Where do I start?
How do I find places to buy from abroad?
I want to focus on artsy things.
PROVE THE ASSUMPTION: Start with a dropshipper's existing products to figure out what sells best before you spend money on manufacturing and warehousing. Amazon is perfect for this - they will pay you 4%-10% to promote 253,000,000 products (http://bit.ly/1q2M85R) - you can sign up at https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/ Alternately, get very small amounts of the product (maybe even just buy some from a competitor) and try selling them on ebay and amazon. Nothing hurts more than having $50,000 of imported product gathering dust in your fulfillment warehouse while listening to a voicemail from a debt collector.
There are several options here. Many people prefer Alibaba.com. Warning - if you use Alibaba, you are stepping into a tank of pirahnas. There are more scam "manufacturers" on Alibaba than real ones. Use Escrow or AliSecure Pay if you buy. If the supplier says they only take T/T, Western Union, Moneygram - just say no! I prefer American Made when possible. If you're like me, try Ariba's Discovery Service - http://bit.ly/1q2NFZu - which will allow you to find suppliers with a physical presence in the USA. Note: Many things can be made on demand (someone purchases, one gets made and shipped) instead of in 500+ manufacturing runs. Start there if you can - Books on CreateSpace.com, Clothes on CafePress.com, Playing Cards on MakePlayingCards.com, etc - to test out your exact product.
#3) START YOUR SITE
This is an entire topic in itself. One of the fastest ways I know for newbies to start in e-commerce is with a SquareSpace.com store. Other options include GoDaddy.com and BigCommerce.com. If you can stand to use the templates they provide instead of trying to customize them, you'll save yourself a lot of hassle and expense - customization usually looks terrible unless a designer/coder was hired to do the work. If you do customize, find someone on odesk.com or elance.com.
Figure out where your competition is advertising. Are they getting free, "organic" SEO results on Google? Using social media to drive billions of dollars of sales? (NOTE: That was a joke - don't count on social media as the nucleus of your marketing campaign. Please!) Are they paying for Google ads ("PPC"), buying email lists, using strategic partnerships for promotion, relying on shopping portals, using banner advertising, or something else entirely? There's probably a good reason - figure out what it will take to play in those waters. At the same time, try to find a small enough niche that you can win in it.
Be careful about artsy things. If someone is attracted to something artistic, it's usually because there is a story behind the art for them, or because it's cheap. If you're going to try to sell artistic things, you may want to consider doing some serious research first about who has been successful in that area. Look at etsy.com to see handmade artsy items (very cool).
#6) WORTH A LOOK
Worth checking out as you start your journey: Art.com, yessy.com, Artfire.com, ArtPal.com
#7) DEEP FOUNDATION
If you need help, reach out for a 15 minute call and we'll discuss a go-to-market strategy specific to your goals.
How artsy? Artesenias? In any case, you might follow the Zappos.com model. Secondly, you have to make sure the market is in place. You can lose a lot of money on a hobby.
Don't stop taking massive action.
Best of Luck,
Michael T. Irvin
My books are available exclusively through Amazon Books. Check out my book "Copywriting Blackbook of Secrets"
Copywriting, Startups, Internet Entrepreneur, Online Marketing, Making Money
I have over 5 years of experience executing e-commerce start-ups. My friend, I will try to help you frame a vision for your challenge, though your questions are somewhat reverse ordered in hierarchy of importance.
You have vaguely defined your area of interest as "artsy". You need to find a niche within the "artsy" ecosystem or industry where you can offer real value. First of all, you need to know who the present dominant players in the artsy market are, their strengths and wekaness( what are the areas where they are satisfying customers and what are those areas where they are not doing well). You might want to pitch your tent at their weak points and those weak areas usually make them unresponsive to "small orders" or "common" consumers. If you can do this successfully, then you can begin your Product Conceptualization. You need to develop your product or service along these areas, e.g. better distribution network, more affordable logistics, etc.
The second question borders around SOURCING. There are myriads of ways to achieve this in an age of internet. You can source via Alibaba, eBay, etc. Your guiding principle in sourcing should be ARBITRAGE. What source would offer you a price advantage to compete locally? For instance, if an artifact would cost less to import from China, why would you source for it in America?
When you have sorted those two critical factors of Product/Service and Sourcing, then you begin considering the e-Commerce PLATFORM to use. I believe you want to be in business not for the fun of it but for some benefits or profits, then you might consider starting off on more affordable platforms like Alibaba.com or eBay where your setup costs will be very low. Create you profile there, advertise your products and when you have secured sufficient "follower-ship" , then you can seek a web portal(based on your business profitability) to showcase your business. Now , you can look to Wordpress + its ecommerce plugins and get a developer to setup your ecommerce site.
Let TECHNOLOGY enable business and not the other way round. Always have your BUSINESS STRATEGY in place before seeking TECHNOLOGY PLATFORMS to fulfil it. Understand the VALUE CHAIN in your particular "artsy" industry and then explore the "technology interfaces" to help you connect among the various "value" players from "upstream" to "downstream".
You can call me for more clarifications.