The story of Nuts.com.au

Nuts.com.auNuts.com.au was a business that I started in 2015 and sold just a year later.

It was a brilliant learning experience, albeit a rather time consuming one!

Along the way I posted about some of the journey on a private forum.  Now that the site has been out of my hands for a while I’d like to share those posts.

This is by no means the entire contents of the posts.  Just the ones that I think have some value.


26 June 2015

If anyone has hung around on car forums (like me) you’ll be familiar with the “build thread”. Basically it just follows the build of your car.

Well a few months back I started building a new e-commerce business from scratch, using the domain Nuts.com.au.

I figured I’d document some of the “build” here if anyone’s interested…

So I picked up this domain from a forum member back in November 2013. I didn’t have any grand plans at that stage, but it was a brilliant name at a nice price.

Sometime I later I decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to build (or at least try to build) an online business with such a strong domain, so I started to very slowly build out the site and gain some rankings.

Fast forward over a year later, and the site now ranks number 1 for some good terms. Time to take the next step…

I spoke with a couple of wholesalers and found a supplier for all the products I’ll need. They also expressed faith in the business model.

But you can’t just repackage food and send it out without a licence, so the next step was to get a food licence from our local council…

But to get that I needed to meet the requirements of a “Food Safety Supervisor”. So I went and completed the necessary course.

And now I’m back into the food licence process, which is relatively involved and still ongoing.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before the licence is sorted out, and then I can open up the site for orders.

The site itself still needs a bit of work, but I’m slowly getting through it. I don’t have a lot of time outside of running Trade Risk and NumberPlates.com.au, but I have an inkling that Nuts.com.au could be something special if I get it right.

For inspiration I look at the figures for Nuts.com in the US. They paid six-figures for their domain, but they’re now doing $35 million a year in revenue…

If anyone’s interested in the following the story as the site moves towards opening orders and whatever happens after that, I’m happy to keep sharing.


28 June 2015

Note: The sections in bold are comments from other forum users.

Sounds like a bit is involved with re packaging food and selling it online, keep us updated on the progress.

Yeah there’s quite a bit involved with getting the licence.  I could buy the products pre-packaged and not have to get a licence, but I really want to get the packaging (in terms of design and branding) spot on, and the only way to do that is to package myself.

Great story thus far, I thought you would just charge a commission on leads ?

I’m not really interested in affiliate marketing or drop shipping. I totally respect the guys who can successfully run that type of business from home and enjoy a great lifestyle, but personally I love employing staff and being with my team every day.
I’ve done it with my insurance business, and I’d really love to add another similar sized business on the nuts side.

I forgot to mention in my original post about a few other relevant domains I’ve picked up. Some of these were bought from another forum member, and one on the drops:

  • Cashews.com.au
  • Chestnuts.com.au
  • Pistachios.com.au
  • Brazilnuts.com.au

I’m not sure that I’ll do much with them other than forwarding, but either way it’s been good to grab them when I could.


14 September 2015

Little update…
Food licence application being lodged today.
Account with a major supplier due to be approved this week.
Hoping to have some product available on the site by the end of next month.


25 September 2015

Food licence granted.
Account with major supplier finalised.
Packaging equipment purchased.

All is on track to launch the online ordering sooner than planned. Maybe as soon as next week…

My total spend so far would be bugger all. A couple of grand tops.

I came across an article recently which lists the sale price of nuts.com at $700k!
https://www.namepros.com/blog/inside-interview-behind-the-700-000-nuts-com-acquisition.871775/

I’ll post here when the ordering goes live, and update when the first order comes in…

Good stuff. I think this would be well suited to one of those monthly subscription models.. nuts are a pretty addictive snack

Yes absolutely. I registered nutclub.com.au last year. Who wouldn’t want a new variety of nuts delivered fresh each month (or week!). :)

When I decided to go down the path of developing the site I started keeping a container of nuts on my desk, and it’s been a million times better than raiding the office chocolate box when feeling a little peckish. I’ve actually dropped two belt notches since then. I have no idea if that’s to do with the improved snacking habits or just an overall better diet, but it can’t have hurt.

