Every year, nearly 2 million U.S. workers will become victims of workplace violence. Successful small business ownership decreases violence. When people have complete control of their life they can no longer blame others for their short comings and instead look inward to fix their faults. As a successful small business owner, I wrote this article to help other succeed in their dreams.
Most articles only explain WHAT you need to do to be successful, in this article I will explain HOW to do those things! The following information is invaluable. It's everything I wish I had known when I started - even just a year ago, I've learned so much since then.
I founded a business called Mutiny Shop (mutinyshop.com) seven years ago. I was essentially homeless at 18 years old. I was working at Subway and trying to put myself through community college. I didn't own a car. Then I started my business. Just three years later at the age of 21, I bought my first house. These are my tips for how to start a successful online business.
1. Find a niche.This is the most cliche advice you will read, you'll see it again and again. However, I am not going to gloss over it. Everyone talks about what a niche is, finding a unique position in a market - but they don't do a good job on explaining how to find one. The best way to find a niche is to have it in the back of your mind on a day to day basis.
When you notice a problem with no easy solution, try to think of a product or service that will solve it. Eventually you will have your aha moment. They say to work in an industry you know - but you already live in an industry you know. You could find a problem in a sport you play, a hobby you practice, a craft you make, a job you perform, etc. If you live a passionate life you can invent a product or service you are passionate about.
This is why having a variety of interests is also vital - the more you love to do, the more problems you are going to find doing them. I love horseback riding, airsoft, paintball, shooting, practicing MMA, art, singing, guitar, graphic design, web design and more. I also have at least one business idea for each and every one of those hobbies.
For Mutiny Shop, it started with me playing airsoft. The first problem I solved was painting guns camouflage patterns. The alternative was hydro dipping guns, which is when you dip an object into water with a graphic film on floating on top, that coats the object. The problem was the pattern would warp around curves and edges. This wasn't a problem for a lot of graphics, but for camouflage patterns it was a major issue.
Especially digital patterns would badly warp, going from small squares to large ones in areas that were warped. I thought it looked awful and my future customers agreed. I bought a vinyl cutter and invented my stencils. My paint jobs were perfect.
Compared to a hydro dipped jobs. Especially when I was painting guns, the camo patterns were too big or too small and the colors were off.
This wasn't a viable solution though. While I did make some money, painting guns took a lot more labor than I expected. My business name was atrocious, I called it Mutinous Creations after my airsoft team (Team Mutiny), which caused people to keep thinking I sold ammo (munition) and was also impossible to spell or remember.
My airsoft team did run into an issue - we wanted team patches and shirts, but because we only needed 5, we couldn't afford the minimum order requirements of most embroidery shops ($150). That was when I invented the first prototype of the vinyl patch.
Since then I have drastically improved this invention over the years to what it is today.
I had a rough start working well below minimum wage for a year but after I started, I didn't give up. If you find a problem and invent a solution, commit to it. This might now be the final product or service you sell, but it is a start. Don't be afraid to change from there.
2. Pick a business name and domain name first.Don't name your business anything you don't have a domain for. Go to NameCheap, brainstorm names, and register the best domain name you can find. Often times, the first name for the business you think of is the best name. You want the words your customers would think of first if they saw your product or service. It's rare that such a name is available.
For me, the market for custom patches is hugely saturated and most of the top websites have similar names. What made my business different is also what made my name different. The majority of patch companies import their patches from China. We are a mutiny against that.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don't appear to know what the word Mutiny means! When I get phone calls people can't pronounce the word and a lot of people don't instantly grasp the concept. I still love the name and it's message. If someone becomes a repeat customer and interacts with us on social media, we use the right amount of branding to help them finally understand the name - and then remember it forever because it is so unique!
3. Learn to do everything you can by yourself.When you start a business the most important investment isn't money, it's time. I still work 12-14 hour days. Why does the business owner make such a large percentage of the profits? Because they didn't just risk money when they started a business. They risked years of their life that might have never had a pay out. Instead of going to college, I went to work full time. If my business had failed, instead of having a degree after four years, I would have had nothing.
Investing time into a business is more important than money. The more you learn how to do for your business, the more you are simultaneously investing in your self. If my business failed today, I have taught myself enough graphic design and marketing skills to start a career in graphic design. If you just throw money at a business over the years, you risk more than just losing your financial investment. Learning is never a waste of time.
4. Learn graphic design and photography.Want to know a super top secret secret? My website, MutinyShop.com is gorgeous. It was made with Weebly and Ecwid.
Nowadays there are so many fantastic website design sites, there is no reason to pay for an expensive web designer. What's more important is the graphics that make up your website. Learn adobe creative suite - there is a reason it is the industry standard. Now it's only $30 a month to have access to all the programs, a total bargain.
