I urge all the startups I work with to outsource as many functions as possible, especially in the early days of being in business. There are limited hours in the day and being distracted by areas outside of your expertise can drag down the momentum of your new business. If it is your product that makes your business unique, I recommend that you spend your (probably limited) resources on the product itself, and leave the warehousing, distribution and customer service elements to organizations that specialize in those areas. The following resources have been vetted by Wicked Start and/or companies we have worked closely with, so you can use them with confidence:
If you’re selling a retail product online, consider starting with Amazon.com. Though Amazon takes a relatively hefty commission for any products sold through its site, the company handles customer service and credit card processing, and can also handle fulfillment of your product.
Etsy — an online crafts marketplace which attracts hundreds of thousands of sellers and millions of visitors looking to buy and sell one-of-a-kind handmade items, from jewelry to knitware and furniture to photos — offers a simple, cost-effective way for startups and small businesses selling handmade crafts to expand their distribution. Etsy makes it easy to set up a virtual shop and also gives sellers the tools to succeed. Every Etsy seller gets a microsite they can brand with artwork, headlines, and descriptions and photos of items for sale. Etsy charges a listing fee and takes a commission from all sales, but provides free social media support and access to analytics. Sellers handle shipping and customer service themselves.
If you’re an online merchant and/or manufacturer ready to expand beyond the prototype stage, Shipwire offers an easy and quick way to outsource shipping and order fulfillment. Shipwire can automate order fulfillment from your site’s buy button or shopping cart, and can ship to customers anywhere in the world from its warehouses in the U.S, Canada and Europe. If you offer high-margin products and/or a limited number of SKUs or can make sure your products arrive in the warehouse prepackaged and ready to ship (think toys, consumer apparel like T-shirts and consumer electronics), Shipwire is probably a great solution for you. It’s probably not cost-effective for sellers of custom-made products with a lot of SKUs (although they can still connect their home office or garage to the Shipwire shopping cart network). Shipwire will help customize a plan that’s right for you, and you even get a free 30-day trial.
Shopify is a simple and affordable way to set up and manage a fully hosted e-commerce storefront. Its sleek-looking templates and easy- to-use set up wizard enable you to display and categorize any number of products — and, unlike Etsy, your goods don’t have to be handmade. You can customize your storefront with your name, logo, photos, special background colors, and more.
This online tool can be helpful if you don’t have a personal network to leverage. In a couple of easy steps, you can put in a request to find just about any vendor for your business.