On Launching An Online Store While Recovering From An Illness At Home

$1,600
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
Good Look Gamer
from BRIELLE
started January 2018
$1,600
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
2.74M
alexa rank
212
followers
35
followers

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, my name is Dennis Michels, I run Good Look Gamer, a webstore for modern board and card games. Our products vary greatly, as new games are released daily. We take a lot of pre-orders for upcoming games, sometimes months before they are released.

My customers mainly consist of adults who enjoy the challenge of a board game, competing with friends and family or cooperating in reaching a shared goal for fun or glory :)

Our turnaround currently is around $1600 per month, and we’re still growing.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The start of this adventure was during a bad time in my life. I had gotten ill and was housebound for months, with no hope of returning to my regular job as an audio/video technician. I was really afraid I would never get better and would lose my job and my income. During this period I was also getting back into my old hobbies of reading comic books and enjoying board/card games to keep me occupied and take my mind off things.

Me and my wife had fantasized and discussed starting our own business a few times in the past. And since I was sitting at home, not feeling very productive, I figured; hey, let’s just do this. And so I started prototyping a website, brainstorming a name and sketching logos.

My wife and I came up with Good Look Gamer, with the idea of selling board/card games and geeky fashion so you can Look Good while Gaming :) Well, the clothing part never really took off, so we stuck with just selling games. And to be honest, someone playing games automatically always looks good.

To start off the business I did 2 things: I began taking pre-orders for upcoming games, and I started selling off parts my old collection of gaming materials through local listings and forums. And this turned out to be a great way to raise some starting capital and to get a feel for who my customers are and what they are looking for. I was taking orders from the first week of launching the business.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Well, I don’t really manufacture my own products. I did, however, design, prototype and create my own webshop, so let’s talk a bit about that.

I have a degree in graphic design and years of experience in building websites as a freelance web designer. For building my website I narrowed down the CMS I wanted to use to two candidates: WordPress or Shopify and actually built prototype webshops in both systems. Eventually, I chose to use WordPress because of a few reasons: cost, expandability, flexibility, and familiarity.

Startup costs were kept at a minimum, I bought a domain name and hosting. I got myself registered with the chamber of commerce and that was it.

Be where your clients are. Research the platforms your clients are using and engage with them.

on-launching-an-online-store-while-recovering-from-an-illness-at-home

Describe the process of launching the business.

I did the web design myself, the logo was suggested by an acquaintance and is… adequate. Probably need to redo that one sometime :)

I researched popular online platforms for selling games, and quickly learned that there actually are only two good places to sell games professionally: eBay and BoardGameGeek (BGG as it’s known everywhere in the gaming hobby) So, my strategy was as follows:

  • List pre-orders for sale on my website and on BGG
  • Order the required number of presales from my distributor
  • Ship anything that was paid for
  • Any leftovers got to put up on eBay and listed as in-stock on my website
  • Repeat

Doing sales this way is how I started building up capital and stock.

I was in luck as one of the first games I listed for pre-order turned out to be in-demand and I got about 10 orders for that one, which felt like a great start to me.

I soon realized something about this pre-order strategy. I had no idea what the dimensions of the gamebox were and I needed to arrange packaging material for shipping the orders to my clients. The info was nowhere to be found, so I started asking around in the forums and it turned out no one really knew for sure, although it was suggested the game probably would have the standard box size. Great!

What is that standard size though was my next question. Someone actually got a measuring tape and measured some of his other games in his collection that also had the standard size. Armed with that knowledge I took a gamble and bought packaging material for that size. Turned out I gambled right… what a relief. Before I knew it I was shipping out my first orders.

The best marketing strategy for me so far has been being friendly and approachable for clients.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I have tried so many things to attract and retain customers. I have advertised on Facebook, Google, and Instagram. I added a free shipping option. I added a loyalty rewards program. I regularly add freebies to orders. All of these with varying success.

I tend to alternate my advertising efforts between various platforms and am currently looking to advertise on Reddit, see what that brings. My advertising budget is actually quite small, since I tend to invest all profits I make in new stock or upgrades to the store.

