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6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

Jared Goetz spent only 30 minutes a day and built a colossal Shopify sales machine.

Entrepreneur

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Jared Goetz, serial entrepreneur and member of The Oracles, always had a knack for reaching an audience. At 26 years old, he’s co-founded four multimillion-dollar companies.

Whether he’s throwing the world’s largest foam party with fire breathers and circus acts (“Electric Flurry”) or selling inflatables to college students via viral campaigns (“Dumbo Lounge Sacks”), this serial entrepreneur knows how to turn an audience into a profit machine.

His latest venture, The Gadget Snob, is no different. An ecommerce store that supplies everything from jet-flamed pencils to laser keyboards, Goetz took his business from zero to $2 million in 60 days by plugging into the right audience. That’s no small feat in a competitive industry forecast to surpass $4 trillion in sales by 2020.

Goetz’s secret sauce to reaching the masses? Experimentation. As he explains, “You don’t know what people will respond to until you try a lot of things. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.”

Related: Selling Online: Be On The Right Side Of The Law With Your Ecommerce Start-Up

Goetz shares six key components to building his million-dollar ecommerce store and turning profits in less than a business quarter.

1. Don’t reinvent the merchandise wheel

“Many owners think they have to reinvent the wheel with the merchandise they sell,” Goetz explained. Instead, he suggests focusing on products with a proven track record of success. “An easy way to spot a market trend is gauging how a product performs on social media. If an item is getting 10,000 Facebook Likes in less than a few hours, that’s a tell.”

When choosing merchandise, it’s also crucial to differentiate between commoditised and unique products. Commoditised products are widely available. Unique products are less accessible handmade or niche products that aren’t mass produced.

“If you go niche, gauge demand first. Observe what people are looking for. You might be surprised to see what’s selling.”

2. Create a formula, then rewrite it

Ecommerce comes down to a formula, Goetz says, and the outcome is affected by different variables: Product, advertisement, landing page optimisation, and customer lifetime value.

“Once you figure out what produces the best margin, copy that. Most who fail in ecommerce are 90 percent there but haven’t worked out all the variables in their formula,” Goetz shares.

For Goetz, a pivotal variable was drop shipping. “I spent a lot of time bootstrapping my earlier companies. Drop shipping was a game-changer because it allowed me to advertise before securing the inventory, yielding greater outcomes.”

3. Build a legit Shopify store

Shopify

A successful Shopify store must win confidence. “In the sometimes-fraudulent digital ecosystem, you have to earn a consumer’s trust,” Goetz says. “A money-back guarantee and free shipping guarantee are great places to start.”

Related: 5 Ecommerce Myths That Are Sabotaging People’s Businesses

Goetz also suggests choosing a theme that’s congruent with your industry. “With branding, you want to look professional, not spammy or creepy.” Gadgets are fun and technical, so his site has bright colours and precise language. “If I were running a men’s fashion store or toy store, I’d change my theme to match the merchandise and brand. Branding is key to converting customer views into sales.”

4. Find winning ads with huge ROI and scale

For Goetz, marketing comes down to one word: testing. “The only way to find out what works is to test it many times,” he says. “Test 10 audiences on each product, so you know where to invest your energy.” For The Gadget Snob, Goetz hired an ad manager to optimise Facebook campaigns. “When you strike gold with a successful ad, replicate it, but scale incrementally to ensure you’re staying targeted.” He suggests increasing ad spend 20 percent per day, not 500 percent.

When building campaigns, it’s also vital to use language that’s shareable and creative. Sales psychology is your friend. From his perspective, classic scarcity techniques have been around for centuries for a reason. “Try incorporating a quantity incentive: if you buy one, it’s full price; if you buy two, it’s 50 percent off and so forth.”

“Creating an email list is also vital. Email campaigns have a higher conversion rate than cold Facebook campaigns, and you can incentivise email campaigns with rewards. You can make money by merely pushing ‘send.’”

5. Hire a VA, then specialists

For Goetz, hiring a virtual assistant was essential to scaling. “At first, my VA helped with everything,” he says. Once his site got off the ground, Goetz hired people with specialised jobs for specific tasks.

Related: 5 Basics To Success When Starting An Ecommerce Business

He also stresses the importance of universal procedures. “Having clear onboarding processes and procedures is key to growth. Make your systems as easy as possible because while you might have 100 orders today, tomorrow you’ll have quadruple that.”

6. Get your customer support airtight

For a store to operate at full throttle, Goetz stresses the importance of customer support to maximise your profits. “You need your customer support to be airtight and available 24/7,” he says. “Online shopping goes all night and people place orders at all hours.”

To support questions and concerns, Goetz says that live chat and around-the-clock customer service is a must. “In our era of Amazon Prime, customer service expectations have never been higher, he says. “The last thing you want is a minute hiccup or technical goof obstructing a sale.”

