Ecommerce Inspiration

The Malcolm Gladwell Guide to Starting a Business: Lessons From Impressionists, IKEA, and Goldman Sachs

Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book is called David and Goliath, published last October. It features the roundup of…

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Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book is called David and Goliath, published last October.

It features the roundup of interesting stories and psychology research that we’ve come to expect from Gladwell. David and Goliath gives plenty of examples of how qualities we perceive as strengths may actually be vulnerabilities, and vice versa.

Though Gladwell rarely gives concrete advice for running a business, his books are often categorized as Business books. But even if you can’t really use his books to understand how to calculate discounted cash flows or how to register for incorporation, you might use his books to think about operations at a high level.

And so if The Tipping Point can be used as a business strategy guide, David and Goliath might be used as a guide to figure out the type of business you want to start.

Gladwell writes about a dozen stories in David and Goliath around a theme of “deceptive strengths.” We pick out three of these stories because we think that they’re particularly useful for learning about the type of entrepreneur you can and want to be.

First, the story of the French Impressionists

Who are the French Impressionists? You’ve heard at least some of these names: Monet, Cézanne, Renoir. And you’ve seen their paintings, hanging either in a museum or above a couch in a living room.

(Impressionism, Sunrise, by Claude Monet, at the Musée Marmottan Monet)

But they haven't always been famous. In fact, most of them spent the prime years of their lives in obscurity and poverty before becoming the best-known artists in the world.

Before they were known as the Impressionists, they were a bunch of artists who spent most of their non-painting time discussing art in a Parisian café. None of them had been particularly well-known, and could barely find anyone to buy their works.

That’s because the market for painting was regulated, and the official taste was set by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which ran an annual exhibition called the Salon. The Salon had very rigorous standards for what it considered to be good art: “Works were expected to be microscopically accurate, properly ‘finished’ and formally framed, with proper perspective and all the familiar artistic conventions.”

Translation: Paint huge scenes of battle or portraits of beautiful ladies, in realistic detail and set in an ornate frame.

The Impressionists didn’t like that. They wanted to paint differently, and of different types of scenes. Their brushstrokes were short and broken; they used unblended colors; and they rendered shadows and highlights in color. Gladwell describes their paintings this way: “They painted everyday life. Their brushstrokes were visible. Their figures were indistinct.”

(Avenue de l'Opéra, by Camille Pissarro, at the Pushkin Museum)

The Salon didn’t like that. Unfortunately for the group, the whole world paid attention to the painters who were selected to exhibit at the Salon. Those who were selected saw their reputations and the value of their paintings soar. The rest found their works and themselves ignored.

The Impressionists could not get their paintings into the Salon. That meant that they could not sell their paintings. They leaned on each other for more than emotional support. Monet was so broke that Renoir once had to bring him bread so that he would not starve.

Then things changed, suddenly.

After years of trying and trying to get placed into the Salon, the group changed tack. Instead of trying so hard to get into the Salon, they held their own exhibition in a few small rooms of the top floor of an office building.

It was nearly an instant hit. The Impressionists found that they were no longer shackled by bureaucratic taste, and their creativity let several art movements flourish. Each one of the original group is famous now. If you wanted to buy the paintings in that exhibition today, it would cost more than a billion dollars.

(The Rehearsal, by Edgar Degas, at the Fogg Art Museum)

Here's what you can learn from the Impressionists

Gladwell tells the story of the Impressionists to make the point that it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than to be a small fish in the ocean.

When everybody wants the same thing, think perhaps an award, or a degree from a particular school, or a position of power, the race gets insanely competitive.

And that race is potentially destructive. Sure, the prestige is nice if you’re one of the winners, but few people win when there are so many players. What's worse than competing yourself to exhaustion and then winning nothing at the end?

Try to apply the lesson of the Impressionists: Question the race, and don’t be caught up trying to get the same things that everybody else wants.

So how does that apply to your business? Well, perhaps you should avoid the trends that are big and established now. If you’re a small business, then maybe you want to look beyond running a coffee shop or a yoga studio. Or if you’re selling online, maybe the fashion space is overplayed.

Of course, this may not apply if you feel that you’ve discovered a big secret that no one else is capitalizing on. But most of the time, people start these businesses because they believe that the public is more familiar with them, so that it’s easier to get customers or interest from investors.

In practice, because you have so many competitors, it’s hard to distinguish yourself. Are you really sure you want to start the business that every day a few dozen other people are starting?

Take the story of the Impressionists and try to see if you can find your own niche. Imitating others is not always a winning strategy. Find a space that’s underplayed, where you have some expertise, get in there, and try to dominate it. And if you discover something that can grow, it may be a big pond one day.

Besides, you can take solace in the fact that artists have a great number of places to display and sell their works. They no longer need the stamp of approval from an official authority to get the public’s attention.

So, if you’re an entrepreneur, don’t go into fields that are popular by consensus. Figure out fundamentals and try to get into a space that people haven’t yet discovered.

(Mont Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Next, IKEA’s Ingvar Kamprad

Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA at the age of 17 in a small village in Sweden. He decided at an early age to be an entrepreneur after selling matches.

With roots in dropshipping, his business grew quickly. He thought that rural Swedes were paying too much for their goods, and wanted to outdo the bigger businesses in delivering goods to customers. Soon he was established in multiple countries.

In the mid-1950’s, though, Kamprad got into trouble. His fellow furniture manufacturers were angry at his low prices and flat shipping, so they stopped making products for IKEA. Kamprad faced ruin.

How did Kamprad respond? By outsourcing significant parts of product across the Baltic sea, to the Communist-ruled Poland.

It was then the peak of the Cold War, and Kamprad was roundly condemned for the act. Even now Kamprad faces criticism for the move. But he stuck through it, and continued to build IKEA. We all know how very distinctive the store is today.

Gary Cohn, President and COO of Goldman Sachs

Gary Cohn grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland. He had dyslexia, and struggled in class. It was hard for him to catch up to other students, and his parents took him from school to school. Cohn says that his mother cried a fountain of tears when he managed to graduate from high school.

