I have a motto in business that I’ve adopted from the tech industry: Fail Fast. Fail Upward. This said, failing still sucks.

Early in 2024, I had a grand scheme to start a space merch store. I created a bunch of designs, utilizing my developing digital drawing skills and set to work building a great online store with my sights on making it the go-to shop for space nerds like me to shop items to scratch their space-themed itch. I offered everything from apparrel all the way to stickers and cards. It was beautiful and I loved the set-up and development. The build was immensely satisfying and I learned a lot about navigating the various aspects surrounding having an ecommerce outlet.

Launch day came, and the store thrived. I was happy for a week or so, but then the trouble started. I ran into authentication and verification walls with both Meta (Facebook and Instagram, specifically), Google, and Pinterest. None of these huge organizations accepted that I was a legitimate online store, trusted, etc. The ads I tried to run were stonewalled, banned and almost got me permanently banned from Google at one point. To solve that issue I enlisted the help of a virtual office to which I could attach my business to lend it the authenticity of having a street-level, bricks-and-mortar address. I was outraged that this was a necessity. It created another set of problems I don’t care to get into (you can find my one-star review of Spaces on Google if you want to know what that was all about).

I worked tirelessly at trying to build the legitimacy I seemed to need for the tech giants to take me seriously, all the while noticing the insidious creep of scammers that turned into a clamor and eventually overran my daily operations. They approached from all corners, and specifically through my Instagram ad campaign. The successful reach of that campaign turned out to be only on the surface. All the activity on the ads was, in fact, the opening the scam and spam accounts needed to find my site. That Meta ad campaign chummed the waters, so to speak. At one point I was blocking brute-level spam on my website’s customer profile form. Overnight I was swamped with dozens of new “customers”, all of which were spammers/scammers attempting to gain a foothold in the website. To combat this, I enlisted the aid of my web-savvy, computer-capable husband who successfully helped me deter that attack. But the experience marred what had started out as a great idea and steadily deteriorated into a daily nightmare of fending off attacks from all sides. I had the “three-strikes, and you’re banned for life” threat from big tech hanging over me, the challenges of increasing costs from suppliers, inefficient and expensive delivery mechanisms, and of course, the spam/scam artists taking the attacks to the stratosphere. I began to dread the horror of each day’s battles and decided very quickly, the entire exercise was not worth the toll the store was exacting on my mental health and on my finances.

The failures were multiple. Shopify fails consistently in it’s approach to its subscribers, allowing too many bad actors into that space. They fail to give scope to just how bad the scam/spam hijinx is. They fail to reassure you of your store’s safety. They fail to provide adequate information before you start about just how dreadfully expensive shipping is going to be. Social platforms and Google fail small business, delegitimizing them by forcing them to provide concrete evidence of their authenticity even though they’re vague about what it is you did wrong in the first place to get banned/suspended. The are bullies taking advantage of everyone. It is simply how they operate, and do so without conscience or consequence. My own failures were stacked — from the naive belief that running an online store was the same today as it had been years earlier when I had done the same thing in a much queiter, safer internet space, to my reluctance to spend more time researching suppliers and delaying my cost analyses until after the fact. I should have done better. I owed it to my customers to do better. What I did do right was shut down the store with all due haste the moment I became inundated with nefarious activity, deleting everyone’s information and ensuring that there was no lead-back to customers who had put their faith in me and paid for products from my store.

Do I regret having the Technastero store? No. I don’t. I learned a massive amount from the experience. I still have all the designs and plan to relaunch in future in a more controlled and sustainable way. In the meantime, I will take what I learned and apply it in other ways across my platforms, ever-wary of the lurking threat of bad actors, whatever their motivations may be.