The best marketing strategy for me so far has been being friendly and approachable for clients. Clients literally contact me everywhere: Instagram messages, BoardGameGeek forums, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook messenger, etc. I make it a point to respond everywhere as fast as possible, the same day at least, but preferably within an hour or less. I always include a friendly thank you note in every order, which really gets me a lot of positive feedback from clients.

Another marketing strategy for me that really works is just being everywhere my clients are. I sell board games on BGG, eBay and local listings. I sell collectible card game singles on specialized marketplaces such as cardmarket.com, eBay and local listings. And every time I make a sale via whatever platform, I include a thank you letter in the order with the details of my webshop in the footer.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I got better after almost a year of being sick, which is great :) I went back to my job as an audio/video engineer, but actually started working a day less because I am doing good with my online business and I want it to grow. So I’m investing more time in it.

I think about 80 to 90% of my sales are from outside my webshop. And I also got some local regulars currently who come by to pick up their orders and am planning some social events with them to hopefully start building a bit of a local community (and sell them my stuff :)

I’m working on building 2 other websites that will act more as platforms for communities around some popular collectible games. I noticed that for some games there really isn’t an alternative to eBay for players to sell or trade their items. I’m hoping to create income from commissions on sales made by members.

My long term goal is to be a full-time entrepreneur. :)

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The biggest lesson I learned is Just Do It! Go chase that dream. Eventually, you will run into some problems, but don’t let that stop you.

The biggest problem I ran into was accounting and taxes, it turns out I’m bad at it, very bad. After about 6 months my wife suggested I’d hire an accountant because..well… Anyway, I think I gave my accountant a severe case of migraines because my administration was a terrible mess. It really took some sessions with the accountant and some longs days together with my wife to get it all sorted.

I learned that some of my peculiarities really are assets for this business. I don’t need much sleep, 5 to 6 hours per night is enough for me. All the extra time I get thanks to that is used for working; creating listings, improving the website, seeking out new products, I’m even packing orders past midnight.

Another important lesson I learned for doing business is: be where your clients are. Research the platforms your clients are using, the forums they hang out in and just built your own presence on those platforms. Engage your clients, talk to them, be one of them. It really helps if you are one of the guys.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My webshop is powered by WordPress/WooCommerce. I have chosen this platform because of the low costs, high flexibility and familiarity.

For invoicing and accounting I use Moneybird, which is highly automated and I love it. Any invoices/bills I receive in my email are automatically forwarded to a special Moneybird email address, which automatically adds it to my ledger. Thanks to a WordPress plugin all incoming orders will automatically create an invoice through Moneybird. It really saves me a lot of time and frustration.

I’m currently looking into integrating eBay with Moneybird, so all my eBay sales also automatically get a Moneybird generated invoice. Also, I’d like to automatically synchronize my website stock to eBay. I think this would really save me a lot of work and time, so I’m also looking into how to do that.

I don’t use any real productivity tools. I’ve tried plenty, but they all feel clunky, complicated and don’t really seem to save me any time.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I don’t listen to podcasts, because I think they are boring and I really can’t focus on work when someone is talking to me ;)

I do read a lot of books, but mostly fiction. I love Terry Pratchett, Marten Toonder, Tolkien, Frank Herbert and Douglas Adams to name a few.

I did start an online marketing course on Udemy a little while ago, which I’m finding quite enjoyable and inspiring. Highly recommended. I tend to watch 1 or 2 lessons per week and get inspired to take some actions to enhance my webshop or web presence. Some things I skip though, I don’t need someone explaining how to set up a Facebook page :P

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Go for it, follow your dreams, you got nothing to lose. Grab any chances and opportunities you get firmly with two hands!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Not at the moment. But eventually yeah. I would love to eventually get a creative artist for making unique assets like playing cards, custom meeples or tokens. Also, I’d love to someday start a Youtube channel for reviewing games, I’m not good on camera, so I’d be looking for a host.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Dennis Michels,   Founder of Good Look Gamer

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