How can you be an Entrepreneur: A Guide to Choose Products to Sell Online

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The saying “ necessity is the mother of invention”  holds true to today’s mother , who armed with her go-getter attitude, driven by her own motivational spirit and grabbing the plethora of opportunities  is satiating her urge of “want”  by giving shape to her ideas, knowledge and creativity in the world of entrepreneurship .  The desire to make a mark of her own and to maintain a healthy work-life balance, a mother, whether she is already employed or a homemaker is coming out of her comfort zone and is becoming entrepreneurs in her own right. It gives her the liberty to follow her heart with full freedom as here she is her own boss and also motivate other mothers by her success story.

This temperament among women to follow their own vocation and pursue it diligently is not a new trend. During our growing up years we all have seen how on opening of a beauty parlour by our neighbourhood aunt would make the whole locality throng it as they find it a convenient option to beautify themselves. If any didiji was good at dance, the whole mohalla children would enjoy dancing to her tunes.   It used to be fun when me and my sisters were sent to our next-door neighbour to learn one or two strokes of paint. The most revered upon were those teachers who would help us in the studies when we were made to go in their tuition classes after school hours to gather some pearls of wisdom. It’s not that these businesses are now obsolete; they are very much in existence and flourishing in their own right. The only difference being previously these professions were called  tutoring, catering or  beautifying business in common parlance which now are all labelled as entrepreneurial activities ,where either  through a small setup at  home or a  franchisee of national level to a large private undertakings , all comes under the realms of entrepreneurship.

The above instances prove that many business opportunity float around freely, vying for the attention and all that a woman has to do is to convert this opportunity into money-making business. So how to do this? The solution is simple – you see a requirement and then strive to build your line of work around it. Once you recognize that a particular “need” has the possibility to be solved, and then make this solution as your business model.

In 1998, Dipali Sikand ‘s  Bangalore-based company Les Concierges was born out of her own need to find a service provider so that they take care of her  “to-do list” of household chores and  she concentrate on her career. She saw this as an opportunity and the company was started where “from delivering a specially designed cake to picking up an employee’s mother-in-law from the airport and taking her to shop” they do everything. Today they boost of clients like Wipro, Accenture, and IBM etc.  And it’s now one of the largest life benefits provider, serving over 1.6 million employees at over 22 global cities.

Nina Lekhi

According to Nina Lekhi, “I started Baggit in 1986 when I realised that the sector of women’s handbags had not been explored in India” and that’s what made her to venture into the field of trendy yet functional ladies handbags. She saw the demand, developed a business around it and supplied the product to the customers. By mid- nineties Baggit revenue touched million mark.

Such entrepreneurial success story of women was far and few between in eighties and nineties and during that time one could count on the fingers of one hand the number of  successful female  entrepreneurs in the  country,  among whom were Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Shahnaz Hussain, Vandana luthra, Jyoti Naik ,  Ritu Kumar and a few more of their ilk , but the turn of the twentieth century saw a drastic change in the scenario when armed with the advantage  of world wide web , modern technology and the society becoming more acceptable to the idea of them working,  women   were able to give wings to their fantasies and explore the talent within themselves. They started turning their ideas into working business. According to a study, the share of female entrepreneurs in India is showing a healthy growth of 71 per cent per year. With more and more women discovering a new aspect of their enterprising side, the question arises are there enough opportunities for them to become a successful entrepreneur? What new ideas and incentive they should come up with so that they create a niche of their own, or to put in simple terms, what products they should sell and where should they sell to make profits?

First let me answer the “where” part.  Suppose you are good painter and you see this as an opportunity to make extra bucks by selling your art. Taking the traditional route of showcasing your talent in art exhibition or the usual brick and mortar store will give you only limited admirers. But if you advertise your creation on internet , may be on  Facebook or through any other e-commerce websites,  it will not only give you a wider range of audience but can also prove to be the quickest, safest  and cheapest way to reach the whole world from the comfort of your home. All you need is a computer and internet connection and voila! Your painting now adores the wall of a homeowner whom you don’t even know personally.  Bill Gates once said that: “if your business is not on the web, then your business will be out of business,” Truly, in this age of technology, internet is a boon for every entrepreneur and if you have an eye for it, use this medium in your favour and make the task of selling your wares easier and approachable for prospective buyers.

Next is “what” to sell or how to convert the “needs” of other into a business venture? Let me start by giving some examples. Falguni Nayar started the beauty e-tailer Nykaa when she noticed how Indian used to buy cosmetics from international websites or while travelling abroad. She thought of providing the widest range of beauty products under one site, so Nykaa was born.  Online lingerie market Zivame was conceptualized by Richa Kar when she realized “there was so much social discomfort while buying lingerie that it got reduced to a 5 minutes hurried chore”. Rivokids, the first online platform for parents and kids came into being when its owners realized there is no online platform available to “to help parents raise bright, happy, talented Kids.” Yesterday only I came across a website, started by three sisters which is a one-stop shop for all the birthday needs, be it themed disposables or return gifts. Going by these instances we can say that ideas and opportunities are many, all we need is to an eye for them and   grab them before it becomes obsolete in the memory. It might not give you an instant success or you won’t be raking in moolah straight away but as long as it satisfy your creative temperament, even if it’s done on a small scale , trust me it’s worth it.

