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Interview: The Honest Truth About Starting an Online Store

By Reading time: 5 minutes

Starting a new ecommerce store can be challenging! There are so many questions to answer: what ecommerce platform to use, which brand to print on, where and how to market, and the list can go on.

Recently, we set up an interview with Summer, the Creative and Marketing Director at Bella + Canvas and Ryan, Printful customer and owner of Halcyon. They talk about Ryan’s experience starting his own clothing and lifestyle brand through Printful.

He shares details from his personal experience, like why he chose to work with Bella + Canvas, Shopify, and Printful. Ryan also took the time to give an honest look at the challenges he faces running an ecommerce store, like marketing and deciding on profit points.

Choosing T-Shirts and Landing on Bella + Canvas

At Printful there are many options to choose from when it comes to the brand you want to print on. Ryan took advantage of Printful’s sample orders to test all of the different garment options.

After sampling different brands and their print quality, Bella + Canvas was the best fit for him and his brand. The retail and “off the rack” feel of Bella + Canvas was a very important quality for him.

“The better the quality is, the more comfort I have and hopefully the better experience the customer has.”

Bella + Canvas is a great option for those seeking a socially conscious brand as well. They have built their brand on being sweatshop-free and retail quality. The higher quality of the Bella + Canvas garment was a big factor in Ryan choosing to print on them. To learn more about Bella + Canvas and their brand click here

Bella + Canvas is one of the most trusted brands, and one of the most popular choices for Printful customers.

Choosing Shopify as his Store’s Foundation

When selecting which ecommerce platform to sell on, you want to look out for what’s best for you. Printful currently integrates with 13 of the top ecommerce platforms. If you’re a little overwhelmed by all of your options, here’s a comparison chart and video to help highlight the differences between each platform.

After thorough research, Ryan decided that Shopify would be the best fit for him to work with. With Shopify’s Printful integration, Ryan liked the idea of being more hands-off when it came to fulfilling orders. He found a win-win situation: a seamless interaction for his customers, and ease of use for himself.

“It was really appealing with trying to start something new and hopefully get to the point where it can be passive income and another stream of revenue for my family.”

Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms and Printful is a top-rated print-on-demand service on their app store. If you’re looking to an ecommerce platform, Shopify is a great one to check out! It’s extremely intuitive and user-friendly.

Hands-Off Fulfillment with Printful

Ryan spent the past 10 years working for different startup companies, helping build them ground-up. This piqued his interest in the design aspects that take place in a startup, from designing logos, to packaging and web design. So he taught himself design, which sparked the idea for starting his own apparel brand.

“T-shirts seemed universal. For me it was figuring out how to make it a reality.”

Ryan was new to the world of manufacturing and fulfilling orders. He did research and found that Printful was an ideal partner for those who are beginners. Here’s why:

  • No minimum orders required, meaning no bulk inventory or overhead fees
  • No monthly or registration fees
  • Orders are fulfilled automatically
  • Fulfillment centers in Europe and USA, meaning faster and cheaper shipping options globally
  • White-label with custom branding options, meaning there’s never any Printful branding on your orders
  • Warehousing and fulfillment services so we can store and ship more products for you

And there are always new features on the way.

Of course, drop shipping isn’t perfect for everyone. One of the drawbacks that Ryan mentioned is not getting to see the product before it’s shipped out to customers. You’re relying on another company to maintain your brand’s quality, which is a leap of faith for most entrepreneurs.

Reflecting on Progress: The Honest Look

In his interview with Bella + Canvas, Ryan dives into the real experience in starting your own brand. He opens up about the topics above and also about his ecommerce struggles and victories. His transparency is a refreshing looking at starting your own ecommerce store.

“It’s definitely not easy to get going and people aren’t just going to come to your site. You have to really work hard at it, but it’s something that is totally doable.”

One of Ryan’s struggles was the higher cost of using print on demand and pricing his products. Since you are only printing one product at a time and you aren’t actually doing it yourself, this can cause for a slightly higher cost than fulfilling orders yourself.

“We had to mess with the numbers to still make it palpable for a consumer but viable for me as a company.”

But Ryan settled on a profit he was happy with, using his rule of thumb to aim for an $8 or $10 profit per shirt.

When it comes to marketing, Ryan says that Instagram has been life saver. It lets him share content that goes along with his vision for his brand, beyond just sharing his products. “The people that choose to follow you, are identifying oftentimes with what you’re doing,” he says.

Ryan’s Advice for Newcomers

“Save a little bit of money right off the bat for marketing while you’re trying to figure it all out.”

It’s going to take time and effort to get people to find your store and buy your products. This is something ecommerce entrepreneurs should keep in mind right off the bat – customers aren’t going to find you right away, you need to spend time and money to find them.   

One of Ryan’s victories was meeting his first goal of making 10 organic sales in his first three months. His goal was to not have these organic sales be family members, friends or repeat customers. They came for his marketing and work put into his online presence.

Be sure to give Ryan some love by check out his store and follow his journey on Instagram. Watch the full video with Ryan and Summer to get the full inside scoop from Ryan’s personal experience with starting his own ecommerce store!

Got an online store yourself? Feeling ready for the holiday season? Make sure you’re ready to go with our holiday marketing guide!

Holiady Marketing Guide

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  1. Joe

    This is a really great article! I to have a similar story just like Ryan working with Printufl and using Shopify as my online platform. I took a completely different routine in marketing and it is doing very successful! Give it a look, hopefully I can be featured in an article as well.

  2. Nathan

    Hi, keen to hear more about where Halcyon is at now and also your marketing methods (i.e. did you use influencers, how’d you get a good sized following on Instagram, etc.). Good work Ryan!

  3. Dave

    Great article and definitely gives me a bit of hope! I recently opened up my own ecommerce site using Big Cartel and using Printful to fulfill orders. I’ve been using Facebook and Instagram to market it but I’ve not had many nibbles so far. Persistence is the key it seems! 😊

  4. Terry Garrett

    Great interview. I’m ordering a sample tshirt from Printful before launching my brand as well. I looking forward to meeting new people, satisfying customers and inspiring others to pursue their dreams with my brand.

    Keep the great interviews coming!

    Terry Garrett

  5. Sedrick Serisola

    It was encouraging listening to Ryan’s experience with Printful and Shopify. So thank you for sharing this interview. Since the recent launch of my brand ,, I’m realizing the amount of work that goes into marketing. Ryan mentioned putting aside money for marketing. Would love to know more about the marketing strategies he uses.

    God bless.

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Hey Sedrick! I can’t speak for Ryan, but you might want to take a look at Facebook advertising! It’s pretty easy to get started with a small budget. You can read our blog about it here.

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