The 5 EASY STEPS and 5 MISTAKES WHEN STARTING AN ONLINE BOUTIQUE
The boutique industry is flying! With an ever expanding tool set at the disposal of ambitious bright women, the boutique market has never looked better. Let's dive into some simple steps on how to start an online boutique.
Step 1 - Boutique Name and Logo
Easily the funnest and simplest part of starting a boutique! If you don't already have a boutique name and need creative inspiration, try this boutique name generator
Should I trade mark my boutique name? I would worry about that. Unless you choose a name like Forever 21 or Anthropologie, no one will be sending you a cease and desist letter anytime soon. However if you're still interested, head over to USPTO to learn some basics about trademarking.
The right logo can do wonders, it can either legitimize your boutique or turn away potential customers. I would not advise whipping Microsoft paint and trying this yourself, rather head over to a site like Tailor Brands or Logo and they can make one fairly easy at a good price.
Step 2 - Incorporation and Permits
To legitimize your boutique business you will need to register with state and federal agencies. Start with this federal crash course by Legal Zoom on the differences between Corporations and LLC's.
Almost all boutiques and small business register as an LLC and later become corporations if they grow in size.
You can register as a LLC here so you can start paying those taxes!
You will also need to collect State sales tax, you will keep track of this and pony it over to the government come tax season. Each state has different ways of applying for a sales tax permit, a simple google search inclusive with your state will locate where you can register.
Step 3 - Website Provider
Building a website has never been easier with Shopify. Likely Shopify is already a familiar name and for good reason, it dominates the web hosting industry. A long with being affordable and easy, Shopify has the most comprehensive application marketplace of any web provider.
Why do I need apps? Apps or applications, allow you to integrate cutting edge technology that was once only reserved for legacy companies like Sears, Target and Forever 21.
Shopify apps like Synclogic, can sync your Shopify website with drop shippers, allowing you to instantly upload products and sell right away.
Shopify has easy integrations with companies like Comment Sold, a boutique accessory that can facilitate a professional consumer shopping experience on Facebook.
If you already have a boutique name see if your domain is available on Shopify.
Step 4 - Launching Your Social Media Channels
If you want to make a dent in the online boutique market you will need to employ the use of social media to its fullest extent. Luckily you are probably on your way to becoming an expert on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, but here are some things to take note of:
- Facebook Live allows you to connect with your customers and a QVC like fashion. Showcase samples and sell product in a unique way.
- Utilizing Instagram hash tags can bring in a daily audience for free. Building a strong following with hash tags can be the equivalent of a $5,000/month google ad words budget.
- Connecting your Shopify site with social media can act as a megaphone sending out the showcase of new items as you list them.
Step 5 - Ordering Wholesale Products
There is no need to fly around the country attending fashion expos in order to purchase wholesale clothing. Today any item you could ever need to purchase is a click away.
I have already gone into detail here on my preferred wholesalers like Bloom Wholesale, Fashiongo and Faire but I also want to make sure everyone knows the importance of attending at least one yearly in-person expo. Especially if you are just starting out, attending a fashion expo is enormously resourceful. You cannot put a price on the education you get connecting with successful boutiques in a three day meet-and-greet.
You can find a fashion show near you by looking here.
But why spend your own money on purchasing clothing.
Drop shipping wasn't always a viable option, it was once reserved for Amazon and Ebay sellers, but these days companies like Bloom Drop Ship and Boutique Tree (view complete list here) have changed the game. By providing boutique life style images, on point trends and mom and pop customer service, drop shippers have made making an online clothing boutique simpler than ever.
If you're low on start up capital or just like the idea drop shipping, I fully support exploring this option.
AVOID THESE 5 COMMON BOUTIQUE MISTAKES
Mistake 1 - COPYCATTING
There are currently over ten thousand boutiques in existence in the continental U.S. What are you going to provide that others can't? What void can you fill and how can you start to understand what your local retail market needs?
These are all questions that you need ponder as you begin to blaze your unique trail. Copycatting can only get you so far.
Mistake 2 - POSTING JUST TO POST
Developing a rhythm and schedule is one thing, but if your daily positing isn't packed with creativity and personalizations you are bound to lose grip on any followers you may have.
Customers time is precious to them and if you want some of that head space you need to create engaging content.
Mistake 3 - LOSING TRACK OF FINANCIALS
You might wish you listened more in Econ class, but even if you didn't ace your business class we can all be successful entrepreneurs by making sure our primary focus is always on the bottom line.
Keeping track of your finances coincides with the most important thing I can tell you, "stay alive." What I mean by that is no matter what happens and how your first year or two develops, the key is to learn, grow and stay a float. EVERY boutique I know that found success did not do so until years after their inception.
Mistake 4 - DON'T PRICE TOO HIGH, WAIT..OR IS IT TO LOW?
Pricing is key in both developing a trusting relationship with your customers and being competitive. There is no one size fits all pricing strategy for every boutique.
You can find success in pricing ultra low or above average, the key is to determine what void in your market there is to exploit.
The type of clothing you want to sell helps determine the price, be it fast fashion or high fashion there are already standard market prices you can work off by viewing competitors.
My personal suggestion is to price low but not dumpster dive low. Everyone always loves a good deal.
Mistake 5 - NOT ASKING FOR HELP
I could say this another way which is don't be too confident or think the road to success will be easy. Not only will you need others suggestions and support but you're not going to be successful without it.
On my first business venture I literally had my Step Father, Mom and Wife all helping me with drive runs to the post office, answering emails and helping me pack. I simply couldn't have done it without them. Fortunately I was able to pay them back later in some amazing clothes :)
That concludes my hot list of suggestions and tips on how to start an online boutique. If you ever have any other questions feel free to leave me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Best of luck!