How I funded my first ecommerce store in two weeks flat without creating a viral Kickstarter campaign or marketing myself at all, and how this method made me a better entrepreneur at the same time.
Disclaimer: This guide is written for beginners, but even today I still use these tricks at least twice a year. So you might get something out of this guide even if you’re a seasoned veteran.
How to Fund Your Ecommerce Store
Let’s stop beating around the bush. You need money.
You have an idea for an ecommerce business. Maybe you have already taken steps toward starting your business — you named it, designed a logo, bought a domain name, etc. You might even have a prototype or sample of your product.
Congratulations, you’ve reached your first big roadblock. You need to start manufacturing your product. Maybe you plan to purchase 250, 500, or 1000 units to get started.
My first purchase order ever was a pitiful 50 units, and yet I still couldn’t afford it. I remember the total cost including freight came to a tiny $654, but it might as well have been $60K because I couldn’t afford it.
I’d bet there are others who can relate. Whether it’s your first purchase order (PO), a course you want to take, or marketing expenses, it’s going to cost you some money to get your business off the ground.
As you know, I don’t believe it should cost a ton of money. I write about the guerilla tactics you can use to minimize startup costs. But it won’t be free.
You can spend money out of your paycheck, but let’s be honest: If you had thousands in disposable income, would you really want to quit and be an entrepreneur? There are exceptions, of course, but this guide isn’t for the already-wealthy entrepreneur. It’s for the rest of us.
Many of us are familiar with this situation. We have a great idea, but we have no idea how to fund it.
Unfortunately, funding your ecommerce store is a topic almost no one is willing to talk about. Therefore, there is no proven, reliable path for beginners to follow.
You’ll hear sexy stories about entrepreneurs who used Kickstarter, went viral, and made their first million before they launched. However, those stories are the exception.
I’m here to offer a proven path to funding your business that is faster, simpler, and will work for anyone, even when Kickstarter doesn’t. And it also promises to make you a better ecommerce entrepreneur at the same time.
Using this method, most people can raise up to $2K in under two weeks. You can use that cash to fund your first PO, take a course you need, or start marketing your brand. Here’s the thing. I want to encourage you to give this method a shot even if you don’t really think it will work.
After you try it, I encourage you to use the comment section on this page to share your own personal results. I want to hear your results whether it works or not (although I know it will). If you mentally commit to sharing your results right now, you’ll be twice as likely to follow through and raise the money you need.
Ready? To explain how to fund your ecommerce store, I have to share an embarrassing personal story.
The “Embarrassing” Story of How I Got Started
I have written about how I started my athletic apparel company with nothing but my phone and an Instagram account. That’s a great subtitle for an article, but it only tells the sunny, happy side of my story.
Today I have almost 20K followers on Instagram and am generating a steady stream of sales virtually on autopilot.
But it didn’t start that way. I started like everyone else. No website, no product, no money. All I had was an idea. You can read the one-step method I used for selecting a niche and validating my product idea here.
Once I had a validated product idea, I worked with an overseas manufacturer to develop the first prototype/sample of my product. The sample itself was free, and I paid the freight (~$75) out of pocket.
We thoroughly tested the product sample and made small modifications until we were 100% happy. And that’s when the moment of truth came.
Somehow I had to fund my first PO. Gulp.
I didn’t have a lot of money to invest, I wasn’t independently wealthy, I don’t ask my parents or friends for money, and it wasn’t the type of product I could slap on Kickstarter and hope for crowdfunding to come through. This meant I was going to have to fund it on my own.
The most embarrassing part is I actually had to negotiate with the manufacturer to lower their minimums and manufacture a pitiful 50 units. (Their normal minimum is 250 garments.) Looking back, I think “Man, how humiliating” but at the time I didn’t have the luxury to feel embarrassed.
I couldn’t afford to order more than 50 units. The truth is, I couldn’t even afford the 50 units, but getting the manufacturer to lower their minimum to 50 units had a huge ask in itself. There was no hope they would reduce the minimum further or renegotiate the price.
It was do or die time. So I sat down and asked myself, “What am I willing to do to be successful?”
That’s when the answer came to me.
Start Simplifying Your Life
Here “simplying your life” is code for “selling everything you own with reckless abandon”.
I don’t mean literally everything you own obviously. However, here in the USA (and Canada, UK, and Australia) we have a bad habit of collecting “stuff”. Stuff that feels like a necessity but in fact is not.
That stuff can be converted into money to start your new life as an entrepreneur, and all you need is an ebay account. Plus, if you follow the system below, it will actually make you a better ecommerce entrepreneur at the same time. Here’s a screen shot of my personal ebay sales since I started my business.
I was able to completely fund that first purchase order of $654 in under two weeks, and I didn’t have to shoot a video, take presales, or market myself at all.
Since then I have repeated this method at least twice a year every year to fund everything from expensive courses I wanted to take to equipment for my business. It almost feels like “free” money because it didn’t come from my normal budget.
Last Summer I used this method to fund a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the British Virgin Islands:
All you have to do is decide what you want more: to have a bunch of stuff or to create the life you want?
Now come the objections. I know what you’re thinking. Selling stuff on ebay is pretty straightforward, but won’t it be a hassle? Can an average person really make >$6K? Seems dubious. Let’s talk about that.
How to Become a Master Ecommerce Entrepreneur with Ebay
You are probably excited about the idea of raising over $6K cash to fund your ecommerce store, but you’re also wondering what the heck you could sell on ebay to make that much money?