The majority of photos on my website are also taken with my iPhone. I just know how to take photos and more importantly edit them in Photoshop. My number one tip for taking photos is: Lighting. The easiest way to accomplish perfect lighting is to go outside in the day time and take photos of the object in a shadow on a plain background that is easy to edit with photoshop.
I also purchase pattern vinyl films to take photos on and stick them on pieces of wood. You can get carbon fiber, brushed metal, and more - all that are 3D and change in the light. Checkout the different vinyl films available here and other vinyl supply stores: https://www.signwarehouse.com/
I learned how to use adobe creative suite by purchasing college textbooks for each program and working through them on my own. In community college, I took a photoshop course. I thought I had a decent grasp on the program - I didn't.
I learned a ton of new ways to accomplish the same effects in a fraction of the time. I learned about tools and techniques that opened up my mind for future projects. My professor didn't help me. The book I learned from taught me everything I needed to know.
The only reason to go to college for graphic design is the feedback you receive from other students and your professor. Instead of this you can join a forum and find a mentor. You can find a lot of seasoned graphic designers who will gladly work with you long term and give you valuable feedback on your projects.
Finally you should pay for an account on vecteezy.com for $12 a month. This is the best resource for royalty free commercial vector graphics on the internet (for the price) there is NOTHING like it out there (you also get a brusheezy account when you sign up). Another good resource is pexels.com where you can find a ton of royalty free commercial licensed stock photos.
5. Take control of your reviews before they become a problem.Many businesses have died at the hands of Yelp. According to "The eMarketer Ecommerce Insights Report," conducted in February 2018 by Bizrate Insights, very few respondents said they rarely or never looked to reviews before buying something. For the most part, reviews were a key component to their shopping process. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they always referenced them, while 40.8% said they did so often. Meanwhile, 25.6% said they looked at them occasionally.
Sign up for a TrustPilot account BEFORE you even start. You can send emails asking for a review after a customer receives their order. People very rarely look up a review site for you to leave a positive review. However, 10% of our customers write reviews when we ask for them.
TrustPilot also makes it easy to respond to negative reviews. You can mediate with the customer to make them satisfied and they have the ability to go back and edit their review. Worse case scenario - your response is right below their review and easy to see. You can explain what you tried to do to resolve the problem and ease potential customers concerns.
If you have a review website established it will be one of the first results under your website when people Google your business. This way, when customers do write negative reviews, it's all in one place and easy to manage because they will just go to the first review site they see. If you avoid making an account to receive reviews - they will post them everywhere. Across tens of websites which will be difficult to manage and many of them won't be as easy to mediate or show your response.
6. Find a good partner before you find an employee.Many entrepreneurs I know state that the most vital part of starting a small business is the staff. They will make or break you. It's almost impossible to find affordable employees that will stay with your business as you grow. You also risk them leaving and starting their own! Stealing your solution to a niche and becoming a large competitor because they started out with you.
When it comes time to expand, find a partner. It's really important that you find someone dependable that you can trust. It seems more risky than an employee because you can't just fire them. They own part of the business. However, it isn't.
Employees are motivated with money. A partner is motivated by long-term accomplishment. Remember: don't invest money, invest time. Find someone else who is willing to invest the time with you! It doesn't have to be 50-50. If you've already done a great deal of the work you can give them a smaller percentage.
7. Networking and marketing: Don't advertise.If you can find a solution to sell to other businesses, you will be far more successful. Marketing to consumers is difficult and cost prohibitive. The average conversion rate on AdWords is 2.9% which means only 1 out of 35 people who click on your ad will buy something. Which means unless you are making over $35 profit for each sale, you won't even break even. If you are expecting to have an average sales under $70 don't expect to rely on any form of advertising.
In 2013, I moved from California to Las Vegas. It wasn't just to escape the state tax. Las Vegas is one of the top convention centers of the world. Conventions is where the marketing is at! If you sell to businesses you don't even need a booth. You can walk from booth to booth proposing partnerships and long term contracts.
Giveaway free samples at events. Psychology 101: when people are given something for free they feel more obligated to buy something from you. Everyone prefers to buy something from a friendly person they met instead of a cold nameless website.
You will also find potential mentors at events and trade shows. People will offer you advice on how to talk to other vendors, what trade shows you should attend in the future, and how to improve your product or service.
Social media marketing is your next best bet especially if you can't sell to businesses. The most affordable way to find customers is by having giveaways and contests on Facebook and Youtube. Require that they like, share, and comment on a post, and it will be seen by thousands of people. The more interactions a post gets the more people will see it. If you give away something worth $200 and get 5000 views, that is 96% cheaper than advertising on Google would have cost!
