John McCauley and David Klinker met in 1995 when they were students at Coronado Middle School. John was stuck on long division and would get grounded for stealing beers from his parents’ fridge. He was the same age as David, but one grade behind after spending two years in kindergarten for good measure. David was a talented straight-A student who was more apt to find trouble dismantling electronics around the house in a quest for spare parts.
They were unlikely friends but spent the next four years at Coronado High School as sidekicks; coproducing videos for school projects, designing class T-shirts and playing on Coronado High’s venerated water polo team.
As the story often goes, the two best buds went their separate ways after graduating high school; first to different colleges and further adrift later. David studied in Barcelona for a year and decided to stay for an extra three. John started his career in finance (he eventually nailed long division) in New York City.
By 2005 they found themselves back in San Diego as full-fledged adults with real jobs and wives. But when the two friends reconnected, they went back to what they liked doing best: hanging out and making stuff.
In late 2009, mining a mutual interest in design, typography, geography and their Southern Californian roots, John and David created the San Diego Beach Towns and California Coastal Counties prints. These cornerstones for Orange & Park combined the wit of infographics with a cool reverence for their home state that only natives could articulate. These two prints remain Orange & Park’s most popular items.
It wasn’t until 2011 that Orange & Park took a turn from being a garage hobby into a legitimate small business. A few local stores started tearing through Orange & Park inventory. Then came a super-successful sale on flash sale site Fab.com.
Orange & Park has gained momentum ever since. They’ve gone from storing prints under John’s couch to using an actual warehouse where they can easily fulfill hundreds of orders in a day.
Today, Orange & Park reinvests every dollar it makes back into the company. John and David constantly think of new prints but are slow to release until they are completely satisfied. Their current collection ventures beyond the California border, covering the East Coast, the Great Lakes, Africa, South America and more—all with the same clean and minimal aesthetic as the originals.
As a local brand, Orange & Park contributes more than posters and stationery. They sponsor exhibitions and collaborate with other San Diego artists. They also founded and continue to host Circumnavigation, a mass bike ride on July 3rd around the edge of Coronado. With over 400 riders in 2012, Circumnavigation is now Coronado’s unofficial kickoff to the 4th of July, the island’s biggest holiday.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
I can't recall our first sale! But I bet it was to my mom or a friend.
In 2012 our business was 1/3 online store, 1/3 wholesale, and 1/3 flash sales sites like Fab. The flash sale craze has died down and wholesale has picked up so I'd say we are a little over half wholesale and the rest through our online store.
One cool thing we do is take wholesale orders through our online store. We give all of our wholesale accounts 100% off discount codes and they order from us like any other customer. We follow up later with an invoice from Quickbooks with the proper pricing, which they can than pay online. This streamlined our process and allows us to track all sales in Shopify.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
We use ShipStation to handle all of our shipping. This is the best money we've ever spent. The integration with Shopify was super easy and we love how easy it is to print packing slips and shipping labels. This is something that took us forever prior to ShipStation.
We use Chimpified to handle our email list.
Not really an app but, on our product pages, we use Tint to display customer postings of our products from various social media outlets. To get this rolling we did a campaign encouraging customers to use hash tag #maphappy. We reward these customers by selecting a winner each month and sending them free prints. We love this feature, what better way to sell a product than to have happy customers show how much they love it? It's a great sales tool.
We are all in on the SaaS trend, we use Quickbooks Online to handle our accounting and Box for file sharing.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
First and foremost, focus on the customer. Treat them well and always listen - the goodwill it creates is invaluable and no one wants to work with an asshole.
One example of this, anytime a customer wants to return or exchange a product we tell them find a good home for the print you have, we'll refund you or ship another. Saves us in shipping costs and they are stoked.
Don't reinvent the wheel - build on a platform and look for apps that streamline your processes! We built our original store on Blogger, super low budget and it showed, we moved that to a site we created from scratch, super complicated to modify, and then Shopify came along. Life got a lot easier after Shopify. It's a platform built to do exactly what we wanted - sell stuff - and has a great partner ecosystem with loads of apps. This freed us up to design more products rather than focus on our online store.