Buy stock, store it, pick it, pack it, ship it.
Managing inventory is a big commitment when you’re running an online business. But there are actually many business ideas you can start that let you focus less on the logistics associated with inventory and more on your business.
These low-investment, no-inventory online businesses make a great entry point for beginners or anyone with a busy schedule, giving you a hands-on education in entrepreneurship at a fraction of the cost.
You still need to come up with a solid idea, build a brand, do marketing, and provide customer service. But you won’t have to keep a stack of products in your living room or ship every order yourself, making them excellent home businesses to start. Here are some low-investment business ideas that let you make money without investing a lot upfront, while freeing you from the demands of inventory management.
1. Build a dropshipping store
Dropshipping is a business model where a third party seller stores and ships inventory to customers on your behalf.
You just need to make the sales; you don’t need to handle the products yourself. Simply put, dropshipping is a modern take on the oldest form of business: Buy an item for a low price and sell it for a profit. Except in this case, the supplier you’re buying it from is also the one responsible for getting it to the customer.
You can curate products from different suppliers into your own online store under a theme that focuses on a specific niche, like mats for yoga enthusiasts or water bowls for dog owners. When a customer buys a product from you, the order is sent to your supplier who fulfills it on your behalf. However, you are still responsible for your own customer service.
There are both local and overseas suppliers you can work with, as long as you can establish a relationship with them built on trust—an unreliable supplier will reflect poorly on your brand.
Since many of the products you can dropship are commodities and will be unbranded, your business will be competing with others through marketing and quality customer service.
In other words, it often boils down to whether you can sell a product better than the competition. That said, dropshipping is a low-investment way to test product-market fit and launch a business before you invest in your own original products. Just be sure to always order a sample for yourself to make sure that your supplier is reliable and that the quality of the products is fit for selling to your customers.
2. Design and sell print-on-demand t-shirts
Another dropshipping model, print-on-demand puts inventory, shipping, and fulfillment in the hands of a third-party supplier. But unlike the dropshipping idea above, the focus here is on customizing these products with your own designs to create something original.
T-shirts, hats, phone cases, hoodies, skirts, tote bags, and more become canvases for your creativity. You can think up witty slogans for developers or references that resonate with cat owners—if there’s passion and pride within a community, there’s a potential t-shirt business you can start.
With many print-on-demand services, you’re paying per-product, so the base price per unit will be more expensive than if you were to order in bulk. But the advantage is that if a certain t-shirt design doesn’t sell, you haven’t actually paid for the item yet (only the design if you outsourced it).
You can even use t-shirt mockup templates so you don’t actually need to spend money on a full photoshoot for every new design.
There are a variety of print-on-demand platforms you can work with, many of which can be integrated with your Shopify store for seamless order fulfillment. However, be sure to always order a sample of your product (often offered at a discount) to make sure your custom products look good.