Ultimately, ecommerce allows entrepreneurs to reach untapped markets and reap the rewards. As Goetz puts it: “My ecommerce site affords me ultimate freedom.” By following a few basic steps, you, too, can build a Shopify store to run from anywhere in the world, and perhaps even create your own million-dollar sales machine.

Related: 4 Methods For Building A Successful Ecommerce Brand

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Types of Businesses to Start

Want To Start A School? Your Guide To The Education Sector

The education sector continues to show remarkable growth and opportunity as the private sector fulfils the increasing need for quality education in South Africa.

Nicole Crampton

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“The education sector is interesting as it’s one of the few sectors in South Africa showing very strong fundamental growth, almost independent of general economic growth,” says Rory Ord, head of unlisted investments at 27four Investment Managers.

“Education is highly demanded across all sectors of South African society, and this ties into a global trend of increasingly educated populations.”

Demand creates an opportunity for the private sector

There are two major themes in education that make it interesting from an investment perspective.

“First, it’s clear that government cannot meet the demand for the different levels of education required by South Africans, and neither can it meet the standards required on a very large scale,” says Rory.

He adds that beyond the top performing government schools and universities, the population using these services want better education and many are willing and able to pay for it. This has created an opportunity for the private sector, which has experienced huge growth in private schools, to the benefit of companies like Curro and ADvTECH.

“Both companies have grown strongly in recent years, with Curro achieving higher percentage growth off a lower base. Curro has been highly valued by investors who have been willing to pay for the expected growth. ADvTECH is a bit more mature as a business, but has still delivered growth of 20%+, and on a much lower earnings multiple. Private education is still a small percentage of the whole, so expect more growth, but it does take time to deliver this growth in large numbers,” advises Rory.

The investment opportunity of education technology

investment-opportunity-of-education-technology

“The second theme,” Rory says, “is how technology can increase the penetration of quality education. In essence, the way education is delivered has not changed with the advent of technology, but there are many areas where change is possible.

“The best example of this in South Africa is GetSmarter, which partners with global brand universities to provide high quality online short courses. Founded in Cape Town, this business was acquired by 2U, a US based company doing similar things in 2017, for R1,4 billion.

“Technology also promises more focused learning by tracking the progress of each student and adapting to make sure no child is left behind. We expect plenty of disruption and change in this part of the market.”

Related: How GetSmarter Got Smarter

What’s next for education?

In the unlisted space, Milpark Business School was bought out by private equity buyers several years ago and has recently been purchased by Stadio, Curro’s tertiary education spinout and Brimstone Investment Company. A third theme is consolidation. Scale is important in education and established players with capital are likely to continue purchasing smaller players to achieve this.

What the education sector looks like today

The education sector is divided into three separate investment and business opportunities, namely: High income schools, low income schools and franchises. Before investing in any of these sectors you’ll need to understand them.

Low income schools

Low-fee or independent schools are growing at a rapid rate in South Africa. In its 2015 report, Low-Fee Private Schools: International Experience and South African Realities, the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), reports that low-fee private schools that charge annual school fees of less than R12 000, are educating an estimated 250 000 learners. The schools fill in the education gap left by insufficient or dysfunctional public schools in disadvantaged communities.

“The private education sector is not well researched or understood,” says Jane Hofmeyr, policy and advocacy director at the CDE. “But there is considerable potential with new players, local and international, coming into the market, looking for opportunities in South Africa and Africa.”

The growth in the independent school industry emanates from for-profit and not-for-profit chains of private schools at all fee levels. The main source of income for low-fee independnt schools is school fees, government subsidies and donations.

Investors in this sector face a number of challenges. A convoluted regulatory environment can impede the establishment of new schools. You’ll also face high compliance costs, and more accountability with severe sanctions for non-compliance. Further challenges are acquiring affordable premises, high teacher turnover and late or non-payment of school fees.

High income schools

ADvTECH, a listed private education provider, reported a 22% rise in revenue to R2 billion for the first half of 2017. Operating profits grew by 28% to R344 million, while earnings climbed 6% to 38,6 cents per share, and a dividend of 15 cents per share was declared. ADvTECH’s schools division comprises 90 schools across 47 campuses under the following brands: Abbots College, ADvTECH Academies, Centurus Colleges, Crawford Schools, Junior Colleges, Maravest Group and Trinityhouse.

There are also challenges in this sector: “The difficult economic climate and unsettled socio-political environment had a more significant effect on enrolment numbers than had been anticipated. We have seen a consistent rise in the number of families emigrating and this trend had a negative effect on enrolled numbers as we lose students in grades where it is difficult to replace,” says ADvTECH. “In addition, we have seen an increase in withdrawals and exclusions as a result of financial pressures. Therefore, while actual new enrolments have been in line with expectations, net student numbers have been adversely affected by these two negative influences.”