When he was 22 he found a job selling aluminum siding and window frames for U.S. Steel in Cleveland. One day he got a day off so that he could wander down Wall Street.

He was by the entrance of the World Trade Center when he saw that someone well-dressed needed a cab to LaGuardia Airport. The well-dressed man looked important. Cohn went on a whim and decided to talk to him; he didn’t need to go to LaGuardia, but asked whether they could share a cab.

The stranger happened to be high up on Wall Street, and was that week hiring people to buy and sell options. Cohn had no idea what options were, but neither did the well-dressed man, really. Somehow Cohn managed to talk his way into a job offer to be an options trader.

When he got home he studied options like he never studied before. And when he finished several books on option theory, he went on to trade. And he was good at it. Cohn rose through the ranks and today he’s the president of a company that now manages $912 billion in assets.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid

Why are we putting together the stories of Gary Cohn and Ingvar Kamprad? They demonstrate Gladwell’s lesson of “disagreeableness.”

Disagreeableness is not often thought of as a virtue. But this book revolves around the idea that strengths may not be what they seem.

Gladwell explains:

“Crucially, innovators need to be disagreeable. By disagreeable, I don’t mean obnoxious or unpleasant… They are people willing to take social risks – to do things that others might disapprove of.

This is not easy. Society frowns on disagreeableness. As human beings we are wired to seek the approval of those around us. Yet a radical and transformative idea goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention.”

Most people would not think of moving production to an enemy country during the Cold War. Not many can face the social disapproval that would result. But Kamprad didn’t mind. He was a pioneer in shipping furniture flat, didn’t mind being ostracized by his associates in the furniture industry and dared to face public opinion in shipping production overseas.

And c’mon, how many people could jump in the cab with a stranger and emerge out of it with a job offer to work as an options trader?

These are difficult tasks for any of us. It’s not just courage at work here. It’s courage and the ability to disregard conventional opinion.

If you want to start a new business, don’t be constrained by conventional opinions. Think about how you can make your own mark.

For example, ask yourself what kinds of ideas no one wants to build a business around. Consider that no one wanted computers in the home before Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs started building personal computers. And ask whether certain ideas may have been abandoned because previous attempts were just too early. Facebook is not the first social media site: Friendster was earlier, and before Reid Hoffman joined PayPal and founded LinkedIn, he started a failed dating site in 1997.

(Young Girls on the Riverbank, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, private collection)

Conclusion

The Impressionists defied the officially-defined boundaries of good taste, went against the crowd, and founded whole new movements in art. Ingvar Kamprad defied public opinion and built one of the largest and most distinctively branded companies in the world. And Gary Cohn totally ignored social conventions to get a start to rise to the top of a huge investment bank on Wall Street.

These are all forms of entrepreneurialism. Take a close look at your assumptions and beliefs, and maybe you’ll find a few that are out of date. See what new type of business that you can plunge in to. Remember, it’s often much better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.

Have an idea you've been sitting on? Join the Shopify Build a Business competition and try out for a chance to win funding and mentorship.


About The Author

Dan Wang is a Content Specialist at Shopify. Get more from Dan on Twitter.

How To Build a $120K per Month Ecommerce Brand in Less Than A Year

Do you follow the r/entrepreneur subreddit? We here at Shopify love that space, and regularly look through it for…

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Do you follow the r/entrepreneur subreddit? We here at Shopify love that space, and regularly look through it for inspiration.

Last week we picked up a super helpful post by an entrepreneur who has built an amazing store. In less than a year Mr. Eric Bandholz built a business with $120,000 in monthly sales.

The company is Beardbrand. And Eric spells out exactly what he did to generate revenue of this scale.

His secret? Building a brand. It’s a “high priority” especially as a consumer business. And the results?

  • In less than a year Beardbrand went from $0 in sales to $120k/month in sales
  • Beardbrand has a higher repeat customer rate than industry average
  • Beardbrand’s 7k email list gets 46.6% open rate and 13% click rate
  • Beardbrand’s users gladly write reviews of their experiences and share it on social media
  • Customers will tell Beardbrand that they purchase from it because of its videos and its vision

With Eric’s kind permission, we excerpt parts of his post (the original is found in gray) while adding bits and pieces to supplement his advice to help make sure that merchants see the value of building a great brand.

First, the advantages to building a brand

  • Customers will be more loyal
  • Your products can carry a higher price point
  • Word of mouth marketing / viral marketing is more common
  • Valuation of your company will be higher (One example: the US company Electrolux sold their brand and nothing else to the Sweedish Electrolux. Their new brand is now known as Aerus.)

Eric is right that creating a good brand makes people more loyal. When they know and trust your products, people start to care about your work. Once you build a following, you no longer have to compete on price. You probably want to be more than simply an internet reseller, or someone whose products can easily fit in on a shelf of Walmart.

For example, there are hundreds of iPad case makers. But DODOcase has marketed itself as the only company that sells iPad covers designed by bookbinders and made in San Francisco. They’ve positioned themselves brilliantly, and their cases certainly aren’t sold at Walmart prices.

And yes, it’s much easier for your marketing to go viral if you’re easily identified and people are able to associate something (anything!) about you. You can only hope for virality if people want to share out your content. And people will only share the stuff they care about. Building a brand enables you to tell a story about what makes your business remarkable – something people can connect with on an emotional level.

Finally, Eric is right to note that the valuation of your company is higher if you have a good brand. In fact, financial analysts have a precise way to measure the value of a brand. It's listed as an “Intangible Asset.” Intangible assets are calculated as the difference between what your company would sell for and how much your company’s total tangible assets are worth. Brand is a significant part of that remainder.

It pays to have a brand, and we can’t stress this enough. This is especially true if you’re running an independent store, online or offline. You can’t just sell clothing identical to what you’d find at Macy’s, or fudge that tastes the same as what you’d find at Whole Foods.

People are looking for something different when they buy from independent shops. You can’t compete with the big-box stores on price, so go for differentiation through products and customer experience. If you offer a product not much different than something that can be found on Walmart, it’s really hard to get them to buy from you when Walmart is down the street, easy to buy from, and probably offers a lower price.

Use your brand to tell a story, and to uniquely position your products in the minds of your customers.

