Tips for Creating an Online Store

Posts Tagged ‘interview’

To Launch or Not To Launch? How Viral-Tees got it’s first sale.

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

This guest post is written by Clayton Johnson of

To Launch or Not To Launch? How Viral-Tees got it’s first sale.

Developing a business takes an incredible amount of time.  Viral-Tees has been brewing for at least a year with no launch, but when an opportunity struck we decided to launch even with only 1 design and it paid off!  Here’s a short synopsis of our situation:

President Barack Obama’s acceptance to be the commencement speaker at Notre Dame this year has created quite a controversy on campus.  Activist groups threatened to protest at this year’s graduation in opposition to Obama’s stance on abortion (ND being a Catholic Institution).  However, some 95% of seniors are in support of Obama speaking at the graduation ceremony according to the responses received in the student newspaper, The Observer.

A friend of Viral-Tees (a student at ND–Matt Degnan) decided to make a statement by ordering shirts that read plain and simple, “Obama? Fine by Me.” The campaign went viral.  Hundreds were sold on campus.  When an article was run on the story by the student newspaper, got a plug which then generated our first order! (and many subsequent).

Taking the chance to launch unfinished has actually sped up the process of the business.  Many missing functions of the business have been developed by necessity and Flying Cart has made much of this possible by making selling online so easy!

About Viral-Tees
Viral-tees is owned exclusively by Identity Custom Imprinted Sportswear, a 30-year veteran to the screen printing industry.  We do wholesale screen printing and embroidery located in Mundelein, IL (NW Chicagoland).

Our website:
Phone: 847-949-8337
email: clayton AT identitycustom DOT com

Fun + Folding: An Interview with The Good Envelope Party

Monday, November 10th, 2008
The Good Envelope Party Our featured store this month is The Good Envelope Party, a collective that makes stationary out of recycled materials.  I interviewed founder Jenny Rask.

Margo: How did your group get started and how did you come up with the idea of using recycled materials to make stationary?

Jenny: We got started meeting as a group last spring. It started out as some of my neighborhood friends hanging out together socializing. Some of us have children so I felt like I wanted to create a reason to meet and socialize more often. I had been making my own envelopes for a while and it dawned on me that my friends might like learning to do it as well. We are definitely all multi-taskers. We can fold, drink and chat. We started making them for our local schools to sell at fundraisers to raise money for them. When more people joined the group we realized how many we could make in an evening and realized that as a monthly collective we could produce even more and use the money towards helping people in need. So a great equation of Fun + Folding = Helping Others.

The reason we use recycled materials is to give old books and magazines another life and to to reduce waste while demonstrating how easy it is to be creative with materials we all may already have in your home. Anyone can fold an envelope or make their own gift wrap out of almost anything. We aren’t reinventing the wheel here. We are hopefully demonstrating to the consumer that we don’t have to buy “new” from new resources, that beautiful products can come from being resourceful with everyday things around us.

Margo: Can you explain a little about how a collective works?

Jenny: Well we all are very motivated in helping others who are in need. So that is really our common goal when we come together for this party. We really felt that if we could help one person or one family locally and directly that it would be incredible! So during our party we vote on short term goals who we would like to help the most immediately and then vote on long term ideas, who we would like to see receive our money in the future. The more stationery we sell obviously the better for whoever is the recipient of the money. We also vote on how much money we will donate for each cause.

So there is a lot of voting and then I help manage and guide the group a lot about where our stuff will be sold in shops, manage the online store and work with the daily orders. I source the materials we use too. We love donations of salvaged books and magazines with great full page photos or illustrations in them as well : ) 12 inches at least in height please!!!

Our meetings are really a fun party. It really is about having a laugh, hanging out together, helping others and building community. We welcome newcomers in our area. The stationery is our way of giving back to our community through maybe a little bit different approach.

Margo: Your site says that you donate all your profits to charitable organizations. How do you choose where to donate?

Jenny: We cover our costs first with the money which are fairly minimal and then the rest of the profit is saved until we have a recipient we agree on and have the sum of money saved in our account that we agree on. We vote on the recipient at our party. We have not yet donated as our store is new and profits are just finally coming in. We have voted on who will receive the first money though and it is someone local.

Margo: How did you sell your stationary before you started your online store with Flying Cart?

Jenny: We used to donate it to school fundraisers and had our stationery in a local store in L.A. called O.K. on 3rd Street.

Margo: In a very short time, you are having amazing success with sales and have a nice fan following. What have you done to get the word out about your store?

Jenny: We are so lucky! Being published in Daily Candy has been a huge help : )

Margo: Tell me a little about your blog and about some of the other projects you are working on.

Jenny: Well, let’s see. Ask WoollyM. ( is an eco-friendly help site that I started last year. I am a mom of two kids and had been researching living more sustainably and toxin free since they were babies. It really inspired me to help others because there is so much information out there and I wanted to take a guilt-free user-friendly approach to it.

