How Supply Grew From a Side Hustle Into a Sustainable Online Business
Building a business takes a lot of hard work. Many entrepreneurs choose to start their businesses as side hustles—projects they work on while they’re employed full-time in another capacity.
Side hustlers spend many long days, nights, and weekends building their businesses, proving their ideas, creating a base of loyal customers, and working hard to turn their entrepreneurship dreams into sustainable livelihoods.
At some point, entrepreneurs have to make a choice about their side hustles. Do you continue spreading yourself thin between your day job and your side hustle? Or is it time to take a leap of faith and go all-in on your business?
I spoke with Patrick and Jennifer Coddou, the husband and wife team behind Supply, a men’s premium shaving and grooming company, to learn more about how they built their business and made the decision to make their dreams of being full-time entrepreneurs a reality.
Katie Tierney [KT]: Tell me about Supply. What do you sell?
Patrick Coddou [PC]: We sell men’s premium shaving and grooming products, and we’ve been around for four years this month. We sell primarily direct-to-consumer (DTC), so about 95 percent of our business is online. We’re a small, husband and wife team, and we’ve got a couple of employees. We’re growing about 2X every year and we’re trying to push as hard as we can on growth without overloading the business.
[KT]: Why did you start your business?
[PC]: Our primary product is our solid, stainless steel, single-blade razor. A single blade razor, for a lot of men, helps them have less irritation and fewer ingrown hairs but it still gives them just as great of a shave as a multi-blade razor. And that’s the whole reason I started the company.
I personally have never had a great shave from multi-blade razors. In fact, they’ve been terrible, painful shaves for me, and that tends to be true for a large population of men in the world. I invented a razor to fix that problem for me personally, and I later learned that a lot of other people have that same problem.
It started as an idea for a product, and we threw it up on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site. We thought we’d make a couple of bucks and go home, but it’s been really growing ever since then. We knew pretty early on we were on to something great, so we’ve been doing everything we can since then to turn it into a real business.
"It started as an idea for a product, and we threw it up on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site. We thought we'd make a couple of bucks and go home, but it's been really growing ever since then. We knew pretty early on we were on to something great, so we’ve been doing everything we can since then to turn it into a real business."
Patrick Coddou, co-founder of Supply
[KT]: You mentioned that you invented the product. What kind of background did you have to be able to do that?
[PC]: My background is in aerospace engineering. I spent about eight and a half years working on stealth fighter aircraft, so that helped me. I designed and developed the razor, and I still, to this day, do all of our product development. That’s been, obviously, a huge asset—the ability to design these products from scratch—but it doesn’t make it any easier to produce them. I had zero background in ecommerce or online sales and marketing of any type. Or, really running a business. All of that, we’ve been learning as we go.
[KT]: A lot of entrepreneurs, like yourselves, start their businesses as side hustles. What was it like working a full-time job and building Supply at the same time?
[PC]: I worked on building Supply for two years before leaving my previous job. What was really tough was the fact that I traveled a lot for my previous job, especially internationally. It was hard to balance the two jobs in a way where I could sleep well at night—where I could be happy with the fact that I gave my best during my day job, but then I also was continually giving my all to build this business.
That, for me, was the biggest challenge—traveling overseas for work, having a pretty demanding schedule at work, but then also running a business at home, responding to customer emails, trying to make the product, ship the products. It was just the two of us doing everything at first—everything from customer service to fulfillment. Doing both jobs well was a lot more difficult than it might seem on the surface.
[KT]: At what point did you know it was time to move on from a side hustle and go all-in on Supply?
[PC]: It got to the point where I was traveling too much. I wasn’t really proud of my work at my day job, and my business was suffering. The growth of my business was stalling and I wasn’t able to take care of my customers in the way I wanted to. Both jobs were really suffering. It came to the point to where I had to make a choice to focus on one or the other. I feel like I chose wisely, and I haven’t looked back since.
Jennifer Coddou [JC]: It was hard and non-stop. People make it look glamorous on the outside, but it’s really a lot of long hours on nights and weekends of just non-stop work. When you get home from your day job, you eat dinner and then you get right back to work to make things happen for your business. We knew we wanted to get the business to a place where we could quit our jobs and both take it on full-time, so we always had that as our end in sight.
