- Players: Nicole Sherwin and Joseph Itzkin
- Contact: 086 127 6278
- Visit: www.vitology.co.za
Launching an online business can offer advantages over other methods. There are none of the overheads associated with running a retail store, and you have more flexibility to do business at your own convenience. But many online businesses struggle to make money.
We asked Nicole Sherwin and Joseph Itzkin, founders of online vitamin, mineral and supplement company Vitology, how they are selling 500 bottles of product and clocking more than 1 200 unique visitors monthly just four months since launching.
Does your business model lend itself to an online store as well?
1. Why did you choose an online business model?
There’s massive growth in online. Overseas, a big percentage of people are already doing most of their purchasing and transacting online. This is a trend that will continue based on the convenience and simplicity of the model. We are a bit behind the curve here, so we complement our online model with direct sales.
2. What did you do to ensure a successful launch?
It’s all about maximum exposure. We partnered with the right PR people to give us that. We also found the marketplace receptive to our business model and that helped us gain a lot of free editorial in traditional and online media. We embraced all forms of social media with great success.
3. How did you assess your market?
We both know a lot about health and wellness, and there’s a strong market for our products right now.
Also, before we launched we discussed our business model with many friends, family, business mentors and people whose business savvy we respect, and used this to gain insight and fine-tune our offering before we launched. As with any business, however, we’re still adapting and making changes as we go along.
4. What is unique about your products?
It’s a premium range that is only available online or from our brand ambassadors. We offer a lifestyle health solution.
On our website we have an ‘ask the doctor’ section where people can access expert health advice and we also have a health assessment which people can complete to enable us to recommend the best products for their needs. We want to partner with people in their quest for better health. This is not something that is offered in the retail environment.
5. How has the monthly subscription offering helped?
Vitamins need to be taken daily, which is why the business lends itself to a subscription model. That’s been identified as one of the top ten worldwide trends for 2014 and we’re the only ones doing it in this market so far in South Africa.
The subscription model allows clients the convenience and ease of home delivery without the hassle of going to the shops and purchasing product every month, and it guarantees repeat business.
How To Be A Social Entrepreneur
If you’re ready to launch a business, but want to make a real social impact too, the social entrepreneurship model might be right for you. Here’s how to get started.
A social enterprise is an organisation that serves a social and/or environmental purpose, generates income from business activities and reinvests its profits back into driving its mission.
Examples include African Schools of Excellence (provide world-class schools to poor communities at a low cost); Hands of Honour (upcycles waste and provide employment for former drug addicts and ex-convicts); and my own social enterprise, Nkazimulo Applied Sciences (helps young people become scientists regardless of their background).
Some people say most of the profits should be reinvested into the mission, but others say a worker is worth their wages.
Doing business differently
Social entrepreneurship is a different way of doing business. Previously, few people cared about whether a company did good or not. Today, food outlets that serve healthy eating options are growing their market share because consumers now care about their health.
Farming responsibly opens the growing market that cares about the environment. More people care about the quality of education South African children have access to and support the efforts in this area. This is where social entrepreneurs can make a real, sustainable difference.
The entity can take any legal form, from a non-profit organisation, to a private company, a trust, or adopt a hybrid structure. Each has its pros and cons. Social enterprises take attributes from commercial entities.
They generate income from business activities. They also take attributes from non-profit organisations and government departments by tackling challenges previously addressed by these organisations, such as poverty, inequality, poor education and unemployment.
They run more efficiently, and are more accountable and transparent than public sector organisations. They are less dependent on external funding than non-profit organisations and charities. Worldwide, there is not enough grant funding for all the non-profit organisations looking for it.
Sustainable social models
An important element of successful social entrepreneurship is social impact monitoring and evaluation. The enterprise must constantly improve on delivering its mission and communicating the results of the impact to all its stakeholders.
Measuring impact may seem difficult. How can you tell a child became a doctor because they had access to lab facilities they previously had no access to? Maybe they were influenced by another factor. There are several tools to help a social enterprise focus its activities on outputs that will lead to the intended outcome which can then be measured.
These outputs become inputs that form a series of outcomes that, together, achieve the intended overall impact and become indicators the enterprise measures. Instead of measuring the number of learners who become doctors, the measure is the number of learners with access to lab facilities where none existed before. This is better than looking at the number of lab facilities provided, which is an input.
