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Buyer Follow-up Interview #3: Applying a Farmer’s Work Ethic to an E-Commerce Business

Continuing our series of buyer follow up interviews, Gretchen Olson gives us a candid look at how her e-Commerce business acquisition has performed since she took over a few months ago.  Despite some initial technical issues, she’s content with where the business is currently and is excited about the future potential.

Feel free to get in touch with Gretchen through her Linkedin profile if you have any specific questions about her purchase or would just like to say congrats.

When did you purchase this business?

Early 2015.

What was your motivating factor in doing so?

I come from a very long line of farmers (the second oldest profession) but always wanted to own a business myself, after running my own lawn mowing gig as a kid.  I’ve spent more than 25 years “studying,” with my jobs, but also in varying roles in tiny start-ups or attempts at starting up.  As I grew older, I knew I would regret not giving it a shot, so I decided the best option was to purchase an existing, profitable concern.  It was definitely a bucket list decision!

How do you feel AcquisitionStation.com treated you as a buyer overall?

I was both pleased and relieved with Acquisition Station.  Although I’d been thinking about a purchase for many years, the actual experience was new, and Ryan (you) was very responsive to my questions.

How do you feel the transition and after-sale training was handled?  Was the help adequate enough for you to feel comfortable with running the business on your own?

In my case, the transition went very well although being in charge of somebody’s “baby” is very different from any other job.  The seller was available for questions and explanations, and again, very patient in sorting out the details (and there are many with an existing business).  I would caution that acquiring an online business still has a steep learning curve, especially with the particular technical requirements, so buyers should not expect it to be easy or quick unless they have already been working in the exact same sphere for some time.

A few months in, how has the business performed so far up to expectations?  What are your honest feelings up to this point about your purchase?

MC Greenhouses is almost exactly where I expected it to be at this point, though the sales revenue is less than anticipated based on previous sales.  The lower revenue is certainly due to the lower number of visitors to the site, which was caused by a combination of technical issues early on, and the need to change to a new and updated online retail platform.  I had several problems with the system the store was originally built on, which was terrific for keeping costs down and SEO, but difficult to update without losing the organic search that made it profitable in the first place.

What are some of your long term goals surrounding this business?

Almost 2/3 of Americans garden, and we have a steadily increasing interest in local food production, so I see nothing but growth for the future. Online retailing isn’t any different than any other retail, it just has a store in cyberspace, which means we face the same challenges merchants have had for centuries, that of identifying, attracting and keeping customers.  MCGreenhouses.com has terrific American-made products, and I’m looking forward to moving into the next phase, which is prioritizing classic efforts, such as niche marketing, and continuing to offer outstanding customer service.

Would you feel comfortable buying another web-based business in the future, why or why not?

I would certainly consider purchasing another web-based business. It is not as easy or simple as soundbites might have folks believe, but a profitable company is a profitable company no matter where it is located.  The challenge will always be to keep it that way.

  • Gretchen Olson

    I would add some advice for potential buyers of ecommerce stores. If you have never been on the back side (admin) of an ecommerce platform, you must be be prepared to spend significant time learning the technical aspects of the system. And if you usually spend less than one minute fixing your own computer tech issues, you will want to have someone on retainer. This is especially true if the platform was developed before 2012 or so. Only then were more systems available that were truly template-based, and more “cut and paste,” than coding. (Even one of the best, Shopify, is built in Liquid, which is good, but at the time of this writing in mid-2015 you still had to go grab code snippets from the online manual in order to do simple things like create an email link to you store on one of the store pages.) But if you don’t mind trying to find where things are in a system, you will be fine. Just a word to the wise: ecommerce may be ubiquitous, but it is not yet intuitive.