This article is based on the experience of creating tonesingleton.club, an e-commerce and e-gazette for good men aiming to becoming even better. Here are the few steps we followed to get the job done and launch our e-commerce in less than 2 months…Step 1 (Day 0): Decide what to launch
The first thing to do when wanting to create a business quickly is to decide on which business. In my case, my co-founder and I wanted to create an e-commerce website. Why? Because we wanted to address a B2C market: we both work as freelance IT consultants in B2B markets, and we wanted a change (warning, this is risky, we don’t know our market). I must also add a note to this article: the business we have created is a side business, we both keep on working full time on our day jobs.
Step 2 (Day 1): Define a vision.
So we knew we wanted to launch an e-commerce, but what kind of e-commerce? And why do that? Once you have a vision, you know what products you are going to sell.
Step 3 (Day 1-7): Mini market study
When launching a company, one should make sure he is addressing someone’s needs, solving someone’s pain etc. This can be done by conducting a market study. Given the time frame, this study cannot be extensive, but it needs to be done, at least to validate that you are not about to waste time and money for nothing.
Step 4 (Day 7): Decide on a launch date
Yes, we IT guys are driven by launch dates. Having a launch date is a motivation for us, so this is one of the first things to do! In our case, the launch date was decided based on the Christmas shopping. We wanted our website to be live before the 15th of November.
Step 5 (Day 7): Decide on shortcuts
It was obvious that, in such a small amount of time, we would not be able to build a complete e-commerce website, find suppliers, setup a warehouse, do full market studies and so on. We took a few shortcuts:
First of all: setting up a warehouse was way out of reach for both of us with close to zero logistics knowledge. We naturally decided to start our MVP with drop shipping. For those who don’t know what drop shipping is: drop shipping is a fulfillment model that allows you to buy products individually from a wholesaler and ship them directly to your customer (thanks to e-commerce Fuel for that definition). Drop shipping has major advantages and inconveniences, so we studied the question in order to try to minimize the inconveniences or at least be aware of them.
Build an e-commerce site from scratch: no time for that! We decided we would use Prestashop and bought a good looking template online which we would customized.
Find suppliers: No shortcut could be taken, we did what we had to do and sent out a LOT of mails and gave as many phone calls.
Step 6 (Day 7): Build a To-Do list
In order to get things done, we set up a shared To-Do list and started assigning tasks and deadlines for these tasks. In that To-Do list you could read things like “Lookup domain names”, “Decide on first 10 products to sell (EU)”, “Find solution to people ordering multiple items from different suppliers”…
Step 7 (Day 8-…): Identifying and contacting suppliers
This is a never ending task. You’ll need new suppliers regularly. It took us a bit more than a week to get the first agreement with the first supplier.
Step 8 (Day 9-11): Setup and configure e-commerce solution
2 days might seem long for some, short for others. In our case, these 2 days included installing Prestashop, selecting and purchasing the theme, installing a few add-ons, configuring the modules etc. In 2 days, we had a working solution. Not optimal of course, but good enough to start working.
Step 9 (Day 12-…): Populating the catalog
Another never ending task! Populating your product catalog can be very time consuming. In our case, we wanted to launch with at least 100 products (all hand-picked).
Step 10 (Day 15-…): Testing/Fixing the platform
Years of IT consultancy have had some impact on us: we have spent countless hours testing and fixing the platform. From very technical to visual testing, nothing was left untested!
Step 11 (Day 30-…): Creating content
Content is king! Who never heard that one? As we were launching both an e-commerce and an e-gazette, we need to produce (quality) content for the gazette. Yet another never ending task. We have some help here with some copywriters of course.
Step 12 (Day 35): Defining a launch strategy.
Time flies, we have less than a month left before the launch. It is time to think about a launch strategy. In our case, we have decided to go with social media presence, and a bit of PR. As we are both IT guys we have decided to hire a social media guru to handle this part of the job.
Step 13 (Day 36 – 45): Preparing the launch
Getting all the material ready (visual assets, press release, tweet sheets…) is a time consuming job. A lot of questions arise at this moment, all to be answered quickly. We also setup all the social media accounts.
Step 14 (Day 46-55): Private launch
We launched for our friends and family to test and give us some feedback. It took a few days to process the feedback and get ready.
Step 15 (Day 56): Launch day
On the launch day, all the interesting stuff really starts!
It is possible to start a business in such a short time frame, but I would suggest to take a bit more time especially for the market research and the marketing strategy. We have launched quickly, which allowed us to spend a very small amount of money on the launch. Today we are spending most of our time conducting marketing experimentations as our marketing strategy was clearly not defined well enough. The positive thing about this approach is that you get customer validation quickly.
Suggested reads: “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, and “The Art of Start” by Guy Kawasaki
Suggested action: register for a Startup Weekend, you’ll learn more in a weekend where the idea is “no talk, all action”, than in reading and talking about it!