How to scale up as an online retail company

: December 17, 2020

We recently held the second Small Business School Challenge, featuring teams from some of the top MBA programs in the United States (Carnegie Mellon, Yale, UC Berkeley, and more) to answer this question.

The retail businesses who participated came to the table with the challenges they’re facing, especially during the economic difficulties caused by COVID-19. They were paired up with an MBA team to brainstorm solutions and come up with a plan to alleviate their biggest pain point.

Over 48 hours, the small businesses and MBA candidates worked side by side… virtually, of course.

The teams collaborated via video to find clarity and create a path to greater sustainability and success. Thanks to the studies of the MBA students, small business owners received cutting-edge, data-driven insights to help them make decisions going forward.

1 key suggestion from the MBA teams: finding ways to scale up as an online retail company even as many retailers are also moving online.

How to scale online retail strategically, even when new to the online market

The retail business case study

Beard & Brawn, a beard oil company, is new on the scene. They want to be positioned for growth, specifically as an online company, in both sales and manufacturing.

The solution

Beard & Brawn worked on this problem with MBA students from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Here’s what they came up with:

  • In the immediate term, Beard & Brawn can benefit from building out basic infrastructures, such as social media and site analytics, and honing in on their target customer.
  • To grow online sales, we suggest they first prove out their product through retail partnerships and flea markets to build local customer loyalty and brand recognition.
  • We recommend they secure a contract manufacturer and further invest in their online presence once they hit production capacity and have steady revenue.

By following a phased growth plan, Beard & Brawn can prioritize their energy and resources for growth and build momentum.

The MBA takeaways for your business

If you’re a new business, take time to build a solid foundation that will serve you as you grow.

Even online businesses can do with some in-person buzz. If you’re just starting out, build some customer relationships offline.

Scale up your business in phases; it doesn’t all have to happen at once.

MBA advice for your retail business

The Small Business School Challenge brought together great minds from both worlds, both business owners and future entrepreneurs. Their combined knowledge and experiences produced a wealth of advice for any small business. 

If you’re interested in this meeting of the minds, add your contact details on our ‘I’m Interested’ form to recieve the announcement of the next challenge.

Until then, stay tuned for more takeaways and tips in this series from our MBA teams that can help your small business.