Dan the Sausageman: Creative Growth Strategies of an E-Commerce Pioneer

July 21, 2020

Dan the Sausageman with two gift boxes
Image Credit: Dan the Sausageman

Dan House learned the importance of first impressions in 1988, when he was selling sausages and snacks door to door in Seattle. Upon entering an office, he’d say, “I am Dan the Sausageman”, get a few laughs, and make a few sales.

With that, a company was born—one that would ultimately become an early e-commerce business. Today, Dan the Sausageman products are listed side by side with brand names like Hickory Farms and Harry & David on Amazon.

But, as Dan freely admits, “at first there was no rhyme or reason. I just needed a job after I came home from Europe so I started selling beef jerky out of my car.”

The door to door approach sustained Dan for over a decade, but by the start of the new millennium he was interested in being part of the “wave of the future.” That meant selling his sausages online in gift boxes.

“I started out selling individual sausages,” says Dan. “But as I developed these relationships with business owners from my door to door sales, they started wanting gift boxes for their vendors and employees.”

The website was a hit right away and saw great success in its first year in sales. As an early adopter of the e-commerce approach, he reaped the benefits.

“But then the other guys started getting in on it,” says Dan, “so I partnered with 1-800-FLOWERS.”

Once again, Dan’s instincts were right on. By including his gift baskets as options on massive floral and gourmet food gifts distributer’s platform, he “put the business on the map.” Significantly, 1-800-FLOWERS’ presence on the US East Coast helped Dan the Sausageman to become more of a nationally recognized brand.

three different gift baskets from Dan the Sausageman
Image Credit: Dan the Sausageman
Custom Printed Boxes Manufactured By: Great Little Box Company (GLBC)

“At the time, there were about 8 other partners with gift baskets on 1-800-FLOWERS and I’m sure we were the smallest one,” he says. “But because we’d already been running our own website and had lots of experience with shipping, we were ready for the opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Dan the Sausageman’s own e-commerce site continued to develop slowly. But because other e-commerce companies were popping up in the gourmet foods space and out-spending him on advertising, drop-shipping relationships remained important.

“We made less per unit through drop-shipping but the big companies like 1-800-FLOWERS grew our name,” says Dan. “And eventually, we wore down our competitors.”

It was “decades ago” when Dan first connected with Great Little Box Company (GLBC). According to him, the partnership that developed between the two businesses has been an important one for Dan the Sausageman’s success.

“I don’t know the box business,” says Dan, “but GLBC sure does. I’ve always been impressed with how interested your people are in adding value at every stage- from sizing and weight, to additions like tissue paper.”

two different packaging options for sausage gift boxes
Image Credit: Dan the Sausageman
Tissue Paper and Custom Printed Tubes Supplied By: Great Little Box Company (GLBC)

Dan articulates the challenge of packaging e-commerce products, especially gourmet food products, like this: “How do we create perceived value?” Design, materials, details like ribbons, notes, and tissue paper that creates layers to unwrap help make a $50 gift box worth its price point.

“I also appreciate the fact that GLBC warehouses the shipping materials for us,” says Dan. “Space is always limited, so that’s a huge cost saving for us.”

The gift box model works well for Dan the Sausageman and the company has no plans to pivot into an approach like monthly subscriptions. But they still “change things up”, says Dan. For example, they’re currently working (alongside GLBC) on a more “gender neutral” gift box to connect with more customers and intend to expand their corporate gifting offerings.

Among our many e-commerce clients, Dan the Sausageman holds a special place in our hearts. Decades of watching Dan grow his business through creative and forward-thinking strategy has been inspiring. Find their delicious gift boxes at danthesausageman.com.

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