22-year-old Melvin Chee from Melbourne, Australia went from experimenting with eCommerce dropshipping during his semester break to a 6-figure business in just 3 months. He had previously started several different businesses, many of which failed spectacularly. Some of his efforts were featured on BBC News and StartupDaily, but his biggest hit so far was started largely by accident. It was a discussion he saw about dropshipping in a Facebook group that got the wheels turning. As he explains it:
I decided to give it a go after coming across dropshipping in a Facebook Group back in December. I thought, why not give it a shot as an experiment during my semester break, and that’s how it got started.
eCommerce dropshipping store-owners can sell products to their customers without actually ever seeing or handling the products. After you sell a product, you simply buy it from a supplier and have it shipped directly to the customer. Dropshipping is far from perfect, but it’s clearly one of the easiest ways to jump-start an online business.
Melvin got started with less than a $140 investment. All he put in was his time, a domain name ($14), and a Shopify subscription with Oberlo ($29/mo). “Dropshipping allowed me to focus on what I do best; bringing in traffic and converting customers” he says.
Picking a Product Niche
Given the access to thousands of dropshipped products, Melvin started off by picking his store niche — clothing. He then narrowed that very broad category down by testing a constant stream of ideas, retaining the ones that gained traction and removing the ones that didn’t work.
As a tiny startup, he knew he needed to find a niche to inhabit. The challenge in a clothing niche is the difficulty of gaining attention with a simple daily use product like basic T-Shirt, even if it’s competitively priced. The key for him was adding value to the T-Shirt through what’s printed on it. When you sell shirts with messages like “I speak fluent sarcasm,” suddenly you have something that will appeal to a specific audience, and you can use that to your benefit.
Instagram posts combined with relatively low-key calls to action such as “Tag Someone Who Would Wear This” boosted Melvin’s store engagement and reduced advertising costs, which in turn allowed his Apparels Co. company to quickly build momentum.
Melvin goes on to say that new store-owners must quickly learn to speak the same language as their customers. The first thing to do is establish a voice or theme for the business, as well as shaping the right image before anything else. He notices that many eCommerce startups are trying to speak too many languages to a poorly defined audience, which only serves to confuse the customer and fails to make a store stand out in a crowded market.
It looks like the combination of focus on sales, a specific niche product, and the right message delivered through the right channels worked quite well in transforming what Melvin thought of as a summer break experiment into a life changing business.
After serving more than 4,000 customers, Melvin sold his business to focus on finishing his studies. He’s looking forward to traveling as a nomad for few months, as he says, “to experience life while building the next dropshipping venture.”