Donna Probes: Consider being a drop shipper

·3 min read

May 15—There are many creative concepts emerging for ambitious entrepreneurs. One is the idea of being a drop shipper. Drop shipping, also known as product sourcing, is when you operate an online storefront and sell products but never keep any inventory on hand. You buy the product at a wholesale price and your suppliers ship the product directly to your customer. You act as the middle agent and your profit is the difference between the retail price that you charge and the wholesale price you pay the supplier.

Here's a simplified rundown of things that must be done in order to become a drop shipper. First, you need to determine a product or product line you will sell that targets a certain niche market. It should be something you feel passionate about and have a good working knowledge of. You'll need to do a lot of product research to find out what kind of demand there is, what suppliers are out there and who your competitors might be.

Once you determine that there is room for you to enter the market with this product and there are good suppliers, you'll need to build your business infrastructure as you would for any other type of business — set up an LLC or sole proprietorship, secure an Employer Identification Number, open a bank account, set up accounting systems, get business insurance, apply for a sales tax license and any other necessary licenses or permits, etc. A SCORE mentor can help you check off the list of important steps. After you have lined up reliable suppliers and reached wholesale purchasing agreements, you need to name your online storefront and purchase the domain name.

Next, you should select an eCommerce platform such as Shopify. On May 19, SCORE partner Mitch Park, owner of the digital marketing agency Contempo Solutions, will present a very informative workshop on the world of eCommerce and online stores. This free workshop will take place at the Traverse Area District Library on Woodmere Avenue at noon. To sign up for in-person or ZOOM attendance, click the workshop tab at www.traversecity.score.org.

The most important step after you have set up your online storefront is to identify and reach your customers. You must find every possible avenue for directing a buyer to your site. This can be done in many ways including Search Engine Optimization, social media outreach, linking with online publications, content marketing on YouTube, networking with bloggers and paid Google or Facebook advertising — to name just a few.

The world of eCommerce is complex, but at the SCORE workshop you'll learn how to choose a sales platform, how to create an unparalleled product page, how to convert more visitors into sales, how to streamline the checkout process, how to setup taxes and payment methods, plus many other tricks that can boost the success of a drop shipper.

This entrepreneurial option is worth checking out. A SCORE mentor can help you determine if it is right for you.

Donna Probes, M.B.A., spent 10 years as a small business owner. She is retired from the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and is active as a SCORE mentor as well as a professional musical performer. For information on SCORE visit www.traversecity.score.org.