Read on to get acquainted with some of the top business ideas which mothers can pursue from home as long as the internet is at their disposal

1) Selling self-made products: If you have a creative streak inside you, then the options to explore are limitless.   And with various online e-commerce marketplaces  in scenario , where all the transaction related nitty- gritties are managed by the website operator, all you have to do is showcase your product on their website place, thereby letting you concentrate just on the manufacturing part and not the selling one. One such website, MyBabyCart.com provides a platform for mothers who wants to sell their creations but don’t know how or where to start from.  Read my blog Why Mompreneurs should sell online?” to get further information. Many success stories of mompreneurs  on this website is a testimony to the fact  that with the help virtual stores like MBC, selling a product has now become an easy job for mothers like us. Now  let me get down to some of the suggestions on “what to sell”,   which are  as follows:

 a) Jewellery making:

I remember when I was a child, my mother used to make necklaces and bracelets using glass and metal beads along with various charms. Her friends adored her creations, cousins wanted a piece of it and many wanted to learn from her. I wish if the services of World Wide Web were available at that time my mother would have been a successful entrepreneur selling fashion jewellery right from the comfort of her home.  So ladies, my advice, just don’t wait, if you have the dexterity to manipulate material like glass, beads, plastic, metal, wood etc. into something beautiful with finesse, then you should get into jewellery design business. Moreover, with gold prices shooting up like crazy, the demand of artificial or imitation adornments is growing day by day and if   your artistically inclined mind is determined to make this as a business to pursue, there’s lot of income potential in this line. Once pursued, slowly you’ll learn the trick of the trades, like where to source reasonable raw material and cost-effective labour which will help you in becoming a well-heeled entrepreneur in this field.

b) Clothes :

If you are nifty with a sewing machine or your fingers works skillfully with the needles then you can start making stylish and fashionable garments for children or women. When  those cute little booties, frocks with frills and laces and ethnic wear for kids  strikes a right cord with the mothers , then there’s no stopping you from getting orders in bulk once you start doing an online business. With so many options  to create in clothing line , all you need  is a good taste in latest fashion trends , your maternal instincts and some unique feature like crochet or cross-stitching  which could turn your designs into  a signature brand. Also if you give good value for the money with a quality product, they will be your customers for life-long.

c) Painting:

Is an artist within you wants to see your art work being appreciated by the wider audience, then selling it online is the answer to it.   One of my friends, who is good at making paintings on silk cloth with water colours, thought of making it as her profession on my insistence .She tested her waters by first selling it in an exhibition and got a good response. She then started selling them online, got better response and now takes pride in calling herself a mompreneur. Even if you don’t know how to paint, you can always acquire the necessary skills by taking some painting classes or through online tutorials where the options to choose from ranges from Warli, Madhubani, Tanjore, modern and traditional form of art. Once you become adept at something, just grab your brush and start creating your artistic composition!

d) Accessories:

Believe me all add-ons like headbands, hair-clips, hair wreath, bracelets, clutch, potli-style handbags are all in rage these days and sell like hotcakes. You can give it a hint of bling by using material like lace, satin, net, beads, sequins, kundan work etc. To stay in the game, keep adding   variety to your merchandise and once you have learned the ropes of this business you can even offer online video tutorials on YouTube. Once you get enough views for your video, the advertisers would approach you for placing their ads in the videos thus enabling you to earn some serious cash!

2) Sell Custom-made products:

Nowadays every individual is always on a lookout for things which should reflect his or her personality and provide exclusivity without compromising on quality. Tapping into this mantra, you can give a little twist to your hobby and convert it into your own signature style by fashioning a product as per the specifications of individual purchaser. People love buying personalized things like hand-painted garments, made to order jewellery, décor items, and stationery or even bath towels. Let me explain by giving another example, there are lots of children books available in the market but if you can write your own story book in a simple language using a little artwork and imaginative characters, it can prove to be hit in the market. Want an edge?  You weave a story around the name of the child as per the parents’ wish and voila! Your customized books will definitely find its admirers.  Another idea is to make magnets with some funky taglines, cartoon characters on it or can be personalized by writing some cool text as per the customer wishes.  Of late I have seen that  mothers who are good in baking takes the customer’s order online and customize  birthday cakes, cupcakes or any other bakery items as per their requirement.  Another good idea is to make personalized gift-baskets for various occasions like baby shower, birthday, and festivals etc., all you have to do is to plan on a theme and unleash your creativity through this unique idea.

