First week of E-commerce Camp is in the books

Drinking game supplies, local salsa, cubicle windows and wine baskets are just a few of the niche product ideas to come out of the first week of E-Commerce Camp.

As I described last week, the local media company that I work for in Cedar Rapids, Iowa has invested time and money for six teams and more than 40 people to start an e-commerce business. Each team has $5,000 in seed money and a basic curriculum to follow each week.

The assignment for week one was to select a niche product to sell via a dropshipper and report how the decision was made. The teams also had to provide reasons to believe they’ve could turn the idea into a profitable business.

E-commerce assumptions

During the kickoff event last week, two assumptions circulated. First, selecting a niche product would be easy and, secondly, it’s likely that some of the teams will select the same product to sell.

If you have some knowledge of e-commerce businesses, you already know that those assumptions didn’t last long. Selecting a niche is likely one of the hardest and most important decisions that help determine the success of the business. We found that each team would like more time and, as you can tell from the list above, the diversity of the business ideas is quite varied.

Selecting a niche

As we hoped, each team took a different approach to selecting a niche. Teams were quick to eliminated ideas for seasonal products. Some considered partnering with an existing Iowa business. Others looked deep into the passions of its team members. Certain teams made contact and pitched potential solutions to existing business as part of the research phase too.

It was interesting to see and hear the conversations that occurred throughout the week. Most teams took a ‘secretive’ approach to selecting a product at first not wanting someone to steal the next great idea. As the week progressed and the enormity of the decision settled in, the collaboration opened, which was great to see.

Act like a start-up

The E-commerce Camp curriculum is set up that decisions points can be adjusted. We encourage each team to act like a start-up. Pivot points will occur, so the decisions reached during week one may not be the business idea that comes to fruition in a couple of weeks.

For example, some of the niche ideas that were tossed aside, at least for the moment, include creating a senior dating website and selling hunting bows.

And most of the teams still have key business questions to answer. What are the licenses needed to ship wine? What’s the cost and process to ship fresh salsa? Some questions are more broad. How can we create a business with more than a single point of failure?

Next phase

Week two of E-commerce Camp is set up for each team to determine the brand and purchase a URL. They have a week to make some more decisions and report back.

Each team is off to a good start. As and advisor it will be my role to counsel each as best I can to give them access to information and resources that will help them make the best decisions possible.

I’ll continue to update our progress.

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