Articles & Podcast Episodes

Talk-Commerce Andrew Barber

The BigCommerce Community with Andrew Barber

Andrew Barber is a long-time community advocate and BigCommerce developer. He gives us insight into the BigCommerce community and how to get involved.


Brent introduces Andrew and says they’re an engineering manager at space 48. 

Andrew notes they’re part of a local council community council, and Brent says they met the lord mayor. 

Brent says they’re going to talk about the free joke project. 

Andrew mentions that DevX is an internal conference where they get together and exchange ideas. 

Andrew says they heard about the big hackathon organized by the bigcommerce team. Andrew and Brent talk about plans for a big commerce conference in manchester. Andrew notes that there was a discussion on slack and that they got some excellent feedback. Brent and Andrew talk about expectations as a developer. Andrew and Brent overview bigcommerce and the community manager. Brent and Andrew discuss open saas and how developers can get involved. Brent and Andrew discuss building an application and the difference between doing front-end work and being an experienced developer. Brent and Andrew overview how to stage the application and test the authorization mechanisms.

Andrew says if they’re interested in expanding into ecommerce development, give them a shout. 

Brent notes that they’ve been to many of the events space 48 puts on, and they’re going to let john steal the one. Brent says it was a challenge to get the accent.


Brent: Welcome to this Big Commerce Community edition of Talk Commerce. Today I have Andrew Barber Androooo, as he corrected me, Androooo Barber, who is with Space 48. Andrew, go ahead, introduce yourself. Do a better job than I did. Tell us maybe your day to day role and one of your passions in life. 

Andrew: Yeah, sure. I’m Andrew, I’m an engineering manager at Space 48. One of my passions, I’m very much a community person in, in real life outside of the course. I’m part of local council community council, and I also partake in scouting as a member in there too.

Brent: We’ve mentioned in the Green Room, I did the Great North Run a New Castle a couple weeks ago, and. My friend, it works at the council and the council building, I dunno if they call it not city hall, whatever they call it in England. Really cool facility. It’s built in the 1960s.

Brent: It’s listed. We met them Lord Mayor. We got our picture and it was very cool. So anyways, that’s enough about British politic. Yeah, I know that you’re in Scotland, so I’m not gonna, we’re not gonna dive into that . Before we get started I know that you wanted to participate in the free joke project, hashtag free joke project, and I’m gonna come up with a classy little jingle soon, maybe after Iron Buru.

Brent: It’s one of my favorite drinks. We can’t get it here in the US anymore, but they have some fantastic commercials. So I’m gonna tell you a joke. In fact, today I have a poem for you. Sure. All I wanna know is if you feel as though it should be free, or if at some point we could charge for this joke.

Brent: All right. Ready? I dig. You dig? We dig. He digs. She digs, they dig. Isn’t this a beautiful poem? Not really, but it’s very deep. 

Andrew: That’s good. I do like that one. Give me a good chuckle. I’d say open source and free on this one. Good. Yeah. Bring it to the whole community. That’s a good one. Good.

Brent: Alright, so now you have a joke that you’re gonna tell us. 

Andrew: Yeah, it’s for this out in the green room. So I came prepared with a joke. So 

Andrew: why did the programmer quit his job? He never got arrays. I feel like this should be the moment. Yeah, 

Brent: I’ll admit your joke was much better than my joke. And for the programmers out there, that is a very good one.

Brent: All right, so Andrew, today we’re gonna talk about big commerce. Big commerce community. Let’s dive right in. I know that space 48 put on the big DevX. Conference and you did a hackathon around it. Talk a little bit about that. 

Andrew: The DevX conference that we did I know you spoke to Tom, so I was also involved in the organization of that.

Andrew: So DevX is an internal conference that we do at Space 48 every month where you get together and exchange ideas. And I ideas and implementations between the various squads at space. So we brought that to the BigCommerce community. It was definitely Tom’s idea but brought me on board and myself and Ki and Dan managed to put something together.

Andrew: Straight after that, we heard about the BigCommerce hackathon which was organized by the BigCommerce team. We partook. So we had two teams in there from Spaceport eight. It was. I was gonna say Tom’s team, I can’t remember what his his name was something like, Leaping Planet Frog or something, I can’t remember.

Andrew: And then it was our team as well which was galaxy Quest. So that was made up of three members of Space 48 that work in my current squad at the moment. 

Brent: And Tom’s team, he’s Tom, is based in Bath. The, so did his team really clean?

Andrew: They got no entry. So that’s that’s good. Good for them. 

Brent: But maybe next year the the big DevX that, that, that was something that’s, that was open to the whole community. So talk about how you opened it up and how you’ve had some success now and building this community around big commerce.

Andrew: Yeah. So we spoke about it internally how we might approach this and how it might look. And I feel like there’s a lot of talent within Space 48 and the various scores that we have. I feel like it’s better to open up to the community and we felt, sorry, I should say open up to the community and bring in external speakers, teams and people that would like to talk about something in the commerce space.

Andrew: So we put out an open invite and the become a slack developer Slack. d know Heather’s spoken about recently. And so we, we got some replies back some ideas of what people might like to talk about. We left it very open just as long as it was. Discussing something within the commerce kind of ecosystem.

Andrew: And we got some great talks. So we had talks about like stencil the and the template language handlebars. We had talks on creating b2b. Style stores. And the other talk that we had, and I’m gonna have to check this one so we can edit this out. I’m really sorry. Can’t remember the last talk.

Andrew: My goodness.

Brent: Is there is there plans to do a an. In person in say Manchester for Big Commerce. You could call it Big Titans or something like that. 

Andrew: So I know that Space Boy are quite well known for their ME Titans conference. I do believe we are organizing another one that’s a hot take . But I do believe we are putting another one on coming soon as for a big.

Andrew: Okay. The Commerce conference it’s not something we’re looking at the moment but we might look to include other aspects into maybe developing an eCommerce conference instead of just a major conference. But yeah, watch this space at the moment. Nothing to tonight. The 

Brent: space 48. Watch that one.

Brent: That’s fine. . It tell us about some of the participation and how that worked online. That was it. Was it, did it feel like it was a, did it feel like a conference where you could participate online and enjoy yourself? 

Andrew: Yeah, so this was the first one that we had put on. I feel like there is improvements that we could definitely make in the future.

Andrew: We initially, so we weren’t sure what kind of like interaction we would have using the the platform that we were using. And so I feel like that’s something that we have taken back that maybe wasn’t enough opportunity to participate. What we did there though, we did get some really good feedback.

Andrew: From the community. There was discussion in the Commerce Dev slack afterwards as well, which was good, which kind of people were talking about the ideas that had been discussed at the conference. But I do feel like that is an improvement point that. Myself and Tom have take it away. And maybe we look at other platforms other than Zoom.

Brent: How about from an expectation standpoint, as a developer, what would you expect in something like a big big DevX? 

Andrew: So I think we did have some really good examples of what I’d expect Talks from like Matt Go where he was actually live coding which is always challenging, I think that was a really good show to Tony Mce as well with his core website was talk as well, went in depth of how developers can create amazing eCommerce experiences and and obviously satisfy the big Google engine too. So I feel like it did meet expectations. And I feel like those, yeah, we always have to have one live code demo go wrong, at least at our conference.

Brent: Yeah. I’ve definitely have had that experience of doing things live on stage. When you’re not supposed to, you should be doing prerecorded, but I think live is always more fun. So maybe explain there, the hackathon was the big commerce version of it and the dev exchange was more of the presenting some of the ideas.

Brent: Is that how it worked? 

Andrew: I didn’t, I guess it was organized almost separately. There was a little bit of a line there. . We did hear obviously that there was a hackathon coming but none of it really tied in. I guess they’re both just community events and we hope that the people that partook in our conference also partook in the the hackathon.

Brent: So I, I know that there’s another SaaS platform that doesn’t seem to have the same type of community. What do you think makes Big commerce. Over some of the other SaaS commerce platforms out there? 

Andrew: Oh good question. I feel like the willingness to help each other within the big commerce community at the moment is quite vast.

Andrew: Everybody’s willing to help out and support each other. Although we’re. potentially working in different agencies and working, on, on different projects. I feel like the Slacks a great place where people are constantly communicating ideas, new takes, new directions that you could look at a problem or a challenge.

Andrew: And I feel like that’s quite unique. Initially it spills out into the forms as. . I don’t parti as much there but it definitely, you can see it. Definitely when you Google a question, the BigCommerce Slack aCommerce forum does fill it at the top there. But yeah, the willingness to help out and support each other, I think is there, and it’s pretty important.

Brent: Do you feel a difference from big commerce? Do you feel as though big Commerce is very open to this whole concept of a 

Andrew: community? I think so, and I think it’s improving. So I’ve been involved in BigCommerce development for a couple of years now, and I can see that it is growing and it’s been nurtured well.

