Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to start an online store. I recently had the chance to interview Jenn Leach of E-commerce and Prosper, who explains exactly how to start an online store and make extra income.
Jenn is a corporate mom turned e-commerce store owner and blogger.
She started her online business a little over three years ago and since then she has developed and grown three successful online e-commerce stores earning an average of $19,000 per month.
She only dedicates around 5-10 hours per week on her e-commerce business and is super successful.
If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle, learning how to start an online store may be something that you want to look into.
Check out the interview below for more information on how to start an online store.
One last thing before we head to the interview on how to start an online store. Jenn Leach has a course called E-commerce and Prosper that teaches you successfully how to start an online store. She has a rinse and repeat formula that she's revealing to students in the course. This formula earns her an average of $19,000 per month. In her course you will learn:
- How to start an online store
- Winning e-commerce Success Tools
- How to turbocharge your e-commerce success
- How to start making money in THREE days
Related articles on how to start an online store:
- 75+ Ways To Make Extra Money
- 10 Ways To Make Money Online From The Comfort of Your Home
- Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month
- My Online Business Income Reports
- 8 Items To Sell Around Your Home For Extra Money
Here is how to start an online store:
1. Please give us a little background on yourself, how you started an ecommerce business, and how it’s going for you right now.
I’m a Texas-based entrepreneur and blogger over at Drink Coffee & Prosper. I educate readers about working from home, starting a business, blogging, side hustles, and more. I have an MBA from Texas A&M University and a background in business and finance. I was working in banking for 10 years before I decided enough was enough and I wanted to finally pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
During the final year at my employer I decided to start a business. I tried many things: freelance writing, selling Twitter fan packages, and more. I was very unhappy at my job and was really willing to try anything that would allow me to earn a full time income working from home and being an entrepreneur. After many failed efforts, something finally stuck.
I opened a women’s fashion retail store on the Storenvy platform. I made my first sale shortly after launching and soonafter I was earning enough income to quit my day job, so I did! One year after starting the e-commerce business I quit my day job to pursue entrepreneurship full time.
Fast forward 2.5 years later, I was the owner of 3 e-commerce businesses. I sold my original online store, restructured the other two, and I’ve added teaching courses and blogging to my repertoire!
My remaining e-commerce business has enjoyed it’s second successful holiday season and is expected to experience some big positive changes and growth in 2017.
2. How much do you currently earn through this avenue? How much time do you dedicate towards it?
When all three stores were in rotation, I earned an average of $19,000/month (each store) in revenue.
My remaining e-commerce store earns $11K-$15K/month operating part time and I dedicate about 5-10 hours/week.
3. What exactly is an ecommerce business? Can you explain this more for those who have no idea?
An e-commerce business is a business in which you conduct transactions over the Internet. You are selling a product or service, making sales and collecting payment online. So basically, any purchase made online would be an e-commerce transaction.
4. What do you like about learning how to start an online store?
I love so many things about this type of business. First and foremost, the flexibility of being an e-commerce business owner is incredible.
I’m a mom to a special needs preschooler and wife to a disabled Navy vet. My schedule is crazy most days of the week, like I’m sure most moms experience. It’s great to have flexibility to take my son to school in the morning, run an errand, head to a doctor’s appointment, go to a trade show, travel, and more.
I also love connecting with customers one on one. You get to meet a lot of interesting people and make some awesome connections along the way.
The income potential for an e-commerce business is huge. You control your destiny. I like that the opportunity to increase your earnings is unlimited and it feels great to be my own boss and work for myself.
Networking is an opportunity to connect with like-minded peers in your field, learn from each other, make friends, and more.
5. How much can a ecommerce business owner make?
The income potential for an e-commerce business owner is unlimited.
It’s not uncommon to run into a million-dollar e-commerce owner.
6. What steps are needed to learn how to start an online store?
Creating an e-commerce business is not as difficult as you may think. Here are the steps involved:
- Pick a niche: Decide what you’d like to sell. Examples: apparel, home décor, kids wear, electronics, footwear, etc.
- Sourcing: Research where you will purchase your products from.
- Set up your e-commerce store: Pick a platform (ex. Shopify), buy your domain name, add products, and customize your store
- Promotion: Market your store to get customers and make sales
That’s it. It’s not a difficult process but it can be time-intensive.
Picking a niche – Picking a niche and sourcing tend to be the steps that take the most time. Figuring out what to sell is the most important part of this process. If you don’t pick a winning category, your store can suffer and you might not see success. I recommend for those that are new to e-commerce to really take their time with step 1. It’s not uncommon for it to take a few weeks or even longer to thoroughly research a niche and figure out what kind of product will see successful sales in an e-commerce setting.
Sourcing – Today, with the presence of Internet, sourcing isn’t as difficult as it has been in the past for new e-commerce entrepreneurs. There are a variety of ways to source your product, both online and in person.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Be aware of MOQ (minimum order quantity): Your budget can be eaten up quickly if you don’t keep a careful eye on minimum quantities required for products.
- Some helpful places to find out more about sourcing: forums. Examples: Wholesale Forum and The Wholesale Forums
E-commerce Store Setup – You’ll pick a platform that you’d like to have your store on. Some examples: Shopify, WordPress, Volusion, etc. Set up is usually pretty easy, involving things like adding products, product photos and descriptions, adding your payment method, shipping policy, etc.
Most platforms (like Shopify) will allow you to purchase your domain name through them. If they don’t, you can purchase domain through GoDaddy or Namecheap (examples)
Promotion – In Steps 1-3, you picked your niche, sourced your products, and completed store set up. The last piece is marketing and promotion. This is your effort to get customers to your store. There are many options to promote e-commerce stores paid and unpaid. Some examples include: social media, ads, and word of mouth advertising.
