Who knew that building your own online store was so easy? All it takes is 15 minutes, says the people behind Shopify.com, an up-and-coming Canadian e-commerce platform.

You do not need any technical knowledge because a Shopify account apparently provides you with all the tools and advice you need to set up your own web store, payment method and even marketing campaigns. Plans with Singtel start from US$14 (S$18) a month.

Founded in 2006 when Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake wanted to sell snowboards online, Shopify has grown from one store to an e-commerce platform powering more than 60,000 active retailers today including Gatorade, Tata Group, Forbes, Angry Birds and more.

Shopify has now come to Singapore and herworldPLUS met its chief platform officer, Harley Finkelstein and head of business development, Brennan Loh for a short chat about shopping, selling and what’s happening in the world of e-commerce.

SIX STEPS TO SET UP

Shopify has the simplest process I’ve come across for setting up an online store. First, choose a name, add a few products via your smartphone’s camera roll then pick a theme for your store.

The next half of the process involves configuring shipping options, payment gateways and options like a blog and viola, the store is ready to be launched. For those of us who don’t like dealing with numbers and tech issues, Shopify is a great entrepreneurial solution.

SHOPIFY GURU

“There are no issues for beginners,” said Finkelstein. Everyone who signs up for an Shopify account gets a Guru, who becomes the first point of contact and is available by phone or email, 24 hours a day. “If you want to add something to your header, you can do it yourself, or call your Guru.”

It’s refreshing and reassuring to know that your hotline is not operated by multiple machines but is instead a human being who is a Shopify expert.

WHAT SELLS FASTEST

According to Finkelstein and Loh, it is undoubtedly fashion and apparel that move off the virtual shelves fastest.

Electronics and mobile accessories like iPhone and iPad cases come in a close second, followed by home goods like handcrafted pottery in third place. If you’re a maker, creator or tinkerer with something to sell, this might be the place for you.

STORES TO CHECK OUT

Looking to buy something interesting? Shopify has a plethora of places to shop at. Finkelstein says about half its entrepreneurs are women, many of whom now own successful businesses. One of them is Debbie Sterling, a Stanford graduate who built Goldie Blox, an iPad and physical building game that teaches young girls about engineering.

Tina Eisenberg turned her dislike for ugly temporary tattoos into an online store, Tattly, selling artist-designed stick-on tattoos that is now a company with eight employees and hundreds of designs. They ship worldwide too, so get your tattoo fix there!

Expect unusual finds because Shopify allows the sale of practically everything, with the exception of weapons, drugs and pornography, of course. Loh says that the wackiest thing they’ve seen on sale so far are funky hair extensions and mullets from Mullet On The Go. Striped headbands with detachable ponytails for men? It could start a trend!

BUYS, FEATURES AND WHAT’S NEXT

What did the people behind Shopify buy for themselves? Loh bought a Pure Fix bicycle and Finkelstein has a Dodo case for his iPad. He also bought an electronic weight-sensing skateboard from Z-board. “I [ride] to work on it everyday and I keep it at my desk. It’s awesome,” he said.

They have their own favourite features too. Loh’s is the iPhone app, which he likes because he can run an entire store on his mobile phone, not just on a laptop. He said: “You can create your store, see orders coming in, fulfil orders, add products and do everything.”

“It would be the themes for me,” Finkelstein added. He loves that anyone can make a beautiful store without knowing anything about HTML or CSS.

Both Shopify leaders strongly believe the future of retail belongs to small businesses, creators and curators. Finkelstein said Shopify “wants to be the software that new businesses go to. “
“We want six million stores,” he added, bringing laughs around the table. “So our future would be helping small businesses all over the world and continuing to make it easier.”

Head over to Shopify and grab your free trial or start shopping via any link above!

Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify at http://www.shopify.com.sg. Shopify price plans are offered by Singtel, starting from US$14 (S$18) per month. Get more information at http://www.shopify.com, Shopify’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/shopify and follow Shopify’s updates on Twitter @Shopify.