While entrepreneurs now have more opportunities to start their own business ventures due to the internet, the main rule of wealth-building still remains the same: Let your money work for you by unlocking multiple streams of passive income.
In the digital world, this can be achieved in multiple ways.
You can build a blog that generates ad revenue, self-publish eBooks on marketplaces like Kindle, or create affiliate websites that passively earn commissions.
Out of all your options, building a full-fledged e-commerce store will quite possibly be the ones to give you the heebie-jeebies. After you research your market and acquire the funding, you need to be prepared for all the heavy lifting that ensues — from online marketing to inventory management.
Is it challenging?
Is it easy to pull off?
Of course, not.
Is it rewarding, though?
If you’re looking to start your own ecommerce business but you’re hesitant to jump the bandwagon due to whatever limitations you find yourself in, then allow me to share with you five unbelievable ecommerce success stories that will inspire you to pull the trigger.
If you’re ready to be inspired, then read on.
1. Robert Nava – National Parks Depot
One of the biggest advantages of online entrepreneurship is it doesn’t matter who you are or what you did in the past.
All that matters is what you do after you made the decision to enter your chosen industry.
From age 11 to 27, Robert Nava spent most of his time in correctional facilities.
He was convicted for various crimes and had severe problems with illegal drug use.
As an ex-felon, Nava admits that there’s this inner, burning desire for acknowledgment which drove him to pursue multiple business ventures after being released from the California State Prison in 2007.
After numerous failures, he finally achieved success with National Parks Depot — now a major online store that sells outdoor gear.
For Nava, success came just at the right moment.
While his family struggled to make ends meet, he tried his hand at online selling through a modest Facebook page.
Nava built his social presence by selling custom shirts and posting photos of national parks all over the world.
Eventually, he tried drop shipping to access products he didn’t already have.
Since Nava didn’t have a sizeable enough Facebook followers, he ventured into Facebook ads.
However, because his finances were at rock bottom (in fact, he couldn’t even pay his rent), he decided to start with a small budget.
He invested $60 for the paid ad and waited to see how much he’d get in return, or if it’d even bring him profit at all.
To his surprise, his $60 ad budget made him $1000 on sales just on the first day.
He then doubled his budget on the second day which also resulted on his sales almost doubling as well.
Just by rinsing and repeating the strategy, his business skyrocketed in a month.
2. Morgen Newman & Casey Elsass – MixedMade
When online entrepreneurs get stuck in the product research phase, the 3-step game plan that they often use to help them get out of the rut is this:
Step 1: Recognize their audiences’ problems.
Step 2: Look for existing solutions.
Step 3: Create a product that’s far better than their competitors.
Entrepreneurs Morgen Newman and Casey Elsass proved that sometimes, you don’t need to dig too deep for a product idea that sells.
Just by infusing raw honey with chili flakes, then branding the product as MixedMade, they managed to generate $170,000in sales within 10 months.
After their initial success, they continued to expand their product line by exploring different, unique flavor combinations.
Today, Newman and Elsass’ company is now known as Bushwick Kitchen.
A huge part of MixedMade’s success is their extensive press coverage which directly resulted in a 2,200% growth in sales.
This was all thanks to Casey’s effort in relentlessly pursuing every press target they had in their sights.
While their situation may come off as an entrepreneur’s dream for a lot of people, they didn’t achieve the level of success that they attained without any challenges.
For one thing, PayPal froze MixedMade’s account at one point as a fraud-prevention measure due to the sudden increase in their sales volume.
They also faced shortage issues from their bottle and chili suppliers.
Despite the immense pressure, the pair remained unfazed and focused on solving one problem at a time.
As an e-commerce brand, there are several things you can do to prepare your online store from similar situations. Diversifying your payment options is an easy example. Using credit card processing services like North American Bancard will allow you to accept payments via Visa, Discover, MasterCard, Amex, and even Paypal.
