Ojuka: And it seems like the direct to consumer, you know, part of your business is pretty strong. Do you have any, anything that you could share around that and your, you guys’ philosophy around direct to consumer and this.
John Merris: But we love direct to consumer that’s our bread and butter. It’s what we focus on.
John Merris: The majority of our business is done through our own websites. And that’s a big differentiator because when you are interacting with your customers on your own site, it allows you to communicate with the customer post-purchase in ways that you couldn’t, if they were purchasing your product from say a retailer, like a Dick’s sporting goods or Cabela’s or shields or something like.
John Merris: Because you don’t have access to that customer data. You ultimately miss out on the opportunity to interact with them. Our model allows us to go back to the customer even before they’ve received the product for the first time with emails, how to make a great fire, what fuel to use accessories that you might be missing.
John Merris: And ultimately we can generate a better customer experience because of our relationship that we generate through our. Direct to consumer, platform, but ultimately our reach and the way that we touch our customers, through our website. So it’s been tremendous for us.
John Merris: It’s a marketing channel that we’re passionate about. We are in love with e-com and believe, frankly, that the next 10 years and beyond are going to be owned, from a commerce standpoint, from a consumer standpoint, by brands that know how to go direct to consumers and deliver exceptional customer experiences through their own websites.
John Merris: And of course, email and social media and. And, and even text messaging now, which is becoming more and more popular. So we are very focused on direct to consumer e-comm and we love interacting with our customers. In fact, that relationship with the customers, since we’re, you know, this is a product focused podcast, our relationship with the customers through e-com is heavily influenced.
John Merris: What we do from a product standpoint in the future. So all of the engineering and designing that we’re doing that’s on our product. Roadmap is influenced by the feedback we’re getting directly from our customers because of our relationship with them through our own websites. So for anyone that’s out there thinking about launching a new product or has a product, and they’re trying to get it off the ground.
John Merris: Building a cohort of consumers on your own site versus say, going through a retailer or even going through Amazon who owns the customer on your behalf, it’s so much better and differentiated to have a relationship with the customer so that you can ask them. What’s great about your product. What’s not great about your products?
John Merris: What new products should you be thinking about designing that you haven’t yet? That feedback is invaluable and it can really feel like phase two, three, and beyond growth for any business.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Do you have an example that comes to mind of, you know, maybe a particular piece of feedback that you felt really helped you guys make a better product? Or maybe,
John Merris: Yeah. Every, I mean, every product that we have stemmed from customer feedback, every product we have, which is unbelievable, really, to think about just this year or late last year, we launched an accessory to our fire pit. Called lid, which is just that simple. Exactly what it says that, you know, it’s in the name, it’s just a lid.
John Merris: It’s a stainless steel lid that you can put over the top of your fire pit. And you can do that when you still have warm coals in the bottom. So not with a roaring fire, but let’s say you want to go in for the night and you’ve got your fire. It’s still going. You can throw the lid on and go inside. And because you’ve still got oxygen feeding it from the bottom, you’re still getting air flow there and you can go in and keep, you know, rain out, but also just make sure that you’re, you know, you’re not leaving an open fire, you know, susceptible to the outdoors before you go in for the night.
John Merris: And what’s also cool about it. Is it doubled like a little side table or a little coffee table in between chairs? If you’ve got, you know, sitting outside that product has done tremendously well for us this year, all because a customer just gave us the idea of, Hey, how about a hard cover, for the fire pits that would allow us to go inside.
John Merris: It was just a pain point for the customer. To be able to go inside when they still have warm coals and the bottom of the fire pit. And we were able to solve that forum. And of course in exchange, customers were willing to open their wallets and to engage with the brand again and felt even better about it because we were able to deliver that product at a good value.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. You typically think about this iteration concept, you know, in the world of sort of software, you know, that, which is kind of the world that I live in, right. is released early and then just continues to iterate on your product and get that feedback as quickly as possible. You know, typically it is.
Ken Ojuka: Is harder for physical product brands to be that nimble. Right. And maybe they can’t get to the speeds that, you know, like a software company can iterate on, but I, I still think there’s a lot. And I think you guys have shown this, there’s a lot that you can do, to iterate and, Apply that feedback that you’re getting at a much faster clip.
