Welcome to #TheGreatBuild, a series dedicated to starting an ecommerce business from scratch. In this series, the founder of A Better Lemonade Stand, Richard Lazazzera, shares the lessons he learns and the strategies he tries as he builds his own ecommerce business from the ground up. This series has been created with the intention of showing other new entrepreneurs what it takes to start an ecommerce business so it will hopefully inspire them to start their own online business, too.
To read all the blog posts included in this series, navigate using the Table of Contents down below.
Table of Contents
- #TheGreatBuild: Choosing a Niche & Product to Sell Online
- #TheGreatBuild: Product & Niche Evaluation
- #TheGreatBuild: The Great Reveal of My Product & Niche Selection
- #TheGreatBuild: Make, Manufacture, Wholesale or Drop Ship
- #TheGreatBuild: Negotiating with a Manufacturer
- #TheGreatBuild: Choosing a Shopping Cart
- #TheGreatBuild: Pivoting
- #TheGreatBuild: How to Build a Brand Persona
- #TheGreatBuild: Unveiling My Brand
- #TheGreatBuild: DIY Product Photography
- #TheGreatBuild: How to Launch a Business
- #TheGreatBuild: First Month Revenue & Marketing Report
- #TheGreatBuild: Behind the Scenes of a 6-Month-Old Ecommerce Business
What to Expect from #TheGreatBuild?
You can have all the great ideas in the world but if you never start any of them, you have zero chance of being successful. It’s just like the old quote by Wayne Gretzky:
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
#TheGreatBuild and this blog, in general, isn’t about making a million dollars. I don’t have the magical “10 Steps to Making 1 Billion Dollars in 30 Days” guide like every other online marketer (it seems) these days. If you are looking for a vague guarantee of success, I suggest you follow those guys. #TheGreatBuild and A Better Lemonade Stand is about starting something, which is something I find most entrepreneurs get stuck at.
As I have talked to friends, acquaintances, and people online, I have realized that many people just don’t know where to start and what the process of starting an ecommerce business is. Ideas seem to be common, however, taking action is much rarer. That’s why I decided to put myself on the line and do this series. I just want to show you what starting looks like. It’s not a “Proven 3 Step System,” it’s just my process.
You are free to agree or disagree with my methods. I will make some mistakes along the road, you should pay attention to these mistakes so you can learn from them. Ultimately, my goal is to help ignite a spark in some people that have been struggling to get started.
Are there some things I won’t be sharing?
Likely. But I’m not 100% sure what won’t be shared yet. I have business partners on this project and not everyone feels comfortable with the idea of full disclosure of all methods, strategies, and financials.
How can you participate?
Comment, like, retweet and share. I may send out the occasional survey if I need some crowdsourced opinions. If so, please complete it as I’d love to have your participation and your insight. Your feedback will also help me make vital decisions.
#TheGreatBuild Begins Now
Building an ecommerce business is a very rewarding experience. To watch something come to life that is the compilation of hundreds of little decisions is an incredible feeling. The business almost becomes a living creature that you have to nurture. Your decisions become its DNA. Once your business has come to life and is up and running you will have a whole bunch of new decisions to make. Decisions that will slowly transform your business for the better but also sometimes for the worse. But you will learn. You’ll learn from every decision, adjustment, test, customer comment and complaint.
With that said, there will also be hurdles and setbacks. You will get discouraged at points and you may even fail. I can only promise you one thing: You’ll learn more from actually starting a business than you ever will from reading, thinking and talking about starting one.
When you are first getting started, you’ll fall into 1 of 2 categories:
- You have a product or an idea for a product you want to sell online
- You want to start an ecommerce business, but don’t have an idea of what to sell online
If you already have a product or an idea for a product, awesome! In just a bit, we will go through how to evaluate your product idea to better understand your product and its potential in the market. But first, let’s address the person wanting to start an ecommerce business, but doesn’t know what to sell. Finding and choosing a product to sell online is the first step but how do you actually find a product? Where do you start looking and what exactly are you looking for?
Where Do You Look for a Product Idea to Sell Online?
There have been many articles written on this topic, some more technical than others. Some will recommend that you find a product you are passionate about, others will suggest that you search through thousands of products in online directories, and others will tell you to scour through tools like KWFinder for different keywords until you find high search/low competition keywords that you can capitalize on. For me personally, there is no big secret to finding product or niches. In general, I find my ideas through one of several ways:
Choosing a Product Tip #1: Pay Attention to Things You Love
I pay really close attention to the things I love and hate. For example, a little less than a year ago I threw on a heavyweight hoodie that I’ve had for almost 8 years. It’s in perfect condition, looks just as good and fits just as well as the day I bought it. In my head, I thought, “I wish I had more of these.” I began searching and discovered, there was really nothing in the current market that was built to this standard. With that realization, I began researching the idea of making ultra high-quality hoodies. I explored this idea for a few weeks but kept coming up with production issues. Around that same time, The 10-Year Hoodie (a very similar concept) popped up on Kickstarter and raised over 1 million dollars. I made the decision that this wasn’t the right project for me and moved on. The point to the story is, if you really love or hate something, there’s a chance that others do as well and is likely worth exploring further.