Do the research to figure out what you want to be

First you will want to commit to building a brand, and all the challenges that presents. You will have to be prepared to say "no" and stick to your guns. Inconsistency is the death to brands. Spend a lot of time up front to truly understand what you want to be and how you want to present your company.

You certainly don’t want to oscillate on your message to customers about your product. Do spend the time and effort figuring out exactly what you want to say. Once you start marketing, stick to the message.

Here’s how and what Eric settled on to represent Beardbrand:

With Beardbrand we developed the term "urban beardsman" which describes a man with a beard who cares about their style, their grooming habits, and who has a plan and a vision with their personal life. Traditionally beardsmen were thought of as hippies, bikers, outdoorsmen, or homeless folks. We wanted to unite people who didn't feel like they fit those labels.

Next, great design

To get this rolling we place an emphasis on design and branding. Our logo is simple and clean. Our primary colors are black and white and secondary color is cyan. We have had our tagline front and center on our store since we created it. Fortunately, I am a self taught designer and have implemented a lot of our designs. If you do not have those skills, you will need to invest in a quality designer. Most likely you won't find those at Fiverr, 99 designs, or any of those spec work places. Try instead to search for them via Dribbble, /r/graphic_design, your local AIGA club, or other places designers like to hang out.

Plan on establishing a relationship with a designer you can trust and work with. You'll want to send all (or at least a majority of) your designs to them so that you create brand consistency. All designers have different styles, and like I said before; inconsistency a roadblock to building a quality brand. A good designer can also help you with brand guidelines to keep you and others on track. It's essentially a blueprint on how to keep things consistent.

A great brand needs distinctive design, not something hastily put together by someone using Photoshop for the first time ever. It’s not just the logo that needs design work. There’s quite a lot to figure out, including how your site will look and feel; the types of fonts throughout; the prominence of images on the site; and of course signage and banners if you’re running an online store. Start by getting yourself an attractive, mobile responsive theme and if you need further design assistance consider hiring a professional to help.

If you’d like some help with branding in physical stores, take a look at our recent posts on physical retail. It includes tips on creating amazing window displays, and how to set up compelling street signs.

Now, building the brand

First off, it's important that you walk the walk. IE; the image you are trying to create of your brand is something you actually eat, drink, sleep and live. You'll want to tie together your branding across all your channels. That means your actions, business cards, website, merchandise, advertisements, emails, marketing, etc must all be cohesive.

This part is critically important. Selling a lifestyle, not just a product, is a very sophisticated form of marketing.

We’re constantly inspired by merchants who have built products around their lifestyle. Jess Brumpton started Three Little Birds, a boutique clothing store, after a trip to Bali. She now runs it out of a beach shack in Western Australia.

And we also love the work of Chris Tsang, who started Mindzai out of his passion for toys and creative design. These are amazing businesses built on the passion for a lifestyle.

But the epitome of living your business is definitely embodied by Beardbrand. Eric is too modest to talk about his Youtube channel and doesn't go into great detail about his videos, but they're our favorite part of the Beardbrand marketing. Eric creates compelling videos on how to wear a beard and about beard maintenance. He clearly loves shooting them.

And that kind of commitment is getting noticed. In fact, people have complimented him in the Reddit post about the fact that he lives the brand:

Beardbrand’s assets

Next, Eric links to some of the pages Beardbrand has created to help his customers and the media connect with his brand.

To show you how we did it, here are a few elements Beardbrand has created.

 

Each one of these are compelling pages that show what Beardbrand is about.

Eric highlights Beardbrand’s Vision Page as particularly important. There’s data to back up his claims. “About” pages and “Vision” pages are the most valuable real estate you have to tell your story. And people respond to stories. Studies have found that people who visit an about page are not only more likely to buy your products, they’re also more likely to place larger orders.

So: Tell a story. It’s fun, and good for sales.

If you’re looking to apply Beardbrand’s recommendations for your business, we’ve collected a few resources if you’d like to learn more about creating each of the items that Eric says is useful for building a brand.

Interactions with customers

In addition to your brand's design and feel, your company also has a brand on how it performs. Based on our target audience, we decided to provide a premium experience to our customers. To us that means quality products, fast shipping, no hassle customer service, and no sales pressure. How this reflects on our business is that we are using premium oils that put beard care first, quality packaging, shipping within one business day, making things right with customers when things go wrong, and offer no discounts or sales on our store.

When we attend events, trade shows, or put on parties - then we carry the same attitude and image that we portray online. We try to be as friendly as possible, not pressure anyone into anything, and have a good time. There is more to life than just selling beard products. Your brand isn’t just your logo. It’s the feeling you leave people with after they interact with you. How you treat your customers is a choice you make that affects how your customers see you, and that makes it part of your brand. This goes back to building a company around a lifestyle idea. If your community of people wouldn’t like to see something happen, then your business probably shouldn’t do it.

Challenges

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” - Steve Jobs

Disadvantages of building a brand

  • It's more expensive
  • It's a longer strategy
  • Must invest in more company culture to ensure brand is not tarnished
  • Return on investment is not as clear as call to action marketing
  • A tarnished brand loses all the hardwork you've done to build it up

We frequently get suggestions to do things differently. We are always have open ears (in fact made a lot of changes based on Reddit's friendly advice) but sometimes we've got to say "no" and do it for the right reason (or at least you think they are right). Here are a couple of examples.

  • I've had multiple marketing professionals tell us that we need to put our products on sale. I stand by our viewpoint that our product is fantastic, and when people are ready to buy they will buy. Granted, we might be missing out on some opportunity; but we feel in the long run we prefer the culture of quality over immediate gratification. We use Nordstrom's and Lululemon as inspiration.
  • We don't put advertisements on our YouTube videos. We are approaching 1 million views and I'm sure I could have had a few thousand extra dollars, but it's a more pleasureable experience not watching ads when people watch our videos.
  • We stick to style inspiration on Facebook. In a land of 10 day old internet memes, we could exponentially grow our user base by simply posting beard meme's. While, it may slow us down in growth; it's more important for us to accurately show we are about.
  • We market with no direct performance tracking. Some examples: We are putting a party on down in SXSW called SXBB. | We are buying ads that simply have photos of beardsmen and no call to action. | We are building an Ambassador program where we give out freebies to the select few beardsmen who really represent the image well. | Plus many other things.
  • We've spent way more on business cards, PR kits, and other items than your typical company

Eric doesn’t pretend that it’s super easy to build a brand. He’s also outlined a few difficulties to building a brand earlier in the post. Most of these challenges to building a brand boil down to the fact that it’s difficult resisting the urge to put “calls to action” everywhere you could. Beardbrand’s strategy is going after people who are proud of their beards, and realizes that not everyone wants to be sold-to all the time.