Great story and a great food product to be working with – doesn’t spoil quickly, growing recognition of health benefits and is actually quite expensive on per kg basis.

Yeah for sure. Another benefit is that it’s a product far less likely to be ordered from overseas websites. Not impossible of course, but I think it’s a lot different to ordering electronics or clothing etc.

And with the food licence requirements there’s an extra barrier to entry that (hopefully) some people may find too difficult to bother with.

Who knows how well it will work, but I haven’t put my house on the line, so it’s worth a crack.


1 October 2015

Online ordering went live this morning.

Only a very small range of products at this stage, but I’ll keep adding more each day and hopefully sale number 0000001 isn’t too far away…


6 October 2015

Here’s some product ready to be shipped out.

I think I’ll go with larger stickers for the next batch. The rear has plain labels with the name of the nuts, nutritional info, etc.

First orders have been posted today. Thanks to the two members who have given it a go. :)

So far all of the orders are from people I have some connection to (friends, family, forum) so I’m still looking forward to the first non-connected order to come through. It’s only been five days, so I need to be patient…


7 October 2015

I was in Coles today and did a price check. Salted roast cashews were $26.90 kg vs $16.95 kg on Nuts.com.au.

Yep the pricing is brilliant. I do need to adjust my margins at some point, but right now they’re set low to try and get some volume through. It’s nice to know there is plenty of room to move.

And despite the price difference, the nuts from my supplier are of a higher grade than what the supermarkets sell. Which basically just means less broken bits in the bag and fewer nuts with any type of discolouration.


8 October 2015

I like the use of resealable bags. That’s a selling point.

The resealable stand-up bags are great. Not the cheapest option, but I feel that if I want to offer a premium service that matches the premium domain, this is what I need to do. And I agree completely on it being a selling point. I hope other prospective buyers see it the same way.

Was dropshipping ever an option here so that you didn’t need certs and what not?

Never an option. Following on from my comments above, I wanted to package the product myself so that I could use premium packaging and my own branding.

The cost of getting the food licence, food supervisor certificate and appropriate insurance was not huge. It took time, but thankfully my main business runs pretty smoothly with great staff, which allows me to spend some time on other projects like this.


13 October 2015

Had the first ‘big’ order come in over the weekend. Over $100 worth of nuts, none of them what you’d consider snacking nuts, so presumably part of their diet.

This is the type of customer I had in mind; someone who has nuts as a big part of their diet and is going to place decent orders on an ongoing basis.

As an added bonus they live about 10 minutes from my office, so it’s a nice easy free delivery.

I have to say I was expecting a few more orders at this stage, but it’s only been a week since ordering went live, so I need to be patient… I’m sure most online stores that get started from scratch never get a single order.

I started setting up the ebay store this week. Just a couple of products so far. I might use it to play around with pricing a little.


14 October 2015

First eBay order came through this morning. Could be a good way of getting more people aware of the brand, and presumably next time they’ll order direct through the site.


19 October 2015

Sticking with a single supplier at the moment (who are huge and have everything I need) but if everything goes to plan I’ll be keeping an eye out for more suppliers who can provide me with something a little different. Not for a while though…

The orders have been coming in over the last two weeks. Not a huge number, but enough to show that the model has potential. The typical order seems to be around $50 to $100.

The site is still more-or-less off the shelf and could do with a LOT of improving! It will come with time…


21 October 2015

Another two $100+ orders in last night. Definitely starting to get some momentum, and it’s giving me a little more confidence to hold more stock rather than ordering in each time, which means I can ship to customers much faster.

It’s been an interesting process so far since my other online businesses have been service based (insurance and classifieds) rather than stocking and shipping an actual product.


26 October 2015

So we’re a couple of weeks in now and I have to say things are going better than expected.

Last week’s orders totalled $852 via the website plus another $52 via eBay. Over $600 of that just came in over the weekend alone…

I’m 100% certain that the site wouldn’t be having this level of success without the Nuts.com.au domain name.

The next steps are to keep working on the margins (starting to look better already) and find some better shipping options, as the free shipping on orders over $100 is killing most of my margin.

