The do’s of running a business online

The Internet is inescapable no matter where you go. Websites, social media and even physical billboards all lead you into its depths. It is an inevitability as the Internet connects us faster than ever before. We thought the invention of planes made the world smaller, but we never imagined having the whole world at our fingertips.

Founder - Dayana Reza.jpg

Taking advantage of the convenience of the Internet, Melaka native Dayana Reza founded Nyonya Kain, an online shopping site for traditional batik accessories and fashion.

As a child, Dayana always had a fascination for the rich tradition of the Peranakan culture. In 2018 Dayana visited Kelantan and fell in love with the batik and textiles there. As someone with a background in finance, she had always been passionate about entrepreneurship. She started out bringing her favourite pieces back to Kuala Lumpur to sell to her relatives and friends in the city. In time, that gave birth to Nyonya Kain, a side business alongside her full-time office job.

As a brief background, the origin of the name Nyonya Kain is apparent when we look at the component words. The term “Nyonya” means “young lady or girl” and “Kain” refers to the original business model of selling textiles and batik products.
ACE Hab asked her to share some tips on how she started and continues to run an online business.

What is the best way to start an online business?

The most important part in an online business is planning! You can’t just decide one day: “Hey, I want to sell clothes tomorrow” and start your business. You have to think it through, foresee the challenges of running a business and have a long-term plan in place. Depending on what type of business you’re trying to run, consider if you have enough funds and what scale you want to start at.

Identify your budget and think of the factors that will impact not just you but also the experience of the consumers. For starters, you can always start as a dropship, because it’s simple. You don’t need any license, a Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia or SSM application or a store facility to keep your stocks.
Dropshipping is a type of retail fulfillment method for online stores, where instead of warehousing inventory, merchants purchase products from third-party suppliers as customers make orders. The products are then shipped directly to the consumer. This way, the seller doesn’t have to handle the product directly.
If you already own a business, then you need to work on your social media presence on Instagram or Facebook. For an entrepreneur, this is like a “resume” that speaks for your brand or product, so you need to put in a lot of work into getting your message out there. Do something creative in order to advertise and present your product to the world!
You will want to get a Companies Commision of Malaysia (Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia or SSM) license for legitimacy and to build trust in your product.

If a business revolves around a person selling goods on Instagram, WhatsApp or Telegram without any credentials, people might be wary of spending their hard-earned money on said products. Therefore, you might want to earn some sort of status online. On Shopee, for example, you can get a “Shopee Preferred” badge. To become a Preferred Seller, Shopee says you must demonstrate outstanding performance in sales and operational performance, as well as meeting the requirements by using the Preferred Seller page on Seller Centre.

You will need to do research on the product you plan to sell. For example, if you are planning to set up a woven rattan basket business, you have to research market availability first and see what other sellers are doing. Figure out what you can improve from their business model, or what kind of approach will differentiate your products and make them stand out.

It is also good to join workshops, talks and seminars to learn up on all the new tips and tricks to give you a headstart in your online business. Currently, there are many free courses on Zoom on starting an online business and alternatively, you can look for courses on YouTube. A quick google search will help you find a string of courses available.
If you’re a rookie who has just started a business, it may be better to use online shopping domains such as Shopee or Lazada, instead of setting up your own website, as it is easier to set up an account and maintain it, as compared to creating your own personal business website from scratch. The only downside of using these corporate platforms, is that you have to update your stocks as these domains function more like wholesale markets.

Start a website when you are ready and established enough. “Why?” you might ask. A website is not easy to maintain and needs a lot of commitment. You can either do it yourself or hire someone to run it for you.

Using social media such as Instagram as your “business website” is also an option as it opens a door to international buyers if you plan to engage in international shipping. Although as previously stated, it may affect the legitimacy of your image as compared to shopping domains and websites.
Alright, so now that you know how to start and maintain your online business, we can get to the trickier part: how do we reach out to our targeted audience? How can we, a small business in a small state in Malaysia, reach a bigger market and catch bigger fish in the wide open sea?

How do you reach your target audience?
For small and emerging businesses, you might want to start out by joining small events such as bazaars. If you are running a business in Kuala Lumpur, try targeting bazaars at different locations where your product hasn’t been exposed yet, such as Shah Alam or Cheras. Your end goal is to get as much exposure as possible. By taking your business offline and actually selling it physically, you gain the opportunity of getting to know new customers; not all people enjoy shopping online after all. You never know, maybe your product will be the one that gets them started on online shopping!

Always showcase your best products, because they represent your brand. Get feedback from your customers. You need to plan and execute, adapt to the market and reflect on “what works, what went wrong, what can I do better and what should I maintain?” Besides these, it is also important to have people around you that you trust and people that can do their share of the work. No one man can build an online empire alone.

Try your best to advertise yourself more, post at least one interaction a day to remind people about what you have on sale. You can also engage in sponsorships with influential people so that they share the products with their fanbase. Ask any business, it is hard to build a market/fanbase from the ground up to sell your products to. Hence, take advantage of that market that someone else has built in order to advertise your product. In the words of Dayana Reza “Sometimes when you sponsor 10 boxes of cookies to different people, that one box might land you 50 new customers.”

Nyonya Kain offers traditional textiles, batik wear, as well as handmade accessories with a unique twist and a touch of modern-day flair. It practises a zero-waste policy, ensuring that every piece of fabric is fully utilised in products such as wallets, pouches, scrunchies.
It aims to bring back the art and culture of Malaysia’s past traditions and incorporate it into our daily lifestyles, while shedding light on the local textile industry.
Check out NyonyaKain to have a look at its original batik collections.

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