How to start an Ecommerce business

How to start an Ecommerce business, might be something that you have been thinking about. Often when we graduate as Fine Artist or makers we haven’t been taught the skills of how to actually go about selling our work. This was the issue that Lee Foster-Wilson faced when she graduated from Brighton University. Starting with bespoke band t-shirts for a friend’s band she grew from there.

Lee Foster-Wilson

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What I loved about chatting to Lee Foster-Wilson about, was the way her journey had allowed her to grow at a pace she could manage. She shared so many great tips from getting press in publications like Vogue for her store Bonbi Forest, to which are the best platforms to grow on. Download the podcast below to hear them all.

How to start an ecommerce business

One of the things that Lee Foster-Wilson shared (and wished someone had told her at the start) is that you don’t need a million items to start an ecommerce store. So many people worry that they need loads of stock to make themselves look professional. Lee pointed out that this is the wrong way to get started as it can lead to overwhelm. What would happen if suddenly you got loads of orders in and you had many items to post out as a company of one?

Starting small can actually help you build for success. You get to make sure that your systems work. Things like checking the parcel service doesn’t destroy your products in the post. It’s also important to check that you can cope with refunds as well as sales. These are all things that can make or break your business. Starting small and growing at your own pace can really help.

Choosing the right platform

One of the things that Lee found when she started Bonbi Forest was that you didn’t need to be on every platform. With the help of her then boyfriend, she was able to set up the Bonbi Forest on her website using platforms like Shopify. 

You don’t even need to have your own website to set up your store. Lee found that most of her customers (even today) come via Etsy. People are more likely to trust a platform like Etsy as it has lots of security in place in case orders go wrong. It is also a great way to help people to find you. And like Lee you might get featured on their home page.

Bonbi Forest jewellery

When Lee had one of her broaches featured on the front of Etsy’s page she sold out. Download the podcast to find out what Etsy advised her to do, so that she could still take those orders.

Where to find your customers

Starting out and making great products is only half of the journey to success. Without customers and sales you are effectively hosting a pretty shop on an abandoned high street. You can have the most gorgeous stock to sell, but unless people know about you, you’ll go out of business before you’ve began.

Finding customers isn’t a one size fits all approach. There are simple ways that you can get the word out without having to spend lots of money. Social media has made it so much easier to make sales directly from platforms like Facebook or Instagram. Lee advises against trying to be on every platform. Choose two to start with. Ones that you know your ideal customers like to use. For artists and makers I always advise to choose platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, with Facebook pages or groups as a way to interact with your customers on a deeper level.

Reach out to people that have a similar customer base to you on Instagram to get advice. You won’t be taking trade way from them if you are selling different products to them. You might be selling framed prints and they are selling blankets for babies. Although these products are completely different, your ideal customer is mothers redecorating a child’s bedroom. Doing things like shared giveaways or posting about each others products can really help you to find new customers.

Helping your fellow artists out

The world of the internet has opened up unique opportunities for artists working in remote locations, like Bonbi Forest in Cornwall. We no longer have to be working in major cities to be successful. You don’t even need to sell in shops anymore, as people are happy to buy from you online. The difficulty now is that this has helped million of artists open their own ecommerce stores. But the beauty of that is that you can help each other make sales.

I always believe that the saying safety in numbers is something to focus on when starting out. You can’t isolate yourself as a freelancer or maker and hope that sales will appear. Sometimes we need a helping hand or a way of connection to other people who are going on the same journey to us. This is why I am passionate about companies like Crowdfunder who want to help more women set up their own successful businesses.

Women are often the main care givers while also building their businesses. They have children or elderly parents to look after. Although this could be seen as a negative it actually means that if more women started their businesses, then more people benefit from their success. Although Lee Foster-Wilson didn’t start Bonbi Forest with an investment, she did have help to build her website. If you need help too, and some funding would get you started, Crowdfunder have joined together with Back Her Business to help you match fund up to a certain amount. They also offer fantastic support during the process. You can find out more here: Tell me more!

And if you do want to start a business like Bonbi Forest and don’t know where to start. I have created a free workbook to help you get started. You can down load it below.

How to start an Ecommerce business

Bonbi Forest

I had such a great time talking to Lee about how she made Bonbi Forest a success. She shared some great tips about getting your name out there and in big publications like Vogue or The Sunday Times Style magazine. You can grab them all in the podcast. And if you would like to find out more about Bonbi Forest, head over to the website: https://www.bonbiforest.com

If you want to can catch up on the other guest episodes click on the links below:

Building a value based business with Girls Who Grind Coffee

Raising your profile with Flora Jamieson

How to build a sustainable business with Chloe Haywood

Building a career as an illustrator with Johanna Basford

How to make products with purpose with Baxley Goods