7. What can a person sell? Where do you find products when starting an online store?
There are several products a person can choose to sell.
Here are some examples: apparel, footwear, home décor, kids wear, electronics, etc. You can even sell digital products like printables, workbooks, ebooks, etc.
For physical products, you find products from wholesalers.
How it works: You purchase a product at the wholesale price, sell it for the retail price, and keep the difference as profit. For example, a home décor e-commerce store sells a lamp to a customer. They source that lamp from a wholesaler for $20 and list it at a retail price of $50. The customer purchases the lamp for $50. The e-commerce store keeps $30 as profit ($50 retail price minus $20 wholesale price).
8. How does an ecommerce business owner find customers?
There are many ways to find customers. I’ve had the most success by finding customers through social media. Some other ways to find customers:
- Paid advertising: Ads (examples: Google Adwords), Social media ads (examples: Facebook ads), sponsored posts, paid email blasts, etc.
- Unpaid advertising: Social media, word of mouth advertising, etc.
For hopeful ecommerce business owners, I would recommend focusing on social media. In my first 2 years in business, I relied only on social media and no paid advertising. In fact I did no other advertising at all, just social media and I grew the store to four figures monthly in year 1 and five figures monthly in year 2. Paid ads are also a great option if you have the budget for them.
9. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?
Startup costs can vary depending upon the type of business but generally e-commerce businesses enjoy lower start up costs compared to brick and mortar businesses.
Some expenses to plan for if you want to learn how to start an online store:
- Store platform fees
- Shipping materials
For my e-commerce store, my start up costs were under $100. This is because I focused on dropshipping in my first year. Dropshipping means that you are the middleman between the wholesaler and the customer. Similar to wholesale buying, with dropshipping, the wholesaler ships the product directly to your customer.
Look at this comparison example:
Inventory held model: Described above (in sourcing), you, the retailer purchase goods from your wholesaler. You buy a wholesale product at a wholesale price and sell at a retail price, keep the difference as profit. When your order is received, you have the product in hand, package it, and ship to the customer.
Dropship model: You, the retailer purchase goods from your wholesaler at a wholesale price and charge a retail price, keeping the difference, your profit. When your order is received, you place the individual order with the wholesaler and they ship the order to your customer.
With dropshipping, expenses are a lot lower because you are not doing the fulfillment, your wholesaler is. So, there are no packing/materials costs and no storage costs. Your labor cost is also less because you don’t have to fulfill orders yourself or pay employees to fulfill orders.
My startup costs were very minimal. I sold in a free marketplace with no membership fees. I dropshipped orders and did no paid advertising. The only costs were the cost of the product (that I would only incur after a sale was made) and PayPal fees.
When I transitioned to an inventory held model, my startup costs included:
- Inventory ($3K-$5K/month)
- Domain/store platform fees ($80/month appx.)
- Fulfillment warehouse ($1K-$2K/month)
- PayPal fees (varied)
These costs might not be typical. I was in year 2 of my business when I transitioned to an inventory held model and private domain. The store was already established and had higher sales. Initial startup costs for an inventory held model might be half of this (shown above) or less.
Maintenance costs are the regular recurring monthly costs to operate the ecommerce store. This can include costs like domain, hosting, PayPal or other payment processor fees, advertising, shipping supplies, and inventory.
10. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to learn how to start an online store?
My #1 tip would be if you have an interest in this field, dive in. It’s affordable to start. You can definitely do a lot of testing by buying small quantities, dropshipping, doing unpaid advertising, etc. I would have never thought I would be where I am today, earning five figures from ecommerce.
I started my ecomm store on a whim, literally.
I just gave it a try.
A year later, I was earning enough to quit my full time day job. Three years later, that store is sold and I have 2 more in it’s place. I would have never gotten to this point if I didn’t dive in and try my hand at ecommerce.
Some additional tips:
- Ask for help before you need it – It can be easy to fall behind and if you wait until you absolutely need help, you can get delayed further by researching the type of help you need, hiring, etc. Virtual assistants are great for handling day to day, simple tasks that can be time consuming like social media efforts, customer service, etc. This will help you free up your time to do bigger business tasks like sourcing, ordering inventory, etc.
- Learn – I'll teach you my secret strategies that landed me three successful online stores earning an average of $19,000 per month! Learn how to start an online store and start earning full time income from your online store in 3 days! Learn how to start an online store from my course that can be found at Ecommerce and Prosper.
- Don’t be afraid to scale up – One of the fastest ways to increase your earnings is scaling up. For example, if you are a footwear online retailer and doing Facebook ads at $10 day selling $50/day in product, try doubling your ad budget to $20/day for potentially $100/day product sales.
- Diversify your income streams – With ecommerce, there are many ways to earn money, other than through your store direct. These additional income streams are covered in the course and are a great way to double or even triple your earnings.
- Network – Networking has gotten me very far. It all started on Instagram for me. I found a friend who happened to be addicted to the platform like me. We found ourselves in the same group Direct Messages late at night browsing around and soonafter developed a close friendship. This opened tons of doors for me, meeting more store owners, joining engagement pods, forming amazing business relationships and more.
The ecommerce industry can be very rewarding. Think about how great it would be to wake up one day and be your own boss. Today, I feel so blessed to be able to have the life that I do, with a flexible schedule and the ability to spend more time with my family, all thanks to ecommerce.
Are you interested in learning how to start an online store?
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