Andrew: New roles have been introduced at BigCommerce too in the last year or so. And I feel like they’re helping to nurture the community in the correct direction. 

Brent: Yeah, I think the, they have a community manager. That I’ve just interviewed and Heather and she is fairly new to the role and I think it’s exciting that they’re putting these resources into building out a group of developers to help support each other.

Brent: Around this idea of open SaaS. Do you feel as though the concept open SaaS is a real open source concept or do you think it’s a buzzword? 

Andrew: I think that, I think it’s an ideal that they’re working towards. And they’re still filling out the definition almost of it. But what’s good?

Andrew: They’re happy for interpretation of the definition. And Katie, Heather and the team are listening to feedback from developers to, to better the platform. I know in my involvement in the community, some of the ideas that I’ve fed back, I’ve seen roll back into the product which is great.

Andrew: Other things that I’m passionate about, likes of open source. I’ve spoken to the team there and things like the Hato Fest kind of idea has been floated about and that, that seems to have now become a thing as well within the community. So I feel like the definition is still being defined, but I feel like they’re helping define it.

Brent: I know one thing that Big Commerce often puts forward as open source, their checkout, and there’s another popular SAS platform that has a very locked down checkout. Do you think that’s a good example of how a developer could get involved? And make their own custom custom payment say, and get it back up and running on a eCommerce or on a BigCommerce site?

Andrew: Yeah, the open checkouts are a large move I guess in the direction of open sourcing areas of it. So also, I’m not sure if you’re aware, they’ve also just. Add a big confirmation page into that as well, which is great to see that kind of project growing. Various other projects as well are open source like the stencil bar utilities Sten Bar Stencil utilities and Stencil cli.

Andrew: So we’re seeing some good contributions there as well. Yeah I’m a lot for them. Open sourcing. More of that project. 

Brent: The so they hold this whole concept of open sas, the whole idea of community. If I were a developer, what, and I wanted to build a module or a module, an application, what’s the best place to start?

Andrew: So I feel that the documentation of BigCommerce is pretty good. Pretty good, really good. And I feel like that is, is probably the area where you would start, right? I feel that’s one place and you’re working almost ensure, I feel like they also promote the forum quite often in inside the documentation.

Andrew: And I feel like that’s then your kind of next, go-to asking questions within the forum, gathering the. Experience of other developers on maybe a question or a concern that you have. And then the Slack community comes into that as well. And I feel that they’re opening that up to more people now.

Andrew: Where it used to be, I think only agency partners that were part of the Slack and now we’re seeing every, people within development come, which is really good to see. It’s helping the kind of diversification of the community. And the experience as well where people have all had different experiences on different platforms and they’re bringing those ideas and thoughts into the community as well.

Brent: As a new developer, do you feel as a new developer, is there a role difference between building an application compared to just doing front end work? 

Andrew: There is definitely difference in the way that you would handle it. We saw that on the hackathon project that we put forward. So typically our work is working with the api, working on front ends Osten front end.

Andrew: And I feel like the application is a different experience. The way that it’s of produced, the way that you authorize and call APIs is slightly different. But if you’re a slightly experienced developer on the. Kind of ecosystem. I feel like it does it does become a little bit easier.

Andrew: So either path would lead to success in the other field, if that makes sense. 

Brent: I just had the question the other day about developing a module on Magento comparing compared to develop being an application in big. What would you say the biggest differentiators are in doing either one? 

Andrew: I’m gonna have to skip this question.

Andrew: So I I didn’t previously work on Magen. I’ve, and within Space 48, I don’t work on Magen. So I’m sorry I can’t answer this one. . 

Brent: No problem. I answered that. Magento’s self-hosted. So you’re gonna build an extension that’s directly integrated into the code and Sure. An application from BigCommerce is self-hosted.

Brent: So if I’m building it, it a open question if I’m building an app is, Staging area that you can host your application in interim before the application gets launched. Talk to us a little bit about that. 

Andrew: Yeah, sure. When you’re developing an application you can run everything locally.

Andrew: So within, your local environment as first staging the environment, I know that as. As partners, you can request a sandbox store to test the application on. And so then you can have almost a, a live environment that you can go away and test on the authorization mechanisms for creating an app.

Andrew: You can basically get to a stage prior to submission of the app, which means that it is it’s working like an app would come in straight from the app store. And so you’re able to develop in a very realistic environment. As for likes of hosting this app and things like that, as you’ve mentioned, you do need to be looking at third.

Andrew: For ourselves, we, in the hackathon, we used the Verel because we used that an X Gs type app. Just so that we could do front end and backend and and all that fun stuff within one project. But I guess different apps that handle differently. I know that space here we work on. Our application code bases tend to be PHP and React.

Andrew: So that’s slightly different how to, how we typically do things here. 

Brent: And I guess that leads to my next question, then, the skill set for a developer who’s looking at developing apps on big commerce, it would just be JavaScript, maybe some PHP or some other backend language. Yeah. I feel 

Andrew: for that there you could come with multiple.

Andrew: Multiple skill sets. So from back end point of view, I guess it would depend on where you’re hosting. You could even run sort of landers using Python if you really wanted to. Except that if you come from a PHP background, there we go. There’s your favorite or if you’re using JavaScript and no gs I guess you’ve got a whole handful of places to host it.

Andrew: As for the front end, that can be separate. . And so that typically would be, like you’ve said, there hasting my own js sort of front end, or it could be a react front end. The application itself is I framed into the back end of commerce. And so as long as it’s hosted somewhere you are you’re not limited to, to set language or set skill set. 

Brent: So as we as we close out the podcast I give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like to plug. Andrew, what would you like to promote today? 

Andrew: Sure. I haven’t come with much prepared. I guess we could. Speak about Space 48 slightly.

Andrew: So we are an eCommerce agency. We are platform agnostic, but we do tend to be Magen Shopify and commerce based. But we do look at other tools and I guess so you can follow them on Twitter. So we’re at Space four eight, find us on LinkedIn. And we are actively hiring for developers and.

Andrew: In the general practice and in the SAS practice as well. So if you’re interested in expanding into eCommerce development, please give us a shout. 

Brent: Yeah, and I’m just gonna add that I’ve been to the many of the events that space 48 puts on, and they’re super fun. So I hope they come up with the concept.

Brent: Big Titan. I’m gonna let John steal that one. He probably already has it. But fantastic community events. Very well organized. And extremely fun. And it, you get a trip to Manchester usually. Maybe it’ll be in Glasgow this next time, or could we understand what you’re saying? I’m not sure that’s a joke.

Brent: That’s very true. That’s very true. Andrew didn’t awfully fast. Yes, they do. Yeah. I remember my, I I went to school in Birmingham, which is for the American listers, the south of Glasgow. And I took a bus from a coach from Birmingham to Glasgow, and then I changed and went to Edinburg. And they, and I remember them saying, I’m like, where’s my next coach?

Brent: And they said, J and I’m like, is it J or G? I have no idea. So I eventually found it, but it was a little bit of a challenge to get the accent. I will say the Jordy accent for me is much more difficult than even the Glaswegian accent, . 

Andrew: Accents are definitely hard in the uk, that’s for sure.

Brent: Andrew, thanks so much for being here today. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I look forward to meeting you in person at one of the big commerce events, either in the UK or in Texas or who knows where. I look forward to building a bigger and better community around big Commerce. Thank you so much for being here.

Andrew: Perfect. Thank you, Ben, for today.

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Brent: Welcome to this episode of Talk Commerce Today, have Megan Blissick. Megan is the head of Global Agency Partnership with Signifyd. Megan, go ahead, introduce yourself. Maybe tell us what you do on a day to day basis and one of your passions in life.

Megan: Ooh, one of my passions was fun. Yeah. Thanks for having mere.

Megan: I’m Megan. I had global agency partnerships at Signifyd e-commerce, fraud prevention and revenue optimization organization. So I’ve been with signify for I think, God, like two and a half years at this point. A lot of experience in the greater e-commerce. E brand management, digital marketing management, and the e-commerce ecosystem up until running partnerships that Signifyd for the past couple of years.

Megan: It’s been a great time. Love it there. And a passion of mine is rock climbing as a lot of folks I believe know at this point. When I’m not at conferences and events, I’m hanging off the side of a cliff .

Brent: And do they call that bouldering?

Megan: Bouldering is when there’s no ropes, but

Brent: Oh, so you don’t do that part?

Megan: No I get all the way up the top yeah, I get to get some really cool views up there.

Brent: I’m assuming you’ve seen the movie where the guy climbs El Capita, Is it called Free?

Megan: Yes I’ve seen a couple of those

Brent: movies. Any aspirations to do free solo for that one?

Megan: No.

Brent: I got super creeped out just watching that movie.

