Starting off as a small, side business, Star Spangled quickly grew into a expansive ecommerce and retail store in Alabama. Founder Jim Hartnett successfully grew his business in an industry that proudly supported not only troops, but also the country. Read on to learn how Jim overcame the struggles of creating his own business and what advice he has for upcoming storeowners.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you sell at Star Spangled.
Star Spangled, LLC was opened as a small, side business in the summer of 2014. Both owners are veterans and have family members who are currently active or have served in each military branch. Sales initially were primarily online and at vendor events in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Our initial goal was to carry items that represented four areas that we believed have been important to the identity of our country: Freedom & Independence, Competition, Ingenuity & Craftsmanship, and Service & Protection. Our products include tactical gear, motorcycle equipment, sports fan gear, and lots of patriotic apparel for infants through adult ages. We also try to carry items made by small businesses or individual craftsmen. In late 2015, we opened our first store in the PX shopping facility at Fort Rucker (Home of Army Aviation), Alabama. In 2016, we relocated to a larger location; and we will be opening a new store in Enterprise, AL in January 2017.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building and running your online store?
The biggest challenges are inventory tracking and documentation for tax purposes. We utilize inventory software that integrates with our sales channels, including the POS system. However, there is always issues that must be addressed. The second biggest issue is tracking tax related purchases and sales tax. In our first two years in business, we had two state audits. Tracking sales tax is especially difficult when selling on multiple channels and with taking payments from PayPal. We’re still working on inventory and tax issues, but moving forward the next issue will be marketing including SEO.
How do you attract new customers?
We haven’t done as well as we should in this area. However, we attend many festivals and events within a 6 hour drive. We try to market our website a little and do occasional advertising. We’ve recently added Bizzy to help with email marketing.
Can you share a tip or something interesting you learned in the process of building and running Star Spangled?
First off, meet with a tax professional as early as possible and make sure they are experienced with online sales. In addition, when adding products to inventory, make sure everything is set up completely the first time the product is entered. Do not rush just to get a product listed for one sales channel thinking other data can be entered later if needed for another channel. You might later end up with 5000 products to edit. Do it right the first time.
If you’re looking for various clothing and goods that show your pride for the troops and the country, check out Star Spangled.