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Old Oct 9, 2010, 07:18 PM   #1
allathlete5
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Small Business Website Questions

Hello All,

Not sure if this is the exact right section for this but here it goes.

I am a college student and for money I have started a little business where i sell sports jerseys and hats. Everything right now is all done in person when it comes to ordering because i am using a free website host and everything.
As you can see this is the website now http://www.wix.com/allathlete5/sportsgearcheap

But i am trying to find a good 'all in one' host. What I have found so far is InMotion Web Hosting

My goal is to create a website and put up all of the products and allow for people to buy online. Ofcourse I am going to buy a domain and set everything up. I want it to look and feel very professional to everyone visiting the website.

I am a Computer Science major and am somewhat understanding of computers and websites.

I guess my main question is what do you guys recommend me do for creating this new website? I have MANY many products to sell (ie. all jerseys for all sports teams including MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA) and NewEra Hats for all teams. Im selling everything for a discount also, because i get it all from a wholesale supplier. I also plan to change the name from SportsGearCheap to something like Sexton Athletic Apparel. Sexton being my last name..

I am just looking for all help and advice available from anyone. So please feel free to let me know what you think. All advice appreciated!

Thank You

EDIT: I'd also like to add that right now i have pictures of almost all of the products on the facebook fanpage which i direct people to because of getting galleries available on the current free website..

Last edited by allathlete5; Oct 9, 2010 at 08:35 PM.
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Old Oct 10, 2010, 08:12 AM   #2
john1620b
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inMotion is a good host -- I've worked with them for a client, and their customer service has always been prompt and helpful. Another good host is MacHighway. They also have had excellent customer service and make it easy to manage your site. inMotion is a larger company than MacHighway (I believe), so that could be good or bad depending on your preference. I think you'd be happy going with either one of them.

It sounds like you're looking for shopping cart software. There are a lot of good free options (osCommerce, Zen Cart, CubeCart, PrestaShop, TomatoCart, Magento) but the one I think is best is OpenCart. Of all the ones I've tested and/or used, it has the cleanest interface, the best administration backend, and the most user-friendly code. Adding products and images is pretty straightforward -- you can test out a demo of it on the OpenCart site.

The main developer can be a little abrasive, but he's good at what he does, and the forums are full of helpful people. It's definitely come a long way in even the year that I've been tracking its progress, which is nice as new features are consistently being added. If you want to see a live usage of it, my wife and I have an ethical goods site (A Trade For A Trade) that is built with OpenCart.

Sounds like you've got an early start to having a profitable business. Good luck with it!
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Old Oct 10, 2010, 10:51 AM   #3
allathlete5
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Oh so i guess what my next question is.. if i were to use OpenCart, how would that work with my host (inMotion). Would it be something like a buy section on the website and it would go to the opencart section where it would have all of the products?

sorry if my questions seem stupid, but i am new to this and want to really make sure i am doing everything right!

How would opencart actually work or be integrated with my webhost?

Also, can you explain how these shopping carts actually work? for example opencart. Ive take a look at it and am still wondering how it works exactly!

EDIT:
I'd also like to know if i'd be able to do something like this.. where it is the same product, but there are other sizes available...
Picture

Last edited by allathlete5; Oct 10, 2010 at 02:02 PM. Reason: consecutive posts
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Old Oct 11, 2010, 07:33 AM   #4
john1620b
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Basically, these shopping carts are written in HTML, Javascript, and a server-side language (usually PHP). They are software that you install (or pay someone to install) on your webhost.

First, you download them and then upload them to your server. You can put them in your main directory, which will make the cart your whole site (like A Trade For A Trade), or you can put them in a directory of your choice (e.g. /shop/ or /store/) and have that be a separate section of your site. Then, you create a database (through your host's administration panel, which is often cPanel) for the cart software to connect to. Lastly, you visit the installation URL of the software. For example, if you uploaded OpenCart to the directory /shop, then the installation URL would be www.mysite.com/shop/install/. Once you have the installation finished, you can set up products. You can enter descriptions, upload images, and add product options (like the picture that you just showed).

