The DermWarehouse Story
- By Dr. Alan J. Parks
- August 5, 2020
For those of you who have shopped with DermWarehouse before, you probably know that we’re a family-owned business. You have likely talked to Stefanie (that’s me!) on the phone, asked questions to Dr. Parks, looked at our family photos, and have gotten emails to celebrate our birthdays. It’s also likely, however, that you don’t know the full story of how DermWarehouse came to be. We thought it was time to share!
In 2010, Jason and I started a digital marketing agency, The Media Captain. It started out as an agency to help companies with videos and social media, but quickly evolved into a full service digital agency, helping clients with everything from online advertising to search engine optimization, to web development and more. Around this time, eCommerce was starting to take off and Jason and I began working with some eCommerce businesses.
As you know, our dad (Dr. Parks) founded Eastside Dermatology in 1987 and has been practicing there ever since. For the 30+ years he’s been in practice, he’s sold 5-10 brands of skin care products in his office. While the selection wasn’t very large, his patients relied on the products they got from him and they greatly valued his advice and recommendations.
GETTING TO KNOW ALAN: You have to understand what it’s like growing up as a kid of a dermatologist. If we’d go to the pool, we’d have to wear a t-shirt into the pool with blue (or maybe pink) zinc oxide on our faces. We’d have to reapply sunscreen every 60-90 minutes when we were outside. Yes, even when it was cloudy or freezing outside. There was no greater fear growing up in our house than getting caught without sunscreen, or even worse, with a sunburn! It’s funny that our dad’s favorite hobby, golf, is played outdoors, but he has never played 18 holes without his big golf hat and without applying sunscreen at least twice.
The Big Idea:
In 2012, Jason had an idea. He came to me one day and said, “Hey, why don’t we start an eCommerce business selling skin care products. Between our experience on the digital side and dad being a dermatologist, I think we could really have something there.” I thought it was a great idea. We quickly realized that not just anyone could buy the professional strength skin care products we were wanting to sell – you HAD to have a dermatologist on board. When we learned that, we knew this was going to be something really special. We purchased a domain name (dermwarehouse.com!) and got to work putting the pieces in place, but then things really started to take off with The Media Captain, and we didn’t have the time we needed to focus on DermWarehouse.
Jump ahead to 2015. The Media Captain was still growing but I had taken a step back and was ready for a new project – Enter (again) DermWarehouse. I remember getting a text from Jason one day saying, “Remember DermWarehouse? It’s time to start that.” And this time we did.
We spent the next year preparing. You don’t really think about all the work that goes into launching an eCommerce business, but there was a lot to be done. First, we started building the website and reaching out to the brands that we wanted to work with. Initially, we got in touch with the brands that our dad had relationships with already and carefully curated our selection of brands from there. We started with about 20 brands on the DermWarehouse site and I personally set up each and every product page with all the information you now see on our website. It was time consuming, but this is what really taught me everything I know about all the products we sell! After about a year, in November 2016, we were finally ready to launch.
GETTING TO KNOW STEF: A little fun fact you probably don’t know about me. When Jason and I decided to start DermWarehouse (for real), I was actually living in Thailand teaching English. Since there is a 12-hour time difference, at the beginning, I was waking up multiple times every night to organize all the orders, talk to customers, and order inventory. We had someone from our dad’s office helping pack the orders coming in, but we quickly realized that I needed to move home to run the business. DermWarehouse not only brought me back to the U.S., it brought me back home to Columbus, Ohio, where our entire family lives. I never thought I’d live in Columbus but I couldn’t be happier being around my family. I also met my husband-to-be in Columbus 🙂
Many people think that when you start an eCommerce business, the most important factor is the website. Of course, your business wouldn’t exist without a functioning site where people can purchase their products. But, if you think that you just press the “on” button on your site and things start to happen, customers start flooding in the doors, you’re wrong (if only it was that simple!). This was when our real work began, as now, we had the site ready to go, but we had to find our customers (our DermWarehouse family!).
The real beauty of DermWarehouse is the synergy that exists between this business and our family’s other businesses (the digital agency and the derm office). Lucky for us, getting new customers in the door is what The Media Captain specializes in.
GETTING TO KNOW JASON: Jason’s expertise is on the marketing side, not skincare. While his Agency, The Media Captain, was named a Top 1% Agency in the U.S. and he can answer any question about our top selling products on Google, don’t ask Jason about his skincare recommendations. You can leave that up to Dr. Parks and myself! What’s funny is that since Jason is the son of a dermatologist, a lot of people (mainly his wife’s friends) ask him for product recommendations. He’ll be the first to admit he has little to offer. I should point out that Jason and I record a weekly marketing podcast. While Jason may not know much about the skin care side of things, I do happen to know a thing or two about marketing!
We ramped up our online advertising as soon as we launched our site, and on November 26, 2016 (the day before Thanksgiving), DermWarehouse got its first order from Dupont, Washington. From there, the orders slowly started coming in. Some days we’d get one order. Some days we’d get three. Other days, we’d get none. At the time, I was working out of our dad’s practice, and we kept our inventory lined up in bins in my mom’s office (she also works at the dermatology practice).
GETTING TO KNOW ROBIN: Our mom is the best. She will say yes to ANYTHING if it means helping her family. When you have a business to run, this is a crucial component. If USPS doesn’t make it to our office by the end of the day, it’s our mom who will put all of the products in her car and drive them to the post office. When the alarm goes off at night or someone forgets their key, it’s my mom who takes care of it. There have been times when I’m so busy I don’t have time to run to the grocery store or put gas in my car, but my mom is there to help so I can focus on the business. She’s always been the glue that holds our family together in every way possible.
