Success Story: Toy Wiz
Posted | By: Kenny Shamus, ToyWiz.com
Kenny Shamus is blunt and hard-driving, but he's also one of the most generous and hilarious clients we've ever worked with. EYStudios is extremely proud of the re-design we did for Kenny's company, ToyWiz.com. He has quickly become an office favorite, cracking up the liaisons and working on new projects with designers like JT Hamman. I sat down with Kenny to learn more about him, his company's history, and his interaction with EYStudios.
Kenny, you've led ToyWiz to be one of the biggest players in the collectibles market. Was this always part of the plan, or has the success of ToyWiz surprised even you?
I wouldn't say it was "part of the plan", but I wouldn't say it surprised me-- even though it definitely became "bigger" than I thought. We always just tried to work hard, and most of all, we just tried to do our own thing. We never set our sights on the competition other than to see what we felt they were doing right and what we felt they were doing wrong. We concentrate on having the right product that people want and delivering it in a timely manner. Hitting the lottery is a surprise, but if you do the hard work day in and day out - the work that other businesses are not willing or able to do - then nothing should ever "surprise" you.
You're a pretty busy guy with ToyWiz. What's your average day look like?
The average day is pretty hectic. There are so many things going on, even during the slow times. I'm not the kind of person to lock myself in the office and let the company just run itself. I work right there with everyone trying to keep the machine running smoothly. So there are always little fires - and sometimes big fires - that need to be put out on a constant basis. Plus, we are not the type to sit still. We are always trying to improve the business, the website, the warehouse, and the office, so there's never a dull moment.
Your industry is fiercely competitive. Without giving away the formula, what kind of steps do you personally take to make sure you stay on top?
The business is extremely competitive now. It is nothing like what it was 5 years ago. Now, there are so many stores opening up on a daily basis because it's so ridiculously easy to open a store online. You can do it in 10 minutes, but it's very hard to "stay in business." That's where we have the advantage. We are here to stay. When I see new fads come along like Bakugan, all of a sudden there are 200 stores that open up. They all do their business and take their bites out of you, but when Bakugan slows down and disappears, they disappear with it. We are committed to the long run. You have to invest in your infrastructure so that you can survive one fad and shift to the next.
Do you think some retailers just have "the right stuff" and some don't? What kind of advice do you have for first-timers just starting out?
If you have “the right stuff," it will work. I like to say, the proof is in the pudding. Everybody that knows me knows that I'm a bottom-line guy. When you try something, it either works or it doesn’t. It’s that simple. You should see it instantly. Just keep doing the things that are working, and the faster you can get rid of the things that don't work the better. My advice to anyone starting their own business is to do their "own" thing. I remember when we first started, there were sites that copied us. The week after we did something on the site, they were all copying us. I was upset at first because it's never fun to be ripped off. However, I soon began to realize that this was great. These people have no original ideas of their own so I never have to worry about them. It was the sites that were doing their own thing that I was concerned about. Some retailers definitely have the "right stuff", and if you are keen, you will pick up on those things and use them.
How important do you think the look and feel of your store matters in the end?
I think the look and feel of the site matters tremendously in the end. I still cannot believe how many crappy sites you find out there. I order online all the time, and I find myself ordering from the same sites over and over again. I trust them because they look good. I know it sounds crazy, but that's the way I think. If you're serious about your business, then invest in it. Of course, you have to start small and with a small budget, but if you make a little money, don't go out and buy a new car. Take that money and improve your site. It's like if you’re a home builder and you live in a beaten down old house. How do you expect to get business? Your house should be your showcase and it is the same thing with your site.
You had your site re-designed by EYStudios, but as we say down South, "This ain't your first rodeo." How many re-designs has ToyWiz experienced, and what led you to consider another one?
ToyWiz has had many re-designs in its lifetime, three of which were "professionally" done. Of those three, I would say only one - EYStudios - truly delivered and brought us to a whole new level. The first professional re-design about five years ago wasn't terrible. It was actually pretty good for the budget I had to work with, but it wasn't where we needed or wanted to be. The second re-design turned out to be all bark and no bite and a tremendous waste of money and time. It looked good at first, but it quickly fell apart. So basically, what led me to the third re-design was part frustration and part having to completely get rid of my second re-design.
Even though you called us, you were a hard sell, man! What finally made you want to sign with us?
I was probably a "hard sell' because I felt so burned from my previous experience. I decided to sign with you guys because I felt you were the most qualified to do the job, but I also enjoyed the personal attention you gave me. After going through such a bad experience, I felt that I needed someone to really take good care of me. You guys showed me that in the beginning, but more importantly, you guys delivered that to the end.
So now that the site is live, do you feel like you made a good call?
I couldn't be happier. I very much feel like I made the right call. My only regret now is that I didn't use you guys the first time around, but what's done is done and we are looking forward.
What's one of your favorite features with the new design?
My favorite feature by far is the rotating graphic on the homepage. I just think it looks great, like eye candy.
How have your customers reacted to the new look?
Customers have reacted extremely well to the new look. We get emails and phone calls all the time telling us how good the site looks. Like I said before, the proof is in the pudding, and orders have been up since the re-design, so there you go...
Kenny, you participate with the Runway graphics maintenance program with EYStudios. Once you got us to do all your product ad graphics, what keeps you coming back versus doing them yourself?
Well, there are actually a few answers for that one.... which is a good thing. Whenever you have more than one reason to do something, you have absolutely no excuse not to do it! For one, your graphic design work is amazing. It is far better than what we could do in-house without having to hire an expensive graphic designer. Secondly, of course, there's the time involved. It's very time consuming to do your own graphic design, especially when you have a million other things to take care of. Thirdly, you always want the site to stay consistent. I sometimes see sites invest all this money in a beautiful re-design, but when I go back a month or two later, it looks like crap again. This is simply because they went back to doing things on their own.
Kenny, thanks for your time today!