I’ve done nothing with Adwords yet, but I’m keen to get to know more about the Google merchant thingy so that I can have some products showing on Google.

Here’s a photo of two orders that went out earlier in the week… I’m quite happy with the packaging and branding, but I think I’ll get some larger stickers printed for the big bags.


6 November 2015

Just over a month now since ordering went live.

We’ve done over $2k in orders, with the vast majority of that in the last two weeks. Not huge numbers, but it’s still very early and the site still has a lot of little bugs to sort out.

I’ve been getting quite a few wholesale enquiries via the contact form. The site makes no mention of wholesale, but perhaps the domain name makes us look a lot bigger than we are…?

Starting to get on to of margin setting now, so the orders are actually profitable. Free shipping is still hurting. I bumped the threshold up to $150 from $100, which seems to have simply increased the average order amount! The orders are still profitable at that level, but there’s not a lot in it after I cover shipping…

Still learning. Good fun…


26 November 2015

Little update…

The site is still kicking along nicely. We’re getting close to $1,000 a week in orders, but it’s not resulting in much profit.

When I started I said I wasn’t worried about profit for the first year and just wanted to build the business… It’s amazing how quickly things change! Now my attitude is that if I’m going to spend time away from my main business and my family, I want to get paid for it!

Yesterday we had our first repeat order, which was quite a good feeling. I also sent out a feedback survey for last month’s orders, and the results have been very positive. Thanks to the members who got involved too. I will reply to your feedback soon. :)

My thinking at the moment is that new customers alone are going to struggle to get this to a sustainable business, but as repeat customers build up over the months and years we could start to build some really good volume.


16 December 2015

Little update…

Haven’t really done much new over the last month, but the orders are still coming in. Not quite the Christmas bump I was hoping for, but I really didn’t do enough (or anything!) in terms of Christmas promotions.

Total sales are now comfortably above what I’ve spent on the domain, development and other costs such as the food licence and insurance. Profit is a different story of course, but getting the sales past that figure within the first three months is a start.


10 February 2016

It’s been a few months since the last update…

All I’ve really been doing lately is adding products and posting a few bits and pieces on our Facebook page. I’ve added some content, but very little compared to what I do with my insurance sites.

I’ve done two price increases across most of the products since my last update, which hasn’t impacted on sales thankfully. I’m starting to get a more sustainable margin into the products, although profits (especially on the orders which receive free shipping) are still a little low for my liking.

Overall sales are kicking along quite nicely and I’m doing a few grand a month. Although it’s off a tiny base, month-on-month sales growth has been in the double digits every month.

Not too bad considering not a single cent has been spent on marketing. I’ll probably start playing around with Adwords within the next couple of months though.

I have been considering shopping the site around to some of the existing players, but I think I’ll hang on for a bit longer and keep growing it.


18 March 2016

My little nut business is still kicking along. We’re approaching six months since launch. Where does the time go…

The orders have really picked up in terms of size this month.

I got excited about a $390 order that came in at the start of the month (our largest so far) but that was quickly beaten by a $455 order earlier this week and today I’ve just received one for a whopping $730 from a repeat customer!

As you’d expect for orders of this size, these are all business customers. Most of the overall orders are still private individuals, but the average sale for them is around $150, which is the free shipping threshold.

What’s really relevant in terms of this forum is that I put a huge amount of this success down to the domain name. These are fairly sizeable orders that people are putting in, and I believe it’s the nuts.com.au domain that gives them the confidence to do so.

I’ve managed to pick up a great new deal on shipping, so I’ll be able to reduce the shipping fees on my <$150 orders and save some money on my >$150 orders.

If I was to work out my hourly rate on this business it would still be crap, but I’m confident that I’m building something that should be quite sellable at some point.


17 May 2016

It’s been two months since the last update and things are still going pretty well.

Growth has slowed down a little since the last update, but we’re still heading in the right direction.

I’m ranking very well for a lot of shopping related terms (number 1 for ‘buy nuts online’ and similar) however I’m nowhere when searching for product terms such as ‘raw cashews’ etc.

On this basis I decided to give the Google shopping ads a try. They’ve only been running since late last week and haven’t resulted in any sales, but it’s cool to see my products there on top of the search results.

