S3 E22: Decide what you want to be paid for and everything else can be free with Chuck Bowen (Founder & CEO, Mission Mercantile)


On this episode of Retention Chronicles we’re joined by Chuck Bowen, Founder & CEO of Mission Mercantile. Chuck tells Mariah about:

  • his professional career starting as an electrical engineer in the corporate world,
  • why authenticity resonates so well,
  • how to eliminate noise around you,
  • customer retention,
  • return on ad spend,
  • calling your customers and rewarding with free gifts,
  • be abundant in what you do,
  • deciding what you want to be paid for any everything else you can give away,
  • head-turning visuals,
  • owning your supply chain to build trust with customers,
  • making yourself accessible, and more!

Be sure to subscribe to our pod to stay up-to-date and checkout Malomo, the leading order tracking platform for Shopify brands.

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This transcript was completed by an automated system, please forgive any grammatical errors.


mercantile, company, product, entrepreneur, brand, customer, people, great, customer retention, legged stool, thought, talking, mythical, buy, entrepreneurship, business, care, important, years, love


Mariah Parsons, Chuck Bowen

Mariah Parsons 00:04

Hi there, I'm Mariah Parsons, your host of retention Chronicles, ecommerce brands are starting to shift their strategy to focus on retention in the customer experience. And so we've decided to reach out to top DC brands and dive deeper into their tactics and challenges. But here's the thing, we love going on tangents. And so with our guests, you'll often find us talking about the latest trends, as well as any and all things in the Shopify ecosystem. So go ahead and start that workout or go on that walk and tune in as we chat with the leading minds in the space retention Chronicles is sponsored by Malomo. A shipment in order tracking platform, improving the post purchase experience, be sure to subscribe and check out all of our other episodes at go. malomo.com. Hello, everyone, and welcome back to retention Chronicles. Today we are joined by Chuck Bowen, founder and CEO of Michigan mercantile. Thank you so so so much for joining us, Chuck. I'm so so excited to have you. It's going to be a great chat.

Chuck Bowen 01:15

My pleasure. Mariah, I'm excited about this.

Mariah Parsons 01:17

Yes, I'm so I'm so excited that you took the invite, I thought it would be great to have you give a background on yourself on your company as well, for our listeners who might not be super familiar.

Chuck Bowen 01:30

Well, I'm a little oddball, I think in our industry, because this is kind of my second or third career, I guess. The first 17 years was typical corporate, you know, I'm an electrical engineer by degree, Georgia Tech grads spent almost 10 years for Proctor and Gamble. And then did another six and a half or so years just incorporate high tech startups, turnarounds, that sort of thing. And then that got me into 2001, where I was traveling so much, and spending so much time on, you know, with new ventures, you know, moving and all that, that I just needed a need to stop that and focus on my family, you know, and we had a small child at the time, little baby girl, two and a half years old. So decided to just leave all of that which I did and struck out on the entrepreneurial. And so for the first few years of that I was a business coach. Well, a few years for probably about over 13 years, I was a business coach business and personal coach worked with literally hundreds and hundreds of different companies, helping them navigate between, you know, viability to sustainability and growth, you know, from restaurants, to doctor's offices, to ecommerce companies a little bit in between. And that's what got me eventually into leather goods, coaching them and then became the CEO of that leather goods company for over six years. Wow. Very successful online, built our own leather factory in Mexico. Just had a lot of fun with it. And then ended up selling my interest in that company in that factory to the owner in 2014, I guess it was and then we launched Michigan mercantile in 2015. So been a little bit of a path.

Mariah Parsons 03:30

Yes, I think that's what's most interesting about learning about someone is I feel like no path is a straight area arrow. i Yeah, before we even got on this call, I was telling you about my background as well. And I think it's so so beneficial to be able to bounce around and take your learnings from different areas, different spaces, and then apply that because that's what I feel like at least for me, that's where creativity and you get all the different perspectives of different teammates with different backgrounds, you were able to apply all those different learnings together

