How I Built a T-Shirt Store Using Shopify over the Weekend (& made a profit!)

Introducing The Stranger Shop!

The concept behind my store is built upon the experiences I’ve had in my life as a Native American girl growing up as a stranger in foreign countries around the world- in particular, Mongolia. Why? Mongolians and Navajos have a lot in common, culturally and aesthetically.

To name just a few: Mongolians live in gers (yurts) and we live in hogans, we were both traditionally nomadic and we share a lot of the same values in regards to our elders, children, the environment, and maintaining our traditional way of life.

Unfortunately, we also share a lot of the same struggles such as mining, alcoholism and lack of opportunity in the arts. However, as of now, Mongolians and Navajos are largely strangers to each other. This shop hopes to build lasting connections between our cultures.

With the profits from The Stranger Shop, I’m hoping to fund a program to empower young Navajo and Mongolian artists to celebrate cultural differences, broaden perspectives and find common ground through art.

 How did I do it?

I chose Shopify over other websites like Storenvy, Squarespace, BigCartel and Esty because of the resources they provide to their shops. With Shopify, you get a 7 day free trial which is helpful because you can test your concept and make a small amount of money before fully committing to their subscription model.

I used Teelaunch to produce my first t-shirts because they had the best offer in terms of cost per shirt and they had great reviews. I chose to print my shirts on Next Level brand t-shirts because one of my favorite Native American brands, The NTVS, uses them so I am familiar with their quality.

If I had a bit more patience I would have planned the opening of my store in a way that generated more hype by doing more sneak peeks and marketing my grand opening as an exclusive preview for friends and family, with coupon codes and all that. I could have done that, but at the same time I think getting started is more important than being perfect.

Total investment so far

My only investment so far has been purchasing my domain name with privacy protection from GoDaddy for $21. With Teelaunch, I don’t have to deal with inventory, manufacturing or shipping, so my initial investment is super low. Baring that in mind, my profit margin is also a bit lower than it could be if I handled it all myself. This business model is known as drop-shipping and if you’d like to learn more about it, Shopify has a really great article called “The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping“.

Future Plans

In the future, I want to include a wide variety of products but for now, selling a few simple t-shirts seemed to be the smartest way to go about making a profit, learning about shop ownership and gaining brand recognition. There was barely any upfront costs, and I was able to start my store over the course of one weekend.

Next month, I will be adding designs created by my Mongolian artist friend Dokino and hopefully more opportunities will continue to come my way.

That being said, there will be a few more costs to consider if I am to continue growing my brand. Some that I’ve identified so far are as follows:

Shopify subscription: $30/month

Facebook ads: $32/month+

Custom email from Google: $10/mo

Online business number from Skype: $3/mo

The Desert Dweller Collection

My first collection of T-shirts is called the Desert Dweller, in reference to my home state of New Mexico, where I’ve lived on-and-off for 10 years. These shirts feature hand-drawn minimalist designs that I scanned and converted into vectors using Illustrator.

The collection also features an alien head sticker because my home state is known for strange alien encounters. I’ll be sharing my experiences once I’m back home for the summer!

Click here to check out my collection and use coupon code ‘Sky17’ at checkout for 20% off your first purchase!

There is no one way to start an online business but I hope you were able to take something useful away from my experience! If you own a shop, share it in a comment down below! Thanks for reading and #staystrange

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