But it’s highly probable that Eric has built the community that he did by not trying monetize every channel of communication. Resisting that urge to monetize is a big part of branding success.

Conclusion

Come up with a good strategy for creating a brand. It may be hard in the beginning, but it’s definitely worth it over the long run.

Make sure to take a look at the Reddit post to see questions to Eric from other entrepreneurs. He answers other questions about online marketing, PR, and on how he learned design.


About The Author

Dan Wang is a Content Specialist at Shopify. Get more from Dan on Twitter.

40 High-Impact Books for Entrepreneurs [Giveaway]

We love to encourage learning here at Shopify. That’s why we started Ecommerce University, and it’s also a…

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We love to encourage learning here at Shopify. That’s why we started Ecommerce University, and it’s also a big part of what this blog is about. Today we’ve selected 40 books that can help you build, launch and grow your business.

Each of these books offer tremendous advice and value. We've assembled a mix that include classics, like Ogilvy on Advertising, as well as more recent titles, including Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book and Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things, published just last week.

As with our previous book roundups, you'll find a link to purchase the books on Amazon with all of the money earned from Amazon's affiliate program going to Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture that supports entrepreneurs in developing countries.


Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson

Anyone who works in tech hears constant references to Steve Jobs. It pays to know the man beyond the quotes on an inspirational poster.


David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Malcolm Gladwell

Each of Gladwell’s books are riveting. Learn about the success of the Impressionists, the history of the full-court press, and why you should avoid elite colleges like Harvard and Brown.


Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising

Ryan Holiday

Figure out how to adopt the growth hacker mindset and the right way to establish product marketing fit from a guy who’s mastered both.


The 4-Hour Workweek

Tim Ferriss

If you follow this blog, then you’ve seen Tim’s work. Learn how he went from working 80 hours a week and earning $40,000 a year to earning $40,000 per month and working 4 hours a week.


Poke the Box

Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a legend, and that’s why we’ve picked out three of our favorite works to be included in this list. Poke the Box is a call to action on the initiatives you’ve always wanted to start.


All Marketers Are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works – and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All

Seth Godin

Great marketers don’t talk about features or benefits. They tell stories instead. Learn how to craft yours.


The Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable

Seth Godin

After you’ve seen one brown cow you’ve seen all brown cows. Here how to be an unforgettable purple cow in Seth’s classic work.


The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

Ben Horowitz

Does the name Horowitz seem familiar? It’s one half of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most respected VCs in the Valley. Ben offers essential advice on founding and running a startup.


Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Jonah Berger

What makes content go viral? Professor Jonah Berger of the Wharton School has spent the last decade figuring out answers. They’re found in this book.


Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is Help Not Hype

Jay Baer

Still concerned with nothing but the bottom line? Let Jay Baer explain why the greatest products aim to be genuinely helpful, not just profitable.


Rework

Jason Fried

Jason Fried convincingly shows that most of what we regard as obstacles – hiring staff, dealing with paperwork, renting an office – are simply excuses not to get started. Here’s how to stop talk and to start working.


Content Rules

Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman

Ann Handley is the first Chief Content Officer in the world. This book is her guide to creating engaging web content and to building a loyal following.


Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Clay Shirky

The web is changing everything. Learn some of the philosophical, economic, and statistical principles behind the change.


Trust Me I’m Lying

Ryan Holiday

Do you want to know how the media really works? Ryan Holiday claims to know how. This is dangerous information.


The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Eric Ries

The concept of the Lean Startup is now a global phenomenon. This is the book that got it all started.


The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company

Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

The Startup Owner’s Manual is a 608-page how-to guide on how to run a startup. If you like charts, graphs, diagrams, and startups, this is the book for you.


Crush It!

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary V. discovered the possibilities of sales through the internet earlier than many. Here’s his advice on turning your web presence into a personal brand.



Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas From the Computer Age

Paul Graham

Paul Graham studied philosophy in college, has painted for most of his life, and was a co-founder of Viaweb. He’s a founding partner of Y-Combinator, and this book outlines his thoughts on the age of the internet.


The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career

Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

The CEO of LinkedIn, and his “Chief of Staff,” offer their thoughts on how to accelerate your career. Here’s how to treat your life along startup principles.


The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Malcolm Gladwell

This is Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal book on how small changes can prompt big changes. You’ve heard about it. Now it’s time to read it.


Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t

Jim Collins

Jim Collins profiles major companies including Intel, Coca-Cola, and Merck to discover how they made quantum leaps ahead of competitors. His findings are rigorously presented.


23 Anti-Procrastination Habits: How to Stop Being Lazy and Get Results In Your LIfe

S.J. Scott

This post could have been written in a fifth of the time if I properly applied the lessons in this book. Pick up this book to learn of them.


Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Richard Fisher

Getting to Yes is based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation project, and has been continuously published for 30 years. Not many business books can claim the same.


How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do it

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban tells his rags-to-riches story, going from selling powdered milk to becoming a multi-billionaire. This book also collects some of his most popular writings from Blog Maverick.


The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand

Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio

The best thing about this book is that it’s filled to the brim with full-color images and examples. It’s visual-, not text-based.


Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products

Nir Eyal

Looking for a product to sell and are open to trying anything? Consult Nir Eyal’s “Hook Model”, a four-step process to build customer habits and learn how to build products that people can’t put down.


Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

Arianna Huffington

Thrive is Arianna Huffington’s personal quest to understand what it means to be successful. Money and Power are two legs of a three-legged stool. She tells us what she believes is the necessary third leg.


