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How to Start & Fund an Online Boutique

August 11, 2021

Starting a boutique for many aspiring entrepreneurs can be a dream come true. It’s an opportunity to color the lives and styles based on your creativity. However, getting to start a boutique involves a tremendous amount of work that can be daunting, and almost discouraging. You need to find the appropriate retail and warehouse space, acquire the right employees and all the relevant business licenses, and ensure that you have all the proper tax and incorporation paperwork filed with municipalities.

Of course, with the help of the internet, starting an online boutique is much easier. Business owners can set up eCommerce stores and manage warehouse activities away from populous and in-demand urban centers as the storefront is now online. This degree of freedom can help merchants focus more on securing finances, the appropriate marketing channels, and the design aspect of their work. Whether you’re a serial online entrepreneur or novice, below we look into what you need to do to start and fund an online boutique.

What’s your niche?

One of the best ways to build brand recognition and the clientele is to be known for quality and have the best of something. You need to decide on what that something is. Specializing in a niche market within an online boutique will help focus on one specific small area, as you’ll be in the beginning phase of starting your online boutique.

Focusing on a niche will help to build expertise and further perfect that craft. This can generate cash flows that can fund other ventures as you branch out beyond your niche. A perfect example would be Donna Karan, who started with her Essentials line, which included seven articles of clothing positioned around the bodysuit to be mixed and matched. Donna Karan’s niche was the bodysuit. She later expanded a full clothing line a few years later with DKNY, followed by DKNY Jeans and DKNY for men in the years to follow.

You can grow to have many different design lines under your umbrella, but you need a cornerstone niche to get you started. That is just the beginning – it is the first step. There is still a tremendous amount of work yet to be done.

Sourcing material

Once you’ve decided on what your niche focus will be, you need to ensure your materials. This is one of the most critical elements for an online boutique. Once online shoppers receive their first order from you, their first impression of your product will be the material they feel. Quality and durability are vital for your branding and one that is expected to remain consistent at the very minimum or improve over time.

Developing the proper relations for inventory and materials partners can be beneficial as you may get bulk discounts with some degree of assurance on quality, logistics, and delivery times. Unfortunately, developing this relationship takes a lot of effort and thorough vetting of numerous suppliers, checking hundreds of samples. The result will be the backbone of an online boutique’s operations and branding.

Online Presence

Establishing an online presence for your online boutique will be the next hurdle to cross. Since your online boutique may not have a brick-and-mortar presence initially, your storefront is your website. Merchants need to ensure an intuitively designed website interface guiding potential visitors through the consumer journey from landing to purchase.

There are several other strategies online businesses need to employ to spread the word, such as social media. There are numerous platforms merchants can use to target specific audiences.

Similarly, the online boutique can also set up accounts on popular online platforms such as Shopify, Amazon, or Etsy to reach consumers via established online marketplace brands.

Business Formation and Tax Registration

Another fundamental requirement that entrepreneurs need to pay keen attention to is the different conditions of business formation. This may require a lawyer to guide you through the process and an accountant for the various financial and clerical paperwork to be completed. You will need to decide which state you should register your business in, where a company may be required to have a legal presence, etc.

Business owners will also be required to get a Federal Employer Identification Number from the IRS and form the basis of their state-level documentations. There will be requirements for state sales tax registrations that must be filed with respective state departments of finance/treasury. 

Compliance with federal and state-level tax authorities does not stop there. On an ongoing basis, the business will need to collect all relevant state-level sales taxes and file them with the tax bodies. Similarly, if companies hire employees or pay themselves, the applicable payroll taxes will need to be deducted from their paychecks and submitted to state and federal tax departments with their required tax filings.

Finally, businesses will need to ensure they can accept online payments. Merchants should carefully evaluate payment processing services to see that pricing is detailed and straightforward. What type of tertiary services do they offer, online gateways, virtual terminals, assistance in registering, and developing a website. Are there any early termination fees? These are all characteristics of payment processors merchants would need to consider carefully.

Starting and managing a business is no easy feat. The internet and numerous online marketplaces and platforms have made that task a lot more feasible. Social media has helped in eliminating intermediaries and reaching consumers directly. Nonetheless, entrepreneurship still requires meticulous planning, a fanatical focus, tremendous grit, and a bit of luck. With hard work and time invested in the right partnerships, online presence, brand development, and compliance with tax regulation and business formation laws, aspiring entrepreneurs can be well on their way to starting their online boutique.

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