Disclaimer: I met Jeremy Hanks, CEO of Doba, several years ago, and we keep tabs on each other via Facebook, blogs, etc. But in performing this experiment I have not asked Jeremy for any special favors, nor do I expect him to give me any. I know nothing about Shopify or its management team beyond what is publicly available.
When I first heard of Doba I was intrigued. Doba matches drop shippers with online retailers. What’s a drop shipper? It’s a company that has a bunch of products, and is willing to give you product information to put on your ecommerce website, and then when you sell a product, they take care of boxing it up and shipping it for you. You don’t have to deal with buying or storing inventory, boxing it up and shipping it, etc. Using drop shippers lowers the barriers to entry for someone wanting to start an online retail business, or can supplement an existing ecommerce business. But I’ve never taken much of a deep look at Doba because while it sounded like a great idea, I wasn’t interested enough in becoming an online retailer. I’m plenty busy with my own business.
Shopify is an “easy to use” ecommerce system. What WordPress does for bloggers, Shopify is supposed to do for online retailers–make it easy to set up and manage an online store. Again, I’ve never used Shopify because I haven’t wanted to become an online retailer seriously enough myself, and I haven’t recommended it to clients because of the limitations other people have told me it has compared to systems like Magento.
Then, a few days ago I was on the blog of Timothy Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, which is my favorite business book, and there was this post about a contest for people starting online stores using Shopify. Whoever builds the most revenue in six months (starting January 1st) gets $100K. Now, this in and of itself isn’t my motivation for getting an online store up and running. I don’t think I’m going to win the $100K, or any of the other prizes they’re giving away. But it did get me thinking, because I have come perilously close to getting a Shopify store up and running before, just out of curiosity, to see how easy it was to use the software, and whether it really was as limited as people have told me, or if it was as easy as Shopify makes it sound. I’ve also been tempted to do something with Doba. When I said I wasn’t interested in becoming an online retailer, I didn’t mean I wasn’t at all interested, I just wasn’t interested enough to deal with the perceived hassles. But my perception is that the hassles are somewhat less than they were, plus my company has built two ecommerce sites in the past year on two different platforms, and so I’m interested to do a comparison. So, there are a few reasons why I’m performing this experiment:
1. To see if Shopify is all it’s cracked up to be, so that I can recommend/not recommend it to my clients based on first-hand knowledge.
2. To see if Doba lives up to the hype.
3. To see how well Doba and Shopify can work together.
4. Who knows, maybe it will work and I’ll have a little side business that pays for a once-a-month trip to In-n-Out Burger.
5. Maybe I’ll surprise myself and win the $100K.
6. For the fun of it.
7. To bring more traffic to this blog.
Obviously reasons 1-3 are the important ones, 4-7 are just icing on the cake.
In performing this experiment, I will be chronicling, in detail, my experiences setting up Shopify and Doba. I will be brutally honest and critical about shortcomings I find, and I don’t make any promises about seeing this through to its conclusion. I may never get an online store up and running. If I decide it’s too difficult given the technology, then I’ll quit, and hopefully my feedback will serve as fodder to help Doba and Shopify to make their products even better so that less of their customers quit before getting a store up and running. If I succeed, I suppose I’ll be a good case study for them, and a decent user’s manual for others wanting to do what I will be attempting to do.
If you do want to follow along and not only read my experiences, but participate in the experiment, you’re more than welcome to post your own experiences in the comments of the posts in this section. That way we can learn from each other and increase our chances for success, as well as help others who may come along later.
More disclaiming: I want this experiment to work out such that a normal person who says “Man, I wish I could quit my 9-5 and start an online store and live the four hour work week lifestyle” will be able to figure out if Doba/Shopify is the way to go or not, and if so, they’ll be able to follow the posts here to lead them to a successful end. However, I am not an entirely normal guy, so I think it’s worth pointing out the advantages I have, as well as equalizers.
- I’m a web design/web marketing professional. I’ve been designing, building, and marketing websites for 10 years as my primary source of income. I know what looks good, what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve got other people (designers, HTML coders, etc.) who can help me. I don’t know everything, and I’m by no means the best out there or anything, but I know more than you unless you’ve worked in the same industry. This should give me a sizable advantage, but if you follow along, you’ll also be the beneficiary of my experience/knowledge, since I’ll be sharing it as I go along.
Ok…now that I think about it, I think that’s the only advantage I have. But I struggle with some of the same challenges you may have, including:
- I don’t have any more disposable income than you do. I probably have less, since I own a business.
- I don’t have any more time than you do. I not only run a business and have a family, but am active in my church, my community, and I’m also training for an Ironman race.
- I might be less motivated than other people. After all, even if this works my primary source of income will probably remain my current business. I don’t need for this to work, and you can’t underestimate the motivation of someone who is depending on this as being their livelihood.
Now, we’re off and running. Come along with me, and let’s see where this adventure leads us.