Join Emily Brungard, Marketing Manager at Castiron, and Matt Renie, Product Manager at Castiron, for an overview of the Castiron platform. Take a look at some of our latest features, including our photo gallery, custom order form templates, and more.
Emily Brungard: Hi everyone. Welcome to the very first edition of the Castiron demo series. I’m Emily and I'm super excited to get to show you just a taste of some of the really valuable, incredible tools that our team has been building for you over the last years and months.
To start, if we've learned anything over the last couple of years, it's that life is short, you know? Why not do work that you care about, right? Life's too short to do a job that you're not passionate about., and we really think that the workforce is evolving to show that people are really looking to spend their time creating lives that they love, that they're passionate about, spending time on things that matter and working on something that they care about. Being at home with their families, making money. It’s all important.
But a lot of people, we've found — as we've talked to so many of you food entrepreneurs — a lot of people don't know how to do that. So many people are turning to remote work: a remote tech job, like I do, or maybe freelance work, maybe gig work like driving Uber or doing TaskRabbit.
These are all great routes, but they all have their problems. You know, remote jobs can bring a lot of stress. They can bring long hours. Gig work can be kind of unpredictable and a little inconsistent. That leaves people kind of in a tough place. They're taking the leap into remote jobs and they find that they're still unhappy, which is not great.
Really that's why we built Castiron. We wanted to help you build a business, creating something that you're passionate about, doing work that you love, instead of doing work that feels like a chore. So we've built technology to help you do that and make it really easy, make it really fast, so you can get up and running, make your money, do the things you love and get back to your family.
So we've created our small business management platform really to help you quickly and easily start, run and grow your food business. Our owners are selling food, of course, but they're also selling food classes, cooking classes, cookie decorating classes, tickets to other food-related events,, and a whole bunch more. And they're doing it all from the comfort of their home, which is amazing.
We really have built everything that you need to easily build and run your business, attract new customers and grow your revenue, make money. Things like a digital store builder, business management tools, inventory tracking, fulfillment management, order form management, things like that. We’ve also built marketing tools that don't require a marketing degree to use — things that that are making it easy for you to make more money. Our goal really is to help you run your entire business. We're not just a website builder, we're not just an online store, we want to do more with you. We want to help you grow.
All that said, of course, we're very focused on building technology that helps you achieve your goals and we’re always creating new features that help you do that.
A little bit about me: I joined Castiron as the second employee almost two years ago now, which is crazy. I joined because I love food, don't get me wrong, but also because I have a passion for helping entrepreneurs like you all succeed. I was lucky enough to do it in my previous job and I get to do it in a way that combines my love of food in this job, which is amazing. I don't have a food business of my own, but I really love supporting my local artisans at the farmer's market, on social media, and of course on Castiron. Even if I don't live near you but you ship, I've probably ordered from you. I also love cooking, I love going out to eat. I have a food Instagram showcasing the local restaurants in my area called tasteindianapolis, because I love food and I love sharing it.
With that, I will pass it over to Matt to introduce himself and show you Castiron.
Matt Renie: Awesome. Thank you so much, Emily. If we have any current and active Castiron users out there, we might have interacted at some point over a support ticket or a Facebook DM. If you're new to Castiron, great to meet you all! My name's Matt, I am a product manager and I was actually the first artisan to use Castiron. I sit in a really fun spot where I am a local food entrepreneur myself — I have a small kombucha business called Kultured Kombucha that I started during the pandemic, kind of as a hobby where my fiance and I were making kombucha, just because we liked it. And then all of a sudden it took on a whole life of its own, and the next thing I knew, I was the marketing and the accounts receivable department for a food business.
I had no idea what I was doing and I desperately needed a way to save myself time and to grow my business sustainably. I got to join the Castiron team almost, I guess, almost a year and a half ago. It's been the ride of a lifetime. It's been the best job I've ever had. We get to literally think day and night about how we can save you all time and give you tools to be better entrepreneurs and run a better business.
So, I'm going to take over the screen share, and I'm going to walk you through a couple of my favorite parts of Castiron.
My goal for this session is for you all to get every answer to every question you have about Castiron. We're going to answer some of that through the demo, but we would love for you to put any questions you have into the &A, and we'll either address those live or we'll get to them at the end. We're gonna save at least about 10 minutes at the end to make sure we address anything we didn't get to.