Chuck Bowen 04:02

100%. In fact, when I ventured into entrepreneurialism, I didn't even think I was going to be an entrepreneur, I just thought it was a bridge, you know, maybe a bridge for a time to my next traditional, you know, kind of job or corporate job or whatever, because I love I love what I was doing. When I left I tech and telecommunications I absolutely loved it. I loved the startup and the turnaround environment. It was just addictive. So I thought entrepreneurship was a way for me to stay where I was allowed me to focus on my family which was really the impetus for me making the change in the first place and then maybe bridge that into something else. But then as I got further and further into entrepreneurship, and really working with mainly small and medium sized businesses and then getting literally right there in the ditch with them. You know what I what I realized and I started coaching them on was There's only one place you can start. And that's where you are right now. So, every, every story, I think every journey is unique in that way. Because you're kind of taking what you have to work with. And the one thing that helped me was because I didn't really eliminate the type of businesses I was working with, because I had worked for huge corporations like Procter and Gamble. And then I worked for very small companies that were family owned businesses, and almost everything in between. You know, it was it was fun to kind of take the best of those pieces, curate what was a best fit for that owner for that entrepreneur, and then walk it out. And then you everybody's learned from it. So the whole key is just to do more things, right, that were then things that didn't and stopped doing those things. Right.

Mariah Parsons 05:53

So yeah, yes, I think that's such a great point. And I love that you added in, that you thought entrepreneurship was gonna be one thing, and then it branches into like that it was gonna bridge, maybe these two parts of your lives life,

Chuck Bowen 06:06

just thought was gonna be short term thing, right? I'll do this for a second. I've ever done this. I don't know where to begin. Where do I start? I don't know anybody hardly in this town much, you know, what am I going to do? Right? But it turned into its whole thing. Because if you if you're a builder, and you'd like to create and build things, it's really intriguing. The whole path of entrepreneurship anyway, you know, just trying to figure out that next step. And don't ruin good enough with perfect, and you know, but then again, don't be this carte blanche thoughtless risk taker who's just trying on new things all the time. You got to have a little thoughtfulness about it, right. But there's nothing like it. There's just nothing like it. So

Mariah Parsons 06:53

yeah. So is it fair to say then that you weren't you weren't always entrepreneurial in spirit? Correct? It kind of just found you.

Chuck Bowen 07:02

That is a good step. Let me answer the question. I know one of the things you want to know the background of how Michigan mercantile get started. And so, you know, you may be unaware of it. But that's a perfect segue into that. Initially, I would say I would have answered that question. No, I wasn't, I wasn't an entrepreneur. I didn't think that because I never saw my upbringing. My dad and my family in particular has been entrepreneurial until I thought about it looked at it later, when I was actually starting up. Probably Michigan mercantile at the time. The reason I say that was, you know, you can read the story on the website, but my dad it's a wonderful, my dad on on what at the time was known as a hardware store, which we chose mercantile to be in the business name, because that's a old school more of original term for a hardware business. So hardware really meant hard goods, like anything from nails and concrete blocks, and lumber, maybe all the way down to dishes and plates and appliances, and that sort of thing. So that was what my dad offered. And on the website, there's actually a picture there of an early 1950s photograph. It's actually fun back here. And my dad is right there on the far end, that's my dad, the young guy. So when he when I grew up in the business, literally, I mean, that was the first location he ended up buying some some property across the road in this small town of Claxton, Georgia. 3000 people live there, and and enlarged on it, you know, made and had a his store and then the warehouse where he had building supplies and storing lumber and insulation, all that kind of good stuff, feed and seed. But I never thought it was an entrepreneur. I just thought him as a, you know, my dad, yeah, right. Because that was part of it. And then when we finish there everyday, and he shut the store down, it closed at five o'clock, we go out to the farm, we lived on about a 200 acre farm. And then we farmed until it turned dark and on the weekend, so it was always always hardware, or always farm and we were doing both of those things, you know, literally almost 24 hours a day, it seemed like you know, and that was the light again, never thought of him as an entrepreneur at all. I thought him as a small business owner. So when we launched mission mercantile and I went back and thought about the story of it and what it meant. I also went a little deeper and started realizing that on both sides of my family, my aunts and uncles, my grandfather's their fathers, my great grandfather's they were all merchants, and they were all from farming. exist on their own little pharmacies, on their own grocery stores, on their own little mercantile businesses. My granddad, my mom's dad actually owned a little taxi service coming out of World War Two for a while, they just did all these things entrepreneurial. And of course, always knew that and always remember when we got together was a family, little family get togethers reunions on both sides. I just always knew that, you know, most all of them were self employed in some way. But I never thought entrepreneur, I never, you know, stamped that label on them. But when I thought about and looked about, and I went, you know, I was actually the oddball, and my sister was the oddball because she, she became a nurse, you know, or an RD and now she's a nurse practitioner. She took the traditional route. But most of my other cousins and all them, most of them went the entrepreneur route. And so I realize maybe I'm the oddball black sheep, and then issue mercantile.

Mariah Parsons 11:09

And now you're here.