The short domain name works really well within the shopping results as you can see below. It fits within the box nicely, and shows what the business does and that it’s Australian. Perfect!

There is still a huge amount of room for growth when it comes to rankings. I really need to be adding more product related content, and this may be something I (reluctantly) outsource.

The repeat orders are still going well and I have a few customers who have now reached their third big order, so I’m definitely happy with that.

Those repeat customers tend to order around $170 worth of product every two months. If they maintain that it’s equal to just over a grand per year. If I get around 1,000 of this type of customer (which I don’t think is impossible) that’s $1m a year turnover done and dusted.

Plenty of work to do and plenty of potential left.

I’m interested to hear your view on the end potential sell figure.

I have absolutely no idea to be honest!

I want to build it to the point where I have a small warehouse and maybe a couple of people working in the business. I actually wouldn’t mind a small retail store that could potentially double as the warehouse and packaging facility.

If I want to get a big life changing sale price then the business needs to get into wholesale. I don’t think as a retail-only business it will ever be huge.

But I’m not really thinking about all that at the moment. Right now it’s just a side business that I’m enjoying and learning from.


1 June 2016

I’ve been spending a lot more time on the business since my last update a few weeks ago.

I now have Klaviyo running on the site, which manages cart abandonment and a bunch of other cool little things, mainly around automated emails.

It’s free for up to 250 customers, which I’m below at the moment, but will hit soon. Cost after that is $25/mth which at this stage I think will be money well spent.

I’m also really happy to be able to accept credit card payments via the site now without relying on PayPal as a payment gateway.

I’m using NAB Transact which was remarkably easy to get up and running thanks to the plugin and great email support direct from NAB. The payment process for customers is super seamless, and works in a way so the credit card details never pass through my server, which avoids some additional security requirements. It’s brilliant.

Personally I think offering proper credit card payments looks so much more professional than PayPal, and the merchant fees NAB are charging are way lower than the PayPal fees.

And last but not least, sales are still growing at an ever-increasing rate. I don’t want to give specific numbers, but its in the mid-to-high $x,xxx range per month. My target now is to be hitting $xx,xxx per month consistently by the end of the year.

Fun stuff!


12 September 2016

It’s been a couple of months since the last update, but not much has changed. The orders are still growing from month to month without me doing anything to the site.

In a couple of weeks it will be 12 months, and at that point it’s time for me to bail out!

I’ve loved building up this business, but my main business is far more needing of my time at the moment.

So if any of you would like the challenge of taking over Nuts.com.au please get in touch! I’m not after a huge pile of money; just enough to make it worthwhile. PM me if you’re interested.


Shortly after the post above the site was sold, and shortly after that it was sold again!

No products have been sold since I sold the site, but supposedly it is coming back.  Here’s the site today…

It was a great journey and hopefully there is much more to the Nuts.com.au story in the future.

My first TV appearance

Last month I featured in an ABC story regarding number plates.

It was quite an interesting thing to do, and also resulted in a great plug for one of my websites, NumberPlates.com.au.

My part starts at 2:55, but I recommend watching the whole thing!

It was quite an experience for someone who’s never done anything like this before.

The first contact came via my website, from a journalist at the ABC.

This is the dream for any business right?  We all talk about trying to reach out to media organisations to get some coverage, but when they come knocking on your door it’s brilliant.

In this case I give a lot of the credit to my domain name.

The website doesn’t look amazing, and it doesn’t rank number 1 for anything, but it has THE industry leading name – numberplates.com.au.

Exact match domains might not give you the ranking boost anymore, but I’m a big believer in their credibility boost.

So anyway we exchanged a few emails and had a chat on the phone, then that was it for a while.

Then out of the blue another phone call.  They wanted to film a piece ASAP, and they wanted to do it at my garage!

To be honest I didn’t like that idea and suggested we film somewhere else, but they wanted the home garage feel, and of course they wanted my number plates in shot.

So the day arrived and so did the camera person.  The journalist did the interview via mobile on speaker, whilst I gave my answers to an imaginary person standing beside the camera.

