How To Win The Shopify Build-A-Business Competition
We are pleased to announce that this week we will be celebrating the Shopify Build-a-Business Competition.
It was four years from the first time I entered the Shopify Build A Business Competition until I won with BestSelf Co.
In between these tries, I’ve learned what went wrong and what went right. More specifically, what I did that sucked and what I did that worked. Here’s some key things that most new contestants should know to help them get ahead.
The First Real “Side Business”
I started my first business as a side project. I was working for a large corporation who had put a glass ceiling over me; I was feeling really discouraged.
I always had a desire to start my own business; I was always working on things when I was younger, selling things, creating things, providing services for the neighborhood, etc. Being an entrepreneur at heart, I knew I wanted to start something to get me out of the 9-5.
Then the book “$100 Startup” came to me. It was just what I needed to get motivated.
For those that don’t know this book, $100 Startup is a bunch of short stories of people who started side businesses that turned into something big that allowed them freedom. Perfect for motivation. The only thing that was lacking was tactics – How-to’s, why’s and strategies.
Then the Shopify Build A Business Competition came along.
My First Stab At Online Business
The Shopify Build A Business Competition is to help people get involved in online business. Specifically E-commerce. Any new business with the most sales over a two month period win this huge prize at the end. They provide tips and resources to help you out while you’re starting this new business.
I was always someone to stand out and go against the status quo. I wanted to create a brand that reflected this, and I thought the easiest way for me to build a brand is to create a t-shirt company, so applied for the apparel category.
The brand was going to be called “It’s Not Clothing” – kinda like, it’s not a clothing company, it’s a movement.
This was when I first heard about Daymond John, how he got started. He was one of the mentors for the BAB Competition. He created a clothing company – “FUBU” and scaled that into a huge empire.
Mistake Number One: Target Market
The brand I wanted to create was for younger people. People like myself, 18-24 who were a little rebellious and liked to stand out. I thought, if I created something I like, they’ll like it too and buy it.
Little did I know, this market was always broke. Using their money to buy beer and sometimes food, not clothing.
Mistake Number Two: Poor Product Choice
I decided to launch this new brand using t-shirts. But not any plain t-shirts. Tank-Tops and V-Necks.
The logo and printing on these would be the following:
“It’s not just a V-Neck, It’s my fucking V-Neck.”
“It’s not just a Tank Top, It’s my fucking Tank Top.”
That’s fine, right? Wrong!
This meant creating and paying for two different screens. Each product needed a print on it to represent the item.
Ok, so what? Not that big a-deal.
Well… then I decided to add another printing location for the URL: www.itsnotclothing.com on the bottom/back of every shirt. Three different screens.
And to make it that much harder on myself, I purchased multiple samples from different vendors to check the quality of material. I opted for the best right out the gate. On top of this, I decided to give variety, so. We went with the following:
Male & Female. Both in 3 Sizes. All in 2 different colors.
I started with WAY too many products and variants right off the bat.
Start with the “KISS” method and Keep It Simple Stupid.
Mistake Number Three: Creating In a Vacuum
To make matters worse, I decided to do all of this production and product creation without talking to anyone.
I was creating and mocking up designs at night. Shooting product samples on my kitchen floor. I was calling suppliers and printers on my lunch break. But the one thing I was not doing was talking to my end buyer. The people who would be paying for this.
I thought if I liked it, so would they.
Mistake Number Four: Launching to The Abyss
My site was built, and I clicked launch. It was time to start selling these amazing, well crafted, multiple variety products that no one knew I was creating.
So naturally, I thought there is going to be a flood of buyers on the first day. I was going to have to re-order with a week. My supplier wasn’t going to be able to keep up with demand.
What a joke.
I launched and heard crickets for several days. Then I got a “cha-ching” sound from my phone. It was an ORDER! Holy shit! I looked to see who it was in the orders page.
You guessed it; it was my girlfriend. Womp Womp.
I sold my second V-neck to one of my fraternity brothers, and to save the transaction fees and shipping charges, I ended up driving to his house to drop it off.
This sale didn’t even count inside Shopify as an order.
If you build It, they might not come.
