10 Dos and Don'ts for Online Retail Startups
Growing his e-commerce business from $5,000 in sales in year one (2008) to $27 million in sales five years later, Josh Neblett, co-founder and CEO of Etailz.com, which operates three e-commerce websites — GreenCupboards.com, ecomom.com and everyCasa.com; a soon-to-launch site, coybeauty.com; a brick-and-mortar store in the company's hometown of Spokane, Wash.; and etoolz, a division focused on developing proprietary software solutions and tools, is well schooled on what it takes to grow a business from startup to thriving operation.
Neblett shared those insights yesterday at a session at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. Here's a list of his five things bootstrapped e-commerce businesses should do, followed by five things they shouldn't do:
1. Focus on team and culture. Create an environment where your employees enjoy coming to work every day, Neblett said. This gets harder as your company grows from just a few employees to a larger group, but it's possible. For example, eTailz.com has no dress code for its workers, hosts weekly barbecues for employees in the summer, and often provides food and drinks in the office. And the best part about this strategy, according to Neblett — it's free to do (for the most part).
2. Follow the money. With no financial backing, bootstrapped online startups must identify opportunities of growth wisely, Neblett said. I have zero interest in short-term profit; everything Etailz.com makes is invested back into the business, he added.
3. Under-promise, over-deliver. This is a philosophy that all companies should live by, not just startups, Neblett said. He cited an example from eTailz.com to illustrate his point. Neblett creates two budgets every year — one for his bankers and board of directors, and the other for his internal staff. The budget for the bankers and board of directors is more conservative and created with the idea that it will be more attainable to beat; the internal budget is more aggressive in terms of sales and profit growth. The internal staff only sees the more aggressive budget, so they're motivated to perform at their best.