Chuck Bowen 11:10

Now I'm here. Exactly,

Mariah Parsons 11:12

exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm so glad you gave us the whole background. Because like I said, I did read your story on your website. And I found it to be very authentic, very transparent, and very, like homey almost of, I was like, thinking back to my grandparents, my mom was raised on a farm. And her her dad, so my grandfather ran their business. And I think that leads into a lot of things that I wanted to talk to you about, because I feel like and correct me if I'm wrong, but your branding is very much, almost timeless and going back to your father and paying respects to him. And all of the all the things that you saw as a child that you know, at the time, you're not recognizing this is how a business operates. And this is not entrepreneurial, in spirit, because you don't recognize that but then later in life and your like you said, you're able to reflect on that. There's a lot of power to that. And so I thought it was a beautiful, almost like what's the word? I'm looking for a beautiful tie between the two. Right? And like sharing the images of your of your family. Yeah, it kind of resin. It's very sentimental in the way it resonates with the end consumer of the content.

Chuck Bowen 12:37

The word you use just a minute ago, I think authentic. Of course, as the big buzzword has been for a while now. Yeah, it means different things to different people. But you know, if you substitute the word real, or like you said, timeless, that thing that's inside of you that is it's natural, I guess you'd say to some, those those powerful journeys are stories you can share, especially when they end up giving birth to maybe a business or something. And it's true, it's true for us with Michigan mercantile as I went back and really thought, you know, fella that helped me out with this tremendously. He's actually one of our team members initially is a guy named Jimmy Gibson. And Jimmy is is phenomenal at brand. He's a brand master, so to speak. So we spent so many hours just kind of developing the concept. Because one of the criteria initially would, would be that it would need to be authentic, it wouldn't be something that we'd have to create. So anything from, you know, the story that you had, even to our, you know, our logo and the handshake and everything else that we do the mission mercantile name, you know, the three legged stool that we that we stand on, so to speak. We'll talk about that in a little bit. I guess. It's true. One of the things I realized as you were just talking about your family growing up a farm and things you think about was the fact that now when I go back to the family farm, we still own it in we have two acres there, that my sister and I own together. And then my mom who's still alive, has another 800 acres, you know, 1520 miles away in another county. So there's about 1000 acres there. And the thing that hits me every time it still hits me is that when I go on on the farm, and I'm working on a tractor messing with something, cleaning up one of our barns, whatever we're doing there, right, is I think I just stop and I realize that because of we have enough acres, there's some remote feeling to it. You may be there I may be there by myself, nobody else and I'm working and I go, Oh my gosh, this is so peaceful. This is like entrepreneurialism. And it's accordingly how you look at, you know, there's two sides to every coin, how you look at it. One is, as an entrepreneur, you're alone, right? There's definitely that feeling, I can tell you that, you know, that feeling of being alone, like, am I the only person here Hello, you know, and you're going in alone. And then you realize, well, you're really not. It depends on who you have around you surround yourself with. But there's definitely that side of the coin where you feel alone. And then there's the other side of the coin, where, though you're going, Yeah, but I get to choose what I'm doing right now. And there's not a lot of people or anybody that was screaming at me, like, you need to go do this, and you need to go get on this tractor, you need to get to that, as an entrepreneur, as a farmer, as a merchant, or whatever, you're really kind of looking at, what do I need to do. And so it's really important to figure out what matters most not just what matters, but what matters most, and what you're gonna give yourself to, but there's a release in that, and there's just feeling for me a piece of, I don't have all these other noise around me just kind of distracting me. And I realized that's where I grew up on the farm. And in the hardware business, there wasn't this noise going on all the time. There just wasn't that noise of distraction, it was really more of what do I need to be focusing on and what I need to be doing. And I don't think you get that in any other way except through entrepreneurship.

Mariah Parsons 16:36

Yeah, I love what you I love that you expressed both sides of the coin for having it be more of a solo job, and having like, it's nice that you don't have that noise. And I think that's such a lovely way of putting it according

Chuck Bowen 16:51

to how you look at it. You know, it's to a good friend of mine, who's an author, very close friend of mine, his name's Dan Miller. And he's written numerous books, but the one he's most famous book for is one that's called 48 days to the work you love. And one of the things that Dan and did tie and talks about, and is the fact that opportunities are either how you look at it nowhere. You're on that one side of the coin, when you're all alone, you're all alone, you're going, where am I going to make my next dollar? How am I going to get my next customer? There's there's nowhere opportunities, or he said the other side of the coin is that they're now here. And that's the way I look like to look at it is all these opportunities are now here? How am I going to curate those opportunities and pick the ones that based on my limited time, money resources, I'm going to give myself or give our team to?