Megan: I definitely enjoy the rope element of rope climbing. I do that part where you fall and you don’t die. . Yeah.

Brent: That’s always a plus, right? Yeah. Cause in that movie, somebody did one of his friends died, I think.

Megan: It’s it can get really intense in the climbing world, but but me and my buddies we like to play it safe.

Brent: Yeah. Good. Before we get into content and after, now we’ve talked about rock climbing. Yes. I do have a project that’s called The Free Joke Project. Okay. And what I’d like to do is just tell you a joke and you can tell me if you think it should continue to be free. Or if we could charge for the joke.

Brent: Okay, here we go. Here we go.

Brent: I was trying to figure out why the ball kept getting bigger and bigger. Then it hit me,

Megan: Is this how this whole podcast is gonna go ?

Brent: Yes. All right. Since you were so good at that one, I’m gonna tell you one more and then we’ll move on

Megan: since, give me one more. Let’s go for it.

Brent: I entered 10 puns into a contest to see which one would win, no pun in 10 did.

Brent: Oh God.

Megan: How long are we doing this ?

Brent: We got another half an hour.

Brent: Okay, let’s go for it. Let’s go to, let’s go to real things now. Yeah. Commerce protection platform. Tell us about that. Yeah. In our green room, we talked about Signifyd being this fraud thing and we fraud protection, at least in my mind. And that’s what I thought about it, but it’s so much more.

Brent: So tell us, give us a little background.

Megan: Yeah. Okay, Brent, you and I have been working together the whole time I’ve been at Signifyd and you’ve actually been working with us longer than I’ve been around. So when Signifyd started, we were actually a fraud scoring tool. So what that really means is when a customer goes to a website they hit the checkout button and

Megan: we gather a lot of information about that customer based on not only the website they’re checking out on, but any other website within Signifyd network. That way if it’s the first time they’re at, REI buying a climbing rope but they’ve already gone to Moose Jaw and they’ve already bought some Caravaners we already understand a little bit about that customer more than the merchant on hand.

Megan: So that lets us make a better decision about whether or not that’s a legitimate customer. What we started realizing was, as we’re doing this scoring we are getting really strong scores getting better information than our merchants so that we could really provide them that value, but, They weren’t always taking us up on it.

Megan: So we started actually guaranteeing on our orders. So saying, Yes, we think this is a really good purchase. We think this person is correct. There may be, a couple things that look weird. They may be shipping it out of state, or the recipient doesn’t have the same last name. But ultimately we have enough data to stand behind this.

Megan: So we started adding a financial guarantee, and that’s where g. Fraud protection came from. So we said if we’re wrong and if it is fraud signify will pay the merchant back in full cost of product shipping, taxes, fees. And that really took us into another world of e-commerce fraud prevention, because what that did was not only prevent fraud, but we started actually increasing revenue and increasing order approval rate for our customers.

Megan: So we saw that. Getting rid of the fear of fraud, we are actually able to enable more transactions to go through. That really opened a door for our customers to see five to 7% revenue lift just by taking in more orders that they were at first afraid were fraud. So that really changed the conversation for us.

Megan: We are preventing fraud, but we’re really driving most of our value by driving more revenue. So we started looking. Further down in the conversation, what happens once that product gets there? Does the product arrive or does the merchants still have to pay for an item not received claim where they delivered the product got there, but the customer never got it.

Megan: So sometimes, that’s true. We’ve seen porch pirates especially talking to the holiday season. This is something that. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. People steal things off of porches. I’m sure you’ve seen some of those Ring doorbell videos. But sometimes a customer does get their product and they say they didn’t.

Megan: A merchant busy during the holiday season doesn’t really have time to look into all those claims. They don’t want to insult their customers that are legitimate and are good and are missing their products. So they’re taking a hit there. Signify said, continue down the funnel. Let’s cover item not received claims significantly, not subscribed, subscription cancellations like cancellation errors, order shipping fees.

Megan: So we started really enhancing our commerce protection from just that point of sale, continuing down the funnel. Now Signifyd hosts a variety of different products through our three main modules through our agent console, where you can really tailor your different policies and your orders through insights reporting where you can really understand your customers better.

Megan: And through our decision center, which is, our core product of yes or no, are these orders being approved or not? That allows us to hit into a couple different categories past the traditional fraud prevention chargeback recovery, account takeover protection, author off rate optimization pre off acceptance.

Megan: You’re not paying those credit card fees anymore. Along with that that core of products. So at this point, yeah, signify covers our merchants end to.

Brent: And we talked earlier that right now it’s before Black Friday, but this episode’s not gonna come until after Black Friday. . So you do have something new called a, or maybe it’s not super new, but a sales prediction tool or sales tracking tool.

Brent: Tell us a little bit about that and how that’s gonna play into the holidays. .

Megan: Yes. So this is actually a continuous project that I’ve absolutely loved. It’s been part of Signifyd since I started right at the beginning of the pandemic. When we, we sit right in that payment gateway. We get to see real time transaction data across over 6,000 different merchants in hundreds of different products categories.

Megan: So what that really gives us is a chance. Look at real time e-commerce data. So actually just today we launched our 2022 holiday season insights and shopping trends. So as things happen in real time, we’ll be able to track. Our holiday season projections against what’s actually happening this holiday season.

Brent: All right. Then I’ll make sure, I’ll put all that on the show notes that they can get the link to the report and they can look at it. You had mentioned some things that, that we’re looking at in. The holidays. Can you give us any insights that we might see for Black Friday? And I guess we’re gonna know if you’re right or wrong for Black Friday after this, but we still have Christmas, Hanukkah coming up in Yes.

Brent: As we go forward.

Megan: Absolutely. So we have. Three categories right now of holiday season predictions. We have one on total holiday spend. We have one on product volume, how much is actually going to be purchased, and then we have some cyber week predictions. So I think we touched on this in the green room.

Megan: The the holiday season is not Black Friday anymore. Between pandemic, e-commerce penetration and everything in between. Shoppers are buy. Gifts whenever they want, and and merchants are really catering to that. I think Amazon has two prime days now, or a special exclusive event coming up.

Megan: There’s already holiday sales at some of the major big box retailers. The the holiday shipping window and the holiday returns window has already started where there’s usually extended return windows so that people can buy gifts and then return them once they’ve been gifted and and not received kindly.

Megan: So there’s really a huge window of holiday shopping now. It’s not. Like that small peak that happens in that one week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and then again in that like Christmas and Hanukkah weeks. It’s really starting now and it’s going to continue until the shipping cutoffs occur in the end of December.

Megan: So we’ve got a long holiday season coming

Brent: up. Yeah, And it’d probably go all the way to July if Amazon takes us there. And then it’ll start again right after July. That’s when the pre-Christmas sales will start. Soon. You had mentioned in the greenroom as well about how you’ve extended, so traditionally Signifyd was that sort of right before the payment happens.

Brent: But now you’re extending it down the funnel even past into the delivery cycle. Tell. Where you see the biggest value for a merchant as you get through that. Let’s just say they, they, that is, it’s a client that, that makes it through or isn’t, It’s a valid client, but , it’s somebody that is trying to gain the system by saying something, I didn’t get something.

Brent: How does Signifyd help there?

Megan: Yeah. Item not received is a really interesting category. As Brent, I live in Brooklyn. I’ve had a couple packages stolen off my doorstep. It happens, there’s a, a couple of my friends happens to it too. But there’s also those merchants or those customers that, they say that they didn’t receive a product when they did.

Megan: So that becomes an item not received claim. There’s a couple ways that merchants, if they’re handling this on their own, they can deal with. You might have seen some of the backlash of some of these come up before. For example, on Amazon, if you claim too many items, so it’s not received in a six month window then you’ll start getting a flag of you must provide proof or, like you can’t return any items for the next like couple months.

Megan: Things like that. You can’t make this claim anymore. So there’s that volume approach, right? If it’s the, if then approach of binary rules, if someone returns X amount of items and y months reject. We all know that any binary system is just right for fraud. It’s very simple. If someone can figure out, Oh, I can return four items but not five, or I can return.

Megan: $200, but not 201. Then they’re going to push right up to the boundaries, create another account, anything like that. So there’s always a way to get around those binary rules. You’re also, if you’re managing things on your own, you’re risking an insult rate. And I will tell you there are. Vengeful customers that will let you know if you’ve wronged them.

Megan: We’ve seen them all online, if it, And it’s a terrible customer experience, right? So if I ordered something I was really excited about I get the notification while I’m out at work that, a package arrived at my door and then I go home and that package isn’t there.

Megan: You, you first have that sinking feeling and then, Text your neighbors. You ask if anyone else picked it up or saw it. You wait another day and see if the the shipping thing was just wrong and they hadn’t gotten there yet. And then you ultimately contact the company and say, Hey, I never received my product.

