How to Make Extra Money With An Online Store

Steve Chou of is the online authority when it comes to putting together an online e-commerce store as far as I’m concerned.

Motivated by the expectation of their first child, Steve and his wife started an online store selling wedding linens back in 2007. The store was able to bring in over $100K in profit in the first year.

He still maintains his corporate career (because he loves it!) and his wife is able to stay at home with their children and tend to the store part-time.

Back when he started, he didn’t even know how to write HTML code. But he was able to learn the ins and out of building a successful online store. 

To make money with an online store, begin by choosing your niche and domain name. Then you’ll need to pick an eCommerce platform like BigCommerce or another online store builder. Finally, you’ll need to market your online store using social media, paid search, a blog, or other advertising tools.

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce is simply business that happens online. It’s the buying and selling of goods and services on the internet.

eCommerce offers several advantages over a traditional brick and mortar store. For one, you don’t have to pay for a building and all of the other costs that come along with that.

Next, eCommerce literally opens a “world” of possibilities. With a physical store, your business will be limited by the people who live in or visit your town. But with an eCommerce store, you can sell to people who live in different towns, states, and even countries.

Lastly, you don’t ever have to shut out the lights on your eCommerce store. You can money at any time of the day or night, even while you’re sleeping.

What is an Online Store?

An online store is the actual website where you sell your goods or services. If you want, you can use a marketplace like Amazon or eBay to sell your products. But if you do, you’ll have to give them a cut of your sales.

If you want to avoid that, you may want to consider setting up your own online store to showcase your wares.

How to Start an Online Store

When Steve Chou’s wife agreed to marry him, it was with the understanding that she would stay at home and care for the kids when they had them. Steve agreed wholeheartedly.

Flash forward to three years later when his wife became pregnant, and they had a bit of a problem. They both had high-paying jobs and lived in Silicon Valley.

If his wife quit her job and lost her $100,000 a year salary, their budget would be cut in half. So in order for her to quit, they had to come up with a home-based job pretty quickly.

They settled on the idea of starting an online store since it was something she could run from home. Neither one of them had any background in website design, coding, or even running a store, but they did their research. 

I am comfortable with technology, but I did not have the programming skills or anything like that. I had no idea where to begin. What is amazing now with the internet is you can pretty much learn via the forums, and there is a ton of tutorials online and books you can buy in the bookstore that can help you out if you actually are willing to learn the material yourself.

Finding Your Niche

The first step is setting up an online store is deciding what you want to sell.

In Steve’s case, his wife had always loved the wedding industry, even long after they had been married. They remembered how they had a difficult time acquiring a handkerchief for her to carry in their own wedding. They purchased several of them for their wedding party.

Eventually, when contemplating their own online store, they realized there was a need in the marketplace for good handkerchiefs as well as embroidering them. They established a relationship with a supplier overseas, and they set out to have the widest variety of handkerchiefs on the market.

Within a year of running their online store,, they had made $100,000 in profit and replaced his wife’s income, so she quit her job to run the store full-time.

To find your own niche, consider what products or services you already use and or passionate about. Or you could simply take a retail arbitrage approach. Learn more about how to start a retail arbitrage online business.

Next, you’ll want to decide on a business name and you’ll want to make sure that the domain is available. And third, you’ll want to decide how you plan to build your online store. Let’s take a look at the options that are available to you for building your online store.

Finding Your Product

One of the great parts about creating an online store is that you don’t actually have to physically own and store your products (although you can, if you want).

With a dropshipping strategy, you can hire a third party to store your products and handle the fulfillment of orders. A service like Spocket allows you to choose your products from thousands of dropshippers around the world.

Once you’ve decided on your niche and business name, search Spocket for the products you want to sell. You can even order product samples from various suppliers to test quality, shipping time, and discover the best value for the best price.

This method allows you to establish a relationship with your supplier. Working with someone you trust and have a good system with is a great value. You will know all the ins and outs of their production style, order times, and shipping times.

Spocket offers a 14-day free trial and plans start at $9/month, which is a great price point for adding an essential service to your eCommerce store.

Get started for free with Spocket

How to Build an Online Store

If you already own a website or blog for your business, you can add online store functionality through plugins like WooCommerce. Otherwise, you’ll need to create your online store from scratch.

To do that, you could hire a web design service. But that will probably be expensive. And for more people, is completely unnecessary. For most people, it would be easier and more affordable to use an eCommerce website builder like BigCommerce or Shopify.

Setting Up an Online Store

If you’ve never built an online store before, you may have no idea what to look for in an eCommerce site builder. Here are a few important factors that you’ll want to pay attention to.