Mariah Parsons 17:49

How do you support? Yeah, is there any? Because I know it's such a big question. But is there any, you know, like metric or what's your rationale, but behind choosing what is the most important thing is like, what can I get done the fastest that'll have the most benefit or value for our team? Like how do you try and even attempt to measure that?

Chuck Bowen 18:15

That depends someone on what is the outcome you're trying to achieve? Okay, so right now, if all of a sudden my shirt caught on fire, probably the most important thing, but that thing out, pause the podcast, let's let's not, you know, burn myself, that sort of thing. So it really depends on what you're after. So I think that's the first thing to decide on your business is currently at this moment in time, what is most important, and I think, I think that so many people get wrapped up into their, you know, three to five year you know, Outlook, which is really important to look at, kind of know where you're going. I'm a big step, Stephen Covey fan. So he says Begin with the end in mind, right? So where am I going to be there? But I think sometimes the most overlooked thing is what am I going to be needing to be doing to achieve my short term, six, six months, six to 12 month goals? So maybe I need to increase my bottom line, profit, okay, or maybe I need to create an expand on my brand awareness. Right? Or I need to launch a new product. If you have limited resources, which most of us smaller entrepreneurs have, we have to decide? And the way Stephen Covey said it, he said, some things matter, other things matter more, but what is most important is to be able to tell the difference. So I think that choosing aspect is where a lot of entrepreneurs struggle they have in front of them, them, all these things that matter. But they really struggle with trying to do Son in what matters more, and what am I going to give myself to, sometimes the decisions you make, kind of support a chain of events. So in other words, if there's an important goal of expanding my profitability, maybe there's something you need to do right now that it will help you do that, such as launch a new product. So you have some newness to promote to your existing customer base. Or maybe instead of focused on driving more and more and more people to your website, for example, or to your store, focus for a time on how I'm going to convert them at a higher rate. Because if you can bump your conversion rate, that is the tide that rises all the ships version of them. So I think it really is trying to dissect of all the what you deemed as the most important things are the important things, what is the most important things, and then make sure you have the resources to give it. So I would rather you give, I'd rather you focus on one thing than five things. If you have limited resources, one or two things, so you don't starve the other ones have what they need, and then focus and get her done. And then move on to the next one. Rather than having five or 10 things. You're trying to go down the path at one time. None of them get across the goal line. And you literally die.

Mariah Parsons 21:35

Yeah. Yeah, you won't make it across a goal line, right?

Chuck Bowen 21:41

Get something across the goal on Seth Godin says ship it. Yeah. So

Mariah Parsons 21:46

yeah, I think that's really that's a great point to call out. And it reminded me, especially as you were just talking through converting at a higher rate, or, you know, making sure that you know, okay, I want to have this goal. So I need to launch a new product, or I need to work on branding. One of the things that we come across a lot on this podcast, specifically, but just also with Malomo, in general, is the importance of customer retention. And making sure that just because someone you know, had a first purchase with you, or just because you know, they seem to be a loyal consumer, with your with their with your brand, it doesn't mean that you know, someone hits the buy button, and you're done. Right, you cross that finish line. So right. Okay, I'm glad to hear you say that we've we've also had many guests say that same thing. And I want to the question for you here is, I feel like that focus on customer retention is something that is newer, or there's more importance on it now like it's, we're waking up to the fact that acquisition costs are really high. The importance of focusing on retention to make sure that you know, once you got that first purchase your customers happy is, like you said the start. So have you found that, in your experience, customer retention is becoming to be more important. Have you always found it and who you're working with? And your approach to that it's always been important.

Chuck Bowen 23:20

It's the latter. It's always been important. Okay, let me tell you a couple of things. I think that it driven people to think, well, now it's becoming more and more important. Okay. I would love that. All right. So first of all, you know, your acquisition cost, you know, you're saying it's getting higher and higher and higher. My perspective is, it's always been high. Because if you look at your conversion rate, or your return on adspend, let's just say your your return on investment, if that bottom number is how much you spent. And that top numbers, how much you earn, like a sale. If that top number is zero, or really little, your acquisition, cost or percentage is almost infinite.

