The 1 Hour Or Less Blog: Improve your business in 1 hour or less, with no-BS advice you can implement quickly and easily. All tactics are practical, tried-and-tested, and were learned from working with over 500 businesses in 15 years online. For video walkthroughs, see our premium Thrive On Shopify Course.

The No-BS Guide to Starting A Business in 1 Hour Or Less (Even If You Haven't Done It Before)

Starting a business can be overwhelming. I had friends asking: "Which tools do I use/avoid? How do I get started?"

... to help with this, I started giving suggestions to a few friends to help them get set up.  One asked: "Hey, do you have a list or course about this?" - and I never did. Until now.  

This is it: Consider this post a 'mini-course' you can take in 1 hour or less, which will give you all the basics of what I consider to be the best tools to get a new online business up and running in a short amount of time, whilst setting a solid foundation, and without driving yourself insane by evaluating hundreds of options.

The course will not cover marketing, product creation or other areas of the operating business. This is all about setup. 

It will also not give you tons of options to agonise over; rather, I’ve curated the top 1-2 options for each area, based on my work with over 500 businesses (and having run 5 business myself).

It's broken into two parts: Website setup, and business setup.  First, you'll find a a short version (in four paragraphs!) at the top, which is then broken out further down, into the following topics:

1) Website Setup
  • Website Platforms
  • Themes (“Templates”) for your website
  • Logos
  • Instant Chat
  • Color palette generators
  • Photo size recommendations
  • Stock photography

2) Business Setup

  • Domain names
  • Email
  • Business Names
  • Payment Gateways

Short version:

Here is the 'summarised' version of this entire post. Remember you can always scroll down to see the more detailed version.

Short version:

Overall I recommend Shopify. It's the fastest-moving, most rubust and reliable platform out there, in my opinion.  And they include hosting which means not worrying about extra bills.  Specifically, I suggest Shopify for eCommerce and serious businesses, or as an alternative WordPress + NameCheap Hosting for a basic website that doesn't require transactions.  If using Shopify, get a paid theme with a simple layout and no flashy stuff. For WordPress, check out ThemeForest. Use Looka or Hatchful to create a basic logo (you can always pay an expensive designer to improve it later), and Coolors to create a basic colour scheme for your site and brand. Take product photos at 1500px or 2000px on the longest edge. Get stock photography for free from Burst, Stocksnap or DeathToTheStockPhoto.

For online chat, use Drift if you just want basic messaging, or Gorgias if you want it backed by a customer support system that can create tickets. 

Use Google Suite to set up 1-2 email addresses such as and - use their Email Alias feature to only pay for one address, not two.

Use Instant Domain Search to find a good variation of your desired domain name (e.g., then buy it from NameCheap.  Lastly, get a PayPal Business account to accept PayPal, and, if using Shopify sign up for Shopify Payments to accept credit cards, or if Wordpress, sign up for a Stripe account

Upload all of that into your site, and the basic infrastructure is done. You have a basic site, a platform, a domain name, a logo, a colour scheme, emails set up, a live chat, and a way to accept money. Then it's over to you. Or see below for the detailed version.

Follow along with the 1 Hour Or Less Series to learn tangible, tried-and-tested ways to improve your online business in 1 hour or less.

Detailed Version 

Website setup

Website Platforms

Overall I recommend Shopify. It's the fastest-moving, most rubust and reliable platform out there, in my opinion.  I worked there for two years, they are a great company, and have the best documentation out there, which makes it easy for you to build out your site and business, and improve it over time.  They also include hosting (a place to store all your content like blog posts, images, prices, descriptions etc.), which means not worrying about extra bills, and they have a great ecosystem of top-notch developers, beautiful themes, and apps that you can use to improve your business over time.  Specifically, I suggest Shopify for eCommerce and serious businesses.

As a slightly cheaper alternative in the beginningyou could also use WordPress + NameCheap Hosting for a basic website that doesn't require transactions.  WordPress has some advantages too and is widely used, however you may find problems with 'conflicting' plugins, and, for eCommerce, ultimately you'll want to move away from it at some stage, as it gets too clunky.  It may be cheaper in the beginning, but over time it may be more costly.  If you go with WordPress, you will also need website hosting - I suggest NameCheap. They will allow you to set up WordPress in a few clicks (then configure from there).  

