CoffeeCakes.com Relies On Partnerships, Determination

By James Maguire | Posted February 17, 2005

Business efficiency is something that Sherry Comes knows a lot about. She has to — she has two full time jobs.

Comes is an executive IT architect for IBM, so she solves thorny software infrastructure problems for big budget clients on a daily basis. Additionally, she's the president of CoffeeCakes.com, a Colorado-based site that sells gourmet baked goods, which handles a steady stream of orders on a weekly basis.

So, how does she run an e-business on top of a full time job? First, she gets up every morning sometime between 3 and 4 A.M., and gets hours of work done before going off to her day job. But running an e-commerce site at the level of CoffeeCakes requires more than just getting up early.

"I am the world's best delegater," she says. "I totally run my business on relationships."

She has outsourced her call center and her order fulfillment operation. "Those are the two key pillars of my success," she says. "I have a really good supply chain." This allows her to run her business with no employees. Instead, she has partners, though only two of them actively participate in the business (the others are investors).

The one task that Comes did not delegate was building the site's platform, which she coded herself. "As a very senior professional in designing [software] architecture for Fortune 50 companies, I have built an infrastructure that could scale to a million orders a day," she says. "If someone paid me to do that, it would have been a $100,000 job."

Her Secret: Marketing
The success of CoffeeCakes actually comes from an earlier mistake — one that Comes learned a valuable lesson from. She opened an Internet cafi in the mid '90s, yet failed to properly market it. Her attitude was "if I build it, they will come," which she learned is the death of any business. "I didn't know a thing about marketing...it's amazing I didn't lose my house."


Coffeecakes.com
CoffeeCakes.com is a one-woman show, relying on outsourcing and partnerships to keep customers happy.

However, in her cybercafe, she sold baked goods, for which she discovered a healthy market. She moved her baked goods business online to launch CoffeeCakes — and markets it heavily.

In fact, marketing "is all I think about," she says, noting that she invests major time and money resources in search engine marketing.

"If you enter 'coffee cakes' in a [search engine], if we don't come up in the top three, we're not doing our marketing."

Indeed, the site was the top paid result in a recent Google search. "We've read all the books, and we know what we're trying to promote - we're all about the keywords."

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of Internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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