Starting an Online Business: Brainstorming, Part 1 of ?

As I’ve become more adept at website stuff, I’ve often thought of a lot of little online home-based businesses to start. I think that it would be fun and educational to go through the hoops of getting the business licenses, organizing things, doing cash-flow analyses, etc.

There seems to be three types of sites – ad-supported content sites, selling software or advice (virtual items), and selling physical items. While the first two are probably the easiest and requires the least inventory and/or physical space, I also want to involve my wife in it, and she doesn’t do computers. So we started brainstorming business ideas.

After throwing around a lot of ideas, we came down to this. It has to be a low-price, but luxury-type item. Something like a Starbucks Frappacinno. It’s a $5 expensive drink with huge profit margins, but everyone can ‘afford’ it. Our target market must have disposable income and it has to be fun and attractive, and ideally somewhat personalized. We can’t compete with Big Box stores like Walmart.

One potential area? Pets. After getting a dog, we found that people are freakish about their dogs. More and more 20 and 30-somethings are getting them instead of kids. Look at Hollywood – Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, etc. I mean, we have to buy birthday gifts and holiday gifts for our friends’ pets. We have several ideas for specific products, but need to do more research.

Any home-based businesses out there selling homemade physical products? Plug your site below (no viagra or junk like that please).

Comments

  1. Darn! I can’t talk about my financial site that focuses on the money benefits of using Viagra? :-)

    Seriously, I think the pet idea is a GREAT one, if you can find the right product. I post a lot on money and pets, and people spend a TON of money to pamper Fluffy and Fido. I’d advise that you get your idea up soon as people will be shopping for Christmas presents for their beloved pets.

  2. The only drawback of a low price point is that many people balk at paying a few bucks to ship an item that only costs a few bucks. But it sounds like your’re on the right track.

  3. Another thing that you might want to consider is finding a product that you can drop-ship so you don’t have to keep physical inventory.

  4. We’re doing the same kind of brainstorming in our household….seeking passive (or passive-ish) income streams using our superpowers for good and not evil! (I mean combining my numbers addiction and LaLa’s creativity and skills)

  5. Not trying to sound preachy, but starting a business solely for the reason of making profit probably not a good idea. You have to think of a problem that you think you can solve, or come up with a better solution to an existing one.

  6. “Starting a business solely for the reason of making a profit [is] probably not a good idea.” What the…? I thought that was the whole purpose of a business – making a profit. If you want to solve a problem, you might make more money, but that’s not necessarily so. I’ve seen websites that make a decent amount of money selling the same thing you’d find other places. They just target a niche market and give it what it wants. Example: a guy who sells handmade leather leashes. Nothing new, just good at what he does. He doesn’t even market very well.

  7. I don’t want to speak for Caitlin but I think her point was that the idea is an important component of starting a business – you can’t just open up any old business.

    My point would be that to be truly successful at it, you must be passionate about your idea. Take the idea of the previously mentioned person who makes leather leashes. He probably really enjoys what he does and is able to make some money off of it. I think this is more important than anything else – passion.

  8. I’ve put some thought into this type of thing in the past… Fivecentnickel says: “Another thing that you might want to consider is finding a product that you can drop-ship so you don’t have to keep physical inventory.”
    That’s a great idea, but any suggestions how to find such companies?

  9. depending on what the items in question are (how easy it is to ship etc.) you might be on the right path as long as you can find the right niche market to fill (and if you can get them to find you online).

    I sell a widget on one of my site for under $20 and its getting tedious to keep up with the shipping (even though its so easy). Drop-ship is the easiest route, and takes pretty much half the operation outta your hand. But that probably will make your wife less involved in the business, if at all.

    but yeah like ive mentioned, depending on how big and heavy these items are, i wouldnt worry about shipping so much. USPS first-class is fairly cheap and practical. there’s lots of online PC postage printing services, endicia.com, stamps.com etc. etc. print out the labels, drop it off in mailbox.

    I think starting a business with low risk is a great way to learn. But yeah I guess everyone’s concerns are justify as we all know how long a small business last in the US.

    To make it all work better, (and to learn even more).. taking the time to write out any type of business plan will help big time. you should check with the SBA http://www.sba.gov/ to see if there’s a local office. their weekly free/low cost seminars are very helpful – and theres lots of resources there to help guide you through starting and successfuly operating a small business.

  10. also, there’s so many types of storefront you can use out there.

    osCommerce is a great open source (and free) online store/catalog/management system – http://www.oscommerce.com/

    you’ll have to think about payment system eventually. I guess paypal works, but depending on the amount you’re expecting.. it might not be too bad of an idea to get your own merchant account.

    anyhow I’m going to say go for it, because these days with the net, it’s a lot easier and less costly to get a small business going.

    another thing to expect, online customers are A LOT more impatient than retail, mail order customers. They buy something today, they want it at their doorstep yesterday.

  11. All great, great comments! I know, there is a ton to think about, etc. etc. but at some point you just want to go out and do it and make some mistakes, at least on a small scale. While we do want to make money, we also want to have fun and do it together.

    - Shipping is a concern for low priced items
    - Must consider website/cart options
    - Must consider payment options

    And it is pretty hard to find a good drop-shipper, as nobody with a good one will share that info with you!

  12. http://financenstuff.blogspot.com/ says:

    A while back me an my friend kept trying to think up the perfect business idea. We came to one conclusion, such ideas do not exist. IMO the best thing to do is just give yourself a time limit on what idea to implement and then just do it. But keep in mind that your chances of creating a profitable business is small. So don’t plan on succeeding the first time around. Anyway please check out my blog!

  13. I started an ecommerce store that made 600k a year. I thought I was doing great, until I noticed that I spent 560k a year maintaining it. I gave the business away to my brother because it was too much of a headache. The overhead was enormous. I needed space, shipping costs were very high, inventory really adds up, and you can’t write the inventory off immediately. Advertising really hurt too. Someone else could have done a better job than me keeping prices low, but I was going 50 things are once and I took the easy way out.

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