These mistakes cost me significantly. In time, energy, money, and emotion. Now I’ll share with you the key strategies that allowed us to win the Shopify Build A Business Competition.
But first, check out the video of our winners week.
Some Key Things That Helped Us Win the Shopify Build A Business Competition
I started several businesses after this one. Each one had bits and pieces of things that worked and things that didn’t. I learned a lot over the years through trial and error and found success after taking everything that worked in applying them into what eventually became BestSelf Co.
Success Number One: Asking People What They Want & Need
There’s a lot of upfront work that goes into place before going out and creating and producing something for the sake of producing. First was the fact that I needed the product myself. I would create the layout and the structure on a daily basis in a blank notebook; you can see the original SELF Journal here.
So, spending time and energy daily on creating the layout was getting tiresome, but I still did it every day. Making me realize that this might be worth producing. Not only did I know that I want it, I asked friends if they would see value in something like this. I talked to other people before spending too much time, energy, and money on this, would it be something they’re interested in purchasing.
Most answered “absolutely” and some even offered to invest right then and there. This was when I knew we should continue with the project.
Success Number Two: Understanding Their Language
Asking someone if they’ll buy something is one thing. But understanding why they’ll buy is another. This is where their feedback came into play. I had several calls with friends who were our ideal customer. Ie. Someone who is an avid journal/day planner user. I asked them questions regarding how they track their day currently, what they liked about their current planners, what they didn’t like about them. And here’s the key question, “What is something you would love to have?”.
This feedback invaluable because it lets you know exactly “why” these people will purchase your product. The key thing to do here (which is what I did) is use their exact language and wording in your marketing material.
You may have noticed one of our early marketing campaigns and some of our messaging:
“There’s freedom in structure”
this one liner was taken from a conversation I had when asking someone why they use a day planner and why they like mapping out their day.
If you have a product now, or thinking about launching a product or service in the future. Ask your ideal customer these questions, then use their answers in your messaging and marketing.
Talking directly to your customer/client, using their language will allow them to know, like, & trust you quicker. This will help drive them to the sale faster with lower resistance.
Side note: We still get customer feedback, we’ve created V2 of our SELF Journal based on how people used it, what they liked, what they didn’t like, etc.
Success Number Three: Understanding CPA
We decided to launch on Kickstarter before spending tens of thousands on manufacturing. We were successfully funded and then some (See our SumoMe article on how we did this). Now the SELF Journal would be produced using none of our money, and any surplus that is left over after production and fulfillment was then allocated to the production of BestSelf Co. website (which was built on Shopify… duh).
After that, we had just under $9,000 for advertising and acquiring new customers. If done correctly (which it was) you can roll that $9,000 out by knowing your customer acquisition cost and sustain continuous profit growth.
Continuous profit growth is implemented by understanding our hard costs, and what we were selling price is. We could use the Delta to acquire a new customer. The lower that cost was to get a new customer translated directly into profit that you can roll over into more marketing funds to acquire another customer. And so the trend continues. (More in upcoming blogs on how this works, strategies, etc.)
You can only do this (read: it’s much easier) once you have the other steps in place, the more you understand your customer and the easier they can relate to the solution you are finding. The simpler and more efficient it will be to run this process.
Success Number Four: Continuity Products
Not only did everything work well in this regard for launching a product which spawned a business. And everything you read above directly contributed to our win of the Shopify Build A Business Competition. The story could have ended here and still been great. But it doesn’t stop there.
How do you get someone to purchase more often? Well, by making something with a lifespan. Once used to its entirety, the customer will have to repurchase to get the same value out of it. Unlike a t-shirt company, a one-time purchase can have value until the purchaser decides to donate it to Good-Will or until it’s destroyed. They have no reason to buy again if they already have the product.
With the SELF Journal, the customer needs to purchase again after it’s complete. Which means if they used it every day for 13 weeks, they would need to buy another one. This is the icing on the cake as it creates predictable revenue for our business. Now we focus on providing value and understanding the customer lifecycle.
Time for you to win The Shopify Build-A-Business Competition.
Take these tips and strategies from above and use it for your new business.
If you liked this article, please share & comment below. It would also be wise to join the newsletter, where I’ll go deeper into these subjects that will help you directly with your business.