Starting an Online Store: Tips & Tricks

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Hey, everyone! My name is Aryn Kriesel, and I am one of the founders of Honeyed Boutique. I'll give a little excerpt about myself and write a full introductory post later. When I was younger, I always dreamed of publishing my book. However, in these later years, I found that blogging also allows self-expression. After working at two different boutiques and briefly working in marketing, I had a newfound passion for fashion and retail. It led me to want to start my own boutique, but money is always the dream-stopper, right!?

I'm very lucky to have my partner and second owner, Terri Kriesel to back up my dreams. And yes, we have the same last name! It's a mother and daughter business.

It's usually estimated that a person needs 150k to open a brick and mortar boutique. However, starting online can cut costs. Before you open a store, there are several things to consider.

What type of store do you want to run?

Drop Shipping

Drop shipping means that you'll place products on your website without personally holding the inventory. Aka, the wholesaler, will ship their item directly to the customer and you'll enjoy the benefits as if it were a commission.

Inventory

Then there's holding your inventory. This method is going to cost money. That means going to any market (trade show) to look at products in person and then order directly from the vendor and the items show up at your door. Meaning you're in charge of keeping track of inventory, keeping inventory safe and making sure you have a good grip on what you want to do with shipping and returns.

Once you've decided what route you want to pursue or can afford, then you'll have to do some research for legal and creative rights. Let's get into your niche or focus.

1. Find a specific topic/style that you're an expert in.

Now, the word "expert" always throws people for a loop. No, you don't need a degree or experience in the niche that you're going for it. Think of your expertise this way:

  • What do you get compliments about?
  • What do you love?
  • What do you know most about?
  • What do people come to you for? / What advice do they ask of you?


2. Is there a demand for your expertise?

A lot of people assume that if you're the "first" in the industry, your business will boom. While there are success stories for brands that started first; buying into an already existing niche is safer.

Here's an example: Subscription boxes. They started as sample boxes, but the idea revolutionized to fashion boxes, makeup boxes, book boxes, fitness boxes and so on. Why are they successful? Because there's a niche in something that already exists.

And it's good to have a model for your company while adding your innovations. The first companies in niches have to go through the process of trial and error, define their mistakes and fix them. A new business owner may not have the money to bear costly mistakes, so use those already existing companies as an example of what to do or not to do.

3. Who is the audience?

This question is a general marketing one. Some people love it, and some people hate it. However, when it comes to opening an online store, you do have to consider who you are buying for. Let's say you decided to make a subscription box. Who is it for? Pets? Tea lovers? Makeup gurus? Tall girls?

Defining your audience and target-market too much can also blind a person. Sometimes a niche doesn't always fit the person you're marketing for, and new buyers appear. However, starting with a base will help when it comes to picking out products. You're not buying for yourself; you're buying for your customers. Because of this, you'll have to have a piratical approach on who you're marketing to.

For Honeyed, I had to consider different sizes, different materials and even buy color schemes that I normally don't like. When the "ugly" items start to become unique, comfortable and eye-catching, that's when you know you're picking products out correctly. (Aka that is green clothing for me :P )

4. Finding a name and logo



The name and logo of your store will define everything your brand is. The best advice I can give is to pick a name that is easy to remember, unique to your brand/yourself and will be recognizable via the logo you decide to pick out.

Here are some suggestions for naming:

  • Use a thesaurus for words that inspire you
  • Make a list of names; don't be afraid to mix them together
  • It's easy to remember and pronounce
  • Short enough for a domain or URL (aka www.kitkat.com)

Suggestions for logo building:
  • Define colors that will represent your brand. These are called "mood" or "design" boards. 
  • Do you want a simple text logo or have an illustration involved?
  • Consider the psychology of color when it comes to buying decisions.
  • Does everything "flow"? Does the name match the color scheme?
  • Some awesome sites to buy logo creations from:
  • www.etsy.com
  • www.fiverr.com
  • www.99designs.com

Currently, I create my graphics and logos. If you're someone who is comfortable with building your own but might need a template for illustrator or Photoshop, I highly recommend www.creativemarket.com

Now, on to the technical and business aspect when it comes to the web and legality!

1. Register a domain - www.godaddy.com has the best prices

2. Apply for EIN which is your Employer Identification Number

3. Apply for a Sellers Permit. I would research into this one because each state has their requirements. For example, in Minnesota, we have to file an exemption from taxes when it comes to clothing, so we have an entirely different form from other states.

4. File a fictitious business name. The website will help you legally protect your entity name, trademark, DBA and Domain Name. Make sure to read through the entire website, so you know your rights as a business owner.

5. Run to your local bank and open a business account. 

For tax purposes, you want your business to run on an entirely different account. It's not only to look professional but will help separate your personal expenses from your business ones. Plus, it's great to use this as a write-off. Contact your local bank to see what their requirements are. Here was ours:

  • Your EIN
  • Letter of Intent - also used to get into trade shows as a first-time business
  • Good Credit and Standing with the Bank
  • Your driver's license or some form of accepted I.D.
6. Building your Website / E-commerce platform
  • www.shopify.com
  • www.squarespace.com


Right now, I can only vouch for Shopify because the boutiques I worked at used it, so I am most comfortable working with it. I find it very easy to use, and it has terrific website templates for beginners.

7. Find Product

As mentioned above, you'll want to figure out if you're going to attend fashion/trade shows or revert to drop shipping.

If you decide to do drop shipping, I recommend ordering samples so that you can check the quality. The apps that you would add on Shopify would include: Oberlo and Spocket.

However, if you go to trade shows make sure to research each one. Usually, trade shows are one step ahead of the current season. So let's say you attend one in August, then you'd be buying for spring. February is usually the summer. However, that doesn't mean wholesalers don't hold current seasonal items. The best places to look for trade shows are generally in California, Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas and New York.

An example trade show that I went to can be found at www.ubmfashion.com.

If you do attend a Trade Show make sure to bring Business Cards.



Here's a run down when it comes to what my business partner and I did.

  • Created a Name and Business Proposal
  • Registered Domains
  • Registered for the EIN
  • Used a Shopify Trial just to get it set up before we purchase
  • Opened a Business Account at our bank
  • Built a shell for an online store
  • Went to the UMB show in August to buy products
  • There are a lot of expenses to consider so here's a breakdown:

Purchasing EIN, Bank Account (Credit Cards), Website Costs, Travel for Fashion Show and Buying Product if you don't decide on drop shipping.

I can't give out a total cost of what we've started, but I can tell you that it's less than 10k. Everyone has different budgeting methods when it comes to buying hotels for trade shows and plane tickets. We were very rushed and excited to start. Even if you're planning to start one with little to no money, do keep a maximum of what you can spend.

Hopefully, this information was helpful for new online owners. I'd like to hear what topic you'd love to hear of next. Just leave a comment below!

  • Digital Marketing & Social Media Tips
  • Full Explanation when it comes to Drop Shipping Vs. Buying
  • Graphics!! I don't know how to do those!! What are some programs that will help me make beautiful graphics without breaking my back?
  • Trade Show Tips - Questions to Ask, Not to Ask and Business Words used
  • For every blog post that I write, I will make sure to make a supplement YouTube video as well. Keep on the lookout for those!