01/08/2014 09:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How To Sell a Product That Isn't a Sandra Bullock Movie


By Jonathan Ybarra, Streetcars Shoes

I'm sitting in my office.

I'm sitting in my office wishing that my business were a Sandra Bullock movie.

I have no great story to tell, and you will not see me on the local news being cheered on by my fellow townsfolk. No, I'm simply sitting in my office eating peanut butter and thinking of moist leather.

Shoes. I'm in the shoe business, and I sell them on my Shopify store.

You'd think that selling shoes would be easy. Everyone wears shoes, right? It's not easy. It's like selling gloves to people in subzero climates. Everyone needs them, so everyone sells them. The market is saturated with moist leather. What can one do to stand out from the crowd, to give their shoes a leg-up so to speak?

Some say 'advertise.' Ironically, in a digital age where communicating with someone on the other side of the planet is only a few clicks away, it's becoming harder and harder to reach people. We pay money for the ability to skip commercials. We curse the makers of household products who stain the first 30 seconds of 'Christmas Puppy Surprise' videos on YouTube. How dare they.

Maybe I can burn down my office and hire Sandra Bullock to raise my business back from the ashes like a phoenix and then, despite all odds, lead us to a state championship. I'm just spit-balling here.

So if ads don't work, what does? I can't be sitting around eating peanut butter all day waiting for word on the street to be that I sell comfortable shoes for tens of dollars. How does the little guy stand out in a sea of little guys, let alone the big ones? Who amongst you reading this has pockets deep enough to even think about competing with the Nikes of the world?

The only thing I can think to do is to keep doing what I've been doing - making high quality men's shoes and selling them at fair prices. That sounds beyond cheesy and I wish someone would come in my office and punch me in the face, but it's true. We the people of Streetcars Shoes are guilty of making comfortable shoes for men in the $40-$60 price range.

That's the answer. There's power in coming to grips with reality, and the reality of the situation is that product and content quality are what matter the most.

So let them advertise. Let them saturate my market. Let them spend the money for me, promoting features that I feature and trends that I trend. Let the customer see my edge: superior quality and comfort for a fraction of the price - and then let them choose.

In the words of the great Willie Nelson, "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." Be creative. Think thrifty.

I'll be in my office getting the cheese.

Thoughts on Shopify:

My initial introduction to Shopify came from listening to Tim Ferriss on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. If I could describe Shopify in one word, it would be "cake". Everything is point+click, drag+drop. The noobiest of noobs can manage inventory, create products, and set up payment gateways with little-to-no programming knowledge. Shopify Support is good at supporting and is nice to you even if you're an idiot. I would recommend Shopify to any business that is looking to start selling their products online with very few startup costs.


Jonathan Ybarra holds a B.S. in Economics from Texas Christian University and is currently the Director of IT & Ecommerce at Streetcars Shoes, Inc. in Dallas, TX. Contact him @ j.ybarra (at)

This year, Shopify's Build A Business Competition is bigger than ever. Shopify is giving away more than $500,000 in cash, prizes and mentorship in its fourth annual competition. Contestants create a store and try to sell the most in their category for a chance to win $50,000 and a VIP trip to NYC to meet their mentor.