CoffeeCakes.com Relies On Partnerships, Determination

eBiz Profile: Balancing a full time job and the management of an online business, Sherry Comes has built a streamlined e-commerce operation.

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).


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

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 café 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."

However, in her cybercafé, 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."

Vital Statistics
Name: CoffeeCakes.com
Founded:2000
Sales/revenues:Since 2000, an average of 37% year after year revenue grow, and from 2003 to 2004, doubled its growth.
Content management/storefront system:Confidential
Database backend:Confidential
Affiliate technology provider:Confidential
Hosting provider:Confidential
Number of tech staff:none
Number of employees:none
Key strategies: • Relying on outsourcing and business partnerships to keep business running smoothly.
• Merketing, marketing, marketing.

James Maguire is a contributor to eCommerce-Guide.com. His column appears every Friday.

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