It was more difficult than I would’ve imagined…

Afterwards I almost felt sick!  I’m definitely not a natural in front of the camera.

Then weeks and weeks went past without a word from anyone.  I honestly hoped that they’d decided not to run the story!

But on the Easter long weekend I received a text from the journalist – our story would be airing on the 7pm national news!

It also ran on the business news later in the evening, and a few times on the 24 hour news channel.

In the end it wasn’t all that bad, and I was happy to get my Trade Risk ute in shot as well as a good plug for my number plate website.

Plus I’m semi-famous now…

Dot au

I saw this car on the fantastic Melbourne Car Spotters Instagram page recently.

The number plate stood out for obvious reasons!

Could it be someone who’s made their fortune from .au domain names?

Apparently not…  According to comments on the Instagram post it is the owner of DOT AU Vodka, which I’d never heard of previously.

Anyway, cool plate and car.  Shame it was nothing to do with domain names.

First of the losers

Senna

Someone I admire greatly, Aytyon Senna, famously said that second is the first of the losers.

When it comes to the auDA election last month, third place was the first of the losers…

Two directors were elected, Simon Johnson with 66 votes and Timothy Connell with 52 votes.

I was just 4 little votes behind, on 48 votes.

But a miss is as good as a mile, and therefore I am the first of the losers!

Excuses

As with all elections, the results went to those who campaigned best.

I’m told that Simon is an exceptional campaigner, and I witnessed first hand how good Tim was at campaigning.

As for me, well I can roll out the excuses…

I did very little campaigning.  Unfortunately the lead up to the elections coincided with two rather major events in my business.

The timing was such that I was at the bank signing my life away the day after proxies closed!

To say it’s been a hectic few months would be an understatement, and that’s not taking into account anything to do with the election.

But yes, they’re all just excuses.

Simon and Tim did a great job and deserved to be elected.

Next year…

I honestly don’t know if I’ll have another go next year.

Gaining a seat on the auDA board was never about money, prestige or improving my CV.

It was about being involved in what I see as the most serious issue to ever face AU domain owners – direct registrations.

Assuming that direct registrations are done and dusted over the coming year, why would I want to take time away from my business and family?

We’ll see…  It all depends on what happens at auDA over the next 11 months or so.

For now it’s back to family and business.

Thanks again to everyone who voted for me.

My businesses

Part of my pitch as a demand class director of auDA is my experience in online business.

Many board members and nominees, both past and present, have had backgrounds in government, academia and law. There are also many involved in the provision of tech services.

The board absolutely needs these types of people. They have invaluable skills, qualifications and knowledge, and have no doubt contributed to the strength of the AU domain space over many years.

But I don’t see a lot of business owners. Dealing with business is absolutely not the same as being in business.

So here’s what I’ve been doing online over the last few years…

Nuts.com.auNuts.com.au

I founded Nuts.com.au with nothing more than a fantastic domain name and determination to build an e-commerce business from scratch.

Within months the business was shipping thousands of dollars worth of nuts to all corners of the country.

I believe that a huge part of its success was the domain name.  Branding as the exact match .com.au for our product gave instant credibility amongst suppliers and customers.

It was a fantastic experience, however the business was very recently sold to enable me to concentrate on my insurance business.

NumberPlates.com.auNumberPlates.com.au

This is a business I acquired back in 2014 from the previous owners who’d held it for many years.

As is always my preference, it uses an exact match domain name to explain what the website is about.

The site now lists many thousands of number plates for sale and is a great example of how well niche classifieds websites can work.

Trade RiskTrade Risk

Trade Risk is the anchor of my business world.

It combines my career – insurance – with my passion – digital marketing.

It was started with nothing more than a domain name, a bit of knowledge and a lot of hard work.

It also benefited greatly from my willingness to invest in premium com.au domain names.

The business has thousands of clients, a team of staff in our Brisbane office and has won numerous awards over the years.

This is my full time gig.

Other businesses

I’ve had plenty of other online businesses over the years, some that went nowhere, and some that I managed to sell for a few dollars.

I believe that my experience and success in online business makes me an ideal demand class director of auDA, and one that will compliment the skills of more seasoned directors on the board who may not have any online business experience.

