Case Study: From Humble Beginnings to a $12 Million Exit: Selling a Shopify Store for 8-Figures

Lauren Buchanan Updated on April 26, 2024

When you think of an 8-figure online business, you may picture a flashy tech startup or a high-ticket Amazon FBA business run by a powerful private equity firm.

But a bootstrapped eCommerce store selling everyday items can also rise to these ambitious heights with a solid foundation at its core.

The best part?

When a flashy business backed by powerful investors is sold, a large chunk of the proceeds ends up going into those investor’s pockets, often leaving the founders with peanuts.

But when a bootstrapped business sells for 8-figures, the founders get it all. A life-changing sum of money many entrepreneurs only dream of.

A pair of sellers recently experienced this firsthand after selling their Shopify store for a massive $12 million on our marketplace.

Here is their multi-million dollar exit story.

Building a $12 Million Business

A business doesn’t reach a value of over $12 million by chance. That sort of growth requires careful planning and a solid foundation.

This business was started in March 2018 selling spiritual jewelry and related personal care products.

What separated this business from many other eCommerce stores is that it not only sold these products as single items but also combined them into subscription boxes. In fact, the business made the bulk of its revenue from repeat subscriptions, creating a stable revenue stream that is rare in the eCommerce world.

In most eCommerce businesses, entrepreneurs order and pay for inventory and then hope that it sells.

One of the key benefits of a repeat subscription model business is that customers pay for products in advance. This gives you cash on hand to order inventory and a clearer idea of how much inventory is needed.

This results in a much steadier cash flow, and more accurate inventory management, and it means you’re less likely to pay for unnecessary storage space or run out of stock.

This gave the business an upper hand over other eCommerce stores and likely played a crucial role in the swift growth of the business.

With fewer uncertainties to endure, the owners could confidently pursue growth strategies and scale the Shopify store, knowing they had a safety net of reliable, recurring revenue to build off of.

The business’s efficient inventory management was bolstered by a strong supply chain. The business used one main supplier based in China, with six or seven smaller suppliers scattered throughout China, India, and the US.

This diverse range of suppliers greatly reduced the risk of supply chain disruptions. Having seen the chaos caused by the pandemic, the Suez Canal blockage of 2021, and the recent unrest in the Red Sea, a robust supply chain is a quality that is becoming increasingly important to buyers.

With steady revenue and optimized operations, the Shopify store thrived, achieving 70% yearly revenue growth and averaging monthly profits of $277,000.

Satisfied with the success they had achieved, the owners approached us to help them make a profitable exit from their business.

Our vetting team analyzed the business and was impressed by what they found. The business ticked a lot of boxes. It was:

  • Profitable
  • Had a strong growth trajectory, offering healthy ROI potential to buyers
  • Streamlined and well-optimized
  • Defensible – with trademarks, a secure supply chain, and a stable financial history

These selling points netted the sellers an asking price of $13.6 million with a 49x multiple.

The business went live on our marketplace and the process of selling this monolith of a Shopify store officially began.

Setting the Scene for a Successful Sale

Ever heard the saying “The bigger the ship, the slower it turns”?

Well, when it comes to selling your business, the bigger the business, the slower it sells.

That’s not because big businesses are less attractive or less valuable to buyers. You’d be hard-pressed to find an entrepreneur who would turn down a monthly profit of $270,000, with 70% year-on-year growth.

The problem is that very few people have $13 million to spare.

And that’s just the cost of acquiring the business. There are still running costs and growth capital to consider.

That’s where using a broker like us comes in handy.

Empire Flippers is the largest curated marketplace for online businesses.

We have a well-respected reputation in the M&A industry, with our marketplace attracting many high-net-worth buyers and firms. This has allowed us to build up over $2 billion in verified buyer liquidity.

Operating on your own, you’d likely have a tough time tracking down a viable buyer for a business of this size.

But with us in your corner, you don’t have to find a buyer, the buyers come to you.

A total of 33 interested buyers, including several large aggregators, unlocked this business after it went live on our marketplace.

After a few months on the market, one of the interested buyers stepped forward with a promising offer.
But it’s not the average entrepreneur who buys a business like this one…

Any ‘Ol Buyer Won’t Do

A $13 million price tag often prices the majority of entrepreneurs and small teams out of the market.
This drastically reduces the buyer pool. But that’s okay because the fish that remain prowling the waters are no guppies.

These are the financial wizards. The whales of the buyer pool. Private equity firms, family offices, aggregators, and holding companies.

While a smaller buyer pool often means a longer time on the market, financial wizards are in many ways the best possible buyer you can have as a seller.

These big firms have very deep pockets. An 8-figure acquisition is just another day at the office for these giants.

What works to your advantage with these buyers is that they are backed by investors. The wizards have a certain amount of acquisition capital to deploy, in a limited timeframe, with strict growth targets they have to meet.

This means they want to get a deal done fast so they can get to work achieving that growth and keeping those all-important investors happy.

To speed up the acquisition, financial wizards often put their deep pockets to work by offering buyers a deal they can’t refuse – a large amount of upfront cash for their business.
This is great for the seller, but what benefit do the financial wizards gain from spending millions on acquiring a business like this one?

