Archives - The Throwback Lab

I used to run a store called The Throwback Lab.

Initially it was created because I wanted to learn more about e-commerce, and what went into building a site and running a store.  Often times, the best way to learn how to do something is to go ahead and do it.  So long as you're learning from them, mistakes are fine, and I wholeheartedly encourage making them. 

I had recently made a significant career change, leaving just about everything I knew behind to learn more about e-commerce and building a business and brand online.  The catalyst I had chosen was a local, but well known startup that focused on printing user artwork on museum quality prints.  

Not long after being recruited, I had the fundamentals down, but wasn't sure how I would continue to learn about the industry, and selling online in general.  Where would I obtain coding skills?  Did I need them?  I had seen the process involved with developing new products, but could I do it myself?  What was involved with marketing a product?  

I soon determined that the best way to learn all of these things would be to try them out.  I needed to create something that would allow me to put my current skills to the test, while quickly accumulating new ones. 

At work we sold prints, with costs for larger panels running over $500.  My workplace also had a small army of high quality Canon printers running steadily.  All these came with costs which quickly added up to more money than I had, or was willing to gamble on a learning experience.  I knew I needed to find something less expensive, so much so that if the entire project went belly up it wouldn't break the bank.  

I settled on stickers.  They're cheap, versatile, and gives me a blank canvas to both try selling online, as well as provide an outlet for creativity.  I had recently taken a liking to doodling in Adobe Illustrator, and have always had a soft spot for cartoons and all things retro.  Stickers seemed like a perfect fit.  

The stickers began to sell quite well, during the 10 or so months that The Throwback Lab was in full force, I made about 200 sales.  Most of the sales were for an individual sticker; I offered various packs, but they never sold as well as the singles.  

As the single orders began to pick up the pace, I knew I had to change something drastic or shut things down.  I was getting regular orders, and had almost a 10% repeat customer rate; but my average order value, and profits per order were far too small.  The amount of times I had to run to the post office in a week began to become unmanageable, especially for sometimes less than a coffee's worth of profits for each mail run.  

Ultimately, I decided to shut The Throwback Lab down.  It was devouring my time, and had a clear ceiling that I wouldn't be able to break through, even if I enlisted some help.  Shutting it down was the right move, and realistically, The Throwback Lab served its purpose long ago; to teach me the fundamentals of building and running an e-commerce business.

I look back on many highlights experienced while running this store.  I received orders from several other artist's I admire, along with some distinctive brands like Shopify and Google (directly to the Mountain View headquarters). 

If you're interested in taking a look into the past, we've archived some of The Throwback Lab's blog posts; you can read them here.  Check out a snapshot of what the website would have looked like using the Way Back Machine.