Yes, you can!
Starting your own business sounds like a dream come true. No more bosses dictating your career growth. You get the freedom to do what you want with your time. And finally you have the promise of your very own money without anyone else getting a cut! So, how do you get started on your road to success if you don’t really have the funds at the moment? Not to worry, plenty of successful entrepreneurs started out with empty wallets. In this article, I will tell you how to start an eCommerce business with no money. Yes, you can do it! You can start and build a successful eCommerce business from scratch.
STEP 1: Figure out what you want to do
Maybe you already have some idea of what product or service you want to sell to people. Maybe you are still looking for business ideas. You need to start somewhere when it comes to your eCommerce journey. Now is the time to brainstorm about what your big money making idea will be. Take out a pen and paper and jot down what comes to mind when you ask yourself these questions:
- What do I enjoy doing the most?
- What am I good at?
- What is a current challenge in my city? What kind of service would help overcome this problem?
- What is a product or service that I currently have access to and people would love to buy?
Making this list is important. It gives you a chance to brainstorm and come up with – A Big Idea. Your Big Idea should be something that will sell and which most people would buy because it solves a problem they we are facing. Once you have jotted down enough points, starting putting together a top ten list of your ideas. Then, you can take the help of a friend or anyone else whose opinion you respect, and single out one idea from the herd. That, my friend, is your Big Idea.
STEP 2: Have a backup job
This can be important, but not completely necessary. If you already have a job, by all means keep it. You will need it when the going goes tough to fund your basic day to day expenses. As time goes by and your big business idea grows, you can get yourself out of the corporate chair and move into your own.
To better balance time between your current job and your new business plan, you can try to get a work from home option. This will mean you will have to put in the requisite 9 hours with your daily job, but it gives you the flexibility to choose which hours you put in, and limit your travel time. If you don’t have the option to work from home, get help from a trusted friend who can oversee the activities that require full time involvement, while you place yourself on call. You can always step out to resolve an issue over a call even as you devote your time to your job.
If you aren’t currently employed, that is good news because it means you have enough time to work on your Big Idea and turn it into a reality!
STEP 3: Take a look at what you need to get started
It is recommended for you to start out with a service or a product that you already have access to. If this does not exist, try a good product that is of good quality and resell. Here are some aspect you can look into:
- Look through your talented friend list and pick someone who is struggling to sell their products. If it is a good product, offer to deal and try to create business model that cut of a commission. I’m sure your friend would appreciate some amount of her product being sold as opposed to none of it. This will help you to get started with no investment of your own, and will also help you launch a business. The important thing to remember here is that you need to be able to trust this person with delivering within timelines and quantities. Figure this out with your friend before you take this to a larger scale. Items that a lot of people make by hand and seem to struggle selling includes:
- Baked items
- Homemade chocolates
- Handmade jewellery
- Tailored items
- Find a manufacturer of a product who charges a low price for their product. A lot of businesses in India have begun with a very smart person just finding a local manufacturer who can make a big ticket item for a lot less. The trick is to find a product that does not impact any intellectual property, and can be made relatively cheaply. An example of this is furniture. While big stores sell chairs and tables for exorbitant prices, the same piece can be made by a local carpenter for cheaper using good quality wood. Find a reliable manufacturer or set of workers who can create a good product that you can start selling.
- Sell a service that people would be willing to buy. If you have the time and talent, offer to provide your own services to people. This will not require any sort of investment, except that of your own time. You can also organise other workers to perform a service, like a home cleaning crew. By reinventing an existing business idea and making it remarkable, you can start a business that people will want to invest in.
STEP 4: Scratch together money for minimal funding
Start an online business with zero investment
This step can be skipped altogether if your materials in Step 3 cost nothing from your own pocket. The reality is, every business needs some investment. Don’t shed your enthusiasm. Instead of scavenging for a free platform and start an eCommerce business with no money, may may better settle down with a better option that will just cost you less than your monthly electricity bill. It’s a small investment you have to make. Like buying raw materials, paying for delivery, simply surviving if you had to quit your day job. Here are some ready sources of money you can tap into during your quest to be your own boss:
- Go to your family and friends: A sympathetic relative is a great help when it comes to getting some funding for a business idea. Don’t pressure any of your family or friends into pitching in, or you will soon find you don’t get invited to parties any more. Instead, talk about your business plan with some trusted family members or friends and let them know how you plan to go about it. See if you can earn their approval and promise them that they will be paid back or paid back with interest if you make that first sale. As long as you keep your word, you can return to this source time and again during your entrepreneurial journey.
