How to become an internet entrepreneur in midlife

This article is reprinted by permission from It is part of theAmericas Entrepreneurs Special Report.

Youve read the headlines that scream about how the internet economy is quickly reaching $4 trillion. And youve endured the cable news cycling through story lines of internet powerhouses such as Amazon,
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and Facebook.
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Maybe its time foryouto become an internet entrepreneur yourself in midlife.

Ive started more than a dozen businesses in my life, and Ive also kept up with the technology, says Jay Whitehead, the 58-year-old CEO, a New Jersey-based youth sports-themed enterprise. And I can tell you that internet technology will be the least of your problems.

With a computer, you can establish a small- or medium-size enterprise in as little as half a day. And you dont need an ounce of web development skills.

Whether youre starting a business in the bricks and mortar world or on the internet, the fundamentals of commerce still apply: Its someone trying to sell something to another human and either fulfilling an unmet need or finding a problem that needs solving.

Here are eight ways to do it:

1. Test the waters before investing in a custom website.You can build a small site onWordPress.comorBlogger.comfor free, and if you see sales, then invest in a website, says Vito Santoro, 68, who built a site back in 2004 that earned top Google rankings. He went on to co-found the video technology firmVaetas.

Too many people invest in an idea before they know itll sell, says Santoro.

2. Consider looking for a micro niche.Lets say you want to sell shoes. This is too broad. Youll be competing for search engine positioning against major shoe brands and retailers like Wal-Mart
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and Macys,
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as well as all the other shoe E-retailers.

So you decide to specialize in shoe sales to amputees (very specific). You buy a pair of shoes like other shoe E-retailers for $20 and sell them for $100, but you sell a single shoe left or right for $60, an incredible savings for the consumer. When you sell the other shoe for $60, youre making more than the other shoe E-retailers. And to get the word out about your specialized shoes, you can target everything from veterans sites to blogs of those who have been in accidents.

Plus, your Google rankings might skyrocket because youre not competing against the big boys.

If youre searching for a micro niche or want to research one that interests you, youll likely find inspiration, which lists all the questions people are typing into Google.

3. Start a business because you cant find something you want.Chances are, others are having the same problem. Ann Johnson, 55, launched her handcrafted organic skin care line,All You Naturally, because she couldnt find anything to alleviate her eczema.

4. Set up shop on an existing marketplace from giants like Amazon and eBay
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to listing services like Craigslist to niche sites like Etsy.
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Its cheaper and faster and allows you to test the business viability of your enterprise, advises Douglas McQuilken, a Charleston, S.C. SCORE small-business mentor with a long track record in software development e-commerce.

Gloria Pearson, 62, has been selling her handmade home d茅cor items on Etsy for two years. The Californian chose this marketplace because it was a ready-to-go storefront that didnt require setting up a costly website, or working out such things as payment, shipping and marketing.

She recently branched out on her own with theMybooklandiasite and is now faced with the challenge of building credibility with Google.

Selling on an existing marketplace frees you from having to worry about generating traffic to your store, which is about half the work of e-commerce, says Brandon Wright, an e-commerce consultant with ThoughtLab.

Its also a great way to build momentum and possibly acquire a few skills, says digital marketer Ellen Purchase.

Dorez Douglas, 67, based in Los Angeles, has a storefront on Etsy as well as a stand-alone site ( she manages with her daughter. They started to see a small profit after about a year. Her advice to aspiring E-merchants: Find areas in the marketplace that arent oversaturated. Do lots of research about the products or services you plan to offer. Join internet business groups.

5. Find a mentor.A multitude of business communities and groups provide great places to network, learn, and meet mentors. For instance, SCORE, the nations largest network of free business mentors, has chapters across the country that offer workshops and webinars as well as professional and technical resources.

Find a mentor or mentor group before beginning your e-commerce journey, advises Pearson. For handmade sellers, she recommends the online community Flourish.

Johnson, who belongs to several business groups on social media, says shes benefited the most from theIndie Business Network. We discuss everything, from branding and logos to selling platforms to which printers to buy, and sometimes we just vent, Johnson says.

6. When youre ready to build a site or online shop, go with a fully-hosted, cloud-based service that handles the back end of e-commerce.Krista Fabregras, an e-commerce analyst at FitSmallBusiness, favors Shopify and BigCommerce for the beginning e-merchant.

Basically, if you can log in to a website and upload a picture, you can build an online store on both of these platforms, and then easily expand into other channels as needed, she says, noting that both platforms easily connect to the many shopping channels (Amazon, Facebook, eBay, and Pinterest) that any successful startup will need to reach the broadest market.

Even with limited funds and zero technical ability, E-entrepreneur B.L. Ochman says she was able to set up a store on the Shopify
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platform for her product, Funwalkers: whimsical license plates that attach to older persons walkers and scooters.

The 60ish Manhattanite, who has a 30-year background in marketing and PR, says its important to have a strategy to leverage the internet, including social media platforms. Take classes in online marketing if you have to, notes Ochman.

7. Build a collaborative-economy platform. Thats what retired teachers Joe and Debra Morena did by launchingBabierge, which specializes in the rental and delivery of baby equipment to traveling families. Its not a franchise and there are no licensing fees to get into the business. At last count, Babierge was in 22 markets across the U.S.

After a small initial investment, the Morenas were up and running with inventory and a website, delivering baby gear to families vacationing in Phoenix where they live; six months later, they started to see a profit.

8. Finally, there is the option of buying an existing online site or store. A plethora of opportunities is available on online business marketplaces such

You can either buy a business on your own or hire a broker to facilitate the process. If youre looking for a website broker, considerDigital AcquisitionsorFE International.

These guys buy and sell websites for a living and know what to look out for, says Dustin Montgomery, a digital marketer for Shippers Supplies.

Chances are, if its for sale it needs improving. But with the right skills and know-how, you might be able to turn it around and make it into a viable business.

Risha Gotlieb is a Toronto-based freelancer whose work has appeared in The Toronto Star, The Washington Post, AARP magazine, Readers Digest, Pacific Standard and more. She is also a nonfiction author (The Lighted Path).

This article is reprinted by permission from, 漏 2017 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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