How I Started an Online Retail and Wholesale Business with $250 Initial Investment (Not Dropshipping, Affiliate Marketing or MLM)

When I was brainstorming for a business, I have a few items that I want to check-off from my checklist:

  • To start, I don’t want to spend more money than a pair of limited Nike or Air Jordan
  • I do not want to go to China to manufacture them
  • I want to design better products than what is available on the market
  • I want to sell high margin items, so I can sell them to brick-and-mortar store for wholesale

After I found a product that meet all of my checklist. I spent some time with the manufacturer designing the products. Most people go to China to manufacture their products, and they would spend a lot of money to get a few samples before placing a large order.

My approach is different…

Once I have the design and the pattern, I asked the manufacturer to make a few items. I asked a lot of questions and I asked for a lot of pictures and videos. If I am not satisfied with how it looks from the pictures and videos, I would ask for revision until they got it right. Once I have all my questions answered and have seen the product from different angles, I feel more confident about the product.

I then place an order for roughly 100 items, which cost $250 including shipping. Usually, Chinese manufacturers would charge anywhere from $100 to $150 for a few samples, and they have a relatively high MOQ. I’m saving time by ordering in bulk right away. Since my manufacturer is not based in China, their Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) is very little.

I figured, if the product flops, I did not waste too much time, and I would only be out of $250 and only have roughly one hundred items that I have to get rid of (as opposed to thousands of dollars and potentially thousands of products).

How I sold all my initial inventory…

My strategy is simple: reach out to business owners via Facebook and email, asking if I can I send over some free samples and I ask them if they can give you some feedback on the products. Then, I would I ask them if they are interested in carrying my products in their store. I convert about 20–30% of those customers that I sent samples to.

Initially, I sent out samples to five stores across the US, and a store in Colorado decided to purchase my whole inventory! It was exciting and it was a great validation for the products and the business.

My first wholesale customer! Great validation for my products and huge motivation to keep going.

I reinvested the money. I bought more products, built a Shopify website, ran ads and listed my products on Etsy.

My 2020 Revenue…

I want to be able to sell wholesale to brick-and-mortar stores because it gives them an opportunity to offer their customers more products and it gives them an opportunity to make profit. From my initial $250 investment, I was able to gross $2,494 in 2020. The screenshots below are from Paypal and Etsy.

My 2020 Wholesale Revenue
Etsy Revenue in 2020

My Q1 2021 Revenue…

In 2021 Q1, I have made $2,271 from Etsy store and $4,142 from my wholesale customers, the total revenue in Q1 is $6,413. I was able to secure my first Canadian wholesale customer, and I recently sent some samples to a couple of stores in Europe.

2021 Wholesale Revenue
2021 Q1 (+ 4 days in April) Etsy Revenue

Moving forward…

Moving forward, I am looking to get my products into more stores in the US and around the world. I want to spend money to build my social media presence: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, etc. I am also looking for a marketer to help me grow.

If you enjoyed the article, please give me a follow.

I will be writing and discussing about ecommerce and low MOQ manufacturing. If you have any questions about my ecommerce journey, please let me know. I would be happy to answer questions.

I am currently helping some friends starting their Etsy business, and I would love to help you start yours as well. If you are looking to start your online business or Etsy store and you are on a limited budget, please reach out to me on Twitter. I may be able to help you minimize your risk by help you find manufacturers with very low MOQ.

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Los Angeles, CA / Data Analyst / SQL and Python

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Johan H

Johan H

Los Angeles, CA / Data Analyst / SQL and Python

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