Mariah Parsons 24:02

Yeah, zero over anything was the whole thing. Yeah,

Chuck Bowen 24:05

almost the whole thing. So, you know, they asked me, So what's my highest? You know, what's my highest cost acquisition channel? And it's like the ones where you're converting the smallest numbers. That's extremely costly for you. And you need to either get better at it or you need to stop it at least temporarily, or find somebody who can be better at it than you are. Right. Yes, yeah. So then that brings you to customer retention, right, which I think now kind of segues back into the three legged stool I mentioned to you a few minutes ago. No, I think every company needs to have a three legged stool because one legged stool, she can't really sit on that to fall off of and three, you got a solid base, right. So our three legged stool is remarkable product. Because you got to have something worth buying, especially at a higher ackward you know, average Joe value that we have. The second one is a remarkable promise. You know, nobody wants to buy a piece of crap or something that won't last. So you need to stand behind it. And if you can't stand behind it, you shouldn't even offer it. So that's number two. The third one, though, is what I think is the thing that really separates us admission mercantile. I think we're pretty good at the first two, I think we're really good at the last one, which is what we call mythical Customer Care. And we've even kind of trademarked it mythical customer care. Because how you treat your customer all along the path, or your potential customer, whether they're a suspect, they just heard about you a prospect, they even come to your website or your store to check you out. Or they bought from you, you know, suspect prospect customer, you've got to take great care of them along the way. You can't forget about them after they bought from me, because you got to remember, they're your absolute best referral source. And also the potential that they'll buy from you again, or simply as it was in my dad's hardware business. You may even know them, they're in your local community. It's a small community. So you got to build relationship. So I think customer retention and how you treat them, whether it's good or bad, you know, Marriott, the hospital at the hospital, excuse me, the hospitality.

Mariah Parsons 26:28

Very similar, where it's very

Chuck Bowen 26:30

Exactly. They said they would become famous for saying we'd almost rather somebody have a negative experience with one of our hotels or properties than not have one at all, because it gets us the ability to show them how we can make it right and take great care of them. So of course, like Marriott, we don't create bad experiences. But if somebody has a product where something happened with the strap, or the leather had a thing on it, or whatever, because it's all you know, natural products, and handcrafted, we're gonna take great care of them after the sale and treat them, everybody says treat them like family. Well, I don't really go along with that, because everybody's got some family. Earth, it's not exactly the guy or gal you want calling you today, right? But, but treat them not only have how you would like to be treated, right, but better, you know, always go first, when you're building trust, like between you and I, somebody's got to go first. Somebody's got to go first. Kick in that law of reciprocity, which says if I do something really nice for you, if you're the right kind of person, I want to have relationship, you probably want to do something nice for me or even nicer for me.

Mariah Parsons 27:52

Yeah, I'm a big fan of law of reciprocity. You know it

Chuck Bowen 27:55

right. Oh, yeah. Go first. You go first. Yeah, that's, that's our vibe. And that's how we roll admission. mercantile.

Mariah Parsons 28:01

Yeah. And I've absorbed that as well, just from interacting with your brand and your website before having met you. And now obviously, having met you. Yeah, I'm a big believer in that just personally. And also, you know, how I personally go through life daily. But then also, on the brand side of things with Malomo. Like, that's our number one core value is be relationship obsess, and always trying to lead says yes, yeah, like, make it

Chuck Bowen 28:28

easy for people to contact you and talk with you. And so we do text, we do chat, we do email. We really shot people with phone calls, because they'll email us or Texas. And if we got their number, we'll pick up the phone and say, Hey, Joshua is checking mission mercantile. And we talk them through it and they go, Well, you know, is this something can happen. And if I'm talking to them, I go, Well, I happen to be the founder, the owner, so

Mariah Parsons 28:56

I think I can make some that happen. But all of our folks

Chuck Bowen 28:59

are anointed in the same way. So we're, we're usually, especially if there's a problem, we're gonna pick up the phone and call you when was the last time you had a brand that called you, Mariah,

Mariah Parsons 29:11

I can confidently say, I don't think ever made the phone

Chuck Bowen 29:14

in the first place, much less calling you back out of the blue. So that's the way we roll. And we always look for ways to kind of expand on that. So give you an example. When the pandemic initially hit. I first thought this is an opportunity for us to help our existing customers know that we haven't forgotten about you, even in this world turmoil that's going on, right. So what we did is we picked a few 100 of our very best customers, and we sent them free gifts without telling them oh, we're gonna do that. That's awesome. And it was we had a couple of funny responses. Couple more are shocked like oh my gosh, and couple of more kind of I'm not real happy to begin with, like, Hey, I didn't order this. And did you charge my card? And she's saying all them and we said, oh, no, we just just, it's a complimentary gift. They go, Oh my gosh, nobody's done that for me before just out of the blue. And I go, Well, how do you take great care of, of your customers, especially your best customers, then by doing something nice for them. John Maxwell set it in this way. And he, he's got his different levels of influence. And he, he wrote a book called Becoming a person of influence. And he's one of my favorite authors, and he's in the very first level of influence, is, what would you do for someone if you knew you had absolutely nothing to gain? Wow. And that's hard to think of? Because most of us say, Well, I did something nice for them. But probably, I had something to gain for that, you know, and but what would you do? If you you thought you had absolutely nothing to gain? And that should be kind of the base foundation level of trying to influence another? What would you do? Just because you were going to take great care of them? Maybe that would make you mythical? And what if you had 100 200 300 people who thought about you in that way? And they told somebody else? What would that do for your business? Just put yourself out there.

