“For us to reach thousands of customers, we have to be online. We would not be in our position without a web presence that puts us out there all the time.”Kirk Anton
Kirk Anton returned to Fargo in 2009 because of his father’s ill health. With the city faring better than many others during the recession, he decided to stay and look around for local business opportunities. Because Kirk had experience in warehouse distribution, his friends suggested that he create a one-stop shop for heat transfer materials used in the garment and textile decorating industries. He took their advice and, together with Co-founder Tricia Huson, launched Heat Transfer Warehouse in 2010. “It was just us, the dog, and a telephone,” Kirk recalls. “We began importing heat-applied films, reducing them to the quantities and sizes people wanted, and calling potential clients.”
Heat Transfer Warehouse has had a website since day one but did not begin marketing online until 2013. AdWords, Google’s advertising program, “was the first platform we went to,” Kirk says. “I remember setting up our first ad campaign and waking up the following morning to a $700 sale. That was a magical moment for us, because we realized then that we could market our products 24/7.” By April of the following year, Heat Transfer Warehouse stopped taking orders over the phone and went completely digital. About 35 percent of the company’s sales now come through AdWords. “And we get about seven to twelve times the return on investment,” Kirk notes. They have added Google Shopping campaigns to their advertising mix, optimize their web presence using insights from Google Analytics, and even share helpful content like heat application tutorials on YouTube.
The company today is on a “hyperbolic growth curve,” says Kirk. They have averaged 70 percent growth over the past four years, and have gone from “two people and their dog” to a forty-person team. With locations in Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, and North Dakota, they now service over 85,000 customers across the globe. To fellow entrepreneurs who wish to follow in their footsteps, Kirk recommends “surrounding yourself with people you can learn from and who will support you.” For Kirk and Tricia, that sense of community came from the people of Fargo. “Everyone here wants you to succeed, and they want to hear your story. It’s like a big small town in that sense,” he explains. “So it means a lot that we’re able to grow in Fargo, hire local students, and contribute to the city’s entrepreneurial energy. It’s the best part.”