965 Cd 2020 March Case Study Images Plain Jane Hemp Laptop Mt@2X

Plain Jane Sees Green as Business Grows With BigCommerce

How a CBD store amplified its growth after migrating from Shopify to BigCommerce


280%$3,5006.5%
increase in YOY revenue since March 2019monthly cost savings with BigCommerceconversion rate


Metrics reflect online store sales from September 2019–March 2020.


From Humble Beginnings to a CBD Powerhouse

Most people would be surprised to hear about a CBD business beginning in the founder’s parent’s house, but for Plain Jane Hemp co-founders Evan Marshall and Lindsey Holthaus, that’s exactly what happened. 

The year was 2018. California had just legalized the use of cannabis, and Evan and Lindsey were confident they were going to start a cannabis-related venture. Instead, the pair found themselves fascinated with CBD and the crazy mismatch between the economics of CBD and the prices people were charging for the product. They saw an opportunity and jumped in head first. 

Evan and Lindsey moved to a small hemp farm in Southern Oregon, and began growing the business from a trailer on the property. Running a CBD business in the middle of nowhere was an unfamiliar experience for a city dweller like Evan. Not only did their trailer have no plumbing, forcing Evan and Lindsey to rely on a combination of Porta Potty and showering at the gym, but the pair constantly had to remain vigilant of wolves, which were a huge problem in the area. 

Those early days were lean. So lean, in fact, that their early office was a converted horse stall—it was where all of the original packaging and fulfillment took place. While Evan and Lindsey had limited financing scrapped together from friends and family, they had enough to launch a website. They started selling online and built the company vertically-integrated down as sales grew

In March 2019, the company opened its own manufacturing facility, and just over six months later, Evan and Lindsey bought their first farm. Today, Plain Jane has 16 full-time employees supporting the business and is bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly sales. Little by little, Plain Jane grew from its humble beginnings to a CBD powerhouse.

Solid Payment Processing = The Key to CBD Sales

As told to BigCommerce by Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO.

We actually started out on Shopify. The biggest challenge by far was payment processinga lot of CBD companies will tell you the same story; we were really limited by the payment processing options that Shopify supports. There are some really common payment options that Shopify doesn’t support, including Square, which was the first large company to get into payment processing for CBD

Beyond the payment processing, we weren’t sure that we could even use Shopify as a host. We saw several companies doing business very similar to what we were doing having their sites randomly closed down. That never happened to us, but being on a platform like Shopify felt like we were building our company on someone else’s whims—and we could be shut down at any point. We really needed the features of a platform like Shopify and the ability to build things out quickly, but there was just too much uncertainty around even being allowed on the platform, and payment processing became impossible. 


BigCommerce’s Commitment to Openness, Transparency and Ongoing Improvement Sealed The Deal

As told to BigCommerce by Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO.

One of the biggest things we looked for in a new platform was a richness of features. Immediately, we knew we weren’t interested in a custom site or a platform like WooCommerce because, honestly, their stores do worse. But with BigCommerce, we saw the constant platform updates that improve the site as a huge benefit. There are all these SEO optimizations and other technical details underlying the website that can really affect its performance—you could really do something wrong when doing it yourself. On BigCommerce, we knew that we would get updates and problems would just be fixed without us really having to do anything. That was a really big benefit. 

Also, once we had secured payment processing initially but had no volume and no ability to negotiate, we took whatever deal we could get. We were paying 7% fees with a 10% reserve, and then Shopify would take half a percent of your transactions. That was a hidden fee that a lot of people don’t understand about Shopify—the way it makes money isn’t really the subscription, it’s the fees. At our scale, we were doing $80K-$100K each month, so the pricing made much more sense on BigCommerce. The Enterprise plan was so much more cost effective for our needs. Not to mention, I found a lot of relief in the team’s transparency about the business and their promise about never leaving us hanging without a storefront.  

Customer service has been a big point of satisfaction for us as well. I prefer to make large site changes in the middle of the night to avoid any disruptions to customers, so there were several times when it would be 2am and something went wrong with the DNS changes I was making. I was always able to call BigCommerce support and immediately talk to a real person to help resolve the issue. The 24/7 human touch was a big value add for me.

