The Lock Down Start-up 4-Part Guide To Your New E-commerce Business
In January 2010 I walked away from a sixteen-year career to take a chance on a new employer. Optimism 10 out of 10. But two weeks into the new role, the CFO announced lay-offs, and within six weeks, I was gone.
It happened so fast I didn't even need a cardboard box to clean out my desk. I sheepishly just put a few things in my coat pocket as my co-workers mumbled inept "goodbyes" and "take-cares". Most of them didn't even know my name. "Is that all you've got?" the HR lady asked as she accompanied me to my desk to get my things. "Yeah”, I mumbled. As she escorted me out of the building feelings of victimization escalated. I had to call my wife and let her know what happened. Humiliation 10 out of 10. Ultimately, it took me three months to find a new job. Those three months changed my life.
In those three months, as I was job hunting, I set up a simple routine. I’d wake up, work on finding a new job each morning, and then when I felt stuck, I'd wander into my wife's craft room and help work on her small eBay auction business. I tried to add value in areas I was competent, do the things she didn’t want to do, and
As each day passed, my energy for a 9-to-5 job declined, and my enthusiasm for an online business grew. By the end of three months, we had tripled her sales, and set up new marketing systems that we believed would pay off. When I finally got a job offer – it took me a long time to decide between the two paths. Should I stay in the online selling world and make a go of it with my wife? Or take a six-figure salary with good benefits? I was a career cubicle dweller. I had an MBA. I was into security. So, I took the job. But I continued to help my wife with her business during evenings and weekends. Those systems we set up did pay off. The next year she achieved six-figures in revenue. Then it doubled the year after that. Then it doubled again the following year. Meanwhile, my new job was, well, a job. It lasted four years, at which time, I retired from the 9-to-5 and went full-time with the family business.
Why am I telling you this?
If you’re in COVID lock-down, or you’ve lost your job because of the pandemic, maybe you’re being given a blessing in disguise. I look back at my job loss in 2010 as an incredible gift. It began my journey on the entrepreneurial path, a journey I’ve loved. A journey that has created my income for my family that my 9-to-5 career never could.
Where Do You Begin?
If I was going to start from scratch, here are the four steps I’d take to get things up and running. There is no guarantee you'll have a replacement income that will allow you to quit your day job, but maybe you'll have the seeds planted for an exciting new future.
#1 Find A Person with An Interesting Problem: Every good business solves an interesting problem. Frustrations are the foundation of a thriving enterprise and when you find an interesting problem, you're on the right track. Don't worry about how to solve the problem yet, just identify a felt need that people are passionate about solving. Ask yourself the simple question – how many other people have the same problem?
Tools you can use to research the problem and understand how it impacts people include:
You can also search on Facebook for groups related to the problem.
Finally, consider two exceptional books on the topic, Choose, by Ryan Levesque, and The Long-Tail, by Chris Anderson. Levesque will give you the human side of the story. Anderson will give you the data side.
#2 Convene The People Into A Facebook Group: Create a Facebook Group aptly named for people who have the problem. Something aspirational and positive. I know, you’re freaking out because you don’t have a solution to their problem yet. But don’t worry – that’ll come next. Simply put them together and play the part of the convener. To create a group, you have to first create a Facebook Page. To get your Facebook group growing, run an add on the Facebook Page letting people know about it. Don’t worry if you only end up with a small number of people at first. That’s okay. To keep the group engaged, share articles, infographics, or videos that are related to the problem their having.
To learn more about this step, be sure to check out these great articles:
#3 Listen Closely For Clues To Your Potential New Product: As your group grows, ask questions. Set up polls and surveys, and take notes to gain insight into the pain of the problem, the ideal solution, and how existing options fall short. Work hard to get insight into the situation.
In addition to using the native poll functionality in Facebook to poll members, you can try these tools:
#4 Launch A New Product or Service: Your research will pay off as you start to envision various solutions. Maybe it will pay off in the form of a new and improved physical product that solves the problem. Maybe you’ll realize a book needs to be written that addresses the issue. Maybe the answer will come in the form of a monthly recurring membership where solutions are presented professionally. Monthly recurring income through a membership model is a powerful concept – but sure to consider it. Or maybe you’ll swirl together all these options in a creative way. The product launch announcement writes itself. “Hey everybody, based on your feedback, insights, and wisdom, I’m launching X, and I’d love your support.”
Tools you might want to investigate at this stage include:
Will people buy your new thing? Will your new e-commerce concept work? You’d expect me to type, “yes, of course”. But this is entrepreneurship baby - welcome to the club. The truth is, you won’t know until you try. The 4 steps will give you an educated guess at a potential product-market-match. There is no sure thing on this path. Maybe you'll hit a home run. Maybe you'll strikeout. But at least you'll be running the show. At least you won't be a victim. At least you'll be able to look back and say – I didn't waste my opportunity during COVID. I took a chance – and it felt good - win, loose, or draw.
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