When you have several means to receive and process payments, you’ll have multiple safety nets in place in the event that one payment option becomes problematic.
This means that your ecommerce operation can continue unhampered.
Having more than one supplier of a key product component is also a great way to prepare for sudden spikes, which is what Newman and Elsass did after experiencing bottle shortages.
3. Andy Dunn – Bonobos
Now that you know the dangers of unplanned growth — it’s time to emphasize the value of growing slowly, steadily, and surely.
Andy Dunn learned this the hard way with his apparel online store called Bonobos.
In his desire for faster growth, the company offered up to 60% off and blasted newsletters to their leads.
It was a good effort, but their website couldn’t accommodate the increased traffic. This led to droves of consumer complaints that forced them to temporarily take down the site until the issues were fixed.
The moral of the story is simple: Don’t bite off way more than you can chew.
Before you run marketing campaigns that will skyrocket your website’s traffic, make sure your website can handle the increased volume, and that you have the capacity to convert your web visitors into sales — not just by ensuring that your supplies last, but also by upgrading your web hosting solution.
Fortunately, most modern web hosting companies like Bluehost and HostGator make plan upgrades easy.
Major ecommerce platforms like Shopify also offer CDN hosting capabilities to their partners.
4. Jake Nickell – Threadless
As a new-age entrepreneur, you need to have an adaptive mindset when it comes to new technology. This is the brand-building secret of Jake Nickell — founder of Threadless.
In an interview, Nickell reveals that he is the 1,500th user ever to register on Twitter. He also claims that Threadless is one of the first brands to reach hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram.
It all started when Nickell, along with partner Jacob DeHart, launched t-shirt design contests on a website called Dreamless.org.
The duo encouraged other users to share their designs through the site, printed the best ones, and then sold the shirts for profits.
Their process was so simple and replicable, Nickell and DeHart launched an official Threadless website right after the first batch of t-shirts was printed.
After independent artists submit their t-shirt designs, the crowd decides which one gets printed and sold through the site. The original designer then earns a commission for each sale.
In other words, Threadless is not your average e-commerce store.
It’s also a community-driven website that bridges the gap between artists and consumers. Still, online entrepreneurs can learn a number of things from their success.
If you want to get ahead of the competition, then you need to be vigilant about the new trends and technologies. Optimizing your online store for mobile devices, for example, is a great way to leverage the current dominance of smartphones, convertible laptops, and tablets.
You should also give your audience a voice and let them help you in shaping the identity of your brand. Threadless embraces this as a component of their core platform. Other ecommerce companies can do the same by staying open to customer reviews and feedback.
5. Michael Dubin – Dollar Shave Club
Sometimes, it’s not about what the product does — it’s about the convenience.
Dollar Shave Club, founded by Michael Dubin, embraces the fact that shaving isn’t supposed to be complicated, and so should shaving products.
Dollar Shave Club built their brand by offering a one-dollar subscription service where customers receive high-quality razors monthly. However, they have since repriced their services to $5 with a few inclusions, from shaving butters to body cleansers.
Sure, $1 or $5 for your shaving needs is indeed a great value, but it’s not the reason why Dollar Shave Club is such a huge success.
It’s all thanks to Michael Dubin himself and his creative and humorous promotional video.
Let’s face it, most niches today are too saturated to be profitable for aspiring entrepreneurs. Without a unique identity to distinguish your brand from the competition, it will be extremely difficult — if not impossible — to get your target market’s attention.
The moment Dubin found a voice that works for Dollar Shave Club, they integrated it into every element of their site.
In 2016, Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for a whopping $1 billion while retaining Michael Dubin as its CEO.
For those who are still pursuing success in the ecommerce space, it’s always helpful to draw inspiration from those who already made it big.
After all, the more success stories they come across, the more motivated they become at turning their dreams into reality.
Is there an ecommerce success story that you’d like to share? If you answered with a “yes,” then please add them in the comments section below. Cheers!