I was previously a high school math teacher, so I luckily had summers off. During those three months, I was able to work on the business full-time and that really helped. Patrick quit his full-time job about two and a half years ago. Then, I continued to work as a teacher for another full school year before I took the leap. It was nice for us to be able to support each other. I was grateful that I was able to work my day job so he could really take that leap and have some running room while we still had a full-time salary supporting us. About a year ago, I finally took the leap and now we’re both full-time on our business.
"People make it look glamorous on the outside, but it's really a lot of long hours on nights and weekends of just non-stop work."
Jennifer Coddou, co-founder of Supply
[KT]: What’s it like being a husband and wife team? How have you divided the work and how has working so closely together impacted your relationship?
[JC]: A lot of people say, “Y’all work together? I could never do that with my spouse.” For us, we’ve been married almost nine years and any time we’ve had a common project to work on, it’s been really unifying for us. We’re both wired differently with different expertise and skillsets that really complement one another. We don’t really war or compete with each other, so it’s been a very unifying thing for our marriage.
When you have those low days as a startup that are hard, I’m right there with him so the hard part is that it can follow us home. The good part of that is that you have someone who can empathize with you, and who can completely understand what you’re going through and be there for you. And you have someone who’s just as ecstatic as you are whenever you’re going through those really high moments as your business is growing. That’s been a really cool thing for our marriage that I think we would never have experienced if we hadn’t worked together.
As far as dividing the work, Patrick was way more involved in the business at the beginning than I was. I was more of a support, helping him out with whatever he needed like customer service or any odd job. It wasn’t until I quit my job a year ago that I really found my role here in the company. Now, I handle all of our email strategy with Klaviyo, as well as our content strategy and graphic design. I found what I really love to do in the business, and I’ve taken ownership of that and run with it.
[KT]: You mentioned that you now have some other team members. What do they help you with?
[JC]: We have two other contract employees at this time. One employee is in charge of our customer service, SEO, and a lot of different things. We call him our jack of all trades right now. Then, we have another employee who runs our warehouse. She gets all of our orders shipped out, takes in new orders, and makes sure our ecommerce store runs as it should. We have those two team members now, but we’re definitely at a point where we’re looking to expand, hopefully, in the near future.
[KT]: What are some of the biggest marketing challenges you face?
[JC]: The biggest marketing challenge, for us, is educating our customers on why a single blade is better for your face. Over the last 30 plus years, companies have spent billions of dollars trying to convince customers that more blades means a better shave when, in reality, that’s not the case. For us, it’s learning how to educate customers on why a single-bladed razor is better and, on top of that, why they should spend more money upfront. Our razor isn’t made from cheap plastic. It’s made out of solid metal construction and it’s built to last a lifetime. Trying to convey that quality proposition in our marketing is something we’re getting better at every day, but it’s still one of the biggest challenges we face.
"Trying to convey that quality proposition in our marketing is something we're getting better at every day, but it's still one of the biggest challenges we face."
Jennifer Coddou, co-founder of Supply
[KT]: The products you’ve designed are incredibly durable and long-lasting. I imagine this means customers aren’t likely coming back regularly to buy another razor. What are some of the particular challenges you have as a result of this?
[JC]: Right, so the way we’ve overcome that is by offering a lot of amazing accessories for our razor. We have shaving cream and aftershave that are made with powerful, plant-based ingredients. When customers try those, they’re hooked. We also offer leather goods, marble goods, and we’re coming out with more related products later this year that also complement the razor.
It really comes down to one thing: If we can solve the problem of irritated shaves, or just a terrible shave experience for men, they trust us enough to come back and want to buy any other product we sell. We’re also currently looking into launching a subscription model that will also keep people coming back on a scheduled basis.
[KT]: Aside from offering complementary products, how do you use the technology at your disposal to learn about your customers and encourage repeat business?
[JC]: That’s something we put a concentrated effort towards last year when we made the switch to Klaviyo. We analyzed our data and saw that people who hadn’t made a purchase within 100 days of their first purchase weren’t coming back. This insight showed us that we needed to do a better job of retaining and nurturing those relationships.
Now, we send transactional emails to our customers that ask them for their feedback about a week or two after they’ve received their razor. We ask how it’s going, if there’s anything we can do to help them, if they’re having any issues we can troubleshoot. That’s one of the emails with the highest open rates that we send, and it honestly starts our relationship with our customers on a more personal level.
