Nasty Gal founder and #GIRLBOSS author Sophia Amoruso wouldn't be having quite a moment like she is now if she hadn't taken a small first step by launching her business on eBay. Amoruso may be the peak of the mountain of e-commerce successes, but many smaller vendors have similarly promising futures ahead of them.
With that in mind, here are five tips from generation next millionaire artisanal entrepreneurs about what works on web retail platforms, and what sellers shouldn't take for granted.
1. Keep a lid on imitation.
Erin True's woodcraft business raked in a $1.3 million in 2014; not bad for someone who didn't even know how to deliver the first bench she sold on Etsy. However, she ran into managerial problems early on with employees stealing her designs.
Whether you are mindful or you learn the hard way, a lesson for all crafty business people is to protect your designs from imitation.
Emily McDowell runs a greeting card store on Etsy. With plagiarism running rampant on the vast web, McDowell told the Daily Dot that she sends messages at least once per week to other sellers to take down products that rip off her work.
2. E-commerce should complement your overall business model, not dictate it.
Like any business, putting all your eggs in one basket isn't recommended.
Nate McPherson's wedding band business still receives most of its cash flow from Etsy earnings but they opened a retail store to supplement their income too. "Our whole existence is in the balance with people we've never met," McPherson said. "There's that fear built in." Here today, gone tomorrow--online trends are ephemeral and entrepreneurs should not constrict their growth to one avenue.
3. Etsy and eBay are only the starting point.
Success may or may not follow. Many will not even make it past the $1,000 mark on Etsy, let alone enter the millionaires club.
McDowell reports $1.5 million in 2014 earnings but the majority of her money comes from wholesale retail to brands like urban Outfitters. Without the exposure McDowell, may have been unable to bag such big deals, but currently, they are her number one source of income and reputation.
4. Don't be a wall flower.
The longer you stay on Etsy, the harder it can be to stand out. Often, the e-commerce platform will override the seller's identity, reducing brand loyalty towards the particular sellers.
McDowell says, "People say 'I bought this on Etsy,' not 'from Emily McDowell's shop.' Etsy supersedes the brand of the seller." So, marketing--even when you're just on eBay or Etsy--is a must.
5. Consider presentation above all.
Alicia Shaffer reels in almost as much as top orthopedic surgeons and more than twice as much as the U.S. president by selling knitwear. With an annual revenue of $960,000, Shaffer's focus on the consumer experience boosts her business.
"I always ask other Etsy shop owners, 'Would you click on your item?'" Shaffer told Fast Company.
Photography, styling, naming--everything about the product must resonate with you if you think it'll stand a chance with anyone else.