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My story of bootstrapping an ecommerce startup from $0 to $500k in a year

Discussion in 'Making Money' started by H3ktor, Jan 18, 2017.

  1. H3ktor

    H3ktor Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    I have a very long relationship with BHW, both emotional and moral. This forum has played a big role in my career and probably that is the reason I feel obligated to share my story today. The sole purpose of my sharing today is to
    • be thankful to this wonderful community
    • inspire the beginners
    • introduce a not so new possibility
    • reconnecting with the community
    Boring Part
    I’m a 28 years old entrepreneur from Bangladesh. Many of you might not have heard of it. It is a small country from south asia bordering with India, Myanmar and Bay of Bengal. I found and joined BHW back in 2009 from a google search “how to make money online”. I was totally excited and consumed by the abundance of so many information, tutorials and hacks. I was in university then and I was sleeping only 3-4 hours a day spending rest in my study and BHW. I learnt very quickly and made my first $50 by helping another BHW member with his website SEO. We talked and become friends. We are still in touch. Over the years he has helped me with so many things. A good friend and a great guy from India.

    Fast forward to this day, I have:
    • never worked for anyone
    • lived and traveled 3 different countries solely on internet income
    • recognized as a tech talent by French govt.
    • been invited to presidential palace by the French president
    • met and connected with numerous famous founders and mentors
    • been bootstrapping and growing 2 startups
    Good Part
    So how to start an eCommerce startup?
    I’m not going to cover the technical parts, I will give hint on those. You can study further from web.

    Step-1: Mindset
    Building a business is never going to be easy. Believe me, it is not. But it will be exciting and that will get you go through. To have a hard working mindset and persistence, it is important to have clarity on your goals and needs. A good way to get clarity is to read entrepreneurial books and try methods like Warren Buffett's 25-5 Rule. Two of my favourite books are "Hard things about hard things" and "Lean Analytics". Also check out the videos from Y-combinator’s channel “How to start a startup”

    Step-2: Hypothesis
    To start an ecommerce startup, like any other sustainable business, you need to think of a hypothesis. How do you form a hypothesis – by studying, observing and replicating others but better? So before you jump into opening your first store, study about the market. All the little details we overlook are going to be a variable of your success or failure. I have a background on academic research, so I started from the basic by googling “What is ecommerce?” The information could be redundant for you but that is a good point to start. The more you will study about the market and statistics, the accurate your hypothesis will be.

    Step-3: Business Model Canvas
    Now that you have a hypothesis in your mind, prepare your business model canvas. Make sure your business model canvas is straightforward and you can explain it to anyone in less than 60 seconds. If you can’t, make change in your model. You need to be able to explain every section of it quantifiably. The idea behind this is to able to set benchmark to test, measure and re-test. Here is a useful tutorial on building your business model canvas:
    Code:
    http://www.alexandercowan.com/business-model-canvas-templates/
    Step-4: Lean Start
    Now that you have a hypothesis and business model prepared, it is time to start for real. Setup a store with Shopify, Woocommerce, Bigcommerce or on any other platform. My personal favorite is Shopify – this is the cheapest and fastest way to start. I personally don’t like self hosted platforms as it takes a lot of time to setup and manage.

    For selecting products – you must need to check 2 basic criteria – Is it a commodity or luxury and is there any perceived value in the product. Selling a toothbrush is 10x tougher than selling a diamond ring. For product sourcing, my favorite sources are product on demand services. If you don’t find any POD for your niche, dropshipping is an alternative option. Start with 1-5 products. You don’t need a big catalog to start.

    The fastest way to start driving traffic is FB advertisement and Instagram influencer marketing. Reddit is a good place too depending on your niche. There are hundreds of courses and learning material available on these. Study and implement. Eventually overtime, you will figure out the secret(!) of driving buyer traffic.

