OPINION: A couple of weeks back we discussed how to progress an idea for an App. On the back of this column I received a tonne of interesting feedback, questions and suggestions about how others have attacked this challenge.
There are certainly many paths to success – and of course failure.
A common theme in the feedback was from readers asking for guidance on how to best set up a website for a digital business, particularly e-commerce businesses.
Gone are the days of having to quit your day job to focus on your new venture – or finding an office to work out of. When you have a digital dream you can quite literally have an idea and be in business within a few days.
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This is, in part, thanks to the number of free and cheaply priced off-the-shelf tools available to budding entrepreneurs.
In my opinion these tools are the biggest change to the digital business landscape in the last 20 years.
You are now able to test your solution quickly and affordably before deciding on any bespoke or native builds for the vast majority of ideas.
If you’re not familiar with these products or solutions, it’s time to get Googling. With a bit of patience and learning, most competent people will be able to teach themselves the basics of a new digital platform.
Names you should be familiar with include:
WordPress powers over a third of the world’s websites and allows someone with no coding experience to build their own very attractive website.
It can be a bit frustrating to navigate at first but Youtube offers no end of help for those times you end up stuck.
Best of all WordPress is free, although you will need to buy a domain and hosting, and there are plugins available for most oddities you may need.
Other solutions such as Squarespace also allow rookies to build lovely platforms through simple drag and drop techniques.
If you have an e-commerce dream look no further than an off-the-shelf product like Shopify; you’ll be live with a professional and fully functional store in no time.
Yes – you’ll be up for some fees, including potential commission on sales, but you’ll also find yourself in a great place for testing your potential solution at a minimal investment. Selling through Amazon is also a great way to test your product on a global scale.
Microsoft fans will be rolling their eyes at this suggestion, but via the likes of Google Docs you can have a full suite of Excel, Powerpoint and Word-style tools allowing everyone in your business to collaborate easily and cheaply, without the need to buy complex licensed products.
Much like Google (and some people do prefer Google) you can store and transfer your documents securely online via the likes of Dropbox.
Looking to cut down on emails and noise with your fellow business partners?
Slack is an amazing (and free for small business) tool enabling easy communication between your teams.
The likes of WhatsApp could also be an option but Slack has some amazingly simple features that allow for different communication threads.
New Zealand’s very own Xero allows small business owners to take care of their financials for minimal cost and frustration. When you’re ready to connect with a local accountant you’ll also have your information ready for them to use.
Social Media Platforms
For those wanting to create an e-commerce business social media offers a great way to test and grow your brand.
It’s essential you stake your claim for appropriate social media handles when you set up your business; Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are the most obvious starting points.
Naturally I’m biased on this, but if you’re starting a business with multiple shareholdings using Orchestra to ensure your shareholding structures are legally compliant is a great idea.
And for bonus points you may also want to consider one of the many basic free CRM tools out there to start recording your client information and interactions. I’m also a fan of task planning tools like Evernote and Monday.com
The great thing about the internet these days is that there are very few barriers to entry.
So before you go crazy on a business idea you can run a very lean operation and hopefully prove out the basics of your idea using a combination of these affordable ready-to-go offerings.