“For most of my life, I’ve been using white bowls,” says Daniel Vu, founder of Daniel Vu Ceramics. “They were appealing at first, but now they really aren’t. I wanted to move into something that was a little more unique and brings out that experience of eating food.”
This desire for meal-enhancing tableware inspired Daniel to launch his eponymous tableware-focused ceramics company with Shopify in May of 2021. He started the business by selling bowls, serving dishes, and blates (a shape between a bowl and a plate) in earthy, organic hues like terracotta, olive green, and charcoal. Daniel has since expanded his catalog to include eye-catching textured vases. “It’s all handmade, one by one,” he says.
An artisan at heart, Daniel soon realized that acquiring customers and building a brand is challenging. He knew he needed to go beyond online, into the real world where his customers could connect with him and with his pieces. He started attending craft fairs and, with this change in strategy, he unlocked another level of growth.
Daniel chose Tap to Pay on iPhone, a new way to accept in-person contactless payments on Shopify POS to sell at craft fairs and events. Since then, has enjoyed:
- Easily accepting debit and credit cards, Apple Pay, and other digital wallets with just his iPhone, no separate card reader needed
- Event sales now accounting for 70% of revenue
- A surge in online traffic and sales after attending local events
- Managing his entire business from Shopify’s back office
The challenge: Acquiring customers and growing the business online
As a solopreneur, Daniel is both an artisan and business manager. Because Daniel spent much of his childhood helping his parents with their photo studio, he was prepared for the hard work that came with starting his own business.
“I was working throughout my childhood,” he says. “That kind of developed my mindset to being a workhorse. So taking on a small business role was something that came more naturally to me because of that. I wasn’t surprised when I was hit with the workload that’s required to maintain this business.”
However, what Daniel didn’t expect was how hard and expensive it would be to acquire customers and grow the business through online sales—especially because he creates unique home goods that sell better when customers can see and touch them in person. “It’s very difficult to sell ceramics online unless people already know and trust your brand,” he explains. “For smaller brands like mine, shoppers want to see the ceramics for themselves before they feel comfortable buying.”
To grow my customer base, I decided to sell at craft fairs in my area. That’s when I realized I needed a way to reliably accept payments in-person all day.
The solution: Selling at craft fairs with only an iPhone
Daniel realized that it’s nearly impossible to build a following without already having an established audience. That’s why he sells his work at events, particularly craft fairs. Pop-up events provide a near-instant boost in sales and brand awareness.
“Go to shows so you can get to know your audience,” Daniel advises. “You can spend all day making products, but if you can’t sell them, you’ll just have inventory that’s going nowhere.” Daniel says that craft shows let him see if there’s a demand for his products. “If you can’t sell your products in person, you’re going to have a hard time selling them online,” Daniel says. Selling at events helps Daniel understand demand for his products, which enables him to produce the right items: ones that will sell.
Shopify and Tap to Pay on iPhone make accepting in-person payments easy for Daniel. His product catalog carries over from his Shopify site to the Shopify POS app and he’s ready to start selling in minutes. All he has to do is download the Shopify POS app to his iPhone, set up Tap to Pay on iPhone, and he’s ready to easily accept contactless payments and make sales without needing a card reader. Tap to Pay on iPhone also uses his iPhone’s built-in security features, which are designed to keep his business and his customers’ data private and secure.
Selling in person also benefits his online store. Before each craft fair, Daniel’s website gets a spike in traffic, because events like these usually link to vendors’ websites. “People browse what merchants will be there and click on the ones they’re interested in,” Daniel says. “So in that sense, events bring more visibility to my website, and my website is like a portfolio where people can see what I sell and decide whether or not they want to visit my kiosk at the event.”
I love the convenience of having everything I need to sell in-person on my iPhone. I don’t have to stress about card readers disconnecting and can just focus on the person in front of me.
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The results: More in-person sales, increased brand awareness, and instant feedback
Now, Daniel sells at craft fairs every other month, and in-person selling represents 70% of his revenue. Thanks to Shopify POS and Tap to Pay on iPhone, the checkout experience is fast and intuitive for customers and Daniel.
“I like the idea of not having to use the card reader,” he says. “It makes accepting contactless payments feel more seamless, and I can just send their receipt by text or email. My customers are really happy with the checkout process.”
Daniel also appreciates how straightforward Shopify POS is to use—whether it’s the built-in payment capabilities from Tap to Pay on iPhone or the ability to customize his home screen with shortcuts to get things done faster. “I need less friction in my life,” Daniel says. “Anything that takes fewer clicks is better for me and my sales. One extra click is one more chance to lose a customer.”
Daniel also benefits from running his online store and in-person selling from Shopify’s unified back office. He can seamlessly manage inventory, customers, and payments all from one place—in-person and online sales stay synced and Tap to Pay on iPhone and online checkouts are all consolidated in one financial view. “I’m running hardcore on the Shopify ecosystem,” he says. “If I was using different POS software, it wouldn’t connect directly to my Shopify admin, which is where everything is. It makes my life really easy knowing where my money is going and where my inventory is at.”
Selling at events has also helped Daniel raise awareness for his products and get instant feedback to improve his product line. As the person who both creates all of the products and runs the business, this feedback helps him produce the right inventory in time for his next craft fair.
Whenever other entrepreneurs ask, I always recommend Shopify POS. It’s easy to get started, reliable, and I can accept payments straight from my iPhone without any additional hardware.
What’s next for Daniel Vu Ceramics?
While in-person events provide a spike in sales and online store sessions, Daniel wants to grow the online sales of his business into a more predictable revenue stream. This will help him secure enough funds to invest in manufacturing equipment, a bigger studio, and staff, which will help him scale his business on and offline.
Selling in person with Shopify POS and Tap to Pay on iPhone has put Daniel on a path of growth. “Eventually, I would love to have a showroom,” Daniel says. But it takes a lot of money to open a showroom and hire people. “To do that, I need to get online sales to the point where it’s more predictable and can finance that growth.”
To generate an audience that he hopes will turn into customers, Daniel wants to continue building his brand on TikTok. Since he began growing an audience on the platform, he’s seen his brand’s reach grow to new heights, with 36,000 followers and his livestreams generating upwards of 200,000 views.
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Similarly, Daniel intends to grow repeat customers with Shopify’s customer profiles. Each new customer he gets through signups on his online store at an event is added to his mailing list. With a view of their purchase history, he intends to build remarketing campaigns to increase repeat purchases online.
As a solopreneur, I need less friction in my life. With Shopify, I love that I have all the tools I need to manage online and in-person sales in one place.
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