Building a Bustling Web-Based Business

Online Business

I’m going to be a senior next year. I’m already tired of the prospect of looking for a job. I want to bust out. I’ve always been savvy with money, so I’ve thought about starting a business. I figure if I start it now, I can have something pretty significant by the time graduation rolls around, and I can grow it by focusing on it and living off of money I’ve saved. Plus I can do something that I like, rather than working for “the man.” I go to school in the middle of nowhere, and that’s my concern. Anything I need to do, I need to do online, and there is already so much online I don’t know how to stand out. What are your tips for getting noticed and finding my niche, in the constraints of college?

How do you start and grow a business online? How do you rise above the din so that customers can find you? It is a question every entrepreneur has to ask. To answer it, we’re going to take the classic business school approach and conduct case studies. So, we’ll look at a business providing goods online, and a business providing services online to see what you can learn from them.

There are many examples of retail business started by kids in college that have grown to sustain a lifestyle. One example might be Premier Glow, based in Memphis, TN. Premier Glow was founded by two college students at the University of Memphis. They created a business exclusively to sell light-up products. In other words, they capitalized on a very specific niche. Starting with glow sticks (a familiar good, one no doubt popular with a college crowd) they moved on to selling light up golf balls, glasses, and pixel swords. From a simple concept, they identified and seized all sorts of new product opportunities, or, as the team at Sparxoo puts it, they found compelling products to suit their market.

But what if you don’t have thousands of square feet of space, a deep well of products, and a shipping infrastructure? One option to start an online business is to dropship. In a typical retail model, you would buy the product, say a batch of tee-shirts, from a wholesaler, store those tee-shirts, then sell them from a storefront, brick-and-mortar or online. Modern logistics mean that the world no longer has to operate like that. Shopify’s guide to dropshipping defines the concept as, “a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn't keep the products it sells in stock.” Rather than keeping all of the tee-shirts (in this example) that you want to sell in your basement, your garage, or a warehouse that you rent out, you purchase your merchandise as needed from the manufacturer and ship it as needed to the customer. It would never pass through your hands, though the transaction would pass through your storefront. This is the business model of companies like Print Aura. Entrepreneur Magazine has a list of five questions you should ask before you start drop shipping from a wholesaler. If dropshipping is something you would consider yourself, answer those questions first.

If you are providing a service, what makes your business stand out? Take lawyers, for example. The internet is chockablock-full of websites for lawyers, many of them indistinguishable from one another. But this website from Howard Fensterman, which details how he filed a formal complaint against the UAE for investment fraud, pinpoints one particular example of an attorney’s service. It is attention-grabbing because it focuses on the event, rather than on the conceptual possibility of what services the attorney might provide. If you anticipate your business offering a service, hard examples of what you have done for people, and SEO-ready pages devoted to specific instances of the delivery of your services, catch a lot more eyes (or, as the case may be, a lot more clicks) than pages of bullet points.

All of these are good tips for getting noticed, but remember that the core of your business is offering a great product. If you have that, people will eventually find you.

"When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it." -- Henry Ford

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