The best ideas can come from the most unexpected places.

As an ecommerce business owner, you wear many hats. From product and market research to creating ads and just the day-to-day running of the business itself, it can be very overwhelming.

Although data and trends paint a good picture to guide decisions like what to sell and what markets to target, sometimes, even the best statistics are only just numbers.

There may be moments when looking closer can clue you in better.

We tend to overlook their importance, but when given the chance to, close family and friends can play a vital role in growing your business.

This can take on many different forms – be it to inspire a winning product, a business idea, or even something as simple as shooting an ad. 

In this article, we’ll present to you four tried-and-tested ways to use those around you to grow your business and some case studies from successful merchants to back them up.

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Four Ways Your Inner Circle Can Help Your Business

Use Them as Models

use your friends and family as ad models

Marketing a product almost always requires a product photo and/or video.

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That means professional equipment, setting, and models, right? Wrong.

You can produce great ads simply by using available resources around you.

When dropshipping friends Mandie and Aubrey wanted to promote a hair shaver, they grabbed Aubrey’s little brother and live-streamed themselves shaving his “super hairy legs.”

The video was a hit and the shaver went on to become one of their best-selling items.

Likewise, most of the models that entrepreneur Ryan Carroll uses in his ads are people he personally knows – including mom and dad.

Not only do they not cost a thing, but they’re also more accessible and real. 

It doesn’t have to be some big Kim Kardashian you’re paying half a million dollars for a post or whatever. It’s just people that are relatable. – Ryan Carroll

And to shoot these ads? Look no farther than your pocket. 

When you’re just starting out, smartphone cameras are all you really need to take great product photos and even videos. 

Grab a family member or friend, shoot, edit it with a mobile video editing app, and you’re good to go. 

Validate Products

Objectivity can sometimes escape us. That’s especially true when you’re burrowed knee-deep in your ecommerce business and inadvertently develop tunnel vision for your products.

Because of all the hard work you’ve poured into researching it, launching it may seem like your only option – or at least the only option you allow yourself to take to not waste any of that invested time. 

One way around this blind spot is to get feedback, and that’s where family and friends come in.

Worried about personal bias, entrepreneur Suhail Nurmohamed formed a research focus group using his family and friends.

He’d order test products for his online men’s fashion store, make them wear them, and get their honest opinions.

Because it’s my store, I’m gonna be a little bit more biased to it. Now, what we need to do is we need to put our emotions to the side. And what we need to do is take constructive criticism. – Suhail Nurmohamed 

Their feedback provided Suhail with “a second eye, a third eye, a forth eye” and helped to either validate his product or convince him to chuck the idea.

Inspire Product Ideas

your friends can inspire ideas

In the case of general store expert, Chris Wane, it was his best friend who not only inspired the product but also provided that breakthrough success.

After multiple failed stores and products, Chris’ winning idea eventually came from a tip from his cycling-addicted best friend.

One day while browsing through AliExpress trying to look for new product ideas to have a go at, he turned to his best friend and asked him what he thought about some of the products. 

“He found this pair of cycling glasses and said, ‘I would buy them.’ So I threw them up on the store, and it just blew up straight away,” says Chris.

And blew up it did. From this one single tip from his best friend, Chris made over $13,000 in sales in less than six weeks.

…Or a Business

Beyond inspiring products, those within your closest circle can also unwittingly launch you into the world of business.

When Offcuts founder Adrien Taylor saw how much fabric was being thrown out from his dad’s curtain manufacturing business, he thought it a waste that all those perfectly good fabric was destined for a landfill.

“I had a quick look through all these fabrics and there were lots of floral prints, and I don’t know, all these really, really cool patterns,” says Adrien.

After some research, he found out this was actually a pretty common practice – up to 20 percent of fabric in the garment industry is discarded.

Back then, Adrien had just left his job as a journalist. He’d been looking to start a business but was still clueless about what form or shape that would take.

Seeing those offcuts at his father’s warehouse eventually inspired the idea for Offcut – a business that would turn discarded fabric into hats.

Since then, Offcut has gone on to produce other products like backpacks, luggage tags, and wallets.

Girl wearing offcuts cap


It’s common for entrepreneurs to turn to what may seem to be more reliable and conclusive information to grow their business.

But as we’ve seen from the above case studies, the people closest to you can also serve as a wonderful helping hand and source of inspiration. 

After all, they are also often best positioned to provide honest feedback and help and support you at the same time. 

Next time you find yourself stuck, why not reach out to a family member or a friend and just speak your mind?

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