When COVID19 struck in March 2020, many retail stores and business were decimated. Whether they were selling clothing, jewelry or food they were either able to pivot, and quickly, or forced to close their business. However, for some individuals, new business ideas flourished because of their time in quarantine, and this is what happened to me.
Six months before COVID hit my mother passed away due to pancreatic cancer. It was obviously a very sad time, filled with many sleepless nights. Not wanting to keep my family up, I started listening to a few interesting podcasts. I had never listened to a podcast in my life, and yet now I was listening to story after story of women who just decided one day to try something new in business. This intrigued me because I’ve always worked a lot and I’ve always wanted to have a completely web based business. I started to listen to these podcasts on my way to work each morning rather than music. Me, the woman who had never been a podcast listener, was now listening at the gym as well!
I WAS HOOKED.
Honestly, I have been hooked ever since. It’s amazing, but there is a podcast for everything. Women I would never have know existed, have some of the best “real world” advice I find myself following. I felt like I was back in school learning something new every day, and I realized it was allowing me to channel my sadness of losing my mom into something positive.
So, back to new quarantine ideas.
My husband has been buying and selling pharmaceutical equipment for decades and I have listened and learned a lot over the last fifteen years. I have told him for years that while selling the equipment is great, I want to “make something” with the equipment – but just didn’t know what yet. Then one day in early May he came home and said, “You keep talking about wanting to ‘make something’ and starting an online business … I might have something that will interest you. How about starting a hand sanitizer business?”
NO THANK YOU.
That was simple. He laughed, but I was serious. I had ZERO desire to go into the hand sanitizer business. I was picturing all of the Pinterest and Facebook posts I’d seen, with people listing ingredients and saying how it can be made in your own kitchen. Again, no thanks. That last thing I wanted to do was convert my kitchen into a laboratory, and it really just didn’t interest me.
Then a box arrived two weeks later and everything changed for me. My husband knows me very well and he knew that if he could just get me to see a sample of the product he’d seen, I’d be hooked.
HE WAS RIGHT.
As soon as I saw the nifty little clip on bottle, I started to map it all out in my mind. This was different. This was unique. All of the clip-on hand sanitizers I had ever seen had either the flimsy rubber “hook” that I knew kids would yank on until it broke, or the metal clip kids hurt their fingers on. I also wasn’t sure if that metal hook version would set off metal detectors in airports and that is a place people certainly need hand sanitizer. This all-in-one piece, clean smelling, non-sticky cute bottle had me smiling from ear to ear!
THIS WAS DIFFERENT.
THIS WAS MADE IN THE USA.
THIS DIDN’T STINK.
THIS WASN’T STICKY.
This was what I had been thinking about for six months. It fit the “it doesn’t have to be earth shattering, it just has to be good” idea. This, I could work with! I immediately loved it and went back to my podcasts to learn more about which ecommerce site was best to use, started jotting more specific notes about drop shipping, started making lists. Wow, did I start making lists.
- Hire a graphic designer
- Call my accountant
- Research names
- Lookup domain names
- Pick an ecommerce platform for the business
I had experience with the first four, it was the fifth that was new to me. Every podcast I had listened to raved about Shopify, so naturally I started a trial account with Shopify. Easy enough, and they offered 14 days to get things up and running for free. However, fourteen days came and went and I still didn’t have a site up and running. That’s ok, their email read, we’ll extend it for another fourteen days. Oh, that’s perfect I thought! I should have realized then that this shouldn’t have taken this long. I was only listing two products, and it shouldn’t be this hard!
So, what was the issue? I really don’t even know. I couldn’t seem to move forward because of my product. Do you know that as soon clicked the box that my business had to do with hand sanitizer, Shopify put in all kind of locks on my account? Do you know they said I was trying to price gouge at $2 per bottle? Do you know that after three weeks I became so frustrated that I said forget this and deleted my account? I couldn’t believe that the company all of these podcast business women raved about was actually trying to tell me how I was allowed to run my online business. Here I was trying to provide a quality product to customers which they could trust and I was being treated like someone who needed watching over.
I decided to go to my old reliable, a company I had used for year, Square. For anyone that doesn’t know, Square accounts allow you to accept credit card payments for a small fee. They send you a credit card reader for free, which plugs right into your phone. It’s great, works great and I have never had an issue. Well, I then learn that Square recently purchased Weebly and is now offering basic website templates and ecommerce templates for even less than Shopify. This made perfect sense to me since I had already contacted Square and they had shipped me a free card reader and a touchless credit card reader ($49). Both work great, by the way, and I highly recommend!
I reviewed the templates and selected one within a few minutes. It was perfect and looked quite similar to what I was going to use on Shopify. My curiosity got the best of me and I started to enter my information. Then I added a bit more. Then I was connecting my bank account information, my EIN number, tweaking away at this project! Wait a minute, let me see if I can just add one of the bottles to my inventory. It can’t be this easy to do this, can it?? I was stunned. I had a functioning ecommerce site within two hours. It wasn’t complete, it needed sprucing up, but it looked pretty darn good. I was so excited I could barely stand it.
Back to my list I went:
6. Take better product photos (purchased the Flashery)
7. Get my business cards designed printed (Minute Man Press)
8. Get letterhead designed and printed for thank you & introductory letters
It took me another week to complete numbers 6-8 and then the following weekend I was ready to get back to working on my SquareUp site. Having young kids is not exactly conducive to getting work done, so working until the wee hours of the morning is not unusual for me. I actually finished setting up the ecommerce site around 1am that Saturday night/Sunday morning. I was so tired, but I knew that it was up and running and figured I would do some testing in the morning to make sure that in my sleepiness I hadn’t missed something.
GUESS WHAT HAPPENED!
I woke up at 6am to my phone “pinging” – I thought I was dreaming. I wasn’t dreaming, someone had just placed an order for a box of hand sanitizer. My screams woke everyone up in the house! My husband couldn’t believe it actually worked “so quickly” but it did. The girls were jumping for joy and had really no idea why, but jumping and screaming is fun so they joined the crowd. What a feeling of accomplishment!
I really can’t believe how easy it was to complete. Where Shopify had been so convoluted, Square was completely streamlined. Oh, and since I had already set up some invoices on my phone (yes, there is an app and it is amazing), I was able to connect my phone and computer seamlessly. When I receive orders, my phone sends me a message. I even get a message when an invoice I’ve sent has been read.
Back to the list again:
9. Spend quality time with family (need to get better at this)
10. Help others who want to set up Square accounts
Fast forward one week later and we are apple picking with our children (see #9). My phone is in my pocket buzzing while I am holding our four year old in the air so she can pick an apple. I let the phone buzz for a moment until the apple is securely in her hands. Take a quick pick for posterity and then check my notifications on my phone. My husband asks if everything is alright and I reply, “Yes… great. I just sold two boxes of hand sanitizer. Donuts are on me today!”
All thanks to Square.
If you are interested in starting your own online business, please contact me so we can get you set up quickly and painlessly (#10)! If you prefer to do it on your own, you can click here to get started. Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering about the hand sanitizer company I started, it is called Pure Hands. I am having so much fun getting it off and running and couldn’t be more appreciative of all of the support from family and friends. It is definitely a learning process, but I love it! Click here to check out the website or check us out on social media: @PureHandsUSA.
PS – These little peanuts are my shipping department. I pay them with hugs, kisses and apples.