These factors, along with costs of investments in greenfield projects and school expansions, are constraining profits.

Franchising opportunities

Education franchises continue to grow and spread across South Africa, fulfilling parent’s needs to invest in their children’s early learning and critical skills development through enjoyable, educational programmes.

Related: Enko Education Investments Matches Money With Passion


BIG DEALS IN THE EDUCATION  SPACE IN 2017

GetSmarter

SOLD FOR R1,4 BILLION

2U, a Nasdaq-listed technology education business acquired Cape Town start-up GetSmarter for R1,4 billion. GetSmarter was founded by brothers Sam and Rob Paddock. The education business focuses on developing online short courses in partnership with higher education institutions, including Cambridge University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch (Business School).

Both companies focus on delivering “high-quality, high-touch digital higher education from world-class colleges and universities,” said 2U in a statement.

Milpark Business School

SOLD FOR R320 MILLION

Milpark Business School was sold to Stadio, in partnership with Brimstone, for R320 million. Brimstone will pay R96 million for a 30% stake, and Stadio will pay R224 million for a 70% stake in Milpark Business School. Stadio, which falls under the Curro umbrella, says this acquisition is just the beginning; it intends to acquire several additional programmes, including degrees, higher certificated and diplomas.

Mancosa

Undisclosed

Yusuf Karadia sold Mancosa to UK private equity firm Actis, two decades after he launched the distance learning school to teach South Africans business skills. Mancosa is now a part of Actis’s expanding African higher education portfolio. Since 2014, it has spent R3.65 billion investing in educational institutes across the continent.


CURRENT OPPORTUNITIES IN THE MARKET

A+ Students

Creative Minds

  • Investment: R200 000 to R300 000
  • Contact: +27 (0)82 785 7763/ +27 (0)21 939 6344
  • Visit: www.minds.co.za

Innovatus FET College

  • Investment: R700 000 to R1 million
  • Contact: +27 (0)32 541 0045/6
  • Visit: innovatus.co.za

Kip McGrath

Kumon Education South Africa

  • Investment: R50 000 to R100 000
  • Contact: 0800 002 775
  • Visit: www.kumon.co.za

MiniChess South Africa

Sherpa Kids

Young Entrepreneurs

  • Investment: R350 000
  • Contact: +27 (0)87 287 4038/ +27 (0)82 442 6267
  • Visit: www.younge.co.za

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Types of Businesses to Start

11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas

Having difficulty in identifying that unique ‘gap’ in the market? You can start your own distinctively South African business, using these 11 uniquely South African business ideas.

Nicole Crampton

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Business idea 1: Create A Uniquely South African Drink

South-African-flower-route

South Africa’s landscape is one of the most diverse in the world. Its Cape Floral Kingdom is one of only six floral kingdoms in the world. The country’s ecosystem supports 9 600 recorded plant species. 70% of these plants are found nowhere else on the planet.

This wonderfully diverse and unique environment brings with it the opportunity to develop and create products from uniquely South African resources, such as our rooibos plant, unique African spices, African aloes, or even distinctly different SA wheat and hops.

As with any business idea, you need to identify the good and the bad.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Successful founder of YDE, Paul Simon, sold his business when it had an annual turnover of R160 million at the time of its sale, to start his own home-grown rooibos iced tea brand; Über Flavour. Simon discovered a South African product being made in Stuttgart, Germany, and felt he had to correct this ‘injustice’.

Über Flavour sold out in the first six weeks of production, and within eight months it was in 150 locations in Cape Town and Johannesburg; from restaurants to grocery chains. 

Mikie Monoketsi is obsessed with healthy living and realised how ill-informed people in townships were about herbs and spices and its health benefits. So, she set out to capture the township market with her unique blend of healthier spices from her business Mama Spices; and it was an amazing success.

Now, she’s producing approximately 1.2 tonnes of spices monthly for Mama Spices & Herbs, to keep up with demand. 

Here’s what you need to consider when setting out to accomplish this:

Pros

  1. You already have access to uniquely South African resources.
  2. You already know how to create a product using those resources.
  3. You already know there’s a market for your new product.
  4. The raw material will be cost effective because you’re sourcing it locally.

Cons

  1. You will have to develop a network of suppliers, for example; rooibos tea farmers.
  2. You may require a food technician to assist in developing your distinct South African flavour.
  3. You’ll need to make sure there’s a market for your new product.
  4. There will be a significant capital investment.

Related: A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas

Next up > The growing demand and profitability of education

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Types of Businesses to Start

The Benefits Of Manufacturing Locally

Alistair Barnes, Founder and CEO of Ballo, comments on our local manufacturing sector.

