Ecommerce Business Blueprint: How to Build, Launch, and Grow a Profitable Online Store

Shopify gives advice on how to start your online business using their platform – Why not!
– This is a HUGE resource for any of you interested in getting started in an online store. I’ve never seen anything this complete…
It may be a 10 minute read but once you “decide to become” … and follow the amazing leads on this page you will spend your entire weekend getting SMART!
Do it NOW! – J Epperson

This may be you at the end of your research. Read this post!


by Mark Macdonald

May 2, 2020

10 minute read

A complete blueprint for starting an ecommerce business.

The future of ecommerce is incredibly bright. But, starting an ecommerce business is hard work and demands many steps and decisions that need to come together at the right time.

To help, we’ve put together a comprehensive blueprint for starting a business, compiled from Shopify’s most popular content. These blog posts, guides, and videos have been organized based on the most important tasks you’ll face when researching, launching, and growing a profitable ecommerce business.

I. Choosing a product

(Check out my previous blog post on selling T-Shirts… It’s an idea 🙂

Finding a product to sell

The first step to building an ecommerce business is knowing what products you want to sell online, wholesale, or direct-to-consumer. This often is the most challenging part of starting a new online business. In this section, we’ll highlight strategies you can use to find product opportunities, explore the best places to look for product ideas, and finally, look at trending products to consider.

Find Products to Sell on Shopify with Oberlo

Strategies for Finding Your First Profitable Product Opportunity

Places to Look for Profitable Product Ideas

Trending Products to Sell in 2020 and beyond…

Online Business Ideas You Can Start from Home

Evaluating your idea

Once you have a product idea in mind, how do you know if it will sell? In this section, we’ll cover a few approaches that active entrepreneurs have used to validate their product ideas and potential market.

How to Validate Your Product Ideas

The 16-Step Checklist to Evaluating Your Product Idea

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In less than 40-minutes, let us walk you through how to find product ideas, how to validate them, and how to sell the product once you have an idea you want to pursue.Register now

Obtaining your product

After landing on a strong product idea, your next step is figuring out where and how you’re going to obtain your products. The next four posts cover the various methods for acquiring your products, along with the pros and cons of each model.

Should You Make, Manufacture, Wholesale, or Dropship?

How to Find a Manufacturer or Supplier for Your Product Idea

12 Shopify Apps for Finding Products to Sell (Without Shipping Them Yourself)

Print on Demand: A Low-Risk Way to Sell Custom T-Shirts, Books, and More

Sell your retail products online

Many independent retailers face a challenging road ahead. Shifting your brick-and-mortar business online can help you weather this storm, generate cash flow, and build a more resilient business.

How to Move Your Brick-and-Mortar Business Online

Sell Gift Cards for Your Retail Business with a Simple Online Store

Quickstart Guide: How to Start Selling Online With Local Delivery

How to Quickly Set Up a “Buy Online, Pickup Curbside” Experience

II. Research and prepare

Research your competition

You’ve found your product, evaluated its potential, and sourced a supplier. But before you get into that, you’ll need to thoroughly research your competition so you know what you’re up against and how you can differentiate your business from theirs.

How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis

How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis

Writing a business plan

With your competitive research complete, it’s time to write your business plan. A business plan is a roadmap that helps bring your ideas and thoughts together. A business plan is vital in determining what to prioritize and how to effectively reach new customers.

A Detailed Guide to Writing a Useful Business Plan

Business Plan Template: A Framework to Streamline Your Next Business Plan

III. Setting up your business

Start your ecommerce business by setting up an online store.

Naming your business

Aside from figuring out what to sell, another challenging decision is determining your business or brand name and choosing an appropriate and available domain name. These blog posts will help you tackle these important tasks.

What Should I Name My Online Store?

Choosing a Brand Name: 10 Tools & 5 Brainstorming Strategies

Creating a logo

Once you’ve selected a memorable name and registered a corresponding domain, it’s time to craft a simple logo. In these resources, we’ll show you several options for creating a great logo for your new business.

Hatchful: A simple logo maker by Shopify

5 Easy to Use Online Logo Makers to Design Your Brand

How to Design a Memorable Logo in 7 Steps (We Make One From Scratch)

Learn more: From a logo maker and business name generator to gift certificate templates and a discount calculator, Shopify offers free marketing tools to help run your business.

Understanding search engine optimization (SEO)

You’re almost ready to begin building your online store. However, before you jump into it, you should understand the basics of search engine optimization so you can properly structure your site and pages for Google and other search engines.

The Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce SEO

What Can I Do to Help My Store Rank in Search Engines?

Keyword Research for Ecommerce from the Ground Up

Business SEO Checklist: How to Rank a New Site

Building your store

With a better understanding of search engines, it’s time to build out your store. There are many crucial elements to consider. Below, we’ve listed our essential reads to help you build high-converting product pages, write captivating product descriptions, shoot beautiful product photography, choose your ecommerce color palette, and much more.

50 Exceptional Shopify Stores to Inspire New Entrepreneurs

11 Experts Share How to Optimize Your Product Pages

How to Write Product Descriptions that Sell

The Ultimate DIY Guide to Product Photography

Customizing Your Shopify Theme: How To Use Images, Colors, and Fonts

Must-Know Tips for Optimizing Your Images

How to Create a Coming Soon Page and Start Marketing Before You Launch

Don’t forget, if you run into any problems getting your store set up, you can always hire help from Shopify Experts.

