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Starting a New Business? Here’s What to Expect!

Shopify Staff
Shopify Staff



So you decided to start your own Shopify store? That’s great news! Whether you intend this to be your full-time business or a side gig to supplement your income, it’ll still take time and effort to get it right. Don’t worry, we’re here to support you every step of the way.


A common misconception new entrepreneurs make is expecting that starting a business means that they’ll be profitable and make sales instantly with little effort. Let’s address this topic in further detail in this post!


Starting a business isn’t about making a quick buck when you’re short on cash. Instead, it’s a commitment to serving the public, creating a compliant business, following terms and laws, and being a realistic goal setter.


Having a healthy set of expectations when starting a business for the very first time will be one of the most important things an entrepreneur must develop in order to succeed!


Was starting a business before the internet easy?



The short answer is a resounding “no”! You’d need to put in 100% effort to build a legacy, also known as a thriving successful business.


To help put things into perspective, before the internet and online shopping was a mainstay, businesses operated mostly in-person and required thoughtful planning, budgeting and accurate marketing strategies.


Businesses like lemonade stands, run by children, weren’t long term growth legacies as these were temporary quick cash hobbies. However, it was an excellent way to introduce young minds to the art and craft of entrepreneurship while making a little cash to buy candy. Running a legitimate business on the other hand required more effort.


Bob’s 1989 General Goods Store Example

Imagine a new business owner opening a brand new shop near “pretty great” foot traffic in 1989. Let’s name this business owner Bob. Bob was eager to make some money to level up his life and wanted to do so quickly with as little work as possible since he was employed part-time. He decided to sell inexpensive easy to obtain general goods and the location was in a very high-end corner of town.


Bob knew that his friend John opened a general store the year before in another area of town and was doing very well. Seems easy enough right? Not quite. John had done research on the areas best suited for his shop, budgeted money in advance for his marketing and operating costs, made sure that his products were items that he felt proud to sell before placing them in his shop, and he spent time refining his customer service skills. John was prepared and dedicated to his business growth and customer satisfaction.


Bob didn’t do much research or preparation to open his local shop. Bob opened his shop in an area that wasn’t near his target customer for his bargain general store. Yes, the foot traffic that frequented the area had plenty of expendable income and he could make a sale once in a while, but the clientele in the area aren’t looking for bargain general products. The potential customers in the area were looking for high-end products and a high-end experience. Bob built his business in the same manner as opening a neighbourhood lemonade stand.


This is an example of how basic planning and research were needed to succeed in business before the digital revolution. Is it really that different from today? No.


Planning, research, marketing, perseverance are buzz words you’ll hear entrepreneurs mention frequently. Yet these words are tremendously impactful and important to understand. Business owners, before the surge of online shopping, needed to know the investment they put into their business wouldn’t cause them to lose their homes and livelihoods. Even farmer’s market participants would need a good plan to know the cost of production of their goods, space fees, quality control, packaging and many other things.


It’s not that different to this day.


What to Expect When Starting a Business in the 21st Century



The internet has made it possible for anyone to start a business and reach a global audience. It’s also removed the barrier of leasing a commercial space and physical maintenance of a store. Although some of the larger financial obstacles have been lowered dramatically, it doesn’t exempt any new business from thorough planning, budgeting, preparation and research.


How Quickly Can You Get Rich?


As you know, there’s no such thing as a legitimate get-rich-quick scheme. When you hear anyone claiming they have the golden key to making loads of money in a very short period of time, then it’s about time to close that browser tab and focus on your own growth and long-term business objectives.


It may take some time to receive your first order. There aren't any guarantees in business, just like it was before the internet made access easier. Entrepreneurs that have done the appropriate thorough research, planning and execution can see a sale as quickly as the same day they open, however other well-prepared businesses can take months to become profitable. Like fingerprints, each business is unique and different.


FACT: Customers require an average of 7 touchpoints before they decide to buy from any business.

This means that opening your site and posting once on social media won’t get you where you want to be. The more your prospects see your business online (ads, social media, email, etc) the more they’ll know, like and trust your brand.


Businesses need promotion, maintenance and care. Opening a new site and leaving it alone won’t work for any business. Your new store is your new baby. Nurture it and it’ll grow. The bare minimum won’t help it thrive nor will you get the results you’re looking for. The more effort you put into your new business, the better the results are likely to be. So be ready to put effort, time and dedication into your new business.