Alistair Barnes

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Over the last couple of years, we have seen a boom in the growth of local business. And what I find most interesting is the growth, especially with small artisanal businesses, that place a focus on creating the best quality products in a niche market.

It seems to have become a norm to go to a small specialised shop that produces one item of great quality. From alcohol to socks, gone are the days of the one-stop-shop and mass production. This trend seems to have been led by the ‘love of local’ attitude, that has always been a part of South Africa’s identity. With this supportive attitude, comes the aspect of encouraging local entrepreneurs to support their community, rather than importing from countries that mass manufacture.

I founded my own company, Ballo, five years ago in Woodstock. We create hand crafted, sustainable wooden sunglasses. I decided to go the local route, creating a product of a high-quality standard, rather than source cheaper goods from overseas.

Related: Why Is It Important To Grow Manufacturing? 

That’s not to say that manufacturing locally has been easy, but it was something I felt strongly about and has formed the foundation of my brand.

Boosting your local economy

I wanted to start a company that improved the local economy by creating job opportunities, and this is one of the main pros of manufacturing locally. You get to know the faces behind the product and it gives your business a personality and a story to tell. My general guiding business focus is “principles before profits”, I love that to make more sunglasses I have to employ more people.

Local production is important to me because it creates jobs. We live in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Unemployment is the reason we have high crime rates, but instead of creating jobs most businesses choose to automate, compounding the problem.

Using local waste materials from other industries to make sunglasses also doesn’t require the shipment of raw materials across oceans. The 50 000 freight-liners in the ocean produce triple the amount of greenhouse gasses than all the cars in the world, I don’t want to add to that.

The only negative aspect of employing local staff rather than outsourcing to overseas manufacturers is the cost of wages, but on the other hand it also eliminated import costs. 

Service and adaptability

Manufacturing locally also increases the quality of service and dealing with smaller quantities of product allows adaptability. For example, if a client requests a bespoke item it is easier to meet their requirements. Our range comes in different shapes and sizes with locally inspired prints, which means that every pair is different. I also get to be a part of the creative process from start to finish.

This isn’t really an option when you mass produce. Finding a reliable manufacturer can also be a nightmare. I love getting to oversee every aspect of the process to guarantee a high standard of quality.

Related: Start Manufacturing Toilet Paper Today

Sustainability

ballo-sponsorsWith the rise of the environmentally conscious consumer, came the increased need for people to buy items that are not only great quality, but also sustainable. I came up with an idea, to design and create a pair of sunglasses that are unique and sustainable. We do this by using completely recycled and upcycled materials for the frames.

Our glasses are made from locally sourced wood veneer offcuts, recycled paper and tree sap bio-resin that are pressed, cut and shaped by hand. The workshop uses no water during the production process, and minimal electricity, using a few yet, highly skilled staff and almost entirely recycled and upcycled materials.

With a passion to “see things differently”, I was determined to break down what people see as acceptable forms of production, I wanted to lead by example.

Something that is very close to my heart is giving back; Ballo sponsors the South African Eco Film Festival, that is geared towards showcasing films that introduce sustainable living choices and world issues alike. My vision is for Ballo to be an anti-fashion or ethical fashion brand- trying to educate consumers as a part of a slow-sales process. Sustainability is not something I focus on for PR reasons, it’s something that I live and feel. I feel a responsibility to this planet. I am not trying to exploit a trend, I actually care and consider the impact on the environment that every business decision has.

We are always on the lookout for new ways in which to help give back to the earth and to help educate people on making the right choices for the planet.

Production

Each pair of Ballo sunglasses is individually handcrafted. We can produce up to 50 pairs of sunglasses a day and every single pair goes through a series of 22 design processes requiring a huge amount of precision and detail. This is one of the limiting factors that need to be considered when manufacturing locally, especially by hand. When outsourcing to countries that mass manufacture, the product turnover is a lot higher and standard is consistent; although quality might not be as good.

When it comes to handmade items, there is always room for mistakes which mean that quality control has to be a priority. For us it is the last step before the frames are laser etched with branding and beautiful packaging. The brand’s attention to detail is unparalleled throughout the process.

Related: Aluminium Door And Window Manufacturing

Price

Although manufacturing in a country like China is more efficient and standardised it decreases the value proposition when it comes retail prices. People like to buy a product with a story, a product that they know was made by hand and with attention to the smallest of details.

A couple of years ago no one seemed to take notice of the process, cheaper was better and people weren’t willing to pay more for well-made items over their cheaper counterparts. That has now changed, although the production might be slower when it is done by hand, it has a large impact on the price point which evens the playing field.


ballo-south-african-sunglassesCheck out all the products and news online at www.ballo.co.za or pop in to the store and try some on for yourself. Bo Op, 102 Wale Street, Bo Kaap, Cape Town.

Follow Ballo on social media:

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