12 Woman Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Transformed A Simple Business Idea Into Massive Success
How the hell do they do it?
Thousands of followers, a shiny website that works flawlessly, and an ingenious product (damn, why didn’t I think of that?!).
Sometimes it’s intimidating to look at someone else’s business success from the outside.
But one of the most important lessons as an entrepreneur is how to not glorify or even deify other entrepreneurs.
After all, they did it, and so can you. It really can be that simple.
So the real question becomes, not if you can do it, but how did they do it?
When it comes to answering that question, Foundr has come to rely on one surefire technique—asking them. We’ve found that when you get a chance to talk to these amazing entrepreneurs, aside from picking up a bunch of great tips and ideas, you experience two other big benefits:
One, it humanizes your idols. You realize that, while talented, they face the same problems you do. The same doubts, fears and roadblocks. They might have crazy family lives, jam-packed schedules, and a very real addiction to Pinterest too!
The second thing it does is get you pumped up. When you look under the hood and realize that most people simply started with a business idea, a computer, and a smartphone—all of which you clearly have—you get excited. “Hey, I could do this too!”
And you’re right. You can.
In this post, we wanted to shine the spotlight on some phenomenal women founders, in particular, who are absolutely crushing it as ecommerce entrepreneurs. We’re going to share with you exactly how they came up with their business ideas and put them in motion, so you can learn from their experiences and follow their lead.
We asked each contributor these two questions:
- How did you come up with the idea for your ecommerce business?
- What advice would you give to someone who is trying to come up with their own business idea?
Their advice we got back inspired and excited us, I’m sure it will excite you too. Go ahead and soak up all this wisdom, and then we’d love to hear what really resonated with you in the comments below.
Kylie Camps, Founder, The Sleep Mama
Moving to an ecommerce platform was an organic progression from in-home consultations, as the demand quickly outgrew the time I had available. It was never about creating an online business; it was simply a way to help more people on their terms, when they were ready.
Spend as much time as possible with the people you believe to be your target market. Get to know them well and always think of their needs before your own.
Be smart with your time and your limitations. Know your strong and weak points and do not be afraid to delegate the tasks you don’t do well.
Carly and Simone Wilkins, Founders, Eau Paix Vie Swimwear
Obsessed with the adventure, experiences, and fun that travel brings, we wanted to create a label that represented that, and create for ourselves something we could do from anywhere in the world
The Wilkinses’ Advice:
Stay true to yourself – don’t worry about what other people are doing. If you believe in yourself and your idea, your passion will shine through and people will see that in your business.
Mo Seetubtim, Founder & CEO, The Happiness Planner
A few years ago, I started an inspirational blog where I wrote about modern life wisdoms. It started getting a lot of followers and I started receiving emails from my readers everyday telling me how inspiring my blog was to them.
So I decided to ask them, “If I could write one thing that makes your day, what should I write about?”
A lot of them replied and said they wanted to learn about how they could be happier and more positive.
I thought, there were a ton of books and articles out there about happiness and positive thinking. But it’s not something where you can read a book and magically change overnight. We’ve been a certain way for so many years. In order to change the way we think, our mindsets, and our emotional patterns, we need to practice over and over until our minds are trained. So I tried to think of an idea for something that could be easily integrated into people’s lives and help them learn to see the positives in life. Then I gave birth to the idea of The Happiness Planner.
You need to think about what you’re passionate about, the gap in the market in that area, and the consumer trends. What are the current consumer trends and the new consumer trends you see emerging over the next few years? What are the current design trends? Has there been any behavioral change in consumer behavior? Could you come up with a new product that fills the gap and suits the need?
Iyia Liu, Founder of Luxe Fitness
It was spontaneous. I thought, let’s try and sell 10 of these corsets a week, which would help me put an extra $300 in my pocket.
Just do it. Don’t think too much, don’t plan too much, don’t dwell and stress over the details. Just do it, and you’ll find that everything falls into place as you grow.
Brooke Findley, Founder, The Organic Place
Back in 2014, our youngest daughter, who was 3 months old at the time, had an allergic reaction to our Sunday morning bacon and eggs. Further tests revealed allergies to chicken, beef, and peanuts. This left me questioning the food system. After some research, I decided that whenever possible we would eat organic for the health of our family.
The only problem was, there was nowhere to buy organic in the area of Melbourne where we lived in. I had three children under 4 at the time, so shopping wasn’t exactly fun anymore, and I would have much preferred the convenience of ordering online and having it delivered to our front door.
That’s when I had one of those lightbulb moments. Surely, I can’t be the only Mum in the area who wants to eat organic but doesn’t have access to it. So I decided I would solve my own problem and hopefully many other’s problems by starting an online, organic fruit and vegetable delivery service.
Seek feedback, research the market. Solve a problem.
Lana Hopkins, CEO & Founder, Mon Purse
I was in the market for a new handbag at the time and, after spending an hour creating a plush toy at a Build-a-Bear Workshop, I realized that the two weren’t so different. Like many consumers, I was frustrated with the rigidity of choice in the luxury accessories market. So the timing was perfect, not just for me personally, but also for industry disruption.
