Last October I set up my online business: LittleBuddha.guru. I wanted to sell bohemian and Buddhist items from Nepal and India. They were fair trade and I was going to gave a proportion of the profits to a Tibetan Buddhist charity. I was really into it. I got a domain from GoDaddy and a website. I soon realised the website didn’t really have the facility to sell lots of things so I later bought an online store from GoDaddy. This looked really professional and I could add lots of products. I found a wholesaler in Holland that imported spiritual items from Nepal, India and Tibet. They had just what I was looking for. I was particularly taken with the Tibetan Singing Bowls which were hand made in Nepal and really good quality. They are a meditation aid and can be therapeutic. In addition to the website I sold on Ebay and Amazon.
Over the ten months I was running the website I only sold three items from it. I knew I had to advertise. I had the whole social media shebang with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. I fiddled around with the SEO trying to get my website to show up higher in the google search engines but it was an uphill battle. There were American sites selling singing bowls that always came out ahead of me. I did some Google Express Ads which got lots of people looking but nobody bought anything. They cost me a fortune so I jacked them in after a short time. I did google adwords which is cheaper because it is paid per click but still no buyers, just viewers. I did facebook ads which got people to like my page but only one person bought something. Pinterest and Twitter seemed to bring nobody in whatsoever.
Selling on Amazon was a weird experience. They control the buy box so as an outside seller you haven’t got a hope unless you are the cheapest price. After their huge fees you cannot make a profit like this. I sold a couple of things here but I didn’t like the platform. It was impossible to access any help as it is all done through automated emails. It was impossible to find an answer to your specific issue. I jacked Amazon in pretty quickly. The only way to do it would be to have lots of very cheap stock and sell by Fulfilled by Amazon which is expensive to run.
Ebay was actually my most successful platform. I started off selling things really cheaply that I had lying around the house to get some feedback and then I sold my Tibetan items. I have sold lots of singing bowls and also Tankas, clothing, scarves and ornaments on this site. It is quite easy to manage and they do have real humans on the help line who are usually quite good. The feedback system can cause a few problems as there are some really weird buyers who seem to enjoy being malicious. If it is grossly unfair you can get the feedback removed by ebay. I managed this once but I did have to kick up an almighty fuss. I becam a power seller and top rated pretty quickly. The postage times are a problem because people want everything as fast as Amazon. This is nigh on impossible for the small seller. If you have the things in stock it is still very expensive to send things express and the economy mail is quite slow. Customers want everything fast but they don’t want to pay for postage. Well you can’t have everything. I could just leave some things at the wholesale warehouse and order them for the customer but then the turn around time is so long that people start moaning. Having everything to hand means you have a lot of stock sitting in your house. So it’s expensive if you can’t sell it fast. I cannot sell fast. Ebay do charge commisssion for every time you sell so it’s a fair wack on your price. You can pay for a shop which has lots of whizzy features but this is yet again another monthly cost. Ebay would be great if people were willing to pay what things are worth but it seems they are not and to sell things you are constantly having to lower the price to the point where it is not economic to sell them. There are also a minority of people who try to scam you, claiming they didn’t get the item or that the item is damaged to avoid paying. You soon get fly to all this but it is wearing.
I loved selling my singing bowls and I liked to think that I was helping people with meditation and mindfulness and spreading the good news about Buddhism as well as helping artisans in India and Nepal. I just can’t sell enough to make it worth while. To date I have made a loss in my business overall. I have shut down my website as I don’t want to pay another year’s fees. I am just going to sell my remaining stock on ebay and then rethink. I thought LittleBuddha.Guru was a great idea but as usual I realise I don’t think like the rest of the world. Maybe there just isn’t enough demand for spiritual items from India, Nepal and Tibet. To make money online you have to find a cheap product that there is a demand for but I really don’t want to sell counterfeit trainers from China so I shall have to think differently. If I were rich I would open a Buddhist shop in a busy part of London but I can’t afford to do that. I have learned a lot about business though I am not a natural business person. The mess I made of my VAT return had to be seen to be believed. Sometimes I think it is not very Buddhist or spiritual to sell things anyway.
I am currently in a period of mourning for LittleBuddha but I am retraining as a therapist in October so I am hopeful about this. I haven’t quite killed off my business but I will have to put it on the back burner for now. I still need to learn more about the dark art of marketing.
Oh well. Onwards and upwards.