My friends kept asking me about their toxin concerns in their daily lives so it seemed kind of like a fun idea to help them by creating this and maybe help anyone else who might need a head start on their green path. I started this site to test the waters a bit and see how I might be able to contribute in this way. It is a question and answer site. So anyone can ask a question and I will research the question and post the a personal solution with my research. It is an amazing way to learn about other’s needs in this area or what their concerns are. Kind of like going to school again, but on my terms.

I am working on a few other eco-education projects that will hopefully be accessible online soon. They are coming from a different angle than other “How to live green” approaches. Hopefully the projects will be entertaining and educational.  Check out in a couple weeks.

Q&A with Aylio International Inc.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Aylio Logo A few days ago Aylio’s resistance bands hit #1 of our Daily Top 40.  This made me very curious.  What makes these resistance bands so hot? What is their secret? I quickly emailed Max, CEO of Aylio International Inc. and he was happy to answer a few questions.

Rishi: What is the story behind your company?  How did you get started? and Why resistance bands?

Max: I’ve always been a fitness junkie.  After many years with a gym membership that was running me over $1,000/year, I got fed up with it.  The gym was always crowded, the benches were always drenched in sweat, the floors were dirty, the machines were constantly in need of repairs, and the place smelled like old gym socks.  I began searching for an alternative and that’s when a friend of mine recommended that I purchase a set of resistance bands.

My experience with resistance training was phenomenal.  I was able to target every muscle group in my body from the comfort of my own home, and adjust the level of resistance accordingly for each exercise.  I also took the bands with me when I traveled.  After a few months, I started noticing that the resistance training was actually giving me better results than my old gym routine.  I was able to reshape my body, give it great definition, lose all excess body fat and I even put on a significant amount of lean muscle.  Also, I noticed a great improvement in my athletic ability.  I was running faster, jumping higher, and generally feeling more fit and healthy than I had ever felt before.  Best of all, my exercise set cost me less than a one hour session with a personal trainer and I was able to cancel my costly gym membership with no regrets.

I was so happy with my exercise bands that I began buying similar sets for friends and family as holiday gifts. Everyone loved them, regardless of age, gender, or fitness level. Whether their goal was putting on some muscle, losing that excess fat, conditioning, or even rehabilitation, the resistance bands did it all. It is at this time that a light bulb went off in my head and I saw a great business opportunity lurking. I took it upon myself to educate others about resistance training and share the benefits that I experienced with the rest of the world. Through fortunate personal connections and months of sampling, I was able to get my hands on the safest and highest quality resistance training equipment on the planet. This is how my company, Aylio, first came into existence.

Rishi: Love the story!  I am totally going to work out today in your honor.  So what is your secret sauce?  How are you driving sales and traffic?  Can you give our ecommerce readers some tips or advice?

Max: There are millions of ways to advertise on the internet. If you’re selling a product, my suggestion is to take advantage of every marketplace on the internet that you can find. Setting up your website is crucial but don’t forget about other great eCommerce venues such as eBay, Amazon, Craigslist and others. Selling on multiple websites gives you much greater visibility, which translates into more sales.

Also, get creative. Take advantage of social media websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Digg, YouTube, and others. These are all free and powerful marketing tools. Write an article that relates to your product and post it to as many websites as you can think of. Do a Google search for “submit your article” and you will find hundreds of sites that will post your article. Similarly, make a quality promotional video and post it to as many video sites as possible. Google likes placing popular videos in the first page of search results, which will in turn make your video even more popular. Persistently work on improving your visibility in any imaginable way because this will always lead to better sales. To avoid being labeled a spammer on these Web 2.0 sites, participate in other aspects of the sites and do not use them ONLY for promoting your product/service.

Other free ways to market your product include posting on forums, commenting on blogs, and asking customers to write reviews for you. With reviews, you will probably need to give the customer some sort of incentive such as store credit or a free gift but it will pay off. A positive review has the power to turn a hesitant potential customer into an actual customer. On a side note, remember to treat your customers well and they will treat you well in return. You will be surprised at how many repeat customers you will get. A happy customer will also recommend your product to others.

If you have some money for an ad campaign, I highly recommend Google Adwords. A good Adwords campaign will bring loads of traffic to your site. You will need to set your budget and choose appropriate keywords for your products. Naturally, the higher your budget, the more traffic Google will bring your way. If your budget is very large, you can even run television ads through Google Adwords, which are highly effective if done right. Be sure to set up Google Analytics, which is free and will give you valuable insight into which aspects of your marketing campaign are working and which are not.

The last thing I would like to mention is search engine visibility and SEO (search engine optimization). The best way to rank high at Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine is through frequent updates and high quality content. The more content you put out, the more people will be directed to your website. An active blog is a great way to get friendly with search engines. Your page rank will improve with time as more and more sites link to your website. The more popular the linking sites are, the more effective they will be in boosting your search engine visibility. When building up page rank, it is important to be patient but stay consistent. Remember to add new quality content to your site on a regular basis.

Thank you Max for your story, tips and tricks!

