If you’re one of the many who dream of starting a business, what’s stopping you? Is it fear of failure? Lack of resources? In 2018, while 62% of Americans wanted to be their own bosses, only one in seven of them believed it was a “realistic” goal that year.
Yes, there are many reasons starting a venture isn’t viable for some. People around the world face unique personal, social, and economic hardships. We also know that the economic climate is unsettling right now and it can be scary to think about starting a business. But if you’ve got Internet and are able to read this, you’ve already got a head start! Take this time to research and get inspired by the many who have gone before you and fulfilled their dreams. Tons of entrepreneurs are launching online businesses, with no prior experience, thanks to educational resources at their fingertips.
Don’t believe me? Below, I want to highlight nine success stories from Foundr’s Start & Scale course. These entrepreneurs hail from all sorts of backgrounds and different stages of life. Some were already running struggling businesses; others had never launched a website before (we’ve even got one student who started his online store at 71 years old!).
All of them found success, thanks in part to the guidance serial ecommerce entrepreneur Gretta van Riel offers in the course modules, and the support from fellow students in the membership group.
Ready to meet them? Read on!
Product: Drying powder for spray tans
This story is for all of you out there who have genius ideas but frustratingly lack the skills and know-how to get started. With a self-professed obsession with fake tanning, Fiona O’Beirne came up with her winning product idea by trying to solve her own problem. When she was running her spray tanning business, she kept seeing the same complaints from her clients and herself: spray tanning is messy, leaving stains on everything.
Fiona wanted to create the perfect fake tan drying powder to prevent this. The only problem?
“I knew nothing about domains,” she says. “I knew nothing about how to source product. I knew nothing about setting up a website.”
With $9,000 to invest in her business idea, Fiona decided to spend some of it on the Start & Scale course, which taught her all of the above and so much more.
“It got me from having an idea to this product that I’m so proud of,” Fiona says.
Since launching in October 2018, GlowDry has been featured in Vogue and has raked in $71,000, and the only dip in sales was when the product completely sold out! GlowDry products can be found in Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia.
Even with all the success her product has seen, Fiona says one of the best things about running her online store is that she can work around her young son.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been,” she says. “I’ve always been searching for something more, and I feel like this is the thing.”
Product: Eco-friendly safety razors for women
Maybe you’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, full of desire to call your own shots and change the world, but you haven’t got any winning product ideas, or you’ve no clue where to begin. That’s how Amy Mitchell felt when she first started.
Eventually, she realized she wanted to help the environment by encouraging people to reduce their plastic waste. That’s how she came up with Lisse, which sells eco-friendly safety razors for women.
To make her idea a reality, she leaned on the advice shared in Start & Scale. Amy says she loved how the course provided a step-by-step guide.
The parts of the course that really resonated with her were on user-generated content and Instagram. Applying what she learned, Amy was able to grow Lisse’s Instagram to a highly engaged group of nearly 2,000 followers in three months. She also works with influencers who help spread the word about her product.
“Without that step in the course, there’s no way I would be where I am today,” she says.
Pre-launch, Amy built an email list of 900 subscribers, which resulted in 96 orders on launch day. And since then, she’s had 265 orders and $18,000 in sales.
Laura and Jason van Dyk
Store: God’s Fingerprints
Product: Artwork inspired by the Bible
Creatives are often told they’ll never make a living by making art or following their passion. If you’ve ever been discouraged by such words, you need to meet Laura and Jason van Dyk. Both graphic designers and practicing Christians, the husband-and-wife team was able to merge art and their faith to create God’s Fingerprints, which sells artwork inspired by the Bible.
What started as a small production selling prints to family and friends soon grew into something much larger as more people started requesting their artwork. The van Dyks launched their website, and business was okay, but they dreamed of being able to take it full time.
That’s when Jason came across Start & Scale in July 2018 and dove into the modules. By the end of the year, sales were so good that Jason was able to take the business full time. A few months later, Laura was able to join him.
Within one year of taking Start & Scale, God’s Fingerprints went from making about 100 sales a month to nearly 1,200 a month.
“Now we’re both able to do this full time and focus on the things that we love,” Jason says.
Product: Sustainable luxury goods made from fish leather
Mayura Davda-Shah is an entrepreneur’s daughter and an avid traveler. So it’s fitting that the idea for her product came to her while on a trip to Iceland. It was there that she saw faux snake-leather goods made from salmon skin, a more environmentally friendly leather.
Despite holding a master’s degree in entrepreneurship, Davda-Shah turned to the real-life, practical guidance of successful founders as she launched her fledgling business. She started researching online and came across Start & Scale, devouring the content that was available for free online.
“I instantly became a fan of Gretta,” Davda-Shah says. “It was an instant moment of ‘Yes! This is what I want to be a part of and learn from.’”
From packaging to product design to supply chain, Davda-Shah’s decisions were informed by the lessons she learned in the Start & Scale course. Within two months, she grew MAYU’s Instagram to 500 followers without any paid promotions. Today, her products have been in fashion shows and Harper’s Bazaar India.