One of my friends sells animal jewellery online. Well-versed with her target audience, she makes necklaces and bracelets with animal motifs as pendants. So there are little boys who love wearing tiger and lions as motifs, young girls love wearing necklaces with cat and penguins as an ornament and women adore  earring with hanging peacock, owls  or as weird as scorpions .  Although hers is a very niche market but still she makes good profits by not selling any type of jewelry but  theme-based ones and also customize it  according to customer’s taste. Other interesting ways to give a personal touch is by writing texts, engraving names and adding picture to make an item stand out.

A word of caution though, a low-value product like greeting cards or candles which  although are time consuming and requires much labour won’t give you desired profits  coz profit margin is very low. So care should be taken while buying raw materials which either you should buy in bulk or you ask the buyer to order a minimum number so that you don’t incur the losses.

3) Procuring and selling: Now everyone can’t be expected to be a skilled workman , in spite of that if you want to earn some extra bucks all you have to do to is to buy  products directly from suppliers , manufacturers  or wholesalers at a low cost and then sell it online at a profit. With internet at your beck and call you can conveniently become an entrepreneur if you have an innovative streak and develop a business sense in the field of selling readymade goods online. Merchandise like trendy dresses, toys, accessories, antiques, cosmetics and books can be sourced from websites like Alibaba.co, e-bay, DHgate and then sold at various websites which follow managed marketplace model.  This is one venture where I think you don’t have to have any technical skills and can be done comfortably sitting at the home with a click of mouse.

Another way to grow your audience is to sell items which you can source from your native place.  A friend of mine who is from Ludhiana, Punjab  , a city known for woollens , has made contacts with  a local supplier , through whom she  gets a shipment of wide range of woolens meant both for women and children and sell them online , making  loads of profit in the process.  Similarly, if possible one can get blue pottery, jewellery or craft items from Rajasthan; silk sarees from Mysore; articles made of bamboo from north-east; Zardozi or Chinakari embroidery work from Uttar Pradesh; decorative pieces of Dokra metal, Tussar silk sarees from Calcutta or ayurvedic medicines from Kerala. Like these, every state in India is known for its unique product ,all you have to do is to develop business relations with local artisans or suppliers and get a bulk order of quality products at reasonable rate so that you can make bundles while selling them online. Although a thing you have to evaluate in this business, other than the products ‘cost is the time involved storage of inventory and shipping price.

4) Freelancing:

You can carry out this job right from the comfort of home if you are good with words. A freelancer is a person who writes on contract basis instead of being employed directly by any individual or company. Various websites are always on lookout for good writers who can write product reviews, articles and blogs. You can also freelance for different publications like newspaper and magazines too, though nowadays I feel internet attracts more audience. You can also open your own website to write tips if you are fashion savvy, give some advice on parenting if you are an expert, write your experiences if you are well-travelled and share your recipes if food is your forte and once your written account attracts considerable traffic and page views, you can make profits by earning revenues from advertisements, sponsored content and more. These days writing digital books, better known as e-books is also in fashion, so if you have an idea for story and don’t want to run after publishers, internet is at your service.

5) Open your own website

Now this may sound repetitive but I can’t help but reinforce the fact that to get things done faster and to be able to connect and get more clients you have to rely on e-commerce i.e. doing business online.  But owning a website to do business on a large scale and in huge volumes requires lots of effort, time, specialized skills and money too.  In such a scenario you can rely on various websites, which through online marketplace invites various wholesalers, retailers, housewives, and mompreneurs to sell their stuff on their website.  Having said that, nobody can stop you from opening your own website even if your business is small or home-based but the trick to gain success is that you sell some exclusive or specialty product. Usually fashion based, like jewellery or clothes come under this category as profit margins are relatively more.

If without getting into buying and selling you still want to have your website then you can start something as simple as an online platform where you and people visiting your website exchange their views on topics such as parenting, housekeeping, career, relations, food travel etc. For one of my friends, Nidhi, founder of Momz’space, her online website is like a small community for mothers where it “not only gives virtual support but also real-life support by connecting right people to all moms in need of support”.  Many such websites founded by mothers and for the mothers is a good idea to connect with each other. Once the traffic increases and you grab enough eyeballs for the website, the advertisers approaches you with their advertisements which can be charged thus you can make money also in the process. Opening a website, though,   involves cost like paying for getting a domain name, search engine optimization costs and not to forget hiring professional to keep it maintained with stunning visuals, design or for any technical needs, so it’s advisable to work out all the cost involved before venturing into it.

On a final note I would like to say that for any venture you start and then  to stay in the game you have to keep yourself motivated, updated , be  good in networking- either online through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn  or offline by going to start-up events, meeting people, PR through mass media  etc.  No matter if it’s big or a small web-based business, ultimately the recipe of success is to love what you do and everything else will fall in place.

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