2 years ago, right at the onset of the pandemic, I made a bold decision and started my online business - Emerging Green. Like all things, it was challenging at the beginning. Factories back then was shutting down, working out the supply chain was confusing, learning the basic of digital marketing was scratchy at best. Looking back, I realized that behind every business (however simple), there are plenty of lessons to be learnt. While my fledging business is still a work in progress, there are the 15 lessons I have distilled.
Lesson 1: 1 product at a time
While technically speaking, it's possible to launch multiple products concurrently, channeling your resources and bandwidth to a single product can significantly maximize the odds of a successful product launch. This creates the necessary tailwind for the subsequent related products.
Lesson 2: Quality product matters.. a lot.
In a hyper competitive space, where consumers are spoiled for choice. Having quality products that can at least meet their expectation is essential. Think about it, Amazon has 10 million 3rd party sellers globally. What if your products do not meet customers' expectation? Be prepared for high refunds or financial loss in the short to mid term. This can be a painful blow to many budding entrepreneurs.
Lesson 3: Revenue is vanity, Profit is sanity and Cash is King.
Growing revenue is tough. Growing profit margin with the skyrocketing freight and advertisement cost is even tougher. But without the cashflow or financing, everything comes to a halt.
Lesson 4: Rule of Paw
1 year in ecommerce sector is equivalent to 7 years in most sectors. The success of a business depends on how fast they can adapt to the everchanging landscape. Think about the phenomenon of TikTok, Shein and Etsy. How they have within a short period of time, gain a concentrated amount of consumer mindshare.
Lesson 5: Cheapness has a cost
While it is in every entrepreneur nature to cut cost, it may cost more in the long run if the products/ service rendered are of mediocre quality. How much more time and effort will it cost to undo the damage? What about the opportunity cost instead?
Lesson 6: Big execution precedes big ideas
High level execution may seem simple but it's incredibly tough to pull through. It takes many years of experience and deep expertise to do so. Think about your new year resolutions. Is it easy to accomplish it? Or how about losing 20 pounds in 3 months? or exercising 5 times a week? This will be 10 times harder.
Lesson 7: Rome wasn't built in a day Building a brand takes time. This is on top of high quality products/ service, excellent customer support, marketing and other value creation activities. Amazon is a prime example, they started in 1994 as an online book seller and was unprofitable for a good part of it. Are you prepared to put in the next 3 to 5 years into your budding business?
Lesson 8: Wild Wild West or Civilization?
The best time to start something with minimal resources is when things are still new. This means little competitors and framework. Once the marketplace starts getting crowded, it will take far more resources to acquire market share. A good example of a DTC Eco friendly brand is Allbirds from New Zealand, and they started in 2014.
Lesson 9: Outsourcing
As an entrepreneur, it's normal to wear many hats. Yet with limited time, bandwidth and expertise, it will be a stretch to do everything yourself. If hiring someone can allow you to grow the business in a more effective manner, why not? Outsourcing repetitive or less challenging work can free you more time to work on your business.
Lesson 10: Feel the pain
90% of the time, things will not go your way. Angry customers, delayed shipment, declining sales, employees issue, struggling to pay the bills are part and parcel of an entrepreneur life. You gotta ask yourself if you have the stomach for it. It's common to be depressed when all the stress eats into you. What is your stress coping mechanism then?
Emerging Green is a small family business that focuses on home and outdoor products, we prioritize functionality and sustainability. 70% of our products are made of environmentally friendly material and we are striving to do better here. One of our goals is to substitute daily consumer products with greener alternatives. Learn more about us here.