My husband and I began this T-shirt business about 6 months ago, intending to work with youth sports teams and small businesses local to us to create sport gear, etc. We put together a variety of T-Shirt designs using a wide range of materials simply to show "what we can do" with the equipment we have. I designed them, my husband made them and we began showing them in small venues to get a feel for what people like. Within those samples, was one cancer awareness T-shirt (our original FIGHT shirt with the lettering across the chest). To our surprise, this one T-shirt started selling very well locally and we began marketing it a bit online (along with many other designs). We began sending free shirts to loved ones and friends of friends that had been diagnosed... with overwhelmingly positive results. So, from there, we removed all of our "other" shirts from our website store and have been concentrating on Cancer Awareness.
We have met some great families and heard so many touching stories... It feels great to be able to contribute something positive to those who have literally been fighting for their lives. We hope to grow our business significantly over time and are always looking for new, creative ways to advertise and get in front of our customers.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Our first few sales were hard fought. Setting aside the shirts that were purchased by family and friends, it took us about 2 weeks to get our first online sale. We have sales alerts set up on both of our cell phones... so when a sale comes in, we both get text messages at exactly the same time. I can't tell you the excitement in our house when that first sales notification came through! We rushed to the computer to see who and what and began processing the order immediately! Since then we've steadily progressed in the number and frequency of sales.
Primarily, we use FaceBook and Google Shopping Campaigns to do our advertising. FaceBook has proven slightly more effective and the price and ability to specifically target customers certainly beats anything else we've seen.
We've added on multiple apps (both free and paid) to our Shopify account... most noteworthy being: Product Customizer, Abandonment Protector, Beetailer Social Widget, Coupon Pop and Exit Pop.
Once we got everything up and running, we watched the web hits and purchases climb on a weekly basis. We've now made about $2,000 in the last month (as opposed to $237 in our first TWO months combined!) We definitely feel we are on the right track!
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
We use Shopify and all of the apps mentioned before to keep our website up and running. We add new apps as they come out or are found, to try to improve upon our conversion rate and drive customers to our site. We are currently seeing a 2% conversion rate (May, 2014) which is about double the expectation for this industry.
For accounting and taxes we use QuickBooks Premier Edition (it works, but it seems overly complicated for what we really need). For postage (weighing & purchasing) we use Dymo products. Mailing sleeves are purchased through Uline.com. For our production, we use McCreary's Tees, Roland DG and Stahl's. We do 100% of the production work ourselves (designing, creating, prepping, shipping, billing, accounting, etc) You name it, we do it!
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Set realistic milestones before you start and alter them as your results start to come in. You are not going to go live and have money flooding in, it just doesn't work like that! If that's what you expect, you are bound to be horribly disappointed and tempted to give up.
Research constantly! Don't be afraid to change the direction of your business as your customers tell you what they want. If you are flexible, you'll find a niche that no one else is filling that you can excel at!
Bottom line: Don't give up! 90% of businesses fail in the first 2 years. Not because they can't succeed, but because the owners give up or didn't plan far enough ahead.