Starting a small e-commerce business on your own, with no degree in business or marketing, can be challenging. But that's exactly what I did – I went into this without any clue as to what I was doing. I've gotten a couple questions time and time again from people looking to start their own venture, so I figured I'd answer my four most commonly asked questions for you guys! Enjoy :)
How'd you start out, and did you have to do anything to make your business legal? What about taxes.. I want to start a business but don't even know where to begin. I had to learn all the legal ropes of owning a business by myself – I had to obtain a vendor's license through the State of Ohio as well as register as a Sole Proprietor with my business. Each state differs, so if this is something you're serious about, do some research on whatever state you live in. All the money I bring in for my business has to be claimed on my tax return at the end of the year. Anyone who is self employed has to do this. Going into this adventure, I didn't even THINK about the taxation process, and as confusing as it was, I learned quite a bit. So many people have asked me about this, so here's a basic explanation:
Think about it like this – when you have a job, you fill out a W2 form & your employer withholds money from your checks for tax purposes. They hold onto that money & then pay it to the government for you. Then, when tax season comes around, you either settle the difference or get a return. When you're self employed, no one is withholding money for you – you must do that yourself. The whole legal & taxation process can be daunting, but this part alone has been such a learning experience for me, and it's been so rewarding. I highly suggest getting all your legal ducks in a row before pursuing any business venture. Also: keeping detailed records of EVERYTHING really really helps you at the end of the year. Just a tip.
Do you do all your designs yourself? Yes I do! Many times, I purchase resources or use commercially free resource websites to construct my designs, but ultimately I do it all. I design my products, mock them up & choose garments, I work with the printer to get things printed. I design my website, marketing materials, emails, shipping labels & thank you notes, stickers, etc etc. I also try to do most of the photography myself, but I have help from some amazing people as well. Check out the credits page if you're curious – I always credit photographers, and designers when I use their elements!
Do you buy all your inventory? Aren't you scared you won't sell it all? Yes and yes. There are drop shipping services out there that will print & ship your apparel on demand, but I wanted to package and ship each order myself, so it feels more personal when it arrives to the customer. I create cute shipping labels, buy cute poly bags and design little thank you cards to stick in each package. This is more time consuming on my end and it might add a day or two on to shipping time, but ultimately I want people to know they're buying from and supporting a real human being. And to answer that second question again – yes, buying inventory is ALWAYS scary, as I'm always afraid I won't sell it all. But that's the fun of owning a business.. you have to take some risk in order to succeed.
What inspired you? I remember sitting around one day in November 2016 and thinking to myself "I want to do MORE for farmed animals". I've been plant based since the summer of 2015, but I wanted to find a way to raise money to donate, so I could do just a little more to help. I knew I didn't want a company that was "vegan" centric, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I considered many things, including making candles, til I settled on the idea of apparel.. after all, I feel like I've kind of always wanted to do this. I was also majorly inspired by mega boss babe Hannah of BANGS Shoes for her entrepreneurial spirit, as well as other companies like Made in Minny, Wish You Were Northwest & Rad Earth Supply Co. I really wanted, and still want, to make my mark in the apparel industry, as well as continue to raise awareness & money for farmed animals, and these things keep me inspired daily.
Ultimately, hard work and determination play a huge role in the success of your business. I never went to school for business or marketing or journalism – just graphic design. I've figured everything out as I go, and it's been a mix of failures and successes, alike. Owning a business of my own has been my favorite learning experience so far and I'm so excited to continue to learn and grow alongside all of you. Thank you for supporting my business. Please feel free to reach out with any questions, suggestions, or comments! I love hearing from you guys & receiving your input.