Starting a business is intimidating to most people because any business requires capital. But in this modern world where customers are just a click away, an online store can be built within minutes for very minimal costs, and many traditional tasks like marketing can be automated, you can build an ecommerce business with almost no upfront cash involved.
If setting up a business has always been your dream, here are 5 ideas to check out and try for yourself:
1. Handmade creations
Show off your creative bone and start making crafts, artwork, and everything in between. You don’t even have to be techy or build your own website in order to sell your works online. Aside from eBayand Amazon, there are tons of platforms available to creatives like you. For example:
- DeviantArt – This community of amazing artists sell their artwork from animations to full-blow paintings, 3D graphics to sketches, calendar designs, and a whole lot more. What’s great is that you don’t even have to bother looking for suppliers or print houses. DeviantArt has an in-house production/manufacturing service, which means any artwork posted on the platform can be purchased by a customer and DeviantArt will handle the printing or production and ship it to the customer. You’ll then receive royalty fees for your creation.
- Etsy – This buy-and-sell store is heaven for do-it-yourself fans. You can sell anything from homemade jewelry to beautifully-crafted metal sculptures, custom-made clothing to sewn-with-love toys. Bonanzais a handmade marketplace similar to Etsy.
- Abe’s Market – If you have candle-making supplies stored in your garage for decades and haven’t gotten the time to turn them into candles, you can start a project now and sell it for cash at Abe’s Market. This platform is home to many sellers who create homemade lotions, perfume, potpourri, and more.
2. Skill-based services
If you have a specific skill, this talent could be the only investment you need to start an ecommerce business. You can provide this particular service, or offer consulting/advice based on your skill set. For example, if you’ve been a professional plumber for decades, you can advertise your services online and seek out customers in need of plumbing help at home. If you prefer to skip in-home services, you can build an app or website wherein customers can ask a plumbing question and you’d provide them with a tutorial or expert advice in exchange for a fee.
Even if you’re not selling physical products, it’s important to have a plan. Develop a tagline, design a logo, and use this branding everywhere to spread the word about the services you’re offering.
The great thing about skill-based services as an ecommerce business is that you’ll be in control of fees and marketing your brand requires minimal investment. There are plenty of websites like Craigslist, Skillshare, Taskrabbit, Elance, and the like that lets you post ads without charge.
3. Turn Trash to Cash
There are several ways you can turn trash into cash. First is to recycle products by turning them into something new, such as recycling old books into special paper and then creating a vintage-looking journal to sell.
The second route is to follow garage-sale of business. If your garage is overflowing with stuff you’re not using, sort them out and see which items you could still sell.
The third route is to shop for vintage items in thrift shops, flea markets, garage sales and antique stores, then sell them for profit. If you have a good eye, you can turn this into an ecommerce business like Nasty Gal founder and #GIRLBOSS author Sophia Amoruso, who blew up eBay by buying and selling vintage clothing, then expanded her company into a $24 million business (in 2011) by building her own website.
If you don’t feel like creating homemade items, or have no capital to buy vintage items for resale, but want to build a product-based ecommerce business, dropshipping is the way to go.
Simply put, dropshipping requires you to decide on a particular product category, setup an online store on AliExpress or other platforms, and partner with dropshipping providers that will fulfill orders for you. To learn more about dropshipping, check out our AliExpress dropshipping guide here.
5. Find an answer for a common problem
Do you know what Alibaba, Airbnb, and Uber have in common? These platforms all earn billions annually without actually a product or service to sell.
Uber has no fleet of vehicles but is the world’s largest taxi company; Alibaba is one of the biggest online marketplace, but has no inventory; Airbnb owns no real estate, but leads in the accommodation industry.
These companies began with just an idea – they created a platform for a common problem (such as hailing cabs, finding places to rent, or shopping for cheap goods from China). And if you brainstorm enough, you might discover a sub-niche that has not been created yet and turn it into an ecommerce business.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of which type of business idea you want to try out, make sure you create a business plan with short-term and long-term goals. If you’re selling products or services, it’s also important to document your sales and update your portfolio. You might be able to use this in the future once you decide to expand your business and seek funding.
Fear of losing invested capital is one of the main reasons why people don’t go into business. With these 5 ideas that require very minimal upfront investment, you can begin your ecommerce business without the fear of failure weighing on your back.