The Motivation Behind the Acquisition

The buyers that ultimately bought this business were a multi-national public company that operates in the fashion, jewelry, and lifestyle accessories niches.

The Shopify store presented a lucrative brand aggregation/bolt-on acquisition strategy for them.

The acquisition allowed the public company to gain a stronger market presence, leveraging the Shopify store’s audience to access new markets and unlock profitable cross-selling opportunities.

The Shopify store had an email list of 230,000 subscribers and over 500,000 social media followers. By purchasing the business, the buyers inherited this massive audience overnight.

Because the public company already operated in a similar niche, it could benefit from the economies of scale; sharing and consolidating resources like logistics, marketing, and customer service between this business and the other businesses it already operated.

It’s a symbiotic relationship: the Shopify store boosts the public company’s market dominance while the public company leverages its existing industry experience and expertise to grow the Shopify store even further.

A perfect partnership.

But before the buyers could reap the rewards of the acquisition, they first had to negotiate a deal with the sellers.

Negotiating a Mutually Beneficial Deal

After a few calls with the sellers to learn more about the business, the interested buyers came forward with an offer.

They offered the sellers a little over $11,9 million for the business at a 45x multiple. (As a reminder, the business was listed with an asking price of $13,6 million with a 49x multiple.)

The payment would be split, 50% cash upfront, with the remaining 50% to be paid in Seller Promissory Notes due in four equal amounts over two years.

The offer also stipulated that the existing inventory, worth around $1 million, as well as the existing team of 25 employees, was to be included in this price.

The sellers would also be obliged to remain involved with the business for three hours per week for six months, to help the buyers expand the business into additional countries.

The sellers rejected this offer.


It’s not unusual for a buyer’s initial offer to be rejected.

The initial offer is often a lowball bid, where the buyers test the waters to see how low the sellers are willing to go and what aspects of the deal they are and are not willing to compromise on.

As a seller, you need to be ready for this. Know the worth of your business. Clarify the goals you want to achieve from the sale. Be clear about the things you’re not willing to compromise on.

Then, learn how to negotiate effectively so that you can collaborate with the buyer on achieving these things.

To quote businessman Harvey Mackay, “You don’t get what you want, you get what you negotiate.”

After debating the buyer’s offer, the sellers presented a carefully considered counteroffer:
$12.9 million, inventory included, with at least 80% of the payment made upfront.

This counteroffer helped the buyers understand where the sellers stood, and which aspects of the deal were most important to them.

With this in mind, they came back to the table with a revised offer: $12.9 million, inventory included, with 75% of the price paid upfront.

Of the remaining 25%, 15% would be a holdback, to be paid in equal payments every six months, over two years. The remaining 10% would be structured as a performance earnout, to be paid in equal quarterly payments over one year, contingent on a 10% growth in revenue/sales.

The sellers would also be required to make themselves available for three hours per week to support the buyers, guaranteed for three months.

Satisfied that their needs had been met, the sellers agreed to the counteroffer, and the deal was sealed.

But it takes more than a virtual handshake to sell a business.

One Last Step Before the Deal Is Finalized

Once you’ve accepted an offer on your business, the sale process is not over. The business still needs to go through a due diligence period.

During this time, the buyer thoroughly examines the business to make sure everything is in order.

Depending on the complexity of the business, and any subsequent issues that may be uncovered, the due diligence process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

For smaller deals, buyers tend to conduct the due diligence themselves. But for larger businesses, it’s wise to hire experienced accountants and lawyers to take a good look under the hood.

This helps buyers spot irregularities and potential pitfalls, but it also has the downside of prolonging the due diligence period.

That was the case with this acquisition.

The business was in due diligence for a total of six months as the buyer and seller’s lawyers debated various elements of the deal structure.

Ultimately, the deal was switched from an asset sale to an entity sale in an effort to reduce the buyer’s tax liability.

Once both parties were happy with all of the terms, the deal was finally complete.

The buyer walked away with a successful eCommerce business to add to their company, and the sellers walked away $12 million richer.

Is Now the Right Time to Sell Your Business?

Selling a $12 million business is a life-changing event for both buyers and sellers.

The buyers of this business now have a powerful tool at their disposal that can unlock incredible opportunities and help them level up their portfolio of businesses.

The sellers are not only $12 million richer but have also had a huge weight lifted off of their shoulders.

Owning a business comes with a lot of risks. The value of your business sits on a knife’s edge, fluctuating depending on uncontrollable market conditions and your ability to grow the business.

The only way to guarantee the value of your business is to sell it, effectively setting its value in stone.

But how do you know when to sell your business?

Exit too soon, and you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. Leave it too late, and unforeseen circumstances could force you to take a huge loss.

These sellers timed their exit perfectly. The business was hugely profitable and had grown phenomenally. This meant the sellers were making good money and could score a big asking price.

But the business still had room to grow further. There was enough juice left in the tank to attract buyers and justify the asking price.

That’s the sweet spot.

If you want to know how close you are to that sweet spot, use our free valuation tool to find out how much your business is worth.

You may be a lot closer to a profitable exit than you think.

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