Mariah Parsons 31:29

Yeah. And that's I'm so I'm so happy to share those stories, Chuck. And that's amazing that during such a crazy, you know, it was uncertain time, during the pandemic,

Chuck Bowen 31:40

everybody stopped advertising everybody kind of batten down the hatches, you know, raise their prices and, and did all these things. And I'm sitting there thinking, I would take great care of them, send them $150, watch back, you know, send them, send them something really nice, just out of the blue and bother whatever you do, don't tell them before. So it's a surprise, you know, it's like, wow, I know that when I've gotten some of those from people. It's like, oh, my gosh, this is amazing. So

Mariah Parsons 32:14

they leave a lasting impression. There's no doubt about it. Does. Yeah, it does. That's so powerful. And I, I think, you know, on the off chance is that, you know, free product or, like a free gift comes up in this podcast, I've seen maybe I don't know about the actual split. But people debate a bit of like, how effective is it really, when you're talking about how your customers view you as a brand? Or how they shop with you? Like, does it really make the difference? And I think that's, you know, maybe one of the larger questions of like, how its branding and like a lot of other marketing initiatives and customer experience is so much like, it is so much it could because it's closely tied to, you know, just your emotions and your feelings in general, which is already hard enough to quite like, quantify that I've heard that.

Chuck Bowen 33:10

You got to keep it out. Yeah, you can't just say it on your website and just say it even verbally, you have to live it. So, you know, a good example of when I was coaching other companies, and we do the same thing in our own company, and I go okay, so what do you want to be paid for? And they go, I want to be paid for my lawn service. I want to be paid for the pizza that I'm delivering, I'm paying for whatever I go great. You know, then that means all the other stuff you have on the table as potential things you can give away.

Mariah Parsons 33:40

Wow, that's a great way to look at it. Yeah. So

Chuck Bowen 33:43

for example, we know authentically, we're very patriotic. You know, my dad was in the service my grandfather's service my uncles are all these people were in the service right? So we're very patriotic with our military first responder, my sister's a nurse my her two sons or EMT firefighters right they got all these and I've got other people I'm in pharmacist and and nurse practitioners and nurses and you know all this stuff. So we're big fans of of first responders you know, law enforcement, foresters, first responders, patriot, you know, military active and veterans. So we offer all of them a lifetime discount on our product anytime they wanted, you know if a sales going on and there's a higher discount they can get that but if there's nothing going on they want our product they can always you know put down their discount code and get a free product get you know, get a discount on a product you know, and sometimes we give them things away for free. So you know, put your money where your mouth is but but act on it do something about it to be that person of influence even if you had nothing to gain what would you do? And from that fun causes that you believe on believe in and and donate to them, we donate to all sorts of causes that we believe in, you know, Hometown Heroes that do special events for people who have been hurt or head trauma in certain lines of service, and they do things for them. And another one that touches my heart is, you know, adoption orphanage related because mom, myself and my brother are adopted near birth, and my sister was adopted also, but another family. So we do things for those. And they, they mean a lot to me. Now, I don't also think it's necessary for a calculator to tell the whole world what you're doing. Because in my belief system, you know, often you keep that private, right? Because whatever you do in public, you know, is, you know, do you get the real benefit? In eternity, if you're just always saying, so here's what I'm doing. Here's what I'm doing. I believe in this, and I don't dismiss or dismiss or diss any company that does that, because I think that's great. And drawing attention to those causes. We just choose to do it privately.

Mariah Parsons 36:11

Yeah, like your that's your way. That's your branding.

Chuck Bowen 36:15

So whether you do it publicly or do it privately, I'm cool with either way. Just do it. Yeah, the abundant Don't be don't have a scarcity mentality, be abundant in what you do. And tell people your secrets. I mean, the whole world is literally your marketplace. So give away the good stuff. If you've got good advice, or good learnings or you made a bad mistake, don't do that. helped ya know it, don't keep it to yourself.