Megan: If they come back to you and say, Hi, we think you’re lying and you’re not getting your product or your money going to raise hell and high water. All over anywhere you can post a review or rating online. There’s a lot of places to do that. So you risk really insulting those good customers because that might also be a really high value customer.

Megan: It can be someone that’s shopping with you guys once a month that is going to go to your competitor and never go back again and actively discourage people from shopping on that site. So what signify does is, first and foremost, if you have our INR coverage, we reimburse our merchants. We say, We got it.

Megan: Don’t worry about it. That’s ours now. So our customers are taken care of immediately. We now also have an internal chargeback recovery team. So they will go and they will investigate that claim. They’ll investigate all claims that they think that there is a reason to look into and will go all the way through the entire process and order flow to figure out if that product actually did get to the intended recipient.

Megan: We’ve had some very funny ways that we found people and we actually now have made that into another series called Crime and Cocktails where every couple months we sit down in a webinar setting and we talk about some of the some of the fraud that we’ve seen in the industry where we actually catch some people that are claiming that they never receive their.

Megan: $5,000 Rolex, but they’re wearing it in their picture, on their Facebook profile. Or where someone says that they never got their above ground pool, but we find it on Google Maps. So we actually get to cover what really goes into some of these fraud attempts and how our teams are able to, trace back the entire supply chain to really find if these are legitimate customers.

Brent: Yeah. That takes a lot of tpa to claim a lost pool, but then set up the pool in your yard. My, I still love that one. . Yeah. My experience recently has been, I received a package from Amazon that was empty and it was also. Point zero one ounces, . So it clearly got through everything. And then Anne got the weight onto shipping and they shipped it.

Brent: It was just a, it was an envelope, but it was supposed to have some clothes in it, huh? And zero weight as well. I didn’t even have to argue with Amazon. They just sent me the new item. But I suppose as a consumer, if you get an, and it was a, one of those envelopes from Amazon that had the, and it wasn’t even sealed yet, so somehow nobody put the thing in it.

Brent: They just sent it to shipping, ran through their UPS thing, and then off to ship. But it’s not, I suppose too, as a consumer, you, if for whatever reason you get the couple of those in a row, you want to make sure. Back yourself up with your ring and all this other fun stuff. You. So I think you mentioned returns.

Brent: How do you go farther besides just the lost packages? Do you go into returns as well?

Megan: Yeah, and that’s actually, I’m glad you brought that up. That’s probably what I consider the most exciting opportunity space is especially going into the holiday season this year. We all know that e-commerce returns happen, but we all pretend like they don’t

Megan: And the really, the biggest bummer of it all is that it’s a much higher rate than in-store returns. Take fashion as a category in-store returns average around 10% of retail sales. eCommerce averages around 30%. And that’s really hard. Especially right now, we’re not in the best spot in the there’s an economic downturn.

Megan: We’re all aware of it. People are still buying, people are still shopping. When you’re really counting on sales and business and 30% of that is coming back in the door. That’s a big hit because that’s merchandise that was off the floor that couldn’t be sold. That’s also merchandise that gets damaged.

Megan: In return, about 25% of returned merchandise goes straight to a landfill. And, that’s just devastating both for the environment and for a retailer’s bottom line. And then seasonal items get marked down. Okay, return that fake Christmas tree, but you can’t sell that again until next year.

Megan: So now you’re sitting. Dead inventory and there’s a lot of companies that are popping up to really start solving returns. It’s making me really happy. Signifyd is partnering with a couple of those to be displayed soon. But what we’re also doing, and the reason that we’re really showing up in that space is actually in terms of, the consumer experience.

Megan: Returns is a one size fit all approach right now, and it’s probably the last thing in the customer journey that applies that. We have loyalty programs that incentivize good customers. We have tailored experiences so that if you have a certain IP address, then you land on a different website version on a homepage than someone else.

Megan: But why are we all doing the same thing when it comes to returns? It’s this blanket return policy of. 30 days or free shipping or something like that. When in reality our good customers should have the benefits of good returns and our abusive customers shouldn’t be able to return things at all.

Megan: Because you know that’s not a customer that you really want shopping on your site. It doesn’t matter if they spend a thousand dollars. If they return that a thousand dollars and end up costing you $300 along the way, that’s not a good customer. So what signify does now is we have a returns abuse api.

Megan: So what that allows us to do is actually take control. That customer return journey if they go on that. So say you put us in place right now. Holiday season has started. We’re getting all these orders in. Again the benefit of signify that’s. That powers everything is our commerce network. We work with so many brands around the world that we’re able to see 98% of online consumers.

Megan: So if you’ve shopped online you’ve probably shopped at a Signifyd store, which means that we know you. And that can be really good because if you’re a good customer and we’re using a merchant that’s going to say, Okay, we’re gonna prioritize our VIPs. Has a rewards account with us.

Megan: Anyone that’s been a customer for more than three years, you can set all of these rules yourself and say, Megan’s a good customer. She spends over a thousand dollars a year with us. If she initiates a return, immediately refund the money to her account before she even returns the product. Send a prepaid shipping label so that make it really easy on her to send that out.

Megan: Ask if she needs a box or. A mailer or an envelope and send that as well and, make that friction point that’s happening. Cuz no one wants a re I don’t wanna return a product. I didn’t buy it to give it back. But make that friction point something that’s really exciting for your customer.

Megan: Wow, that was incredibly easy. I’m going to buy from here because if something goes wrong, I know they have. So treat your good customers really well. And then, over here, Brent, you’re just returning everything you buy. You’re just, buying it to use it once and then put it back in the box and who cares if it’s broken?

Megan: You’ll just say it arrived that way and then shipping it right back. For customers that are doing, abusive behavior with your products, you can limit them. You can make their order final sale. You can, make it that they have to pay for return shipping. And they don’t get their refund until the item has been inspected back in the warehouse.

Megan: And then everyone else somewhere in between. So what we can really do with actually taking control of returns and looking at different customers, setting these different policies can ultimately create a really strong customer experience for your best customers and can shut out those serial abusers and just get them off of your site.

Brent: Yeah, and to be fair, it’s only because people keep buying me hair care products, but I keep returning them for gifts. It’s not that I’m trying to do it, it’s just that I can’t use it for anything. I guess I could re-gift it. That’s a good idea. You could re-gift it. . We have a couple, we have a little bit of time left and I got thinking that that, let’s put this episode live on Black Friday.

Brent: So let’s just say somebody is sitting there on Black the day after Thanksgiving still sort of stuff, Turkey, and they’re like, Oh, I’m gonna listen to a podcast. Oh, there’s a new episode out. What do you think that, And they’re gonna be shopping as a, as a. It’s too late to do something then. But as a as a shopper, is there ways to figure out, I don’t know how to say with that.

Brent: Is there is there trusted brands that you know that are gonna be a good brand to go to? Or is it is it just the typical trust that you have from a merchant or for the merchant and then as a merchant, this is a better question. As the merchant, before we get to Christmas, is it too late to add Signifyd?

Brent: I.

Megan: Not at all. If you’re a merchant that’s already using Signifyd you can effectively turn on something like our returns of use API or add in any of these additional layers of protection. If you’re not already using Signifyd any major e-commerce platform we’re already pre-built into.

Megan: Adobe Commerce, Shopify Plus Salesforce Big Commerce. Neva, NetSuite, V tags all the good guys. And then, if we don’t have something built, we have we have APIs that connect in to everybody. If you’re working with an amazing agency like Magento they can get you set up and running and really quickly and, just start protecting your orders.

Megan: Start, especially when it comes to these big swings and volume. You don’t have the manpower to be manually reviewing all these fringe cases, especially when it’s 100, 200% the regular daily volume. Having a product like this in place, it’s quick to put in. And it’s quite effective, I would say, especially for the holidays.

Brent: Yeah. I always like to tell the story that we started in Mexico selling e-commerce in 2014 and one of our first clients had a call center that they literally called every client that put an order in cuz they were worried it could be a fraud client. . So they had, 20 or 30 people in a big room that would just make phone calls all day to confirm.

Brent: So that’s a lot of manpower. Yeah. From a volume standpoint, how much that, let’s think how much you can help something like Signifyd and help. And it’s almost at this point, it’s a necessity, isn’t it? Because if you think about the cost to the cost of returns and the cost of fraud and all those things that are around that this is something that is not just an insurance and doing that, but it’s also, I think you had mentioned a couple times just improving the customer journey.

Brent: Yeah. And improving the experience of the customer. And then for, from the merchant side, knowing that the customers are good is always a better way to do

Megan: business. Yeah. There’s a lot more trust in the entire transaction. And you’re right, it is essential because especially right now oh, a lot of companies are having a hard time and have big numbers to hit.

