I started my online boutique with less than $25 and my laptop. Yes, you read that correctly…just $25 and my laptop. Now, six years later, I have a fashion brand and a brick-and-mortar retail store. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do things the traditional way and definitely skipped some steps…but I made it happen. Here’s how I started my online boutique.
Step 1: Getting Started (Quickly)
First, what do you want to sell and to whom? In the beginning, keep it simple by focusing on one or two things (e.g. accessories, clothing and shoes, lingerie, etc). I chose lingerie. Once you have a category, come up with a name for your boutique. Try not to pick anything that’s too specific to one category. You want to be able to expand later! Make sure no other boutiques have the same name and check out GoDaddy.com to make sure that no one else has your website domain name. Now make up a logo. I used CoolText, which is a free online logo generator.
Second, you need to find a supplier for your merchandise. This step will depend on your budget; my budget was non-existent, so I went with a drop shipper. Find drop shippers who specialize in your category, and research them further.
The next step is to get started on social media! Facebook has my heart because that’s how I got started. Follow the steps to create a Facebook business page for your boutique. Use your new logo as your cover photo and invite all of your friends to like your page. The reason I chose to create a Facebook page first was to create a buzz while I worked behind the scenes. Folks will start liking your page before you’ve even posted content! Another important step is to apply for a Federal EIN and a Sales Tax I.D. number; this will help you later on.
Now, here’s the fun part: shopping your suppliers! Once you’ve decided on your suppliers, get started selecting your inventory. There are so many fun products out there, but I selected items which would be must-haves or best-sellers. As I selected each item, I made sure to save its photo and a brief description to a file folder in my computer; this will help you out later! I came up with a basic pricing chart to determine what I should charge for each item, taking into account drop shipping fees and its cost. We are only a few hours in, and you’ve already accomplished so much! When I started posting these photos and descriptions to my Facebook page, I began receiving comments asking how to purchase these items; I was making my first sale already!
Step 2: Upgrade You
Everything was great, but wait…I realized that in all the work I did, I hadn’t once thought about how I was going to get paid. I quickly signed up for PayPal. Square is another great option, and it allows you to add products and sell through it. Choose a payment processing system with minimal fees, no monthly fees, and a free reader.
Now, it’s time to take it all a step further by creating your own website. I went with Wix, which allowed me to create my own site for $9.99 (though this price has increased since then). The most time-consuming part was adding products. Now is when that file folder of product photos and descriptions will come in handy. It’s crucial to add an ‘About Me’ section and contact information to your website. I scored a virtual business phone number, created a business email, and connected my domain name to my website. Voila! Exotic Hush Boutique was live in five minutes, and I was well on my way to achieving my goals!
As I stated before, I did things very non-traditionally. My path was far from perfect, and there were times when I had to take a few steps back to eventually move a few steps forward. I’ve learned a lot, both good and bad along the way. I just wanted to give others some insight as to how I started my business with almost nothing and managed to make money along the way to finance my dream. Stay tuned for my next eBook, which will cover marketing, branding, and social media tips.
These tips came from my eBook, How I Started a Successful Online Boutique: With Less than $25.
Shawna Solomon is the owner and CEO of Exotic Hush Boutique and the leader of the Princess Entrepreneurs.