In summary: Shopify for eCommerce and/or if you think your business will be around for more than 6 months; with WordPress + NameCheap Hosting as a cheaper alternative for very basic businesses or if you're not sure if it'll last.  

Themes (“Templates”) for your website 

A Theme is essentially a template. It's a 'skeleton' design for your website, into which you can then upload your own images, change the colours, change some elements of the design, add your own text, and so-on, to make it your own.  This is a great way to get started as you can purchase a theme for around $200 or less; whereas a custom built theme will normally cost anywhere from $10,000 and up.  In this post I'll focus on Shopify Themes, since that's what I know.  (If using WordPress, check out ThemeForest). 

Below are some starting points for Shopify Themes.

What to look for:

  • Clean layout; no flashy stuff or moving icons; keep it simple.
  • I suggest the paid themes - you get a lot more features than the free ones, where you can run into limitations after a little while.  It's worth paying $100 - $200 to get more advanced features that will save you time, make more money and make the process more enjoyable (rather than battling against the lower-featured themes to get what you want, and/or paying developers to add more features). 
  • Test the themes by viewing their demo store, clicking around, and seeing what you like.
  • In particular, when a product gets added to cart, make sure it's very obvious. Even now, some themes don't have an obvious notification when a product is added to cart, and this can hurt conversions. Find one that's obvious. 
  • Try it on a mobile phone too and make sure you like it and that it's easy to use.
  • How to do this?  Visit the Shopify Theme store and use the filters on the left. Click into each one then "View demo store" to test them out. 

Themes I like

Here are some of my favourite themes:


Don't get fancy in the beginning. I have seen some businesses pay $200 to $3000 for a logo before they have any business. Do a free (or low-cost) one first, then upgrade it later with a fancy designer.  No-one cares about your logo, at least in the beginning - only you do. So spend some time to get one that you like, but don't put too much time and money into it in the beginning. Start small and you pay an expensive designer later, once you have cash flow.

Use one of these two to create a free logo:

  • Looka
  • Hatchful 
  • Or, if you really want to work with a designer, allocate $50-$100 to get 2-3 designs done on Fiverr - shop around and look at reviews to get something of decent quality.

Instant Chat

Instant chat can be a great way to communicate with customers, especially when you are just getting started and really want their feedback and questions. This helps you get better.  Options I can suggest:

  • Gorgias if you want a fantastic chat app, backed by a customer support system that can create tickets. Highly recommended, especially for eCommerce.
  • Drift is fantastic if you just want basic messaging
  • Facebook Messenger if you're into that (Shopify App)

When you're configuring the settings, if you're not around, make it clear when you'll be back. And set expectations on response time The following are good:

  • "We're not here right now! But email us and we'll get back to you within 1 business day." (Optional: "We're usually around from 9am-5pm US EST.")
  • "Hi there! I'm available to chat if you need anything. How can I help?"

Avoid this:

  • "Leave a message" (This makes me think: Are you actually online? Or is this just an email? In which case, don't have live chat.)
  • "Thanks for your message. We'll get back to you." (When? How, via email, or do I need to leave the chat open?). 

Each of these should take less than 30 minutes to set up. Be specific with your messaging. 

Color palette generators

Similar to my logo recommendation above: You can always pay an expensive designer to do a custom design later. In the beginning, start simple with a theme, then tweak the colours to your liking. What colours go well together?  Use Coolors to start with 1-2 basic colours, and have it generate a colour palette for you. Take a screenshot and note of this, and make consistent use of the colour scheme throughout your site. 


Photo size recommendations

A common question - how big should my photos be for the website? What we want is:

  1. They should be big enough so that they look clear and crisp, even on big screens.
  2. They should be not so big that they make the page load really slowly.
  3. Lastly, for product grids (where we have products side-by-side), we want them to look neat.  For this, keep the all in the same aspect ratio - in other words, not some squares and some wide rectangles.. but rather, all squares, or all rectangles of the same width VS heigh dimensions.  Make a decision and roll with it (all square, all tall, or all wide). 

I recommend 1500 pixels on the longest edge for product images. Square if possible.  And for homepage or other images, 2000 pixels on the longest edge (could be square or not depending on your photo and the website layout). 