Megan: There’s, you can’t afford to turn down your best customers, so if someone’s hitting the buy button, that’s the highest intent they can really show you. And we can’t afford to turn away four or 5% of those customers because of the fear of fraud. So that’s ultimately how I always see it, is, let those good customers through and, Let them through that first time and they’ll come back, especially if they have a good experience end to end.

Brent: All right. A couple minutes left here. Megan’s prediction on the holidays what do you think we’re gonna be

Megan: doing? All right, so we’ve. Thing. So going back to those three categories, this is what what the amazing team had Signifyd. I had nothing to do with these numbers, but we have an incredible data team.

Megan: So they were really able to pull some of these insights based on what we’ve been seeing over the past, oh gosh, 24 months of eCommerce trends. Our first prediction is that cyber week growth is going to increase by 5% year over year. So we think there’s still gonna be a lot of volume, but we don’t think it’s all going to come from cyber week.

Megan: We’re predicting an 8% increase in November and December is total rise in terms of that product volume. We’ve been seeing people buying more recently, which is, it’s still haven’t figured things out in terms of the economy. I’m not even going to pretend to try, but we’re predicting an 8% change in volume of products sold in cyber week and a 5% overall volume in November and December.

Megan: We think people are still just buying more, but ultimately that cyber week, we think it’s gonna be down from last year. We think there’ll. 19% of holiday sales versus 21% of holiday sales last year. So people are spreading out their purchases, they’re starting earlier, they’re shopping later.

Megan: As more companies adopt better transition, better solutions they’re able to extend their shipping windows because, they’re not doing that manual review in house anymore, they’re able to actually approve and process orders faster. So they’re able to accept orders longer into the holiday season.

Megan: Yeah, we think it’s a wider range. People are buying earlier, they’re planning ahead. But there’s still going to be a lot of consolidation in Black Friday, Cyber Monday.

Brent: Yeah. And I think overall I was at the econ forum here in Minneapolis a couple weeks ago, and they gave out some numbers that said, E even though it seems like we’re going into a downturn, We’re coming off of such a hot cycle through the pandemic.

Brent: Everybody had to order online. Yeah, that online is still gonna grow even next year. It’s gonna grow 20% over the year before. It won’t grow 50 or whatever that number was. Maybe it was 10%. Anyways, it’s gonna be a good healthy growth in online no matter what over the year. And so people are still shifting from retail to.

Brent: Online, maybe not even, Or even buying more in the future. Yeah. And that as a merchant, you need to always pay attention to where your customers are buying from and where they’re gonna buy more from. Yes. So that cycle and reducing some of that friction in the. And the checkout and making sure that it’s a quality customer is such a important part of things.

Megan: Yeah. It’s really important. And those customers show up everywhere. They’re showing up online and then they’re returning in store, or they’re window shopping online, and then they’re making a final decision. It’s really important to meet that customer where they are, treat them the same.

Megan: Everywhere that you find them and make sure that they have the best experience with your brand.

Brent: Megan, as they close out the podcast, I get everybody a chance to do a shameless plug. , what would you like to plug today?

Megan: Oh gosh. Am I not plugged enough? I feel like it’s been most of us .

Brent: You can plug anything you want.

Brent: You could plug your climbing. Should I plug rock climbing?

Megan: Oh my, yes. Yeah. Anything you want. No, I would absolutely love to plug the incredible marketing team here because all these insights, all these analytics, all this data it’s, all of my partners know this. It’s something I talk about far too much, but, we have a incredible team of really talented and really thoughtful marketing folks that have really enabled Signifyd partnerships continuously.

Megan: We’re able to create really incredible content. It’s actually thought provoking. I hate how many times I even said pandemic in this presentation. They’re really able to bring this information to the table in a way that’s digestible, easy to use and easy to explain. That’s that’s my plug is when you have a great marketing team, let the entire world know

Brent: As, so we’re gonna close out now, but since it is Black Friday today, and we don’t know if I’m actually gonna get it done by it, but it’s gonna, we’re gonna assume that I have it done already and it is Black Friday. What should I go out or What are you gonna go by on Friday? Black Friday and I’m gonna be in the air, so I won’t be able to buy anything.

Brent: What are you gonna buy on Black Friday?

Megan: What am I gonna buy on Black Friday? You’re gonna laugh at me, but I really want a nice two person tent because I only have a one person tent right now and it’s very tiny.

Brent: Is your two person tent, the kind that sits on the side of a rock face?

Megan: No, but I hang, give you a little education that is called a portal ledge.

Megan: Oh, Portal ledge. Like a portable ledge. Yeah. Very cool. So now you’ve got a cool little lingo term for next time you’re out rock climbing or summiting, lcap .

Brent: Absolutely. Okay. If you don’t get your 2% in, then for the holidays, you’ll want one for a gift.

Megan: Yes. Any, anyone that’s listening that wants to send me a tent, I’m sure you can just provide my information in the comments, . All right,

Brent: perfect. Megan Bick is the head of Global Agency Partnerships With Signifyd. Thank you so much for being here today.

Megan: Thanks for your time, Fred. Always great to see you.

Brent: All right.

Talk-Commerce Gina Yuter

Find The Perfect Item In An Instant. Visual Product Discovery Made Easy. With Gina Yuter

No two shoppers view a website the same way. So why are searches always happening the same way? Put some text in, and hopefully, you get the right results. We interview Gina Yuter with Syte.

Syte’s product discovery platform empowers your shoppers to instantly find fashion, jewelry, and home decor items they’ll adore with inspiring visual search journeys that drive conversion and build long-term value.

Talk-Commerce Matt Dolimpio | Mile in My Shoes

Changing Lives through Movement with Matt Dolimpio of Mile in My Shoes.

Running together to transform ourselves, one another, and our community. We interview Matt Dolimpio with in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Mile in My Shoes (MiMS) brings together residents of the Twin Cities from diverse backgrounds through the power of running. Based in homeless shelters, addiction recovery programs, and re-entry centers for people exiting incarceration, MiMS uses running as a catalyst for community-building, boosting health and wellness, building leadership and self-efficacy, and spurring personal and social action. By running together, our Resident Members and Run Mentors find common ground and begin to learn from and reach out to one another for support. As we transform ourselves, we transform one another.


Brent: Welcome to Talk Commerce. Today I have Matt Delpo Depo. Very, a very clean name. Matt, go ahead, do an introduction. Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day role and one of your passions in life. Yeah, 

Matt: absolutely. Thanks. I’m Matt Delly. It’s alright. I mess up pronouncing it half the time anyway.

Matt: As this, like most of my family, I think there’s still debate. I’m the program coordinator at Mile and my shoes in m. And I have a wonderful opportunity day to run and join communities across the Twin Cities and help build those communities. With Mile and My Shoes, what we do is we bring and build community through writing, and we typically do that at places.

Matt: Either the people or the act of running have been historically disenfranchised. So places like treatment facilities, often known as rehabs homeless shelters, and halfway houses for people who are, were recently leaving incarceration. And that’s where our teams are this year. Outside of the homeless shelter.

Matt: We do not have a homeless team this year. And what my role there is beyond the running with the teams, which is my favorite part, I outfit the teams and all of the new members with gear as they required. Everybody who runs with us gets a a supply of running shoes. We have shirts, shorts. Pants.

Matt: And then as the seasons dictate, we have other things like gloves, hats, stuff like that. Lights. And we outfit everybody. We ask that you run four times with us and then you get to keep this wonderful gear. And then we have incentives as well. And I I. Track and provide all of that for the members and mentors across the teams where you get a blue shirt after 10 runs, you get a really great alumni pack with a smart watch for 20 you get a headlamp at 30, a really beautiful sweatshirt at 50, which is one of my favorites.

Matt: And we continue every year. We’ll give you new shoes if we’re continuing to support you. And you’re running. And it’s been a real gift to do that. I also do a lot of day to day administrative processes. I help coordinate different events across the Twin Cities through Mile in My Shoes.

Matt: We do voices of events. We just had a pizza run last night that I helped coordinate Latinas on the Run joined us there. That was another wonderful organization that I got to meet last night along with Brick Oven Bus, who was fantastic in providing us those pizzas. And I really do have a dream and a gift job.

Matt: I found this organization when I was living in a halfway house and it transformed me from someone who used to laugh at runners to being just an absolutely avid runner , which still makes me laugh to say even, and I always challenge people to ask me that when I’m running because a lot of times, big run, I might not agree.

Brent: But I always feel that way after. Yeah. That’s that’s such a true story about how many people have poo-pooed running or put their nose up to runners and then suddenly they’re running every day or they’re running marathons or alter marathons or ironmen or whatever. Yeah. Yeah. So before we get into our conversation and the topic today is going to be around charity and maybe how entrepreneurs can start or help in charity and.

Brent: What is the mission of each charity? And I think I’m part of Mile In My Shoes, so I have a specific passion about it and running. But before that, I have a project that I’ve started. It’s called the Free Joke Project, hashtag free joke Project. And all I do is tell you a joke and then you tell me if that joke should be free, or if you feel as.

