July 22, 2014, 12:39 PM

Finding the right online recipe for a growing cake products wholesaler

After switching to a new and affordable e-commerce platform, Global Sugar Art says it’s cooking up sharply higher numbers of social media connections—and sales.

Lead Photo

French chef Alan Tetreault founded Global Sugar Art in 2002 in the upstate New York city of Plattsburgh, not far from French Canada and nestled between Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains, where for years afterward he sold cake-baking supplies to professional bakers who would walk into the store in his on-site warehouse.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that his business was a natural operation to run online. After all, he sells virtually everything a serious baker needs, including the commercial-grade molds, ingredients and retail bakery boxes used to prepare and package baked goods, products that would appeal both to professional as well as amateur bakers across the country and worldwide. By 2004, GlobalSugarArt.com launched on a rudimentary shopping cart platform, kicking off a surge in customer traffic and orders.

The company’s business has since grown to some 10,000 online orders a month shipped to more than 120 countries. But managing that growth required the e-retailer to switch to an e-commerce platform that could scale up to those numbers and also handle a surge in social media activity.

On its initial e-commerce platform, Global Sugar Art “was getting a ton of traffic” but couldn’t handle it well enough to quickly process orders and, therefore, couldn’t expand its business, says Daniel Pfeffer, the company’s chief marketing officer and a partner with New York City-based Aleutian Capital Partners, which is helping to fund Global Sugar Art’s growth.

So Aleutian Capital Partners, where Pfeffer heads up the e-commerce investment practice, led an overhaul of its client’s e-commerce technology. The aim was to scale up without overspending on technology and services. “We can take a small business and use tools to grow that are not incredibly expensive,” he says.

The project started with migrating GlobalSugarArt.com in 2012 to an open-source e-commerce platform from Loaded Commerce, which Pfeffers says is capable of letting Global Sugar Art handle a larger volume of traffic and more products. It now has close to 10,000 SKUs—all of them held in its own warehouse in Plattsburgh for fulfillment—and handling about 10,000 orders per month.  

But the project didn’t stop with Loaded Commerce, which alone costs a one-time fee of $549, plus $80 in annual maintenance fees, for an unlimited number of administrative users, according to Loaded Commerce’s web site.

Dotcomweavers, a software reseller that provide Global Sugar Art with the Loaded Commerce technology, also provided overall site development services. Alexander Interactive, also known as Ai, provided site design services. Although Loaded Commerce comes with its own basic applications like site search and order management software, Pfeffer’s team opted to go with the following third-party applications that integrate well with Loaded Commerce:

  • Stone Edge order management software from Monsoon Commerce, which Pfeffer says can scale up to well over 10,000 orders per month and also handles customer records accessed by customer service reps;
  • SearchSpring for site search, which Pfeffer says is comparable with other site search applications with built-in analytics that help improve and personalize search results by learning how customers search a site;
  • Barcoders.com, which provides software for picking and packing orders in a warehouse, using handheld radio-frequency devices;

Tetreault, who is somewhat of a Plattsburgh celebrity who appears on local TV stations, now also appears in more than 100 TV-like videos on GlobalSugarArt.com that explain how to bake and decorate cakes. In the past two years, the site has gone from 0 to 4.5 million video views, while also increasing its number of Facebook “Likes” from about 3,000 to nearly 200,000, Pfeffer says.

Global Sugar Art grew about 6% last year and is on course to grow about 20% this year it approaches “eight figures,” or $10 million, in online sales, he adds.

The total cost to rebuild GlobalSugarArt, he says, ran about $200,000.

One of the results of growth, Pfeffer says, is that customers can no longer visit the company’s warehouse to buy merchandise, as Global Sugar Art closed the facility to the public because of safety concerns. "We were concerned about all the foot traffic and our insurance liability," Pfeffer says. But the company is more than making up for that with more online activity.

Aleutian Capital Partners, the private equity investing arm of investment bank Aleutian Capital Group, invests in companies that have revenue within the range of $10 million to $200 million. Its e-commerce clients have included Lighting By Gregory, surveillance camera company Luxor Direct and apparel retailer Karmaloop.com, which is No. 134 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, which ranks companies by their annual web sales. Aleutian Capital Group works in industries including aerospace, health care, transportation and industrial manufacturing.

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