Ogilvy on Advertising

David Ogilvy

This is the classic written by a co-founder of Ogilvy & Mather. He’s been called the original “Mad Man.” These are his thoughts.


Stiletto Network: Inside the Women's Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business

Pamela Ryckman

Pamela Ryckman discusses women’s groups that are forming in various cities across the country that help to empower them in the workplace. Here’s how she sees the movement.


The Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords

Perry Marshall

This is one of the most practical book on our list. Learn how to master Google Adwords, which is critical to online marketing.


Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing

Lee Odden

This is another super practical work, on how to optimize SEO. If you run a site, then you have to master it.


Marketing in the Age of Google

Vanessa Fox

Need another perspective on SEO? This is written by the person who created Google Webmasters, and gives you everything you need to know about search rankings and search data.


How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie

A classic: this book will give you people skills that are useful personally as well as professionally.


The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness

Jeff Gitomer

This guy wrote the “Sales Bible.” Plus, we all want to know about the 0.5 principle.


The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki was one of the first marketing people for Apple. This is his guide on how to put plans into action.


The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer-winning business correspondent for the New York Times. He examines social science evidence to discuss how habits form.


Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business

Amber Mac

Amber Mac gives the secret to making social media work for your company: think of your audience as your friends and treat them that way. Learn from her personal experience on building a big network.


Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Tony Hsieh

There’s a lot of things cool about Tony Hsieh and the amazing corporate culture he built at Zappos. There’s no one better to learn from to make your employees more effective.


The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin spent a year trying to be happy. See what happened as she personally experimented on how to be happier.


Entrepreneurship Book Giveaway

Congratulations...

We are pleased to announce the winner of the Shopify book giveaway:

Ven Chag: for her business NOURI Bars – snack bars that are nutritious and help to feed hungry children. Her recommendation for a great book? The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.

Thanks to everyone for tweets, thoughtful comments, and especially for book recommendations. You've made this a better list. If you have a business idea that your'e thinking about launching, make sure you check out Shopify's Build A Business competition.


About The Author

Dan Wang is a Content Specialist at Shopify. Get more from Dan on Twitter.

30 Beautiful and Creative Ecommerce Website Designs

People don’t judge a book by its cover, do they? Of course they do. Whether it’s the presentation…

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People don’t judge a book by its cover, do they?

Of course they do.

Whether it’s the presentation of your food at a fancy restaurant or the latest Apple product, humans just seem to love things that are beautifully designed.

And the same goes for your website. If you’re not presenting your visitors with an attractive site and packaging your products nicely, you’re definitely leaving money on the table.

Attractive web design has always played a key role in successful online sales and marketing. That's because it increases the perceived value of your products and works to make your website (and business) seem more trustworthy.

Whether you're about to launch a new ecommerce business or have been thinking about redesigning your current site, the following list should give you ample design inspiration for your next project.

Enjoy.

Pencil by 53

United Pixel Workers

Wrightwood Furniture

Kutoa

Dodocase

Au Lit Fine Linens

Natural Force Nutrition

JM & Sons

Tessemae's All Natural

Best Made Co

Norwegian Rain

Victoire Boutique

Ugmonk

Article

Pure Fix Cycles

Greats Brand

Leather Head Sports

Longboard Living

Bottle Cutting Inc

Rebel8

AMBSN

Kaufmann Mercantile

Bohemian Guitars

Commander Deer

Leif

Uppercase Magazine

Colossal Shop

Drop Dead

Deny Designs

Helm Boots

Looking for the perfect ecommerce theme template for your business? Check out the Shopify Theme Store.

Need a little help getting your store looking just the way you want it? Get in touch with a Shopify Expert.

How to Plan Ahead for Important Shopping Dates: Free 2014 Calendar

If you want to make 2014 your most profitable year yet as an online (or offline) retailer, then…

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If you want to make 2014 your most profitable year yet as an online (or offline) retailer, then you need to be prepared and plan ahead.

To help you, we've put together our annual Important Shopping Dates calendar which highlights key holidays and shopping events throughout the year.

Keeping these dates in mind will help you strategically plan out sales and marketing campaigns and make sure that you're able to optimize for seasonal traffic spikes and create content that is timely and effective.

Preparing for Important Shopping Dates

Knowing important dates is one thing, but knowing when people start shopping for these events is another. Let's take Mother's Day for example. This year, it's on May 11th (don't forget!). If we use Google Trends, we can see that people actually start searching for Mother's Day gift ideas in March and April - well in advance of the actual day:

How can you use this information to your advantage? For one, you can use it to inform your content marketing strategy. For example, you could create a blog post with the top ten Mother's Day gift ideas from your store. Or, there's email marketing. Every single one of the dates is a fantastic excuse to email your mailing list. 

Here's our annual Important Online Shopping Dates calendar to help you keep track of all your marketing events:

Download Printable Version

How Luxyhair.com Built a Seven-Figure Ecommerce Business With YouTube Marketing

When Alex Ikonn and his wife Mimi realized how hard it was to find good hair extensions, they…

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When Alex Ikonn and his wife Mimi realized how hard it was to find good hair extensions, they knew they had stumbled on a business opportunity. 

They took their problem and solved it by creating Luxy Hair - an extremely successful online store selling hair extensions for women.

And the coolest part? Their business is powered almost exclusively by tutorial-style YouTube videos.  

Their YouTube channel was created in 2010 and since then has amassed 1,474,246 subscribers and 173,657,125 total video views.

In other words, Luxy Hair is the perfect example of an audience enabled business that relies on a loyal community of fans instead of other channels like SEO and paid advertising. 

I caught up with Alex to find out how they took their site from idea to million dollar business. 

Describe your business and product(s) in 1-3 sentences.

Luxy Hair is a customer-centric hair extensions ecommerce retailer.

How much revenue are you currently generating per month?

I believe a more important measure for businesses is profitability and I can confidently say we are profitable in the seven-figures (annually).

How did you come up with the idea for your business/product(s)? What kind of market research did you undertake?

My wife Mimi and I were getting married and she was looking for hair extensions for the wedding. She wasn’t able to find what she was looking for and I was lucky enough to be in the room when she was talking to her sister Leyla about her predicament. At the time, I didn’t even know what hair extensions were.

