How The Spice Suite Sells Out Online in Minutes, Every Time
In August 2015, Angel Gregorio was a vice principal with an empty storefront and an off-the-cuff decision to start a spice shop.
Today, Gregorio has traveled to over 20 spice markets around the world, opened two successful sales channels, and runs a collective of entrepreneurs. The Spice Suite has sold over $2 million worth of products from both their eCommerce store and D.C. location.
Gregorio may not be a formal educator anymore, but we want to soak up everything she has to teach.
Watch The Spice Suite owner’s Wix Best Sellers interview. Then, check out her eCommerce success story and expert business tips below.
The start of a spice shop
We met with Gregorio in July 2020 at The Spice Suite in Takoma Park, D.C. Her spice shop’s motto is “Food is Fashion”—looking around, we believe it. Both the shop and TheSpiceSuite.com are decorated in trendy, warm neutrals and pops of color.
Gregorio herself arrived in bold specs and a dress that was literally created for her by a designer friend. Right away, we understood: anything connected to Gregorio is vibrant and inventive.
“I was exposed to spices in a different way. It just opened me up to a whole new world.”
In the past five years, Gregorio has completely changed her life. Before, she was an assistant principal. A few weeks before the school year started, she passed an empty storefront property and decided to call the agent on a whim. The real estate agent asked what she was planning. Just to get a quote, she said she was starting a spice business.
She’s still amused by the randomness of her choice. Yet the more Gregorio researched the industry and built her spice collection, the more her choice made sense. As she traveled the world to source spices, Gregorio discovered new cultures and unearthed flavors. “Food is my love language,” she explains. “Spices were something I serendipitously fell into, and I fell in love with it.” Immediately, she knew she had to bring her spice souk market experiences home.
Gregorio grew up five minutes away from her current storefront, and her family still lives in the neighborhood. Now that she lives a bit further away, she appreciates the opportunity to run a business in the community that raised her.
Two success stories with multichannel sales
As the business gained momentum, Gregorio saw new sales potential in both her brick-and-mortar location and online. On one hand, shoppers around the country found The Spice Suite on social media and came to visit the physical storefront. "People travel from California, from New York, from Ohio, from Philadelphia,” lists Gregorio. She brought these shoppers in with strong branding. She set high expectations, and knew she needed to exceed them.
She also needed to deliver, literally. Gregorio was getting messages from shoppers who couldn't travel the distance, but still wanted her spices. That’s when she realized that she could amplify her brick-and-mortar sales with eCommerce.
When she first decided to start an online store for The Spice Suite, she had her doubts. “I felt like I can't sell online and have a brick and mortar because it would be overwhelming.” Then, she started by selling 100 boxes a month. Once Gregorio saw how easily she could manage her business online, she leaned in.
The Spice Suite started increasing their sales capacity and selling 300-400 boxes every month. As the business grows, Gregorio keeps expanding her eCommerce website, adding videos, product collections and galleries. She appreciates how Wix’s online store templates organize the customer experience with distinct CTAs and pages: “I can clearly lay out who I am, what my business is, who I support, and how you get my product."
"To see the first online sale was just affirming. It made me think, you know what, if there's one, there are more."
Like Gregorio’s brick-and-mortar visitors, her online shoppers are up for adventure. She’s honored that they want to buy the box without tasting or smelling the spices inside. “They're willing to journey with us, and they take the box, and they love it,” Gregorio says.
“Most of our customers are repeat customers,” she pauses, grinning, “if they can get in on time."
Selling out in minutes
With online sales, Gregorio discovered an entire universe of potential. “Through my online store alone, we’ve sold over $500K worth of spices. That's so crazy,” she says.
Four times a month, Gregorio uploads hundreds of products to her online store. Every single time, she sells out within five minutes. “It's like a sport trying to get a spice box now because they sell out so quickly,” she says. “It never gets old."
“Through my online store alone, we’ve sold over $500K worth of spices.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Gregorio turned the shop into a warehouse and kept going. She started expanding The Spice Suite’s business model with even more spice boxes, oils and a collection of home goods.
Once she added store pickup, customers started lining up around the block.
On the first pickup day, Gregorio arrived at 9AM to start prepping for a noon opening. Hundreds of customers had been arriving since 6AM. “Before I knew it, I was getting messages from people who live on the Maryland side of Takoma sending me pictures of the line,” Gregorio says. “I’m amazed, and humbled, and grateful.”
“Because this happened so quickly, I am living a dream I didn't even know I had.”
With an influx of orders comes fulfillment responsibility. Gregorio makes sure her orders will be fulfilled efficiently before every product drop.
First, she announces the drop date on The Spice Suite’s social media. Then she creates the products on Wix, uploads images, edits product details and sets her inventory: “That way, the day of the spice drop, no matter what I'm doing, I literally just have to go into Wix and make it visible and save it, and folks are ready to purchase." Gregorio has boxes at the ready. When the orders come in, she and her team are ready to pick and pack.
Have spices, will travel
“This spice shop gives me the freedom to travel and do what I love.”