See the bigger picture, collaborate and achieve collective impact
These tools are called Logic Models. Demonstration of impact communicates why an enterprise should be supported by stakeholders. The use of Logic Models envisions the bigger picture and identifies other players to collaborate with to achieve collective impact.
Thompson Reuters Foundation reported that South Africa comes third in Africa after Egypt and Nigeria as the best place to be a social entrepreneur. This is very encouraging and is much needed in not only boosting the economy but addressing social and environmental issues.
IN ACTION: Using a logic model to prove your impact
A logic model is a visual representation of how day to day activities of an organisation relate to their overall mission or long-term goal. The model is key in deciding what to measure for impact evaluation.
It has six components:
- The current situation: The problem being solved.
- Inputs: Resources used to address the problem.
- Outputs: Activities and services delivered by the enterprise.
- What outcomes will come about because of the inputs?
- External factors, or circumstances in the environment that influence the problem but which the enterprise has no control over.
- Assumptions that are conditions needed for the success of the programme.
Involve all stakeholders in drawing up a logic model. The different perspectives help draw a complete picture. Impact measurement indicators are then based on these inputs and outcomes.
Logic models link inputs, outputs and outcomes and ensure that the correct indicators are monitored and measured as an enterprise achieves its mission.
3 Internet-Based Businesses You Can Start In 2018
Online experiences connect people worldwide to your brand and the solutions you offer – without requiring a big budget to launch your digital storefront.
No doubt many people resolved to boost their income during the new year. (Of course, it’s never too late to start a business).
The internet provides endless ways to make money. The best part? Most internet-based businesses can be launched immediately, without a giant budget. Here are three awesome gigs you can start in the comfort of your own home.
1. Become a seller on Amazon
Amazon is a monster. According to eMarketer, Amazon accounted for more than 43 percent of e-commerce sales in the United States during 2017 – and about half of those transactions came from third-party sellers. There are many advantages to joining Amazon’s ranks:
- Given the site’s popularity, you can tap into a gigantic amount of traffic. Many consumers are ready to buy when they visit Amazon.
- You operate under the umbrella of the biggest and most trusted name in online retail. If you opted to launch your own e-commerce website from scratch, you’d learn that establishing trust is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming part of the job. Selling through Amazon omits this entirely.
- You easily can manage your entire online business through Amazon’s Seller Central dashboard.
So, how do you get started? First, you need to choose your Amazon category, or niche. These include labels such as clothing, healthcare, jewellery, electronics, beauty and more. Then, identify which products are in high demand.
Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!
The easiest route is to become a Fulfillment By Amazon seller. This means Amazon will take care of shipping, delivery, returns, exchanges and other logistics. You’ll need to stay in tune with supply chains and demand estimates. Tools such as forecastly make this task simpler. And Sourcify can help you find a manufacturing facility, if your idea includes creating a new product.
It’s easy to become an Amazon seller, but being a successful one requires a good deal of work on your end. In addition to choosing the right niche, you must demonstrate some savvy marketing skills. While Amazon functions as your sales outlet, you still need to market yourself as you would a typical business. This involves blogging, social media, email marketing, forums and other activities designed to direct traffic to your Amazon Seller page. Netrush is just one company that can help you establish your brand on the Amazon marketplace after you start making sales.
If you pay close attention to trends and market your products correctly, you can make serious money. Entrepreneur, investor and yogi Nate Ginsburg sold his his Fulfillment By Amazon business for $1 million after three years.
2. Become a Facebook advertising consultant
Facebook has taken over the online advertising market. In 2016, Facebook accounted for 77 percent of the digital ad industry’s overall growth. It’s safe to say Facebook is giving Google a serious run for its money in the world of online marketing. Facebook has enabled all types of small businesses to advertise online with a smaller budget – something that wasn’t possible in the past.
To illustrate the effect, Google’s cost-per-click for digital ads is $10. Spend that same ten-spot on Facebook, and you get 10 clicks. It’s just one reason I predicted last year that Facebook will beat all other digital marketing channels.
Helping online businesses use paid campaigns to establish a Facebook presence is a fantastic way to make money online. However, even though the technical side of advertising on Facebook is made easy, it’s not exactly a cakewalk. You need skills to write copy that converts sales, conduct in-depth research on audience profiles, find the best times to promote, keep a close eye on result metrics and glean the proper insights. Of course, you also must have exceptional client communication.
