As I've learned more and more about the business side of blogging during my time at IFB, one of the most fascinating elements (or challenges, if you see it that way) has been discovering how we can diversify our revenue streams. That might sound like boring, jargon-y business speak – but truly, the future of professional blogging will belong to those who can create new and interesting ways to make their passion profitable.
This fascination is what lead me to the e-shop. Lately, I have noticed icons and badges leading from personal style blogs to online shops, run by the blogger. Bloggers like Nicole Wayne of Gary Pepper and Gary Pepper Vintage and Katherine Kim who wrote The Katmosphere and currently runs Mikkat Market have had their own shops for a while, but even new bloggers are getting in on it.
To get an idea of what it takes to run an e-shop, I caught up with two bloggers who are each running very different e-shops. Stephanie Liu, who writes the personal style blog Honey & Silk, just recently launched Last Night, a shop devoted exclusively to dresses. Chanelle Laurence runs a vintage e-shop, Penelope's Vintage, as well as her blog, The Penelope Times.
Why start an e-shop?
For both of these women, starting an online shop was born out of a natural love for the kinds of clothing they sell. For Stephanie, she had always been a dress girl, and Chanelle, a vintage maven with dreams of starting her own line eventually.
“I wanted to create this online space dedicated for girls like me who just want dresses and who shop for new dresses for every occasion such as birthday and holiday parties, trips to Vegas, or fashion events,” says Stephanie.
How did you get started?
“I started off small,” Chanelle says, “taking photos of the clothes on mannequins outside of my house and listing a few items a week on eBay.” Soon this progressed to creating a logo with the help of her graphic designer boyfriend, and using herself as a model for her finds. “The next step was photo shoots with various photographers and listing items on Etsy as well. Currently I'm doing studio shots for a more cohesive look and listing items on numerous sites such as Market Publique, Chictopia and UsTren
For Stephanie, who is selling new product from vendors, her set-up process was a bit different. “It involved first defining my product and mission,” she says. “Knowing exactly what you want to do and what you can offer is key before moving forward. Write a business plan. Next is to find capital or investors for start-up costs including inventory and web.”
What kind of financial investment does it take to start a shop?
For Chanelle: The finances that go into her shop are start with these:
- Cost of clothes
- Fees for selling on the above listed sites (monthly)
- Fees for the domain name and hosting (once a year)
- Cost of photo shoot supplies (lighting, backdrop paper, tripod etc) – which is hopefully something you only buy once or every so often
- Any payments made to models, web designers, or photographers
- Cost of shipping supplies
Chanelle adds, “Another thing that I just started is taking shopping trips which is costly but a great write off. This of course didn't happen all at once, it was a slow process. The more my store grew the more I could expand and spend on things like shipping supplies, etc. You start off assessing the situation and seeing what you absolutely have to spend, and what can wait”
For Stephanie, she stared with the small investments required of most start ups, creating her website, hosting it, and obtaining the inventory from distributors and brands. “It didn't cost too much for me to create the website,” says Stephanie, “because I did it all myself on an e-commerce platform, so inventory is the majority of my investment.”
… And the Blog?
For Chanelle, her shop shaped the style of her blog. “Originally my blog was for my store hence the name, The Penelope Times,” she says. “But when I saw that girls were making a living off of their blogs, I wanted in and switched it to a personal blog. Now, I'll share blog posts on my store's social media and I'll wear my store's clothes or write about my store's events on my blog. It felt like it was time to marry them together and start taking advantage of both audiences as they're both such a big part of me!”
“My shop doesn't have overlap much with my blog,” says Stephanie. “Though, I do style some outfits with dresses from Last Night and promote it minimally on my blog, they are two separate entities. I do this because Last Night is not just for readers of Honey & Silk; it's for all girls, even for those who don't relate to my style on my blog.”
Are you making a profit from your e-shop?
“I think this year was the “break through” year for me,” Chanelle shares happily. “I could start taking some money from my shop's profits to keep, which is really exciting for me”
Stephanie's e-shop is still in it's infancy, so she hopes that the earnings element will come soon. “Since I just started a month ago, I'm not making a profit per say, and haven't broken even from starting up but I am operating with a profit margin.”
Starting an e-shop is a much bigger undertaking than some of the more traditional revenue streams for blogs such as advertising and affiliate marketing. Would you start an e-shop to accompany your blog? Do you have one already? Share your thoughts in the comments.
[Image credits: Honey & Silk; The Penelope Times]