When it comes to starting your own online store, it can be both terrifying and exciting at the same time. You have a great product or service that you want to share with the world. And as much as you’d like to, this is what you want to focus (all of) your energy in and with the smallest monetary investment as possible. But before you know it, you find yourself looking for web developer, designer, accounting software, inventory and order management tools. And the bills kept piling up and well, you’re just tired all the time.
I’ve shared an unhealthy relationship with clothes. And when I had an idea that I could re-sell all the pieces I love and find from my hours of virtual shopping anyways, then I technically make money on an activity that I’ve already enjoyed doing without the guilt of feeling unproductive or spending an accessive amount of my hard-earned money. A little a year ago, I also wanted to test out different digital tools, strategy and see if I could build a business from scratch in minimum time and effort (hmmm.. it was a weird phase!). So Pauline Drinks Milk – my first solo and profiting business was born.
I made myself 2 criteria that I have to follow while setting up Pauline Drinks Milk:
- Minimal Monetary Investment
- Fast MVP that could get up and run immediately
Pauline Drinks Milk fulfilled both of these two points at the beginning.
I challenged myself to have no upfront investment – so $0 was put into the business until we got paid by our first customers. When I told my friends about this idea, it was a pretty good laugh. It is common for people to assume that we need to put in money to make money. But I wasn’t up for it, for the main reason that I don’t want to add a pressure on the potential initial investment loss, which as a first-time solo entrepreneur, was the biggest fear of all.
To do this, I ask myself:
What is the main purpose of my business? In other words, what do people expect to do when they visit my website? Can I quickly deliver this to quickly test my product hypothesis?
The answer was yes – if I go with a free e-commerce platform to host my store instead of building my own from scratch. Sites like Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, or in my case Tictail offer great e-commerce management tools such as customer communication channels, automate order confirmation email, parcel tracking, etc. To free up these logistics with a pre-built platform helps to deliver smooth shopping (thinking I don’t have to fix bug on my self-built website). This fulfills my website’s main purpose of allowing people to easily make a purchase. Using an existing infrastructure also allows me to prioritize my time on sourcing products, working out the pricing structure, listing items, creating logos – the minimal mandatory items that need to be done so my business can be live as soon as possible.
I also allocated $0 in advertising to drive traffic to my website, which in my opinion was a suicidal thought to any online store owner. And this was one of the main reason for me to go with Tictail instead of other platforms because it’s completely free, easy clean UI/UX means easy for product listing (and I can enjoy the process too) and it offers product discovery in the platform’s marketplace. I will have to pay Tictail a small fee for listing my product, but this will only happen if their listing generates a sale to my store. So this goes well with my challenge of putting $0 upfront investment.
The main crucial element that I needed in order for my store to go live was the actual products. I began outreach to my retailers and designers for potential collaboration opportunity. I focused my outreach especially on boutique and independent designers as their unique and rare designs are my product competitiveness comparing to other major online retailer.
Another reason I went for independent businesses is because these were mainly targeting their local market. Positioning Pauline Drinks Milk as an opportunity to introduce their product to a worldwide audience was appealing in getting these designers to collaborate with me – an unknown, non-established, zero traffic website.
From a list of 20 potential suppliers, I narrowed down to the main three that fulfilled my additional logistic requirement beyond having great product style and options:
- drop-shipping availability – to save on logistics & shipping cost on my end
- express shipping availability – to shorten order time, considering most of the products are also custom-made which already present a longer waiting period for my customer
- good quality product visual library – when you sell clothes online, nothing says more than great magazine-like visuals that will catch your potential customer’s eyes. You can get away with supplier’s visuals to save time, money and quickly get the website out
- fast and effective communication – this was crucial since Tictail does not offer a free inventory and order management tool so communications with suppliers need to be fast to move order quickly. You don’t want to risk a non-responsive supplier that will delay the process and ultimately reflect negatively on your online store.
Originally when Pauline Drinks Milk was opened for trade, we only had 15 products.
We wanted to test on our guests about the design, as well as the price point as quickly as possible before continuing to add more products on collection basis.
The website was live in 48 hours and we generated sale after the first 7 days. It’s still running aside as my passive business today. You can check out the Pauline Drinks Milk website http://paulinedrinksmilk.tictail.com/
Key takeaways to get your business live in 2 days:
- You don’t have to invest a huge sum amount of money on your first solo entrepreneur project for it to go live or make money
- Prioritize your focus at the very beginning – what is the minimal product that you can deliver in the shortest amount of time and effort to quickly serve the main purpose of your business
- Drive traffic to your store from existing, post-payment community listing so the minimal upfront investment remains small
- Minimize logistic works – if there are a service and platform that can handle that for you, use it at the beginning to save up the time and effort for other important set-ups