Mariah Parsons 36:46

You know, I like to think that's what we're doing as we sit here, and you're, you're actively doing so. And I also love that you said like, be abundant and don't have a scarcity mentality or have a scarcity model. And this ties back into branding and just the customer experience and customer retention. And one of the things that ran through my mind was, it's easy to forget about the person behind the screen when you're online and in E commerce and you're not in retail. So how do you you've mentioned like couple of the ways that you are making sure you stay connected and stay, stay abundant. Give abundance where you can with your customers, in the free gifts that you've given out and donations, and the communication style that you have, in that you're making, or you're trying your best to take care of. What was it the prospect customer? What was the first one you said? Suspect? Suspect? Yes, I haven't heard that before. Yeah,

Chuck Bowen 37:46

yeah, suspect most people are suspects. It's like if you're marketing, they haven't even heard of you yet. So you kind of just went across the screen there suspect they're not a prospect until they actually take an action, maybe come to your website or stop by your store, or give you a call, then they've and that's your only goal with advertising. Ultimately, you want them to buy, of course. But your first step is to turn them from a suspect to a prospect, get to a place where they can see your service or your product.

Mariah Parsons 38:19

Right. Yeah, yeah. And so that leads wonderfully into my question of, how are you? How are you thinking about changing someone to suspect to a prospect with like your ads? Like, how are you? That can just be one example. But how are you thinking about that? For more maybe like a technical level of, you know, what's, what's the messaging that you're using? or what have you found to be effective?

Chuck Bowen 38:44

Well, let me go back to the three legged stool remarketing. Okay, so your visuals, the product you're displaying, has to be head turning, knew your prospect may not be someone else. I mean, if they're hungry at night, it's midnight, and they're looking for where's the closest place that I can buy chocolate ice cream? Maybe if a leather bag popped up or going okay, but I'm on chocolate ice cream. Yeah. For you know, bags, you understand that? But it has to be compelling. So remarkable product. I think the second thing is remarkable promise, if I buy this, am I going to feel smart about buying it a year later? 10 years later? 20 years later, we give our markable promise, which says if this product fails due to craftsmanship or materials, we're gonna make it right. We're either gonna repair it or replace it, make it right. Okay. And then the third thing is the mythical Customer Care. And I think part of mythical Customer Care is also building trust with that. And so we know with a product based where we are, you know, we know our demographic is literally from 25 to 65. And it's solid all the way across. It's interesting how solid it is as far as energy first. So the main thing is, is how can we, you know, build trust along that path. And so that's why every contact we have is as personal as we can make it. And we also tell them more and more about ourselves. Because remember, until they really engage with the robot, they're still kind of hovering from afar. They're kind of behind a, almost a one way glass where they can see you, but you can't see them. Right? So what do you want to tell them to build trust, and that you have a remarkable product? Well, we tell them things like, we're one of the very unique cause companies out there that actually owns their supply chain. So we actually hand select all of our materials, leather wax Canvas threads, the linings, we hand select those things and craft them into your product, literally somebody right now, or a week or a month, or a year from now is gonna be handcrafting your product for you. So we want you to know that as much of that as we can. And we do that. So we have it all the way up. And there's very few brands in our niche, you know, whether it is in accessories, and travel and all that, that actually do that most of them outsource, their even maybe their product development, their production, all of that they outsource to someone else. And we actually make for about two or three days and other brands. So we know that they outsourced to us we make for them in our own factory. So that's one thing. And then as you go up that chain, we also on much of our distribution. So we direct to consumer website. We also do corporate gifting, we work with promotional companies. And we also do wholesale, we're in about 450 stores, and we have very close relationships with those stores to sell our products or take great care of them answer questions. If they have a customer that had an issue, they burn to send them to us, and we take great care of them to maybe do a repair or, you know, something else that they may have had a question about we do that. So we we do that. So we kind of have this vertical orientation. Not only do we do that for ourselves, but for for many of the other brands we work with. I also had discussions like this with them, and helping them understand how to grow their brand, and how to, you know, Sidestep or whatever problem that they may have. We just want to be abundant with it. So that makes us unique in the space. And I know a few of maybe no other that brands that that look at it that way that, you know, are around today.

