“Be prepared to work hard, treat your business as a business it’s not personal” Bruce from Chilli Bugs

Bruce from Chilli Bugs  sells a massive range of hot sauces from all over the world, specialising in the hotter the better. Chilli Bugs is a family company which Bruce runs with his lovely wife Mel. They are based in Northampton have been successfully selling online for approximately 12 years.

Hi everyone, Bruce from Chilli Bugs shares his incredible journey on SellingOnlineToday! Download Link

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Some thoughts from the interview

“Chilli Bugs started back in 2003, so we have been running for about 12 years now. We have been limited since 2007.”

“We are a family business, it’s myself and my wife. We have some extra staff as well.”

“The reason why we do chilli sauces, why we started the company was inspired by a trip we did to America for 3 months back in 2002. Coming across a shop in Delaware, a shop called peppers. Walking through the front door your faced with 1000s and 1000s of different bottles of chilli sauces, it was like an Aladdin’s cave. We came back to the UK and there was nothing in the way of hot sauces in the UK at all, a very limited range. So We started importing hot sauces from the states.”

“We were just selling on eBay to start with. It was very much a part time hobby, selling about 10 to 20 products a day to start with.”

“Within in the first year the range went from 20 different products to about 150.”

“We knew it was going to be fairly successful. So we bought in more stock, and sold more stock and the range increased in the next few years to 300 to 350 different products.”

“We sold on our own website, chillibugs.co.uk, and also on eBay as well. That was pretty much it for the next couple of years.”

“2007 we went limited and it became a full time business for both my wife and myself.”

“The scoville heat unit is pretty much a measurement of how hot or how piquant a chilli pepper is. It was a scale that was invented by Wilbur Scoville in 1912. It rates how much water, or sugar water as they call it, you would need to take to pull the heat away from the chilli you have just eaten. So for example a jalapeño chilli is about 2500 scoville heat units, that’s pretty mild I would say in terms of chilli peppers.”

“You can go up now to 2 million scovilles for some peppers.”

“We don’t make our own product here. We will take in other people products, so we are pretty much a supermarket in fact for chilli sauce. Making it ourselves is not really our level of expertise.”

“niche is certainly what we do. We focus predominately on extreme heat sauces. We will stock mild sauces but our main focus is on extreme heat, stuff that you will not find in the supermarkets. Due to the nature of the sauce itself it’s too extreme too hot to be sold in a normal shop. It lends itself to an online business very much.”

“EBay is a way of testing the market to test the market to see if there is a market out there with very little expense to yourself as business owner. Rather than pay the money to create the website and then the business, it’s just a nice way to get your foot in the market and say look the idea is that we are going to do this but is it going to work? If it’s going to work on eBay, you can then build the business up based on that.”

“We still sell on eBay now.”

“It is a bit of a love hate relationship we have with eBay. The fees are not a pleasant size of the business having said that it gives us access to a worldwide market that with the stand alone website we wouldn’t touch that.”

“It’s not very easy to build a business that way and expect it to work. With a stand-alone website there is a lot of cost involved.”

“We do sell on Amazon but not directly. We actually sell through a third party. We wholesale to another company that sells through amazon for us. The main reason or that is the sheer volume at this stage it would mean taking on another permanent member of staff just to handle the Amazon side of things.”

“They are at this stage they are completely separate.”

“I won’t lie to you that is an issue we face as well, very much so. Selling on eBay, our website and then selling wholesale as well. Bearing in mind the range of products we sell currently sits at around 600 different lines.”

“We don’t take the photos ourselves.”

“in the early days we suffered from breakages. There are two things we are doing now differently in the way that we send things out. We use the royal mail predominantly for single orders but we will ship them out unlabelled, so that they don’t have a company logo on which is a big help actually. You are sending things out and whether people think there is a sauce in side so we will toss it in the bin over there or something like that. We seemed to have a lot less breakages now that we do that. So it is sent out blind basically.”

“We’ve had orders from all over the place, bearing in mind that at least 30% on the retail side is export. So we are shipping out to mainland Europe a lot, Scandinavia a lot, Australia, USA, Japan, but you occasionally you get the odd country you think where on earth that.”

“We even ship sauces back to US and these are sauces we important from the US and we send them back over there, crazy.”

“We do use Twitter which is ok, Facebook we don’t use a lot of. We are not the world’s best at social media which is something we are looking into as I think we are missing a trick.”

“(On eBay) the feedback system they have is good. From the customers point of view it is pretty transparent it’s what people look at first if they are going to buy or if they’re not going to buy to see what the feedback rating is. So we do pay a lot of attention to customer service.”

“We’re happy if they want to return it, that’s no problem. They can return it to us and we will pay the return postage.”

“Yes, we are selling customers sauces, but we are selling customer service first. We have to be the best. You can go elsewhere for your sauces. It is a cost initially but you get repeat orders and they will tell their friends about you.”

“We want customers to come back and it’s a short term loss for a long term game.”

“We stand alone to be honest, we don’t seek a lot of outside assistance particularly. The resources are there if you choose to search for them.”

Best advice: “Be prepared to work hard. A lesson we learned treat your business as a business it’s not personal. If somebody leaves you or contacts you with negative comments just try and take it as an opportunity. It is so easy to take things personally.”

What do they offer?

Chilli bugs is the home of hot sauces. Their range of sauces is constantly expanding, through their research and customer recommendations. They now also feature nuts and snacks, chilli oils and sweets. With sauces from America, the Caribbean, Mexico, South Africa, Costa Rica and the Far East they have something to suit every chilli head!

How to contact Chilli Bugs!

Twitter      Website      Facebook    Or email: info@chillibugs.co.uk

Resources 

Check out my list of resources, free tools and great advice: Resources Here

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