Ken Ojuka: So anyway, I love that principle of, of speed, you know, and using that as a competitive advantage. Yeah, definitely. Well, what about the future? You know, so you guys are growing really quickly. What’s, what’s next for.
John Merris: You know, we just earlier this year, realizing that we have built something pretty special with our fulfillment platform, from an operation standpoint and with our expertise around e-com and, and going digital and directing.
John Merris: Through our own websites. We actually started looking for acquisitions and we have been fortunate and lucky enough to partner with, and acquire three brands this year. In May we purchased ORU kayak, which is an incredible product. We could have a whole separate podcast about, but this is an origami kayak.
John Merris: It falls to the size of a briefcase, but weighs only 20 pounds. You can throw it on your back, like a backpack, go mountain biking with it, or throw it in the back of a cab. If you live in a city and go anywhere you’d like, and just unfold. And it becomes this hard, rigid kayak, almost as durable as a hard kayak wood.
John Merris: So it’s, portable like an inflatable kayak, but rigid like a normal kayak that you’re used to seeing, you know, mounted on top of a Jeep and, just incredibly based in California, patented technology and a brand that we’re super proud to own. So something to keep in mind, for the listeners out there, right after ORU, just a couple months later, we purchased, the pioneers and innovators around the inflatable stand-up paddleboard space, a company called aisle, which is based in San Diego and they manufacturer design, manufacture and sell, both hard and portable inflatable, paddleboards and surf.
John Merris: And that business is incredible, a huge, hugely successful story. But one of the funnest things about those guys, it was founded by two surfers in 2004, they only sell online on their site and on Amazon, but their fulfillment strategy early on before, you know, there was a robust network across the country to move large bulky items.
John Merris: Once ecomm took off and Amazon took off, they were actually loading. Surfboards onto the bottom, the cargo area of Greyhound buses from San Diego and shipping them across the country, telling the customer, Hey, just go down to the Greyhound station and look at the cargo area, your products on the bus.
John Merris: And that’s kind of how they got that product. Again. You talk about going back to this theme around speed and nimbleness, just shows the ingenuity that entrepreneurs can have at getting their product to market. And then, right after IO, we actually purchased an incredible apparel brand, apparel lifestyle brand called Chubbies.
John Merris: And if you’re not familiar with Chevy’s, you ought to check up, check them out, but they re-invigorated, and brought back the men’s shorts of the seventies, the five and a half to eight. And seam men’s short swimsuits, the most incredible swimsuit, yellow her own, as well as workout gear.
John Merris: And now I’ve gotten into shirts. So now, we are a platform of lifestyle brands and products, starting with Selah stove and then ORU. I do all the paddleboards and then Chevy’s for outdoor lifestyle apparel. And, we’ve now elevated the brand, beyond just solo stove. The sole stove brand of course still exists.
John Merris: And so do the others. But, I now operate as the CEO of solo brands, which is the parent company that houses that group of brands of that family of brands.
Ken Ojuka: So it’s the idea then to bring the warehousing and fulfillment capabilities on, within one roof or
John Merris: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.
John Merris: So there are, several, economies of scale that kind of are brought to bat brought to being, through this platform play. And one of those is the fulfillment opportunity across all of the brands. Again. And the by-product of the outcome is you end up saving a ton of cash by doing it yourself, but the focus and the reason we do it is to deliver a great customer story.
John Merris: Nobody will ever care about taking care of your customers as well as you do. And by doing the fulfillment ourselves, we cut out the three PL or the third-party logistics companies that are typically doing fulfillment for e-commerce businesses. And we do it ourselves and get that product directly to the customer as quickly as possible.
John Merris: And by doing so of course create, you know, lovers of our brands. And, as we create lovers of our brands and loyalists and followers, They share the brands with their friends. And, the next thing, you know you’re generating referral business and your business starts growing exponentially.
