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A full time job, plus managing a successful e-commerce site


February 11, 2005

High efficiency in business management is something that Sherry Comes knows about, at least more than some of the average part-time ecommerce site owners. She has to know a lot, since Sherry has two full time jobs. She is an executive IT architect for IBM, so Sherry solves tricky software infrastructure problems for large clients on a daily basis. She's also the CEO of CoffeeCakes.com, a Colorado-based ecommerce website that offers gourmet baked goods, handling a constant stream of sales on a weekly basis.

So, how does she run an e-business on top of a full time job? First, she gets up every morning sometime between 3 and 4 A.M., and gets hours of work done before going off to her day job. But running an e-commerce site at the level of CoffeeCakes requires more than just getting up early.

"I am the world's best delegater," she says. "I totally run my business on relationships."

She has outsourced her call center and her order fulfillment operation. "Those are the two key pillars of my success," she says. "I have a really good supply chain." This allows her to run her business with no employees. Instead, she has partners, though only two of them actively participate in the business (the others are investors).

CoffeeCakes.com is a 'one-woman show,' relying on outsourcing and partnerships to keep customers happy.

The one task that Comes did not delegate was building the site's platform, which she coded herself. "As a very senior professional in designing [software] architecture for Fortune 50 companies, I have built an infrastructure that could scale to a million orders a day," she says. "If someone paid me to do that, it would have been a $100,000 job."

Her Secret: Marketing. The success of CoffeeCakes actually comes from an earlier mistake — one that Comes learned a valuable lesson from. She opened an Internet café in the mid '90s, yet failed to properly market it. Her attitude was "if I build it, they will come," which she learned is the death of any business. "I didn't know a thing about marketing...it's amazing I didn't lose my house."

However, in her cybercafé, she sold baked goods, for which she discovered a healthy market. She moved her baked goods business online to launch CoffeeCakes — and markets it heavily.

In fact, marketing "is all I think about," she says, noting that she invests major time and money resources in search engine marketing. "If you enter 'coffee cakes' in a [search engine], if we don't come up in the top three, we're not doing our marketing." Indeed, the site was the top paid result in a recent Google search. "We've read all the books, and we know what we're trying to promote - we're all about the keywords."


Story by James Maguire,
Source: eCommerce Guide



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