Updated: Jun 1, 2018
I've read countless blog posts and tutorials on how to start and successfully manage an online boutique. Unfortunately, none of them gave me all the information I needed in one post. I'm hoping this step by step guide can help you in your journey to start your very own online boutique.
S T E P 1: Decide whether or not this is really something you want to do.
Running a business is an EXTREMELY difficult thing to do. You have to be willing to give up things in your life that you wouldn't typically give up. For example, partying. Nope. Say goodbye to that. Your FOMO will be in full force but if your drive and desire to succeed outweighs your FOMO then you might have what it takes to be an Entrepreneur. You'll also have to sacrifice other things in your life like traveling, sleep, dating, and time with your family in order to be successful. Running a business is much more demanding than a full-time job and you'll need to be aware of how much work it actually takes.
Here is an article that might be helpful in deciding whether or not you are really ready to start this venture.
I read this when I was thinking about starting an online boutique and it helped me. Just be realistic when making your decision. Hopefully, the answer is yes, I am ready. But if you're truly not ready, take some time to think about it and maybe come back to the idea later on down the road. There's no shame in that. It took me a few years to take the plunge. Here's an infographic that will take you to a helpful article on mistakes that new entrepreneurs make when starting out.
S T E P 2 : Deciding On A Name For Your Business
Coming up with a name for your business can be easy for some and difficult for others. Since there are so many boutiques out there, it's kind of hard to come up with a charming name that doesn't sound like everyone else. I had a hard time with this. I ended up falling out of love with my original name and changing it to Jacklyn Wild. As your vision develops, the name of your business might not align as well as it used to. I wrote down hundreds of words that I thought would be good to use as a boutique name. The industry tip is to incorporate words that speak to your brand or you personally. Some people like incorporating their name, cough cough, Jacklyn Wild. Some people use street names, or combine words that portray the vibe they're going for.
Here is a link for some inspiration but what I personally found to be helpful was looking up baby names
This website gives you tons of posts with different baby name ideas
Naming a business can be frustrating and very time consuming but don't worry, if you don't get it right the first time you can always change it later on.
S T E P 3: Registering For Your Business Name, Tax EIN #, And Vendor's License
After you think you've decided on a name for your business, you'll have to register your name with your state. You'll need to check to see if that name is available. You can do this by searching on your state's Secretary of State website. Just google search "Business Name Availability Texas" and it should be one of the first options under www.sos.(state).us., typically, but don't quote me on that. My business is based in Ohio so, if by chance you're also from Ohio, you can search for a business name availability here.
If your name isn't available... No big deal. Get back to the drawing board or tweak the wording a little bit. If your name is available, greaaaat! You can now file for your business license. There are different types of entities, with the most common being corporation, limited liability corporation, and sole proprietorship. Corporations and LLCs are registered via the secretary of state, usually through an online portal. Sole proprietorships, also known as a "doing business as" entities, are registered via the county clerk, since they are merely an extension of a person's tax identification account and simply need a noncompeting name.
Once you've registered your business, you'll need to go to the Internal Revenue Service website to obtain a federal employer identification number or a tax EIN #. The federal EIN number is similar to a social security number but for your business. It uniquely identifies you.
Last on our list of filings is your vendor's license. Vendor's licenses are required when a business is established for the purpose of selling goods and services that require collecting sales tax. As such, a business that holds a vendor's license is exempt from paying sales tax when buying goods to resell, also known as wholesale purchasing. The license lets the state know you are in business and gives you the ability to collect sales tax during transactions. Obtain a vendor's license through the state treasury or comptroller's office.
Find the appropriate office to register for a vendor's license. In Texas, this is the comptroller's office. In Ohio, go to the Department of Taxation. In California, register at the Employment Development Department. If you are unsure where to start, call your local tax board, or contact the local Small Business Administration office to find the correct location.
As with other parts of the process, most states allow you to register for a vendor's license online. Register for an account using your business entity information and federal EIN. This information includes the business entity structure as well as the ownership information submitted when registering the entity with the state. States vary in how much detail they require in the application. Pay the fee, if any, for the vendor's license; fees vary from state to state. Texas' fee is $70, whereas Ohio charges $25.
Here are some helpful articles on starting a business:
S T E P 4 : C H O O S E A P L A T F O R M
Your next step will be deciding what platform to use to sell your products or services on. There are quite a few out there and it all just depends on your preference. I recommend using as many free trials as possible before deciding on the platform that's right for you. A lot of the platforms offer significant discounts if you commit to a year or more up front. So, make sure you're sure. WIX is great because of the 100s of customizable templates. It's easy to learn and use. Shopify is typically at the top of the lists because of the number of apps and integrations available, but there is much to be said about the other platforms as well.
Here are a few posts that might be able to help you decide which platform might be right for you:
S T E P 5 : Choosing A Domain Name
This should be an easy step. Most e-commerce platforms have a domain search and give you the ability to rent your domain for the duration of your subscription. If you want to actually own your domain, you can purchase one from GoDaddy.com or another domain purchasing service. You can then connect a domain you own through your e-commerce platform.
S T E P 6 : Finding Wholesalers And Drop Shippers
This is a difficult step in getting your store going. There are SO many distributers, designers, wholesalers, etc. to choose from. The first step in purchasing inventory for your store is to figure out how much capital you have available to spend on inventory. Most online boutique owners are ballin' on a budget and rely heavily on drop shipping when starting out... Just until they get their capital up. But, on the off chance that do you have funding or cash on hand to spend, I would start by going to the websites of the brands that you want to offer. They typically have wholesale contact info on their contact page. Some brands have minimum orders to open a wholesale account. For example, Free People has a $5000 minimum just to open an account.
An influencer named Brittany Olson offers a paid PDF of verified wholesalers that might be beneficial to have. She also has tons more helpful advice for aspiring boutique owners. I highly recommend checking out her site. Her posts helped me significantly.
There's also plenty of shows to attend to meet contacts and open wholesale accounts. MAGIC in Las Vegas is the biggest show of the year. STYLEMAX in Chicago is more laidback and probably less intimidating for someone just starting out.
Here's a list of shows you might want to consider attending: