It’s been about ten months since we launched our shiny new Shopify website, and watched our screen light up with visitors from across the country. The weeks prior to the launch were a blur with shipping boxes being delivered in a snowbank, making weekly treks to our product photographer two hours away, and negotiating with artisans all while trying to build enough hype on social media to make it all worth it. So was it worth it? I’m sharing everything I’ve learned in opening an online store.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
When we first started the shop we traded our “guest bedroom” for an isolated space to hold our inventory. We bought shelving, meticulously organized everything that arrived, burned sweet smelling candles in hopes it would somehow be infused into the products but within a few weeks - it was a mess and I felt guilty.
As time has gone on I’ve realized while it’s important to clean up, and make sure everything is organized sometimes there’s no “gorgeous” way to style a Dymo printer. There’s always too many boxes, and not enough scissors but it’s simply okay. I wish I would have spent less time getting caught up in the details, and more time being present in the launch.
If you build it they will come - not.
One of the biggest misconceptions about ecommerce is “if you build it - they will come.” That’s completely inaccurate, and a discouraging mentality for a lot of business owners. We had the social media presence, the imagery, the products, the experience, and we still didn’t have a thousand orders come in the first week. It’s important to realize that no matter what business you start - time is the answer. It takes time to establish trust with customers, and gain an authentic following. I underestimated the time it would take to build our brand, and even ten months in I’m still finding my way with our followers each and every day.
I would say if you are looking for fast money don’t open an online store. There are so many options for online shopping which makes it so challenging to compete. The focus has to be on the message and unfortunately that takes time to reach people.
Start where you are and you will figure out the rest.
A downfall of my perfectionist personality is that everything has to be right, and “great” from the beginning. I don’t like people seeing me struggle, and be vulnerable so I have no interest in doing things halfway. This resulted in the shop being way too much way too quickly, and while it’s been a learning experience I would definitely recommend starting small to begin with.
There’s also something to be said for doing everything yourselves, and only outsourcing when you’ve established yourself. We initially worked with a product photographer that absorbed a lot of our startup budget, and now ten months later we are re-shooting the entire site to fit our style. It’s important to work with what you have even if it’s not perfect, and cut costs in the beginning until you have more orders coming in. While I don’t recommend doing a poor job I think we underestimate what we are capable of doing ourselves sometimes, and it’s important to take that challenge.
You won’t know who you are so make room for growth.
Millennial Currency started as a YouTube series to spotlight local businesses, and my long term dream was to take it on the road to share other small town businesses. After a lot of thought I began building the vision for the store and the idea of exclusively featuring made in the United States products but I had no idea what my potential customers were looking for. I selected things we would use, and potentially purchase but I made a few missteps along the way. Now I find myself sourcing products with an environmental purpose, a more reasonable price point, and smaller home decor items because I’ve learned a bit more about who we are as a shop.
It’s important to be focused when you open a business, but leave room to evolve as well. Every company makes changes along the way, and it’s okay for your new business to do the same. You won’t have all the answers, mistakes will likely be made, but if you grow from it all you are likely going to be okay.
Leap and the net shall appear.
We had applied for a local grant prior to opening, and wholeheartedly believed our risk in creating the store would be rewarded with local funding. It was heartbreaking when we heard we didn’t receive the grant and I immediately felt myself close off of a bit. While “Leap and the net shall appear” I thought would have meant receiving the grant I realize now means it’s all going to be okay in one way or another.
Setbacks can be discouraging and it’s important to remember that business is fluid and there will be many ups and downs. If you stay in the long game, and focus on the positive you will be rewarded. We were sad to miss the opportunity, but the “net” has been the outpouring of love we’ve gotten from our followers and customers everyday.
Focus on the positive aspects, the growth you’ve made, and the net becomes that much more visible.
How long have you followed Millennial Currency? Are you thinking of opening an online shop? Share with us in the comments!