Brent: That joke could be charged for or is chargeable. And then I have some segments going where I’m giving free sponsorship spots for people, for me to tell somebody a joke, a free joke, and then they get a promotional sponsorship spot. So Matt, we might have to follow up on a specific segment just for my, on my shoes.

Brent: I feel as though that mild, my shoes needs free jokes. More free jokes. I 

Matt: love that. I love it. We get ’em at the runs. But I 

Brent: understand, and I get the runs sometimes after eating at the Himalaya, and I’m just, I’m gonna stop, right? Nevermind. Okay. Let’s go right into the joke. I know that I was about to, I was about to dive into port taste.

Brent: All right, . Matt, let’s let’s just keep moving. Stay on top. And I’m realize I’m the host and I’m already off topic. All right, let’s do the. Okay. What’s the difference be? What’s the difference between a clown and an athletic rabbit? One is a bit funny, and the other is a fit bunny, 

Matt: but a, I like it.

Matt: I don’t know if I would charge too much for it, but I would use that at my bar when I bartend. I would bring that, I would use that as a nice joke. That’s a. 

Brent: See, that’s an athletic joke that fits into Mims as well. 

Matt: It is very much yeah, it is very much topical for what we’re and what we’re wearing.

Brent: I feel as though your reaction is one that I could probably not charge 20 grand for the sponsorship spot. Yeah. I probably have to charge a little less. Anyways, I think that’s, it’s keep moving. Yeah. Yeah. Let’s keep moving. So Matt let’s first talk about Mims. My. Changing lives through movement, I think is the mission statement.

Brent: , tell us a little bit about the reason or the how transforming somebody’s life can be done through the simple act of movement. 

Matt: Beyond a lot of the academic research that’s happened in medicine, especially in things like recovery medicine where you can look at running in particular, but lots of other forms of movement.

Matt: Really do help repair and reestablish a lot of our damaged neural connections. Our brain chemistry as a whole. A lot of the healthy endorphins that come from running a lot of the. The physical fitness, the boosts, the natural boosts of serotonin and dopamine and or epinephrine that happen really do help.

Matt: Especially with things like what’s called pause post-acute withdrawal syndrome and things like that. So there’s obviously that physical and psychophysical component that I think is really important. And I think that we still, we need to continue to do lots of the research that we’re doing to see how much more and how much movement is really great about that, but more.

Matt: I think one of the cool things about running is that it is a remarkably accessible. And an activity for so many people. Movement is accessible for so many people. And I know that’s obviously not, an all inclusive thing, that there’s limitations that some people have. But I think that movement alone is something that we can work with and it allows us to build a bond where physical creature, we’re physical species as much as we are a social species.

Matt: And I think that when we combine the two together, The bonds that we’re able to build with each other as well as the growth that we’re able to experience within ourselves is just magnified. I think that it allows us a really nice opportunity to have fun while we’re practicing self-love and self-improvement.

Brent: Yeah, I think one, one thing you keyed in on there is the group aspect of it, and I’ve heard more than often, that guys will say that more than just the running part of it, they appreciate the camaraderie and the community that we build with those people over time by consistently being there.

Brent: . And then let’s just say there’s no judgment. Like you’re, we’re just there to run with them and we’re all equal, right? 

Matt: That’s right. More judge less. That’s one of our. 

Brent: You run more judge less? Yes. I run with Matt often and I can barely keep up with him and but Matt is so nice is to slow down for me.

Brent: And that’s the other thing is no, no one runner is left behind and nobody runs on their own. Yeah. So I think that community aspect as well as just the simple aspect of moving ma all those pieces come together and they create this unique, beautiful thing. That people show up. . 

Matt: Yeah, absolutely.

Matt: And the community really is the cornerstone of what we do at Mile In My Shoes. It’s what led me into Mile in My Shoes. It started with my roommate when I lived in the halfway house, inviting me to join and hyping them up a bit. And I was already on a bit of a fitness journey and I was like, sure, let’s try running.

Matt: All right. I had been walking for a long time. I had enjoyed that, but I went out and I did not. The run part of my first run. But I loved running with Emily, who I had run with that day. And I went back out again cuz I did finish my mile. Everyone starts at the mile and I was pretty cool. That made me feel really good.

Matt: And then afterwards I felt great. And the second time I was blown away by everybody. even more to the point where I almost got a little suspicious and was like, this is gonna be some kind of a cult or something. And then by the fourth I was so enamored with the people I was with and my team and the community that I didn’t realize that what I was looking for was that community connection, that validation, I had been so worried while I was incarcerated, what my role, what my life would be socially when I got out.

Matt: I’ve always been a very social person and I was really very concerned about being a pariah and not having. That, that connection that, that community or I’d have a community that I would find unhealthy, that I was trying to get away from and to experience such an extraordinary bright spot, a super nova of love and community and acceptance.

Matt: When I got out coupled with this, like by the fourth or fifth run, I was hooked on that. It was the, it was this combination of. Being with these people, and I, you flattery is wonderful, but I remember running and apologizing. I am sorry, I just need to, I need to walk for a minute.

Matt: I need to walk for a minute. And then suddenly I was running a 10 K and it was remarkable to see those two things. And I had so many people encouraging me or I never would’ve gotten there. So that community is just the essence, it is the vitality even more than. . 

Brent: Yeah. I think not only do you get introduced to all kinds of different people and there’s so many different there’s such a wide variety of types of people that aren’t.

Brent: Yes. From the mentor side and the resident side to the alumni side. Yeah. People in every walk of life. But we also help, and I’ll use we cuz I’m part of mild, my shoes Yes. But mild, my shoes also brings people to. And introduces them to the next part of running, which is competing in something. It 

Matt: doesn’t I thinking about it.

Brent: Yeah, it doesn’t, I think that’s another unique experience that and you don’t have to run, you can walk a race. There’s so many different in that when you get to that point I, I invited my mom who’s in her late seventies to walk five Ks. , there is so much more to running than just the act of running.

Brent: , there’s all the training and maybe talk a little bit about the journey you took as you went through some of that in the 

Matt: beginning. Yeah, absolutely. So when I started I had never really run. I was not the most athletic kid growing up. I played sports, I played basketball, I played stickball.

Matt: Growing up in New York, I played. I swam up until ninth grade on a, excuse me, on a competitive team. And I enjoyed swimming. I enjoyed all those things. I was not physically built for basketball especially not playing in a place like New York where it was so competitive. I loved baseball, but I never had too many opportunities to play growing up, so I really stuck that as more of a fan anyways, point being when I, as I got older and older, I really turned more towards you.

Matt: Drugs, alcohol, things like that. I was, I smoked for a long time, starting when I was 12 years old. It was, I was never particularly healthy. I always worked a very active job. I worked in restaurants primarily for the last 20 years. Some other gigs, one as an investigator in New York and things like that.

Matt: But for the most part, I worked on my feet. As a bartender and a server, so I was always carrying shit up. I was always carrying stuff. I was always walking, I was always getting my steps in, but it was still a very unhealthy life. Here I am, I go to prison. I finally have an opportunity to do all of these things that I had talked about.

Matt: Finally, getting into shape, working on my nutrition, losing weight because I have the time. There’s not a lot to do in prison. And one of the few things that we have left to do is have that recreation time where we can lift weights and exercise and stuff like that. So I spent a lot of time walking the compound that I was at in Duluth.

Matt: I spent a lot of time, as much time as I could in the weight room and listening to other people who knew more than me, who were already further along on their fitness journey, some of whom had really taken it to become a career when they were leav. I asked them for advice. I would trade protein shakes for suggestions and tips.

Matt: And so I started to get, and I lost about 50 pounds when I was in prison, and I felt great. And I put smoking years ago, and I was ready to take that next step, but I was definitely timid because that was something every time I tried, I would play hockey in prison, I would do something. It was still like this achilles heel for me.

Matt: No. Actually intended there, but I when I got out and I started running that first mile, I was able to do, I was winded, but I did it, I think I did it in 10 something and. I remember Emily d being like, you did it though. You did it. Say you did it. You ran it. You didn’t talk it, you ran it.

Matt: And she would use that to continue to inspire me throughout, run. So did so many of the other mentors that I got to run with. My first year there, Noah was another great example of someone who managed to distract me from my misery when I was midpoint about two months in, when I was finally starting to run two and a half.

Matt: Three miles at a time before I needed that break. And my pace was, and I was, but I was struggling and I had this very chaotic breathing and trying to learn it. And Noah would just, he could just always seem to talk me into this food state, where I was more entranced to.