Expect your business’ output to be equivalent to the effort and time you put into it.

“There are no quick wins in business - it takes years to become an overnight success.”

- Richard Branson


What Do You Need To Do To Make Shopify ‘Work’?


The beginning of this post dropped some clues on the secrets to success with your online business. The key things you need to do are research, plan, budget and commit to your business. Remember that this is your business and want to help it grow. It needs to be nurtured for it to grow properly.


Spend some time researching your business idea. Is there a market for it? Who would your competitors be? Make sure you clearly define your audience and how you intend to reach them. Knowing and understanding who buys, or will buy your products is important for helping you maximise your Return on Investment (ROI). Remember Bob? Bob didn’t do his research and wasn’t able to make a profit. This research phase is one of the greatest things you can do for your business and the longevity of your new income.


All successful businesses have a well thought out business plan. Many new entrepreneurs think they won’t need a business plan if they aren’t going to apply for funding or that their business isn’t a multimillion-dollar enterprise yet. However, a plan is your GPS for the business. It’s your goal list and definition of everything that represents your business. The plan will also help to:

  • Define your brand, language, and tone
  • Understand how to engage your audience
  • Put a real number on what the cost of acquisition (COA) will be to convert brand new visitors
  • Understand that COA is always higher than converting your existing followers/customers
  • Clarify your strategy
  • Identify potential roadblocks
  • Know your competition and how to stand out from them
  • Decide what resources you’ll need
  • Evaluate the validity of your idea or your growth plans

Without a plan, it’s difficult to measure the success of your business and identify if you need to make adjustments. If this is your first time creating a business plan, don’t worry, we have a free template you can use.


Before you do any marketing, you’ll refine your site, ensuring it’s both professional and trustworthy. It’s a good idea to request feedback on your store before you launch. Our Shopify Community forums are a great place for this. You can receive feedback from Shopify Staff, Shopify Partners and fellow entrepreneurs who can also provide advice based on their experience.


Once you’re confident you have the right aesthetic and feel of the site, it’s time to further develop your marketing plan.


Check out the list in the Resources section at the end of this post for ideas on some marketing tips and platforms you can try out depending on your target customer and business plan. Focus on the techniques that are most likely to reach your target audience while keeping your budget in mind. This blog post has a free template you can use to create your marketing plan.


Always invest in yourself! Learn and keep learning. At the end of this post, you’ll find some links to help you learn more about running your new business and how to continue to improve your skills and results.


How Do You Know You’re On The Right Track?

Numbers are a good measure of how well your store is doing. A few very simple checks can give you a ton of information on the health of your business.


You should be looking to pull in at least 1000 visitors to your store each month before other numbers on your analytics dashboard will have a significant impact on your next business decisions. The reason for this is that at the 1000 mark your average customer behavior will be more consistent, predictable and have fewer outliers in your statistics. In addition, with 1000 visitors it’s a matter of the law of averages, you’d be able to view more realistic long-term statistics on average sale amounts, product popularity and quantity related to conversion (which we’ll talk briefly next). Remember that visitors won’t just find your site on the infinite size of the internet, stick to your marketing plan to achieve that level of consistent traffic.


Once you have a consistent flow of traffic, check your conversion rates. A purchase conversion rate is the percentage of people that came to your site and made a purchase. On average a very good conversion rate is between 2 - 4%. With your 1000/month traffic, discussed above, you could be receiving 20-40 orders. Referring back to the minimum traffic being 1000/month to make sense of your data: If you only had 100 visitors your average of 2-4 sales would mean very little as they wouldn’t have consistent characteristics you can make sound decisions off of.


Here’s a scale of conversions that you can keep on hand to make sure you’re checking your store’s health.



Consider installing the Lucky Orange app to get insight into customer behaviour and work on improving your customer experience.


Beyond traffic and conversion rates, there are plenty of other numbers you can dive into to determine the health of other areas of your site and sales. In this post we won’t cover those more intermediate or advanced statistics, however, we have a great guide on what the other numbers refer to on your overview dashboard. Moreover, if you’re a fan of numbers and really want to succeed in your business, you can dive into the Shopify Analytics Reports, Google Analytics and the Facebook pixel data among many other analytical tools!


Keep a keen eye on your Shopify Analytics within your admin to stay on top of how your business is doing on a weekly or monthly basis.