And this was all of the market research we needed, as I knew if she wasn’t able to find a solution for her dilemma, we were going to try to solve it!

How did you create, manufacture or source your product? What were some key lessons you learned during this process?

I started sourcing the same night. I went on Alibaba and probably contacted every hair extension supplier that was there and just started asking questions about how to make it happen. I asked many stupid questions, however, that made me learn more about the product and how to actually make the idea a reality.

In choosing our supplier, ultimately it came down to the quality of product. From my initial list, I narrowed down to about 10 that I had pretty good communication with and then started ordering samples. The supplier with the best quality product and communication won our business. 

To our surprise, there was no minimum order with our supplier, however, we still had to place a pretty big order as the product itself is very expensive. Our initial order was $20,000.

A key lesson I’ve learned is the communication you have with your supplier is really important. As weird as it sounds, you have to feel a connection and trust your intuition. It’s fluffy but it worked for us and we still work with the same supplier.

How did you promote your business initially and where did your first sales come from? Any major media mentions or PR wins since then?

Our business was entirely grown through our YouTube channel, the YouTube community and word-of-mouth. We only recently started experimenting with paid marketing - up until then it was all organic.

And our initial biggest win was a YouTuber with about 15,000 subscribers reviewing our product. This did way more for us than any magazines mention can do as we’ve been featured and it’s nothing compared real people on YouTube.

Your YouTube channel has over 173M views. Why is video working so well for you and what advice do you have for other businesses looking to leverage it?

YouTube works well for us because of the way we approach the YouTube community. Our approach is to try our best to give people value and a personal connection when we create our videos. We honestly don’t focus on selling and instead focus on these two factors. The sales and word-of-mouth come as people can feel we genuinely want to help people. We don’t even use our product in most of our videos.

I can also tell you that YouTube is not for every business. It works so well for us as you can see how the product looks and how it can transform your hair to help you create different hairstyles and look great! It’s a visual product.



How do you handle shipping and fulfilment and organize the back-end of your business? Key lessons/tips for doing this successfully?

The most important thing I would recommend to anyone is to work with a third-party fulfillment warehouse from day one. It will save you a lot of headache. We used Shipwire when we had a crazy idea and no sales to growing to be one of their biggest customers.

The key lesson is shipping takes a lot of time and you want to use a service that will enable you to scale quickly and not interrupt your growth.

What software, tools and resources are crucial to your business?

Definitely, Shopify and Shipwire! These are my secret weapons and they integrate so seamlessly together.

The Shopify blog is my go to ecommerce learning resource. Sometimes, too much content that I can’t even absorb it all.

Sounds like a pitch for Shopify but I honestly love the service.

What were your biggest mistakes or wastes of time and money (if any)?

Our biggest mistake was not giving into crazy customers and my lesson was that it’s better to lose a little money than to be right.

For example, we’ve had instances when the customer didn’t follow a certain refund policy and still wanted a refund. Sometimes it’s better to play nice and not follow your refund policy as angry crazy customers can make you lose a lot more money. With social media at everyone’s disposal you have to be very careful.

What other key advice can you offer to entrepreneurs looking to start a successful ecommerce businesses?

Stop thinking about yourself and your success. No one cares.

Start thinking about others and how you can bring value into their lives and help them solve their problems.


Key Takeaways:

  • When looking for product ideas, examine your own everyday life and look for pain points that you can solve. Chances are, if it's a product or service that you need, others will need it as well.
  • Don't be afraid to learn from suppliers and ask lots of questions - even if you know nothing about a product or industry. 
  • When it comes to video and content marketing, focus on creating content that has independent value and lacks a direct sales pitch. This will help you build an audience, position you as an authority and ultimately sell your products in an under-the-radar way.
  • Keeping customers happy is important and sometimes making small customers service concessions can save you time and money down the road.
  • Provide as much value as possible through your content, products and services and you'll be much more likely to find success. 

Here's Some Unique Cyber Monday Deals You Won't Find Anywhere Else

With over 75,000 merchants on the Shopify platform, there are some fantastic Cyber Monday deals going on today…

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With over 75,000 merchants on the Shopify platform, there are some fantastic Cyber Monday deals going on today - and we're here to help you find them.

Below are some unique products and great deals from around the world. We will be updating this post throughout the day with more deals so make sure you come back. 

And, if you're a Shopify merchant and have a deal going on today, let us know about it in the comments. 

You can also follow along live on Twitter by following @ShopifyPicks, and follow Shopify on Instagram for ongoing product curation.

Alright, lets get to the Cyber Monday deal madness! 

Red Stick Spice Co

20% Off everything in the store + free shipping. This is the only time everything is on sale.

Charlotte Lane

25% off all paper goods with the code MONDAY25.

Joli Originals

Joli originals is giving away a free wallet with all orders of €49 or higher.

Abbe Polyhagen

20% off on all products today.

Whipping Post

Free shipping on all products.

CNUT

20% off all items with discount code 'cyber'.

Wetnose

20% off all products.

Chloe and Isabel

50% off all products.

Stasch

25% off handmade Berlin-style tobacco pouches.

Sycamore Street Press

25% off all orders.

Ewin's Dry Goods

Get a $10 gift card for every $100 spent.

Curated Basics

Free shipping on all men's accessories.

Modern Producers

50% off the entire store.

Equisite Streetwear

20%-50% off the entire website.

Intrinsic

Free pair of sunglasses with every shirt, shades, or scarf purchase. No codes needed, they will just add them in with the order.

Loop

30% off all products.

Basketball Megastore

20% off all basketballs, t-shirts, shoes and caps.

Spokester

20% off on all Spokester Bicycle Noisemakers.

Pirate Printing Company

Level Six

40% off everything in the store.

20% off all shirts with code 'CYBER'.

More to come, stay tuned and refresh!

75 Places to Spend Your Bitcoins

Bitcoins burning a hole in your wallet? We can help. On Wednesday we announced that over 75,000 Shopify…

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Bitcoins burning a hole in your wallet? We can help.

