Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?
My name is Will Hench and I'm one of the three co-founders of NIPYATA!. We are a personalized e-commerce platform for designing and delivering Kickass Personalized Booze Piñatas (and other fun party gifts and drinking games). Every product is (or will be) linked to a non-profit organization that has a positive mission behind it. We're trying to help raise awareness for important causes and have a blast doing it.
I co-founded the business with my brother Andrew who runs our B2B Sales into liquor stores and Dan Cedrone who runs our Product Development & Operations. I focus on brand and marketing. Our goal is to rid the world of boring gifts and help create awareness for awesome mission-driven organizations.
NIPYATA! started as a homemade product a friend of ours brought to parties in college — a piñata filled with mini plastic bottles of booze (we call them 'nips' in the Northeast).
Today, NIPYATA! is a product that can be purchased in-store or online. Online we do many customizations — we can laminate hi-res images on the NIPYATA!, personalized shapes, customized liquor selections, wine assortments, candy chasers and "NIPYATA! Fortunes" (customized labels on each bottle with fortune cookie-inspired messages) to make the product truly personalized and extremely entertaining.
The business does top line revenues of $55,000 each month to both consumers and retail liquor stores. We've now shipped over 5,000 units and plan to have NIPYATA! live in over 3,000 stores by Cinco de Mayo 2019.
What motivated you to get started with Nipyata?
We decided it was a sign when the domain nipyata.com was available. Then a liquor store opened up around the corner from us in Jersey City, NJ. We pitched the owner of the store and he loved the concept — he became our first partner.
The demand for the product, the press coverage, and the virality of the campaigns on social media were all factors in the initial launch.
What went into building the initial product?
Our online product was basic — we used TypeForm and Shopify for the online store and our iOS app. We put in about $2,500 to get it off the ground. From the beginning we learned a few things from surveys and A/B testing:
- Customized liquor selection was a must. Users can select any type of liquor they want.
- Plastic nips only — no glass bottles :) — during our first test session, a glass bottle of Jagermeister almost took out the eye of our co-founder, Dan.
- Size and Quantity of nips was a feature everyone wanted.
- Customized gameplay — we have NIPYATA! Fortunes (like truth or dares), a "Golden Nip" (Surprise Nip inside each NIPYATA!) and branded NIPYATA! Rules of the Game to make it a truly unique experience for our customers.
We will soon be building out our own app and website that will look and feel much more polished and fun to use.
Thus far we've invested about $75,000 into the business mainly for inventory, consumer packaging and liquor licensing. We're doing a larger round of funding now so that we can expand more quickly into brick and mortar stores that sell spirits, wine, and beer, since online liquor shipping laws prohibit companies from shipping to many states.
How have you attracted users and grown NIPYATA!?
When we first launched, we simply emailed all of our friends and asked them to share the website. We didn't have a viral video or any "launch plan" in place. The first initial orders were slow and not steady — we'd work with the liquor store in our neighborhood to fulfill them.
We got our first traffic and order flow by following Ryan Holiday's book Trust Me, I'm Lying step by step, and we received coverage in a bunch of big media outlets back in 2015/2016. But that resulted in a handful of spikes in traffic and some residual SEO traffic. We also didn't have our retargeting, email capture or lead nurturing automation in place. Lesson learned.
Influencer marketing and paid acquisition on Facebook and Google AdWords have been successful to help us scale up and get consistent order flow.
Contests and giveaways have been effective for our brand awareness on Facebook and Instagram. NIPYATA! is inherently viral and we see massive engagement on our social paid acquisition campaigns.
What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
We started out charging $69 per product but after realizing how much time and effort went into creating each NIPYATA! and the customization we now charge up to $189 per product.
We have a few channels in addition to our online B2C e-commerce website. We sell wholesale into stores so that customers can buy directly at a store and soon NIPYATA! will be available on liquor delivery apps such as Minibar and Drizly in certain cities.
We also offer branded product packages for companies looking to do giveaways, client gifts, employee gifts, or influencer campaigns. We'll create 50-200 custom NIPYATA! products for a company and handle fulfillment and social media campaigns.
Our revenues this year have fluctuated this year:
The big spike in growth was due to Cinco de Mayo PR campaigns in March, April and May and projects with large spirit brands such as Captain Morgan's and SVEDKA.
What are your goals for the future?
Our goal for the short term is to close funding to get more of our team on this full time so that we can scale up the operation to handle the distribution and logistics around selling into retail stores. We are looking at bank loans and angel funding to support our growth.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
The biggest issues we've had were around fulfillment and inventory management during spikes. We made the mistake of hiring a few hourly workers (trying to keep it lean) to help ship orders and they quickly fell behind when a few of our PR pieces went viral.
We've decided that the only way to handle it is to have a professional full-time team or third-party fulfillment company handle the orders. It's also extremely difficult to operate a physical goods company (with large inventory requirements) out of your house or out of an office — we quickly learned that a loading dock and warehouse are critical to keep the operation running smoothly — or outsource everything to a third-party logistics company. Most 3PL we've spoken with do not ship alcohol, so we have had to run it ourselves.
What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?
Create something with people you really love working with because many days you're going to be upset, frustrated, or wanting to quit. Having a co-founder or two that will keep things positive every day is crucial.
Have a small focused set of weekly or monthly goals and a simple shared dashboard to measure them. Set up a basic A/B test and only test one thing at a time. Do these tests every week or two and measure the results — one big change could result in 2x or 3x your monthly growth.
Make sure someone on your team is monitoring cash outlay and updating a weekly report on the revenue vs. expenses. Charge a price that's high enough so that you can generate cash on every order. As you scale you'll eventually get to the point where you can fund the business or pay yourself some income each month.
Where can we go to learn more?
Feel free to check out our product at nipyata.com or email us any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—, Founder of NIPYATA!
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