If that sounds too difficult to undertake on your own, I'd either do some reading on the issue and get familiar with webhosts and web software, or pay someone to do it for you. I do freelance work like that -- if you're interested send me a PM. Best of luck!
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Old Oct 11, 2010, 12:26 PM   #5
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majority of the shared webhosts such as bluehost or hostgator offer free easy to install solutions for carts, blogs, galleries, and other applications. all of it is done with a few clicks and setting up your email/username/password.

a few suggestions on what you should look into: shopping cart software, learn some seo and online marketing to get better search engine results, and consider using some kind of a mailer service for newsletters where you can send out emails to your customers or people who join your mailing list to notify them of sales, special promotions, new stuff, etc.
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Old Oct 11, 2010, 03:29 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by definitive View Post
majority of the shared webhosts such as bluehost or hostgator offer free easy to install solutions for carts, blogs, galleries, and other applications. all of it is done with a few clicks and setting up your email/username/password.
True, but if you can manage it, it's usually better to be installing and upgrading yourselves. The one-click install packages aren't always up to date in their versions and you can rarely get everything you want out of it if you just take what the installer gives you.
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Old Oct 11, 2010, 04:51 PM   #7
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I would also like to offer my opinion on the domain name. The name sports gear cheap, may well be a better option, when it comes to SEO considerations. IF someone is googling for cheap sports gear, your name has 3 of those keywords in it, and would rank better than Sexton Athletic Apparel. When choosing a domain name, think keywords.

Mind you I would act quickly, before someone reading this forum goes and snatches your domain name.
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Old Oct 11, 2010, 10:32 PM   #8
allathlete5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john1620b View Post
Basically, these shopping carts are written in HTML, Javascript, and a server-side language (usually PHP). They are software that you install (or pay someone to install) on your webhost.

First, you download them and then upload them to your server. You can put them in your main directory, which will make the cart your whole site (like A Trade For A Trade), or you can put them in a directory of your choice (e.g. /shop/ or /store/) and have that be a separate section of your site. Then, you create a database (through your host's administration panel, which is often cPanel) for the cart software to connect to. Lastly, you visit the installation URL of the software. For example, if you uploaded OpenCart to the directory /shop, then the installation URL would be www.mysite.com/shop/install/. Once you have the installation finished, you can set up products. You can enter descriptions, upload images, and add product options (like the picture that you just showed).

If that sounds too difficult to undertake on your own, I'd either do some reading on the issue and get familiar with webhosts and web software, or pay someone to do it for you. I do freelance work like that -- if you're interested send me a PM. Best of luck!
Thank You so much for the information... With what ive looked into im thinking something like osCommerce is what im looking for... Honestly i am not sure yet though... I still believe i am going to be going with inMotion Hosting and using osCommerce for the shop/cart.. i think that i will make the site then have the shop in a directory... What do you think? And also what is your opinion on names like was talked about below.. And like i said below im just looking to get all the information i can right now.. so anything you think i would love to know!

Quote:
Originally Posted by definitive View Post
majority of the shared webhosts such as bluehost or hostgator offer free easy to install solutions for carts, blogs, galleries, and other applications. all of it is done with a few clicks and setting up your email/username/password.

a few suggestions on what you should look into: shopping cart software, learn some seo and online marketing to get better search engine results, and consider using some kind of a mailer service for newsletters where you can send out emails to your customers or people who join your mailing list to notify them of sales, special promotions, new stuff, etc.
Thank you very much for that.. I am looking into SEO and online marketing right now. Im just trying to be a sponge right now and soak up everything i can. What your saying makes a ton of sense! When I first thought of this little idea of making a business i never thought of it being more then to just people at school and friends of friends, but you are opening my eyes to the idea that there is a possibility that i can take this to a much larger scale and make it a lot bigger. Thank you! And if you have any other opinions or ideas or suggestions please send 'em my way!

Quote:
Originally Posted by brisbaneguy29 View Post
I would also like to offer my opinion on the domain name. The name sports gear cheap, may well be a better option, when it comes to SEO considerations. IF someone is googling for cheap sports gear, your name has 3 of those keywords in it, and would rank better than Sexton Athletic Apparel. When choosing a domain name, think keywords.

Mind you I would act quickly, before someone reading this forum goes and snatches your domain name.
I understand what you're saying about the SEO stuff with the domain name, but i wanted to make it more of my own at first. Since it is so small and right now im selling to mainly friends and people at my university i feel like when i advertise it or even say something about the fanpage on facebook many people think that it isn't mine and that i am just soliciting it or something. Is there any other suggestions you have for names? You really have put my on the fence with the names now..
Im thinking that i will purchase both names right now.. and use Sexton Athletic Apparel to get the company/business up and running and establish myself, then have the opportunity/ability to change the name back to SportsGearCheap. Does what i am thinking even make sense? What is your opinion?
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Old Oct 11, 2010, 11:02 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allathlete5 View Post
Thank You so much for the information... With what ive looked into im thinking something like osCommerce is what im looking for... Honestly i am not sure yet though... I still believe i am going to be going with inMotion Hosting and using osCommerce for the shop/cart..
I've used and worked with a good number of carts. osCommerce is ok. I'm not a big fan of it. If you're willing to shell out a few bucks and need a cart with a lot of features, I think X-Cart is one of the best.