While there were many handbags on the market, I always found I needed to compromise. I found the right black bag, but with gold hardware when I actually needed silver. I wanted to solve this personal problem—I wanted the ability to have the perfect handbag, with the leather, hardware, lining, and size I wanted to suit my personal style. I wanted it to smell, feel, and look premium and luxurious (made in Europe), without the astronomical price tag.
After some extensive research, I started scoping the viability of the project, traveling to Europe to source the finest leathers and set up our atelier. I didn’t have any contacts in Europe, I door knocked to find the best tanneries and someone who would turn my vision into reality. Together we hand selected quality leathers and raw materials, and employed incredibly skilled craftsmen.
Before engaging in major tech developments and raising capital, I needed to validate the format and so I started going to large media companies as I came from a media background and presented my idea on A4 sheets of paper and a suitcase full of European leather handbag samples. I realized the demand for an affordable accessories brand with quality and total customization at its core would be a perfect fit for a marketplace increasingly geared towards discreet, non-branded, fashion that feels personal. We then built a tech team and deployed our first version of the bag builder in late October 2014 and this was the beginning of Mon Purse.
Just go for it and back yourself.
Stay focused on one thing at a time. Build an amazing team of talented people around you. When you feel like giving up, don’t. Have focus, passion, and the ability to inspire, lead, and motivate others—an A-class team is everything.
Taryn Gilbert, Founder, Sitting Pretty Halo Hair
It was a bit spontaneous actually. All I knew was I didn’t want to work for someone else and that it had to be creative. I love doing hair—it makes me happy helping people look and feel great, plus I’m good at it. So I knew I had to do something that stemmed from that, before focusing on anything else.
Try and find something that excites you first, because when it gets hard (which it will), the excitement and passion for whatever you’re doing is what keeps you going.
Erin Houston, Co-Founder & CEO, wearwell
My co-founder Emily Kenney and I came up with the idea for wearwell because of a personal frustration we were both experiencing: the challenge of shopping for ethically or sustainably made clothing that fit our sense of style. For context, this was following the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people and injured more than 2,400. We knew we needed to solve a personal frustration, but we also wanted to create a business model that had the potential to motivate a shift toward sustainability in the larger fashion industry. So we spent two years prototyping and testing the ideas that would eventually evolve into wearwell.
Start lean and small and just get something out into the world. See what comes back and understand whether you receive validation or need to pivot. We believe the most successful businesses are those that constantly iterate along the way, so even though that first step may not match up to the grandeur you have in mind, you’ll be more successful in the long run.
Emma Howchin, Founder, Rainbow Nymph
Essentially, it was thought out spontaneously. I wanted a new project to work on while traveling. I love all things bright and colorful and used my international buying experience to source stock while on the road, and shipped it back to Australia ahead of me. Then bam, I put my web dev skills and stock together, outsourced where I was lacking, and Rainbow Nymph was founded.
Don’t limit your ideas because of what you can’t do. Work out what you can do and then collaborate and/or outsource the skills you need to actualize your idea to its fullest potential. Sharing and collaboration will allow your good idea to grow into an awesome one and you’ll create a fan club of advocates for your brand along the way.
Avi Loren Fox, Designer & CEO, Wild Mantle
A few years ago, I made a hooded scarf out of some cozy thrifted sweaters just because I wanted one. I had seen them a few times before, but couldn’t find them in stores. When I wore it out in the world, people noticed and said, “What is that? I want one!” and before I knew it, I was making and selling them for lots of other people.
Solve your own problem. What is your life missing? Chances are, if you recognize a gap in the market, others are experiencing the same thing, and will pay you to fulfill that demand.
Kristy McPhillips, Designer & Founder, Sash & Belle
Born from a desire to provide women with stylish, unique, and timeless handbags, Sash & Belle offers a gorgeous range of stylish quality handbags, totes, clutch bags, wallets and purses to suit every style and budget.
The mundane life and hierarchy of public service had me searching for a creative outlet and designing stylish and functional handbags that would help busy women and moms be more organized in their everyday lives. Owning my own business, being my own boss, and facing the challenges and opportunities has been difficult, fun, and rewarding.
Research, research , research, and then just do it. Start small and keep your day job so you minimize the financial stress on you and your family. This will also help determine if you like running your own business, before you take the the big leap of quitting your job and working full time on your business/dream.
Candice Galek, Founder, Bikini Luxe
It was initially something I created to give myself more free time—a business that I could manage from anywhere in the world as long as I had a laptop and some in house employees. Turns out that running an ecommerce store is one of the most challenging things that you can do. Well worth it, but extremely challenging. The learning curve on applications is steep, and every day there is some new app, or thing to learn about the business. That being said, I love the challenge!
First, choose something that you are passionate about. This is extremely important. The long hours and days that you will need to put in to become successful will not be as challenging if it is something you love. Second, identify a niche market that is missing, be it a product or a service, and aim to fill that gap.
There you have it: 12 successful women, 12 different ideas and businesses. But it’s fascinating that there are a few common threads running through all of them, whether it’s the fact that so many ideas came about spontaneously, or their common advice to just take the plunge and figure it out.
What About You?
What stood out for you? Did you have any “lightbulb” moments?
And did someone’s story, in particular, resonate with you or help you? I’m sure they’d love to know if they have inspired you, so take a moment to drop them a comment below.
Because we don’t just want readers, we want a discussion—with you—so get involved!