Of course, Gregorio’s travel plans have been put on hold. In the meantime, she already has her next four countries lined up, and she can’t wait. "There are spices everywhere,” says Gregorio. “It's up to me to go on the treasure hunt to find the best spices and buy them in bulk." One of the typical blends she showed us, for example, mixed pomegranate flowers from Dubai, black tea from India, and apricot from Morocco.
She also likes that she’s not the typical tourist.
Gregorio enters crowded markets with other travelers who purchase small jars of spices. “Then I come along and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, this cumin is amazing, can I get 10 kilos of it?'” Gregorio laughs, “and that’s just the beginning of my order.” In an instant, the tone switches. The market vendors start shuffling and prepare to negotiate. “It's always a fun experience seeing how the dynamics change and the different people that emerge from these back rooms."
Exploring spices in markets gives Gregorio insight into her own shoppers. She herself gravitates toward the best smells, most beautiful colors and strange new flavors. She brings all this back to her customers.
“I understand the customer experience because I’m a customer in other countries.”
Gregorio works with her customers to cook more creatively. "I think people who walk into this space know that they have to walk in open,” she says, “They know my personality from social media, and they see the way I engage with spices. I see the lightbulb go off when they're like, 'Wait, lavender? I can actually eat it and put it in food?’”
After that lightbulb goes off, The Spice Suite’s shopper become loyal, repeat customers: "They taste something and they're like 'This is really good, and I have no idea how she did this, but I want more.'"
Gregorio keeps her family close to her heart and close to her business. Her family members help her pack and fulfill each order. "Everyone has a part in the business, from my mom and my aunt who are employees, to my son who helps put together USPS boxes for 50 cents a box."
Every business trip to a spice souk doubles as a family travel opportunity. “This business is allowing me experiences that I didn't have as a kid and that I could never imagine providing for my kids,” Gregorio explains. As an educator, this is particularly meaningful: "I know that one day my son will be able to raise his hand in class and say, 'I climbed those pyramids, and I rode through that desert.'"
A dream incubator, from A to Z
Gregorio runs a fairly non-traditional team, and it all started with pop up shops.
When she first moved into her storefront, the space felt empty. She took this as a chance to support local merchants and invite them to pop up in her store. To date, The Spice Suite has hosted over 450 pop up shops. “This space has transformed from just a spice shop to a dream incubator,” Gregorio says, eyes gleaming. “That gives me more pleasure than anything.”
The Spice Suite website has been crucial to organizing the pop ups. Businesses can request a date on Gregorio’s site using Wix Bookings, saving her time and energy. “I get to accept it or deny it and I can reply to them with the terms of the pop up when I'm ready to accept it,” she explains. She accepts a booking, then the pop up shop is automatically added to a calendar on her website.
With The Spice Suite, Gregorio wants to create a legacy of uplifting other people. “The notion that you have to have a seat at the table before you bring somebody else is false,” she says. “You can absolutely bring people along as you climb your ladder to success, and that's exactly what I hope to do. We are journeying together."
“You can absolutely bring people along as you climb your ladder to success.”
From the pop up shops, a consistent group of merchants emerged. Gregorio developed that group into what she dubs the SpiceGirlin’ tribe.
The spice girls are a circle of female entrepreneurs of color. Gregorio gives them free, dedicated space in the Spice Suite to sell their own products. In return, they manage the store when Gregorio is traveling or spending time with her children. They passionately support each other’s businesses. Every month, the spice girls hold monthly professional development meetings in Gregorio’s house.
"Watching each of them I learned so much,” says Gregorio. “I see how they communicate with their customers and how they move online. They've been so instrumental in how my business is able to transform.”
“That collaborative completely changed the game for me and how I view this business.”
The spice girls also give each others’ businesses exposure. "We all have a collective spice girl page on which we share each other's products,” spice girl Sam Smith explains. “So we're able to help each other increase visibility, and ergo audience.”
‘Start now, perfect later’
At some points, speaking with Gregorio feels like listening to an inspirational talk. Her insights are well-suited to a world that’s been forced to slow down. She’s astonishingly good at living in the present.
Yes, Gregorio has plans. She intends to keep selling out monthly, support her spice girls and develop her business model. At the same time, she makes sure to appreciate every day: "While I love to continue to create, having to think about what's next in that bigger, broader sense kept me from enjoying all that I'm doing. It also made me feel like what I'm doing right now isn't good enough—and what I'm doing right now is absolutely good enough."
Gregorio’s business success stems from that philosophy. She started her business on an instinct, after all, and has been taking the cue from there: "The best advice that I give to people is always 'Start now, perfect later,'” she says. “I never got so tied up in the need to perfect it all. I'm here to say, 'Just start it. You can fix it along the way. If you build your tribe and your community, they will go along the journey with you.’"
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Marketing Writer, Wix eCommerce
Brielle is a Colorado native with a passion for innovation and helping to mobilize entrepreneurs. Brielle is a marketing writer for Wix eCommerce, which powers over 700k online stores worldwide.