My stance on direct registrations

The introduction of direct registrations is one of the hottest topics when it comes to this year’s auDA elections.

Some people say it’s a done deal and we need to focus on implementation, whilst other argue that we should still be fighting hard against it.

Here’s what I had to say about them on Domainer.com.au back in September:

In my opinion this is the biggest change to occur during my time in the domain name world, which kicked off back in the late nineties.

There have been other big changes, such as the ability to sell domain names and the monetisation policy, both of which were great positive changes.

The difference between these and direct registrations is that they didn’t affect the average small business owner.

If you owned one or two domains for your SME, with no interest in acquiring additional domains, the changes to monetisation or selling of domains had no real impact on you.

But with direct registrations, every single domain name owner is going to be affected.

My view has not changed since then.

Here’s what I recently wrote on DNtrade:

I’ve had a consistent stance on this since the beginning. I like the idea of a shorter domain, however I don’t believe they are necessary and I am against their introduction on the basis that they will burden SMEs with additional costs and unnecessary work for no real benefit.

Furthermore, I believe the addition of another option will simply cause confusion amongst business owners and the general public.

com.au is strong. The reasons given by the ‘for’ side do not justify weakening it.

I simply do not believe the benefits outweigh the negatives when it comes to direct registrations.

Some on the supply side state that this is about innovation.

I’m all for innovation, but this is not innovation.  It is simply removing a few letters in order to sell more domain names.

So what is my stance?  If the opportunity arises, I will vote against the introduction of direct registrations.

If they are to be introduced (which is the current situation) then I will do everything in my power to ensure existing domain owners are not adversely impacted upon.

 

How to vote for me

If you like what I stand for and agree that I’d make a great Demand Class director at auDA, voting for me is easy.

You must act fast however, as today (Thursday 24th November) is the last day to return your form to me or directly to auDA.

Simply print and sign this proxy form.  You can then scan and email it to sm@traderisk.com.au.

Forms must be returned by 5pm today (Sydney time) for them to count.  If sending directly to me, make sure you give me sufficient time prior to 5pm.

Any questions?  Let me know!

I finally bought my ute

Last week I finally achieved something which has meant a lot to me over a number of years.

There are so many things this could be, but for me, it is a humble ute covered in stickers.  Massive stickers…

Ford Ranger Wrap

Looks nice hey?  But heaps of people have utes with stickers.  Big deal!

It was a big deal for me though.

We’ve achieved plenty with Trade Risk.  Just being here after five years is an achievement.  Having an office with awesome staff has also been a great achievement.

Picking up multiple awards and being recognised on industry lists has definitely been an achievement.

But ever since day one, what I’ve envisaged is a big ute emblazoned with my beloved Trade Risk branding.

Sure I could have gone out and financed a ute and wrap years ago, but I didn’t want to do that.  I wanted to earn it.

So it sounds stupid, but this ute is kind of what really makes me feel like my little business is a success.

I’m proud as punch to drive this beast around. 🙂

I’m Shane

Shane MooreProud father of two little girls.  Husband. Founder of Trade Risk.  Passionate about digital marketing and domain names.  Lover of Formula One.

And the reason that you’re probably visiting, nominee as a demand class director on the auDA board in 2016.

I love domain names.  Ask my wife and she’ll tell you how much I carry on about domains, digital marketing and business in general.

I’ve been in and around the industry since the turn of the century, which sounds like an awful long time ago, but for me was around 1999 when I registered my first .com domain.

My passion for domains – in particular AU domains – and small business is what has motivated me to get more heavily involved in auDA.

To learn more about me and where I stand on important issues please follow the links below:

You can also contact me at sm@traderisk.com.au.

Cheers.

My greatest fear…

I saw a similar meme for power tools and had to create this…

My greatest fear

How many domainers could relate to this?!

FWIW, after many years my wife now understands how valuable great domain names can be for a business (in particular our business) so I’m more than happy to share what I actually pay for them. 🙂

In all seriousness though, it is something to consider.  If you’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into domain names like I have, how is your other half (wife, husband, whatever else) going to know how to best use or sell them?

Definitely something to think about…