I’ve been a bit tardy when it comes to blog posts this past week or two, mainly because I am in the throes of setting up a new business, WhatSupp?
As you may have guessed from the name, it is a supplement business, crucially one to locate and sell hard-to-find supplements. I also want to stock a vegan range and am looking into insect-based products; for non-veggies, I believe insects are the future of sustainable protein.
During my hiatus from life, I have occasionally pondered the notion of a supplement business, but the competition is fierce. It is an overcrowded market place and competition is strong, so finding my niche was important. Obviously, it is going to take some experimentation to see what sells and what doesn’t, but I can see a future in it.
Whether it will go from an eBay-based business to a full-on website remains to be seen. It is VERY early days; just this week I received my first proper wholesale order and am busy adding them to my store. Just because an item is hard-to-find doesn’t mean that people actually want to buy it, so I am taking it slowly, small orders at first and then adding to stock that sells well.
Since leaving school I have been somewhat of a serial entrepreneur. Most know me in a business capacity from SMELLYOURMUM.COM but, when I look back, I really have just morphed from one business to another:
- NOT DEAD YET PETS was a company that bred small animals which were sold to the public and to large pet store chains. Rather amusingly, people that bought from us got a neat little birth certificate with the parent’s details on to avoid in-breeding. Incidentally, when we went to those large pet chains, they did NO checks on us. I thought that was pretty bad.
- THE TOY BOY was a company I started that dealt in vintage Star Wars items. This started accidentally. One week, I popped an ad in the paper for Star Wars stuff, answered a call and bought an AT-AT and Millennium Falcon. Later than day, someone else called asking if I had anything to sell and, that afternoon, I offloading the AT-AT and Falcon for a tidy profit. The lightbulb went off and, for a period of time, it was very profitable. I moved to modern figures when the interest in Star Wars re-grew in the late 90s but it wasn’t long before the marketplace got very crowded.
- REGION1DVD.CO.UK was started after I noted a few sellers at toy fairs doing really well flogging region 1 DVDs out of their suitcases. They were literally flying to the USA, loading up, coming back and selling. I was way too lazy for that, but found a supplier in the States and was soon importing loads of discs. Back then (late 90s), region 1 films came out much earlier than the UK versions and often had better extras, hence their popularity. As the business name might suggest, this was my first online-only store. Very early days of internet shopping to customer choice was limited. An ad or two in DVD mags and the orders came flying in. Alas, the banks were slow to do anything about online fraud and I had circa £7k stolen from me. Instead of helping out, the bank just piled charge upon charge to this debt until I was well and truly fucked.
- MALLRATSENTS was the first eBay store I had. In fact, it still runs except it is now known as QUIRKABILIA. Mallrats was started by Vikki and I who, out of desperation, trawled charity shops for rare VHS tapes. Seems strange now, but they sold incredibly well. Every day we would receive umpteen cheques in the post, which was nice. We gradually started to sell new, yet hard-to-find DVDs as well, listing ones we thought would sell then just buying them from Play.com as the orders came in. With their zero-VAT prices, we did well. So well, it gave us the cash we needed to start…
- …SMELLYOURMUM.COM! I won’t go on about this too much, as I am sure most reading are aware of it and the story behind it. In 2002, we launched the site as some kind of guerilla warfare obnoxious battle against normality. We sold a few shirts here and there but had a proper launch at the Bulldog Bash. That launch failed, but it did put us in touch with a distributor in London and we sold stuff via them for a while. Soon, Vikki decided she wanted to learn to print so we could expand our range and that, combined with a proper eCommerce store (launched 2004) really took us to the sweary stratosphere. Growth was fast and unexpected and remained so until the credit crunch. When that hit, we had to have a small re-think and started doing ComicCons which grew us further. All the while, it fed into the myth of the band, SPiT LiKE THiS, and the band fed back into the myth of SMELLYOURMUM.COM. It really would have been a stroke of genius if it were planned to be like that from day one!
- SPiT LiKE THiS. Like it or not, a band becomes a business. Unless you hit the big-time, not a profitable one, but it still had to be run as one. Mainly to keep the tax man happy (or not, as the case may be).
- QUIRKABILIA.COM was another business built out of passion, this time my passion for vintage items, antiques and collectables. I guess it is a more grown-up version of the Star Wars business mentioned above. The long and short of it is, I trawl charity shops, car boot sales, antique shops and antique fairs buying items that I believe I can make a profit from. I have had some duffers but, mostly, everything sells for more than I buy it. Slowly, I am moving more and more exclusively toward art as it hits me emotionally and I seem to have a good eye for it.
And that brings us up to the present day and the tentative start of WhatSupp?. My long term plans are to have a website that I do not personally run. Whether it is a drop-ship model or one where the company sources items – or maybe even produces items – remains to be seen but I ultimately want it to provide a passive income. That, added to the stocks & shares stuff I do and Vikki’s Buck You equine business should see us well as I fail upward as a writer!
Vikki and I both often get asked for business tips or advice. The main thing I have noticed as the internet has grown is that the niche businesses are the ones that do well. Forget becoming a glove manufacturer, but become a manufacturer of gloves made out recycled plastic and you have your niche. Unlike the pre-internet days, customers now have endless choice. They aren’t reliant on what the stores decide to stock. If they cannot see what they are after in one place, there are still hundreds more they can look at. Virtually any combination of anything is now being made by business people, inventors, entrepreneurs and artisans worldwide. And if you think of something that isn’t, THAT is a business opportunity!