Stock photography

For free stock images, here are some free resources:

If/when you need a more expansive library, I recommend:

  • App Sumo - check for the latest deals, sometimes they have fantastic deals on sites that are normally expensive
  • Deposit Photos has been a great resource for me

Now that the 'aesthetics' of your business are covered from a basic perspective, let's move on to the 'administrative' side, or the backend infrastructure, that you might want for your business.   

Business Setup

Domain names

Use Instant Domain Search to find a good variation of your desired domain name (e.g., then buy it from NameCheap.  Lastly, get a PayPal Business account to accept PayPal, and, if using Shopify sign up for Shopify Payments to accept credit cards, or if Wordpress, sign up for a Stripe account  ~$20/yr for a domain name.  Check for availability before registering your business name ;-)  I’d try and get both .com and, and point them both to on your website.


Use Google GSuite to set up 1-2 business email addresses such as and - use their Email Alias feature to only pay for one address, not two.

Why use this instead of a free Gmail account?

  • Free Gmail account addresses are a dead giveaway of an ameteur business.  If you see '' it doesn't look professional.
  • If you hire staff in the longer term, they would retain access to the emails, which isn't good for privacy. You want all your business emails under one 'umbrella'. I learned this the hard way - several years of operating with free email addresses, then having staff leave and wondering - 'what happens to my documents and emails now?' - keep them all under your company instead, and do it properly at the beginning.

As such, I highly recommend using Google GSuite to set up your business emails, to keep them all under one roof and make them professional.

Business Names

This is largely a personal endeavour, but two suggestions:

  • Create a Google Doc with a list of business names
  • Add as many as you can
  • Simmer on it for a few days (or weeks), adding to it if/when new things come to mind
  • Notice what grabs your attention in advertising, billboards and so-on - try to replicate something similarly 'catchy'
  • I think names that are memorable. Some examples: AdBadger (advertising agency), AppSumo (memorable because of the fat sumo), Who Gives A Crap (toilet paper company, funny), Shopify Ninjas (my old company, sold in 2017 - a lot of people said they remembered 'something about the ninja guy' and therefore got in touch with me).

Once you have your ideas, ask friends to input. You may be too close to it by then to differentiate - tell your friends what you're looking for, and ask for their input from a limited number of your favourite options.

You could do this via email, a survey (Google Forms), or a WhatsApp Group.  Make it specific enough for them to answer. 

For example: 

"Hi all! I'm starting a new business about XYZ.  I plan on doing A, B, and C in this business. I want the name to be catchy, not too long, and have something to do with [X topic]. Which of these is your favourite? Any suggestions?"

Adjust this of course, but give them some information to make a judgement on.  No need to take this as gospel - ultimately the decision is still up to you - but it can help inform your process.

Some examples of my businesses, of what worked well and what didn't:

  • Eco Gadget Covers - never took off, too boring and hard to remember
  • Shopify Ninjas - people liked it, we had a silly ninja logo and it was easy to remember and explained what we did (Shopify)
  • Blackbelt Commerce - the continuation of Shopify Ninjas. Kept the 'ninja' theme, blackbelt implied that we were 'experts', and commerce covered what we did: development for eCommerce stores.

Payment Gateways

I suggest you accept both PayPal and Credit Cards (MasterCard, AMEX, Visa). Apple Pay too if your platform allows it. 

To do this, get a PayPal Business account to accept PayPal, and, if using Shopify sign up for Shopify Payments to accept credit cards, or if using another Platform (e.g. WordPress or another), sign up for a Stripe account.


That's it!  Upload all of that into your site, and the basic infrastructure is done. Lean on Shopify's fantastic documentation and YouTube Channel if you need.  Once you've followed these steps, you'll have a basic site, a platform, a domain name, a logo, a colour scheme, emails set up, a live chat, and a way to accept money. Then it's over to you. 

Follow along with the 1 Hour Or Less Series to learn tangible, tried-and-tested ways to improve your online business in 1 hour or less.

Want video walkthroughs of this technique and others that will help you make more money, save time, and reduce stress on your Shopify store?

Our premium course, Thrive On Shopify, might be for you.
Click here to read more about it → .

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