Lauren Mitchell was looking for a way to escape her corporate nine to five life. She wasn’t exactly sure what to do and just kept researching her options until she found eCommerce and dropshipping. In just a few months, she was able to quit her job. Read the interview below on her journey to becoming a 7 figure eCommerce entrepreneur!
SaleHoo’s Sarah: Hi, everybody! This is Sarah, from SaleHoo. Today, I’m here with Lauren Mitchell, a Shopify dropshipper from LA. Thanks so much for joining us, Lauren!
Lauren Mitchell: Yeah, Sarah, of course! Thanks for having me!
Sarah: So today, we are going to get a little bit of insight into her journey, how she got started in eCommerce, and some advice that she’s got for anyone who’s just starting. So, Lauren, how about you tell us a little bit about your story. How did you get into eCommerce and entrepreneurship? What was that like for you?
Lauren: Yeah, so I’ve been in eCommerce now for over three years. I started in 2017, and it was really just a way for me to take a nontraditional route, and do something that I really enjoyed (AKA not the corporate world), getting to create my own hours, really getting to be my own boss. And I had done so much research on YouTube, Google, anywhere. I had looked for viable ways to make money online, but a lot of things just seemed like it would take so much effort to learn the skills. I didn’t know much coding, or technical computer skills, and so this seemed like a really good way to get in the door.
What sold me was the fact that everybody wants a physical product. They want to be able to pay for something, and get something actual in return. And, so, I figured, “Hey, why not just try it.” I started with dropshipping – I no longer do that, I have my own warehouse now and I transitioned, but I started with dropshipping, and it was the perfect model for me, because I didn’t have very much capital to begin with.
I was able to start that way, and it worked great. Within two months, I was able to quit my full-time job. I was making more money with my online store than I was with my career path that I had gone to college for.
Sarah: Great! That actually sounds really similar to my story, because I also saw this opportunity, and was like, “Why aren’t more people doing this?” Is that what you felt as well, when you saw this thing? A lot of people are like, “Is dropshipping a scam? Is it for real?” But it really is the future.
Lauren: Yeah! It’s so crazy that people think that way! At first, I was pretty skeptical, myself – and you want to give your customer the best possible experience.
So, for me, I was nervous going into it, because I wasn’t sure if I might be able to provide my customers with what they expect. “How am I going to be able to do this properly?” And I was able to find some things that really helped me. I was able to find American suppliers, as well – that was something that was super helpful, as well, just to cut back on shipping times.
I love what SaleHoo does, because it really helps cut out a lot of issues that those drop shippers have, that give the rest of us a bad name.
Sarah: Right. And, for you, how important do you think it is, having those local suppliers and shorter shipping times? Do you think that’s something that’s very crucial now, in this day and age of eCommerce?
Lauren: So, so important. I mean, we live in the age of Amazon, right? They’re literally talking about using drones to drop off your stuff. It’s instant – everybody has that instant gratification push, where, if they can’t get something right away, they’re much more likely to scroll past what you’re selling. And that drives a lot of people to be dishonest about what their shipping times are – so it’s so much better to work with the folks that can actually help you get those products fulfilled, and fulfilled quickly – ultimately, that’s why I ended up with my own warehouse, now, over $5 million in revenue later.
But not all people are able to do that right away. They’re not able to have their own warehouse, and their own huge staff that can fulfill at any time, day or night – so they have to find partners, and I feel like that’s where SaleHoo comes in, where it’s like, “Okay, now we actually have people to depend on to get these things fulfilled, and now we won’t have horrible reviews.”
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. And, when you were starting your eCommerce journey – was it a big learning curve for you? Did you find success right away, or did you find failure at first? What was that like for you?
Lauren: So, for me, I’m like a psycho. I was going to be a lawyer, before I went the eCommerce route, and I was very much about research, knowledge, just everything I possibly could. So, for me, a big part of the journey was just watching the journeys of other entrepreneurs. Finding out what worked for them, what didn’t work for them. So, before I even started, I had a pretty good idea of the things that were not working, and a path that I wanted to follow, that was this mashup of different experiences I was seeing online and on YouTube that was so helpful.
So, that would be a big recommendation that I would make – just look at their journeys, look at their journeys. Look at what works and what doesn’t. Google, “Top Ten Mistakes that You’re Making When You’re First Starting Out.” Do all of that research beforehand, because right when I started my company, and I was shipping out – I think it was literally a couple of months before I was able to quit my job.
So, of course you’ll experience some failures. Not every influencer post I did converted, and I had to figure out why. “Was it the captions, was it the graphics? What’s going on? Why isn’t this working?”
But a lot of people don’t realize, it’s all about experimentation. And, unless you’re willing to have those small failures, you’re going to have that ultimate, huge failure, which is, of course, just giving up and not being able to reap those benefits.
But if you can put up with those smaller failures of, you know, an influencer ad not working, or losing a couple bucks on FaceBook ads, then in the long run, it’s really going to pay off for you, because every single each little failure is just learning what doesn’t work. And you’re going to arrive at the point where it’s like, “Okay, I have a pretty good blueprint, a good framework of what works for me, what works for my demographic, my audience,” and it builds from there.
Sarah: Great! I think that’s a really great point you bring up, is that you can have these little failures, and it prevents you from having these big failures. But the main point is to give it a try, because a lot of people are afraid of that failure, but if you jump into it, it’s really the only way to learn and be able to grow. Would you agree with that?
Lauren: Yeah! And, I find that a lot of times – so, I’ll mentor eComm clients who are just starting out – and one of their biggest fears is fear of failure in terms of what other people think. Like, “Oh, I don’t want to fail, I don’t want to be known as an entrepreneur, or as a ‘wantrepeneur’ and have it not work out, and have all my friends know.”
