How To Start An Online Business With No Experience
Julie Stevanja, who is the founder of the very well known women’s activewear website Stylerunner. Julie’s business is an Australian icon because it grew 30%-50% month on month in the first few years and this has resulted in her startup now being valued ten’s of millions of dollars.
A lot of that success has been due to the more than 450K of followers that the brand attracts and the eye-catching web presence that is hard to avoid.
Here are 7 takeaways from Julie Stevanja’s interview:
1. Know if you want to be an entrepreneur
One of the keys to starting an online business that Julie taught me is to first of all work out if you want to be an entrepreneur. Now we all know this, but what Julie taught me is that when you start to become eager to do something more creative, that’s a really great sign that you probably have the entrepreneur bug.
I often tell people that with all the automation happening in the economy, the one scarce resource is creativity which is usually entrepreneurship. Julie recommends that if this happens to you, try working in a tech startup like she did for a few years to gain some knowledge, then consider starting an online business.
2. Find a niche
The secret sauce to Stylerunner in the early days was that fashion was crowded, but what Julie discovered was that there was no niche within this category that did women’s active wear well. The mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they pick a crowded category to launch a business into.
To find the niche that might work for you, start looking at blogs, social media, and other online businesses. Think about your niche from the consumer point of view. Is there something that you have to buy that is always hard to find online, or that is done poorly?
Once you find your niche, launch with a very lean product, test the market and then iterate your product based on customer feedback.
3. You don’t need to have a tech background
One of the first things I noticed about Julie was that she started an online business with no tech background. She did what most people are not prepared to do and jumped straight into the deep end. If you don’t have tech expertise, you can build it by bringing it into your team.
In Julie’s case, early on, she used a freelancer platform to build her first website that was very basic. Once she had something up on the web, she then spoke with web developers on the cheap side and the expensive side.
She spoke with as many as she could to then drill down to the main concepts they were all saying. From there, she began work on a better site using what she had learned.
“Every problem has a solution” – Julie Stevanja
4. Use social proof to sell products
Upon looking at Stylerunners Instagram account, it’s very clear that Julie understands social proofing. Social proof makes customers feel like other people like Stylerunner’s products, and they are not alone.
Many of the photos that Stylerunner uses are taken by other Instagrammers and people that seem genuine, and relatable. These photos make it very easy to see what the active wear might look like on a real person who is not a supermodel.
Stylerunner’s social media reflects a community and not just a brand or product. If you can achieve this goal with your own online business, then you will be well on your way to having a successful startup.
“If something doesn’t work that’s data” – Julie Stevanja
5. Try some simple social media tricks
Julie taught me some really quick and easy tips that work well for most of the social media platforms. She said in all content you should have a call to action. So if you use Instagram, then your picture description should have a question to get people talking about your post.
We all think we know how important content is for creating an online business, but Julie says you need to go the extra mile. The only content that goes viral is a post where you go out of your way to create value. If that value is relevant to your end customer as well, then you will see an increase in sales from it.
The simple way to test if a social media post works is by seeing how many likes and comments it gets. Over time, you will figure out what’s working and what’s not, and then you can adjust your social media strategy accordingly.
6. Build relationships with investors early
Dealing with Venture Capital or Private Equity firms can be a challenge and if you want to scale your online business later on, you need to know how to deal with them. Julie explains that a relationship with an investor is a bit like a marriage; you are going to spend a lot of time with them so you have to make sure you like them and you feel they are good for your startup.
Start by creating a wishlist of investors (use your competitors investors if you don’t know any) and then introduce yourself to each of them. “You must do this early on” Julie explains, “otherwise, if you wait until you need them to invest, they will know nothing about you, and so they are unlikely to put money in.”
Julie described it to me like this; investors are a bit like converting customers on your website. You need to have a large funnel of them to begin with because only a few of them will convert. Investors are also like customers in the sense that they too want social proof.
If your funnel of investors is too small, then an investor might be wondering why there are no other interested investors. So, to sum up, engage investors early on, and send them regular updates of how your online business is tracking.
7. Get some practical education
In Julie’s case, she has a traditional business degree but what she found is that the education she did was missing a lot of practical advice. The basics of setting up a business and managing it day to day were just not covered so Julie joined an unconventional entrepreneur course run by The Entourage.
She said that the benefit was not only the knowledge but the opportunity to build a network of great entrepreneurs and thought leaders. These people are going through the same struggle so they can often help with highly relevant solutions.
Now if unconventional entrepreneur education is not for you, then there are plenty of other ways to meet like-minded entrepreneurs, you just have to put yourself out there!