John Merris: So it’s been, it’s been a wild ride and it’s super fun. One, for us, as we think about partnering with these additional lifestyle brands and bringing them into, to the solo.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. So, you know, with warehousing and fulfillment, obviously it’s not a light thing to stand up, you know, that capability in house.
Ken Ojuka: And I’m wondering what your opinion is on times when maybe it makes sense to go with the three PL and then how you know that, Hey, maybe this is something that we need to think about bringing in-house, you know, how would you encourage brands to think about that?
John Merris: My philosophy now, I think it’s changed over time.
John Merris: My philosophy now is that every brand should be doing it themselves. As long as you have the scale, to justify the investment. But you can start small. I mean, if you only need 2000 square feet, then only get 2000 square feet. If you need 10, go get 10. Today we have about 700,000 square feet across, across the world, for our warehousing and fulfillment needs.
John Merris: And we’ve of course scaled that over time. We didn’t start with that much space. So I am passionately behind the idea of taking great care of the customer and for e-commerce businesses. I think it’s very hard to do that well, without building it yourself and being in control. That’s how I, that’s how I strongly feel about it.
John Merris: We honestly did it initially, not even thinking about it. What the impacts were going to be. We were willing to make the investment and we thought that it would be an expense to do it ourselves. We thought it would cost us. It just turns out that if you do it really well, not only do you get better customer experience, but you actually can save money from the fees.
John Merris: That three PLS are charging you. Because again, if you can do it as well. Or better than the three PLS doing it, then maybe you could even do it more efficiently and three peels on operating at a loss. They’re making a profit. So if you can bring that profit back into the door for your own business, that allows you to reinvest back into your customer, whether it’s additional product development or just generating better customer experiences by making investments in.
John Merris: Customer service and supply chain and you know, other areas that impact the overall customer journey and customer happiness with your brand. And that’s what we’ve seen. So now if I were talking to another entrepreneur, I would be encouraging them to think about, and you can do it scrappy in the beginning.
John Merris: Right. And you do it out of your own garage until you have the volume that you need to go and get something further or bigger. But a lot of people just get overwhelmed with the idea of. You know, as their businesses growing and they have more units, like I need to go find a three PL, but what if instead of hiring a three PL that’s going to cost you, you know, $40,000 a month to fulfill your products, you hire a warehouse manager for $8,000 a month and have them dedicated to, to fulfilling your product.
John Merris: So it’s just a different philosophy, but one that, that we believe in, heavily over a solo brands.
Ken Ojuka: Okay. Awesome. Well, I know that you’ve got another call here. Just want to wrap up, let’s switch over to the quick fire round about four questions for you. And just give me a quick answer. What’s one tool or resource that you feel has helped you along your career?
John Merris: We use, we use base camp at, as solo that I am a big fan of. It’s just an interoffice communication tool and I’ve found it to be super helpful
Ken Ojuka: Awesome. What about a book that you can recommend to the audience?
John Merris: My favorite book is whatever it takes. And it’s, Steven Swartzman wrote it, founder of BlackRock and its incredible, highly recommended.
Ken Ojuka: I haven’t read that one. I’ll have to look into it. What is one piece of advice that you would give to your 21 year old self.
John Merris: Read more books.
Ken Ojuka: Nice. And, is there somebody in your field of work or another entrepreneur or somebody that you look up to that you’d love to take lunch to?
John Merris: I’d love to go to lunch with Jeff Bezos, for sure.
John Merris: I wouldn’t consider him to be a peer of mine by any stretch, but that guy fascinates me. I’m a pretty big dreamer and I think I may have matched with, with them. So. Nice.
Ken Ojuka: Well, if somebody wanted to reach out to you or connect with you or your products, you know, what’s the best way to.
John Merris: Yeah. So Selah stove.com. Solo brands.com gives you access to link into any of the brands in our platform. So for, kayak or aisle or Chubbies, you can find all of our brands, including firstname.lastname@example.org and then you can link over to those sites and you can find me on LinkedIn.
Ken Ojuka: Okay. Well, awesome.
Ken Ojuka: Hey John, thank you for taking the time today. This has been awesome. Thank you. All right.
John Merris: Thanks so much.
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