Mariah Parsons 42:49

Yeah, I'm really glad you brought up that you own your own supply chain as a way of building trust, because I know I wanted to own anything. He has, yeah, air quotes 100. Yes. Because I know, it was one of the questions that I had. And, you know, we the conversation was just flowing. So I was like, Well, I don't think we're gonna get to that. But I'm glad we snuck it in with within the last couple of minutes. Because I think, you know, I haven't I haven't come across a brand myself of that I know that they completely own though and their own supply chain and air quotes, again, to the much to the point that you can. And I think just as I put myself, you know, step away from my marketing manager, role or hat, and I look at more my consumer experience. I know, that bodes stressing me personally, because the aspect of having control over something is probably one of the most desirable things for a consumer to hear. Because you know that the person you're talking to, or the person who calls you like Jackie had mentioned, calling someone up and saying like, I am the founder, how can I help you? Or how can I turn this experience into a better one? It does bode that trust in that you're, someone can say like, oh, we are trying to make sure. Be proactive about the materials that we're using in the process that we're going through. Nothing's going to be 100% perfect all the time. Right. But if you can take that and say when something happens, if you know, whatever the material isn't up to grade or something happens that it the craftsmanship, you know it it loses a stitching or something like that you can fix it that has a lot of power behind the brand behind the product and behind the customer experience like you says

Chuck Bowen 44:35

it's tremendous. You made me think of this little parable about you know, the guy or gal walking down the beach and throwing starfish back into the ocean. Oh my gosh, yep. And somebody comes up and say, oh gosh, there's 1000s of starfish on the beach. You can't throw possibly all of them out. Can you get no, but I do it because to that one starfish. It's really important. I didn't so The individual, yes. So we know that whenever we can get a chance to interact like this, you know, and if I can do it on Zoom, I love to do it on zoom with a customer. They know that at that moment, they have 100% of my or one of our team members attention. And then they are important. And from a bigger perspective, remember, when you're marketing, you don't market to demographics, but groups or your market to an individual. It's the individual that really matters the most in that, right. So we want them to know that and we want them to know that that's all they can do. For us. Is that attention?

Mariah Parsons 45:43

Yeah, no, it's actually so funny. One of my friends brought up the starfish metaphor parable, literally yesterday, so it's very fresh in my mind. So that's

Chuck Bowen 45:53

to me, you know, what's shocking to me is how shocking it is. Because when I if I'm actually helping out in customer care if there's something that one of our team members said, Hey, could you call this person because you maybe had the best insights? And my team is all well, knowledgeable, they know, right? Yeah. But I said, Sure. What shocks me is that I never tell them initially, hey, this is the owner mission work. And I just say, hey, this checking mission mercantile colony about this, and we just talk, we just talk. And sometimes it kind of comes in they go, Well, guys, who's your manager? I want to tell you, I really appreciate the colony. Oh, well, you kind of talking to them. I'm the founder and the owner. And they're shocked. And the sir, I would be got a call, you know, much less from, you know, the the person who founded the company in this light. That's shocking that That's shocking. That's sad. That that that rare? Yeah. You know, and if and if there's one thing that I could share to any business owner that's out there is put yourself out there in that way. Put your team out there in that way. And understand that's how you one of the things you can do. There's quite a few others, but one of the things you can do to become mythical, at least in the in that one customer's mind. And that one time at that one moment. Yeah, person for them to let them know that they really mattered.

Mariah Parsons 47:17

Yeah. And I also argue to like, even though in the moment, that's when you're establishing that relationship, having that conversation that goes way beyond that moment, right, it stays with someone. Yeah,

Chuck Bowen 47:28

it stays with them forever. Because fortunately for us, mythical customer care is one of the things that we build our company around, and there's not much of it out there. That's why when I coined the phrase mythical, I think coin customer care, obviously, but it was like, it's like that unicorn that one thing that we all dream about. Go in the restaurant and the apparel store or picking up, you know, a hamburger or whatever we're doing. We just want it to be mythical. I mean, if at least they tell us. Thanks for coming. Yeah. Do you hear that? It's like that cost you nothing?

Mariah Parsons 48:05

Yeah. Not as often as you should.

Chuck Bowen 48:09

I think we're safe in our mythical.

Mariah Parsons 48:12

I think so too, just from this past hour of chatter.

Chuck Bowen 48:15

I hope everybody listening will take that one little leg and say, How can I be mythical?

Mariah Parsons 48:20

Yes, I know. There are many nuggets in this episode. So I hope our listeners take them all. I know we're at time. So thank you so much, Chuck. It has been an absolute pleasure to chat with you. Everything that you said it makes sense just from an outsider looking in. And I can't wait to watch you all continue to succeed.

Chuck Bowen 48:39

Well, thanks. All right. It's been my honor and my pleasure.