Choosing your sales channels

One of the best ways to reach new customers is to choose sales channels where they already shop. The right mix of sales channels will depend on your products and your target customers, but there are a number of great options that can complement and support your self-hosted store.

Etsy and Shopify: How Three Makers Used Both to Grow Their Businesses

Selling on eBay: How One Business Finds New Customers

This Business Generates 76.8% of Orders Selling on Amazon with Shopify

As you prepare for the launch of your new business, there are several shipping and fulfillment elements you need to prepare for. In this section, we’ve curated a few comprehensive guides on how to determine your shipping strategy.

The Beginner’s Guide to Shipping and Fulfillment

International Shipping: Everything You Need to Know

How Do I Price and Implement a Strategy to Handle Returns?

How to Reduce Shipping Costs as a Small Ecommerce Store

It’s also a good idea to define your key performance indicators up front so, once you launch, you know what measures of success to track.

67 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Ecommerce

What Are the Basic Ecommerce Metrics I Need To Focus On First?

As a final checklist, this post covers the 10 essential things you need to do before launch.

The Essential Shopify Store Launch Checklist

V. Post launch

Successfully launching your ecommerce business.

Acquiring your first customer

Now that you’ve launched, the hard work of marketing your products begins. While many new store owners should consider selling their physical products in person, the rest of digital marketing rests on doing one thing well: driving targeted traffic. Next, we’ll share a variety of marketing tactics that will help you in your first months.

Marketing Checklist: How to Get Your First Sale in 30 Days

Need Traffic? Here’s How to Get Visitors to a New Website (Even If You Don’t Know Where to Begin)

Customer Acquisition: How to (Profitably) Gain New Customers

Marketing your store

You’re well on your way and now likely have a few sales under your belt. It’s time to get serious and focused. The following posts will help you zero in on your top-performing marketing tactics or expand into new ones for driving traffic and converting that traffic to sales.

Email marketing essentials

Driving traffic from social

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy

How to Get More Followers on Instagram: A Guide for Businesses

Pinterest Marketing 101: Why You’ll Need a New Playbook to Win

How to Start a YouTube Channel for Your Business

Driving traffic and conversions from paid ads

Facebook Ads for Beginners: A Step-By-Step Guide to Running Your First Campaign

The Google Ads Playbook: 13 Campaign Types And What to Expect From Them

The Best Price Comparison Engines to Increase Ecommerce Sales

Optimizing for higher conversions

The Complete Guide to A/B Testing (Tips from Google, HubSpot, and Shopify)

How to Find and Plug the Leaks in Your Conversion Funnels

Drive More Sales and Revenue with Targeted Live Chat

19 Experts Share How to Increase Revenue Without Increasing Traffic

9 Ways to Earn Customer Trust When You Have Zero Sales

How Trustworthy Is Your Online Store? 39 Ways to Build Customer Trust

Driving Traffic but No Sales? Here’s How to Diagnose and Improve Your Store

Using analytics to uncover insights

The Beginner’s Guide to Analyzing Shopify Reports and Analytics

What Basic Ecommerce Metrics Should I Focus On First?

5 Google Analytics Segments You Can Use to Increase Revenue

9 Google Analytics Custom Reports by the Experts

Facebook Custom Audiences 101: A Starter Guide for Ecommerce Businesses

A blueprint is just the beginning

Building your own ecommerce business is as exciting as it is challenging. At a rapid pace you’ll learn a ton about choosing a product, evaluating its viability, figuring out how to get it produced, building an online store, and marketing and selling to new customers. The process can feel like you’re solving a head scratcher of a puzzle, but it’s rewarding all the same.

We hope following this resource roundup helps provide you with a clearer roadmap. As always, the best advice anyone can give is to just get started and to enjoy yourself along the way.

I told you it was an amazing compilation of just about everything you would need to start and sell from a Shopify site. Let’s “Get Going”… That would be Day 12 of My XYZ’s of Excellence – One Day at a Time – Online Course Check it out.

10 Print-On-DemandCompanies for Selling Your Own Custom Products

(Ever wonder how some of your favorite bloggers and podcast stars always seem to have a new t-shirt for sale. What about you?

Since we’re stuck working remotely and you’re tired of looking at the walls of your home, how about starting a t-shirt store with Shopify.

Take a look at this article… [J A Epperson])

Print on demand services to create custom products.

Braveen Kumar – Products to Sell
Sep 19, 2020 15 minute read

Print on demand services to create custom products.
With custom products, you can create your own clothing line, monetize your audience, or cater to a specific niche. Print on demand is a fulfillment model that makes all of that possible without having to hold your own inventory.

But choosing the best print-on-demand company to work with and bring your vision to life can require a lot of research. Each platform has its own distinct catalog of products, shipping considerations, and unique features that will factor into your decision.

To help narrow your list of options, we’ve reviewed 10 of the best print-on-demand sites for designing, selling, and shipping your own custom products.

The 10 best print-on-demand companies
The following print-on-demand sites are free to start with and require you to pay only for the cost of the product and shipping after someone has placed an order:

Apliiq Dropship
Lulu Xpress
JetPrint: Print On Demand
AOP+ Easy Print on Demand

To make it even easier to choose the best print-on-demand site for your specific needs, we’ll look at these key factors:

Shipping: How long does production take after a customer has placed an order? Where does the company ship from? What are its standard shipping times? How is shipping calculated?
Printing options: What printing techniques and customizations do they offer?
Unique features: Are there any unique features or offerings that set them apart from the rest?
Recommended for: Who is this print-on-demand solution best for?
Product catalog overview: What are some of the customizable products the service offers?
All of the print-on-demand companies on this list integrate with Shopify, letting you build a branded online storefront to sell your own custom products wherever your audience spends their time.

  1. Printful
printful print on demand products

Shipping: Products are usually ready to ship within two to five business days from the US, Mexico, or Europe with 50% of orders ready in under three days. Standard shipping to the US starts at $3.99 and takes three to four business days (see their shipping map for other destinations). Shipping costs depend on the product with discounted rates for additional items in the same order.
Printing options: Printful offers direct-to-garment, embroidery, cut and sew, and sublimation printing depending on the product. You can also add tear-away tags to your products, as well as inserts and stickers to your packaging for an additional cost for a more branded customer experience.
Unique features: A built-in mockup generator means you can be ready to sell in minutes. Printful also boasts the most integrations with marketplaces and commerce platforms—including Shopify. They also offer a 20% discount on sample orders.
Recommended for: Both beginners and experienced entrepreneurs who want a flexible, well-rounded solution to start on that can scale with them.
Printful is one of the most popular print-on-demand companies, offering a wide range of products to customize and features to help you get started that range from mockup generators to services like logo design. Whether you want to sell apparel, prints, home decor, or accessories, you can find what you’re looking for in Printful’s catalog.

For an additional cost, you can also add your own branding to your products and packaging, including inside labels and packaging inserts to help encourage repeat business or promote another product line. Printful also offers services from graphic design to marketing videos, as well as bulk discounts of up to 30%.

Product catalog:
T-shirts (American Apparel, Bella + Canvas, Gildan, etc.)
Sweatpants, leggings, and joggers
Tote bags and backpacks
Phone cases
Bean bag chairs
Framed posters
And over 220 more

How to quickly start a profitable print-on-demand store

In our free 40-minute video workshop, we’ll get you from product idea, to setting up an online store, to getting your first print-on-demand sale.

  1. SPOD
SPOD's print on demand products

Shipping: Ships within 48 hours from the US, starting at $3.57 for domestic shipping with an estimated arrival time of 3 to 8 business days. Costs are based on total order value rather than individual products or quantity. See SPOD’s shipping calculator for more details.
Printing options: Digital direct, thermal sublimation, digital transfer/laser transfer, special flex, depending on the product you want to create.
Unique features: A product customization tool that lets customers personalize their purchase with their own images, your own designs or over 50k free designs offered by SPOD. It also offers a 20% discount on sample orders.
Recommended for: People new to print on demand who are looking for speedy fulfillment, simplified shipping, and competitive prices. If you want to give customers the ability to personalize your products, such as a t-shirt sporting a picture of their dog, SPOD also has one of the best customization tools in the game.
SPOD is a print-on-demand site owned by Spreadshirt. It boasts one of the fastest fulfillment times in the industry—95% of orders ship within 48 hours—which makes for a satisfying experience for the end customer.

While it may not offer the largest variety of available products, it does offer some of the most competitive prices and an easy-to-use product designer.

It also has a simple pricing model for shipping, which is based on the value of the products you order. With most print-on-demand companies, calculating shipping costs can quickly become complicated for orders containing multiple products from different categories. With costs based on order value, SPOD makes it easier to create shipping rules that maximize your profitability while using upselling and cross selling to encourage customers to add more to their cart.

Product catalog:
Classic t-shirts (as low as $6.39)
Premium organic t-shirts
Adjustable aprons
Baseball caps
Women’s longer-length fitted tank top
Camper mugs
7-inch crew socks
And 110 more options

  1. Printify
printify print on demand products

Shipping: Printify is a vendor network, which means it sources and prints products from partners around the world. That also means that products, shipping costs, location, packaging, and production times will depend on the print provider you choose.
Printing options: Direct to garment, sublimation, cut and sew, embroidery, and more, depending on the print provider and product.
Unique features: You can upgrade to the monthly premium plan for 20% off all orders, which can allow for better profit margins when you’re ready to scale.
Recommended for: Anyone looking for a flexible and cost-effective print-on-demand solution that lets you find a printing partner that ships specific products from a specific region of the world.
Printify is notable in that it gives you access to a large network of printing partners distributed around the world. This not only means a larger variety of products to choose from, it also lets you select your printer based on the country you want to sell in for faster and more cost-effective shipping.

Altogether, Printify offers some of the best margins and the largest selection of products available. The inherent trade-off is that the quality of the products and the printer’s service can vary based on who you work with. Also, choosing to work with multiple vendors that will require further setup.

Product catalog:
Canvas wraps and framed prints
Fridge magnets
High heels
And over 250 more
Choosing the best print-on-demand company to work with and bring your vision to life can require a lot of research.

  1. Apliiq Print On Demand
apliiq print on demand products

Shipping: Production can take up to seven days for orders. Apliiq offers weight-based shipping starting at $3.99 to the US and ship internationally to over 150 countries worldwide (see their international shipping page for their shipping rates table). For faster fulfillment, you can pay a 10% rush order fee or choose an expedited shipping option.
Printing options: Add your own branded label, clothing tags, or embroidered patches to create products that truly feel like your own. Apliiq also offers digital print, screen print (for bulk orders), cut and sew, appliqué (where your designs are sewn on as a separate fabric), and embroidery options.
Unique features: Add custom labels, clothing tags, and patches to brand your products. Apliiq offers more robust customization than other platforms with the ability to design the interior lining of a hoodie or add pockets, patches, and more to your clothing.
Recommended for: Anyone who’s serious about fashion and starting their own clothing line with premium apparel at a higher price point, especially if you want to order in bulk to have products on hand to sell offline.
If you want to start a clothing line that puts design and quality above all else, there are few better options than Apliiq. Based in downtown LA, it offers a wide range of customization options that let you create your own retail-quality private label apparel products.

With better wholesale discounts than most print-on-demand providers (starting at 20% off for a bulk order of 10), Apliiq is a great partner for anyone who wants to start a fashion brand and sell through a mix of online and offline retail channels.

For $100 a year, you can upgrade to a plan that includes 100 custom woven labels that will be sewn onto your products. Instead of offering a discount on samples, like most companies, you pay a markup for quality assurance, wherein an in-house production artist will review your product and make minor tweaks to your design. That way, when you’re ready to dropship or buy in bulk, you can be confident that customers will receive the best version of your product.

Product catalog:
Pocket tees (designs on the chest pocket)
Premium joggers
Hoodies with print on interior lining
Kangaroo hoodies
Premium snapback hat
Denim jackets
Eco-friendly clothing
And more

  1. Teelaunch
teelaunch print on demand products

Shipping: Production usually takes three to six business days, after which orders are ready to ship from facilities in the US, Canada, or the UK. Shipping costs depend on the product and destination. You can see Teelaunch’s full breakdown of product costs for details.
Printing options: Direct to garment and cut and sew all-over-print for apparel, and laser etching for products like tumblers and cooking boards.
Unique features: Teelaunch offers a product personalization tool that lets customers add their name or upload their own photo to a product. It also autogenerates high-quality professional product mockups, including lifestyle photos for some items.
Recommended for: Anyone looking for an all-around solution for creating quality products. Teelaunch makes it easy to source high-quality items at competitive prices.
Teelaunch is another solid and versatile print-on-demand partner. What stands out the most is the quality of the mockups it generates for you—it gives you professional-looking product images to use in marketing materials and even lifestyle photos for some of its items.

With a competitively priced catalog of quality products (including rather unique items like Bluetooth speakers), reasonable fulfillment times, and a responsive customer support team, Teelaunch has all the ingredients to help you build a print-on-demand business.

Product catalog:
T-shirts (Next Level, Bella + Canvas, and more)
3-piece canvas sets
Color-changing mugs
Monogram handbags
Penryn backpacks
Running shoes
Bluetooth speakers
Dog bowls
iPhone cases
Phone chargers
And over 120 more

  1. CustomCat
print on demand company custom cat's catalog

Shipping: Orders are produced in the US and usually ready to ship within two to three business days. From there, it takes about one to seven business days for domestic shipping and four to 15 days for international shipping. Domestic shipping to the US costs $4.99 for the first item and then $1.50 for each additional item, while international shipping is $7.50 for the first item and $5.95 for each additional item. See CustomCat’s FAQ page for details.
Printing options: Direct-to-garment, sublimation, 3D dye diffusion, and embroidery printing.
Unique features: An optional paid plan for $30 a month gives you access to some of the lowest prices in the industry ($7 tees and $3.50 mugs).
Recommended for: Sourcing hard-to-find products as they boast one of the largest catalogs on this list.
CustomCat is a large-scale print-on-demand company with the biggest catalog of products on this list—over 550 and counting. If you’re looking for a variety of products and are OK with a simple design tool, CustomCat is a good all-around partner with competitive prices and fast fulfillment times.

It offers a wide range of brands and products to choose from, along with a paid plan of $30 a month to get a discount on its entire catalog.

Product catalog:
T-shirts (Bella + Canvas, Dickies, Gildan, and more)
Laptop sleeves
Pet accessories
Windbreaker jackets and pants
And over 550 more items

  1. Lulu xPress
lulu xpress print on demand book options

Shipping: Ships within three to five business days to over 150 countries from fulfillment centers in the US, Canada, Europe, and the UK. Starts at $3.99 to ship to the US. See Lulu’s pricing calculator for details.
Printing options: Digital printing with the option to choose paper type, trim size (from pocketbook to A4 landscape), print quality and color, binding type (perfect bound, hardcover, etc.), and matte or glossy finish.
Unique features: With Lulu, you can also sell your books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lulu’s own marketplace, or even as an ebook.
Recommended for: Authors, teachers, comedians, illustrators, and creatives of all kinds who want to monetize their talent or their audience with a book or calendar product.
Lulu xPress is the print-on-demand arm of Lulu, an online platform for self-publishers. It makes it easy to create and sell your own print products, from books to calendars, that you can customize in a variety of ways.

Lulu xPress is great for writers, photographers, educators, and creatives, especially those with an established audience that they want to monetize. Outside of the standard merchandise that creators typically sell, Lulu lets you convert digital content into a physical item, such as turning your webcomics into a coffee table book.

Best of all, using Lulu doesn’t close you off from other distribution channels with more reach and scale, such as retail book stores and Amazon. Instead, Lulu xPress is an easy way to test an idea or retain more of your profits by selling directly to consumers under your own brand, bypassing all the gatekeepers of traditional publishing.

Product catalog:
Novelty coffee-table books
Poetry books
Comic books
And other print products
You need to find a reliable service to partner with to ensure your products look and feel the way you want.

  1. T-Pop
print on demand company t-pop's catalog of t-shirts

Shipping: Orders are printed in France and take two to four days before they’re ready to ship. From there, orders within France arrive in two to three working days, the rest of Europe in three to seven days, and international orders in five to 10 days. Shipping rates are weight based, which you can dig into on T-Pop’s shipping page.
Printing options: Direct-to-garment for cotton apparel and sublimation dye for polyester and accessories.
Unique features: White label customer experience with fully customizable packing slips, plus eco-friendly products, printing, and packaging.
Recommended for: Selling within Europe or anyone looking for a quality print-on-demand company with an ethical and eco-friendly supply chain and business practice.
T-Pop is a print-on-demand company based in Europe that focuses on apparel and accessories. When customers receive your order, everything from the packaging to the packing slip will bear your brand. With a monthly sales volume of 100, you can also add your brand to the inside labels of your products for 2.50.

What makes T-Pop stand out is its commitment to the environment, from “zero plastic” packaging—advertised on it for customers to see—to 100% recycled paper packing slips.

It goes the extra mile to ensure its supply chain is as ethical as possible. Its main supplier, Stanley/Stella, is part of the Fair Wear Foundation, an organization focused on ensuring compliance with labor laws in the manufacture of apparel products.

Product catalog:
Hoodie dress
Aluminum bottle
Tank tops
Tote bags
Metal and ceramic mugs
Cushion and cushion covers
Baby bibs and onesies
And more
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  1. JetPrint: Print on Demand
jetprint print on demand watches

Shipping: Average production time is three to five business days. It offers free global shipping with an average arrival time of 14–20 business days. However, it also offers $15 express shipping for delivery within five to nine business days. See their FAQ page for details.
Printing options: JetPrint focuses mainly on watches with the ability to print your own designs on the watch face. It offers many different watch types, colors, and straps to customize the final product.
Unique features: Automatically process orders, setting a timeframe that allows you to make changes or corrections if needed. JetPrint also gives you the ability to automatically generate a variety of high-quality mockups and detailed specs to use on your product page.
Recommended for: Anyone interested in starting their own custom watch company with a drop-shipping fulfillment model.
JetPrint specializes in a unique product category within the print-on-demand space: watches. With different styles, straps, and colors to choose from, you can design your own watches to sell on demand. Shipping is simplified into free and express options with international coverage, making it easy to advertise free international shipping to entice customers to shop with you.

Once you’ve designed your product, JetPrint will automatically generate a collection of product photos that show off your watches from several angles.

While JetPrint’s focus has largely been on watches, it’s also expanding its catalog to include other product categories, such as home decor and phone accessories.

Product catalog:
Genuine leather strap watches
Steel strap watches
Magnetic steel strap watches
Perpetual calendar watches
Hard phone cases
Wall tapestries
And more

  1. AOP+ Easy Print on Demand
Products sold by AOP+ a print on demand company

Shipping: Production usually takes three to five business days (seven to 10 for all-over-print), after which it will ship from one of its fulfillment centers in the US, Europe, or the UK. Shipping costs depend on the product with discounts on additional items in the same order. See AOP+’s shipping rates for details.
Printing options: AOP+ focuses on dye sublimation all-over-print (hence the name) and direct-to-garment printing.
Unique features: Include your own custom packing slip in orders. You can also unlock discounts of up to 10% off, along with other custom branding options, like packaging stickers and private labeling features, with AOP+’s paid plans.
Recommended for: Anyone who wants to quickly launch and test their designs on a large variety of products or is open to paying a monthly fee ($11.99 to $19.99) to bring their unique vision for a custom print-on-demand business to life.
As its name suggests, AOP+ focuses mainly on easy all-over-print products. You simply upload a design and choose which products you’d like to create, making it perhaps the fastest print-on-demand app to get started with. It also prints everything in-house, which allows for better quality control.

While AOP+ offers a free plan that includes many of the features you’d expect from a print-on-demand company, its paid plans are where it truly shines, giving you access to both discounts, various customization options, and more.

Product catalog:
Throw pillows
Organic tote bags
Hard phone cases
Hoodie dresses
Flip flops
And over 200 more items

Print on demand’s strongest appeal is giving you a low-risk way to try your hand at selling custom products. As we’ve covered above, you need to find a reliable service to partner with to ensure your products look and feel the way you want and are reliably shipped to your customers.

At first glance, many print-on-demand companies can seem interchangeable, especially if all you want to do is start an online t-shirt business. But it’s important to choose a partner based on where its strengths lie, the products it offers, and how it can scale with your vision. Once you know what you want, your partner’s distinctive catalogs, pricing, and feature sets make a meaningful difference.

Illustration by Eugenia Mello

About the author
Braveen Kumar

Braveen Kumar is part of the content team at Shopify where he develops resources to help aspiring entrepreneurs start and grow their own businesses.

Remember to check out my Online Course – My XYZ’s of Excellence – 26 Days to Excellence in Business Leadership and Life – “One Day at a Time.”

5 Quick Team Building Activities to do via Conference Calls

By David Humphreys | Published on November 06, 2020 (Updated on 11/10/2020) | 7 min read

Teams across the globe have embraced remote work, and with it a whole new way to collaborate. A modern work environment doesn’t just get created overnight, there are hurdles along the way to make it feel “normal”.

Team building is not a one-off activity you do when you happen to think “hey, it’s been a while since we did a team bonding exercise!”. Team building efforts are most effective when done regularly, and result in a caring and connected team.

When it comes to remote teams, virtual team building is especially important. Since the intention to communicate and collaborate needs to be at the forefront of all remote initiatives, making sure that your team feels emotionally connected is a good place to start.

Instead of looking at those as “cheesy” or just a standard in-person exercise, start looking at it as a way of breaking your virtual team’s routine to cultivate connections, spark conversations, and getting to know your co-workers, beyond just work.

Team Building, But Make It Remote
By many measures, communicating in person is just flat out easier. When your team members are sitting directly across from you, it’s more straightforward to give them your full attention, pick up on nonverbal cues, and build rapport via shared experiences.

However, choosing to get together in person as a distributed team does come with some major downsides. Assuming it’s safe to travel, airfare and hotel accommodations can be pricey, and each flight will add about 0.5 metric tons of CO2 to your carbon footprint.

On the other hand, relying on the internet to communicate can also be challenging. Up to 92% of human communication is nonverbal, and current technology can only partially translate the spectrum of human expression.

Even video conferencing, which allows you to pick up on facial expressions and some body language (which constitutes 55% of communication), has its limitations. When the person you’re talking to is a two-inch-tall disembodied head that magically transforms into a buffering wheel every 15 seconds, deciphering facial expressions and body language can be frustrating.

But remote meetings don’t have to be that awkward. Building rapport and understanding helps fill in the communication gaps during those technologically-challenging moments. Let’s look at some icebreakers and quick virtual activities to help your team kick-off your next conference call on the same page.

Easy (Not Cheesy) Remote Team Building Exercises
Getting to know your co-workers does not have to be time-consuming or awkward. The key here is to make it consistent, rather than a random bonding exercise. In the long run, your team will become more familiar with the idea of opening up to other team members through some fun virtual activities.

Here are some quick and ongoing team building activities to implement in your distributed team conference calls to keep work moving forward in a collaborative and connected light.

  1. Point Your Camera Out The Window
    One of the great aspects of video conferencing is that it allows you to catch a glimpse of an unfamiliar environment in real-time, without ever leaving the comfort of your remote office.
team building activity showing your surrounder

If you live in Minnesota and someone is joining your meeting from New Zealand, chances are you’ll want to take a peek out their window. Will it overlook a spectacular Lord of the Rings-style vista or an ordinary Wellington street? The opportunity to play tourist for five minutes will be fun for everyone involved and will help the team get a common perspective of their surroundings.

team building activity showing your surrounder

Here’s an example. Where do you think the picture above is from? It kind of looks somewhere in Scandinavian, doesn’t it?

Here’s a hint: It’s Canada’s Silicon Valley and—more importantly—the historic birthplace of Joseph Schneider, founder of the Schneider hot dog company. Is it easier to guess now?

If you said Waterloo, Ontario, you guessed right!

See how fun that was? You can add fun facts to your location to give more hints for your co-workers to guess. This is also a great icebreaker for a virtual happy hour.

  1. Desk Show And Tell
    Another major advantage of virtual meetings is that everything in your office is always within reach. Chances are, you’ve decorated your workspace in a way that reflects your personal taste.

Explaining the story behind a piece of artwork or an accessory on your desk can be a great way for other people to get to know you better. The next time you’re on a video call with your team, take them on a tour of your desk!

Alternatively, you can use the objects on your desk as the basis for a virtual team building game: Which item within reach would you take with you if you were stranded on a tropical island?

Here’s some advice: Take a laptop charger. In lieu of a proper rope, it would be the ideal instrument for rappelling up trees to pick coconuts.

team building activity trapped in an island

You can also expand this team building activity to your chat tool, such as Slack, by randomly asking your team members to share their remote office desk at a certain time of the day.

You can learn a lot about your remote workers’ personalities and state of mind depending on the day they are having.

Example: Is the chaos that is Max’s desk reflective of Max’s organizational skills or a stressful day? This will help your virtual team create empathy and connection with other team members across the globe.

  1. Two Truths And A Lie
    This virtual team building activity is based on the popular Jimmy Fallon’s segment, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be popular during your conference call. The rules of this virtual icebreaker are simple: Write down three statements, two of which are true and one of which is false. Read all three statements out loud and give everyone else a minute to guess which of the statements is false.

You’d be surprised how many times you can play this before you run out of fake things to share, or eventually knowing your co-workers so well, that you can easily tell when they are lying.

  1. Team Coffee Or Team Lunch
    It’s a scientific fact that eating together promotes team bonding. Most companies that pride themselves on having a strong company culture have picked up on this, and just because your team can’t physically meet at the same restaurant doesn’t mean that this tried and true team building activity is off-limits.

It’s fairly straightforward to hold team lunches remotely via video conferencing: Have food, eat in front of your camera, let the conversations (and probably coffee) flow. It may feel weird, but it works!

team bonding through lunch

If you have a group of foodies, you could create a remote cooking experience with your co-workers. This can even be opened as a company-wide virtual team building activity where participants share their recipes using the same ingredients. This is a great way to learn different flavors when your remote team has a diverse cultural background.

Breaking down virtual barriers by breaking bread is simple to organize and something everyone will have in common.

  1. Summarize A Story In 60 Seconds
    Everything becomes more exciting when a time limit is involved. For instance, listening to an academic summarize their PhD dissertation is hardly the stuff of high drama, and yet one of the most popular public events at universities is the 3MT, a competition in which PhD students attempt to whittle down their thesis into an easily digestible three-minute-long sound bite.

Substitute PhD dissertations with resumes, change the time limit from 3 minutes to 1 minute, and you have the basis for a pretty good (and quick) team building exercise that can be added to any virtual meeting.

Your colleagues are going to want to know a bit about your background, but they’re not going to want to know about it in Proustian detail. By forcing everyone to summarize their careers in 60 seconds, you’re not only sharing information that will help cement bonds between team members, but you’re doing it in a way that would nab solid ratings if your virtual meeting were broadcasted on TV.

You can also spin up this idea as a fun way to start your virtual meetings. Instead of sharing a career background story, you can have each team member sharing a fun, not yet-known story about themselves in 60 seconds.

Start With Team Building Basics, End With A Bond
These five virtual team building activities are just a small fraction of the hundreds of possible meeting games out there, but they’re ones that are easily adapted to fit into your regular meetings.

Remember, good virtual team building activities should create natural conversations—similar to the ones that take place in the traditional workspace, and all while sitting in the comfort of your favorite chair and outfit.

Start small. Pick one idea above and give it a try! You will be impressed by the results that this can bring to your team.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2017 and we’ve added a whole heap of new ideas and nuggets of information to this post in October 2020.

Use Trello to help manage your team efforts. find more at or if you need more power try out or

What if a business paid you for referring your friends…

What if you got paid for recommending your favorite grocery store, or gas station or tire store or insurance agent or movie theater? You do it every day, you recommend stores and services who have treated you well and you’ve done it for free. Wow you are incredibly generous. But what if those businesses offered you a gift card or maybe even a portion of the sales income you helped the business generate. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

What if I offered to reward your kindness in telling your friends and family about my online course? Would that be such a bad thing?

As soon as you have checked out the My XYZ’s of Excellence – One Day at a Time – Online Course and decided to share it with your friends and family, I want to provide you a financial reward for your kindness if they choose to enroll and take my course. Let me know if you want to receive a portion of the tuition paid.

If you think the course has merit and would like to recommend it to others, I want to share an income opportunity with you. Affiliate marketing within the internet is a very effective way for you to add income to your life by simply sharing something that you have already found to be of value.

Imagine if you could be rewarded for all the times you recommended a tire store or a fast-food restaurant or a real estate agent or an insurance agent or new movie or new album. Imagine if every time you simply shared something you found to be of value with your friends, the owner of that product or service gave you a financial reward in return.

Refer from anywhere

Well, that’s what I want to do. I am more than happy to share a sales commission with you. For every dollar received from someone choosing to improve their life by enrolling in my course I am prepared to share part of that tuition with you. Can you imagine the income you could have received already if colleges and universities would have shared just a small portion of the received tuitions with anyone who had recommended to a high school graduate that they attend their alma mater?

Any user within my Thinkific account can be assigned an Affiliate role. Once I have assigned you a unique identifying number, each affiliate will have their own set of unique links, you can use those links to direct traffic to my Thinkific site: My XYZ’s of Excellence – One Day at a Time – online course.”

The first time any prospect visits my site, having been directed there through your affiliate link, a browser cookie records how they got there; if it was through your affiliate link, the cookie will record that information. If the prospect, then goes on to enroll in my course within the next 30 days, they will be associated with your affiliate identification.

Affiliate commissions are tracked for any enrollments that are made by a prospect using your affiliate links. This assignment of affiliate commissions includes full payment or installments on a payment plan.

I hope you will accept my offer to you to share a large portion of the tuition with you. My goal has always been to help other people. I can help students (business and team leaders) through their completion of my course and I can help you through recommending to them that they participate in the course. This can be as Steven R Covey once said a true “Win- Win” opportunity.

How to become an affiliate:
1) Enroll in My XYZ’s of Excellence – One Day at a Time – Online Course. Either full course, one of the Bundle of modules or the Free Day One Module.

2) Email me a request to become an affiliate. My email address is

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Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to generate passive income. Check out the course, refer to others, receive commissions. Come along let’s get going.

How to Keep Your Social Media Accounts Secure

Security & Privacy

News you Can Use…

Ruth Gonzalez | September 17, 20192 9 min read

The original intent of social media was to bring people together. We share our lives with our far-away loved ones and friends and make new friends across time zones and cultural boundaries. 

Sound good? If this was the only outcome of millions of humans sharing cat videos and baby photos, the world would be a sweeter place. However, with this intent came something more unfriendly—to put it mildly.

Hackers, marketing companies, and more besides, take and share your informational data for a variety of reasons.  Extreme examples like Cambridge Analytica using your likes and dislikes to influence an election should be enough to give the everyday user a pause for thought.

Let’s take a look at the kinds of security issues that come from social media, and how you can keep yourself and your data safe in a time when everyone is online all the time.

How Is Social Media a Security Risk?

These days, almost everyone with an internet connection or mobile device has at least one social media account. Their methods of use may differ from reading the news to sharing their lives, to updating their professional resume. Regardless of usage, social media is a part of the fabric of modern-day life. 

What used to the content of private conversations is more often than not shared in a public space such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Multitudes of strangers have access to your opinions, comments, political leanings, and family concerns.

Bearing this in mind, it’s important to learn how to protect one’s data and privacy while feeling free enough to learn and share on these platforms.

With privacy and security a top priority, enabling best practices for safely using social media will give you peace of mind.

Start with a Strong Password

Password managers are your best friend when it comes to social media protection. A password manager assists in creating random strings of characters that are unique, hard to crack, and also hard to remember. Bearing that in mind, the manager stores these in a safe account that is easily accessible. 

Trusted password manager apps are everywhere, but the top ones include:

While you may have numerous accounts that require passwords, these apps keep them all in one place, while diversifying the actual passwords themselves. It is recommended to never use the same password for more than one account. Tools such as Chrome Password Manager will generate unique strings of characters for you.

Security Concerns on Facebook

Facebook is the behemoth of all social media. 

hedgehog setting a strong password

With an estimated two billion users daily, it can be impossible to avoid. Even if you’ve decided to limit your use of the platform, it can be very difficult to disengage from it entirely. Most users of social media assume others have a presence on Facebook. Think about all the ways in which family, friends, and colleagues use it. Even cultural and entertainment institutions rely on Facebook to announce important events. 

Facebook has become our default, despite its faults and shifting demographics, everyone seems to be on it.

Now consider all the problems that arise from this fact. Exposes in the media and documentary films have uncovered widespread hacking and abuse of personal information. Cambridge Analytica harvested personal data on over 50 million Facebook users and used it to alter the course of a democratic election. There’s a saying that ‘If you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product.’

We are still a long way away from any solid implementation of global data rights as human rights law. Therefore, it is up to you, the user, to know how to protect yourself and your digital identity.

Easy Security for your Facebook account:

  • Create a complex Password & store in a Password Manager.
  • If you’re checking your Facebook account from any device other than your home computer or personal cell phone, do not check ‘Keep Me Logged In’.
  • Set up 2FA: Two-Factor Authentication ensures only you can log into your account. This can be enabled inside the ‘Settings’ menu under ‘Setup’.
  • Only accept friend requests from people you already know in the real world, or are within two degrees of separation from your personal network. 
  • Report suspicious activity to Facebook.
  • Block accounts that harass or attack you on comment threads.

Next up, Twitter!

Twitter has revolutionized the way we absorb news and media. 

locking down social media accounts

With its short bursts of journalism, to its hilarious use of puns and wit, to its unfortunate abuses of fringe ideology and ignorance, this social media platform has changed the game when it comes to information.

You no longer need to scour an entire news blog to follow a story that means a lot to you. Simply locate the journalist on Twitter and follow her, or find the relevant hashtag for the latest updates.

Twitter is also great for self-promotion of your small business, building a network of trusted colleagues, and promoting brands and business practices relevant to your interests.

With the great ability to communicate also comes great risks. 

Here are some valuable ways to protect your identity, location and data on Twitter:

  • As with Facebook, begin by creating a complex Password & store in a Password Manager.
  • 2FA is your best friend from now on! Two Factor Authentication should be used wherever and whenever it is offered on a social media platform
  • Go into ‘Settings & Privacy’ and choose ‘Protect my tweets’ for added privacy. This way, only your approved followers can see what you choose to share and say on Twitter.
  • Monitor all third-party apps that have access to your Twitter account. Some of these allow data access, therefore it is wise to limit any third-party capabilities.
  • Don’t accept or click Direct Messages from unknown accounts. They may be phishing attacks or viruses.
  • Don’t forget to log out of any devices that are not your home computer or personal cell phone!

Onward to LinkedIn

Chances are if you’ve ever searched for a job in the last ten years or more, you’ve got a LinkedIn profile. 

It’s the world standard for professional networking. This also means it hosts a huge amount of personal data from your location to your professional network and education background. That can be quite tempting for a hacker, identity thief, or third party marketer.

LinkedIn is a haven for phishing attacks, scam artists promising ‘dream jobs’, and the usual hackers that abound all over the internet. With your professional life on the line, you can’t afford not to put privacy practices into place on this platform that is the global standard for resume hosting.

What you can do on LinkedIn:

  • Starting with the password, begin by creating a complex Password & store in a Password Manager.
  • Think carefully about what data you wish to share on LinkedIn. Only post the most essential professional details about yourself. If you already have a resume or CV up, go over it and remove anything that seems like oversharing.
  • Check what third-party apps are authorized to connect your LinkedIn. Sometimes these are outside job boards or old application processes. Delete any that are not in use.
  • Be wary of direct messages from unknown recruiters or countries where you’ve never done business. Practice internet savvy and don’t trust every message that comes into your inbox!
  • Keep track of where you apply for jobs and how you’ve shared your LinkedIn profile. 

Picture Perfect Privacy: Instagram

Who doesn’t love pretty pictures? 

hedgehog blocking people from social media

Instagram’s popularity has soared in recent years. What used to be a niche photo-sharing site, has beaten the old standard Flickr and risen to the top in popularity. It’s platform encourages the exploration of beautiful landscapes, fabulous parties, and gorgeous fashions. It also allows for story-sharing, hashtag following, linking to other profiles, and conversation threads.

The good thing about Instagram is that you can make your profile completely private from prying eyes. This doesn’t stop your handle from being linked, however, if the average user, or bot, who is not in your curated followers list has no ability to see your photos. For a platform with more than 1 billion active users, privacy is a concern.

How to make sure no one is accessing your IG account:

  • As with all other social media platforms, set your password with a unique string of numbers and characters.
  • Enable 2FA (two-factor authentication).
  • Consider changing your passwords every few months as an extra precaution against fraud. Do NOT use the password twice.
  • Monitor any third-party apps you may have already approved, and disable any that are not in use.
  • Do not geo-tag your photos. Disable geotagging that allows your location to be shown when you post a photograph.
  • Do not hashtag your location unless absolutely necessary. For example, if you’re posting a photo of a hotel where you stayed a few months ago, that may not be leaking sensitive information. But if you’re currently on vacation and away from your home—which is now empty—you may want to re-think posting that Instagram photo.

Staying Safe Online

Following these basic instructions for security and privacy is good practice for making them the normal way you go about using social media. 

As you can see, most of them employ common sense and good password implementation. Familiarize yourself with the unique differences of each social media platform your information is on, and make the adjustments necessary for a safe user experience…