Unless you are a monk, chances are you could make way more than $6K. It’s just a question of priorities. There are three simple steps I follow when raising money with ebay. Before I share them, I am going to issue you a challenge:
The more extreme you are with each step, the more money you’ll raise, and the closer you’ll be to realizing your dream of being a successful entrepreneur.
It’s okay if you don’t know what I mean yet. Here are the steps.
Use this step as an opportunity to prioritize your life. How much of the stuff in your life will take priority over creating the business of your dreams? It’s time to find out.
Walk through your home and collect everything that meets the following three criteria:
- Stuff you don’t really need (remember, be extreme)
- Things that other people buy used (this means virtually everything except underwear)
- Items that are relatively easy to ship
If it meets all three criteria, it goes on ebay today. If it only meets the first two criteria, then list it on the Craigslist and Facebook classifieds to sell it locally.
Here’s an incomplete list of stuff I’ve sold on ebay (or Craigslist) in the past.
- Wedding shoes (worn once and never again)
- A wetsuit
- “The Wire” TV Series on DVD
- 2 guitars
- Guitar amplifier (actually sold this on Craigslist becaue it was too heavy to ship for a reasonable price)
- Guitar effects pedals
- Old iPhone 4s with cracked screen
- Old iPhone 5c in good condition
- Bose computer speakers (old model someone gave me)
- Mountain bike shoes (hand me down from a friend)
- Workout clothes
- Running shoes
The average American has at least $1000 worth of stuff that they’re hanging onto for no particular reason. It can continue collecting dust, or you can put it on ebay and magically turn it into the next great ecommerce success story. Your choice.
Here’s where you’ll really hone your skills as an ecommerce entrepreneur. Guess what? The skills involved in selling something on ebay are the exact same skills you’ll need to sell something in your own Shopify store. Let’s learn them now while the stakes are low.
Quick and Dirty Guide to a Great Ebay Listing
A. Download the ebay app. This will save you a bunch of time. You can take pictures, write your description, choose a shipping option, and post your auction all directly from the app. Use it.
B. Write a product description that builds value. It doesn’t have to be lengthy! Simply state what the product is, then state what the original retail price was.
DO NOT tell them that you bought it on clearance for 95% off retail. Do your research, and use the highest retail price you can find to build value in the customer’s mind.
Finally, here’s a little twist I add to make it a truly great listing. I tell the customer why I’m selling the item. This helps eliminate any suspicion in the customer’s mind that they might be getting ripped off. Trust me, it helps drive the price up a lot.
Here’s an actual example from one of my old ebay listings. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than this.
C. Post attractive photos. I’ve already written extensively about the importance of seductive photography for ecommerce sales. It makes a huge difference.
Don’t take pictures of your items on your dirty carpet with magazines and baby toys scattered everywhere. Find a clean, neutral surface, such as hardwood floors or a solid colored table or counter (no granite).
Then take that extra minute to get a great picture of the item.
Another trick you can use is to find the original manufacturer’s photo of the product. Use that as the primary photo on the listing, and then add your own pictures behind it. Often times the original product image can generate a lot more clicks than your simple iPhone photo.
D. Choose a 5-day auction and schedule your auction to start on Thurs-Sun between 5:00 – 7:00PM. This will ensure your auction ends at a time when people are likely to be paying attention.
F. Finally, demand a high price for your items. This is a lesson you need to learn for ebay and for your own ecommerce store: Charge based on value, not based on cost.
Pricing based on cost means you take your cost and add a simple percentage markup. Pricing based on value means pricing based on the problem you’re solving for the customer or the need you’re fulfilling.
Always price based on value. You’ll be happier because you’ll make more money. And studies show, your customers will be happier too because they assign a greater value to your product.
Sit back and earn money.
The third and final step is to collect payments. If you fail to hit your target, go back and repeat the process again. One lesson I’ve learned through all of this is that no matter how empty my house is, somehow I always find more stuff to sell. Be extreme.
Some of you reading this are excited to finally have a clear path to raise the money you need to start your ecommerce business. Others are rolling their eyes that my solution is as simple as “sell your stuff on ebay”.
But here’s what I’ve learned from selling virtually everything I own on ebay. Not only did I raise the money I needed to start my business, it helped me set clear cut priorities in my life.
I’ll admit, I had trouble parting with some of my stuff at first. Now that it’s gone, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
I still have a few nice possessions: a vintage road bike, the computer I write on, an iPad (that I write on when I’m traveling), some sentimental items I would never get rid of, and a few other things. But I don’t own any clutter.
If you want to be successful in ecommerce, do you really need all this stuff weighing you down? I doubt it.
This exercise will serve as a great barometer of how bad you want success in ecommerce. If you are unable to part with much of your stuff to fund your business, you probably don’t have the determination to make it very far even you did have the money.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Not every business idea will inspire you to re-prioritize your life. Wait for that one idea that does.
Selling on ebay was also the first taste I got of relating to my customers, and the lessons I learned there have made me a lot of money.
Yes, you’ll hear sexier crowdfunding stories elsewhere. My story is quite embarrassing. However, I guarantee it will work if you are willing to put your business first.
Now that you are on your way to funding your ecommerce store, it’s time to start your pre-launch campaign. You don’t need to have your product ready, and every minute you wait will cost you later in sales.
As always, this guide is completely free, and I hope it helps you on your path to success in ecommerce. If you liked it, consider sharing it on the social media of your choice.