by Deepanker Mishra 27 August 2020

A CA, Started an E-commerce Store That Actually Makes Money

How I started my E-commerce store from scratch?

I am really very creative since my childhood. Putting a smile on someone’s face with a nice personalized gift always made me feel fabulous (and still does!).   So, it all began with creating unique gifts for my friends and family while still in college. Looking at my gifts, my friends approach me to create gifts for their friends and family. And that’s how I started getting orders.   I loved what I did so it was never a burden. While in college and even during my CA internship I would manage my gifting side the business post office or on weekends.   After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant from ICAI, I joined EY, Mumbai in their Transfer Pricing team. You can see my complete journey How I started a profitable e-commerce business in 7 months?   I continued the same even after entering EY, balancing my work, and my gifting side business.   while working with EY, was a dream that comes true. I feel super lucky to get into this profile beginning in my career. But, while working at EY, and I realized that I was looking for something else.   Now you will be wondering if I ‘Quit my job‘ to start my online store? The answer is NO.   I quit my job randomly without anything in hand or in mind.   In short, I did not know what I wanted to do next. Even after quitting my job at EY, I couldn’t understand what exactly I wanted to do in life.   In the meanwhile (like always) I continued taking small orders to curate gifts for others.   After quitting my job, I had nothing in mind. I met my mentor and told her that I did not know what to do in life. She was aware of my gifting site and suggested that I should take it seriously and focus a lot more on it.   She explained to me that I should give a few months of dedicated time to my Gifting business and see if it worked well for me.   While working at EY, I had observed that many of my friends had the will and capacity to buy gifts for their family and friends but they had no time. So knew that there was a gap in the market and I could fill in the same.   So when I decided to go full time with my gifting business (this was in Feb’18) the first thing I did was to start – Gifting Wardrobe Instagram page.   Now I had no clue that I would land up launching a proper e-commerce store in July 2018.   In fact, the idea of setting up an e-commerce store website begun only in early June 2018 (almost 5 months after starting my gifting business full time). This is how I started working towards setting up a private e-commerce business.   As I had a good idea about the gifting business and about the growth, I chose to explore that segment.   So, this is what I did when and started gifting wardrobe as a full-fledged company:   I figured my opportunity cost as opposed to my salary at EY. And I started setting goals to say like a minimum of 100 orders every month. It was tough to meet my target initially but somehow, I started working harder and harder towards it and started achieving my goals.
There were times when I would not even get a min of 100 orders per month. But I kept pushing.   Also, at times, I would take orders from a few big clients even if my profit margin was not sufficient.   The goal was to always keep serving. It helped in marketing as well.   Getting the first few clients for business is the most challenging task.   So, I do not have like a goal book or so, but I do have a Vision board where I keep posting my vision for Gifting Wardrobe and for myself. Having a fiction board is so essential to everyone.   I would recommend all of you to create a vision board for yourself. In fact, this New Year I secured amazing concept boards for my clients.

How many orders did I get in my first month of business? 
During the first month on Gifting Wardrobe happily, we had one bulk order and a few small ones. In the first month, I had a total of 35 orders. At times we get 100/ 200 orders per month. We have also seen months with 250 orders. at the time of Diwali 2018, it was the first season of Gifting Wardrobe for making an amazing profit and we made too. Yes in between we did face a month with only 10 orders as that month I was engaged in sourcing of products and building my e-commerce store’s website in detail.   What was the cost of operating an E-commerce store? To operate an e-commerce store, the most essential thing is the Website. to attract the customer. The website might cost you around $3500 (approx INR 1.5-2 lakhs) along with GST and accounting software (more details below!). So, depending on the country you belong to, you will need software to keep your taxes in place. The website also needs monthly maintenance and that will cost you around – $100 – $175 per month. Since I have started my e-commerce business with my own money, all the money I earn goes back into the business. Luckily, we have been getting so many offers from Investors. However, we are yet to find that investor who shares the passion in gifting as we do!

Exact steps you can take to start your own online store

1. What is an e-commerce business?
Before acknowledging how to start your personal online store/e-commerce business you need to know what is an e-commerce business.  An e-commerce business is a business in which you conduct transactions over the Internet. If You are selling a product or service, making sales and collecting payment online. So basically, if any shopping is made online will be considered as an e-commerce transaction. The best part is there is No limitation, anyone at any point in time can visit your website and purchase what they want.