I'm sure like some of you all, I started out my business by doing DM-to-order. Every week, I would post on social media and say, “Hey, here are the kombucha flavors I have.” And then I would field this barrage of text messages and emails and orders coming in from all these different places.
I realized that was spiraling out of control, and was really hard to manage. What blew me away about Castiron from the get go was how quickly and how simply I could have a beautiful online storefront like I do today to power all of my sales, whether that's through my branding and my stickers or the fresh kombucha I have every week, where I need to closely manage my inventory so that I don't sell out.
I’m going to show you most of today's demo through another demo account, because our head of production (myself) has been very lazy recently, and I haven't been making as much kombucha as I should. This fall, we're ramping up for the winter, but I want to show you a couple of my favorite aspects of Castiron, and then open it up to questions.
To start, like I mentioned, Castiron first and foremost is the easiest online store builder you've ever used. I can say that confidently from my experience when I was starting my business. I was quickly overwhelmed when I wanted to go build a website. I went to Square, I went to Shopify, I went to Wix, I went to Squarespace, and those tools are easy enough to build, but I had no experience building my own website.
I didn't know how they worked. A lot of them were really built for products that shipped and weren't really built for local products, or to sell different things like classes and in person kits and even custom orders, or if somebody wanted to make a special order of my product. They all required some level of customization that I didn't have experience with.
I needed a quick plug-and-play template that I could get up and running on in 10 to 15 minutes. And that's exactly what I found in Castiron.
So what you're seeing on the screen here is a storefront. This is what your customer would see. A lot of your customers, if you already have a Castiron store, probably think that you built a completely custom website yourself. The beauty of it is that Castiron is organizing and displaying all this information for you. You just have to plug in a couple key assets to make this store look and feel like your own.
So I'm now on the admin side of Castiron. This is where you would live and breathe as a food entrepreneur to run your business.
I want to start and show you a little bit about how you can build your online store, and that all stems from the products page. So think of the products page as being where you can list all of the products that you sell, whether those are weekly macarons that you sell for a couple days for delivery, or if that's your Halloween cookie decorating class that you're planning to host at the end of the month, and you have a very finite number of seats that you don't want to oversell, all the way to your custom order forms.
If you are a custom baker, or an artisan that has highly customized individual sales, where you require certain information from your customer up front before you can even decide if you can take on that order, we can handle all of those scenarios and you can sell literally everything in your business from Castiron directly. We are built for food. Every single product you create, you can customize things like what icing flavors your customers should be able to choose from. Or how many cookies they can buy. You can also specify things like what allergens are in your food, what dietary trends are you following with the way you make your products.
We've made this dead simple. You can't break this. We need things like descriptions, a beautiful photo and setting an inventory, and there's no coding or customization you have to do at all. And if you're a custom baker, we've actually created a lot of templates to speed this up.
We've worked with thousands of people who sell custom sugar cookies and cupcakes and cakes, and we've seen a huge range of the questions people are asking of their customers. When they're making requests, we've standardized that and we've built the perfect order forms for you to use in your business.
That's the foundation of Castiron, your products. These are the items that your customers will interact with to either buy immediately or to request and ask you if you can fulfill that order.
I want to talk a little bit about how you can make your store look and feel like it's custom built to your brand.
So I came over here to our shop settings tab. This tab contains a lot of important information. I want to focus on two items here. The first is the appearance tab. This is where you can make your store look and feel exactly like it's custom built to your brand. This is where you can update things like cover photos.
If you've built a shop, you notice we've already given you a really professional looking photo based on the food you sell. You can update a photo of yourself so that your customer understands this is a local food business, and you're a solo entrepreneur selling these products. You can also update your logo.
Like I mentioned, you can't break this. There's nothing you can do to break our website template, it is foolproof. We need a couple of beautiful assets that represent your business and we'll organize the rest with no coding needed whatsoever.
We also have a photo gallery back in our shop settings page. This is where you can highlight all the beautiful work you’ve done. If you signed up for Castiron five, six months ago, we didn't have this. This is something that we were asked for by our customers time and time again, “we would love to show off more of our work.” So we've given you the option to build a beautiful photo gallery for you to show off the incredible work you do.
