Have you ever wondered how to start an online business?
Entrepreneurship is a very compelling interest. You might have an idea, but maybe, you don’t know where to start. There are lots of moving parts that have to work together to form a successful business. Whether it’s building your website, marketing your business, or choosing products, there are bound to be a few challenges along the way. Although starting an online business can be an intimidating project to take on by yourself, it can also be very rewarding!
I wanted to share Grace Ke’s entrepreneurship journey on Big Sister Blog. Grace will be sharing how she started her first online business, Blvsh Jewelry at just 17 years old. She has been running her business for almost a year now, and has been able to amass over 6,000 instagram followers on her page. Grace shares her story and provides some advice to any aspiring small business owners in the world. She walks us through the challenges she went through, but also reminds us how rewarding the process has been. I’m excited to share Grace’s journey in creating Blvsh Jewelry with everyone reading.
Who is Grace Ke?
Grace Ke is an 18-year old student studying commerce at the University of Toronto. She recently finished her first year of university last week! Grace is planning to specialize in management next year, and potentially focus in finance, marketing, or data science. She loves spending time outside (when the weather is warm of course) and has recently taken up hiking in her spare time. Not to mention, Grace has always been an ambitious individual who is passionate about entrepreneurship.
Grace and I met through a club at school called the Rotman Commerce Innovation Group (RCIG). It was the summer before my third year that RCIG started a mentorship program for incoming first year students. Grace signed up for the mentorship program, and she ended up being grouped with me as her upper-year “mentor”. We spoke on a weekly basis about student life, course selection, and university advice in general. At the end of the summer, Grace applied to be a first-year intern with the club for the school year. After being selected, Grace and I worked closely to creatively market RCIG and all of its events.
What is Blvsh Jewelry?
“Blvsh Jewelry is an online ecommerce business that sells cute, trendy, and affordable jewelry products. I wanted to offer affordable prices so customers wouldn’t need to break their bank to find cute pieces of jewelry. I officially released Blvsh Jewelry last summer in June 2020.”
“My favourite product on Blvsh is probably the new snake chain. These chains come in gold and silver. They are super easy to stack and can be dressed up or down. I wanted to make sure the chains weren’t too thick or thin, so I had to specifically chose the width of the necklace.”
Why Did You Start Your Own Business?
“In high school I did a program called the Junior Achievement Company Program. This program started in October and continued towards the end of the school year in May. I worked with around 40 other high school students, who I met with each week throughout the year. Essentially, my team had to start a whole business together. I did this for two separate years in grade 10 and 11.”
“One year my ‘company’ sold popsockets that were really popular back in grade 10. We sold the products mainly in-person by setting up booths at local events and trade shows in Toronto. The next year we did reusable notebooks. At the beginning of the year, we all buy shares just like you would with a real company. At the end of the semester, everyone gets paid out based on their shares in the company.”
“When I first started the program we had to choose which department we wanted to work in. At the time, I didn’t even know what HR (Human Resources) or IT (Information Technology) departments were! I learned so much from this experience, and I think this was the main thing that inspired me to start my own business.”
Running a Business on Your Own
“I officially released Blvsh Jewelry in June 2020. I was 17 years old at the time. I’ve been running Blvsh on my own for what’s been almost a year now.”
“One benefit of running a business on my own is that I can make all the decisions by myself. I don’t have to consult anyone – I can just go with my own decision. I also have to manage every aspect of the business on my own. For example, I need to take all the product photos and edit them using adobe lightroom.”
“The difficult part about working alone is when my personal life (work, school, etc.) conflict with working on the business. When I first started university in September 2020, I noticed my website visitors went down because I wasn’t able to put in as much work as I could in the summer. I have to prioritize things I do in my life with the business.”
Choosing Your Product
“The main reason I decided to sell Jewelry was because I actually wanted to buy a pair of butterfly earrings earlier last year. I found a cute pair to buy from an online store, but the earrings were very expensive! Not to mention, I would have needed to pay extra for the shipping from the United States. I thought to myself – there has to be a more affordable option? However, I couldn’t find one! That’s when I started to think, maybe I could sell this product myself.”
“However, this wasn’t just a thought out of the blue. I’ve always known I wanted to start my own business. Some ideas I’ve thought of in the past were selling candles or mini sneaker keychains. After doing more research, I ended up choosing Jewelry. I knew if I wanted certain products, there had to be a demand for it somewhere.”
What Skills Have You Learned?
“In school courses, you learn mostly concepts. For example, in my first-year marketing class (RSM250 at UofT) I learned lots of new marketing ideas, terms, and definitions. Having my own business is great because I can see how those concepts are applied. I think it’s really cool because I’m able to use the marketing strategies I’ve learned in class to actually promote my business.”
