If you have an eye for fashion and a feel for the latest trends, venture into this sideline business that won’t require you to have a physical store.
Capital: You can start your own fashion e-tailing business with as little as P5,000. This is to buy the initial stock that you intend to sell on your web site. In particular, Charlene Wong of Urbain used P5,000 of her savings to buy accessories and shirts to be sold on her personal website that’s hosted by Multiply (multiply.com), an information-sharing site on the Internet. And Gea Dey of Fashionfruit initially invested P10,000 for tops, jeans, skirts, shorts, and accessories to sell in her site, then used P20,000 of her personal savings to buy more stock. Both Charlene and Gea say that based on their experience, you should be able to recover your fashion e-tailing investment in as fast as two months.
Materials: If, like Charlene and Gea, you already have a PC with an Internet connection (preferably DSL) and a digital camera, you can get started right away. You only need to plan which items to stock up as inventory. You may sell locally available product offerings; better yet, you can sell items that aren’t available in Manila. You can ask a relative abroad to source the items for you.
Workforce: You can do this business all by yourself. All you need to do is upload the photos of the products to your website, ship orders promptly, and regularly check both your mobile phone and web site for possible customers’ inquiries. If you can find the time, deliver orders to your clients every now and then. This will enable you to establish better rapport with your customers.
Process: In this business, it pays to have an eye for fashion and a feel for the latest trends.
You need to know the likes and dislikes of your target market to be able to do good inventory planning. In the case of Charlene and Gea, they make it a point to first get their friends’ opinions on particular items that they intend to sell. They also make sure that their product offerings are priced competitively. It greatly helps to study different marketing and pricing schemes on your own. Gea relates that to get merchandising ideas for her e-tailing business, she watches The Apprentice, a business-oriented TV program hosted by millionaire-businessman Donald Trump.
Good pictures of your products often can make the difference between a sale and a no-sale, so you should consider taking a short course in photography. Charlene does the photography of her merchandise herself. In Gea’s case, she has herself photographed wearing particular fashion items, then posts the shots on her website. This gives her customers a much better idea on how the item, say a blouse, will look like when actually worn.
Marketing: E-mail your friends about your retailing site and advertise it on various online forums. Both Charlene and Gea got started in their e-tailing business by sending out invitations through Multiply, but are now the ones being invited by potential customers. By having a good network in Multiply, you can update potential customers quickly each time you replenish your stock or when you upload new items to your site.
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This article was originally published in the April 2007 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines.