Jim and Sandie, Sandie's Galley and More
Sandie Parker loves cooking good meals anywhere she goes. But she knows this can be difficult, especially if you're on a boat or RV.
"The main difference is space," she notes. "Many galleys have limitations. Often they come without ovens. For example, our spice rack on our boat is one-fourth the size of the one at our house. Pots, pans, bowls, counter space—they're all much smaller. Our 38-foot boat has 300 square feet of total living space, but that is what makes it cozy and fun!"
While a small kitchen can be a challenge for boating enthusiasts, it should not be a deterrent from cooking the gourmet meals people crave, says Sandie, who together with her husband, Jim Parker, operates Sandie's Galley and More on Auctiva Commerce. And it won't be if shoppers head to their one-stop shop for boaters and RV enthusiasts who love to tear it up in the kitchen.
"From galleryware, to grills to nautical décor, you will find products specially designed for life on a boat," the Web site informs visitors.
Many of our best family memories have been made while sharing special meals together
Meals make memories
Sandie has been cooking since she was 12. Her mother's encouragement sparked her passion for cuisine and working with Chef Carl Tanner, whom she considers her mentor, fueled her fire.
"Like a musician with perfect pitch, Sandie has a natural cooking talent," Jim says. "She watches the Food Network daily, subscribes to food magazines and practices constantly."
It's an understatement to say cooking is a big part of Sandie's life. The Michigan resident has worked in and been associated with the restaurant business for years. In 2007, she became a recipe columnist for newspapers and websites. Along the way, she's won several cooking contests for her chili, brownies and many more.
"I do it to share my gift. The income is tiny—all going to grandkids' toys," she laughs.
But that's not to say that Sandie won't share her gifts for free. In fact, she gives her shoppers several free recipes right on her Auctiva Commerce Store so they, too, can make tasty dishes like Egg Foo Yong Omelets for two, Asian Sauced Grilled Salmon, Sandie's Chocolate Pecan Cookie Squares and Tender Grilled Flank Steak.
"Many of our best family memories have been made while sharing special meals together," she notes on her site. "I hope these recipes will bring you, your family and friends wonderful meals and good times on a boat or anywhere."
Her patrons seem to enjoy her tasty treats, even when she thinks outside the box. One buyer notes, "Sandie, just have to tell you about the award-winning brownies in your cookbook, and I only have one word to say about them: Wow! They are a hit every time I make them. I have to share, too, that I made your potato salad recipe, and I was reluctant at first, because I kept thinking, 'How in the world does Cool Whip and salt and pepper taste together?' It was actually very good. Keep 'em coming!"
Comments like these make Sandie very happy. The best thing about cooking, she says, is having "people rave over the meal."
We were told that an Internet store has to have a niche to succeed
Cruising for sales
Food has been at the heart of Sandie and Jim's online shop from the beginning. The couple actually started their first online store, SandiesGalley.com, to sell Sandie's cookbook, Recipes From Sandie's Galley.
"Our Auctiva Commerce Store started with a cookbook," Jim explains. "Sandie's career in food services associated her with chef coaching. She later became a summer live-aboard on our boat and working at a marina. She gave daily samples of whatever she cooked to staff and friends, who urged her to write a cookbook.
"We decided to sell her first cookbook online and add boating dinnerware, drink ware and flatware to the site," he continues. "We were told that an Internet store has to have a niche to succeed. With that in mind, we separated out and grew the store, and now we describe the shop as a place to furnish your boat with better nautical products for 'life onboard,' or 'at home.'"
As a result of that expansion, Sandie's Galley is now the place where shoppers can browse and buy Sandie's cookbooks, while the Auctiva Commerce Store, Sandie's Galley and More, offers the cookbooks, in addition to dinner and flatware, galley accessories and any other items for boating or RV cooks.
Sales have been steady, reaching $17,000 in 2009. To date in 2010, the couple has sold $41,000 online and the site is getting 1,700 hits per month, up from 300 last year, Jim says. By the end of the year they hope to do another $15,000 in sales, with a goal of reaching $100,000 in 2011.
"This is, hopefully, our retirement," he says.
I stuck with Auctiva Commerce mainly because of the platform, tech support and the message boards. I'm glad I did
Recipe for success
Having a successful business starts with finding a niche a seller is passionate about, and one her or she knows well, Jim says. For the Parkers, boating is a passion, one they know inside and out, which has helped their shop develop. However, search engine optimization has also been key to the site's growth, Jim adds. It's been so important to their success, the couple wish people had told them to learn SEO when they first started online. So now they suggest people take plenty of time to learn it.
"Spend half an hour adding a new product," they suggest. "Use meta titles, meta descriptions and meta keywords. Use a free test tool for optimization; you do not have to spend money on keywords, software and all that."
They know firsthand that establishing and growing a shop is no piece of cake. It takes time, and a lot of effort.
"I had tried three other [e-commerce services] and was frustrated with their lack of user friendliness," Jim says. "I liked Auctiva Commerce from the start, although early on it did have a lot of bugs and room for improvement. I stuck with Auctiva Commerce mainly because of the platform, tech support and the message boards. I'm glad I did. I have many people comment on how they like our site."
The Parkers also have a few suggestions for people who are ready to take the plunge into online selling.
"One: Be sure you find a niche," they advise. "Two: Be realistic; why would someone buy from you versus another site? Three: Try many products. We have 12 vendors, but sell 90 percent from three. You don't know what will sell best until you try it; keep trying and adding things you like.
"Four: Learn SEO and work it. Buy 'SEO for Dummies' for starters," they continue. "It is boring, but one great resource. [And] five: Plan to work it daily."
Visit Sandie's Galley and More.