2. You need to know – Your WHY?
You won't be able to start an e-commerce store or business until you are not passionate or interested in the product. While working at EY, I observed that many of my friends had the capacity to buy gifts for their family and friends but they had no time. And that’s when I decided to start a Gifting Wardrobe. I had started a Gifting wardrobe with a vision was to make professional and corporate people’s life easier when it comes to Gifting. So it is very important for you to have a question WHY to start any business.

3. Pick a niche for your e-commerce store
Decide what you’d like to sell. Examples: attire, home decor, kids wear, electronics, footwear, etc. See whats your USP or what is it that the best you can an offer that is different from others or not in the market. Now with digital products, you can also sell printable products and many other products. There must be several products a person can choose to sell. This is how you can pick a niche.

4. Source the right products
Once you know what product you want to sell on your online store, the next step is sourcing those products! Research where you will purchase your products from. This would automatically be answered once you find your USP as mentioned above! a lot of small-scale businesses or artisans in the locality with great products but don't have a proper place to showcase/ trade with their products. Also due to lack of knowledge or lack of funds they cannot start an online or offline store. You can buy those products through an e-commerce store. You can also find products from wholesalers or manufacturers and sell them online.

5. Set up your e-commerce store
Creating an e-commerce business is not as challenging as you may imagine but it can be time-intensive. There are 2 ways you can establish your e-commerce store:   Build a website of your own: if I say setting-up your e-commerce business I mean ‘you need a website where you can list your products‘. Once I made up my mind about designing an e-commerce website, I knew I had to find someone who could do the same for me. Remember creating a website for your e-commerce business is a one-time investment so it is a good idea to select the right person to do the same for you. I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine who was into website designing so I approached him. Now if you do not know anyone, you can search on social media platforms and find a good web designer. Before finalizing your web designer – Go through their past work and shortlist them accordingly. However, I would always recommend going through someone you know. Setting up a website from scratch might cost you around $2500 along with GST and Accounting software etc. So, depending on the country you belong to, you will need software to keep your taxes in place. You will also need a payment gateway so that people can pay you for your products. The website also needs monthly maintenance and that will cost you around – $100 – 175 per month. Also, if you plan to start your own website one should be ready to learn how to operate your own website. I have to learn how I can list my products, create discount codes, make products out of stock on the website, and other details related to the same so that I did not have to depend on others all the time. So if you want to start your own website you will need – A domain name, a platform, and a web host. although I have bootstrapped my company, whatever money I earn it automatically goes back into the business. I was always sure that I wouldn’t take money from anyone to start my work.

6. Choose a Delivery Partner
For any e-commerce business, the most crucial part is a – Delivery Partner. From my personal experience, I found the sorting delivery the system was the toughest of all. I must have tried almost 4-5 best delivery companies but I wasn’t happy with the work. you have to choose the best delivery partner for your a business which suits and give you better output I have tried Experts, like FedEx, Maruti, Anjani, etc. Yet these being the best brands didn’t work well for me. So depending on the areas you have to select your delivery partner accordingly! Depending on the place of delivery, the delivery guys are decided. for outstation deliveries, I check up with 2-3 courier companies, and depending on the requirements I select the company.  

7. Inventory stocking
Inventory is expected to get a bulk reduction and have ready options at all times. I have stocked up at least 1 – 2 pieces of the products to ensure the timely delivery of urgent orders. Stocking up helps to keep ourselves safeguarded against urgent orders or when the vendor is out of stock.

8. Promote your e-commerce store
you can generate more traffic for your online business while paying or investing in the advertisement. Its been a long time in the gifting business, I had a set of faithful customers. So through my bunch of customers, I can attract more customers. However, successfully when I started my e-commerce business side by side I started promoting my business through Facebook and Instagram ads. However, while allowing for such paid ads you have target your achievement you want through the add. Keep an eye on the ROI when you go for paid traffic. You have to do the marketing of your business to get customers. To find customers for e-commerce is easy as well as complicated, we have to keep patience to see the growth in e-commerce and constantly spend time and money on marketing. Digital marketing modes such as an advertisement on social media, search engines, and blogs, Google adds play an important role in marketing. Word of mouth has been a constant source of marketing for our brand.

To Conclude…
It’s important that you’re aware of the reasons why you want to start your own e-commerce business. This will be the driving motivation behind you wanting to create a successful e-commerce business. Do you hate your boring job and desperately want to try something new? Are you looking for more flexibility with your work? – Whatever your reason is for wanting to start an e-commerce business, it’s important that you think about the amount of time and effort you think it will take to make that reason a reality. this is how you can start your e-commerce business while working full time as well but be ready to put in the efforts.