Start Selling Online with No Inventory

    March 31, 2003

I’ve recently discovered an easy way to promote your business and make some income at the same time. It’s a way to try out selling products online without a huge outlay of time or expense.

Cafe Press ( makes it easy for you to set up your own online store and sell a range of products with your logo or picture on them. You can choose from over 50 different items including t-shirts, caps, mugs, posters, cards, calendars, and even boxer shorts and thongs!

Once you complete the easy sign up, you start by selecting a product for your new store. After you enter a short description of the item, you browse to the image on your computer you want to use and press the “upload” button. After seeing how your first product looks, you press the “done” tab and repeat the process for as many products as you want to sell.

It really is that easy!

Look at the sample shop I set up recently ( I put my logo on a cap, one picture on greeting cards and a poster, a different picture on post cards, a third picture on a mouse pad and a graphic I created on a t-shirt. That will give you an idea of the range of things you can offer.

Such a Deal I Have for You!

The best part of this is, I don’t have to pay for anything ahead of time, there are no minimum quantities, I don’t have an inventory, and I can set whatever price I want.

Cafe Press charges a set price for each product and you get paid the difference between the basic cost and what you charge. If you sell a $10.99 item for $15.99, you just made $5.00. They make the product, take care of charging the customer and handle the shipping. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Although most people who use this service link to their store from a web site, you don’t have to. If you don’t have your own site, just put your shop’s URL (web address) in your newsletter, brochure, print ad or business card. I think this has great potential as a fund raiser for churches, schools, athletic teams, scouts, etc. As a bonus, if you buy 15 or more of an item from your store, you get a discount of 30-35% off the base price, so you can either lower the price or make more money per sale.

These free stores do have a couple of drawbacks. You don’t have any control over the look of the shop, so it won’t match your web site’s “look and feel.” Also, you can only have one example of each product at one time. So, for instance, I can’t have more than one set of cards, or one style of mouse pad.

Customize Your Shop

However, for as little as $5 per month, they offer a solution to both of these problems. With a “Premium Shop” you can customize the look and feel to match the rest of your web site. (You will need some help from your web designer for this feature.) You can also create as many variations of each product as you like. When I get time to prepare more images and sign up for this option I’ll be able to offer a whole range of posters, for instance.

A Couple Things to Keep in Mind

To remain in compliance with copyright and trademark laws, you can only use original graphics you created or own.

Since each product is a different size and material, there are different requirements for your images. Even if you only want to use your logo, you will have to create a new version for each product. If you are not comfortable changing the image size and resolution, you will want to get some help for that part. I can assist my clients with this. But once it’s done and uploaded, you can sell all the products you want with no further effort on your part.


Obviously, this is no substitute for the complete ecommerce package you will need to sell your won products online. However, it offers many advantages to anyone who wants to sell their brand online, or raise funds for their organization. For all the details, visit the Cafe Press web site.

Have fun!

Please forward this to a friend!

Les Goss is President of ZebraMoon Design, Inc.

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