In reality, Facebook advertising puts money into a system over which you have a limited amount of control. Be sure you do your research on the profession beforehand. Others’ experience shows you can make a lot of money this way if you understand the market. In 2014, former pastor Nicholas Kusmich and his wife capitalised on the emerging market for Facebook advertising. The couple opened a boutique Facebook marketing agency that brought in around $2 million in 2017.
3. Become a part of cryptocurrency ecosystem
If you’ve tuned into the news over the past few months, you’ve certainly heard something about the drastic surge of bitcoin and rise of blockchain. Based on the huge spike in demand, bitcoin is shaping up to potentially become the universal digital currency. The result? Everyone worldwide could make international transactions without worrying about exchange rates or fees to third-party banks.
In terms of business opportunities, there are several possibilities to consider.
One of the most popular is becoming a cryptocurrency miner. If you want to get in on this gig, now is the time. Bitcoin mining is a nonstop online accounting process by which transactions are verified and compiled into the public ledger. While you can make good money doing this, it’s important you understand what you’re getting into. The idea may seem simple, but the actual practice of bitcoin mining takes a good deal of effort.
Start-up costs generally run pretty high, and you need to choose the right hardware, software and bitcoin wallet. You also must make regular upgrades to your equipment – all while keeping a close eye on the bitcoin market. As long as you stay on top of your research and updates, this can be an incredible way to boost your income.
Another stellar opportunity within the cryptocurrency ecosystem involves solving niche or industry-specific problems using blockchain. Blockchain companies are on the rise, and industries around the globe are changing. The concept is very new, so becoming a consultant can be a great way to make money while you play a role in disrupting the status quo altogether.
For example, many freelancers use popular sites such as Freelance.com and Upwork to connect with companies. These platforms take a cut of the earnings from each project. A blockchain system essentially cuts out the middle person, connecting freelancers with companies directly and avoiding work-based fees.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
A Top Lesson From Vinewave: Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Launching a side business that makes money even while you’re sleeping has never been easier. Lawrence Cawood of Vinewave explains how it’s possible to build a multi-million rand business completely on your own, in your spare time, with nothing more than a computer.
Vinewave doesn’t produce sexy consumer software, which is why you’ve probably never heard of the company. Its most popular piece of software, for example, is a staff directory. But it is special for a number of reasons. First, Vinewave is a South African company, despite the fact that you’d never guess it from perusing the website — all prices are in US dollars. Another surprising aspect of the business is its client list.
Users include Sony, Samsung, Harvard Business School, the United Nations and SpaceX. Most astonishingly, however is the fact that, for a very long time, it had only a single employee: Founder Lawrence Cawood. Since 2010, Lawrence has owned and operated Vinewave completely on his own, from a single computer at his home.
Although he is now looking to scale the business aggressively, his initial aim was to create a business that could provide for him and his family, without demanding 80-hour work weeks.
“I wanted to be able to spend time with my family, so my aim was to create a lifestyle business that didn’t demand crazy hours, and that would allow me to work when and where I wanted,” says Lawrence.
Vinewave ended up being exactly what he was looking for. Working on his own, Lawrence created a business that quickly boasted around R1,6 million in annual revenue, and a valuation of R10 million.
Being an online business that targeted companies all over the world, time and space was irrelevant. “I would often wake up to discover that I had made R60 000 in sales while I was sleeping,” he says.
DOING THE WORK
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can become a multi-millionaire while watching TV in your pyjamas. Lawrence is quick to add that launching Vinewave wasn’t easy. Sales were slow to come in and refining his software demanded hard work.
“It took me six months to make my first sale,” says Lawrence. “Also, as the only person in the business, I had to work hard. I was responsible for absolutely everything: The website, advertising, SEO, product development, and so on. However, the nature of the business allowed me to do things on my own terms. Where and when I did the work was irrelevant, meaning I could spend time with my family when I wanted. Even though I had to invest a lot of time and energy into the business, it provided a certain sense of freedom. Normal business limitations didn’t apply.”
As mentioned earlier, Lawrence is now working harder on the business than he did in the early days, since he is looking to scale, but Entrepreneur spoke to him about the ins and outs of creating a lifestyle business or side project that doesn’t demand absolutely all of your time.
