It all started in 2001 with 800 DJ Promo Disco Vinyl Records. We had them - how do we sell them?
I had been online since 1998 as a graphic designer so I was not a newcomer to the internet nor of selling my talents. But selling a specific product was not something I had ever considered. Where do I sell these records? How much are they worth? Who would want them? How do I get started?
Online Shopping was just getting off the ground and Ecommerce was new and exciting to think about. Knowing nothing about Ecommerce I spend quite a lot of time reading whatever I could find to educate myself to its pros and cons. A friend told me about eBay which had been around since 1997. I had never been to eBay - had no idea what it was all about - but I pointed my browser to the site and never looked back.
Learing the ropes of eBay was not hard. Read all of the directions, learn how to list, open an eBay store and you are in business.
My partner and I spend hours and hours searching for information about vinyl records, We learned how to grade them, what genre each record fell into, and histories of the artists.
We took pictures of the records to be uploaded to our eBay store and listened to every records so we could grade it accurately. We researched each record to learn everything we could about the artist, the lable, the producer. Finally we felt qualified to start listing on eBay.
Oh, the thrill of that first sale!! We were hooked. During the next two years we listed records on a non stop basis. We sold almost all of them and made a very good profit. When we ran out of records to sell we started looking around the house for things to list. We sold off collectibles, dishes, clothes, shoes, and whatever else we could find that we didn't want anymore. Finally we just ran out of stuff to sell.
A friend of ours said she had started making Italian Charms. Well, frankly,I had no idea at all what Italian Charms were!! I checked them out online and found out that they are small rectangular interchangeable charms featuring a design on the face of them. I determined that if she could make them so could I.
I thought my backgound as a graphic designer would come in handy in designing for these little charms. It never crossed my mind to just buy ready made enamel and laser charms to resell - I wanted to make something different and unique.
I started making designs of butterflies, flowers, animals, places, etc. After many trials and errors we learned how to affix them to the base stainless steel charm and cover them with a clear, waterproof acryllic coating. We listed them on eBay and to our utter amazement they sold!!
Most of our time from then on was taken up by creating designs and making the charms. The nice thing about all of this is that we didn't need to make the charms until they were ordered so there was no inventory to keep except the raw materials needed. And, we loved making them!
After another year we decided to branch out and get our own website. We put up one page and redirected it to our eBay store. We soon decided that it was time to get out of eBay and concentrate on building up our website.
I knew absolutely nothing about shopping carts. That was an adventure in itself but I read and researched and finally had a rudimentary understanding of what they were all about.
I started building our webstore. Since I was a graphic designer and had built quite a few personal websites for other people I figured I knew what I was doing. I did not use one of the ecommerce hosting sites. I used a private host and had to implement everything myself. Page by page it began to emerge right before my eyes until I had over 400 pages of Italian Charms.
Putting up a website is the easy part - learning how to successfully sell your product is not. Since I was used to Paypal from my days on eBay and I signed up for their Website Payment Pro service and used a shopping card that was intergrated with Paypal. It took me well over a week to configure the shopping cart for my use but when I was done adding the html code to each and every charm I had an online webstore. I notified all of my former eBay customers that we had opened out store and waited for the orders to rush in. And waited. And waited.
Ok, now what? I had never heard of SEO, keywords, optimization, css style sheets or anything else a successful online business needs to know.. So I researched again. I read everything I could find - all the while adding more and more charms to the store. I learned how to optimize for search engines, how to use meta tags, and how to promote my business. I used adword campaigns, email newsletters and gave discounts for customers. I added a site search engine, advertised when my budget allowed and kept adding charms to the store.
Today our store, JenaLis Charms, is thriving. We carry over 1500 custom and personalized Italian charms and accessories and, as always, I just keep adding more and more charms. My word to anyone starting out? Research, know your product and don't be afraid to take that first step. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it and really want to succeed.