Young Entrepreneur Series: Wear Your Beer
The second post in our Young Entrepreneur Series looks at a common online business concept: t-shirts. In today’s guest post, Roy Laniado shares how he took an idea through the struggles of a startup to a successful company named Wear Your Beer.
The Story of Wear Your Beer
Ever since I was a young kid working at my father’s beach supply store, I knew I wanted to one day run my own business. I began working at the store when I was 14, and by the time I was 18, I had worked there for five straight summers and learned a lot about what goes on behind-the-scenes of a small business operation. After graduating high school I entered college as an entrepreneurship major, determined to equip myself with the knowledge and skills necessary to run my own business.
As a kid who had grown up during the internet-age, by the time I was in college I had a good amount of experience with online shopping and online marketplaces. During my second year of college I found myself in need of money and unable to work a real job because of my intense schedule at school. Remembering some products I had seen on eBay that my dad also sold at his store, I got the idea to try my luck as an eBay vendor. Borrowing some inventory from my father’s store, I set up an account and began selling t-shirts online, taking a small cut of the revenue for my part in selling the merchandise online.
For a while, sales were very modest. After about 3 months, I began seeing an increase in the number of daily sales, and decided that there was enough of a demand to justify starting my own website. Both my business partner and I pulled all our savings together and hired a web developer to create our website. Our new business had officially begun!
In the beginning money was tight, as I had no outside funding. As an online business, we were very lucky to avoid things like rent and high electricity bills, but still paid a good amount of money to develop a website. Our initial expenses consisted mainly of the cost of goods sold, packaging supplies and postage for sending the merchandise, website hosting, SSL (secure socket layer) certificates, and, of course, the cost of having the website created. In addition to being the initial expenses, these were also the only necessary expenses, making it far more reasonable for two guys in their early 20’s.
Like any business, we had a fairly rocky start. One of our first problems was finding a reliable hosting and web development team. Because I didn’t have a great knowledge of website development, I found myself receiving quotes for the project that greatly exceeded what I was told to expect. The hosting problem was due to our budget. We began with the cheapest hosting option and found ourselves continuously needing to upgrade as we encountered numerous problems with site crashes and slow loading times.
Another major problem was our shipping process. While I was working out of my apartment, I would leave shipments in the yard in front of my apartment for the USPS man to pick up each day. Whereas most businesses would have a staffed office/warehouse where their products could be picked up, I worked out of my apartment where I lived alone. Therefore, no one was there each day to wait for the USPS man which opened me up to the risk of having the merchandise stolen each day. Over time we moved into a warehouse, removing the risk of stolen goods and adding more sales and shipping capacity.
While it took a little while for us to make a profit, success came very abruptly when it finally arrived. All of the sudden we went from doing 1-2 orders a day, which was break-even at the time, to 10-15 orders a day. After our first year we began to grow at a rate of about 50%, year over year. Since that time we have moved into a new office, found a larger warehouse to hold our inventory, and expanded the number of websites we run.
For those looking to start their own business on a limited budget, consider starting a business online. Event though you can expect to save on over head, understand that a website is a hefty investment, and is not one to be skimped on as this type of work is a perfect example of the saying “you pay for what you get.” Understand that, without a large marketing/advertising budget, online businesses take a little while to gather steam, especially if your business relies on people finding the website through the use of a search engine. To those entrepreneurs who are reading this, stay focused and positive!
About the Author: Roy Laniado is the founder and owner of WearYourBeer, a website “where folks can find t-shirts, gear and more of their favorite beer, liquor, TV shows, movies and bands. We cater to everyday guys and girls looking to rock awesome t-shirts without paying an arm and a leg and supporting corporate greed.”