My dad, who works a lot with China, one day asked me if I had any interests in selling violins. He had a contact who manufactured violins, and since I'm a violin player myself he figured he'd ask. I was intrigued, since I had just bought a new violin (the first since high school), and someone told me it was actually made in China. Turns out Chinese-made violins have gotten pretty good.
I got a catalog from the manufacturer, and the prices seemed low enough to get a good margin. My parents, who happened to be heading to China for a visit, bought two sample violins and lugged them on the plane back. Over the holidays, I played it and had a violin teacher friend of mine play it too. He confirmed the market price would be something where I could make a nice margin.
But how do I go about selling violins? I had no interest in setting up a retail store. So I figured starting by selling on-line was the way to go. There are lots of questions. Are people willing to buy a violin on-line? Who do I market this to? How do I set up an e-commerce site? I had an idea... why not sell Chinese made violins to Chinese people? Not to propagate stereotypes, but that's quite a large market (I myself belong to the Chinese violin playing demographic). It would be pretty easy to target advertising, and you'd think the trust factor would be there.
I was pretty pumped up about this over the holidays. I even got a fortune that said "An interesting musical opportunity is in your future." (Apparently taking pictures of fortunes with the iPhone doesn't work that well.) Recently, I figured I should take the next step... which I believe is to set up an e-commerce site. I'd ideally love to set up a cheap, if not free, site where people could click on a "buy" button. Then I could at least test the idea to see if any traffic was generated.
But this proved to be a little dauting. I asked Adam McFarland on his blog, and he suggested Shopify. I checked it out, but it was $25 a month. So I did some Google-ing, and found a tutorial on how to set up an ecommerce website with Wordpress in 5 minutes. Then I discovered the difference between Wordpress.org and Wordpress.com. I needed to host my own site in order to set up the e-commerce plug in. After way too many hours of researching hosting sites, I paid $80 or so to set up a bluehost.com site for a year.
It took me about 2-3 hours to set up the Wordpress e-commerce site (had to do a little debugging). I then had trouble customizing the site to look decent. So it was back to the drawing board.
I checked back on Adam's site and @nethy suggested I try Weebly, which allowed you to drag and drop your way to an e-commerce site for free. I tried that out, but I wasn't happy with shopping cart because it dumped me off on Paypal. I figured if someone was going to pay that kind of money for a violin, it'd hafta at least look like the cart was on my site. So back to the drawing board again.
I looked at Godaddy's e-commerce solution... $9 a month. It got bad reviews. 1and1's web hosting was $9.99 setup fee, and required a year subscription. Its reviews said it was hard to use for newbies (that's me!). Yahoo was like $30+ with a percentage of revenue too. I think my next step is going to be Shopify, Adam's original suggestion.
I keep wondering if I'm overcomplicating this process. I'm already out $80 for hosting. I'm to the point where I think I need to just suck it up and try one of these sites, thinking I'll never learn if I don't try. And now I'm wondering if this is even a good idea. Any advice from the experienced crowd out there?