Keyword domain – up in smokeMike Sullivan
Matt Hampton is originally from California but has lived on the east coast for a little over 20 years. He found a good opportunity to go to art school out in Connecticut where he met his wife and original business partners, and acquired two fine art degrees during his stay. Although he doesn’t often get the å to be all that artistic these days, he is an artist through and through.
Matt moved to New York City in the late 90’s for the Internet boom and subsequent bust. “It was a good learning experience and a lot of fun but ultimately not very productive.” It did, however, launch his web design company which he has been doing that ever since. Matt has a great deal of history in the digital production space. This definitely helps when working to develop a new website property. Pairing that with his fine art backdrop has made for a great combination.
Mike: You’ve got a great domain name with Headshop.com. Can you tell me how you acquired it? The process you went through?
Matt: Sure. My college roommate’s older brother was a domainer early on. I believe when NetSol went public he bought a ton of domains and Headshop was amongst them. I had an interest in the domain for years and one day we just struck a deal. I originally bought the domain with an old business partner who ended up not working out. Shortly afterwards, we parted ways and I got Headshop fully on my own.
Mike: You’ve got a nice, clean site. Products, news, blog posts. Can you share the volume of traffic you see on a monthly basis?
Matt: This version of the site is actually our second life. The original version was a very different business model and at a different time in history. This version only relaunched over the summer so we are rebuilding traffic patterns now. On general though we tend to do pretty well on traffic even with zero advertising.
Mike: What’s been your biggest challenge with owning a domain name like headshop.com? Do people pass judgement on you?
Matt: During the first iteration it was the obviousness of the domain. It was at a much stricter time in the world and there were far less by way of medical marijuana laws not to mention the recreational laws. During this time there was a lot more sideways looks for sure. Oddly though, even then, you would laugh at how many people truly loved the project but wouldn’t say so too loudly. No one judges me anymore though for sure. Seems everyone loves the subject matter these days.
Now these challenges are far less but finding good quality products from reputable vendors to populate the site is not as easy as it looks. This industry still has a big mix of characters when it comes to who you’re dealing with. I always want Headshop to bring only quality products from good people to the marketplace. This is the focus now.
Mike: I notice you don’t sell things I would typically think of when I think of a headshop. No smoking apparatuses. Why is that?
Matt: Well I would say that is just a “right now” thing. The long-term aspiration of the site is to absolutely include a broader range of products. At the moment however, and revisiting the last comment, finding quality sources to fill that particular void has been a bit of a challenge. With so many products flooding the market these days, finding a good balance between product selection, quality, and fortitude of character is definitely a constant issue to contend with. We currently have a great number of products in the pipeline to add to the website so in the next few months the product offering is likely to change quite a bit. I think you will see more of the products you are referring to start to surface.
Mike: Do you own any other domains?
Matt: Yes, my other company is actually a web design company. I have other domains for sure but none that I currently intend on pursuing as a business. Also, I am definitely not a domainer by any stretch of imagination. The other domains that I have are a mix between spontaneous ideas had for cool business ideas, personal hobby interests, and pet projects sitting on the shelf awaiting their time in the sun. Nothing like Headshop though. Although there are some in there somewhat related that I am very excited about doing sooner rather than later.
Mike: How active are you on promoting the site via social media?
Matt: The first time we ran Headshop there was really no such thing as social media; at least not in the way we think about it now. To that end we really didn’t do anything in that realm the first time. Clearly that is not the case these days and the focus is shifted quite a bit in that direction. The long-term success of this project is definitely going to rely on social media. Of particular interest at the moment is Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. As our original content channels open up more, these will take a more prominent position in our approach for sure.
Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?
Matt: This project is very near and dear to me. My long term objectives for the project include a heavy philanthropic slant so I hope that once we have more of the product line worked out, we can focus more heavily on the charity component of ordering with us. Currently a portion of every order goes to a charity. The next step is to allow users to suggest charities they think are worthy. The idea is to rotate then monthly or quarterly. Also, a few of those domains you asked about are actually philanthropic endeavors related to Headshop. I really feel that building a culture of giving back will be important in the long run. Past that, I envision Headshop really being helpful to people in the sense of sorting out the good from the bad and bringing that information to one place. This is a space I love and this version of the site is the exact place I want to be right now. The next few years are going to be very interesting for sure. It is an exciting time to be involved in this space.