How I started a drop shipping business without following the rules.
Like everybody else, except my grandpa, who is dead, I’ve decided to start a drop shipping business.
We, millennials love the idea of not putting the work and make some money. So if you really want to know our sense of business I’ve summarized this for you.
My first attempt. “Dezolat” clothing shop.
Browsing AliExpress for some time, I’ve stumbled upon some really interesting clothes and I was thinking that those are pretty different from what we usually shop in my country (Romania). At that point, I didn’t know anything about drop shipping.
After sharing few clothing items with some of my friends and other people who I thought would like that kind of clothes, the feedback was pretty good.
So, I’ve decided to order a bunch of them to see if those items really are the same way they look in the photos and to see how much it will take to ship and so on… because lots of people feedback on AliExpress was something similar with this:
Receiving the products.
After approximately 30 days of waiting, I’ve received my items.
- Quality is good.
- They look as advertised.
- High price
- Shipping time
- VAT applied if product > 20$
Again, back then I didn’t know about drop shipping (Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, business-wise.)
Creating the business model.
The first thing which crossed my mind was how should I sell this clothes without having to worry about an inventory and to not stress about handling the shipping?
Later on, I’ve found out that this was actually called drop shipping.
Ok, so as a rational human being I was asking myself:
Me: Who on earth will gonna buy something which takes 30+ days to ship
Myself: No one.
Me: There are plenty of premium shipping options.
Myself: Yeah, but who pays 20$ for a t-shirt and 20$ for the shipping?
Myself: No one.
Then, what I have to do is to order a bunch of them and start small just to see if this business model is feasible.
After I’ve made some calculations the total costs were somewhere around 1500$, just for the clothing pieces. Also, the costs for design+branding+dev+advertisements and others. Luckily, I am a designer with a good experience in HTML/CSS/JS and some branding chops. So the costs got definitely lower. After all, this was a branding/marketing game.
Finding a co-founder.
Being a freelancer and not having enough time and resources to go all-in solo especially financial speaking because I was going through a not so great period of time and knowing that this is just an MVP (minimum viable product) to test the market I knew I needed to split the expenses in half.
That being said I’ve reached out to one of my childhood friends and ask him if he would want to join me into this. He was happy to join me in this. So he helped me with the $ and the curating part.
How much should I sell them for?
Receiving goods from China in Romania would require to pay customs VAT if a product is > 20$. Another tricky part was that the goods are not received in the postal office or at the door and I had to pick them personally from the county customs office.
My profit margin was somewhere around 50% per item and I still had a decent price for each clothing article. That was what I was aiming for.
So I’ve decided to just do it and see along the way what happens.
Creating the brand.
I knew that I have to deal with people buying from brands like Zara, Bershka, Pull&Bear, H&M so in order to convince them to buy something from me, I had to have a competitive price and a different look and feel.
So the idea was to make the shop feel and look as we are a bunch of people who are trying to sell nice-looking clothes different from the fast-fashion brands but still affordable.
The question was:
How can we tell people that we do not have a big variety of clothes without making us look like pricks? We started with 12 clothing articles with just one or two sizes available for each.
This was a statement used on the landing page:
We have a limited number of clothes, not because this is good marketing but because we don’t have enough money.
So I’ve tried to make everything as transparent as possible without being too lame.
Creating the shop.
The majority of drop shipping businesses are built with Shopify. So 99% of them are kind of looking the same. Some of them even sell the same products. Imagine two different businesses selling the same thing and looking the same.
Being a designer, I had the advantage to create something different so I did.
I’ve tried to do my own product shots with my iPhone 5s and a friend of mine. Here are some shots:
Yes! I had the same thought but instead of deleting them I’ve decided to use them for the social media.
So I’ve edited them a bit and added some character.
The main reason I wanted to use “real-life” images was to show the potential customers that these clothes exist and they can buy those without getting worried. Extra points for the trust.
I had to use the Aliexpress images in such way that if someone right-clicked “Search Google for Image” to not find it on Aliexpress.
Here’s an example:
I took this image:
And transformed it into this:
Why I did this?
- If you flip an image horizontally somehow it tricks Google into not finding a similar image.
- Added a personal touch so even if someone already saw it on Aliexpress they probably will think it’s something similar, if not, they will probably want to order from me because shipping will take 2 days and they will receive it at their door, also they can return straightaway if they don’t like it.
To give you more context, the brand was called “Dezolat” which means “Desolate”.
The budget allocated for marketing was astonishing. More exactly it was 200RON which means somewhere around 50$.
What did I do with that money ?
- 15$ — boost Facebook Post.
- 35$— print some cards and use them as labels to clothing articles.
Here’s how the label looked like:
What I did was to remove the existing labels (I asked the vendor on AliExpress if they are alright with this and they were ok.) and attach this one to them.
Here’s the boosted Facebook post:
And these are the results:
So it went pretty good. With some invites and this boosted post, we’ve managed to get 327 likes and we’ve received 10 orders.
This was a bit tricky. I wanted to use something different for packaging I didn’t want to be just the usual boring packaging. I wanted to add some personality.
The problem was that I had very little money for this. So I went to the local flea market and ask if they have some empty bags. Luckily, I’ve found someone who just prepared to throw away the bags after they’ve unwrapped some blankets.
I’ve looked at those bags and I thought it those are pretty interesting and I’ve asked the lady if she wants to give me those bags and she did it. 🙂
So to reveal the mystery, here’s how the bags looked like:
It was an interesting ride and it seemed to be pretty decent in terms of sales. I know we could do more but unfortunately, I didn’t have the money to refill the inventory and continue working on it due to other projects and my partner also didn’t have the money to continue with this but who knows maybe we will continue this someday. 🙂
This was my first attempt. The next story will be about my second attempt to start a drop shipping business. This time I followed “the rules” of drop shipping and it ended pretty bad.
Thank you for reading!