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How I Imported Glasses From China and Sold Over $2400 in 5 Weeks

This is a summary of the full 12,000 word case study I published on Shopify. For a more detailed and actionable breakdown of this business, check out the full case study (trust me, it’s worth it).

If you’re an avid reader of the Shopify blog, you already know about the two in-depth case studies and business giveaways done by the Shopify content team. The first was Hello Matcha, a tea dropshipping business which wound up generating $922.16 in revenue in three days, and the second was Think Pup, a dog-themed t-shirt line that earned $1,248.90 in three weeks.

Since I’m a part of the content team at Shopify, it was now my turn to build an ecommerce business from scratch and post my findings and results on the Shopify blog. This time, I wanted to start a business that manufactured and imported products using Alibaba.

Coming up with the Business and Product Idea

When I started thinking about the business and product I wanted to sell, I first thought of who I wanted to serve. The more specific my target customer was, the easier it would be to find them and sell to them.

As a starting point, I looked at products I use everyday, and looked at products that would serve my needs. Some of the most successful businesses came out of serving a self-interested need first.

I’m a gamer, so I started looking at Amazon and Ebay for product ideas by browsing the gaming accessories categories. Eventually, I came across a product I use: blue light blocking glasses.

cs_blueblockerglasses

Blue light blocking glasses work by filtering out blue light from computer screens and televisions. This technology is commonly seen in shooting glasses, snowboard goggles and night driving glasses.

At home and at work, I wear this kind of glasses due to my eye strain issues. If I look at a computer screen for too long, my eyes begin to give out. I wanted to take these glasses and position them to gamers like myself, who might spend hours in front of a screen at a time.

Research and Validating the Idea

After I had a rough idea of what I would sell, I began to look at the market and at competitors. I looked on Amazon and eBay to look at how well these glasses sold, how much they sold for, the feedback/criticisms from buyers, and who the major players were.

cs_amazonsample1

The first thing I noticed was that people were willing to pay anywhere from $25-$90 for a pair. This got me excited since I knew I could likely source these from China for much cheaper per unit.

I also looked at Google Trends to see whether or not this was an increasing search trend.

cs_googletrends_gamingglasses

The next thing I did was a very rough, very unscientific, break-even analysis. I wanted to see how many glasses I would need to sell to break-even based on my guesses of cost and price.

I guessed I would order 100 glasses, pay $7 for each and sell them for $39.99 (similar to what competitors sold their glasses for). This gave me a calculation of around 21 glasses needed to be sold to break-even. Again, since this was very rough and didn’t factor in things like marketing costs, shipping and anything else, I doubled that number. Selling 42 glasses seemed reasonable to me.

cs_glassesbreakeven_guess

Next, I looked at if I could even confidently sell 42 glasses. I reverse-engineered how I thought I would sell at least 50 glasses by brainstorming the channels I would sell them through and how many I thought I could sell in in channel.

cs_marketingchannel_list

Coming up with the Name and Logo

I began writing down and brainstorming names that I thought would best describe the benefit of the glasses.

cs_namebrainstorm

I eventually went with “Syght”, a unique spelling of the word “Sight”.

Next, I went to 1001 Fonts to find a futuristic font that I could use with a commercial license and to Creative Market to find a logo I could use, with an extended license.

syghtemblem

Finding a Supplier on Alibaba and Importing Products

To find a manufacturer who could create the type of glasses I wanted, I looked to Alibaba, the world’s largest wholesale and manufacturing marketplace. I began searching for “Computer glasses” and made a short list of potential suppliers I wanted to contact.

cs_alibabasearch

I began to compare suppliers on their minimum order quantities, price, and available designs. I created a mockup of what I wanted my glasses to look like and where I wanted the logo to be placed on the glasses.

glasseswithlogo

I contacted around 20 suppliers in total after a few days of searching and exchanging messages. I eventually narrowed it down to 2 suppliers after ensuring the suppliers were reputable by looking at how long the supplier has been active on Alibaba, their reviews, and if they offered Trade Assurance.

Due to the nature of this case study, I was limited with the amount of time I had. This meant that I didn’t order a sample before placing a larger order. Always order a sample and don’t do what I did. Since this was an educational case study, there wasn’t much to lose on my end by simply trusting the supplier.

I negotiated one supplier down to 100 units for my first order, at $3 per piece. In total, the order came out to $370 including shipping

cs_glassesorderconfirmation

Since I wanted to sell these glasses for a hefty margin, I decided it was a good idea to try and increase the perceived value of the glasses. To do this, I wanted to bundle in a few items with each purchase.