    Step-5: Test, Measure & Scale up
    The rule of thumb at this stage is to be curious. Through out your whole funnel implement analytics and measure your user engagement, activity and behavior. One of my personal favorite tool is Hotjar. This one makes life a lot easier. You will more likely fail in your first 10 ad campaigns and loose money but DO NOT GIVE UP. To make it all worth, you need to find market fit for just one product. Usually you should be able to find your market fit in more or less 6 weeks. Congratulation, now it is time to make it big. Keep scaling your ad campaign and operation. You need just one winning product to make five to six figure a month.

    Step-6: Sustainability
    Start building partnership with manufacturers, setup a good customer support system and test and find more products from your niche. Your ultimate goal is to build a brand and sustainability.

    Hint #1
    Custom apparel, jewelry, vanity products like cell phone accessories, 3D printed products, essential oils, vaping accessories, eco friendly products sells pretty well and easy to start

    Hint #2
    Optimize your store with social proof, persuasion and scarcity techniques. These directly effects prefrontal cortex of human brain and help make decision faster. Modern humans have a very short attention span. So keep the checkout flow distraction free. A very responsive customer support system influences the millennial customers like nothing else.

    Hint #3
    Talk often to the customers or potential customers and ask questions like why they decided to purchase from you. The advantage of being a startup is, you can afford the luxury to connect with your customers in a humane level.

    Go ahead, take action. Experts are forecasting, global online retailing will cross 2 trillion USD this year. Time to claim your cut. Little bit more inspiration to get your started :)


    May the force be with you :)
     
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  2. Flacko

    Flacko Newbie

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    Excellent write up.

    Nice job, inspiring stuff.
     
  3. Yarael

    Yarael Junior Member

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    Wow! Nice earnings OP! You make your on products? Is it made from another company?
     
  4. H3ktor

    H3ktor Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    We don't manufacture or ship. Our POD partners do that for us.
     
  5. Yarael

    Yarael Junior Member

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    Maybe I lose something, so its dropshipping?
     
  6. H3ktor

    H3ktor Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    It is slightly different than dropshipping. We sell custom apparel. So the design is ours but the production is managed by different companies.
     
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  7. Yarael

    Yarael Junior Member

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    Oh ok!! Got it now :D Good Luck!
     
  8. hippo123

    hippo123 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Good luck OP!
     
  9. Breican

    Breican Newbie

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    Do you use Free plus shipping offers? do you have prefer selling higher priced items vs low priced items?
     
  10. Breican

    Breican Newbie

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    What countries are you mostly targeting?
     
  11. muffslayer

    muffslayer Junior Member

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    Sweet. My Shopify store isn't doing well. Any tips on mastering FB ads?

    Also what profit per item do you aim for?
     
  12. psyclogic

    psyclogic Regular Member

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    Good stuff OP. Are those earnings from one product or?
     
  13. jehnubis

    jehnubis Newbie

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    Good advice only for people living in "developing countries" like yourself. You are at the source of the manufacturing hub. Anyone living in the western world will soon get screwed by his/her supplier sooner or later.
     
  14. SkyrocketSEO

    SkyrocketSEO Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Why were you invited to French presidential palace? What was the main reason?
     
  15. H3ktor

    H3ktor Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    No, i don't use F+S offers. We price our product according to the production cost and quality. Usually the range is from $20-$50
    United States
    The only way to master ads is testing different formats, pitch and demographic segments. I haven't found any shortcut for it yet :) I aim for 35%-40% profit per unit. Optimizing conversion, occasionally increases the profit to 50%+
    No, from around 6 different products from same niche.
     
  16. H3ktor

    H3ktor Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Won an innovation challenge and was offered residency, fund and co-operation from govt to build a business around our solution.
     
  17. blazingprofits

    blazingprofits Junior Member

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    Well done, keep it up. Ecommerce will only get more n more popular as mobile n online shopping becomes a lifestyle
     
  18. Jason Bradbury

    Jason Bradbury Power Member

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    Very inspiring story from a bangladeshi recognised by the french government... BHW always surprises me
     
  19. chillerfx

    chillerfx Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Inspiring and glad you didnt let your spirits down! Ecommerce is the future, keep hustling mate ;)
     
  20. smurfelina

    smurfelina Newbie

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    Where and how did you find/search for on demand suppliers? Did you find it online or local? Any tips for how to find a good supplier?