A few weeks ago we received an unsolicited email from Costco.
When I started roasting coffee in 1997 I would have thought that an offer from Costco to supply them with packaged coffee was a gift from the heavens. The opportunity to supply Canada's second largest retailer is flattering to say the least, but ultimately one that wasn't right for our customers, workers or business...I said no.
Over the 24 year history of our company we've prioritized roasting the highest quality beans available while staying laser focused on freshness. We've done an incredible job adapting to supplying Kingston and Area with coffee delivered free to their home or office during the pandemic, while maintaining the safest work environment we can imagine. This adaptation was a result of a monumental effort from our team here, leveraging the fantastic technology that the Shopify platform offers to create online sales, combined with a dogged determination to prevail in the most difficult business environment in the last 75 years.
A couple weeks prior to the outreach from Costco I was appointed to Shopify's "Voice of the Merchant Council" which brings together 15 online retailers from across Canada to provide feedback and insight into Canadian online retail from the merchant perspective. It wasn't until I began writing down an outline for this blog post that I realized that the reason I can say NO to Costco is because of the support of our customers ordering online.
The Shopify Platform has allowed North Roast to drive the sales that feed our business, instead of relying on a single large customer who would ultimately control our order flow. That power to control our own sales is more enticing than any offer Big Retail can offer. The Shopify Platform has given us the tools to climb up the Search Engine rankings for Coffee Roasters in Ontario to near the top of the page, completely driven by volume rather than paying for placement. This is the spark that ignites "The Flywheel Effect" described in Jim Collins landmark book "Good to Great". Increased online sales lead to better SEO results lead to better online sales...all organically without cost.
If it wasn't for the tools we ourselves control, enabled by the Shopify platform, we would have lost control of our sales flow, been forced to sacrifice quality and freshness, all to prioritize a single large customer over the interests of thousands of individual customers who've supported us through the years.
I made the right choice.