Having a good idea is one thing, but turning that concept into a business is a whole different game.
Shopify wants to help with that journey. The e-commerce company opened Shopify New York on Thursday, a community workspace aimed at helping entrepreneurs. The Manhattan location, which is open six days a week and by appointment on Monday, will host classes and meetups, as well as have Shopify representatives on hand. A podcast studio and a photo studio are also available for rent to help develop marketing for brands. All of the offerings are open to the public, regardless of whether the person is a Shopify user or not.
"It is really intended to be our community hub for aspiring entrepreneurs, for Shopify merchants, for anyone with an idea," said Shopify director of product for retail and apps Arpan Podduturi. "(It's) part inspirational hub, where you can come and learn from other entrepreneurs, and part support hub, where you can get answers to your questions."
According to the UN development and trade experts, e-commerce went from 16 percent of total sales in 2019 to 19 percent of total sales in 2020. And, many experts believe the online shopping trend is poised for even more growth, giving a lot of people the opportunity to start their own direct-to-consumer businesses.
But while Shopify offers online store platforms, point-of-sale systems, and data analytics for online merchants, a lot of people lack peer advice. The company previously created a similar Shopify space in Los Angeles and decided to branch out to this new East Coast location.
"What we've heard is that starting a business can often be sort of a lonely experience," Podduturi said. "It can be an up and down where, you know, there are a lot of questions. You're putting yourself out there for the first time. There's not a support system."
Sahra Nguyen, who co-founded and is CEO Nguyen Coffee Supply, found talking to other entrepreneurs helped her develop her brand.
"Being able to talk to other founders who are going through the same startup journey and going through the same pain points has been super critical to my mental health and my motivation to continue doing business," Nguyen said. "You're experiencing things that are really extreme, that maybe someone may not experience if they're not on the same entrepreneurial path."
Nguyen started her coffee company after noticing many local shops offering Vietnamese coffee — but were not using beans from Vietnam. As a first-generation Vietnamese American, she thought it would be a great idea to bring her family's home country's coffee culture to the mainstream by importing coffee beans from Vietnam and creating her own special roast in Brooklyn. Shopify powers her online sales since she does not have a physical retail location and sells directly to people and clients. The brand is continuing to grow, with sales increasing by 1,300 percent during the pandemic as people made coffee at home.
Others like Rooshy Roy, who co-founded and is CEO of Aavrani, leaned on peer advice when they pivoted careers. Roy worked in finance before launching the Indian-inspired skincare company.
"Largely because of Shopify, it's never been easier to create your own brand," Roy said. "But at the same time, it's never been harder to sustain yourself and succeed as a brand because of how much competition there is."
Roy underwent a rebrand shortly before the pandemic but was able to capitalize on the self-care boom during it. She went from $100,000 in sales in 2018 and is on track to sell $6 million worth of products in 2021. Roy credits being able to have an online platform when stores were shut down as part of the reason behind Aavrani's success.
"Having just a digital presence to manage during the pandemic was super helpful," she said. "It enabled us to continue to be where our customers are and stay engaged with them. It's really hard to do that when you are in physical retail because you just lose touch with them. So the Shopify capabilities and analytics that enabled us to understand the changing behaviors of customers as they navigate shopping online, specifically as it relates to beauty."