I own a small business in a tiny town in rural Utah. It’s a niche business that maybe 10% of the population knows about and patronizes regularly. Prior to the pandemic, we were stable and doing ok. In March of 2020, like everyone else, we hit a crisis point. On March 16, 2020, I locked the front door and tried to map out what we were going to do to ride out whatever was going to happen next.
A few months prior, I attended a whole day workshop sponsored by our county’s economic development office on selling on Amazon. It seemed really challenging at the time but I set up a few items to try it out. The shop already had listings on EBay so adding this revenue stream seemed like a good fit. In March of 2020 I pulled inventory from the shelves and began listing every possible item on Amazon.
Very quickly we were shipping 60-70 packages a day. I had to learn shipping fees, packaging methods, mailing labels and working with the post office. The income from Amazon was enough to keep the shop afloat without in store customers and we operated that way for several months. Local customers would phone in orders and pick them up at the back door. Online sales kept the lights on.
Gradually we created a routine to the weeks and it didn’t feel like a crisis anymore. With that routine, creative flow returned and I was able to build a basic website for the shop so that phone orders weren’t the only way for regular customers to place an order. Easing of the immediate crisis also led to reaching out to other small businesses. Everyone was just trying to figure out how to have a business without in person customers. Most of my business friends were working on selling their items on their Facebook pages and websites. We were all trying different revenue streams to stay afloat.
In August of 2021, I developed a subscription box and added another stream of income. It added another selling platform to the mix and reached a different audience. The subscription boxes we now have were part of a collaboration of fiber artists and other small batch makers. The items we place in our boxes are selected as a way to support other small women owned businesses.
We currently have inventory on Amazon, EBay, Cratejoy and our own website. Our customers are back in the shop but not in the numbers from before the pandemic. That may not happen. We will continue to grow our online sales because it reaches customers beyond our little corner of the world. It’s not exactly easy but it is necessary. Our shop sends packages to all 50 states, Canada and Mexico. In my mind, each package represents a customer that we only have because of online sales. Online sales are 60% of our gross income and it looks like that will continue for a long time.
If your small business needs to increase sales, find the online income platform that fits your items and your personality and start building another stream.