Those are just a couple pieces around how you'll build your shop in Castiron. If you haven't started a shop in Castiron, when you do, you're going to have this launch checklist. This is going to walk you through the really basic three to four steps that you need to complete, like adding your branding, building out your first couple products, dictating to your customers if you do pickup, delivery or shipping, and then setting up and getting paid.
We've got a really easy, simple checklist for you to follow. And literally within 30 minutes, you can be up and running with your own Castiron store. I want to pause there, and that kind of wraps up the idea around how you can build your online store.
The next piece I want to get into is how you can run your business and save so much time through Castiron. So I realized with my own business, when I was especially running my orders through DM to order, it quickly became an organizational nightmare. I had people text messaging me with what they wanted. I had people sending me emails. You know, if I saw my aunt in person, she'd say, “Hey, I want a bottle of kombucha” and hand me a $20 bill. And I was trying to juggle all this information around who ordered. “Do I still have that inventory? Did they want deliver? Did they even pay yet?”And that became such a nightmare.
I had to create this huge spreadsheet where I was tracking all of my customer information, what they were ordering, have I sent them a Venmo. I was creating work for myself.
Literally from day one that I started using Castiron, I started saving at least 15 minutes on every single order that came in because Castiron was automatically going to start organizing all that information for you with every order that comes in, it was going to collect payment, build your contact list for you with your customer's personal information, so you can reach out and market to them later. And we're going to tell you how they want that product based on the rules that you've set up. So if you do pick up and delivery, it's gonna be really obvious how your customer has opted to get their product.
If you sell custom products where you need to actually know more information from your customer before you can send them an invoice, our custom quotes feature is going to help you organize all that information. Our quotes feature is where you can see all of the new requests that you have coming into your business.
So, as an example, my friend Alex here requested some custom sugar cookies. Alex told me all of the details up front that I need to know around how many cookies. What's the theme? What type of cookies is he looking for? So now I have the power to accept this order and send Alex an invoice directly or decline it because it doesn't fit my schedule and I don't have the time to take on that order.
Especially if you're a custom seller, I would say we save you at least 20 to 30 minutes on every custom order.
This calendar feature that I just clicked into is a new feature. We're testing out that we'll be rolling out broadly here shortly. This is where you can plan for your upcoming orders. You can see every order that's coming up this week next week, even next month. As you have new orders coming in, you can stay really clear on if you have the ability to take on this new order. And you can see really quickly who's paid, who hasn't paid, who do I still need to send an invoice to, in a really tightly managed spot with all that info from one place.
I started saving so much time using Castiron and that's what I desperately needed as I went down my journey, because quickly my business was taking up too much of my time.
The final piece I'll touch on, and then we'll get to questions, is how you can grow your business through Castiron.
One of the biggest pain points for me was managing my customer list. As people were DMing me, as they were texting me, I didn't have one place to track who all my customers that had ordered were. When did they last order? How much have they ordered? How much have they spent, who are my top ordering customers? I had no clean way of understanding who am I allowed to actually send marketing emails to, and actually market to.
At checkout for every customer, we are having folks opt in to being on your marketing list so that you can start to build that email list and that SMS list to start to then send direct marketing out to your customer. We are building that email list, which is so important to growing any food business.
We're providing you the tools to actually put that list to use, where you can set up automated emails to go ahead and nurture your customers, bring them back into your shop, buy some of your seasonal products.
And we're giving you super easy to use social templates, where you can come in and, in a few clicks, share your products directly to Facebook and save you time and get your product out.
We have a ton of innovation coming, especially on the email marketing front. I definitely wanna step back and make sure we have enough time for questions. That concludes the core demo that I wanted to show you.
EB: Matt, we have got a couple of questions. First one is from Penny. If someone types my business into a search engine, will they find it, or do you need to have a link from Facebook or another website? Maybe touch a little bit on SEO.
MR: I would say that the best practice is to share your Castiron link literally everywhere — in your email signature, in your Instagram profile, your Facebook. A lot of our artisans, their customers are finding them through social media and then they're coming to their Castiron account from social media. That said we are investing more and more into SEO.
Right now I can't promise that you're going to be the first result that comes up on Google. If somebody types in your business name, we recommend you set up a Google My Business profile so that when folks search your brand name, you automatically come up. Over time, we're building more and more SEO capabilities to make sure you start showing up as the first Google result.
