Born into a family of entrepreneurs, Steven McBee has never seen himself as anything else but an entrepreneur. And today, he is the founder of Apex Protein Snacks a direct-to-consumer e-commerce company that produces healthy, shelf-stable meat snack products.
Steven is also the Co-owner of McBee farms and a social media influencer. To Steven, “business runs in the blood.” “Everyone in my family, from my extended uncle to my grandparents, to my mum, my dad, all of them are entrepreneurs,” he says echoing a popular statement he always heard growing up “you are either helping build up someone else’s dream or building on your dream.”
But even though he was an experienced businessman, Steven’s foray into the eCommerce business and starting Apex Protein Snacks has opened him up to a way of running a business that was completely different from what he was used to.
With no experience whatsoever in the e-commerce realm, Steven knew where he was lacking and the challenges, he would encounter with Apex Protein Snacks. All he had was the experience and stories told by friends who have had some success in eCommerce and knowledge acquired from reading books.
“Going into this, I knew I wanted to be as hands-off as possible. I’ve read so many books From Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour workweek, Good to Great, Built to scale and all these other books about companies that are truly built to scale and can mostly be automated without much labor and I knew this what was I wanted Apex to be.” He say.
Steven knew from the onset what exactly he wanted Apex to be as far as automating processes was concerned. He also knew that to make that happen he would have to do some heavy research upfront because he has spent most of his business life so far in labor-intensive industries where automation didn’t really matter.
And by doing due diligence as far as automation was concerned upfront before the business even launched, Steven hoped to be able to scale his business quickly and with minimal headache once it launched.
To make this happen, Steven explains that he started looking into automated email marketing, automated text message campaigns, different customer service response systems that could respond automatically based on what the customer sends in via customer contact email.
“I started with InfusionSoft and in my InfusionSoft package I had 8 hours of training with the Automation Agency and this allowed me to see just how well-versed they were in InfusionSoft. I knew it was going to be a steep learning curve with InfusionSoft. It would have been very easy to learn if I could really dig in but I don’t have that amount of time as I’m always running from place to place.”
Seeing the Automation Agency’s extensive knowledge of Infusionsoft and how they navigated through to create these email campaigns motivated his decision to work with the Automation Agency beyond his initial training and so far it has been worth the expense.
“Everyone at Automation Agency has really helped me out and there’s no way I could have created these email campaigns without them.”
Discovering Automation Agency
Since discovering the Automation Agency, Steven says it’s been almost like “drinking out of a fire hose” as far as taking in information about the automation process.
And without the Automation Agency, Steven believes he would not have been able to launch Apex when he did and as easily as he did because he would have been inundated with manual customer service emails, different product questions, and other manual processes.
“The Automation Agency had a big role to play in the launch of Apex itself. I knew going into it that I had several different automated emails that I wanted to send out to our customers. I had a “New Customer Welcome” email, I had a ‘’Thank You for Your Purchase” email, “A Product Return e-mail”, and so on. We also had a giveaway in the build-up to the launch. It was a lot of information we were trying to get out and trying to get to work correctly and there would have been no way we would have been able to handle all of it without the automation agency.”
Steven says he has gotten a lot of positive feedback from customers since the launch.
“It’s neat to see all of those responses from the consumers that are saying that the personal touch has helped them connect to the brand and has helped them establish trust and relationship with the brand.”
The Enter-To-Win campaign which was a major part of the launch of Apex has been a massive success as well. The plan with this campaign was to build up a social media following, build an email campaign list and a text campaign list for marketing purposes, and as the number shows, this has been achieved in just about a month since launch giving credence to how successful the launch has been thanks to the Automation Agency developing an end-to-end solution.
Rolling out the numbers, here is what Steven had to say about the success of the campaign:
“Leading up to the Enter-To-Win campaign I had zero emails, zero phone numbers, and 400 followers on Instagram. It was a new brand and there was no marketing prior to launch.”
Thanks to InfusionSoft and The Automation Agency, Apex Protein Products has been able to go from zero to sixty in just seconds.