“ was the one who inspired me the most,” she says. “She was the reason I got convinced of the course and of being able to dream big and also achieve it.”
Cat and Leo
Store: Bushflow Herbals
Product: Organic herbal tea and handcrafted skincare products
After working as a nurse for 10 years, Cat felt drawn to naturopathy, finding her true passion in herbal medicine. That’s when she began making her own organic herbal teas and skincare products inspired by the Australian bush she lives in.
She launched her business, Bushflow Herbals, and began selling in market stalls with the help of her partner and marketing guru Leo. But the couple yearned to take the business online. Leo had been listening to Foundr podcasts and heard about Start & Scale; the pair decided to give it a shot.
“It definitely has given me a really great direction with what kind of audience that I’m targeting,” Cat says.
They also loved the support they found in the accompanying Facebook group, where members encouraged them to start a Kickstarter to raise funds for their skincare line. Cat and Leo launched a Kickstarter campaign aiming for $5,000 and ended up hitting more than $6,000.
Thanks to the course, Bushflow Herbals went from making less than $500 a month in sales to $3,000 to $4,000 a month.
Cat and Leo were so impressed with the results from Start & Scale that they’ve enrolled in Instagram Domination to continue to skyrocket the growth of their business.
Store: Bodker Shoes
Product: Athletic fashion shoes
Having an excellent product means nothing without an audience that wants to buy it. That’s something Richard Paki learned the hard way. He launched his shoe brand, Bodker Shoes, but for the first two years, he says, it bombed. Sometimes, he wouldn’t make a sale for months on end.
“We thought we had the greatest product,” he says. “We thought that this was going to be a hit. Having the greatest product doesn’t mean anyone knows about it.”
But then, Richard enrolled in Start & Scale. Combing through the course modules, he applied what he learned and was able to breathe new life into his five-year-old business. The most valuable lesson he learned was how to build meaningful connections and an engaged audience through social media.
Thanks to the course, Richard grew Bodker Shoes’ Instagram account from 1,000 followers to nearly 10,000. When he relaunched his business, he was able to bring in about $4,000 in sales on the first day.
Store: G. Thomas
Product: Sophisticated urban streetwear for men
Never underestimate the power of connecting with your brand’s audience. When fashion designer Sarah Gill-Thomas launched her men’s streetwear line, G. Thomas, she struggled to turn her audience into paying customers or attract media attention. She reached out to some magazines—but no one replied.
“When it came to doing ecommerce, things got really chaotic for me,” she says. “So I really needed that guidance from Start & Scale. That made life so much easier.”
The module where Gretta talks about creating a customer persona and connecting with your audience really resonated with Sarah.
“I reverse-engineered myself and my brand,” she says.
After getting clear on who her ideal audience was and shifting her brand image, she was able to reach the right people and increase sales.
“Gretta’s kind of my ecommerce idol,” Sarah says. “I’m so impressed by this woman.”
Today, Sarah no longer has to fret about never hearing back from publications. Her fashion brand has now been featured in GQ!
Store: Blue Brew Tea
Product: Butterfly pea flower tea blends with a natural blue hue
Kim Le founded Blue Brew Tea because of her passion for herbal teas, but was frustrated with the lack of business growth. She was doing everything on her own. Out of desperation, she started looking for a resource that could help her. That’s when she stumbled upon Start & Scale. She already knew Gretta from her SkinnyMe Tea success and decided to enroll in the course.
Now, Kim says she wishes she’d started the course before she created her product.
“Before that, I had an idea of what I wanted, but I just couldn’t articulate it,” she says. For example, she had worked with a graphic designer, but because Kim lacked a firm grasp of her brand identity, it didn’t end up going well. But now that she knows exactly who her brand and audience are, she’s redoing it and making more progress.
She credits Start & Scale with helping her find her path. “Just having that structure and having a path to work through really, really helps.”
Product: Natural breath-freshening gel
Think it’s too late to start a business? Meet 71-year-old Derek Golding. With 40 years of experience as a dentist, he developed an all-natural breath-freshening gel and other oral care products. He’d been working on this side hustle on his evenings and weekends and sold the products out of his office, but he wanted to see if he could take his venture online.
With no online sales or marketing experience, Derek sought the help of the Start & Scale course and its accompanying Facebook group. That April, he cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate his first online sale. Another big milestone? When his first holistic dentist customer placed a second bulk order from him.
“Ideas are a dime a dozen,” he says. “It’s the implementation of the idea that really, really makes the difference.”
For retired people and those over 65 who are considering starting businesses, he has these words of advice: “Go right ahead. You’ve got wonderful knowledge, wisdom, and experience to share.”
We Are Here For You
During these uncertain times, we wanted to bring you some inspiring stories from our very own students. We are so proud of them! As you saw from these diverse success stories, none of these entrepreneurs mentioned having a “perfect” idea. All of them took a leap of faith, but they didn’t do it alone. Through Start & Scale, they followed the advice of a seasoned ecommerce founder and had a community of fellow students to lean on.
So let these nine online store founders inspire you to dive into the world of ecommerce entrepreneurship. Who knows? Maybe one day, we’ll be writing about you.