Slowly but surely, we started to grow. Slowly but surely, my mom’s little office started to overflow with products. After about 6 months, we outgrew our dad’s office and had to move into our own office, which luckily just so happened to be right next door. We hired our first full-time employee to help me pack up orders and every day something new happened. Every day, we’d find new tips and tricks to help improve our process. We were constantly evolving and constantly growing. Not only were we getting more new customers by the day, but the customers who had shopped with us before were coming back to shop with us again!
Since day one, customer service has always been our top priority. We treat our customers how we would want to be treated if we were shopping on another online site. We talk to people, we listen, we care about the people who shop with us. We’ve built relationships with so many men and women around the country and we can’t tell even begin to explain how much these relationships mean to us. For the first couple years that DermWarehouse was in business, all of our business calls came through my cell phone. I spoke to every single customer and many of them still call my cell phone to this day whenever they’re placing an order. While I don’t take all of our calls anymore, I still love speaking to customers, giving advice, and continuing these relationships that I spent years building.
I’ll never forget when we signed up for TrustPilot and started collecting reviews for our company. I had worked so hard to build a rapport with our customers and thought I was doing everything right, but our first few months of collecting reviews were nerve-wrecking for me. I was scared of having reviews come in and finding out that people weren’t as happy as I thought they were. The reviews started pouring in though and it turns out I didn’t have to worry at all. The extra mile I knew I was going for each and every one of our customers was paying off and people were noticing the service they were getting. They were able to see how much thought and care we put into each and every transaction that comes through our site.
Whether it’s giving initial advice about products, making sure packages get shipped as quickly (and accurately) as possible, handling returns and exchanges, or just generally being there for our customers for whatever they need, our philosophy of how we always strive to treat our customers was working. Now, thousands of reviews later, we know we’re still doing it right because our customers tell us so!
Our customers have become our family and that’s something that will never change. We love being able to help people solve their skin issues, making recommendations, and generally just helping people feel better about themselves. This is what brought us from our first customer in Dupont, Washington, to the over 75,000 customers we have today. We can’t wait to continue to grow our network, meet and help new people, and show everyone the DermWarehouse family treatment that our customers have come to know and love.
As much as DermWarehouse couldn’t exist without our amazing customers, it also couldn’t exist without all of the great people working behind the scenes. Since we strive for perfection in all that we do, having a great team working for us each and every day is crucial. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes in everything we do here. From packaging to fulfillment to customer service to inventory management to web development and so much more, there are a million moving pieces and our team here makes sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
It’s one thing to be able to find people to help out and do the work. That’s the easy part. It’s a whole other thing completely to find a group of people who see and understand our vision for what we want DermWarehouse to be. We’ve found those people. They see our vision and are helping us each and every day to turn our vision into reality. They not only care about their jobs, but they care about the company, our customers, and each other.
When our customers call in and there’s something wrong with an order, a package was lost, something arrived damaged, someone wasn’t happy – our team of course is here to solve those problems, but they also care so much about why they happened in the first place and ensuring they don’t happen again. They know our customers by name, make sure each and every person and order is taken care of, and have truly made DermWarehouse into what it is today.
We have support here from every angle. We not only have the digital support of The Media Captain team but we have great people in shipping, fulfillment, customer service, etc. This makes all the difference and we truthfully would not be where we are now without each and every one of them. I certainly wouldn’t have a life outside of work without them, that’s for sure!
Growing The Business:
While our customer service mentality has never changed, there definitely has been a lot over the years that has changed. If you were one of our early customers, you may remember getting packages from us with labels that had been taped on the box. We used to cut out every single label and tape them on the boxes. Then we got a label printer. And it was life changing!
The improvements in our processes over the years have made undeniable differences in our business. From implementing an inventory management software, to improvements in packaging, to finding the best tape out there, to hiring great people, every little change makes a huge difference in how we run our business. These are the changes that helped us get from selling one product per day to hundreds. We are always trying to solve problems, make our process better, and provide the overall best experience possible.
The Parks family has gone from selling 5 skin care products a day at Eastside Dermatology to hundreds a day at DermWarehouse. We went from carrying 20 brands and inventory stacked up in the corner of a tiny back corner office to carrying over 100 brands and thousands of products, inventory filling every room in our office. We went from a small local startup to a national eCommerce brand. And guess what? We’re just getting started!
In 2019, our family launched Park Perfection, our own skin care line. We developed this based on the feedback of our DW customers and our dad’s patients. We launched our first product, Instant Eye Lift, and at the time I’m writing this article (August 2020), we have 5 exciting new products on the way! We’re so excited to see what’s in store for DermWarehouse and Park Perfection and we can’t wait for all of our amazing customers and staff to be along with us for the ride! You can also read the full story about how we launched Park Perfection.
Since Jason and I were kids, we’ve always been taught the importance of taking care of our skin and using great products. We’re so excited and proud that we get to carry on the lessons our dad taught us over the years. We’re even more excited to share them with our customers! We can’t wait to continue building new relationships, improving our processes, finding amazing new brands, growing our own skin care line, and continuing to build and grow DermWarehouse. As we grow we know that things will continue to change and evolve. There are a few things, however, that we know will always remain the same: Our dedication to our customers, appreciation of our staff, and our promise to always provide the best of the best when it comes to all things skin care.