It was another glorious Four Hundred Hour Work Week with some exciting progress made. I met with a good friend over lunch yesterday who was interested in taking a product he had produced as a hobby and turning it into a legitimate business. I am surprisingly pleased with conversations like these, it feels great to be able to pass along the knowledge gained and I realize how much you actually know about creating a product company.
For a lot of people, the big challenge lies in actually getting the product produced. It can be a challenge to get past the prototyping, costing the product production, finding a factory to produce the widget and of course how to pay for all of this. In this case, he already had a product but he wanted to know more about how to sell his item online. A good portion of our conversation revolved around the tools available and how quickly they can be implemented.
There are a bunch of fantastic, cheap, easy, hosted, e-commerce solutions today that allows for just about anyone to start selling online. I’ve used Shopify for years, which provides a fantastic set of features with a super clean interface and all for $29 a month. Over the years they have raised millions in VC money and have a large selection for 3rd party apps that enable just about every functionality you could want. Bigcommerce has also been a very popular hosted e-commerce solution and recently Squarespace has added e-commerce functionality. Each of these options gives you the ability to have a functioning online store live on a weekend.
The next tool I had to tell him about was Shipstation. It integrates with Shopify and other major hosted e-commerce platforms. It imports the orders from your online store and allows you to batch process up to 500 orders at once. I came across this software when I was running a Living Social deal and was having to process up to 1000 orders a day. I would have drowned in my own tears if I would have had to process those orders through Shopify. With a couple clicks you can print pick pack forms, packing slips, invoices and shipping labels. Shipstation then can send custom HTML emails to the customer informing them that their order has shipped and provided the tracking number. The software then communicates with Shopify and updates the shipment status and adds the tracking number as well. The other awesome thing about Shipstation is it allows you to pull in orders from multiple online stores like eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and many others.
The other big problem to solve is to track all of this business into Quickbooks, Xero, Freshbooks or other small business accounting software. While band-aid solutions exist, there is no great solutions for product based companies. For the past year, I had used LettuceApps which was one of the few companies that had the ability to directly integrate with Quickbooks. The company has stopped developing the app because they were bought by Intuit and are working on building their features into the new version of Quickbooks Online. There are some limited integrations between Shipstation and Quickbooks but are not sufficient for running a company that is doing any sort of volume.
With a handful of tools and costing a little over $100 a month, you can have a pretty efficient company up and running in a very short amount of time. There are new tools being created every day which make living the Four Hour Work Week more of a possibility. What are you waiting for?! It’s the weekend, time to start that business you’ve been thinking about!