Matt: Because I couldn’t talk. I was huffing so much. And then Emily d would always remind me like, Hey, you know what? You just did, you just hit four miles. Have you ever done that before? After tricking me into running the longer route, and I, as I got stronger and a better runner, and it took less time than I expected and I would feel, I remember I only ran in the mornings then, and I would remember just every day I would run.

Matt: I felt awesome. All. It didn’t matter what else happened that day. I always felt like I had accomplished something significant and I physically just felt good that like runner’s high, that you get and you get that initial peak a little after the run. It would subdue, but it would go it would leave me at this better place.

Matt: My anxiety would be subdued. My joy would be increased and I just feel better. That transformed my running style into when the pandemic hit. I started running once a week with Beth, who I work with at Mile in My Shoes. Now she’s our program director, Emily and Erin, who was one of my teammates at the halfway house, and we would run together once a week, but I started running alone and that gave me a new gift where now I run in the mornings by.

Matt: and it allows my ADHD brain time to get out its little kinks and all of that. And then I go back in the evenings and I run or run, walk with with our teams. And I get that community aspect. So I get it now twice most days. And I don’t know, I just, I don’t, there’s so many other activities that I’ve started and not held onto this long.

Matt: And I think the fact that I’m not. Still running, but running more now is a testament to the power of in the community and b, running itself. 

Brent: So one of the topics we talked about in the green room is redemption. And I know that you have a lot of a lot of thoughts about that. How do you feel?

Brent: And I feel like Mel in my, my, my shoes puts us all in the level playing field. . But you did talk about, those comeback success stories and things like that. Talk a little bit about redemption and some of your thoughts on 

Matt: that. Thank you for asking.

Matt: Yeah. Redemption is one of the topics that I am most passionate about. In general, I. Appreciate how much we love a comeback story, and I can appreciate why it’s one of the most relatable heroes journeys that we can go on as a, as an individual and as part of a community. And so I think there’s a, and we all wanna know that’s possible too, right?

Matt: We all wanna know that if we stumble and recover, that we have a. To return to that, that recovery is gonna be worthwhile, right? Otherwise, why not just give up every time we make a significant mistake, right? So I find this idea of redemption to be so powerful, so promising, and it also has given us so many wonderful humans that have thrived when they’ve come back, when they’ve risen from the ashes, for lack of a better cliche.

Matt: And I do wish, as I mentioned earlier in our green room discussion, The idea of having to struggle initially isn’t this inherent part of that redemption arc that I think we’ve often made it, that it’s this overcoming of adversity that alone validates redemption, and I don’t think that’s necessary.

Matt: I think it can be a powerful tool. I think that discomfort leads to change and often positive change, and I think that’s wonderful and it shouldn’t be discounted, but I don’t think it’s a. And I think that organizations like mine on my shoes, like the Second Chance Coalition that does some legal work in our state capital particularly about things like felony murder laws and some of these more like strictly punitive in draconian laws that exist that are designed to help people find.

Matt: Find that like second chance to find that beauty and that story and that comeback tale, that hero’s journey. I think that’s amazing. And I think it does require help. First off, it requires a community to accept you and that’s the whole point of redemption, right? Is that you’re redeemed yourself.

Matt: Sure. But the community has allowed that redemption to be like accepted or validated and I think that’s wonderful. I think organizations that sort of encourage and help that, which I think my and my shoes does extremely. Partially because of what you were saying about how we come from all these different backgrounds we run together, the community, we don’t have any judgements.

Matt: We just come together. And that alone can be such a powerful conduit for allowing us to say, I do belong. I am here, I am redeemed. I don’t necessarily need to do more. I just need to be here and be me and continue to do as well as I can. And these people will be here with me. If I slow down, they’ll slow down with me.

Matt: They’re not gonna leave me behind. and together we could do anything. And I think that’s incredible. 

Brent: Yeah. There’s a little bit of trust involved in there, isn’t there? Yes. The people coming into the group have to trust that that we are gonna slow down or we’re gonna try to speed up. And then there’s some learning as well because there are, if we want to try to relate this to running.

Brent: there’s people that are farther ahead in their journey and , they need to slow down for us, right? , as mentors even, . yeah. So there, there is a it, there, there is a definite time when everybody has to come together and we have to communicate together. There is also that aspect of of being able to talk to somebody and who’s in a different place.

Brent: And that could be, it could be substance abuse or it could be. You’re in a ha you’re in a tough situation. There’s all kinds of aspects there that, that make you want to be empathetic for your per, for your fellow person. And empathy is directly correlated to mile in my shoes, the whole idea of what does it mean to run a mile in my shoes?

Brent: You have to have empathy. And I think as part of that empathy, redemption and forgiveness has to be, has to. Part of that, and I think we’re talking about maybe less about the individual, but the more of the community forgiveness to accept somebody into community no matter what they’re, what they’ve been through in their past.

Brent: Absolutely. Would you agree with 

Matt: that? And I think that there is something to be said about like bad actors, right? There’s gonna be people who are gonna take advantage of that mentality. That is an unfortunate reality. I think though, that when we focus on things like that, that we do ourselves a disservice.

Matt: That can always be dealt with. It’s usually not too difficult to discern that as it’s happening or shortly after it, it happens. And I think that community forgiveness piece and that welcoming back in and allowing people that opportunity to thrive once again and to be a part of that community, that’s the, that’s a huge part of who we are as a species.

Matt: Like you talked about empathy and Yeah, absolutely. It’s literally the, where. Idea mile in my shoes, that expression, that phrase comes from is a way of explaining empathy. And I love that so much. And I don’t know how, I didn’t make that connection until you just said it, but thank you for doing that.

Matt: Cuz I think that is so important to, to note. I do also think there’s an important part of self redemption and I think things like running and I think things like self-improvement can lead to a healthier form of discomfort that lead to change You. And I think that focusing on things like that for allowing ourselves to improve, tend to work better.

Matt: I don’t have any data. I’m sure there is data out there. I don’t have any to back that up. I was just throwing it out. But I do have a feeling that’s the case. It just makes the most sense. I Look, what we do is our instinctual response when we’re born, we can’t walk, we can’t eat, we can’t do anything except cry and nurse.

Matt: That’s a species that is instinctually requiring some form of empathy in order for it to perpetuate itself and survive. 

Brent: Yeah, and I think part of this journey as well is some discipline. And everybody, I can’t say that you can say across the board there’s nobody that has perfect discipline, right?

Brent: No. And as in, in my shoes, we train for certain events and there’s a couple of bigger. A group trains for a half marathon, but also a group trains for a full marathon. And every year we get people that are going through that journey. Yeah. And as you get, as your goal is bigger, your commitment to that goal is bigger.

Brent: And if you don’t make the goal, either you don’t do it or you are in a ton of pain once you’ve done it. Yeah. 

Matt: And you’ll hear it too, you’ll hear from people when you ask them, when I ask ’em about their trading, and they’ll say that exact thing I missed it. Now. I, when I went back, I feel, oh, it was a rough day

Matt: So 

Brent: you’re 100%. And there’s a part of that is part that, that is a discipline that once you’ve gone through that you’ve realized, oh, 16, Then I ran a marathon 12 weeks and then I did a half marathon. Wow. Now looking forward, there was lots of anxiety or lots of stress involved in doing that.

Brent: But once you’ve done it and then you’ve come through it, you’re like, wow, just like waking up at 5:00 AM or six 5:00 AM to get to a 6:00 AM running group every morning I do that. I’m like, God, this is I don’t want to get up. Yeah. But once I’m leaving and I’m coming home, I’m like this is the best decision I’ve ever made in 

Matt: my.

Matt: Every single time. Every single time. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be running at Roseville at six in the morning and I’ll be working late this evening at my second job. And I promise you, at 5:00 AM tomorrow morning when I wake up, I’m gonna be like but by six 15 I’m gonna feel like a million dollars being in that group running.

Brent: I’m so I want to just pivot a little bit to employers, entrepreneurs. How would. Part of this journey too is as an employer, you want to help, you want to, you would like to help people. And in, in this economy, when it’s still super low unemployment, which is great for us here there, there sometimes has to be some learning that has to do on the employer side for people that are, that, that are coming out of, say, out of prison or through a halfway house or there’s all kinds of issues that come.

Brent: What, do you have some advice that you would give to an employer or how to help the employer through that? 

Matt: Yeah, I would say the first word is patience. And I don’t mean that in any sort of I’m not trying to be condescending or anything like that. What I mean by patience is that, There’s so many hoops that people who come out of prison have to jump through, even in the best case scenario, right?

Matt: Whether they’re on supervision, whether and they have a PO that they have to report to and have to do all of these things for that could show up and visit your workplace at any time. Things like that. That those things happen and that they have to take this certain degree of priority because of the inflexible nature of car supervision.

Matt: That can often be problematic, and I think that having patients in an open dialogue about the situation so that expectations are where they should be, so that hey, this guy can come in, he probably won’t, or this woman can come in, she probably won’t, just to see if I’m actually here at work. They might call here.

