For Burak Doğan, trying and failing is no new concept.
At just 23, he’s already a serial entrepreneur, having experimented with a ton of different ventures since he started at 18 years old.
Despite all his failures, Burak was always determined to succeed. He treated each failed business as a learning experience, helping him to level up and avoid making the same mistakes again.
It’s a tactic that’s served him well.
After riding the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, Burak has managed to grow his online fashion store to over $150k in revenue, mostly thanks to his strong grasp of Instagram.
I spoke to Burak while he was chilling in his adopted home city of Budapest to learn more about how he managed to make it happen.
Editor’s note: We’ve chosen to protect Burak’s business from extra competition by not revealing the name of his store. That said, we will be sharing his sales results and tips for success.
An Entrepreneur from A Young Age
The son of “an old-school businessman,” Burak Doğan is quick to agree that entrepreneurship is in his blood.
As an 18-year-old living in Istanbul, Turkey, he was eager to find a way he could make a living working for himself – and he wasn’t too picky about what that might be. “I was looking for everything,” he says.
Burak estimates he tried out a hundred side-hustles and business ideas, including organising photoshoots, creating content and managing Instagram accounts before he finally saw some success when he started an online marketing agency in March 2017. “I was young, I didn’t have any money,” he says. But what he lacked in cash, he made up for with motivation.
Although he’d had many failed ventures, Burak had learned and developed skills as he went along. Not only had he spent hours watching YouTube, but he also took the time to network and reach out to potential mentors, so he could learn from them directly.
Soon he had a good understanding of sales psychology and online marketing, and he knew how to use Instagram to capture an audience. He began using all this knowledge to help clients and it started paying off.
He produced content for local businesses, but he also reached out to overseas brands to manage their Instagram presence. Cleverly, he would approach companies such as restaurants and clothing brands so he could upsell other services like advertising management and photoshoots as well.
“Digital marketing was my first successful business,” he says.
But it wasn’t his last.
The Life-Changing Discovery of Dropshipping
A few months later, while researching information for his agency clients, Burak discovered the dropshipping business model. He was instantly intrigued.
Curious about what dropshipping is? Let me explain.
Dropshipping is a business model where the person selling a product doesn’t stock the item themselves. Instead, they market and sell the product to customers, then they order it from a supplier who ships it directly to the customer.
Because dropshipping entrepreneurs don’t need to bulk buy and store their products before selling them, the associated risks and costs are very low.
For someone like Burak, who already had marketing skills but didn’t have a lot of spare cash to invest, dropshipping sounded fantastic. When he started in December, he remembers how obsessively he dove into his research. “I didn’t even eat!” he says.
By the end of December 2017, Burak launched his fashion store. He stocked it with products that he thought would appeal to a female audience, particularly those in their teens and twenties. The items are far from the type of clothing he wears himself. “Actually it’s not my style, I just wear black t-shirts,” he says.
Using what he’d learned about sales psychology, he picked items like shirts with quotes on them. He theorized that people would identify with the quotes on the shirts and therefore be more inclined to buy.
“We are always buying by emotions. So if I like what the t-shirt says, I’m going to buy it – it’s that simple. I choose these products because of that.”
It was a solid theory and a great start, but good products alone don’t make a store successful, he needed to find a way to reach his audience. Luckily he knew just the tool.
Harnessing the Power of Instagram to Build a Brand
Using the $150 he had to invest (“it was all my money”), Burak marketed his store on Instagram and slowly built his following. Using his cash he paid for shoutouts from influencers, but he also used free techniques – posting, commenting, liking, and following related pages.
He didn’t have to wait long before he started seeing results. “I was a lucky guy,” he admits. “In my first week in the dropshipping business, I made like $200 or $250. So it was really good.”
After seeing these results so quickly, it proved to Burak that dropshipping was a viable business model and social media could be a powerful tool. “I discovered the magic of Instagram,” he says.
But, while he used Instagram to sell his products, Burak was also very careful to build his brand using the platform as well. He did this by sharing posts of his products and also mixing in posts of artistic pictures and pop culture references. By curating his feed in this way it associated his products with a relatable yet aspirational lifestyle he thought his audience would respond to.
Often dropshippers look at social media as an advertising platform, but taking the time to cultivate a community and identity can make all the difference. Because everyone has access to items being dropshipped, good branding is what will set your store apart from the others.
Think about the products you buy in your everyday life and why you choose to purchase the particular brands you do. Now apply it to your store – why would a customer choose to buy from you rather than someone else with the same product?