On top of that, we also send customers through what we call our post-purchase flow. It basically tracks the customer over 100 days during which we send educational emails and cross-sell emails. We take them through our entire product line during that time with the aim of getting them to come back for that second purchase. With the day 100 email, we try to incentivize them before they become inactive or exit that flow. That’s been one of the main ways we’ve been retaining our customers and encouraging them to come back with the help of Klaviyo.
"We analyzed our data and saw that people who hadn’t made a purchase within 100 days of their first purchase weren’t coming back. This insight showed us that we needed to do a better job of retaining and nurturing those relationships."
Jennifer Coddou, co-founder of Supply
[KT]: What’s been one of the more surprising benefits of Klaviyo that you’ve realized today that maybe you didn’t expect when you started?
[JC]: The most surprising benefit was your segmentation tools and how I was able to segment our customers based on different engagement levels with our brand. I think I’ve read almost every article on Klaviyo’s help site! Through that, I’ve been able to find out things like who our VIPs are and who the customers are that have made a purchase but who haven’t been back in a year. It’s been really helpful to learn more about all these different types of customers and see the breakdown in our customer base. It helps us know what areas we need to be working on, where we’re losing our customers, and who we should be targeting with each of the different emails we send. That’s something that’s been so powerful and something we weren’t even thinking of before getting started with Klaviyo.
Flows have also been really helpful. Being able to set up robust flows for our welcome series, our post-purchase flows, and our abandoned cart series have been super powerful for our brand. We’ve been able to see the engagement numbers, how the open rates have increased, and sales and revenue we’re generating as a result of working with Klaviyo.
We’ve started experimenting this year with our popups, specifically with exit intent on our site. We’ve been using them specifically to build our email lists. We’ve had great success so far, and it’s something we’re constantly experimenting with and A/B testing. I don’t think we originally realized what a great tool it would be for our business!
"It’s been really helpful to... see the breakdown in our customer base. It helps us know what areas we need to be working on, where we’re losing our customers, and who we should be targeting with each of the different emails we send. That’s something that’s been so powerful and something we weren't even thinking of before getting started with Klaviyo."
Jennifer Coddou, co-founder of Supply
[KT]: Taking a brand from side hustle to a full-time, sustainable business clearly isn’t easy. What kind of advice would you give to others who are contemplating starting their own business or wondering if it’s time to go all-in on their side hustle?
[PC]: For people who are just starting out, the best advice I can give is to just start it… just do it. I was always waiting for the right time, the right inspiration, the perfect idea. I wanted to be an entrepreneur for a decade before I actually did it. I got to the point to where I thought, you know, it’s this idea or never. That’s how we chose razors.
It was just an idea at the time, and there were so many things that even then, once I made the decision, kept me from moving forward. “I don’t know anything about manufacturing, I don’t know anything about starting an online business, I don’t know anything about XYZ.” In a world where you can follow all these successful entrepreneurs on social media, you can listen to their stories on podcasts, you can read about them on blogs, it’s easy to think that they’ve got it all together, that they’re so far beyond you, and that you could never be that person. The truth is, they all just made it up. We’re all just making it up as we go. The sooner you start, the sooner you can be your dream entrepreneur. Start making it up and you’ll figure it out along the way.
"In a world where you can follow all these successful entrepreneurs on social media, you can listen to their stories on podcasts, you can read about them on blogs, it's easy to think that they've got it all together, that they're so far beyond you, and that you could never be that person. The truth is, they all just made it up. We're all just making it up as we go. The sooner you start, the sooner you can be your dream entrepreneur. "
Patrick Coddou, co-founder of Supply
To those who are at the point of taking their side hustles full-time, I would give people the same advice that one of my best friends gave me: ride out your salary as long as you can. It may feel excruciating, doing two jobs at once, but what’s even more excruciating is not having any money to pay the bills.
I’m two and a half years into doing this full-time and I make about a quarter of what I used to make in my old job right now. Make sure you’re really able to live without that salary for two to three years, if not longer, before you take the plunge. If you take that plunge too early and you don’t have anything to live on, your business may come to an untimely death. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to make the jump. Make it happen and you’ll figure out how to live cheap.
Looking for more inspiration and tips to help grow your business? Check out the Entrepreneur Growth Guide.
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