Jane’s 2021 General Goods Online Store Example

Jane, a new entrepreneur, starts a new business online in 2021. It’s a post-COVID-19 world and online shopping is on the rise. Jane has had financial challenges due to current events in 2020, but is now working part-time and wants to create an additional source of income. She knows entrepreneurship takes time to learn, she’s not a tech expert, but she’s determined to put in the effort and commitment to create a business she can maintain long term, pass on to her family or sell in the future.


Although it’s a digital world, Jane will still need to do the same amount of research and planning as she would have needed to do in Bob’s time. The big difference here is that now she can easily reach a multitude of audiences quickly, use the internet to do the majority of her research from the comfort of her couch and the cost of leasing a retail space is now optional.


To open a general goods store online, Jane takes time to plan and implement. Here are the 10 steps she took to become successful in her new business:


1. Writing down the “Why” - She knows that her reason for starting a business will be her driving force that’ll motivate her to learn, research and build. This “why” is more than just extra income for her, it’s about her family and serving a specific market of customers.

2. Defining the customer - Jane sees opportunity in her region for those who aren’t able to shop in-person at any general store. She wants to serve this target market to help them easily obtain their basic essentials.

3. Researching products - Jane isn’t looking to ride temporary trends and “hot products”, she knows those will create unrelenting work to maintain daily and they aren’t a source of long-term growth for a new business. She looks up products that her target market needs or wants, but also provides good profit margins without price gouging.

4. Researching customers and competition - She’s got a keen interest in knowing what works and what doesn’t work. Jane scours legitimate sources online for information to help her with her business and marketing plan.

5. Creating a business plan - All of that research gets put into a solid plan that‘s the cornerstone of everything she’ll do in that business.

6. Creating a store - She signs up for a Shopify free trial to test out the platform and gets some idea of how it works. Jane is aware that opening a store within 2 weeks isn’t quite realistic so instead, she uses her time wisely to learn the platform and take advantage of free support to help her with anything she is struggling with. She also proactively asks Shopify support for some business advice to help her with her plans and execution.

7. Learning - Jane accesses the immense library of resources that Shopify offers to learn more about building and running a business as a new entrepreneur. She values education and knowledge, which will be a huge advantage for her when owning a business.

8. Creating a marketing strategy - She already had a high-level idea in her business plan, but now she dives deeper into the finer details on how she’ll promote and track results. She researched a bit more on the best place(s) to promote her store and where her audience is generally found online.

9. Build the store - She spends time building out her store and decides she may want to level her store up in the future with the help of a Shopify Expert, but for now she uses the simple tools provided in the Shopify admin to easily create her site. She reaches out to Shopify support for any further questions and advice.

10. Implement! - Jane starts her business and regularly checks her analytics and results. She’s got a plan so she knows when to pivot or ask for help.


Entrepreneurs Don’t Succeed Without The Help of Others

Because you have 24/7 access to our Shopify Support Team you can reach out for some guidance on your business. Our advisors are there to help you achieve your business goals as well as solve your technical questions.


Mentorship and continuous learning are some of the biggest factors that separate those who’ll succeed and those who won’t. If you don’t have an entrepreneurial mentor, jump into our Shopify Community forums, join a Facebook/Reddit entrepreneurship group, read some great entrepreneurship books, watch some amazing TED Talks, scroll your way into #smallbusiness or #entrepreneurship TikTok, or talk to one of our Shopify Advisors. You don’t need to be in the midst of chaos or obstacles to ask for guidance.


The help and mentorship is all around, you just need to reach out and grab it.


The earlier you reach out to someone to assist you along your journey, the sooner you will be able to see positive results from your efforts!


Learning & Resources for the New Entrepreneur


Learning will be your best friend! The more you learn and research, the less daunting your entrepreneurial journey will be. Never expect things to be easy, but expect obstacles to shrink along the way.


Throughout the post above there are several resources that have been linked to assist with context and concepts. Here’s a collection of the must-have resources for new entrepreneurs, the large majority of these below haven’t been listed in the rest of the post above.


These links and resources will help you understand the need for setting realistic goals and expectations as well as some actual strategies you can implement to help your business get off the ground!


Self Development


Planning & Research


Strategy Options to Implement


Marketing Options to Consider


Shopify FREE Compass Courses & Tools


Finding Mentorship & Community

Tell us in the comments what were the best lessons you learned about yourself from your first business venture?