And, as his Instagram grew, it drove more and more traffic to his store and he was able to collect important data that would come in very handy later on.
He was also able to use the account as a testing ground for new products thanks to the fast, honest feedback his Instagram users were willing to give. “If you want to test any product,” he says, “You just put it there and they’ll tell you if it’s good or not.”
It’s a strategy he believes even beginners with no Instagram followers can make work – especially with the help of influencers. “This is all you need,” he says. “Start with Instagram. Start by paying influencers for shout outs. The Instagram users will tell you if the product works.”
These days, Burak’s store has 27,000 followers on Instagram and he’s handed over the role of social media manager to his sister, who works as his virtual assistant. She has injected her personality into the account, mixing in memes that are relevant to their audience, improving their engagement rate.
Letting Fear Hold Him Back
With his store taking off, Burak felt good. Sales were rolling in through Instagram and his brand was being well received. However, this meant he got comfortable and didn’t feel the need to explore other advertising platforms.
“I always wanted to stay in the safe zone. So I didn’t want to spend my money on Facebook ads, because Instagram was doing good for me.”
If fact, Burak had barely invested any time learning about Faceboo ads. And, he was hesitant to use them after losing money on a Facebook campaign he ran when the store was brand new.
“I tried Facebook but I failed and I stopped,” he says. It was nerve-wracking and disheartening to watch his money disappear with no return. After experiencing these early failures, he wasn’t sure if he was ready to try again. “And I was scared,” he says.
He knew that other dropshippers used Facebook, he knew that it had huge potential, but he still waited a full six months before he finally jumped in.
He also realized that although it had taken him time to get started with Facebook, his Instagram account had helped him gather valuable data for his Facebook pixel, which he could now put to use.
Having installed the pixel in the early days of his store, it had been gathering data from everyone who visited his store from his Instagram account. So, when he finally started using Facebook ads, the platform had a good understanding of who would purchase something from his store.
Using the data he was able to create custom and lookalike audiences that were far more effective than when he was working with no data in the early days of his store. That’s when things took off. “I started to use Facebook ads. And this store started to scale.”
In January 2019 – just over a year since starting his fashion store – he doubled sales from the previous month, leaping from $5,500 to $10,591. And it didn’t slow down. In February, Burak’s store had its biggest month, making $17,031 in sales.
It’s been a life-changing 20 months.
With the money he’s made, Burak has been able to travel and help his family – including employing his sister. It’s something that he’s so proud to have accomplished, especially because his family was a little skeptical at first.
His father, a businessman back home in Turkey, was confused when his son first explained his dropshipping business. “I told him, ‘Dad, I bought the product from China and I sold it to the USA.’ And my father was like, ‘What? What did you do? Did you do this while in the States? How did you do it?’”
Eventually, Burak recorded the “ka-ching” sounds his Shopify app made everytime he got a sale and sent it to his parents. After hearing how many sales he was getting, they quickly realized his store wasn’t like his other failed ventures. These days, his family understand his business and Burak is enjoying the fruits of his labor.
“I’m young, I’m traveling around, I do what I want, and I’m earning money too. So it’s been a great experience for me.”
“Dropshipping changed my life.”
Energy, Time, and Knowledge: Burak’s Advice for Beginners
And it’s this way of thinking that he wants to impress on dropshipping beginners.
“You know, we’re all starting with a very low budget. I mean, very very low. After we lose any kind of money, we are scared. I’ve been there too, so I can totally get it. But we shouldn’t give up, no matter what, because it works — and it really works.”
“We have the energy, we have the time, we have the knowledge”
Naturally, it’s easy to get spooked when you see your funds dwindling and don’t see an instant return, but Burak has a simple outlook that he thinks many other young dropshippers should embrace.
“We are young people, even if we lose a lot of money we can make new money. We have the energy, we have the time, we have the knowledge for that.”
And despite his store’s success, Burak has recently had to remind himself of his mantra when things haven’t gone according to plan.
“I’ve lost money too. In the last few months, there was a glitch in Facebook ads, and I lost $4,000 in less than a week. But, what should I do? Get scared and close all of my ads? I cannot do that!” he says.
“People are afraid and I’ve been there too, but we shouldn’t give up, like never.”
With his positive attitude and way of thinking keeping him motivated, Burak is excited about what the future holds.
And, when I ask for one final tip that dropshipping newbies can use to boost their store, I could hardly be surprised by his answer. “Use Instagram!” he says.