Quote:
Originally Posted by allathlete5 View Post
I understand what you're saying about the SEO stuff with the domain name, but i wanted to make it more of my own at first. Since it is so small and right now im selling to mainly friends and people...
These are perfectly good reasons for not going with the marketing approved domain name. You're a small small business and very few small small businesses are going to make it or break it because their domain name was merely ok and not awesome. "Super SEO'd domain names" won't do you a whit of good if the people who are your core customers can't make sense of your business or can't easily associate the URL to you and what you offer.

You don't actually even need a great domain name to have good search engine results. I'm not a believer that having certain keywords in your domain name really makes that big of a difference to a search engine because people have abused the keyword domain as a SEO cheat too much.

Keywords don't make great domain names even though you often find killer keywords in great domain names. Great domain names have other things going for them in addition to the keywords everyone's always fighting for. They usually are also easy to remember and by being easier to remember it's worth some extra inbound links and visitors simply because it's more likely to be shared. To a very small business, this is the true value of a good domain name. Those inbound links are what ultimately count the most anyway.

If you have a domain name that you think will make you easily remembered and identified among your core customer base, that is the domain you want to use.
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Old Oct 12, 2010, 08:01 PM   #10
allathlete5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smirking View Post
I've used and worked with a good number of carts. osCommerce is ok. I'm not a big fan of it. If you're willing to shell out a few bucks and need a cart with a lot of features, I think X-Cart is one of the best.



These are perfectly good reasons for not going with the marketing approved domain name. You're a small small business and very few small small businesses are going to make it or break it because their domain name was merely ok and not awesome. "Super SEO'd domain names" won't do you a whit of good if the people who are your core customers can't make sense of your business or can't easily associate the URL to you and what you offer.

You don't actually even need a great domain name to have good search engine results. I'm not a believer that having certain keywords in your domain name really makes that big of a difference to a search engine because people have abused the keyword domain as a SEO cheat too much.

Keywords don't make great domain names even though you often find killer keywords in great domain names. Great domain names have other things going for them in addition to the keywords everyone's always fighting for. They usually are also easy to remember and by being easier to remember it's worth some extra inbound links and visitors simply because it's more likely to be shared. To a very small business, this is the true value of a good domain name. Those inbound links are what ultimately count the most anyway.

If you have a domain name that you think will make you easily remembered and identified among your core customer base, that is the domain you want to use.
Thank you for the input! It helps a ton! I agree I think i will stay with something that will be more identifiable. Maybe in the future i could change that...

But okay my next question is... what kind of things do i need to do legally? What kind of certificates do i need? What do i need to do in order to use something like paypal to accept online payments?? Will i need to do stuff like file taxs? What is actually necessary legally?

Additionally, i have been contemplating this lately... Should i just have my whole site based around the cart?? Or should i keep my original idea about having a website then having the cart as its own directory?? If i did have a website... What would i even include on it? Just basically what i have on the free website now? Basic information, and everything like that?
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Old Oct 12, 2010, 09:15 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by allathlete5 View Post
But okay my next question is... what kind of things do i need to do legally? What kind of certificates do i need? What do i need to do in order to use something like paypal to accept online payments?? Will i need to do stuff like file taxs? What is actually necessary legally?
That could depend on what state you're in and it's a bit beyond the scope of any advice you'll likely get here. I assume you're in the US, BTW. In general, you should get a business license. Here in California, that means getting one from the county and buying a classified ad in a local paper to announce that you're going to be officially opening as a business.

You don't really need anything to accept PayPal payments. All the sensitive stuff happens off site.

You might want to get an SSL Certificate to authenticate your identity on user login and registration pages so that anything that begins with https:// doesn't throw a browser warning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by allathlete5 View Post
Additionally, i have been contemplating this lately... Should i just have my whole site based around the cart??
That totally depends on the cart you're using. A lot of carts actually have mini-CMS systems built into them so you can create pages that are not part of the shop within the cart software.

As for the other questions about what should be in your site? Copy someone. Find a site that is really close to what you want your site to be like and just do what they did. Don't steal their content. That would be wrong, but you can take note of their site structure and apply it to your own use.
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Old Oct 13, 2010, 02:46 PM   #12
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That could depend on what state you're in and it's a bit beyond the scope of any advice you'll likely get here. I assume you're in the US, BTW. In general, you should get a business license. Here in California, that means getting one from the county and buying a classified ad in a local paper to announce that you're going to be officially opening as a business.

You don't really need anything to accept PayPal payments. All the sensitive stuff happens off site.

You might want to get an SSL Certificate to authenticate your identity on user login and registration pages so that anything that begins with https:// doesn't throw a browser warning.



That totally depends on the cart you're using. A lot of carts actually have mini-CMS systems built into them so you can create pages that are not part of the shop within the cart software.

