I browsed Alibaba day after day and finally came up with a niche that I was interested in. I contacted about 30 different suppliers and got about 15 responses. I think a lot of them were just middle men. The others either had high Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs), high price per product, or couldn’t speak English very well. After a while, I finally found a supplier that was one of the cheaper suppliers AND spoke English well. I think the latter was a big part of me going with my rep. You also have to see if they’re a verified seller, if they have any feedback, and how long they’ve been in business. Alibaba shows all that information and more on the seller’s profile.
I placed an order for a sample and a few days later a FedEx package came to my door. It seems pretty standard to get free samples but you have to pay for the shipping. He sent me three samples and they looked alright to me. I ended up placing an order for 1,200 pieces and wired him a deposit. When it was ready to go, I had to settle up the other half. After about a week or two, my package came and I was really excited.
I was a nervous wreck while waiting to see if my order would actually come. It’d be easy to send samples to appear legit, then have someone make a big order and disappear. If you get a gut feeling that something feels sketchy, don’t move forward until they make you feel comfortable again.
I was developing my website while I waited for the products to come. I built it off Magento after a lot of research on e-commerce platforms. There are a lot of simpler solutions but they have monthly fees. I like Magento CE because it’s a self-hosted option so I don’t have to pay anyone anything. I don’t really have the time to build anything from scratch so I found a nice theme on themeforest. I set it up, took product photos, and two weeks later I had my site ready to go.
I started marketing organically through social media and some forums and traffic trickled in. My biggest source of traffic was probably reddit. I found a subreddit and offered a special discount after getting moderator approval. Unfortunately, you can’t make an offer more than once in that sub. I got a bunch of orders that way. Since that promotion I’ve had sales trickle in slowly. eBay was another channel of sales but I had some complications with apparent trademark issues. That’s for another post.
This brings me back to my biggest issue that I mentioned in a previous post, traffic. I know how to setup a decent niche site, but without traffic there’s no point. Offering a promotion through your site, Facebook, Twitter, etc is worthless if it isn’t presented to enough people. This has become my #1 goal for learning.