Interview with online store owner Matt Lerner (owns 2 very successful stores)

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Recently I was very lucky on getting an interview with Matt Lerner, President and CEO of Chili Peppers Collectibles, LLC.

He currently has 2 stores: USA Coin Shop and Proof Sets Direct (and is actually working on his third store).

1) Why did you start an online business?

Starting an online business made sense for me in many ways although its advantages have changed as time has progressed. The coin industry is dominated by primarily by older men. I was 10 years old when I first started selling coins and often times I was ignored by potential customers because I was so young. In 1999, when I was 13, I started selling coins on eBay, primarily the state quarters. On eBay people didn’t judge you by your age, but instead by reputation as a seller, a HUGE advantage for me. Today I am 21, my age can still make people uncertain about my qualifications, although as they say, the proof is in the pudding, I now have had over 12,000 transactions on eBay with a 99.1% positive feedback rating.

While that aspect of selling online has been instrumental to my success online, I find one of the biggest advantages of an online business is the flexibility. One of my true passions besides coins is traveling and my online business allows me to do just that. Unlike a 9-5 job, when operating an online business it doesn’t matter where you are, what time it is, or even how you’re dressed. I usually get my best work done at 3:00AM when I’m sitting around in my boxers. Over the summer, I took a road trip of America and operated my business from the back of my car. All you need a computer and an Internet connection and you’re in business.

2) What were your first 3 steps in creating a new business?

1.) Find your passion. You can do anything and sell anything you want, but at the end of the day if you’re not 100% passionate about what you’re doing, you should rethink things. Being passionate makes going to work something to look forward to rather than a burden.

2.) Become an expert. One of the most compelling selling propositions you can offer to your customers is your knowledge or expertise. It will make them more willing to pay a premium for your product, keep them coming back and allow you to improve you overall business.

3.) Fail and overcome. Starting a business isn’t as simple as it may seem. Once you have your passion and you’ve become an expert, it’s time to try it all out. Most of the time you’ll fail at first but it’s important to stick with it. Sometimes the best learning experiences occur after failures. Those who are willing to change their mindset or business practices through learning from their past experiences, will be the ones who will succeed.

3) Based on your experience what is your most effective way of promoting your online store?

I was extremely lucky to have a large customer base of customers who I had sold coins to while selling on eBay which helped me launch the site. However as I grow the business there are a number of things I try to keep in mind. One of the most important things I can suggest to anyone who is trying to promote their site is to really think about exactly who your customer is. Most of us don’t have the money to be able to afford to market to everyone. And lets face it, even if we could market to everyone, unless you are selling a way to live for eternity, everyone is not going to be interested in what you are selling. There is no use wasting money to reach people who won’t be interested. So focus on answer these questions: What do they like to do? Where to they go for information on the Internet? Are there any networks they belong to that you might be able to tap into? What is sorts of messages will they be most receptive to? Then think of ways to utilize that information to reach your target customer.

For me, most of my new customers come from Google Adwords. For those of you who don’t know what this is, when you use and type in a word or phrase, say a gold coin you’ll notice there are links at the top and to the right of the search results. These are paid search terms. People pay anywhere from $0.20 to $10 per CLICK for these ads. Many of the items I’m selling are great for gifts, so using this technique as extremely beneficial for the holiday season.

4) What are your favorite websites?

Other than USA Coin Shop? Haha. is one of my first stops when I log onto my computer. I also enjoy and

5) What is your 2008 goal for USA Coin Shop?

I’d like to transition the majority of my inventory off of eBay and onto USA Coin Shop so I won’t have to pay eBay’s outrageous fees and I’ll be able to pass along those savings to my customers. I would ideally like to be one of the top 5 online coin retailers on the Internet.

Thanks Matt for the Interview! If any of you ever get the chance to meet Matt, you will instantly be pumped to start a business. He is a die hard entrepreneur.

Interesting Interview with 4ever20

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Shoes Ever has been doing well from the day Nicholas Lee opened it. Below are a few questions I asked him in hopes to unlock a few of his secrets.

Rishi: Why did you start an online business? and why shoes?
Nicholas: I have been in the internet business since 1998. My business was doing pretty well on eBay until 2006. Competition on eBay reduced my revenues and profits significantly. So I need to diversify my business.

Rishi: What were your first 3 steps in creating a new business?

1. Find a market niche, targeting age 15-29, the generation that uses the internet
2. Easy Start, keep a low budget
3. Check the possibility – non-expensive items under $100 but with familiar brand names

Rishi: Based on your experience what is your most effective way of promoting your online store?
Nicholas: Utilizing Search Engines (? not sure though) with non-expensive brand names targeting late teens to twenties

Rishi: What websites do you read on a daily basis?
Nicholas: Google, eBay

Rishi: Anything else you would think our readers would like to know?
Nicholas: Yes, read the market trends. The market will move online eventually!

FYI: Shoes Ever ranks at the top of Google for a lot of his products “Blossom Media Shoes“, “Blossom Troop Shoes“, “Soda Issac Shoes“. Beating out giant shoe companies like and