[Hello! Please note that this series is based off my opinion and experience in the creation and maintenance of this site. This is not a tutorial, guideline, recommendation, or anything near what I would call bulletproof advice in the creation of any potential business.]
So, after much discussion with Mrs. Cortez and some close friends, we as a group I decided that opening a small online store might be a fun hobby to take up. I figured that I had the Box of Crap that was nearly full with 30 or so decks in total, Instagram and eBay sales were occurring at about 3-4 times a week, and having a storefront would allow people to see what was available with respective prices in real time. The million-dollar question then was simple….
How in the world do I open a store?
I hadn’t the slightest clue where to begin. The good news was that I already had some resources available to get supplies that I needed for shipping. [Here’s what I used at the time and for the most part what I still use!]
- Boxes measuring 6x4x3 – Amazon (200 for $50) or Uline when it’s urgent (100 for $46)
- Bubble Wrap – Staples (200ft for about $26). Now, I use that eco-friendlier green bubble wrap (900ft for about $90)
- Tape – Costco (Scotch – Heavy Duty Packing Tape, 8 rolls for about $25)
- Stickers – StickerMule (Normally about $80 for 100, when on special it’s about $50 for 100)
- Blank Mandolin Back Cards for thank you notes – Amazon (About $4 a pack)
- DS1 Deck Sleeves – Carat Case Creations (I use thousands. Price – CLASSIFIED)
- Labels for shipping – Amazon (half sheet labels, 200 sheets, about $12)
- Shipping Software – com (about $17 monthly). Now, I use PirateShip (NO MONTHLY FEE!)
With much of the resource supply chain taken care of, I needed to look at any of the legalities that may exist. The first thing that came to mind was how to handle the issue of sales tax within California. [NOTE – Individual states may vary!] After making extensive and mindless use of Google, at the minimum I found that I needed to apply for a “Seller’s Permit” to sell items in the state of California.
“When you sell or lease merchandise, vehicles, or other tangible personal property in California, even temporarily, you are generally required to register with our agency, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), and to pay sales tax on your taxable sales. When you register, we will issue you a seller's permit…
Generally, if you make three or more sales in a 12-month period, you are required to hold a seller's permit. This applies even if your sales are made through Internet auction houses or websites that offer online classified advertisements (online advertisers)…
Making sales of merchandise, goods, or other items in California without first getting a seller's permit violates the law and subjects you to fines and penalties.” (https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/formspubs/pub107/)
The good news was that obtaining a Seller’s Permit in the state of California where nearly everything is expensive and seems to be mired in a bureaucratic labyrinth, ie: the DMV was straightforward. The process itself only took about 5-10 minutes and I was able to print out my Seller’s Permit immediately. The bad news was that I now have to collect sales tax for every order that I sell to someone who lives in California (I learned a bit about “sales tax nexus”).
After the Seller’s Permit was squared away, now it was time to figure out how to MAKE a store. “Google!!! How do I start an online store?”
Clearly, there was a lot more research on this topic compared to how to obtain my Seller’s Permit. Several different popular options immediately came up. Wix. Shopify. BigCommerce. GoDaddy. SquareSpace. BigCartel. Blah, blah, blah, blah. After doing a little bit of research and weighing the pros and cons of each, it wasn’t long before I felt that Shopify would be the one. They had a bunch of free templates to work with and once I saw that boomboombuttcheeks.com and fontainecards.com were “powered by Shopify”, I felt I was making the right call.
What I did not expect was how long it took to actually setup the store to get it how I very loosely envisioned it. Apart from that you need published return policies, shipping policies and related costs, terms of service and so on. It took seemingly forever about 2 days to get the look of the store to a point where I was mildly satisfied. After starting and trashing in a conniption fit two templates (Debut and Simple, which ironically is not simple), I picked a template called “Minimal” which gave me “the look” that I was going for.
The domain name socalplayingcards.com was available, so I bought it for $17 per year. I also picked up socalplayingcards.net for some reason I still can’t figure out. After setting up Google Analytics (I’m not crossing this out, setting this up was a pain) and I think we were just about ready.
Just to recap, here’s a rough timeline leading up to this point:
- January 16, 2019 – Joined Instagram as socal.playing.cards.
- January 19, 2019 – First Giveaway (Brown Wynn).
- March 27, 2019 - @theradiohead helps with the SoCal Playing Cards logo.
- April 7, 2019 – We have logo stickers!
- May 6, 2019 – Goes on legendary, long-winded rant about receiving Launch Virt in bubble-mailer. #friendsdontletfriendsusebubblemailers becomes a thing. Swears off use of bubble mailers alone for rest of life.
- May 24, 2019 – Began usage of Carat Case Creations DS1 Deck Sleeve for every deck shipped. For free.
- Late May, 2019 – Work begins on the site.
- June 6, 2019 – Domain name socalplayingcards.com is purchased. We announce on Instagram that socalplayingcards.com is coming soon.
- June 7, 2019 – socalplayingcards.com goes live at approximately 10am!!!
Later, on the morning of June 7th, 2019, at 10:50am Pacific Time, SoCal Playing Cards had its first sale. Someone in Placentia, CA bought the Best Cardist Alive deck for $10.63 after using coupon code BOXOFCRAP15 for 15% off. All the sudden, this was real. But, little did we know how quickly this would grow.
PT 3 – Growing Pains (Coming Soon)