Budget for launching new Web site: $1, 500. Being your own boss: priceless.
That's how Jeff Radecki, 21, a college student from Penetang, Ont., could sum up his summer, but he doesn't. He's more thrilled that he put his passion, environmental conservation, into practice by last week unveiling Buy Greenergy
, an online resource for people wanting to limit their household energy consumption.
"Alternative energy solutions have basically been a hobby of mine, so I came up with the idea of selling energy-efficient products," says the Confederation College student, who majors in multimedia production and graphic design. He applied for a small business grant and received $1,500 for start-up money, with promise of another $1,500 at the end of the summer for meeting all the requirements.
Even though Radecki's skill set is an obvious asset for creating an online store, the new e-tailer still had to overcome the usual challenges. He had to incorporate his business, decide what products to sell, create the site, hire a drop-shipping company, set up secure payment and market his fledgling enterprise with a dial-up modem and a shoe-string budget.
"High-speed isn't available where I live, so I work at home and take my removable hard drive into town to my friend's office and upload my stuff," says the young vendor.
To keep costs down, he used OS Commerce
to host his site. "It's a free, open-source content management system for shopping carts, and I customized it. The new OS Commerce costs money, but it's suppose to be pretty good so I might migrate to that later," says Radecki. "But for now I get pretty good tech support through the forum, and it's pretty user-friendly for adding products."
And when it came to choosing a fulfillment company, he picked Doba
. "I checked a few and did quite a bit of research. The one main thing I look at is the design of the Web site, especially since that's what I do, and Doba's was better than the others. If it looks good, you can tell they're going to be professional." He pays a membership fee and then pays an additional $1 to $3 per item shipped.
As for marketing, Radecki used PhotoShop on a computer he built himself to create his own brochures and business cards, and he says the sales of t-shirts he designed with his corporate logo are doing well. He enlisted the help of a friend to draft a press release to announce the site, which has so far received 4,300 unique viewers.
For now, the young business owner is happy to raise awareness, even if sales don't jump. "If people don't buy a product, but they get an idea for how to save energy and limit their household consumption, that would still be good," says Radecki, but he is not without long-term goals. "I'm hoping to get enough exposure to get into the solar panel and wind generator sources of energy and sell those, but it's hard to do that on a $1,500 budget so we'll see how it goes."
Any plans for his end-of-summer $1,500 pay off? "Right now I'm thinking I might split it three ways, $500 to my Visa bill, $500 for tuition and $500 for myself. But I might just end up buying a computer with it."
Jeff Radecki, Buy Greenergy
Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.
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Expand product offerings
Focus on sales of solar panels and wind generators