  • Subscription pricing and/or transaction fees
  • Available themes and customization possibilities
  • Site security (SSL Certification)
  • SEO tools
  • Customer service
  • Ability to integrate with pre-existing blog or website
  • Staff accounts
  • Payment and checkout options

Depending on your situation, some of these factors may be more important to you than others. For instance, if, like Steve, you don’t have an existing blog or website, it may not matter to you that a platform offers WordPress integration.

Or, if you run a solo business, free staff accounts may not matter.

However, in most cases, you’ll want to look for an eCommerce store builder that offers a good blend of features. It doesn’t matter if a platform is cheap if they have limited payment options.

And it doesn’t matter if they have beautiful themes if those themes aren’t easy to customize. One or two standout features doesn’t make for a great eCommerce platform. You want the full package. 

Steve’s Marketing Strategy

Steve and his wife created a 4-fold marketing strategy to get their site up and going. They used Google Ad Words, which he says can cost a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing. Steve recommends making ads that are extremely focused, instead of broad, and high converting.

The second thing they did was comb bridal forums and start answering questions. Every now and then when someone would ask about an ideal keepsake for a wedding, they would casually suggest their store.

In the meantime, they were also pumping out content for their site for Google indexing purposes. They created tutorials and gave wedding craft ideas. Customers who were looking for wedding crafts would find their site through search engines. They would read about a craft idea that incorporated some of their products and then purchase the product immediately. Steve credits a large portion of their business coming along after they started getting indexed on Google.

The other important element of their marketing strategy was through contacting wedding and event planners that had the purchasing power to purchase in bulk.

Online Store to Blogging

The success of the store led to Steve starting a blog, He had numerous people inquiring about their new business so he created a site that described every process and documented everything they did to start their store.

He even released a course on how to start a profitable online store, including 400 pages of course material and a webinar where students could ask him questions live.

Listen to the Podcast

Online Store Owner Steve ChouHere are some of the questions I get into with Steve during the podcast:


  • What made you want to start making part-time money with an online store?
  • What was it about an online store that made it doable? Did you have experience?
  • What made you choose the niche or specific type of store that you did?

Technical Aspects of E-commerce and Inventory

  • What online tools did you use to create the shopping cart and site back in 2007?
  • Do you recommend open source software for an online store?
  • What about the physical products and how did you get them?
  • What work did you do on the inventory?
  • How were you experienced in embroidery?

Time and Family Considerations

  • When did you find time to work on this business?
  • It’s rare that your wife would want to work with you. Tell me about that.

Marketing the Online Store

  • How did you get traffic to the site?
  • How did you work with wedding planners to get more business?
  • Tell me more about your background and experience.

Lessons Learned from Mistakes

  • What technical mistakes did you make along the way?
  • How did you determine your shopping cart sales funnel was having issues?
  • What mistakes did you make early on with products?
  • Why not get the product from the U.S.?

Becoming a Success and Lifestyle Design

  • Tell me about the process of realizing this was a successful business?
  • How are things now? Are you still working?

See full transcript by clicking show

Try BigCommerce to Create Your Online Store

While it’s certainly possible to DIY your online store’s website just as Steve did, you can be up and running with no fuss when you use an all-in-one eCommerce site like BigCommerce.

BigCommerce is a turn-key solution for online entrepreneurs that gives you a number of built-in features, including several marketing options that allow you to find (and woo) your target customers, integrated education to help you make the most of your online store, and excellent loading speed, payment security, and site functionality.

For anyone who would rather focus on their product, marketing, and sales than on maintaining the website for their online store, this kind of ecommerce service is invaluable.

You get the beauty and functionality of a website designed by a professional web developer without having to shell out the money for one.

Not to mention the fact that you will not have to spend time or money troubleshooting bugs in your website when you use the well-designed turn-keys offered by BigCommerce.

BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial, and prices start at $29.95/month, making this an excellent choice for a reasonable price.

Learn to Start Your Own Online Store!

As you can tell from the podcast, Steve loves to teach and share his successes. He’s offering up a full classroom style course called: Create a Profitable Online Store. I’ve seen the materials from this course and I can tell you that it’s the real deal. Steve provides the specific blueprint to get your store up and making money.

Related: How to Make Money Playing Video Games

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  1. Avatar Philip Taylor says:

    Thanks, Jen! So glad this interview was valuable for you.

  2. That was a great interview! I have just set up my store, and running like a headless chicken trying to do everything, listening to the interview’s made me realized I only really need to focus on a few things and do them well. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Thanks for listening, Emily, Jackie, and Bill. Steve was definitely a fun interview. I’m so interested in the online store model. Who knows, I may just have to start one myself.

  4. Avatar Austerity Bill says:

    How interesting, as someone looking to increase revenue from websites I found that dialogue very helpful!

  5. Nice. I’ve just started listening to your podcasts and am happy I did!

  6. That’s great info, thanks! It’s so cool to live in a world with so many opportunities to develop passive income, or a high income with part-time hours.

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