A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to start a business quickly and with very little money. In 2016, there are so many platforms and tools to leverage. You can build off of platforms and create something impressive in very little time.
In this quick read, I’m going to tell you about how I started one of my ecommerce startups, RadStraps.com, in 24 hours and then sold it just over a year later for $3,000. It’s nothing too impressive by any means, but it’s a starting point and it learned a lot while doing it.
I’m going to show you how I built it and the tools I used.
It all started with Instagram for me. I spent a lot of time on it, saw a lot of content, and I had received a Nikon DSLR as a graduation gift in 2014 when I graduated from SLCC. So camera’s and photography were kind of on my mind. After already starting a previous business, WearWood.com, I wanted to start something new. It was really more of a personal challenge. I wanted to create something fast. While having this goal in mind, my eyes were on a hunt for a new product to sell.
While on Instagram, I noticed some fancy colorful camera straps and thought to myself, “Those probably cost $3 to make, they are lightweight, they don’t expire, they aren’t fragile, and the market is quite easy to target.” So then I started researching what competitors were out there. There wasn’t really a single brand dominating the space. There were some you could buy on Amazon and eBay, but that was about it.
Next, I set off to Alibaba.com and Aliexpress.com to see if there was anything available. Turns out, there were some manufacturers on there that were already making designs and the price point was just as I expected, about $2-6 apiece. This only took about 30 minutes for me to realize this is where I would source my products. I picked my favorite designs and placed orders, buying only about 20 at a time of each design. My cost for my first orders was probably about $1,200, and I planned on selling them for $19.99 with free domestic shipping.
Now, I knew it was time to crack a Red Bull open and get this business started. I needed a name. I set off to Godaddy.com to search for a website domain name that was available for CHEAP. The price and availability would ultimately determine my business name with my low college student budget. After some searching, I found that RadStraps.com was available for $12, and the social media handles for that name were not taken yet. Bingo.
Shopify.com is a user-friendly ecommerce web application for setting up any online ecommerce business. It has a monthly fee, but it’s worth it IMO. I know people with businesses in the millions in revenue who still use Shopify. I created an account, linked my domain name, and found a website theme. Shopify is $39.99 a month and my web theme was $114, although there are free themes available. I didn’t have products in hand yet, but I was able to set up the rest of the site and use placeholder images until then. Keep in mind I know next to zero HTML code. It can take a bit of time to just go in and change background colors, text fonts, button shadows and create different pages. I whipped up a quick logo in Photoshop, and threw up some photography background images I had taken awhile back. The site wasn’t 100 percent done, but it could now accept orders via credit card. Once I had the products in hand I would add those pictures to the site.
From previous experience, I knew that Shipstation.com would be my go-to platform for printing shipping labels at home and linking it directly to my Shopify account. Shipstation links to your Stamps.com account so you can ship through USPS and more. I created an account and also placed an order with Uline.com to my some bubble mailer envelopes.
Legally registering the business as an LLC was quite easy. I had done it before. A lot of people overthink it and get lost in the jargon. If you get confused, I’m sure somebody at Lassonde Institute would be happy to help. These are the steps you need to take, but I’m no legal professional. One tip of advice, don’t use your personal cell phone number. You’ll get spam calls every day for the rest of your life from people trying to sell you branded pens. Create a Google Voice number for free. Here are the steps:
- Register your business with the IRS to obtain your EIN (employee identification) number. This is for tax purposes and you can do it online.
- Register your business with the state department of commerce and get your articles of incorporation. I believe this cost under $100 with their fees.
- Submit your application for a business license in Salt Lake City or a city of your choice. There’s a fee for this, but it may vary city to city.
Now the business is 99 percent ready to start receiving orders. There’s a few things here and there you can do, but now you have an online storefront, a logo, products, shipping method, social media accounts and it’s a legal business! Now it’s time to segment and target customers and get your product in front of their face, but that story will be for another day.
After RadStraps.com opened up shop, I began shipping them all over the world to photographers who wanted to ditch their boring camera strap for something a bit more creative. Eventually, I decided to post my business for sale on Flippa.com, and had it sold in less than a week.