Mad Love

Sweet Tooth founder and CEO Jay El-Kaake has pretty much always been a technology entrepreneur. He built his first website at the age of 10, and by 12 had set up his first online store.

By the time he hit university, entering the University of Waterloo's computer science program, his future path -- to build a start-up focused on making the ecommerce world a better place for online merchants -- was pretty much pre-destined.

"Because of my early start in selling stuff online, by 20 I already had a decade of ecommerce experience under my belt," admits Jay. "I truly understood the day to day issues, and frustrations facing ecommerce merchants. I had walked in their shoes. I've always had a passion for sales. Then I got into computer science at uWaterloo, and fell in love with programming, and began looking for a way to combine the two."

The founding of Sweet Tooth in 2009 was for Jay a perfect storm. "The company is a perfect merge of ecommerce and technology," says El-Kaake. "I mean, how much better can it get?"

Sweet Tooth's first product, also released in 2009 was a loyalty program designed to plug into Magento, one of the world's leading ecommerce platforms. Sweet Tooth Rewards -- a top selling extension for Magento -- helps online merchants drive additional customer sales by rewarding customer's expressions of loyalty (liking a product on Facebook for instance) with points they can use for follow on purchases.

"One of the things that always baffled me and formed the kernel of the idea for Sweet Tooth was the fact that ecommerce really has never reached its true potential," says Jay. "More people are online than ever before, and are more willing to provide merchants with information about themselves, and yet online merchants have never really been able to put it together and capitalize on that data."

Jay and his team plan to change all that, building on their early successes in the loyalty space with additional product offerings to broaden and extend a retailer's knowledge of their customer.

Jay's early experience as an online merchant infuses the Sweet Tooth team with a strong sense of the customer in every move they make. "I personally understand the day to day impediments of an online merchant, but not everyone on the team has walked that road. So we work hard to keep the customer at the centre of our culture and in every decision we make. Our mantra on the team is "we love our merchants" and everyone on our team is charged with making our customers succeed. Experience has shown me that if we keep that focus, then our customers are more than happy to buy from us because we get their world."

Staying closely connected to retailers around the world is not quite as easy as it seems for Sweet Tooth. The company sells its products through a partner network so has to work extra hard to build direct relationships with its retail end users. But this clever start-up has continued to find ways to make that happen.

"We heavily leverage social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter and we work really hard at engaging with our merchants and their ecommerce developers to build a strong community online. Even though we are still a small team, one of the most influential roles we have within the company is that of our community manager," says Jay.

"Through this community, we let our followers know that we want to know what they think, that we want their input and their opinions - even if they are negative - because that way, we can fix problems and make things better for our merchants.

I strongly believe that honest, authentic communication is the best way to build customer loyalty and brand. I mean, it would be weird if we weren't all about our customers. We are in the business of customer loyalty after all."