I went to AliExpress to look for glasses cases and microfiber cloths. AliExpress is similar to Alibaba (and owned by the same company) but allows for smaller and single quantities to be ordered. This is good if you want to buy one offs of an item, or you don’t require any custom manufacturing.

I simply searched for plain black glasses cases and yellow microfiber cloths and selected the least expensive ones based on reviews.

cs_casesorder

cs_clothorder

To make the product look more professional, I went to StickerMule to buy some stickers and GotPrint to buy hang tags.

stickersarrive

hangtagsarrive

Building The Online Store

Now that I had a product and logo, it was time to create the online store. Of course, I chose Shopify to create the website. Shopify allows me to create a beautiful and professional ecommerce website, complete with payment processing, managing inventory, and a lot more.

I chose the Shopify Basic plan, walked through the basic settings and proceeded to choose a theme for my website.

I chose the Startup theme since it’s a great theme for those selling only one product.

cs_startuptheme

I registered the domain SyghtGlasses.com through Shopify and then began to customize the theme. I purchased a stock photo from iStock and used it as the hero for my homepage. With a little Photoshop, I made the gamer look like he was wearing my glasses.

cs_newsite

Taking Product Photos

Once the glasses arrived from China, it was time to take some great product photos. Fortunately, at the Shopify office in Toronto, we have the camera and white backdrop that can produce some high quality photos. But that doesn’t mean I needed this equipment to create great photos. I could have shot awesome photos with my phone’s camera, too.

glassesphotoshootcamera

Submitting to Product Hunt and Reddit

Now that the website was ready, I had some great product photos, and I got some feedback from coworkers at Shopify, I was ready to get traffic to the store.

My first instinct was to submit my store to the games section of Product Hunt and to /r/ShutupandTakeMyMoney on Reddit.

My submission to Product Hunt did relatively well, achieving 28 votes and 4 comments.

syghtonproducthunt

My Reddit post on the other hand, did extremely well. It stayed at the top of the subreddit for two days and ended up with 185 upvotes and 59 comments.

syghtonreddit

The most important thing though was that both submissions got me sales. A lot of sales.

During those two days, I received 21 total orders. 6 of which I can confidently attribute to Product Hunt. As for Reddit, my guess is that 12 of them came from Reddit. Unfortunately, traffic from Reddit didn’t track well.

twodayssales

All the orders were exciting but now the hard work of packaging all the orders and shipping them around the world at the Post Office begun.

tonsofpackages

After a few time-consuming experiences at the post office, I started using Shippo to print shipping labels from home. Shipping each package cost me around $8-$11. The bubble mailers I shipped the glasses in cost around $1-$2 each depending on how many I purchased at one time. I chose to make shipping free on the website and eat up the cost. I decided this would help conversions on the website.

Setting Up An Affiliate Program

My primary strategy to sell these gaming glasses was to reach out to influencers in the gaming community (Twitch streamers, YouTubers) and have them promote my glasses for an affiliate commission. My plan was to offer each influencer a unique coupon code of $5 off that they could share with their audience. Every time their unique coupon is redeemed, they’d earn $10.

I setup Affiliately (to setup affiliate coupons and links) on my Shopify store and began searching for gamers on Twitch and YouTube. I tried to look for influencers with small to medium sized audiences. I wanted to ensure they’d be receptive, accessible and looking to monetize their content early. I knew that if I contacted big name YouTubers or Twitch streamers, I was unlikely to get a response.

After contacting 30, I got 4 people on board with promoting my glasses. Some of them even created reviews on YouTube!

3 purchases wound up coming from these affiliates.

I eventually had someone who managed an Instagram account for gamers reach out to me asking to be an affiliate.

cs_wtfgamerspost

Once this post was shared, it generated 13 additional sales.

Total Sales and Breakdown

I tried a few other channels and I will have a complete breakdown of each other channel I tried in the full post, but I just wanted to highlight a few of the more successful marketing strategies here.

