Opening an online boutique is significantly cheaper than opening a brick and mortar store. If you plan to dropship products, you will save even more. If you research online, you will see it takes around 15k-20k to open a brick and mortar vs. less than $2000 to open online (with most of that being inventory).
In many cases, depending on what you sell, you can start for less than $500. Below is a list of the main expenses associated with starting an online boutique.
LEGAL & BUSINESS ENTITIES
When starting any business, you will be required to get at the least the following: EIN, business license and DBA. You will also need a seller's permit, such is specific to selling wholesale products.
EIN (employee identification number) - Free. Get it here
Business License - Depending on your state, this fee can vary from cheap to expensive. However, in many cases a "home-based- business may be exempt from these fees.
DBA - Depending on your state, $10-$100.
Seller's Permit - Normally less than $50 or Free depending on the state with a few outliers that may cost more. The following states do not require a seller's permit: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon Find your state's fee here
Your domain is a required fee to account for since this is where people will be able to access your business. There are numerous places to purchase one ranging anywhere from $.99-$20.
Keep in mind, a $.99 domain more than likely does not have privacy protection or come with an SSL. A lot of times there is an extra fee with cheap domains to add this on, which ends up being the same price as a domain with these things included.
We recommend you purchase a domain that includes both. The privacy protection will hide your WHOIS" information used to purchase the domain (name, address, phone), which anyone can look up.
The SSL certificate authenticates your website and provides security for your customers entering their personal information on your site. It adds the "s" at the end of the http in front of your domain name.
Without it, potential customers will get a warning message that your site is not secure. Some phones and web browsers may even prevent them from getting to your site at all.
We recommend purchasing from either Google Domains ($14/yr) or through your ecommerce platform (i.e. Shopify domain - $14/yr).
You will need to choose an ecommerce platform you're comfortable with to sell your products. There will be a monthly fee associated with hosting your website on a platform, but it's more than worth the perks that come with it. Easily collect payments, choose themes, send automated emails, etc.
We recommend using Shopify, the #1 platform for ecommerce stores. You can take advantage of a 14-Day Shopify trial here. There basic plans (which is all you will need to start) is $29/monthly
This is more than likely where the bulk of your budget will be spent. Setting a budget of about $1000, give or take, is a good starting point to ensure you get enough styles to fill up your site and enough sizes in each product. Be sure you've chosen your target customer to ensure you purchase products that make sense. To purchase inventory from home, you can use any of our wholesale vendor lists. Our lists contain many of the vendors found at popular stores and boutiques such as Fashion Nova, Boohoo, Sorella, Sonya Bees, Posh by V, etc. In addition, you may find low-cost products locally that can be resold or attend trade shows.
Packaging is a great way to make a good first impression to customers since they cannot see your products in person. There are several creative ways to do this without spending tons of money. With a budget about $100-150, you can get what you need to make a first impression. Read my blog post to get an idea of all the packaging supplies you will need. You can of course order more as needed once you start selling more. With a little more, you can add some additional customized details. You can find great low-cost vendors in our custom packaging vendor list here
In the past, it was thought that your only option was to pretty much hire a photographer, pay for space and pay the model compensation in money and/or in products. Although bigger brands may do this, you can significantly cut your costs by taking photos yourself, use a friend/family member to model and take photos just about anywhere around the city free. You can still even opt for a professional photographer at much lower costs than ever before, use your iphone or purchase a camera. Budget can vary for this, so it's best to decide on what you can afford after determining the location, what you plan to use to take photos and how much you are willing to pay per hr or daily rate. Read this blog post about photoshoot inspo, where to find low-cost photographers and more.
Marketing is something you will need to consider factoring into your budget in order to get your name out their. Much of your marketing efforts can be done for free via social media, email, word-of-mouth, press releases, etc. Because there are so many businesses online now, paying for ads and influencer marketing is now the new norm. You can test ads for as little as $5/day on Facebook and Google. To make the most out of your ads, you will want to budget close to $300 or more a month. You can use your marketing budget to pay for any packages you ship to influencers or pay them for promotion.
These are just the basics of what you will need to start an online boutique. With about $3000 and some shortcuts along the way, you can run a successful online boutique. The easiest way to purchase what you need is to spread out your purchases vs. purchasing everything at one time. Get a planner and set deadlines to make things easier for yourself.