What happened with Startup Challenge #1 and what was the result?
Probably exactly what you’d expect to happen when you only devote ~4 weeks to a project. And yet, maybe not.
When I set out to build a dropshipping website in just four weeks, I knew that this wouldn’t be enough time to build a full business and find success. What I hoped to accomplish was that I would try out a new business model, learn something new, and have a finished product at the end that I could either continue to work on or retire as I saw fit.
In that endeavor – I succeeded.
I learned what it takes to build an ecommerce site using the X theme on wordpress (a lot!), I learned how to build relationships with suppliers as well as the potential issues in building a dropshipping business, I learned about one of my biggest weaknesses in business, and I learned about a new industry!
Care to explain that a little more? Sure.
Building an ecommerce site is hard. There are a lot of things that you just never think about when building other kinds of websites. You have to design the header for both functionality and aesthetics so that customers can see their cart and account information at certain points in their journey and not at others. You need to design said cart! A good ecommerce site also borrows some features from a membership site since you need to create an account page so that a customer can save their order information and payment information for the future. You, of course, also need to integrate a payment processor. How about adding an inventory management system and product page? Yep, need those too. How are you going to deal with customer support? Integrate live chat and set up a support email… and so on.
I built the entire ecommerce site from scratch on the X theme using wordpress and Bluehost for hosting. That was a heck of a job. But it was fun! It was a challenge larger than I expected and ended up taking much longer than I expected because rather than building a simple site like a smart person, I decided to build a full site that has the image of a real reputable brand. Good for something that is growing and has a long commitment, bad for this whole rapid prototyping thing.
Building relationships with suppliers was also a fun new experience. Especially ones on the other side of the world who know that you aren’t going to be bringing a lot of business from day one. I found that many wouldn’t even talk to me, let alone provide details for shipping information and dropshipping processes. I ultimately found one company who was primarily a wholesaler, but was willing to dropship on my behalf if I sent him orders. Unfortunately, he also was particularly sparse on some of the requirements for shipping information so the exact margins will be unknown until I actually make an order. For now, i’m ok with that. Once the site makes a few sales I can start ordering wholesale and get better margins and have better control over the customer experience.
I also mentioned learning about one of my biggest weaknesses. In this case, it was focusing too much on building the ‘business’ rather than building a customer base. I could have spent 4 weeks building a Facebook page or group and then slowly started introducing products for sale. Or built a single page landing page and then run ads to that like Tim Ferriss says in the Four Hour Work Week. Either method would have had me focusing on my customers and audience above the site itself and had an extra two weeks to work on driving sales rather than playing in the backend of a website. So while I now have a fully operational ecommerce site to use as a portfolio item or continue to operate, I don’t have much in the way of customers.
So what now?
What is the fate of the site going to be? Well i’m not going to bury it, if that’s what you are wondering. I am particularly proud of what I built, even if it isn’t generating revenue yet. Ideally what i’d love to have happen is for someone out there to say they are interested in becoming a partner in it and be willing to pick up where I left off to help build that audience of followers. In lieu of that, I will continue to occasionally work on it here and there but without any specific focus on it. I have commissioned a few more pieces of content from a writer to publish to the blog so that it’s content marketing and SEO game remains strong (an area that this industry as a whole lacks, and an opportunity that I identified early on as somewhere I could stand out). Those articles will continue to roll out over the next several weeks/months, and I am setting up the social media presence to continue posting so the Facebook page stays active. Should anyone visit the page or website, they will see a business that appears active and alive. Hopefully a few orders will roll in here and there to cover it’s own operational costs. But if not, then so be it. I built it, I learned from it, and if that is all that it does, it was worth it.
How did the goals and budget shape up?
Total Spent: $67.93
Domain Name: $11.99
Domain Privacy: $11.88
Facebook Ads: $4.21
Content Writer: $6.18
Facebook Ads: $17.05
Facebook Ads: $4.29
Content Writer: $12.33
Unused Budget: $32.07
All in all, not bad. I left some money on the table from what I allotted myself for this experiment which could have driven some last minute traffic, but what’s done is done so i’m not going to worry about that.
I’d say that on average, about 75% of the goals for this challenge were hit and the final product was delivered. No revenue was made, a few emails were captured, and some followers were gained on the Facebook page. Not an all out failure. As I mentioned above, the education gained from this experience will undoubtedly pay me back many times over as I move ahead in this challenge and in life.
Stay tuned. The second startup challenge will begin shortly and i’ve got some fun plans for it! Make sure to get on the email list of you want to follow along with that one. If you are interested in the women’s beauty and style industry and would like to learn about the ecommerce site as a potential partner, please reach out to me! I’d love to talk and see if we can work out a partnership.