“Being able to share the business on my resume is also something pretty cool. Having Blvsh on my resume actually helped me get an internship for this summer , as it was something unique I could talk about. I’d highly recommend anyone to start their own business. You truly learn a lot in the process.”
How to Start an Online Business – Social Media Marketing
Grace has been able to amass over 6,000 followers on her Blvsh instagram page (@blvshjewelry). Grace explains how important social media has been in creating engagement and driving traffic to her website.
“Posting consistently is important. Instagram has a lot of capabilities to help you. You can tag your products, essentially creating a shop on your instagram. When people click on the product tags it links directly to my website, which is helpful to funnel website visitors from Blvsh’s instagram. I also use hashtags on my posts to reach a wider audience and new visitors who might not follow Blvsh’s instagram.”
“I use instagram stories and highlights to create interactive polls for my followers. There was a really good turnout with the views and interactions on these types of stories. I think people like to interact with the content and click on all the buttons.”
“I’ve even started using paid ads on Facebook and Instagram. I’m getting a lot more traffic on my website even if I’m not posting as frequently as usual.”
“I decided to do an ambassador call on instagram to find 5 influencers to work with. It was styled as a giveaway at first to help with Blvsh’s instagram follower growth. I ended up choosing 5 people from the US and Canada as the winners. I sent each influencer about 3-4 pieces of jewelry, free of charge. In return, they would send me pictures wearing the products that I could post on Blvsh’s instagram. I also have jewelry sets named after each of the influencers on the Blvsh website. These measures really helped with Blvsh’s following, as each influencer shared the content with their own followers too.”
“Being able to express my creative side is one of my favourite parts about having a business. One thing I’ve done is lots of giveaways. One giveaway we did at Blvsh was for two $25 gift cards. The winners received not only a gift card, but a pair of earrings named after each of them on the Blvsh website. I did another giveaway earlier this year that was set up as a website scavenger hunt. Anyone participating had to go through my website and find little numbers I added to certain pages to win the prize. It was great because it brings more people to the website to look at Blvsh’s products.”
The Challenges of Starting a Business
“I think the biggest challenge for me was working on the back-end logistics for the website. I barely knew what Shopify was before using it. They offered a 14-day free trial when I first started, which was helpful as I learned how to use the platform. I didn’t know what a domain was. I had no idea how to ship products. Each product needed a description written on the website. These were all important things I needed to figure out as I got started.”
“Even just having to find products that I thought people would like was difficult. After I found my products, the next step was being able to effectively market them. You can market the same product in so many different ways. Figuring out these seemingly small things was hard at the start.”
Who Did You Ask for Help With Your Business?
“The main resource I used was the Shopify help center. They have 24/7 service where you can ask so many different questions. I used the help center frequently to figure out the logistics of my website. It was nice because they always give you extra advice. It ended up being a super helpful resource.”
“I also referenced some big jewelry companies when building my website. It was helpful to see how they designed their websites and layed out each page. I wanted to better optimize my own website. Essentially the goal is to get more website visitors to end up at the checkout.”
“I had to do lots of stuff on my own as well. Looking for the best manufacturers was something I needed to research. I read reviews on products and ensured I could find products I would like.”
Grace’s Advice to Starting Your Own Business
“My best advice would definitely be: just start. Starting is the hardest part! If you want to do a Shopify store, try out the 14-day free trial. You don’t even have to commit money for those first two weeks. Dip your toes in – come up with a name and logo, then start figuring out your products. I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours just trying to figure out where to put stuff on my website. With these kinds of things you just have to throw yourself in the water and test it out. Try making products and designing your website. Once you start, it’s really fun.”
“It’s very motivating to get messages from customers after they receive their products. Customers have reached out to tell me they really liked the product, and have thanked me for the customer service. Some of my customers even post pictures of their products to their personal instagram. When they tag the Blvsh instagram page, it drives traffic from their following which is great because it’s very organic. It’s also really cute to see customers enjoying their products!”
“Overall there’s definitely a lot of challenges, but I think it’s very rewarding at the end of the day. That’s the bottom line for me.”
Closing Thoughts – How to Start an Online Business
Thank you again for reading! I’m looking forward to posting more blogs featuring young and ambitious individuals. I love being able to share the successes of other people on Big Sister Blog. If you missed it, I’ve actually posted another article featuring Everett Smith, a 20-year old student who started his own student community on campus!
Once again, a special thanks to Grace for sharing her story about how she started Blvsh Jewelry. Hopefully her insight and passion for entrepreneurship will inspire you to start something yourself. Hopefully this has helped answer that burning question – how to start an online business!
“Dream Big. Start small. But most of all, start.” (Simon Sinek). If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, the best thing you can do is get started. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. If you have an idea that you’re passionate about it, people will recognize that and follow you.