3 Points to Consider before opening an Online Shop (especially if you are a working mother)

You may know that I used to have an Online Shop on my website Tokyo Urban Baby.

Back in 2012, I dreamed of having my own business.

I had just had my first baby, and the thought of going back to full-time work made me sad (as I would miss my baby) and stressed (as I couldn’t imagine working 9-5 and coping with the same level of work as I used to!).

So I thought one of the best options would be to have my own online shop. Perfect!

This is the schedule I envisioned:

  1. I could look after my baby during the day
  2. Pack boxes of products for my customers at night
  3. Send the packages off the next morning

Simple right?!

But it wasn’t so simple!

Here are the 3 reasons why an Online Shop was not the right business for me:

  1. It is hard work!: Do you love packing boxes? Even if you love wrapping presents and sending them to your loved ones, it’s quite different when you need to be packing lots of products every day. If you are successful and your business grows, then you may grow big enough to employ staff to pack the boxes for you. But the truth is, at the beginning of starting your business, you need to be prepared to be packing the boxes yourself for quite a long time (for example, 2-3 years).  I thought I could do it, but to be honest after looking after my baby, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house, the last thing I wanted to do it to pack boxes! I just wanted to lie down and rest.
  2. Small margin: selling products on an online shop (at least if you haven’t made the products yourself) results in quite a small margin for yourself after you take out the costs of buying the products from an importer/wholesaler. So you need to sell ALOT of products every week to make enough money to support your income. And of course this means more boxes to pack!
  3. Costs: Living in Tokyo, I had noticed that there was a HUGE variety of overseas baby products that weren’t available in Japan. So I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to import overseas baby clothing and baby products and sell them on my online shop. I went with my business partner Tomoko to a Baby Products Wholesaler Expo at Tokyo Big Site, made some contacts with wholesalers and importers, and we found one that we could order small volumes of products from. This was fine, but the products that we were buying from this importer were already available in boutique shops in Japan, so we thought why would people buy from us if they can already buy it at the shop? We wanted to import NEW unique products, but when we investigated this, we found out that any product that is to be sold to babies in Japan requires strict testing by the Japanese authorities. And every test has to be conducted on every single product and color, which costs approx. 80,000yen per test! We didn’t have that kind of money to start out with, so we really struggled with starting out an online shop in Japan filled with unique baby products that had already passed the strict testing.

So if you are thinking to start your own online shop, it is important to consider the costs, the potential of your target market, the margin that you will be making, and also most importantly if you enjoy packing boxes!

Hope this helps for when you consider what kind of business you would like to start 🙂

x Kate

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