EB: We've got a question from Katrina about Stripe’s reporting. She wants to know if Stripe reports your business sales.
MR: Yes. So Stripe, now that we're in 2022, there is a threshold of $600. If you sell more than $600 through Stripe, you will get a 10-99K at the beginning of next year. That is the document they're sending to the IRS. And that's the document that will be your official report of how much you've made through Stripe. So Stripe is absolutely reporting on all of that data. And next year we'll be sending that to the IRS on your behalf. You'll probably have to fill out some forms as well, depending on your state, but Stripe is absolutely collecting all of that info and it's easily exportable, and we're gonna build a really slick UI around tax reporting as well. We're just not quite there yet.
EB: Leslie wants to know about customer lists. Can you take orders via text, or Cash App, or Apple Pay?
MR: Great question. Your customers, when they check out on your store, can pay through any major credit card, through Apple Pay, and through Google Pay.
We give them a lot of options. If they order through your store to check out easily today, there's no way for you to just create an order and mark it is paid in our system, but that's a huge priority of ours. We've heard time and time again that that's really important for our artisans.
Of course, we only make money when our artisans make money. We solely make money off a transaction fee, so we love when folks do transact through Castiron, but we know it's super important, especially for cash sales, that you can have a record to store that and to organize all your data. I would say probably in about two to three months, we're really going to focus on building out a solution for that, but I don't want to over-promise. It's not gonna be ready next week.
EB: One frequently asked question that I know we hear a lot is how do I get paid? When do I get paid? Can you explain a little bit about that?
MR: We work with Stripe. For those who haven't heard of Stripe, Stripe is one of the largest online payment processors in the world. They're super secure. I can promise if you've shopped online, you've paid through Stripe before — you just didn't know it. They're in the background. So you, as an artisan, when setting up your shop, will set up a Stripe account through Castiron. You will connect your bank account that you want your money sent to, and you don't have to go in and trigger payouts at all. Stripe will automatically send you the money that you're making through Castiron into your bank account directly. Right now we pay out on a weekly basis, so every Monday you get the prior week’s sales automatically sent over into your bank.
EB: We've got a question from Kemper. They have size variance for their pasta in sizes like 7.5 ounces, 16 ounces. How do you add those variants so that your customers can select a size?
MR: Definitely. Let me just pull up my screen one more time and Kemper, I think we've maybe had a support ticket on this, so I'd love to love to riff on this if this answer doesn't perfectly answer your question.
Within any product, you have the ability to add variations. So down here at the bottom, you can set up variations to ask your customers questions. Like “how many macarons are you looking for? What size of a pasta bag are you looking for?” This is an option that you could set up to basically utilize that use case.
If you wanted to, you could also set up individual products. A lot of folks would rather just set up individual products where this is their seven ounce pasta, this is their 12 ounce pasta, and this is their 16 ounce pasta. That option, setting them up as different products, may help you better manage your inventory in what product you have on hand.
EB: Katrina wants to know when calendar will be available.
MR: Yes, that's the million dollar question. We've rolled it out to a couple folks right now. Right now our calendar supports custom orders. So orders where you are receiving custom cookies and custom cake orders. We are working on some updates to make sure every order can be stored on Castiron. I would say we're probably like three to four weeks out from having that ability to get all of your orders in one place on the calendar.
That's when we'll be rolling it out more broadly.
EB: Lisa has a really good question. What happens if a customer disputes a charge? How is that handled by Castiron?
MR: Great question. I haven't seen this a ton, but we have seen it. In Stripe, on the Castiron side, we will get an alert saying somebody disputed a charge, so we will proactively reach out to you and your customer. Usually the way we'll handle it, our support team will reach out to you and say, “Hey, this customer disputed this charge. Here's what they said. Can you confirm you actually delivered this?”
We've had some folks who don't recognize the charge on their credit card. So they’re like “whoa, I got spammed. I don't know what happened.” And it turns out they just didn't, they forgot the name of the business they had ordered from and, you know, automatically disputed it through their bank.
If we get an alert, we'll reach out proactively to you to resolve that with your customer on a case by case basis. If for some reason, you know, your product was totally faulty, it totally broke. They need a refund, we handle that and we can trigger refunds from, from our end right now. And eventually we'll be giving you the ability to trigger refunds and handle those disputes.
