In our Behind the Shop series, we take a closer look into the people that have been building your favorite online stores.
The ecommerce and online shopping revolution rages on. We usually only encounter the storefronts, so we asked ourselves: who are the storebuilders behind the scenes? And what can they teach us about building the perfect online store?
This time around, we talked to Jonathan Kennedy, founder of the leading flat-rate development & graphic design service for Shopify, HeyCarson.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself
I'm Canadian, grew up in Ottawa and Montreal. I've been involved in the ecommerce space since 2000 - I started off as an eBay seller. I sold branded clothing bought from thrift shops at nice markups, for many years.
I had a few real jobs while doing this and after finishing university. Most notably, I worked in the merchandising/marketing department for the Montreal Canadiens, a well known professional hockey franchise. This job taught me about online/offline merchandising, how to hire/manage people, work with inventory, budgets and sales objectives.
With my eBay experience and this valuable lesson learned from working in a big organization, I ventured off from Canada to the Philippines in 2011 with two partners, to start and build an SEO/online marketing agency to help ecommerce businesses.
In 2015, I sold my shares in that business and moved back to Canada. Shopify was on my radar and I was looking for a new project. A productized small task service seemed like a good idea, so I launched HeyCarson as a sole founder.
Shortly after, our team launched Storetasker, a Shopify freelancer marketplace. In October 2019, Storetasker was acquired and today I continue to operate HeyCarson as a leading Shopify expert service company.
I now live in Valencia, Spain, steps from the sea. I work from home and a nearby coworking office. The HeyCarson team is 24 strong spread over 12 countries and 100% remote.
More about Carson: why do people come to your service and how can you help them?
Shopify merchants typically find us via the Shopify experts marketplace, a growing network of Shopify app and theme partners and from our vibrant Shopify Facebook group called Shopify Entrepreneurs.
We help them with small design and development tasks related to helping them optimize their Shopify themes, improve the usability of their stores and increase sales/conversions. We save them the need to hire staff developers/designers and help them avoid big commitments that we typically see with digital agencies.
Many people seem to believe that building a Shopify store should be a DIY thing. That’s why you chose Shopify to begin with. Could you share your thoughts on this?
Shopify is an amazing platform that helps entrepreneurs get further into their vision than any other platform I've ever seen (ecommerce or other).
As entrepreneurs gain momentum, their vision grows and often their ideas push the boundaries of the platform and their own skill sets. No matter how much Shopify innovates and adds functionality, there will always be a need for expertise and engineering that brings together this technology cohesively. By hiring out for expert help, merchants can remain focused on product development and growth.
What are you doing to stay relevant to the company, personally? And what’s the company doing to stay relevant to its customers?
As I mentioned earlier, we manage a vibrant group of Shopify merchants/entrepreneurs with 100k members. So we have a nice platform to share company updates which keeps our customers and potential customers in the know.
I truly believe we have one of the most recognizable Shopify partner brands in the ecosystem. As for our customers, we've evolved our business every year since we started. We deliver our service via a customer task management dashboard. This allows us to improve the efficiency of how our developers/designers interact with our customers.
For our audience it would be great to get insights on your sources of inspiration.
I am deeply inspired by the people that surround me. My wife, children, siblings - and a few close friends. Inspiration also comes from our customers and their stories. I'm really not that different to them. Bootstrapped, non-technical, with a dream of building a valuable business that serves my family and customers.
Many people are drawn to a social cause - whether it be education, poverty, hunger, clean water, animal welfare - all are great causes. I believe entrepreneurship is one of the greatest social causes there is. Enabling entrepreneurs while being one is my definition of success.
Everyday, there are thousands of people venturing into ecommerce. What’s your biggest piece of advice?
Ecommerce is a real opportunity for anyone. Underneath the concept of creating products and selling them for a profit, are countless opportunities to serve merchants.
“Find your edge in this industry by looking at your past body of work and skill set.”
You don't have to start from scratch - there's something out there you know more about than most people so start there. Curiosity, a well defined “why” and consistent effort over a long period of time, leads to passion and success.
You have to make bets until you find something worthwhile. This also means it's okay to try things and stop and move on to something else. For me, trying things has led to a body of work and experience that I continue to draw on now.
Interested in participating in our Behind the Shop series? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or why don't you connect with POP directly through Messenger at https://m.me/bypophq