A new chapter
It has been more than half a year since my last post.
A lot has changed for me since then.
One of the biggest changes has been the founding of Janko Hirschmann, Rey Koxha GbR, which operates under the brand of "SAAB Cloud".
But one by one.
I remember the Sunday evening when Leon - a former friend - sent me an eBay link.
Somebody wanted to dissolve his private Saab part storage, which he build up over the past 10 years.
The price seemed fair for it - 850€ for more parts than one could fit into two cars and a trailer.
So I spoke with my local friend Janko and asked whether or not we should pick those parts up.
We both have a few Saab cars and selling some of these definitely would not hurt.
Long story short - we went to Hamburg to pick the stuff up and negotiated the price down a bit,
since not everything seemed to be of use. In the end we bought around 1200kg of parts, which distribute at more than 500 items.
Back home at Janko's place after 15 hours driving through half Germany,
we emptied the trailer and inspected some of the treasures - or trash - we had bought.
However, for some reason the uncomfortable thought of not having bought enough got into my mind.
Luckily, I should be proven wrong after doing the initial stocktaking, which took us 3 days straight.
In the end around 140 items filled our Excel sheet - not to mention that Janko also had nearly the same amount of stuff down his basement as well,
which we did not include in our inventory yet.
After arriving home, I took a quick overview over the sheet again and came up with an estimate of around 3500€ in parts.
Setting up our storage
Luckily Janko's basement featured enough space to store all the parts.
All we had to do was to order a few racks and set them up. I think the end result speaks for itself.
Building the shop #1
There I was - sitting on all those parts.
While some people would probably have sold those on eBay, some forums or elsewhere, we decided to open our own shop, giving us greater margins
and more freedom how we want to display our goods.
While WooCommerce seemed promising at first, it quickly showed it's weaknesses.
A lot of our items had variations, which could not be displayed in WooCommerce that easily.
Furthermore, it did not support having a multilanguage shop out of the box.
More research led me to PrestaShop, which was fairly easy to get into with.
Since I did not want to waste time on working on a custom template, I ended up buying one.
Yet - due to a lot of coding errors - the newly bought template was garbage.
Our theme creator seemed help- and clueless, which therefore led me to fix it on my own for which I invested nearly one week.
Whether or not it was worth it - you have to tell me.
We like how the shop looks nowadays and think it was worth the effort.
Adding our inventory
Now that the initial setup was completed, I was ready to add the articles to PrestaShop.
This process took me a long, long, long time. Not because it is complicated or anything, but because I had to do research on every article added.
Part number, compatibility, pricing, description (German & English), weight, picture resizing and so on.
I nearly invested 72 hours in getting all the 146 articles added.
Since I was doing price research while adding all the articles, I ended up with a more accurate value of what our parts were really worth.
We totaled at around 7900€ + another 600€ in parts we did not list yet.
Deducting all the expenses we had (nearly 1000€) this means we still have around 7500€ we could profit from.
Considering that some articles are not requested enough or might be defective, even though we tested most of it, we need to deduct another 10%,
which leds to 6750€ and therefore a possible profit of 1125% from what we paid originally.
While I was adding the articles, I remembered the Arashi "referral programme", which I read about when I bought the TD04HL-19T for my brother back then.
Therefore, I got into touch with Arashi Dynamics and agreed on an official partnership.
Motivated by the possible margins and the demand for high quality parts, we started looking for more possible suppliers for OEM+ parts.
Thanks to writing a ton of mails and doing phone calls at 5AM in the morning with our Asian suppliers - we are now capable to provide almost every part needed in OEM+ quality.
The only thing missing is a supplier for suspension parts - which we are in touch already.
Current situation & market issues
In the meantime we had registered our company and applied for a VAT ID, which finally allowed us to open a bank account and setup payment gateways.
For simplicity reasons we decided to sign up at Penta, which offers a relatively simple and cheap pricing model for their accounts.
Instead of setting up payment gateways one by one, we went for a more professional solution, provided by Mollie.
Mollie allows you to integrate a wide variety of payment providers at once.
Including PayPal, credit cards, SOFORT Banking, Giropay and Klarna - which are all highly used by our audience and missing at most of our major competitors.
Yes - you have read right - it is 2020 and there are still webshops offering nothing but wire transfer.
Another big issue our competitors have are returns.
Not only that customers were denied returns in the first place, but they also have to pay shipping costs for it - even if the items are defective!
Besides the process being too complicated, it also takes a lot of time - 5 or more weeks are normal.
Since, we want to base our business on a strong customer relationship, we integrated our shipping with Sendcloud, which also offers a return portal, making it easy for customers to return their orders, in case anything is wrong or
they want to make right of their right of withdrawal.
Furthermore, the integration with Sendcloud made it possible to automatically print shipping labels, which in return leads to greater business effiency.
Unfortunately though, Sendcloud charges 40€ a month for DHL integration, which we do not find reasonable, considering that our package volume is not that great.
Instead we hooked up with DHL Express and DHL manually. Not only due to custom reasons for our imported articles, but also to enable shipping to non EU countries.
Unfortunately, Sendcloud is really limited in that regard.
We have to admit - it is a niche, even for us. However, we do not want to lose a single sale and therefore, do not only need competitive shipment pricing, but also coverage.
SAAB Cloud won't make a living by the approximately 44.000 Saabs registered in Germany, so all European countries are crucial to us.
Long story short - while our automation is strong, we still have a few weaknesses for everything sold outside of the EU and so being handled by DHL.
However, once we reach this shipping volume, we will simply pay for the integration into Sendcloud.
Building the shop #2
Being almost ready to start, I decided to change out my entire backend - again.
While it might be silly to some, it was the only logical thing to do, considering how much of an improvement I could achieve by the use of LSCache with LiteSpeed Enterprise.
Besides a lot of cool features like QUIC and HTTP/3, the performance increase compared to NGINX with the regular PrestaShop caching is massive.
I admit - it was weird to work with an interface again, but I quickly got used to it and had everything set up within a few hours.
The only thing which caused issues was the down- and upload of large files, which are not important for SAAB Cloud, but important for my Nextcloud instance, which I host on the same machine.
A few more minutes error tracing revealed that I had misconfigured the WAF settings and static file caching settings.
Edited, restarted, fixed.
Additionally to that, I also decided to convert my PrestaShop database to RocksDB, optimizing read and write performance, while heavily reducing the database size.
For mails we use the same mail server as KOXHA.DE, which itself is powered by Mailcow (I can greatly endorse it!) and features an AWS rely.
Just like our AWS CloudFront based CDN.
Distro wise I stayed at a RHEL based one, but moved to CentOS, instead of Fedora, which I used before.
Our fullchain SSL certs are of coursed issued by Let's Encrypt. As I do on all of my domains, I also enabled HSTS.
Having received our VAT ID this Saturday, we are finally ready to start retailing EU wide.
However, now is the time to perform a fully integrated live test, redo our stocktaking for a last time and then finally start advertising on our channels.
Depending of the market acceptance, we plan to quickly relocate our key business to new OEM and OEM+ parts.
Requests - including Orio AB - already have been made, some already being in a state of negotiation.
But as I like to say - step by step...