Biomedical engineer, nanotechnologist, entrepreneur. Startup advisor. Successful grant writer. Co-founder Medical Nanotechnologies, Inc., founding VP of Xanapath, Inc., and owner of Caizio, LLC.
I've been using Zoho's suite of products for over 15 years (before they were called Zoho). They offer a CRM which is very good, has many integrations similar to other CRMs, is very customizable, and has many functions which can be automated (lead generation, campaigns, etc.).
Zoho offers a package of over 40 apps for $360/year per user which includes Zoho CRM and many other useful apps (Mail, Books for accounting, online chat, etc.). Worth looking into, especially if you will use the other apps that Zoho offers.
Aside from the advice already given such as validating your market and raising funds from early-stage sources (i.e., friends & family, bootstrapping, incubators and accelerators), another set of sources that are often overlooked are grants.
Most grants are quite competitive, specific for what they look for, and take time to put together and to receive funding. However, they are non-dilutive. If you are developing a solution for where there's a fit for a grant opportunity, I recommend pursuing grants in conjunction with traditional funding sources.
One major program backed by the US Small Business Association is the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This is essentially a $2.5B seed fund!
Good luck with your new venture.
The first thing to do is do assess whether your conversion rate is really that low. E-commerce conversion rates are around 5% for fashion and apparel. Considering you are a startup, then it's quite reasonable that you'll be getting a far lower conversion rate than the 5% average. Here's more info on e-commerce conversion rates - https://www.smartinsights.com/ecommerce/ecommerce-analytics/ecommerce-conversion-rates/ and https://www.invespcro.com/blog/the-average-website-conversion-rate-by-industry/
If your conversion rate is really low, then you need to determine the cause. Is it pricing, product offering, targeted customers, etc.?
If your price is higher than your competitors, then try to justify that higher price before dropping it to match (sure fire way to run out of business). You don't want to race to the bottom of the price pile as existing, entrenched competitors can undercut you. So, promote your benefits (faster turnaround time, quality products, impeccable customer service, etc.). Sure, there will be customers purely shopping on price, but there will be those who are willing to pay more with adequate justification.
Maybe you are targeting the wrong customers? Take a look at your current and past customers and see if there's a particular profile that the majority of those customers share. Then focus your marketing and website on those customers.
It sounds like you are doing custom apparel and other decorated goods, such as promo items. Most customers (typically businesses) looking for promo items and corporate gifts typically like to deal with as few vendors as possible. So, you can start with your existing t-shirt customers and ask them what other products they purchase or would like to purchase. It's a lot easier to sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones.
I've used both Shopify and Wordpress with the WooCommerce plugin. Both setups work well. The choice depends on your needs.
Shopify is definitely a turnkey solution. It has built-in POS and inventory management and easily integrates with numerous selling channels as you've mentioned. There's a lite plan ($9/month) that doesn't give you an online store, but does allow you to sell products on Facebook and your own website. If you are looking to get up and running rather quickly, Shopify is the way to go.
Wordpress with WooCommerce takes a bit more effort to set up. While it's free, you'll need to host your site somewhere, so you'll need a web host that is optimized for WooCommerce. Also, to get the functionality that Shopify offers out-of-the-box, you'll want to add some plugins to WooCommerce. You may also want to upgrade to a paid theme to further customize your shop. So, using Wordpress with WooCommerce may not end up being less expensive than Shopify. The main advantage of using Wordpress with WooCommerce is that you have much greater flexibility in customizing your store.
If you are looking to quickly open up a standard online store, then Shopify is your best bet. If you are willing to put in some time and are looking for a more customized store, then go with Wordpress with WooCommerce.
We started with Shopify and then switched to Wordpress with WooCommerce as our needs grew and we wanted some custom features in our store that were difficult or impossible to do on Shopify.
Wordpress will give you many more blogging options and capabilities than Shopify. There are also numerous plugins for Wordpress that allow you to sell services. WooCommerce is great for selling products, but you may want to find a plugin that allows you to sell just services. You don't really need all the inventory and other product-related capabilities that WooCommerce provides if you are just selling services.
Shopify is great for selling tangible products. However, it sounds like you want to sell services, so the many tools and plugins that give Shopify users the ability to quickly set up shop aren't really helpful to you.
I decided to embark on the entrepreneurial journey over 20 years ago ... and haven't looked back. I love what I do, but being an entrepreneur isn't for everyone. The first two things you should do is (1) make sure that those who share your life with you are on board and (2) make sure that being an entrepreneur is really what you want.
Once you've checked off these two items, then I recommend looking at your business from the outside first and gradually looking inward. Here's a list of priorities:
1. Your Customers - no company is successful without customers. So, as a startup, you need to know (1) who are your customers, (2) how do you reach those customers, (3) how much are those customers willing to pay.
2. Your Team - determine the personnel gaps that need to be filled and have a plan to fill those gaps. These don't have to be employees. You may be able to fill some gaps with contractors, consultants, advisors, etc.
3. Your Business - determine your corporate structure and file the appropriate registrations. Now is the time to make sure you separate business from personal.
Good question. There are already some good answers here, but beyond the mechanistics, you should determine whether or not entrepreneurship is right for you. Becoming an entrepreneur is a career and lifestyle choice ... and a very rewarding choice for those who fit. Some questions that you can ask yourself (and be honest):
1. How do you handle extreme uncertainty? You won't know when you'll get your next paycheck or when you'll land that first customer.
2. How are you at making big decisions? While you should get advice from mentors, partners, etc., you will be making the final decisions.
3, How responsible are you? Many things need to get done and you'll be responsible for all of them until you hire people to help.
4. How is your support system? If you have a family, then make sure they are OK with your decision. Have trusted mentors in place.
These are just a few questions to consider.
Taking the entrepreneurial path can be very rewarding and fulfilling. I decided over 20 years ago (during grad school) to be an entrepreneur and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
It's not necessary to like the industry, but it's important to have a passion for the problem that you are solving. That passion will drive you to create a solution for the need that you have identified.
Yes, there will definitely be tasks that you will not like to do. Delegate those tasks when you can. At the early stages, you may not have any choice but to do those activities yourself. Keep driving towards solving the problem that you started out trying to solve - who knows, you may start enjoying the customer interactions once you see that you are helping them out!