Starting a dropshipping business wasn’t my first choice for a “college job,” but it ended up being the most useful. As I wanted something beyond retail or a restaurant that I could do after school and call my own, it seemed like what I was after was a pipe dream. However, that was true until I learned about dropshipping, which became the quickest and easiest route to become an entrepreneur. Here’s how:

The Foundation

I knew if I wanted to start a dropshipping business while in college, I had to be patient and establish a reliable foundation. As my goal was to have this be a hustle I could sustain and then grow while in school, I knew I couldn’t take any shortcuts, which is why my first step was creating a roadmap and budget. However, as a novice entrepreneur, research in drawing this out was key.

One of the first steps in establishing my budget was looking around at how much it cost for starting a small business. According to the SBA, that scale can be anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000, which although I had enough money saved up to be on the lower range of that, I also wanted to invest quite a bit into branding (more on this later). Ultimately, I decided that the most important components were a solid website with great UX, finding dropshipper wholesalers at an affordable price, and having enough of a budget set aside to contribute to running some ads. With this foundation, it was time to start sketching my brand.

Coming Up With A Brand

As most eCommerce store owners would tell you, having a great brand is imperative to set yourself apart from the crowd. In fact, as noted by Zimmer Communications, 77 percent of marketers believe that branding is critical for success. Commonly overlooked, I knew branding is a pretty complex science as much as it is storytelling, showcasing a common bond between my store and my customer. For example, how Apple empowers you with the tools to change the world or Whole Foods with the foods to eat healthily; these aspects are the first half, with the second being what being a consumer of these groups says about them as a whole.

Specifically for my brand, going after an approachable, but active profile was a must. As a sports retailer for action and adventure goods, my goal was to be able to stand next to the likes of Patagonia or The North Face without coming off too granola. For this, I decided that natural, but sharp earth tones would be my primary color scheme, as well as font choices that felt campy and classic. All-in-all, I felt this approach was niche enough that my audience could identify what we did while also attracting new consumers.

Marketing My Shop

With a great brand in place, it was time to let the world know that we exist. Knowing that we’d have to place a heavy focus on social media and email marketing, a good first step was establishing some skills to create more visuals, such as establishing ourselves with a filter set for Instagram, as well as a design template for our email blasts. From there, it was all about setting up a plan for consistency that can be executed again and again.

For outdoor goods, we had to do a great job of showcasing lifestyle shots, making someone feel as though they’re a part of our brand. Furthermore, implementing other marketing tools, such as geotags and hashtags, was crucial as well. As noted by Sprout Social, Instagram posts with hashtags receive 12.6 percent more engagement than those that don’t, but it’s much harder than listing a bunch of tags and hoping something sticks. Rather, we wanted to know which ones were most efficient in curating the audience we were targeting. As simple as it sounds, the biggest thing that got me going with marketing my store was creating a calendar and sticking to it, which helped me stay disciplined and on time.

Keeping Outreach Consistent

Finally, with my store ready to set sail, the biggest thing from this point forward was staying consistent. According to Kettlefire Creative, 90 percent of consumers expect their experience to be consistent across all channels with a brand. No matter if it was customer service or social media, the goal was still the same: create an exceptional experience to keep them coming back.

A significant part of creating a great customer service program was knowing what I would want as a customer, or, as we learned in elementary school, treating others the way I wanted to be treated. Although that might sound simple, it’s the golden rule for customer service as well, which involved taking a step back in learning how I would want to be addressed. Even though it took a little getting used to being constantly available, I also knew the more customers I won over, the more likely I’ll get recommendations, and thus a more sustainable business over time.

What excites you about starting a dropshipping business? Comment with your answers below!

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