Paul Carney

Working hard to make things simple

My First Web Business – The Goods (Part 2 of 5)

As you read in my first installment, I now had a business idea and it was time to build it. First order of business: What would the Baby Necessities gift baskets have in them?

My wife and I came up with a list of items we thought were necessary to have around when you have a newborn. Most of the items were available through your local pharmacy or grocery store. If I was to make a profit, I needed to buy the goods at closer to wholesale price, but I was a small company with no history and low order volume. How would I get someone to give me a wholesale price?

I canvassed my wife’s network of pharmacists. There was one who had worked with her at a major retail chain, but had left to work for a small, local pharmacy called Leesburg Pharmacy in Leesburg, Virginia. I contacted the owner to see if he would be willing to sell me items at a discount. As the old saying goes, “You don’t know unless you ask.” So I should not have been that surprised when he agreed to allow me to place bulk orders of the items from him at his cost plus 10%.

In keeping with the “necessities” part of the product’s name, we searched for a company that had a wide range of health, safety, feeding, care and sleep-oriented products. The clear choices were The First Years and Johnson’s Baby Care. I attempted to contact both and only The First Years got back to me.

I indicated that I wanted to order about 15 of their products by the case. I even agreed to pre-pay for the order if necessary. They asked a few questions, wanted a bank reference and a few days later, gave me the way to place my order. Sweet! I got to order, get it shipped to me and they billed me. My first order was for over $750 worth of goods and the truck showed up 6 days later with the products. From that point on, my typical order exceeded $1,500, they continued to bill me and I paid the bill on-time. I was fortunate that The First Years gave me such a great opportunity.

Even back in 1998, I was amazed at how many of the other things I could get online: the unique carriage-shaped wicker baskets, the stuffing to put in it, even the ability to buy various cardboard box sizes by the pallet! I now had all of the pieces and parts to build the baskets – all I needed was customers…

In my next post, I will describe how I set up the business from business cards to credit card merchant accounts – and everything in between. As you will see, a lot of work will have gone into the business by that point and there is still not one paying customer.

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