Matt: To verify if I’m here or if I was here at a certain time, that’s okay. I may have to go and, meet with them at, during work hours or something like that. I promise to make up that work, so that you have these open dialogues that expectations are there. Secondly, I’d say, obviously give the chance, and I know it seems like that should be reversed, although I’m starting to see the trend of the chances are being given out.

Matt: But they’re often utilized as a way of either underpaying somebody or, using it to hold it over their heads. And I don’t think that’s necessarily gonna be as positive. So I, I do suggest giving people this chance. I think they’ll find people in prison a two things through returning from incarceration to, to trades that you’re gonna see consistently.

Matt: They are going to have remarkable work ethic that’s probably less expected. , especially if the conditions are any better than they were in prison. And they probably are. And the other thing too is I think you’re gonna see them very eager to shine. They’re gonna be eager to want to grow. They’re gonna, they’re gonna be motivated to make up for lost time.

Matt: This is not just my personal experience, but what I’ve noticed. With my comrades from incarceration, who I’m still in touch with the people I’ve run with a mile on my shoes. Talking to a 68 year old dude who’s like hole in ice for his job just because he wants to like, move up and get something better and then he still shows up to run with us or walk with us, and I think that’s powerful.

Matt: I think employers would have a remarkable experience. Allowing a lot of offenders to, or, recently exiting incarceration people to have these opportunities to grow. And it’s not just things that I think are often traditionally associated with us. I was given this opportunity by mile in my shoes to work here at a nonprofit to do something a little different than I had been doing for a long time.

Matt: I had this gift of an opportunity, this chance that Beth and Michigan and Whitney took on me. And I am eternally grateful for it. And I am, I have a learning curve too. That’s the last part that I’ll mention is that especially for people who have been incarcerated for a long time, There’s gonna be a learning curve in terms of how things are done nowadays.

Matt: And I’m not just talking about the obvious things with like technology, like smartphones and apps and stuff like that. That stuff actually seems to come a lot quicker than even with the boomers, than a lot of people often assume it will. I won’t say why, I won’t say that we have any of this tech access inside, cuz we sure don’t.

Matt: We definitely don’t see any of that inside, but we do. I do think though that just, even just the way business is done, the way jobs are applied for the way jobs are and way even management interacts communicates with staff, I think now is much different than it was, even when I was younger.

Matt: There’s certainly a lot more familiarity, a little less formality in a lot of , even things like that can be really awkward for people coming out of prison. So I’d say those three things are a good starting. And then just treat them like humans. Man. Don’t treat them all that differently.

Matt: Beyond that, just understand that their circumstances are a little different, much like you would, someone who’s a single parent hopefully that you would accommodate them and understand their situation a little bit better. Someone who’s, less abled or differently abled things like that, just an accommodation.

Matt: To the circumstance. 

Brent: Yeah, and I’m, my, my professional background, I’m involved a lot with project management and there is certain assumptions that you make with a client and there’s certain assumptions that the client makes with you in that project management situation. And I can tell you that if you don’t communicate, the less you communicate, the worse the project goes.

Brent: , this is the same thing. It’s just communicating is the top three things you need to do. You need to, number one, communicate the number two, you should communicate. Number three, you should communicate. Yes. Those three things will get you so far. Yes. And then I always say the less time there is between those interactions the.

Brent: Missed expectations you’re gonna have. So if you’re, 

Matt: if you have, and that’s what, and I would actually say, and I know you asked me specifically about employers, but for those of us coming out of incarceration who are looking, I always encourage people to be. Very forthright and honest about the situation specifically, so that those expectations are there because it really, it, you don’t want that anxiety, you don’t want that insecurity and you certainly don’t want people finding that out later cuz then they start to wonder what you had to hide and why.

Matt: And you can be like, I was just ashamed or I was insecure, or whatever. But it’s better to just start off that way, and I know how difficult that can be. It pays dividends, I promise. 

Brent: Yeah. Good. Matt, we have a few minutes left today. At the end of the podcast, I give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug.

Brent: What would you like to plug today? 

Matt: Obviously I want to plug mile in my shoes. You can see us at mile in my on Facebook Mile in my shoes. We also have a community group There were Instagram a mile in my shoes. Check us out, check out our socials. We would love to see you there. We have a lot of really great information on our website.

Matt: You can there’s a link there to get some of our me. You don’t have to earn a blue shirt. You can, and we’d love it if you did. You can also buy one. I’m not gonna say what You have to tell people how you got it. I’m just saying. You can get one. They look great on everybody. We’ve got all different sizes.

Matt: We have really great sweatshirts, hoodie. Available and all of that. That all helps. The money that we get from these mer, shes helps us outfit our teams. It helps us outfit our mentors with their wonderful incentives for doing things like being our team coach or team captains and things like that.

Matt: Team leads rather team captains or are for our run members, and they also get a cool sweatshirt for that, a really nice gray crewneck. But yeah, it helps us out in our teams. It also helps pay our staff salaries, which is one. Big parts that get us out to, distributing that gear, running these teams, finding these teams, doing all of the management and, human labor that’s necessary to take those donations and make sure that we get the best out of them.

Matt: I also would like, you’re also welcome to check out, there’s so many great organizations out there that do similar. Missions to what we do, or that complimentary missions is probably a better word for it that are working to improve our community as a whole that are working really hard to making the world just a little bit brighter and brighter.

Matt: But I think that what we do at my and my shoes is so wonderful, unique and powerful, and it’s impacted not just my life, but so many lives, both from the member and mentor perspective in I’ve yet to hear a. Experience, and I’ve seen so much beauty, joy, and growth that I can’t help but encourage people to check us out and join us too.

Matt: It’s not just about merch and donations, which we love. We accept run mentors. If you’re in the Twin Cities area we are always looking formentors on a rolling basis. You can join us in our community events, our voices of events that are coming up. We just had the pizza run last night.

Matt: So we love having the community as a whole involved in these event. I hope everybody gets to listen to this podcast as well. I would absolutely love to, to see all of your listeners show up for one of our runs, even as a guest and just see what we’re all about. It always brings me joy, much like your visitor yesterday brought us so much joy at visiting our runs.

Matt: So you, personally the power of of that extra community involved. And he got a blue shirt. I think he. It’s in his first run, right? Yeah. So 

Brent: come on. No. Yeah. VJ was here a couple years ago and he leads our laughter sessions. He a thought he he just does that on his own.

Brent: makes us laugh. So it such a great benefit and it’s just a really good example of diversity in our society that brings in different people and they feel comfort. Doing something out of an ordinary in front of a whole group of people. Yeah. It really is powerful to see. I just want to piggyback on your plug because I do want to have people recognize that there is a significant investment that Mile and my shoes makes in every single person that joins Mile my shoes, I should say.

Brent: The residents that are coming out of the halfway house, and you had mentioned that they get shoes, they get a. And eventually they’ll get a Garmin watch and a headlamp. It is a signi. It’s not just, 

Matt: Hey, here’s parable shoes. The shoes alone are significant. You know how much running shoes cost?

Matt: I know you, these shirts even are 40 to $50 each. Like all of the things that we outfit yeah, there is a substantial financial cost. And then of course there’s the labor cost that comes from our volunteers that do an extraordinary job helping us out. And, our staff.

Brent: And going back to that trust and there’s no expectation put on that person when they’ve earned those pair of shoes. Zero, they could never show up again if they don’t want to get that watch. They could go and not show up and not even run ever again. It’s, it is something that I guess in a sense they do earn it, but they’ve earned it from the fact that they’re participating over and.

Brent: And and, my, and my shoes supports that and it’s such a great gift that we all get, myself, 

Matt: you might get a phone or some texts from me though if you do stop running. Just to give you a fair warning, I may be like hey, we haven’t seen you in a while. How’s 

Brent: it going? What doing? I don’t wanna say that the.

Brent: I don’t want to say that there’s not repercussions, but there, there is , there’s, let’s say there’s a bit of accountability, like we Yes. Yeah. I we could go into so much more detail that Yeah, of course. There, there is a follow up. There’s a person who’s who takes care of alumni and there’s a person who takes care of the, of recruitment and there’s so many different roles that are volunteer roles that aren’t eight roles.

Brent: Everybody is pitching in to make this community a great community. And I think the essence of this whole thing is how well the community works and how well this aspect of movement and changing your life through movement can really change your life. My life has been changed through it. 

Matt: That’s wonderful.

Matt: I’m really happy to hear this. 

Brent: Matt, yeah. Thank you so much for being here today. I will put all these links and contact information on the show notes. Excellent, and we will have to have a follow up with more folks from my shoes. 

Matt: We’d love that. Thank you so much for having me, Brett.

Matt: I really had a great time. Thank you.

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