How my french bulldog obsession led me to open a Shopify store and accidentally build a brand.
Anyone that knows me knows that I have been obsessed with French Bulldogs since what feels like, the beginning of time. The only problem with this long rooted obsession was that the precious little “batpig” of my dreams cost more than almost all of my Apple products combined. Since I had already started “adulting” at this point, selling lemonade on my street corner for extra money was not a viable option anymore. I, of course, turned to the internet as I do for all of life’s hard pressed questions. Unfortunately, I was left with several articles stating that I could make extra income answering surveys.
No thanks but then something magical happened…
I started working at a company called Shopify. “Ecommerce, of course, this is exactly how I will make that extra Frenchie cash”. Sounded easy enough in my mind anyways. I spent about 3 months, THREE whole months, racking my brain trying to figure out what the hell I would sell online. I knew I wanted to be passionate about the products I put out there but also I wanted to be challenged by them. I didn’t want it to be easy because I knew I would get bored and forget about the whole thing or maybe even end up selling a kidney online and calling it a day.
FYI — I didn’t sell my kidney, I just kept brainstorming.
I started looking into the concept of dropshipping and discovered Printful — a free app in Shopify’s App Store, it was love at first click. Printful handles everything from printing to shipping apparel so that shop owners can focus on all the other good stuff; from marketing to design.
The only problem with this whole concept was that I knew nothing about design, except for that fact that I might have had a copy of Adobe Illustrator from 2010 installed on a PC somewhere. What I did have was a box of wine, a free trial of Pixelmator, Printful tutorials and knowledge about the Shopify platform. Despite a headache the next morning (from the wine, not the process), a password-protected site had been built. Bobo Academy, an LGBTQ apparel shop was born, Hallejulah!
Bobo Academy launched on May 1st, 2014. The goal was short and sweet: make $3000 and get a Frenchie in my life ASAP. Funny enough, I was so caught up with creating new designs, figuring out how the heck taxes worked and marketing the shop that I completely forgot all about the goal. I didn’t even realize that I could have called it quits and got a puppy after 3 months, instead I kept making bigger goals. I can tell you that the revenue from the month of November 2014 alone could have got me 3 French Bulldogs. Things picked up slowly but surely. As our social networks grew, our sales increased and our mailing list doubled.
Bobo Academy is still going strong, and will be two years old in May 2016. We have processed over 1340 orders online via Shopify and shipped to over 117 different countries via Printful.
I could be living in a household with 20 French Bulldogs. Yes, I only ever do mathematics by referring to French Bulldogs now.
I settled for 1 though, her name is Olive. I imagine the rest of the income earned from this will go towards her education or something like that.
What did I learn from all this?
I am most definitely biased but launching a store on Shopify was so damn easy, it just took an idea. Although bottles of red wine may get those creative juices flowing, an idea is a hard thing to come by. It can take you forever trying to come up with something but once you do, the rest will follow.
1. You don’t need [that] much money to start a Shopify store:
- Shopify plans start at $9/month
- Printful works on a print to order basis meaning you only ever pay them when someone orders from your shop. Amazing, right?
- Premium Themes — Start with a free theme because well, it’s free! When your site is ready for a makeover, you can easily purchase a premium theme (~$100-$180). I personally used a free theme for the first six months to keep things simple.
- Paid Apps — Sometimes a little monthly fee goes a long way. One of my favourite apps is called CouponPop. My only regret was not installing it sooner, it helped bring in sales while increasing social followings. So simple yet so effective.
2. Happy customers are a business’s best friend:
- When communicating with customers; respond in a timely matter and be human because no likes speaking with a copy and paste robot.
- Ask for feedback in order confirmation emails, listen and learn from it.
- Be available by email as well as social accounts and make any contact information easy to fine. Nothing drives me crazier than not being able to reach a shop owner. Big red flag right there.
3. If you want something eg. a French Bulldog = open a Shopify store
- You do not need to be a developer or a designer.
- It does take a lot of work, lack of sleep and an idea.
- There will be bumps in the road, but you will learn all of the things.
Now go make shit happen…
You can start by following my dog on Instagram (don’t judge me): @olivetheblue