As for the other questions about what should be in your site? Copy someone. Find a site that is really close to what you want your site to be like and just do what they did. Don't steal their content. That would be wrong, but you can take note of their site structure and apply it to your own use.

Yes i am in the US.. Currently I am at school in Connecticut but i am from southern California. So should i get my license from my county in California or here in CT? So i dont need anything really besides an SSL Certificate? Nothing else? What exactly is an SSL Certificate?
Thank You so much for the response it is helping a ton!
I am researching other sites and just brainstorming ideas for my actual site now!
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Old Oct 13, 2010, 04:49 PM   #13
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Thank You so much for the response it is helping a ton!
I am researching other sites and just brainstorming ideas for my actual site now!
I think you've got a bit more planning to do than those of us responding were anticipating. I'd say for now don't worry about the SSL stuff. It's not of critical importance to your business getting off the ground. You need to get the basics down first. Worring about SSL, SEO, and other three letters of the alphabet strung together in authoratative fashion won't do you a whit a good if you don't have the basics down.

You'll need your business license in the municipality that you're doing business in. You'll need it for the actual city that you're conducting business in. Not having a business license prevent you from doing business. I'm not sure what exactly the business license does for you.

Anyway, it's been a while since I've started my own business so I can't remember everything you need to do, but I'm sure there's a good "Starting a Business for Dummies" book that will outline all the key steps for you.

BTW, if you're worried about taxes, you can technically do business as a hobby and file it in your taxes as hobby income when you're getting started. If you're not making real money at the business, this is a way to start without making your life more complex at tax time, but if you start to make real money with your hobby, it's time to make the jump to being official. I can't really give you any tax advice as that's not my field, but this is the way I started my Web design business. I did some websites on the side for a couple of years before I officially set off to be my own Web development business.

Last edited by smirking; Oct 13, 2010 at 04:54 PM.
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Old Oct 13, 2010, 05:20 PM   #14
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I think you've got a bit more planning to do than those of us responding were anticipating. I'd say for now don't worry about the SSL stuff. It's not of critical importance to your business getting off the ground. You need to get the basics down first. Worring about SSL, SEO, and other three letters of the alphabet strung together in authoratative fashion won't do you a whit a good if you don't have the basics down.

You'll need your business license in the municipality that you're doing business in. You'll need it for the actual city that you're conducting business in. Not having a business license prevent you from doing business. I'm not sure what exactly the business license does for you.

Anyway, it's been a while since I've started my own business so I can't remember everything you need to do, but I'm sure there's a good "Starting a Business for Dummies" book that will outline all the key steps for you.

BTW, if you're worried about taxes, you can technically do business as a hobby and file it in your taxes as hobby income when you're getting started. If you're not making real money at the business, this is a way to start without making your life more complex at tax time, but if you start to make real money with your hobby, it's time to make the jump to being official. I can't really give you any tax advice as that's not my field, but this is the way I started my Web design business. I did some websites on the side for a couple of years before I officially set off to be my own Web development business.

No no no.. sorry if i made it seem that way.. i was just talking about little things like verbiage and SEO and little things more about actual words and ways to put information on the actual website!

So i am going to try and talk to the county here in CT where i go to school about a license then. What about during my 3 months of summer would that license be legitimate still? I think i am going to also be looking for more guides on actual eCommerce Business and stuff like that because basically that's all this is going to be.

And thank you, right now im really not all that worried about tax's anymore. I feel like i won't worry about it until i start making some good money...
In your opinion at what point would u describe it as 'real money'?
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Old Oct 13, 2010, 06:06 PM   #15
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So i am going to try and talk to the county here in CT where i go to school about a license then. What about during my 3 months of summer would that license be legitimate still? I think i am going to also be looking for more guides on actual eCommerce Business and stuff like that because basically that's all this is going to be.
BTW, my original post should have read that not having a business license won't prevent you from doing business so if you continue to do business while you're at home over the summer, nobody's going to break down your door and haul away your computers if you don't have a license in your hometown. If you find out what that business license does for you exactly, please reply in this thread with your findings.

I have no idea what the implications are for your ecommerce business given that you're a student and will be splitting time in two states.

Quote:
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And thank you, right now im really not all that worried about tax's anymore. I feel like i won't worry about it until i start making some good money...
In your opinion at what point would u describe it as 'real money'?
You can probably find some thoughts on this in tax advice forums online. This is way beyond me. If you go by the books, the IRS says that any hobby that made a profit in three of the past five years is a business. [source]
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Old Nov 26, 2010, 04:33 PM   #16
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use an online ecommerce site...

if you want to be practical....use an online ecommerce site where the bugs are all worked out, they accept credit cards with the secure lines etc....All have templates that are modifiable to fit the scheme of your site...and you will save yourself hours and hours of anguish, frustration, time and money.

once such company is http://www.shopify.com
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