“The campaign has helped out tremendously. Currently, we are over 15,000 entries into the giveaway, Instagram following is now over 2600 and Twitter following is now up to over 1400. The Facebook following has also grown to about 1500 to 2000 with up to six days left in the Enter-To-Win giveaway.”
But more than just a growing email list and an increased social media presence, part of the success of the launch is also reflecting on the business revenue and a growth in customer base.
So far, Steven says they have been able to convert some of those early campaign successes to real-life sales with nearly $15,000 in revenue within the first few weeks and up to 20 subscriptions in the bag on the first day of launch. The goal is to leverage this early success to create recurring revenue for the business.
“As we grow this brand, we are actually aiming to generate over 70% of the customer base into that recurring monthly revenue so we have a consistent revenue stream and having 20 subscribers on the first day alone is definitely a big deal and we are going to continue to market to that customer base that we currently have thanks to that Enter-To-Win giveaway and push them into that subscription base.”
Leveraging this early win and gaining more subscribers will be crucial. Apex is a direct-to-consumer brand and this means consumers will not be able to find the product on retail shelves at their convenience. They are going to have to keep them in stock and the only way to really do that is to have everyone on a subscription model.
Partnerships and Other Impacts of Scaling Early
Steven’s plan all along was to scale the business as early as possible and he’s glad Apex was able to achieve his projected growth curve a lot earlier than he had anticipated, and he believes he owes most of the success to an efficient automation strategy designed by none other than Automation Agency LLC, an award-winning Keap & Infusionsoft Certified Partner.
“Even beyond the reach of what I could see or feel, we were building a foundation and getting the word out there. It has really taken off from here and now as we are approaching the one-month mark from the day of launch, we are starting to get that exponential growth curve which is what I was looking for on an eCommerce sprint like this.
Currently, Apex Product has been able to score a partnership with some of Steven’s good friends that own international supplement brands. These brands have a good knowledge of the e-commerce business landscape making about 50 million USD in revenue per year and a large following on social media. The partnership with them is expected to increase Apex Protein Snacks’ growth in 100 folds and more as they already have a good base.
Thankfully, Apex has been designed from the onset to scale which means it is more than ready for such exponential growth and influx of orders that would come with it even though it is still early into the business. Steven believes he owes all of this to appropriate planning and vision.
Overcoming Challenges Before They Happen
The success Apex has enjoyed so far is proof that making the right decisions prior to getting started makes a world of difference in business. Of course, every startup is bound to face some challenges along the way but for Steven, adopting automation early meant Apex didn’t have to experience much of the challenges that came with running a business manually without automation.
Steven says he has been forewarned about going at it manually prior to starting, and he took the warnings seriously. He knew going the manual route wasn’t going to be an option which was why he adopted automation right from the onset.
“I knew from the onset that that was not going to be an option for me.”
As someone with a very busy schedule running multiple businesses all in various industries and requiring a lot of time and effort to manage, Steven knew the only way Apex would run successfully and scale exactly how he wanted it to was by automating up to 96% of the business processes.
“luckily I didn’t have to experience all of that heartache. I learned from other people’s mistake and set myself up for success from the start,” especially when signing up for the Automation Agency’s Elite Marketer Package, which included ongoing coaching and expert setup of his automation needs.
Projections For The Future
Just one month in and it is safe to say that the Apex Protein Product launch was a success. The recent partnership bears further credence to the fact that the company is poised for even bigger wins in the coming months.
Steven is hopeful about the future. Motivated by the success of Apex and the lessons learned, he plans to continue to explore eCommerce and to replicate the same automated system early with his other startups.
“As far as our other companies we are going to continue to grow those. We have several other new startups coming in the fall of 2021. Those ones will be eCommerce brands and you can bet we are going to be using InfusionSoft and Automation Agency to try and automate those brands as well”
Asked for his advice for other small business owners out there here is what he has to say: “As a business owner you really should be focusing on the growth of the company and the large-scale items. You don’t need to be digging into the minor details like emailing customers or handling customer service-related questions. You need to automate these as much as you can and focus on the growth and scalability of your business.”