“Customer service has been a big point of satisfaction for us... I was always able to call BigCommerce support and immediately talk to a real person to help resolve the issue. The 24/7 human touch was a big value add for me.”Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO

Rich Integrations Support Much-Needed CBD Opportunities

As told to BigCommerce by Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO.

Payment processing is such a pain in CBD—you really want to make sure your chargeback rate is as low as possible—so one of the most important tools we use is an app called NoFraud. It works so well with BigCommerce. NoFraud sits on top of our payment processing and adds a loop to our order status that helps us verify an order’s validity before fulfillment. 

On Shopify, we found that an order was either considered “good” or it was cancelled; there was no support for custom workflows, and therefore, no middle ground if an order appeared suspicious. This forced more complicated, customized workflows within our customer service and production teams. When you’re running a company shipping hundreds of orders each day, it really helps to have the ability to add custom order statuses so that we didn’t accidentally ship the order without confirming order authenticity first. NoFraud and BigCommerce gave us the ability to create custom order statuses and workflows, and the best part is that it doesn't negatively impact any of our practical apps, like our shipping fulfillment software ShippingEasy, in the process. I’m also a big fan of Trustpilot for third-party reviews. I don’t like to pay for reviews, but prefer to have the products speak for themselves. Trustpilot was a great way to regain control and secure a legitimate review source that had the SEO to beat out some of the other CBD sites that only write good reviews for brands that pay.

“NoFraud and BigCommerce gave us the ability to create custom order statuses and workflows, and the best part is that it doesn't negatively impact any of our practical apps, like our shipping fulfillment software ShippingEasy, in the process.”Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO
At our current revenue level, we save about $3,500 a month being on BigCommerce versus Shopify, both because we no longer have fees associated with transactions and because, with BigCommerce, we can come on as an Enterprise brand and create a longer-term deal. Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO
965 Cd 2020 March Case Study Images Plain Jane Hemp Tablet Mt@2X

A Migration That’s Worth Its Weight In KPIs

As told to BigCommerce by Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO.

At our current revenue level, we save about $3,500 a month being on BigCommerce versus Shopify, both because we no longer have fees associated with transactions and because, with BigCommerce, we can come on as an Enterprise brand and create a longer-term deal. 

Since migrating to BigCommerce in September 2019, I think we’ve just about doubled the size of our business. Plus, our conversion rate in March alone has gone up from 5.7% to 6.55%. BigCommerce gives you insight into the metrics, and as a business owner, that’s something you’re always looking at. I really like the BigCommerce insights tool. In particular, I appreciate that BigCommerce provides LTV analysis. It’s not something I saw in Shopify, and it really gives you a lot of confidence to understand how much you can profitably spend on marketing.


Using Technology to Build a Bigger Future

As told to BigCommerce by Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO.

Your website is incredibly important, but for a company like ours, we also have a farm, a manufacturing facility and an order fulfillment center. There’s a whole world that exists outside of the internet, and the biggest thing BigCommerce has done for us is allow us to worry less about the website and know that, on the back end, it’s going to be constantly improving.

As a business owner, I wear many different hats. To have a platform that I don’t have to worry about, and just know that it is going to work, is huge. 

On the online side, I’m a programmer by nature. I build custom tools and pages, sometimes just as a fun marketing opportunity. BigCommerce doesn’t get in your way if you want to dive into the code, but it also enables you to make really big changes easily. The combination of having apps to enable low-effort big changes while not obfuscating or preventing access to the code is super useful for me.

As a programmer, it’s really tempting to build your own site. When we were starting Plain Jane, I spent a week thinking about it—and I’m really glad we decided to go this route.  Now, we just want to double down on our efforts to grow. We think this market is going to continue to expand. We’re even planning to open our own fulfillment center on the East Coast to reduce shipping time to East Coast customers. The physical part of this—finding a location, getting licenses, hiring a team, etc.—is hard, but the BigCommerce software is so easy, so we’re excited for that.

“As a business owner, I wear many different hats. To have a platform that I don’t have to worry about, and just know that it is going to work, is huge.”Evan Marshall, Plain Jane Hemp Co-Founder and CTO

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