The founder of Coffee Joulies paid attention to something they hated (and I too, for that matter) and did something about it. They had an issue with coffee and tea being too hot when you first get it and having to wait 10-15 minutes for it to cool down enough to drink it. Instead of this just being an accepted annoyance for the rest of their lives, they did something about it and created Coffee Joulies, large metal pods shaped like coffee beans that you drop into your coffee or tea. The Joulies cool down your coffee or tea 3 times faster and then keep your coffee/tea warmer 2 times longer. They successfully went on to raise over $300,000 on Kickstarter and now sell their product in their Shopify store.
Choosing a Product Tip #2: Pay Attention to Things Others Love
I pay really close attention to things other people love, hate and do differently. Watching things others are passionate about gives you a glimpse into other peoples’ minds, wallets, and future interests. Almost all trends have products attached to them which also creates new problems which, in turn, can be solved with… more products. You don’t have to be into yoga yourself to know that people really, really love yoga. And if you’ve ever watched your partner practice it at home on those little mats you might have been able to realize that those mats work great for a crowded yoga classroom where smaller mats = more students = more money for the studio, but at home it’s just limiting. Square 36 upon noticing this problem created an extra large yoga mat for home use, allowing more space and the ability for couples to do yoga together. In a post on Tim Ferriss’s blog, they mention they are making $10,000-$25,000 per month.
Noticing someone’s passion is partially how I discovered my idea for this project (which we will get into later).
Choosing a Product Tip #3: Look Through Product Directories
I look through product directories. This is a little less of a creative of approach, but product directories literally have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of different products ideas. If you spend enough time looking through them, you will definitely find something. The key when looking through directories is to look beyond the individual product and set aside concerns it may be too common or have too much competition but rather to think, consider, and search for niches within that product category.
Silky Polish started selling nail polish online. Many people would discredit this product idea right away because of the competition by big companies with substantial marketing budgets. They decided, however, to go after a small nail polish niche by selling a nail polish free of all harmful chemicals. It was perfect for people who were concerned with the toxic nature of nail polish, as well as for parents who had concerns about their young children using potentially harmful chemicals to paint their nails.
Choosing a Product Tip #4: Look to Other Online Businesses
You don’t necessarily have to re-invent the wheel. Looking at other ecommerce businesses and niches can give you ideas of your own. Sites like This Is Why I’m Broke and Oh the Things You Can Buy curates various types of interesting products, but you can easily take this concept and niche it out more. Maybe you can create a curated product site that only sells products made in Germany or maybe it’s a curated fashion site with only products from Italy.
I often use Luxy Hair as an example because they were not the first business to sell hair extensions online — far from it, in fact — but Luxy Hair has dominated the market because they did something different and better. They were the first to recognize the power of using YouTube as a marketing channel and a tool to offer tremendous added value to their customers. When you are looking at other businesses, ask yourself what you can do different or better. How can you add more value than the current competition? As a starting place to see what some other businesses are doing, check out the Muse Case Study series on Tim Ferriss’s blog:
- Series 1: Engineering a “Muse”: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses
- Series 2: Engineering a “Muse”: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses
- Series 3: Engineering a “Muse”: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses
- Series 4: Engineering a “Muse”: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses
What Are You Looking For?
By now, you should be getting a sense of where to look, but what exactly are you looking for? Looking at thousands of products and potential ideas can be daunting if you don’t have some sort of criteria to better understand the products and their potential in ecommerce. Over the years, I have developed a list of criteria I continually use to gauge new products and ideas quickly. I’m not going to re-write everything in this post because I have already covered in detail in my post, Reverse Engineering The Perfect Ecommerce Product. This is a MUST-READ post for everyone but essentially I have an 18-point list of criteria I quickly go through with every product before I get more serious about it. It’s important to note that these criteria aren’t supposed to give you a definitive yes or no to going ahead with your idea, it’s simply meant to better help you organize the strengths and weaknesses of your idea.
The 18-point criteria are as follows: (Click on any of the points to jump to the other post which defines each one)
- Potential Market Size
- Trend, Fad or Growing Market
- Limited Local Availability
- Target Customer
- Selling Price
- Limited SKU’s
- Product Size/Weight
- Passion/Pain Product/Niche
- Low Product Turnover
- Consumable or Disposable
- Restrictions & Regulations
- Video Marketing
What About the Selected Product & Niche for #TheGreatBuild?
So how does the product and niche I have chosen for #TheGreatBuild stack up? We will get into all of that in the next post. Until then, do you have an idea for a product already or are you still looking?
Other Resources on Choosing a Product to Sell Online
I thought I would include some other great posts on finding and choosing a product to sell online. Check them out when you have some time for a more complete picture and understanding of choosing an ecommerce product.