Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Setting up an online business is simple

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

E-business entrepreneur Morris Cheng, founder of IS Mall, which sells personalized products ranging from paintings, T-shirts, coffee mugs and photo frames to name cards and embroidery online, yesterday works on his PC.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

How much money does one need to start up one's own business? NT$5 million or even NT$10 million?

"Much less than that. My first shop was started on the Internet at the cost of NT$180,000 (US$5,390)," said Morris Cheng (鄭晏澤) of his virtual business, which will be one year old next month.

"One fascinating feature about having an e-business is that investment requirements are much lower than running a brick-and-mortar store," he said, adding that carpentry and decorations in real stores would have cost him more than that amount, not to mention monthly rent paid to landlords.

But even though the 31-year-old has long been familiar with the advantages of working in the omnipresent virtual world, he still spent nine months treading a bumpy road setting up shop.

Since he started developing the idea of selling self-made cartoon-styled products online during March last year, he had one good friend writing programs for his Web site.

"Generally, the process would take only one month, or three months if a `shopping cart' function is needed. Many companies are available to provide the service by charging between NT$150,000 and NT$200,000," Cheng said.

His program-writer's busy schedule, however, prompted Cheng to turn to portal sites that offer "total solutions" after eight months of waiting.

As Internet portals have long had formulas for would-be shop owners to follow to start their business without hassles, Internet users can choose one from the nation's many Web sites -- including Yahoo-Kimo (雅虎奇摩), eBay, PC Home Online (網路家庭) and Yam Digital Technology Co (蕃薯藤數位科技) -- which have launched mechanisms for the public to set up shop and do business.

"I decided to open my ISmall (IS創意夢工坊) on the Yahoo-Kimo Web site last November because it's a trustworthy portal with higher traffic and secure trading mechanisms," said Cheng, whose ISmall has been doing well and broke even in its fourth month.

Yahoo-Kimo charges an annual fee of NT$130,000 for each shop opened, while some portals charge as little as NT$50,000 for 12 months depending on the services provided. In addition, Cheng paid NT$50,000 to gain authorization for credit card usage on his Web site, which includes an annual fee of NT$20,000 and a deposit of NT$30,000.

He said the money was well spent, as 60 percent of his customers prefer using credit cards for online transactions.

Having paid the basic cost of NT$180,000, Cheng's first virtual shop was launched last December to sell personalized products ranging from paintings, T-shirts, mugs and photo frames to name cards and embroidery -- which all bear customers' cartoon-style pictures. With two full-time workers, including himself, and three to five part-timers, his store generates an average of NT$200,000 per month.

"I do not have to worry about anything to do with e-business, such as receiving orders and payments, because the portal has integrated all the functions," he said.

In his workshop in Taipei, Cheng has only one desktop, one laptop and broadband lines to run the business, apart from large machines required to print animated pictures on products. Servers are not required.

As for the more troubling money problem, Cheng allows customers to either transfer money to his bank account, pay cash on delivery or use credit cards, thereby saving him the trouble of having to frequent banks.

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