On Wednesday we announced that over 75,000 Shopify merchants can now start accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment on their stores. Well, it’s safe to say people are excited. In two short days we already have hundreds of stores accepting Bitcoin.

Here are some great places to spend your Bitcoins this Black Friday:

Joli

Beloved

Cloudy Sky Leatherworks

Fangamer

LollyPhile

This is Ground

 Orbit Streetwear

Lurings

Bridget Bunchy

Mindzai

Motown Mustache Wax

Zoo York Snowboards

Pure Fix Cycles

Ultimate Ugly Christmas

Revolution Cycles

CMS Home Store

Elecom Tech Accessories 

Completely Royal

Bitgear Bitcoin T-Shirts

Ferrite

Funky Thang

Super Black Lacquers

Robo 3D Printer

Tortuga Backpacks

Enclave Eyewear

Sprayable Energy

 The Jerky Spot

Quadlock

 

Mother Hemp

Ortega Cigars

 Chivaz

Girl Meets Dress

 Pyramid Valley Vineyards

DeStudio

 Rack Your Board

Ethical Bean Coffee

 Real Watches

Alternative Intelligence

 The Hong Kong Tea Company

B.G. Reynolds' Bar Store

 World A.B.S.

Herbal Infusion Tea Co

 Rift Recon

Single Speed

 Briana Diamond

Earth LED

 Twelve Gauge Records

Benola

 Spokester

Wigme

 Project Grey

This Is Just to Say

 Fairtime

Market Crate

 Boss Draft Kits

Art Pieces of Mark Bern

Fruit My Cube

L'Armoire Chic

 Prinnnt

Cali Burrito

 Rand Paul Swag

Turtle Square

 Homestead

Privacy Gift Shop

 Double Tap

De Wine Spot

 Craftsquatch

Inspired By Liberty

 

 Pimoroni

OZ Health Shop

 Bioque Skincare

The Xclusiiv Boutique

Looking for More Bitcoin Black Friday Deals?

Check out Bitcoin Black Friday, a holiday shopping extravaganza just for Bitcoin users. Merchants can also sign up to have their store featured on the site and there's even a list of charities people can donate Bitcoins to. The initiative is organized by Fight for the Future.


Are you an online retailer accepting Bitcoins this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!

12 Quotes That Will Make You Want to Quit Your Job and Become An Entrepreneur

Some call entrepreneurship an "itch" that you simply cannot shake. It can make you twitch, lose sleep, and…

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Some call entrepreneurship an "itch" that you simply cannot shake. It can make you twitch, lose sleep, and crave something that may not seem within your grasp right now. But you want to scratch it, even if you're hesitating for the time being, it's one of those things that just grows undeniably stronger with each passing day.

To honour that entrepreneurial spirit in us all, here's a list of great quotes from a number of accomplished business owners that will make you want to stop thinking, stop talking, and start doing.  



"There has never been a better time, in the history of time, than right now to start a business." - Gary V., Wine Library TV & Vayner Media Founder

(Tweet This)


"I knew that if I failed I wouldn't regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying." - Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

(Tweet This)


"Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you." - Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

(Tweet This)


"If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it." - Elon Musk, Tesla Motors & SpaceX Founder

(Tweet This)


"I try not to make any decisions that I'm not excited about." - Jack Nickell, Threadless founder and CEO

(Tweet This)


"Embrace what you don't know, especially in the beginning, because what you don't know can become your greatest asset." - Sara Blakely, SPANX Founder

(Tweet This)

 

"Some 80% of your life is spent working. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?" - Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder

(Tweet This)


"You can make up your own opinion, but you can't make up your own facts, go sell." - Daymond John, FUBU Founder, Shark Tank Investor

(Tweet This)


"Find your one thing and do that one thing better than anyone else." - Jason Goldberg, Fab Founder

(Tweet This)


"The risk is not in doing something that feels risky. The risk is in not doing something that feels risky." - Andy Dunn, Bonobos Founder and CEO 

(Tweet This)

"It's not about the amount of wealth you can accumulate, it's about the impact and change you can create." - Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker Founder and Co-CEO

(Tweet This)


"Don't be a complainer; make things better, let it go, or take action to make it better." - Tina Roth Eisenberg, Tattly Founder  

(Tweet This)

Shopify Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook Book Giveaway

How Two Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Took a Side Business from $100k to $3M in Revenue in Three Years

Have you heard of Crossfit? It's a strength and conditioning system that was started in 2000 and has…

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Have you heard of Crossfit? It's a strength and conditioning system that was started in 2000 and has become extremely popular in the fitness community.

It's also a movement a lot of smart entrepreneurs are building businesses around. 

One such person is Peter Keller, an entrepreneur from Texas and owner of FringeSport, a Crossfit and home gym equipment supplier.

Peter and I connected on Reddit over at /r/entrepreneur after the Beardbrand case study we published generated a lot of discussion over there. 

He introduced himself and shared his story (as well as some pretty incredible sales numbers for such a young company).

I got Peter to take us behind of the scenes of his extremely successful ecommerce business and show us how he achieved such phenomenal growth so fast. 

Describe your business and product(s) in 1-3 sentences.

FringeSport is bringing the tools of elite fitness within reach allowing anyone to build a truly world-class strength and conditioning facility in their own garage.

We combine U.S. engineering and global manufacturing with a bricks and clicks business model to get better strength and conditioning equipment to our customers faster and cheaper than ever before. From barbells to kettlebells and beyond, we outfit the functional fitness enthusiast and "Workout-of-the-Day"-junky with everything they need. FringeSport offers solid gear, great prices, and world-class customer service!



How much revenue are you currently generating?

Since we were founded in 2010, we've been on a steep upward trajectory. In 2011, we did $100k, running the business on the side while both founders worked day jobs. In 2012 we quit our jobs, got office and warehouse space in Austin, Tx, and built a team. We did just over $1M in revenue. In 2013, we've expanded to Dallas and San Antonio, and we'll pull in $3M (projected).

