Ecommerce

Jerry Horky with Southern Edge Sharpening discussing e-commerce with Crystal Rogers after the Sell While You Sleep e-commerce seminar Wednesday.

Derick Self runs a small business, Overtime Jerky, which sells 20 flavors of beef jerky that he makes in Acadia Parish and sells at local events and farmer's markets.

Now he's considering selling his products online but didn't know where to start. His earlier attempt at selling through Amazon fizzled out when he encountered "so many hoops to jump through" that it wasn't worth it. 

When the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and Opportunity Machine held a seminar on e-commerce and how easy it is for small businesses to start selling online Wednesday, he jumped at the chance.

"This is really changing the way people shop," Self said. "The more it catches on over time, it's just going to get stronger and stronger. And local businesses need to adapt." 

Crystal Rogers, owner of The Silver Suitcase, and Tara Guidry, owner of Cajun Crate & Supply, spoke during the seminar about how a business can easily establish an online presence.

"I have only seen my business grow in e-commerce," said Rogers, whose business sells jewelry and gifts both online and at its store at 4409 Ambassador Caffery Parkway Suite 500. "About 24% of my business is e-commerce. You need to look at e-commerce like having another store with little to no overhead, and it's open all hours of the day because the No. 1 reason people shop online is that they're able to do it whenever — even at night after putting the kids to bed."

Rogers and Guidry run leauxcalsolutions.com, an e-commerce advisory business, and recommended Shopify for local small businesses because of its ease of use. Even with the continuous growth in e-commerce in recent years, nearly half of businesses in the U.S. still don't have a website, Guidry said.

Americans spent $146.2 billion in online sales in the second quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a 4.2% increase from the first quarter. E-commerce sales represented 10.7% of all retails sales in the second quarter, and that percentage has climbed nearly every quarter since the 2010. 

"Many think they can't compete with the big box stores or online giants and it's hard to on price, but you can (compete) on customer service and that's what has people coming back," Guidry said. "Plus, you can list your stuff through Amazon and eBay and they can end up being an asset to you, not a competitor."

Business owners need only an employer identification number, bank account info or Paypal account, the company's name and address and a domain name for their website to get established. 

"I am not online besides my Facebook page," artist Sherryl Guillory said. "But I wanted to learn to do my own website myself. I want to expand to sell my art all over the United States or even other countries. The explanations and lessons we got here makes it sound like it's idiot proof and I feel that if you don't have a website, you're not selling to everyone you can."

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Email Dan Boudreaux at dboudreaux@theadvocate.com.