- Find a business idea competition that you can participate in: A business idea competition is a great way to get major investors interested in your product. Think of it as Shark Tank minus the cameras and tears. The brilliant thing about this is it needs no money – just a great business plan. There are several business idea contests in India that you can try participating in. Here are a few:
- Next Big Idea: Here is a business challenge that is open to start ups and gives you a chance to get into the Canadian market. How’s that for someone who started out from scratch?
- Sankalp: Perfect for big ideas that come from humble places, Sankalp has already helped over 1500 entrepreneurs stand on their own strength by helping them raise funding.
- India Innovation Growth Program: A collaboration between DST, Lockheed Martin and Tata Trusts, this program aims at enabling innovators and entrepreneurs who have a technology based product or solution.
- Wharton Startup Challenge: Win up to $20,000+ by proving to a panel of judges that your idea works. The Wharton India Startup Challenge helped Zoomcar become the household name it is today.
- Put an online petition through crowdfunding: If you have a business plan, but don’t really want to go up against a bunch of other startups to prove its worth, just open your idea to the world and see what comes back. There are several online crowdfunding platforms in India that will let sympathetic people fund a Big Idea, as long as a passionate appeal is made, back with evidence and constant notes from the petitioner. It also helps to spread the word on your social network. These platforms make money by charging a user fee, or deducting a small percentage of the money you have raised. In return, they will market your petition for you. Here are some crowdfunding platforms worth checking out:
- Wishberry: A platform for creative artists, Wishberry is where you want to be if you have some great ideas that will entertain swathes of people.
- Ketto: Allows any type of fundraising request as long as it meets guidelines and is genuine.
- Kickstarter: Popular in the US and everywhere, Kickstarter is another great place for creatives to find some funding.
- Indiegogo: Lets you raise funds and even sell prototypes of your product to interested users.
- Presales: This works if you have the ability to make others believe in what you are saying. Talk to people about your product and ask them to pay for a prototype on the assurance that they will get the product within a month or their money back. The more people who sign up for your product before you have even begun to make it, the more capital you gain. This capital can be invested in purchasing raw material and getting started.
- Take out a loan: Admittedly the last option on your list and one that should be used only as a last resort. Banks only need some sort of guarantee of your repayment ability and will need to see how you plan to support yourself while you work on your business plan. Just make sure you really can pay them back and keep your loan amount as low as possible.
STEP 5: Start a site to sell your product or service
Sell products online
Now that you are all set to start an eCommerce business with no investment required, you need to have a robust website to do all the selling. The problem with this is that any website will require some investment in good design and set up, unless you know how to design sites yourself. You will need to pay for a domain and hosting. Then there is the logistics part where you need to pay a service to ship your product. If it’s a service, there will still be the problem of getting the word out to a larger audience.
Fortunately, there are some great ready-to-go eCommerce sites like Shopnix. The beauty of using a platform like Shopnix is that you can keep your investments near to zero, because the site takes care of every aspect to selling online for you. Just choose a shop name, pick out a theme, upload pictures of your product or service and you can then enjoy the inbuilt ecommerce features. There are ready shopping carts, payment gateways and store managers, not to mention social media marketing, to help you sell easily. You can choose a free trial and in the meantime get some money for your subscription amount.
STEP 6: Keep going!
Now that you are finally on the way to start an eCommerce business, don’t lose steam! Most startups burn out and then find that they have created more problems than solutions, and they decided to quit. Keep getting feedbacks on your online store, product or service and look for ways to improve. Take a look at what competitors are doing and see what you can do to counter it with innovations of your own. Don’t give up what you started so you can show everyone that you were worth the time and investment.
In the end, you can start an eCommerce store with no money – To the least at an investment of INR 1000 per month. All you need to do is to believe in yourself and work hard towards your goal. Get started with finding your Big Idea and make it happen despite those empty pockets!