Start an affiliate program. We use LeadyDyno. Affiliates can sign up for an account and share their affiliate link to their friends. If anyone clicks on it and purchases something they get a percentage of the sale. You can build a team of hundreds - even thousands of salesmen without any up front investment!
Finally if you need to sell directly to consumers, offer to drop ship orders on a bigger website or supply a store with your product. With a contract, you will get secured income you can safely expand with, again at a fraction of what advertising would cost you.
That's it for now!Stay tuned for future posts. Write a comment down below if this advice helped you or if you have any other questions. Good luck! Work hard and DON'T GIVE UP!
When I was three my Dad died. This left my Mom alone to raise five kids. She managed to go back to college and find a job. This meant that she was almost never home and my siblings raised me. They all had drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and violent tendencies. As the youngest, I stopped looking up to them and decided what I would never be.
In high school I volunteered at the Utah Hogle's Zoo for five years. While volunteering I specialized in advocating for polar bears and climate change. I was even selected to be the Arctic Ambassador and travel to Canada.
I studied polar bears in the wild and attended lectures with the "top" climate experts and conservationists in the world. Here's a news story on the adventure.
I was also in the Future Farmers of America. Where I owned, raised and sold pigs, cows, and sheep for slaughter. My main project, however, was backpacking and dairy goats. I went to the state speaking contest with a bipartisan speech titled "Advocating for the Conservationist and the Agricultural Industry at the same time." I continued my conservation work by entering PBI's Project Polar Bear.
My main baby was Kazam: the first and only castrated male I had bottle raised. He was so little and weak at six months old that he died in my arms of pneumonia.
I was accepted to another environmental research project called Girl's On Ice. I climbed to the top of Mount Baker to measure the glaciers. The data was to track if the glacier was receding and how much if so.
I'm going to pull the card I am not allowed to pull. I have a black best friend, I have a peruvian best friend, finally I have a German best friend. These weren't just "friends" I chatted to in the hallway. These were my three best friends in high school. The only other close friend I had was a stanch republican! Yes, we did all hang out together: our beliefs were a joke and not nearly as important as our friendship.
This is when I founded Mutiny Shop at 18-years-old. I worked part-time as Subway, went to college, and worked at Mutiny Shop for two years. In college I majored in Environmental Conservation and minored in Graphic Design. I made very little money and was on the verge of homelessness at the time. I couldn't even afford to buy a car for two years. When Mutiny Shop took off, I bought my first car, with cash. I will never be prouder than I was that day!
Again I was caught in the middle with conflicting opinions on everything. I couldn't discuss any of my opinions on Facebook because one half of my friends would be offended if my opinion leaned either right or left.
So I didn't focus on politics. I started training jiu jitsu and muay thai. I loved it so much I would train 2-6 hours a day. I was best friends of all races, creeds and political beliefs. Focused entirely on helping each other become the best, with no desire to discuss anything either than fighting.
Then I got sick. Really sick. I don't like to go into the details of what my illness is, but I couldn't function for the first year of treatment. I still haven't been able to train three years later, so I lost my closest fighting friends. My boyfriend and co-founder left.
It was the hardest two weeks of my life: alone and heart broken in the hospital.
Paloma was busy with school, she was my only friend. My Mom even told my roommate to take my two cats to the pound too, but he refused. After that happened my family stopped talking to me. I still wanted them in my life then, but they were done with me. They said I took too much energy to deal with, when I had only been sick six months and they were in another state so it actually effected them very little either than short phone calls. I never had much of a blood related family anyways.
My other niece Jace, I didn't get to see as much of because I moved to California when she was born and Emma was four. Five years later I was with them constantly again because they had moved to Las Vegas. Then I got sick. My sister moved to Texas. I have seen them three times in the two years since. That hurts me more than anything else. I have a new niece and nephew that I can't bare to get attached to because I have seen them once.
While I was sick someone attacked Mutiny Shop's SEO. First they removed our SSL, prompting Google to label our site a security risk. Then they added 200,000 spammy backlinks which got us completely delisted from Google. We were the first result for the search term "Custom Patches" and now we aren't on Google at all. Sales dropped 70% and we had to let go 70% of our employees. I'm doing a lot to recover but we're still on the verge of bankruptcy. It could go either way.
Despite all of that, I managed to find the love of my life and eloped last year. Through him I finally in a real family. Full of the siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and Fathers I never had.
While I was sick my interest in politics and world events exploded. I watched thousands of youtube videos, read many books, and political elections gained my full attention. Now, at 25-years-old, I am finally ready to talk.
I have my biases, but I also consider my self bipartisan. I'm not going to list the details of my beliefs, they can be discovered in the other blog posts I have written and will write.