Here’s his advice for creating a business that can make money while you sleep.
1. Product, not service
The more successful a service business is, the more time you’re likely to have to invest in the business, since you are essentially trading your time for money. For example, if you have a photography business, every new client will cost money, require more time and add complexity to the business. Selling items online, in contrast, is easier to scale as a business, since the difference between selling ten and 12 items isn’t all that much. Easiest of all is a business that sells a digital product. The added cost and complexity that comes with every added customer of a piece of software is very small, since there is nothing to package or ship. For this reason, a company like Facebook, Dropbox and, indeed, Vinewave is hyper-scalable.
“I think it’s important to be passionate about what you do and to pursue something that you’re knowledgeable about, but you also need to be realistic about the demands of the business you have in mind. Some ideas and products demand more time and resources than others. If you want a business that you can run on the side, you need a product that is relatively easy to ship and sell. Software is easiest, of course, but a physical product isn’t out of the question. Just make sure that systems and processes can be put in place to streamline the process and free up time.”
2. Build a better version
Unless you’ve got a lot of time and money on your hands, reinventing the wheel isn’t a good idea. A company like Google, Apple or Amazon can gamble big on revolutionary ideas, but if you’re looking for a manageable side business, you want to instead focus on creating a better version of an existing product.
“You want to look at what is already selling, and build something similar, but better,” says Lawrence. “As always, you want to identify a burning problem, and provide an elegant solution that people are willing to pay for. The last thing you want to do when you don’t have a lot of time and money to invest is to try and create a new market on your own.”
3. Listen to customers
The best way to launch a business that scales quickly and easily is to create a product that customers are eager to buy.
“It took me half a year to make my first sale. I wanted to sell a suite of products, while customers wanted to be able to choose the products they needed. It’s important to listen to customers and give them what they want,” says Lawrence. “Also, remember that customers are sophisticated these days. They have high expectations. Even though I am selling a B2B product, I’m cognisant of the fact that my users are also users of things like Facebook and Instagram. Ultimately, people use things that are elegant and simple and easy to use. They pick the best product.”
Unfortunately, this means that there are no shortcuts to success. A bad product won’t find traction. Lawrence suggests launching an MVP (minimum viable product) and refining it. “Listen to customers and create something they truly want,” he says.
4. Think big
Lifestyle businesses used to be small and location-specific. Thanks to the Internet, that’s no longer the case. Geography has become irrelevant.
“Just because you have a lifestyle business doesn’t mean that you have to sell to your immediate community,” says Lawrence. “You can now sell to the whole world, which means that you can make money anywhere, at any time. You can sell around the clock. This is particularly true if you’re selling a piece of software that’s delivered instantly, but it’s also true of physical products. Shipping around the country and internationally is less difficult than it once was. Don’t think small. Expand your potential market as much as you can.”
5. Look and act professional
The traditional shopfront is increasingly being replaced by the website. Vinewave’s customers, for instance, had no idea that it was a small South African company with a solitary staff member. Lawrence spent time and money to create a professional website that looked great and attracted large clients, and that was all that mattered.
“The size and location of your operation doesn’t really matter, provided you appear professional at all times, and offer great service,” says Lawrence.
“As I said earlier, customers have high expectations these days, but as long as you meet those demands, everything else is irrelevant. You can sit at home and answer customer emails in your underwear, as long as your customers are satisfied with the product and service that they get from your company. Around 98% of my customers are from overseas, so I knew it wouldn’t work if I tried to sell in rands. Instead, I created a website that sold in US dollars. You have to respond to the demands and expectations of your customer.”
6. Marketing made easy
A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of marketing and selling a product. For many, the idea of creating a product is enticing, but they are intimidated by the thought of having to market and sell. According to Lawrence, however, marketing and selling is easier than ever, thanks to the Internet.
“I’ve almost never spoken to a customer and I rarely interact with them via email. If people are happy with your product and it does what they want it to do, you rarely hear from them. So you needn’t be put off by thoughts of difficult customer service,” says Lawrence.
“The same is true of sales and marketing. Through things like SEO and online ads, you can make customers come to you. You don’t need to cold call, just create a product people are actively searching for. Spend time and money on your website, and invest in SEO and online ads. When done properly, these things can drive your entire business.”
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