During the course of over 5 weeks, the store made $2,416.51 in total revenue, selling 61 pairs of glasses. Here’s a breakdown of all the sales:

  • Reddit: 4
  • Product Hunt: 6
  • Facebook ads: 5
  • Affiliates: 16
  • Google Product Listing Ads: 8
  • Twitter: 2
  • Instagram: 1
  • PSFK.com: 1
  • Unknown: 15
  • Other: 3

The business incurred $2,071.99 in total expenses. Here’s a breakdown of the expenses:

businessexpenseswithrevenue

Here’s an overview of the traffic and sales during the 5 weeks the store was open:

syghtglassesbusinessoverview

topoverview

botoverview

Conclusion

This was just a slice of what I did during the 5 weeks of this business being open and the time I took before opening the business to prepare the launch. Be sure to check out the more detailed writeup on Shopify.

Oh, and, one more thing.

You can win this business.

Yup, we’re giving away this business to one lucky entrepreneur. Head over to Shopify to learn more!

Published in Entrepreneurship

  • Good Pickney & Co.

    This is pretty awesome

  • Hey man how did you deal with the customs and all. I want to sell some products in USA but I live in India, is it possible.

    • Usually the customer pays customs and they expect to if they order from a country such as India.

      • Thanks for replying Corey. So will I have to ship out the products from India after doing all the packaging ?

  • Erix

    I’d really love to do something like this. Very motivating. Sadly I don’t have $2,000 to risk at the momemnt. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to try it. So glad I found your blog.

  • Hey Corey,

    Really awesome Case Study!

    Thanks for sharing. I will surely try this out in a month or two.

    I have a few questions for you:

    How did you get your product on Product Hunt?

    Did you post it yourself or did you ask someone else (With Posting Access) to do it for you?

    And if you have posting access on Product Hunt, I would love to know how you got it and how I can get it too 😀

    You mentioned that it cost you $8-11 to ship an order. Did you ship only in your country? Or did you ship it to foreign countries like India?

    Will try this out very soon. I will share the results with you when I do 🙂

    Keep Up The Great Work!

    Thanks,
    Mohit Gangrade

    • I got an invite from a friend, feel free to ask around!

      I shipped all over the world!

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Luis

    Hi Corey,

    I bought the same template you did by cannot get the text to show over the main header picture as well as a Buy Now button. How did you make that happen?

    Also what is the code you used to put the canad and USA flags as well as the buy now button in your menu?

    Thanks, your post really inspired me to create my account with shopify and make my website.

    -Luis

    • Hey Luis,

      Try to contact Shopify support or use up some of your free design time (ask Shopify support about it) to get those things fixed/done for you.

      As for the flags and buy button, I manually edited the theme’s header snippet. https://docs.shopify.com/themes/customization

  • Pedro

    Hi Corey,

    If this was a real business and not a case study would you go for the same domain? Wouldn’t expand to other products gaming related be something to consider?

    • Hey Pedro, sure. I would definitely look to expand vertically in the niche with things like mousepads or other gaming accessories.

  • Samuel Oluwakayode

    Hi Corey,

    Am Samuel a Nigerian with great passion for internet.
    I dropped of college to find a means for my self. I browse through your blog an i must admit you’re doing a great job.
    I will love to try something like this, But most people won’t do business with me due to bad reputation of my country.
    Can you please show me a way that is hassle free to earn online?

  • Corey Kember

    Hi Corey,
    This is an absolutely fantastic blog post. Exactly what I am looking for. I do have a few questions for you though.
    I work in import/export so the very first thing I think about is Canada Customs. How did you deal with customs on the original imports(CN->CAN)?
    Also – would it be beneficial to avoid the costs/time around doing the ecomm yourself and use Amazon FBA? Or do you find the Amazon FBA will impact your margins too much??
    I am from Toronto too! =)
    Thanks for your time!

    • Hey Corey,

      It’s likely you will be hit with an import fee if you’re in Canada but it depends on the value of what you ordered. Amazon FBA is a good option and an option I would eventually look at once I had proof of concept in my business and was making some money with my store.

      • Corey Kember

        My concern is that the goods from China are being imported for commercial purposes. So we should need a business number from CRA and have a customs broker file our import with CBSA and pay duty/tax?

        • Yup, a business number is always good to have. As for a customs broker, this might be too small since you don’t require a crate or a dock to import your goods, they’re being imported through regular mail delivery. You’ll be billed for duties when you receive your package. You can also report taxes retroactively, too, after you register your business and have proof of concept.

          I think the most important thing though is to test things. Don’t get too excited going through the formal processes without actually validating that what you’re doing is going to make money. Make sure what you have is actually a business before registering it as a business and paying duties/taxes as a business.

          • Corey Kember

            Very good point Corey.

            Thanks for all the info 🙂 this article is fantastic and I look forward to putting it to practice!!!

  • Chris William Frye
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