Flarian sells USB devices with customizable surfaces, almost like a combination of a business card and a USB drive. Dr. Ali Rizvi, the co-founder of Flarian, shares his story of converting a sketch to a 7 digit-worth business through e-commerce sales.

STEP 1: Pitch & the First Sales

How did you make your first sale after creating a product?

I was a student back then, so I pitched our product to the student committees knowing they have a good size budget for orientation week. Colleges at the University of Toronto loved our product, and somehow other universities heard about us and placed orders. We made enough sales at that point to establish the foundation of Flarian with manufacturers. We didn’t just earn money, we concluded that our product has real market potential.

STEP 2: Find the Market Fit

Then, how did you find more customers afterwards?

We figured that we needed to find clients who already know what they want. We didn’t have money or time to chase random people to lecture them about why they need our products. The customers we wanted were those who were searching for USB devices, which led us to focus on Search Engine Optimization. We played with keywords and observed customer buying patterns. It didn’t matter whether we liked the sound of the slogan or not. What mattered was optimizing the AdWords for customers to discover us easily.

How much do you spend on online marketing nowadays?

The budget changes, but  most of our budget is spent on Google AdWords and social media. We work with e-commerce sales and online marketing specialists to target various online channels now.


STEP 3: Boost e-Commerce Sales

Would you share with us how you went about rapidly increasing your sales revenue and profit?

First, build trust. As our credibility continues to grow, our sales continue to grow. Our reviews are real and a scam check website gives us their highest trust rating. Now we actively ask clients to write a review for us once their order is delivered since it matters so much.

Second, respond quickly. Because of our customization process, we need to get back to our clients to close a deal. And there’s a time threshold in order to close the deal. Now that my business partner is working from Dubai over the last couple of months, our sales revenue from the Middle East and Europe has skyrocketed because he can respond to clients a lot quicker.

Lastly, implement cross-sells and upsells . We started sending add-ons to clients along with their customized product virtual proofs, such as leather sleeves to keep their card USBs safe. A sharp sales increase on add-on items means that not only the revenue grows  but also the profit margin grows. With our card USBs, we can’t significantly increase the profit margin. However,  add-ons are different.

At this point, I’m wondering about your choices when it came to an e-commerce solution. What factors matter the most for small businesses (fees, convenience, payment options)?

Customers’ convenience. We make the purchase process for clients as streamlined as possible. A convenient buying experience translates to an increase in sales. Some clients like to pay using credit cards, others like to use PayPal. Clients who place large orders typically use Bank Transfers. So, having these options available to clients is key. We try to avoid any kind of inertia in the payment process.

Startup Finance Lessons Learned

What advice can you give to entrepreneurs about finance especially on the business front?

Find a way to get upfront payments. At least negotiate. The reason why we were able to survive back then was because we got paid upfront by most of our clients. Our financial matters would be more complicated if we had to deal with accounts receivable.

Grow revenue first. You can increase profit once your sales revenue  has grown. Not the other way around. We are constantly evolving our terms with our manufacturers because we are giving them more and more business. It’s a growing partnership between us, but this would not be possible without fast-growing sales.

Motivate yourselves. I talk about money every day in the office. I track our cash flow and sales goals every day, and announce sales targets on a daily basis. I’m like, “We have just 20K to meet our weekly target”. It keeps the team motivated. It keeps us going.

Discover a variety of products Flarian offers: