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Meet Untethered

My E-Commerce Story

· About Us

Welcome to Untethered

With 12,000 retail locations expected to close due to the pandemic and stock for online retailers like Amazon rising at an exponential rate, you’ve noticed that people are buying online now more than ever. And with these online giants, people are gaining success, income, and location independence.

The thing is, no one talks about how to join in on this online success with kids, limited funds, or limited time.

No one talks about it, but it’s time we start. Moms deserve a piece of the pie.

E-commerce resources for moms

Laura stands on a patio in a white dress, smiling broadly.

Over the last five years, I have started a successful e-commerce business while raising five adorable kids under the age of ten. Together, we’ve seen more of the world than we could have dreamed of before, and my financial future is more secure than ever.

But I come from the mindset that success is a thing to be shared. We rise by lifting others up, and I’ve known for a long time that moms like me need a different kind of boost.

When I first started, the information online was for and from people who could wait for months before they started getting income from their work, the kinds of people who had domestic help or a spouse who was supporting them while they learned, who are able-bodied and don’t struggle with systemic inequalities, the kinds of people who don’t have any bills to pay or any mouths that needed to be fed besides their own.

Three adorable children sit on a white bench in front of a pink, wooden building. They are all eating ice cream.

Honestly, not much has changed since then. Most of the advice about how to start an e-commerce business has little to no bearing on someone who has few resources or a family to feed. Everything that we learned about running a drop-shipping business with a family came to us over some hard-won lessons, and there were times that were rough in the beginning. It took fine-tuning to find a schedule and a system that worked.

If I have any say in it, you won’t have to learn those same lessons. My aim is to help you go from 0 to 100 with minimal blips and maximum profit, all while loving and caring for your family.

Are you ready? Then let’s get started.

Feel free to read through the whole post, or to use the table of contents to skip to a particular section by clicking one of the links, below:

Table of Contents

Our Origin Story

I’m Laura, a mom of five beautiful little babies (eight-year-old twins, 5, 2-year-old boys and my latest squish, my six-month-old son) and the founder of a successful ecommerce business. I am here to tell you about my journey, as both a mom and an entrepreneur. I hope my story will inspire you to take the same leap of faith I did.

Five years ago, our third child was born. Our family was our world, but our jobs constantly took time away from our kids and each other. We were overwhelmed, overworked, and underpaid. Three children are not cheap.

Laura and two of her children relax on a couch.

We knew what we wanted, though. We had seen images of twenty-somethings living glamorous geographically independent lifestyles and working on the beach. We wanted to have that opportunity to travel the world and be exactly where we wanted to be.

Of course, it seemed extremely unrealistic. It seemed like no one travelled with kids. Anything we wanted to do would require years of time going back to school or taking a course, or have a significant initial investment.

Then, our neighbour, who worked as an infectious disease doctor, told us about how she had grown her brand on Amazon to amazing success. Suddenly there was a way forward, one that we could make work, one that would allow us to keep living a life that we looked forward to every day. It was our chance, and we decided to take it.

Five years later we have never regretted our decision. The platform that we discovered just keeps expanding in more ways than we could have ever imagined. We travel the world, living mostly in southeast Asia, and our children have been exposed to many different types of cultures and people. They are now truly global citizens who get to see the world through a very different lens.

Three of Laura's children, and Laura and her husband, stand on a balcony in front of palm trees at a villa in South East Asia.

Despite this, I won’t tell you that it’s easy, because it’s not. It is, however, very very worth it. For those of you that are thinking that you might not have the skills or the background or the tech savvy-ness, I’m here to tell you that if you can be a mum, and you can run a business. You can be both, and I’m here to make sure you get there.

I’ve got you.

What is e-commerce?

E-commerce is when you buy something online, like when you make a purchase on Amazon or Shopify. Sometimes these purchases are physical, like for a cool handmade wallet on Etsy, and sometimes these purchases are digital, like construction plans for how to make your own bird feeder.

A mom works on her couch with her laptop open as her husband plays with their child.

Since 2006, Amazon’s Fulfilled By Amazon program has allowed sellers to use Amazon’s fulfilment centres to store and send their products to customers. In 2015, Shopify bought Oberlo, which made it very easy for people to work with suppliers in China. These changes meant that people who didn’t have their own warehouse could sell items to customers. It became much easier to make money by selling products online.

Now, people can open their own online stores, selling products that they trust and believe in – without have to store the products themselves.

Moms need more

This e-commerce boom has meant a huge shift in how we buy things, but there’s still a gap between wanting to start a business and having one. Some of you may be worried that you don’t have the skills, or the time to learn the skills to close that gap. However, as a mom myself I know that our skillset actually has a lot of crossover with a CEO’s.

As we continue, I’d like to send over a HIGH FIVE for getting this far (I know how interrupted we can get!). If you are still reading, then perhaps you are beginning to visualize yourself as the owner of a successful e-commerce business. If so, then excellent, and if not, then it’s time to start. Keep going, because it only gets better.

Time for some real talk. When I say the words, private label, e-commerce, drop shopping, what comes to your mind? Some of you who have had less exposure to the business world may feel a bit anxious, as you may have not heard these words before. You might be thinking, “I don’t have those skills. I am a stay at home mom. I’m going to have to go back to school! Isn’t this a male industry? I don’t think I can do it. I don’t have enough time. I am not cut out for this!"

A woman puts her head in her hands, stressed and worried.

Meanwhile, if I mentioned breastfeeding, falling over while trying to walk, or choking while trying to eat to people that are in the e-commerce industry and were never planning on becoming a parent, these ‘terms’ would freak them out (and we haven’t even gotten into childbirth!). After hearing about some of what you’ve gone through they might just choose not to ever have children.

But, just like you might encourage them that it’s something they would be able to figure out if it was something they wanted to do, you can do the same. As much as any of these terms may be scaring you out of doing this, remember that you were once a first time mom, and those terms I mentioned may have once scared you, too. If you were anything like me, then you most likely had no idea what you were doing when you first become a mother, and now look at you!

This blog is for my mom tribe. My mentor was a twenty-something-year-old world traveller living his dreams in other countries. He had no children, no responsibilities and no one else to care for besides him and his next destination.

Of course, I continue to be proud of his accomplishments, and I continue to appreciate everything that I have learned from him. However, he struggled to understand what I needed and when I needed it, or the circumstances I was in. This is why I’m here for you now. I want you too succeed. I want us all to grow. I want to be a part of a group of successful, hard working, life-loving moms who are able to give their children everything they dream of through this business.

I am here to make it possible for you.

Still don’t think you have what it takes? Let's talk about what it takes to be a CEO:

Multitasking: Ahh, one of the most important skills of a CEO. Taking on a phone call from a partner overseas while finalizing drawings for your up-coming line of products, all while working on a video-interview that you need to edit before the end of the day in order to post it by morning and – oh yeah – you have the client dinner at six and the yearly breast-cancer fundraiser at eight.

Does that sound crazy to you? Moms, you’ve got this.

An industrious mom cooks dinner with her baby on her hip.

Think of all those times you have made dinner with a baby on your hip while your other children were crying because they didn’t want to eat anything you made for dinner. Then, one loses their favourite toy and another one is sick. Now, you have to make sure they get their medicine and don’t come too close to the other kids (but also you have laundry to fold and lunches to make and a bake sale in the morning followed by a playdate and doctors appointments to book…). Not only is all of this happening, but you are planning and thinking about this while you are cooking dinner.

You are already multitasking enough to be dealing with the madness of CEO life. For you, running an e-commerce business will be like making dinner for five people instead of four.

A CEO’s skills include:

  • Troubleshooting
  • Great decision making
  • The ability to manage a team
  • Crisis management
  • Effective leadership. 

When you read those skills, take into consideration how you apply some or all of these skills every single day as a mom. You already are a CEO – the CEO of your family.

Time for a mindset shift: Fear and Ego, the Terrible Cousins

How do you start from the beginning again?

Many times when we want to make a profound change in our lives two things hold us back: fear and pride. I believe fear is the number one reason why many businesses don’t ever start.

New business owners fear that their investment of time and money will be in vain. They fear that they will fail, and that their failure will bring them humiliation and the loss of status, respect, and money. Struggling with these fears is common for most business owners initially, even if we mask our fears and use excuses to avoid ever starting.

A woman looks at her laptop, worried and stressed.

And yet, as mums we manage our fears everyday. Somehow we manage this when our babies are first born and we worry that they aren’t breathing or feeding or pooping enough. Most of us manage our early fears by arming ourselves with the information to help us decode that fear. I am here to share that information with you if you decide to take this journey with me.

However, the fear of “what” isn’t the only important factor. Another big fear that we must overcome is balance; the “how” of juggling everything you are already taking on in addition to a small business?!

I know it sounds nerve-wracking. And it is scary, I know, but here’s the thing about fear: after you’ve done it, whatever you were afraid of is no longer scary anymore.

Balancing everything is hard. There’s no way around that. You just have to ask yourself: is this worth it?

Four children and a large, golden dog stand in the middle of a tree-lined Thai walkway.

And if the answer is yes, then I assure you, I will help you figure out a way.

Real Talk: This Won't Be Easy

Now, for those of you mompreneurs who are still on board, let's dive into the facts about the e-commerce industry.

Recently, we have been exposed to a global, life changing situation. My goal is for all of us to come out of this stronger, wiser, dedicated, and ready for a change. What dies in the mall is being born online, and I can guarantee that there is still space for you at this table. This is not about creating a small passive income, but creating a real business and real value to consumers through your products and services.

A sign reads: Closed due to COVID-19

There are an estimated 25,000 retail locations that are expected to close with this pandemic. The way people consume has changed a lot during these times. Traditional retail and brick and mortar stores have had to change to online shopping.

This is amazing for e-commerce businesses. Despite traditional retailers’ huge budgets for ads, you can compete in the same space. That means that you can attract some of their consumers and, if you’re good, a whole lot of them.

When I started thinking of e-commerce in 2015, the main question I had to ask was: has this opportunity dried up? I did my research and decided it was the right thing for us for these reasons:

  1. For the past few years, the amount I’ve bought from stores has only continued to increase 
  2. This opportunity continues to expand in scale, and profits are on an upwards trend
  3. This is an industry that I can grow with
A gloved delivery-person puts a box down in front of a door.

Whatever your skills are now, those skills will help you build a solid business. Whatever your journey, it will not look like someone else’s. Everything from your perspective to the products you develop will vary from person to person.

Before I began in this business, I studied accounting at university and worked at an auditing firm. Later, I joined my family’s construction company business. There, I did admin and logistics. Before our dropshipping business, my husband worked as a project manager at an architectural firm.

We didn't think we had the skills to do this either, but then we took a course and dove into the deep end.

A woman works at a laptop.

Many times it felt like we were drowning in information but we always had a reference and a mentor to hold our hand the first couple of months. That made the difference between us sinking or swimming. Now, with all that I’ve learnt from my journey, I want to share this information with mothers like me, I understand how scary it can be and I only wish I had other moms walking beside me when I was first starting out.

I know that many of you are looking into drop-shipping now because of the economy’s downtown. I’m here for you, too. I have had multiple long conversations with friends who have been furloughed because of the pandemic about what’s next. I want you, like my friends, to come out of this situation on top.

If you take this opportunity to acquire new skills, you can be one of the lucky ones who come out of this on top.

For those of you who are concerned about product sourcing and research, I understand that as moms, we do not have much time to browse through hours of product research. However there are tips and tricks I can teach you.

A woman on a couch works diligently on her tablet.

With the skills you will learn in e-commerce, you will come out of this period with a new business built on whichever platform works best for you in one of the fastest growing industries. E-commerce will teach you:

  • Marketing (thinking of your customer base and how to reach out to them)
  • Data and analytics
  • Project management
  • Customer relations 
  • Pitching 
  • Client relations 

No, the prospect of learning new skills doesn’t mean that you need to go back to school. There are resources available online and through moms-supporting-moms support groups. We are all here to help, and we all want you to succeed.

Three middle-aged female friends smile and laugh together.

What to consider before starting an e-commerce business

As I’ve mentioned before, starting an ecommerce business is no walk in the park. However, it is an entirely viable and attainable way for a mom or family to reach financial independence and geographic independence. Knowing if those are things that you want will be an important factor in your success.

Once you begin your business, there will be some important questions to ask yourself about how you will run your business. Each ecommerce business is a store, and just like stores your ecommerce business will have a brand; something that your customers will be able to predictably expect from your products.

Since whatever niche you decide to focus on (Kitchen supplies? Gardening tools? Electronics?) will be something that you will be spending a lot of time with, it’s important to pick a niche that you enjoy learning about, and which has a low enough level of competition that you can get into the top page of products.

A woman in an orange top peers at a large computer desktop as she readies herself to learn.

To figure out your niche, you can begin by asking yourself:

  • Who is your customer? 
  • What is your positioning? 
  • What is important to you?
  • What do you wish you had more of?
  • What have you used that has made a difference around the house, or kitchen, etc.? 

Many new business owners will choose a market that helps people like themselves, because it’s very easy to know people who are like themselves. So, an easy place to start is with you. What would you buy? What have you found useful in the past?

Considering these questions from the perspective of someone who knows their market will definitely help you when deciding on products. You have what it takes. I believe in you!

Some last thoughts

I often hear people saying that after you have a child you won’t have time for anything. Yes, moms have a lot to do but that doesn’t mean we can't start a business. E-commerce businesses are especially flexible for people who want to be work at home mothers, or for those who want to travel.

Three young children in white stand before a European fountain.

By working smarter instead of harder the way that I learned to do, you can still have both.

Both time with your family and your independent career.

Both freedom to travel and the ability to make money.

Both adventure and stability.

Kids or not, you can still do what is important to you.

I don’t have a typical 9-5 routine, I work way longer hours than before, including weekends. But I also get to take long breaks so that I’m available for my children when they need me. I can even hang out with my friends or take a staycation on a whim. Whatever your reasons are for exploring this avenue don’t let ‘being a mom’ be an excuse. Let it be your reason to continue.

Laura stands on a pier with her youngest child strapped in on her front.

Now that you have made it to the end of this, I reckon some of you are hmmmmiiing and ahhhing. Some of you might wonder if this is for you but you may worry that you don't have the time. Some of you may be thinking that you could start it, but you have no idea how you would follow through with what you have started.

Tell me, what would you like to learn about e-commerce? I would love to hear your questions and learn how I can serve you on this journey with me.