We've been serving our customers with a "bricks and clicks" approach that we stole from Bonobos and Warby Parker. Since we're literally shipping weights, our freight costs can be astronomical. To combat this, we've been experimenting with showrooms in Dallas and San Antonio. This approach has been very successful. YTD, we've generated about 60% of our sales online, 35% from the "bricks" locations, and the remainder from our wholesale/dropship program.

How did you come up with the idea for your business? What kind of market research did you undertake?

I've always been entrepreneurial minded. In 2010, I was working for another ecommerce business and I wanted to do my own thing. I ran through a niche selection exercise and came up with the idea to start a strength and conditioning company focused on the fast-growing CrossFit market.

I'd been CrossFitting since 2005, and I loved the community and the movement but the equipment was expensive and hard to get. With my background in product development and ecommerce, I knew I could bring the gear to market and do it better than my competition. I approached my brother as a partner, and we were off to the races!

For market research, I found our first product - gymnastic rings. I placed an initial order for two thousand dollars worth and I figured that if those sold, our market would be validated. If not, I figured I could liquidate them for what they cost me. Luckily, they sold!

How do you manufacture or source your products? What were some key lessons you learned during this process?

We currently use a mix of product that is engineered in the U.S. and contract manufactured for us, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) gear that we buy factory-direct, and product from U.S. brands. Over time, we're moving more and more to contract manufacturing.

Products that we have contract manufactured are always best for our customers and us, because they are designed better than the off-the-shelf products. We leverage our deep integration into the strength and conditioning community to continuously test and improve our designs. And, when we use contract manufacturing, we have better control over costs.

In manufacturing, relationships are huge. You're building long term partnerships with your factories so treat your interactions with this in mind. Also, everything takes longer than you think it should - build lots of buffer time into your projects.

How did you promote your business initially and where did your first sales come from? Any major media mentions or PR wins since then?

Initial promotion was largely through Google Adwords. I would not recommend this unless you really know what you're doing, as you can throw a lot of money away while you learn. In hindsight, I would work social media much harder.

Currently, Facebook is a great marketing channel for us. Also, we're members of a number of forums online and the traffic we get from the forums is very targeted.

We have not reached out much on the PR front, but we did get a great mention in Lifehacker this year, which came from outreach to the author some months prior.

What channels are currently generating the most traffic and sales for you?

Organic and direct traffic are our top sources, with direct converting best - which makes sense because these visits come from people who have an idea of who FringeSport is. Facebook and forums drive a god amount of targeted traffic. Additionally, our PPC (mainly Google Adwords) is pretty dialed-in these days, and our spend there is ROI focused - so this traffic converts or it gets shut off.

Our physical locations drive excellent traffic and sales, plus a high level of repeat business.

A lot of your products are heavy. How do you handle shipping and fulfilment and organize the back-end of your business? Key lessons/tips for doing this successfully?

Shipping and fulfillment is a key core competency for us. From an early stage, we emphasized shipping product as fast as possible. What this means today is that we promise to ship out all in-stock product ordered by 2pm CST on the day it is ordered (business days). Shipstation is a lifesaver in this regard - we route all shipping through the app. We also recently installed BrightPearl to handle much of our backend - this should streamline systems as we scale.

To ship heavy products cost-effectively, we go to the mat with UPS, freight carriers, and USPS to find the best rates and service. In negotiations with UPS, finding a sales rep that believed in us was huge! Our previous rep didn't care about us and basically was forcing us to prove our volumes before he gave us the rates. Our new rep believed in us and our story and gave us some preferential rates based on our growth projections.

Finally, have you seen that post office campaign, "If it fits, it ships" for Priority Flat Rate boxes? We use and abuse that program.

You operate three physical locations in addition to your online store. What challenges does this present and how to you tackle them? What advice do you have for other retailers looking to do multi-channel?

The physical showroom initiative has been a huge success for us from a customer engagement and service perspective, as well as a financial perspective. However, it has created a lot of inventory and backend problems including carrying costs for additional inventory, avoiding stock-outs at our showrooms, and managing the front-end point of sale (POS).

We've recently implemented BrightPearl to help us manage the backend, and Shopify POS (we were formerly on Square) for the front-end.

I would advise other retailers to give a look at how they could implement the bricks and clicks approach. Shopify's app ecosystem has a lot of solutions to help manage this approach and you can drive the highest level of engagement by allowing your customers to have real-life, face-to-face interactions with your brand.

And of course, it's a multi-channel world. Find out how to best reach your customers, and pursue the options that make sense.

What software, tools and resources are crucial to your business?

Shopify, of course! Additionally, we share documents on Google Drive as much as possible, plus we use Dropbox as well. We use Basecamp for project management and Google Apps for email. Google Analytics is hugely important and free, so get that installed and learn how to use it.

I'm a big Apple fan, and we use Mac + PC in the office, but our tablets are all iPads running various apps, and most of our team use iPhones.

A few great apps are Shipstation and Meta Tagger. We recently installed Yotpo and we have been amazed. We now have a steady stream of user reviews coming in and it's great! And we have high hopes for BrightPearl and Shopify POS.

What were your biggest mistakes or wastes of time and money (if any)?

We were slow to move strict oversight and accountability over our PPC campaigns. We now have a process by which our PPC campaigns have a few months to prove themselves out on an ROI basis or they get the axe. We should have moved to this system earlier.

We should have utilized social media, especially Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter earlier and better. Social media is time consuming but "free", so while you have time, get online and hustle. Even now, we can use those networks more efficiently. I see a lot of young brands using Instagram really well, and I know we're not there.

We were slow to start building our email list, but we have recently started focusing on this, and sending emails regularly. These don't take much time with properly formatted templates, and they drive sales and engagement with your fans. So get a MailChimp or Aweber account from the start and build your list!

What other key advice can you offer to entrepreneurs looking to start a successful ecommerce businesses?

If you have an idea, get to work! Shopify makes it super fast and easy to get a great looking site live. Plus there are a ton of resources online to help you. One of the best ways to validate is to just (cheaply) get your idea out there and get real-world market feedback.

Once you've gotten rolling, figure out where you will truly add value to your customers' lives and hit that angle hard. Don't ever stop improving your product offering. If you build a better mousetrap, keep improving it, plus keep expanding your selection and finding other ways you can help your customers.

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