What is shown on the credit card statement right now, it will say Castiron * and the name of your business. So when somebody buys from my business, it says Castiron * Kultured Kombucha. So we are appending to that charge the name of your business. We definitely want to figure out a way to get Castiron out of that because we don't want your customer to even know they're on Castiron. Our goal is to be the silent engine in the background and for your site to look and feel like your own custom site that you've built.
EB: If someone is not happy with a product, is the artisan liable for the amount disputed?
MR: Great question. I would say probably the short answer, I believe so. We would need to trigger a refund and make sure that the customer gets their money back. But we handle that on a case by case basis. We definitely advocate on the side of the artisan. We do not want customers using this as a way to defraud artisans and get free stuff. We have a support team here and ready to field all those questions. We don't treat support like, “Ugh, an artisan needs help, I have to go answer them.” We treat it as the best part of our day. Because that means we get to talk to you. We get to learn about what's important to you. We get to figure out, oh, what was confusing? What can we make a little clearer? So we have a really easy way to get in touch with us on your site. You'll see a little black chat bubble. You can click that bubble. You can direct message or email us. If you ever have a question and we'll send out our contact info, help at castiron.me, and you can email me directly, Matt at castiron.me, and we will get back to you. Usually within like 10 to 20 minutes, sometimes we'll be lazy and it'll take like 45.
EB: Yes, Matt gets compliments all the time for how speedy he replies. Matt and Lindsay are on our support team and they do an incredible job!
I've got another question. If technology is scary to you, if you are not a person who loves dealing with tech, can Castiron help you if you get stuck?
MR: Yes, absolutely. If you're in the process of building your store and you get stuck and you need help on a specific question, you can absolutely reach out to our support line. We'll help out if you want us to just walk you through the product for 30 minutes, maybe even an hour, depending on how many questions you have and answer every question and even help you set up your shop live. We are more than happy to do that. We think our product is super, super easy to use and we're making it easier and easier to use every day. But any questions you have, we wanna answer them whether live on a Zoom call or through our support channel anytime day or night.
EB: Katrina asked how do you connect with support?
Email us at help at castiron.me, or just use the little black chat bubble in the bottom right hand corner of the Castiron screen, that basically opens up a ticket on our end, and we'll be able to email or chat with you directly.
MR: Or find us on Facebook and send us a DM on our Castiron Facebook. Whatever way you want to get in touch with us, we will respond and respond very quickly. Find anything that says Castiron on the internet, send a question. We'll figure out how to get you a response very quickly.
EB: Leslie says Matt and Lindsay have been such a great help to me. That is excellent to hear. They have helped me too. Thank you, Leslie. Kemper asked, can you give a description of the best way to use the categories and labels for your shop?
MR: I like to organize these by seasons or types of products. So if you have specific custom orders, like I know you sell pasta, Kemper. So if you wanted a custom order request form for orders of more than 10 boxes of pasta, for customers to have to reach out and submit a quote request. And you need to know more details before you service that order, you can absolutely use them that way.
If you have different categories of flavors, you could also do it that way, so if you wanted, whole wheat pasta versus, you know, whatever other types of pastas you have, you could do that. It's really kind of a create your own adventure.
Some folks just don't even have any categories. They don't really organize it. They only have five to six products. You don't have to assign a category to a product, so if all of your products are uncategorized, we just won't show these headers and they'll all be visible in the same place in your shop.
EB: We have made our way through the question list., so if anyone else has any questions feel free at any time, reach us, reach out to us, uh, at help at castiron.me or on social media. We are delighted to help, truly, like Matt said. It’s the best part of our day, getting to chat with artisans.
Thank you all for joining. I encourage you, again, if you have any questions, if you have feedback, if you have suggestions for the product, please reach out to us. We love to hear it, and truly, that is how we get better and how we make a product that works for you. Matt, any closing words?
MR: If you Google us, Google Castiron, all one word. Our website is Castiron.me. If you just Google “cast space iron,” you might see a bunch of pictures of cast iron pans. So Castiron, all one word, and you'll be able to find us really easily. Thanks for being a part of this journey with us. It's literally the most fun all of us have ever had.