Behind the Shop - Mark Shesser, Coldsmoke Creative

5 min read
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In our Behind the Shop series, we take a closer look into the people that have been building your favorite online stores.

The ecommerce and online shopping revolution rages on. We usually only encounter the storefronts, so we asked ourselves: who are the storebuilders behind the scenes? And what can they teach us about building the perfect online store?

This time around, we talked to Mark Shesser, founder and CEO of Coldsmoke Creative. This US-based agency offers full-stack web design and development services for Shopify businesses.

Hi Mark! Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m the founder and CEO of Coldsmoke Creative, a Shopify Plus partner specializing in the custom design & development of ecommerce stores.

I was born & raised in Washington, DC, where I now live again with my wife and 2 year old daughter (1 more on the way!) after stints in Seattle and Telluride, Colorado.

Behind-the-Shop-Mark-Shesser-Coldsmoke-Creative-The-Clear-CutColdsmoke Creative Shopify setup for: The Clear Cut

What’s the biggest challenge your agency struggled with recently?

I think, like a lot of folks in the ecommerce space, we experienced a lot of growth in 2020. Our agency is almost unrecognizable when compared to itself this time last year. We have new team members, new clients, and new partners.

On balance this is a great thing, but it also comes with new challenges. I think the fast growth combined with the pandemic lead to a higher risk of burnout. I know I’ve felt it, and other members of our team have as well.

Our team is so dedicated, which I think is one of our differentiators, but the higher volume of work, which has been more technical and more complex, amidst a global pandemic where it was harder to travel, take a vacation, or even leave your house, made it so work was an “easy” escape, until it was all-consuming.

Behind-the-Shop-Mark-Shesser-Coldroom-Creative-QuoteClick to Tweet

And what steps did you take to overcome this challenge?

We’re still working through it honestly. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of everything feeling urgent when you’re working on client work. There are launches and deadlines, and it can become easy to forget to take some time off.

We are working on some initiatives to ensure that everyone takes a proper amount of vacation and time away from work so that they can do their best work when they’re “at” work.

Behind-the-Shop-Mark-Shesser-Coldsmoke-Creative-ILIAColdsmoke Creative Shopify setup for: ILIA Beauty

More about Coldsmoke Creative. Why do people come to your service and how can you help them?

We’re Shopify Plus partners, meaning we provide a very high level of service to Shopify Plus merchants. In particular, we’re excited by developing Shopify Plus sites that excel at performance, accessibility, and maintainability.

We can help people migrating to Shopify Plus from other platforms or with theme rebuilds if they’re already on Shopify. We help improve their business by making their sites as fast as possible by following all of Shopify’s best practices.

Behind-the-Shop-Mark-Shesser-Coldsmoke-Creative-St-FrankColdsmoke Creative Shopify setup for: St. Frank

We are also agency partners with Nacelle and Shogun Frontend for helping certain clients build highly performant, headless storefronts on top of Shopify Plus.

Which circumstances make for the most productive relationship with a client. Could you share your thoughts on this?

Transparency, communication, but also guardrails and guidelines. Anyone in the agency world has probably had a “bad client.” Often, this is simply a product of not setting expectations early and falling back on them.

We haven’t done this yet, but another agency owner I spoke with recently actually has examples of “good” communication as part of their MSA. It includes screenshots of good Slack messages vs. inappropriate ones.

Then they ask the client to sign/acknowledge it, and if there is ever a problem they can always refer back to the document they signed. I think this is brilliant!

How do Shopify and social shopping support each other? Any valuable insights into where this is going in 2021 and beyond?

Shopify is essentially on a quest to put their checkout everywhere. You’re seeing this now with Shop Pay being added to Facebook and Instagram Shops, and Google Shopping.

This trend will continue and it increases the value of Shopify to merchants because the more places where people can easily buy your products, the better.

Behind-the-Shop-Mark-Shesser-Coldsmoke-Creative-MashburnColdsmoke Creative Shopify setup for: Sid Mashburn

Shoppers also win because it makes the purchasing process easier and more seamless, particularly if you have your payment/shipping information saved within Shop Pay.

What are you doing to stay relevant to Coldsmoke Creative, personally? And what’s Coldsmoke Creative doing to stay relevant to its customers?

It’s my job at Coldsmoke Creative to eliminate roadblocks for my team, and to steer us in the right direction. To stay relevant, I’m constantly thinking about ways to remove impediments that might be getting in the team’s way of delivering excellent experiences for our clients.

For our clients, I try to ensure we are up to date on the most relevant technology and industry news for them. They look to us as Shopify Experts, so we need to stay up to date with best practices to ensure we can see around corners for them.

Behind-the-Shop-Mark-Shesser-Coldsmoke-Creative-BodegaColdsmoke Creative Shopify setup for: Bodega

Can you suggest 2-3 people from your own extensive Shopify network every agency owner and merchant should follow for inspiration? And why these people in particular?

  1. Rachel Jacobs - Former agency COO. Totally gets it, and has a good sense of humor to boot.
  2. Brian Anderson - CEO and Founder of Nacelle. Former agency owner and has a great & unique perspective on ecommerce and the tech landscape that surrounds it.

Everyday, there are thousands of people venturing into ecommerce. What’s your biggest piece of advice?

Have a story or a “why” behind your products & services. The world doesn’t need anymore Shopify stores with a random assortment of dropshipped electronics.

Work on crafting your brand story, why you are different from the crowd, and how your product will positively impact your customers’ lives.


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Interested in participating in our Behind the Shop series? Send an email to hello@shoppop.com.


Jonas van de Poel

Jonas van de Poel

Content Writer for ShopPop. Polyglot and wordsmith armed with fountain pen and ergonomic keyboard. Loves copywriting, marketing, and wearing shades at night.