How to set up an eCommerce business for Artisan Producers

Socratic method helping you to set up a shop as an artisan.

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Learn how to make things. Or, find people who can make things. Are you going to be an artisan, a shop selling other peoples products, or both? Just know what suits you, your skills and your brand. 

Read instructions for everything in your house. Put together some furniture. Read the ingredients on everything; food, sauce, makeup. Talk to your mechanic, plumber, builder, hairdresser, nurse, doctor everyone; especially people who have an actual trade. They know how to make things, do things, fix things. You can learn a lot from them. Research about what you like about shops IRL and online.

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Stay curious. Stay keen. And know that finding the product that's right for you may take time. But once you know your passions, strength, all the technical work will be easier. Even if you are hiring website developers, designers, packaging experts, branding experts they will all want to know your brand's core values.  

I am glad I waited. Technology is only now truly accessible for the type of business that suits me. What type of business would suit you, your personality and your skills and talents?

How to find a niche product to sell online?

So, how do you find a niche product to sell? You need to make money to stay in business so park your passion for a moment.

  1. Remember when it comes to your product the retail price matters.
  2. Selling items that are inexpensive will difficult to make a profit as you need volume.
  3. Online is either about volume of mass produced products or quality, authentic products; hand-crafted in small batch artisan production with love and blessings in beautiful packaging. Which are you?
  4. One trip to the post office shipping a thirteen euro product is the same as one trip to the post office for a eighty euro product.
  5. Think of the weight of the product.
  6.  Will it be light enough to warrant free shipping? Free shipping is where you include the price of a flat rate shipping unto your product price. (Another post on pricing soon)
  7. Is it legal to sell it online?
  8. And if you plan on making it yourself what experts will you need to hire to meet legal requirements?
  9. Just a note be wary of making products for children, you need to meet a lot of legal requirements, have the right warnings and care of use.  Often making items that are purely for decoration have less legalisation.
  10. So research, research, research your product and the legal side. 

So far we have: a product light enough for post, a product that is not too cheep, something that meets the legal requirements and a product that is legal to sell online - worldwide! (each country has different legalisation!) You cannot sell alcohol based products online in a lot of countries. This turns out to be important later in my journey.

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Ask yourself what problem do you have that you could solve? What is your pain point? How do you bring beauty into the world? Do you want to just make money or build a business based on an ethos? I want to build a business, my business ethos is my personal ethos; no animal bits in my cosmetic products, 100% ORGANIC (even if that means it's more expensive; it's so worth it),  and products that are infused with a bit of magic. 

I have read all 'those' posts about: buying low - selling high, importing from China and selling here, or drop-shipping. Drop-shipping is where you find a manufacturer, make arrangements to sell their products online and they get the orders so they ship from their warehouse. You are essentially doing all the online work and someone else is doing the making and shipping. I've even heard of people trolling through Etsy looking for fabulous handmade items and making agreements with the artisan handcrafter to sell their products and the maker ships them while the seller is making a HUGE profit. Know yourself and what you would be OK with. I want to make beautiful authentic perfume and copper crowns, sell gorgeous authentic perfume and copper crowns and create a community through the blog. And I wanted to do all this myself in a studio and hire experts to help so research, research, research. 

 

What is your pain point and how can you fix it?

What is it that makes you vulnerable? What would you like to fix? Do you say, 'oh if only there was an app that did...' What product are you constantly looking for? How would you change a product for the better? What kind of brands do you love and why?  My pain point came after teaching practice. I was flying out on a city break and the plane suddenly felt too small, I panicked. This had never happened to me before. This fear of flying resulted in me finding a new way to manage fears and anxiety about things outside my control. I'll have a post about it soon. I learnt to control my fear of flying using...yeah you guessed it - essential oils.

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But I wanted cool packaging, a small but potent blend, portable for travel and my handbag that smelt like a perfume not medicinal and yet, was healing. In short, I wanted essential oils that smelt like an open perfume bottle by the edge of a forest. I wanted it to be organic. All organic. Nothing but organic. Glorious essential oils that are all organic. With no preservatives. An honest product that's also cool and slightly edgy. I don't want to smell like a green warrior, I want to smell like a Queen, sipping a latte, strolling up Grafton Street about to head into a floral forest. So I made it. And then people started wanting to buy it. I spent a year and a half blending my essential oils but it was in March 2016 on a flight back from Copenhagen that I decided this could be an actual business. 

Do your research, follow your passion, believe in your product, use the product because you love it, know the legalisation in Ireland, the EU and internationally.

The technical bits to starting an online shop

This part is the easiest as you can research it. (You cannot research your soul for an authentic product - that takes a lot of emotional and spiritual work!) All you have to do is Google and YouTube for tutorials in using website platforms, creating logos in Illustrator, label creation, domain settings, email marketing, social media, writing the legal content for your site. 

Most people will think this part is the hardest but if you are on social media then you will know how to 'work it.' For everything else hire an expert. If selling is your strong point and you don't know anything about websites, secure payments, product descriptions then hire people or research it and slowly build it out. 

Fleet + Flower is a digital native product. This means we will not be available to buy in shops. I could not bear to think of my products in a sea of other products. When I was researching 'how to get over a fear of flying,' and 'vegan and cruelty free perfume' I Googled it. So other people who will be looking for organic, vegan, preservative free, nasty stuff free, non-alcoholic oil based long lasting essential perfume will also Google it. Phew, that's a long sentence! And when they do Google it they will want to know all about the ingredients, about why and how we started, our business ethos, what we tell the press about us, and they will find it here - amongst the trees of the website.

P.S. Remember how I said how alcohol will be important later? Well, I made the essential perfume with jojoba oil to begin with and spent ages researching how to make it a traditional perfume. A perfume to me was always alcohol based and finding out about the limits of selling it online confirmed that an oil based perfume with a roller ball application would be perfect. It was like a sign!

Anyway, I know this was long and doesn't have as much technical data that you will need but it does have a bit of gumption, heart, and been-there-done that advice. Trust me; hire people to help, or spend all your telly time researching how to do it. This process will take you a lot longer than you think and that's OK. The whole process is like a long meditative experimental art piece. 

Wax on-Wax off.