17 votes

In which I brag about the ecommerce software I just launched. And maybe a business idea for you!

So I'm gonna tell you a bit about ecommerce software and how you can set up an online store. Then I'm gonna show you an online store I just launched. Then I'll tell you how you can maybe make some money with your own ideas. Plus it's in story format like everything else I do. It always comes packaged in a story.

So there I was in 1999 being a young geek in Manhattan and I am just barely completing this job which was the world's first truly virtualized auto parts system (expressautoparts.com and it's long gone like most of the stuff I got over-paid to build for people back then) but my budget for that one was $75k (excluding my salary) and barely a year later the open-source community got sick of doing the same things over again and released OSCommerce for free. Then OSCommerce "forked" into a slightly spiffier project called Zencart. It's the most popular storefront software in the human universe, it can handle INFINITE PRODUCTS IN INFINITE CATEGORIES. It has a full set of "back-end management" tools, it has modules for USPS and UPS and other shipping methods, it has modules for all the popular payment gateways. You can configure it to do business in any language or any currency.

Not sure if there's a bitcoin payment module for it yet but it's only a matter of time.


Right out of the box you get massive software power and you get it for free. And a lot of web hosts have these automatic install programs to where you click a button and it sets itself up and you are pretty much in business. It is, hands down, the most popular ecommerce platform in the world.

So the raw ingredients to setting up your online store is:

1. The software itself and the database it runs on.

2. A commercial merchant bank account which accepts funds from your payment gateway (authorize.net being by far the most popular).

3. The payment gateway which you contract to use. That's how payments actually get processed and deposited to your account.

Then you can start populating zencart with all your products using it's handy back-end interface in whatever category structure makes sense to you. And you can have fun toggling all it's features like discount coupons, reviews, "tell-a-friend about this product" and all that fun stuff.

As far as what it looks like from a visual design perspective there are literally millions of free and cheap "templates" you can obtain to make it look cool. For most businesses you can just stamp your corporate logo into a template and shebang! You are done.

This works great for any off-the shelf kind of item and it covers about 80% of businesses. So there you go. Zencart is where 80% you want to go if you are doing an online store.



This is still zencart but in this case we're using a metaware we call "Tinkerbell" to dynamically create your product, in this case your custom sticker design, and insert it into zencart like a "normal" product. And you can see we've taken the visual design right out of the "shopping cart" look like you see on Amazon or whatever. This is a highly customized treatment and this client spent a chunk of change to get us to make it look and work like this. But this is how we do "dynamic product generation" for a product that can be any size or shape and have all kinds of optional features.

We own this software, we own Tinkerbell and we can license it to you if you need it. So if we were at 80% of businesses covered with Zencart, with Tinkerbell we take that up to like 90%.

Now there is just one scenario left uncovered and that's where you have a situation where one product can fit many needs. This would include auto parts or toner and ink cartridges for printers where one part can go into any number or cars or printers or what have you so you want the ability to cross-reference all the different applications.

We got that too, it's called ZenExpress, so named after the first time we modeled autoparts in ecommerce. For that one you get to upload excel spreadsheets of all your cross reference tables. It's a bit labor intensive but for some businesses, that cross reference data almost IS THE BUSINESS and keeping it up to date is a key business asset. Some businesses end up marketing their databases to other business as a product in itself.

So now we're at 100%. If it can be sold, we can set Zencart up to sell it. We've sold everything but living human beings with this software.

Now as far as using www.CustomStickerMakers.com to your advantage today, if you got sticker ideas just start churning them out and selling them. Or if you are good with Illustrator or Photoshop, start making stickers for businesses near you. And you got a little side job just like that.

Plus if you get into zencart and find out how easy it can be to get somebody set up online and selling stuff, you might wake up one day and find out that you are us: total geeks. And you might find out that while it's not exactly the absolute best thing that ever happened to you but it's far from the worst.

Plus if you get in over your head you can just get in touch with me. I've been doing this since slightly after dinosaurs roamed the earth.

And let me know if your business could use Tinkerbell or ZenExpress. We license our software to any business that doesn't directly compete with any other existing licensee's business.

Trending on the Web

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

You are thinking I wrote Zencart?

No no no no no. No no not even close.

Most of those who think so actually don't and most of those who think sew actually rip.

I would like to connect with you

As we are in the process of launching a new business that target three sectors.
TSB (Traditional Small Business)
HBB (Home Based Business)

I would really appreciate if we could talk about what we do and how we might be able to use what you have.

My skype name is faodi1


Sounds fun!

Fits my demo too because over the years I've gone from one or two large clients to lots more smaller ones. About 25% of my clients are home based these days. More than happy to get in touch.

Most of those who think so actually don't and most of those who think sew actually rip.

Can it do leasing?

About ten years ago I passed on OSCommerce and ZenCart because it couldn't do eCommerce with a leasing business model. I'm just curious if that's changed.

If men are good, you don't need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don't dare have one.

Not really. It's still best suited to discrete items.

What are you leasing? Land? Tools and equipment? You might be more looking at a reservations system. Would repeat billing or subscription billing be required?

Most of those who think so actually don't and most of those who think sew actually rip.

Glad to see you did this Smudge!

I'm going to look into it further! Thanks for sharing!

I'm a serial entrepreneur and liberty activist from Texas!


Bookmarked too

If you ever feel like collaborating with a like-minded person on a project sometime message me through DP & I'll send you my contact info. I've been doing similar things for more than 15 years & am based in the NYC area...


We will look into it.

a bump to preserve this post in my

account, thanks smudgepot, do you know how to build websites that need multiple layers or no?

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must. like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.-Thomas Paine

The R3volution requires action, not observation!!!!

Not sure what you mean by multiple layers

The example site I link is actually two major open source sofwares running side by side, Zencart handling the shopping experience and Joomla handling most of the text content. This allows the client to write and publish their own articles to the web without my help and with basically no special training.

Can you give me a bit more on what you want?

Most of those who think so actually don't and most of those who think sew actually rip.

if you use joomla...

Why not virtuemart?

The 3rd party support for vm is fantastic

Just curious