It’s so funny, because I tell everyone, “Don’t even tell people that you’re doing this. Have it be your own little secret project.” I didn’t even tell my grandma I was doing my own store, and I wasn’t going to go to law school, until I’d made six figures in revenue. It’s completely okay to just operate in secret, and fail secretly, and succeed secretly, until it’s something that you can depend on. Don’t let that fear stop you from taking this leap and learning some new skills.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely. That’s great advice!
Let’s talk about dropshipping, or eCommerce, in 2021. If you could give a foresight into one or two products that you think will be popular sellers, what would you predict are going to be popular products to be selling in the upcoming year?
Lauren: That’s such a great question, because, for me, it’s much more about… rather than going with the trendy products, it’s really about going with products that you can build a brand around, that’s going to be long-lasting. Because, ultimately, instead of jumping from product to product – which I see a lot of people doing – and then giving up out of frustration that nothing’s working, it’s a lot better to find your niche that you’re really passionate about, and pouring everything into those products. Really sticking with it until other people see that product the way you see it.
I know that advice sometimes goes against the grain, for the folks who are looking for the most trendy products, but for me, that’s what I’ve really found is so helpful in creating a long-term brand that’s actually bringing something into the public and making it trendy with your marketing, and with how you present it – through influencers, and all forms of different collaborations. So, that’s what I would say about that. Find something that you’re really passionate about, and that you can see as being a huge hit.
There’s a couple of guidelines that I usually share with people when they say, “Okay, but I’m passionate about a lot of things.” For me, here are the guidelines that I used.
First of all, I knew that it had to be useful. It can’t just be something that’s pretty, or just sitting on a desk. It has to be something that has a “why” to it. Because, ultimately, when you’re selling, it’s all about that “why”. It’s all about, “What problem does it solve?” It has to be really useful.
And then, second of all, you’re your own best client, your own best customer. So, what do you use in your everyday life that you could make cuter, or that you could find a cuter version of? And, for me, that was exactly what I did. There was a product that I was using every single day, and I never really thought about it because it was so routine. Suddenly, I realized that I could make these cuter, and I could make these more lightweight, or whatever it was. I started looking on AliExpress for those sorts of options.
So, I would definitely recommend this: first, make sure it’s super useful, it solves a problem, has a “why.” And then second, something that you use in your daily life. Those are some really good guidelines when you’re selecting products.
Sarah: Yeah, I think that’s a really great tip, and I really liked the point that you mentioned, pick something that you can build a brand around long-term. Especially in this age of dropshipping and eCommerce, it’s definitely not just a, “Make a quick buck” thing anymore. It’s evolved so much past that.
I think, now, it’s really important for people to realize that dropshipping or eCommerce is not a business model in itself, it’s just a fulfillment method, and the business model is so much more than that. Would you agree?
Lauren: Absolutely, especially in 2021. Trust is everything, so your branding is everything. We’ve all fallen for it, we’ve all fallen for the dropshipping that takes forty-five, sixty days to fulfill. You’re here half a year later, wondering where your stuff is. We’ve all been through that frustration at this point, so we’re a lot more careful which brands we entrust our money to.
So, yeah, the old model is out. The new model is all about trust and reliability, and you have to have really solid branding in order to accomplish that.
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. I’m definitely in agreement with you there. Trust, reliability – and people are becoming really loyal to brands now, and I think that’s really important in this day and age.
So, final question for you: Let’s say, you’re a new entrepreneur and you had $500 to start a new business, or to gain knowledge, or to get a start on your entrepreneurship journey – how would you recommend that they spend this $500?
Lauren: Yeah, that’s such a great question because I was working with less than that when I was starting out! Every single dollar was precious to me. And I know for a lot of people, starting out in eComm, they really don’t have a lot to spend.
What I would recommend is, I would absolutely, 100% dropship. Find reputable suppliers that are not going to screw you over. Find partners like SaleHoo or other platforms that are really going to have your back when it comes to fulfillment. And then, second of all, focus all the rest of that money entirely on your marketing.
Don’t worry about stupid little things like logos, websites – you can do all that for free. Shopify has a free thirty, sixty or ninety day trial you can do. You can use Canva to make logos for free. So, don’t spend all this money on things that just make you feel better about being an entrepreneur – really pour into where it counts. And, for me, that wasn’t even FaceBook ads or Instagram ads – it was influencers. So, I’m talking about influencers on YouTube, influencers on Instagram- but not paid ads where you go to FaceBook, and you give them money, and they show your ads. Right now you don’t have the data, you don’t have the ideal demographic to be able to create look-alike audiences and have it really work.
So, what I’d recommend is, for that first three to six months, taking a little bit of money here and there – it can be anywhere from twenty to eighty bucks per ad – and just work with influencers. Pay them a little bit of money. Have them put up an ad that you create – if you’re on a meme page, or a quote page that relates to your niche, or if you actually have someone like a personality page – have it shooting them a product, this is why it’s so important to have fulfillment lined up and solid – and then just paying them as micro influencers. It’s better not to do big influencers, it’s better to stay small. Pay them that twenty to eighty bucks for that post, and if doesn’t convert, then you know exactly what doesn’t work. Something in that caption is wrong, something in that photo is off.
I would continue to tweak that as your budget allows, so that you’re spending the minimal amount. And once you start seeing sales come through out of your influencer ads, you’re pretty much golden. You’ve found the formula that works. You can just keep repeating it with different influencers until you have that capital really built up to be able to invest more in other parts of your business.
Sarah: Absolutely, that is such great advice. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise, Lauren!