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Whatever rings Mel's bells

Posts Tagged ‘business’

Sale Fail

Have you ever had a marvelous idea?  Have you ever implemented said marvelous idea, and been on the eve of pushing the button to make it happen – only to realize IT CAN’T?

Yeah.  Turns out I’ve screwed the proverbial pooch on the fancy Grand Opening of my shiny new Zibbet store, The Bead and Bean.  The sale was to be BOGO free over the weekend, plus free or discounted shipping rates.  Then Monday it would go to 30% off the whole store, and be that way all next week.

Unfortunately…  Zibbet’s sale function doesn’t accommodate BOGO sales.  And while I can do free shipping, I can’t unless I do a percentage-off sale.  So I changed my welcome message to explain why I’ll have to credit back those amounts via PayPal after the sale, and prepared to go through a lot of hassle.

Then I looked at it from the customer’s perspective.  And immediately decided that as much hassle as it was for me, it’d be more for them!  (Or, perhaps, for you…?)  So I said, screw it, I’m just going to do 50% off the whole store with discounted shipping.  And if I get a bunch of people who each buy one item for 50c and I have to pay $3 to ship them out…  Well, maybe they’ll be happy enough to come back later and buy again.

More importantly, I’ll sleep well tonight knowing I’m not making my customers jump through hoops in an attempt to get them to give me more of their money.  Because, pardon the language, but f&@k that.

Shocking news

Today is a red-letter day, my friends.  Today I’m going to tell you about…  Making jewelry!  Or at least, my jewelry business activities.

Yes, I know!  Unprecedented, isn’t it?  I’m pretty sure I talk about everything *but* jewelry on this blog.  But I figure, hey, why not?  And since I’ve lately been devoting a lot more time to building up my business, I figure I ought to take a crack at it.

What have I been doing, you may ask.  (Or you may not.  But I’m going to tell you anyway.)  Well, first, when I moved the bulk of my item listings to Zibbet, I also started cruising the fora (plural of forum, for those of you who prefer your Latin without the standard American twist) and found a thriving, warm community.  I got involved with a group that does weekly “flash attacks,” trading links and promoting each others’ shops and items.

The best time for me to do this work turned out to be on my morning and afternoon commute, so I ponied up the cash for wifi service on the ferry and signed up for a Hootsuite account to manage all my posts.  And it’s been working brilliantly!

I sign on in the morning and schedule tweets to go out all day while I’m at work.  Generally, I do half of them for the “flashee” at the time, and the other half are divided between my own items and other random things like Seahawks news or current events or useful articles.  I really enjoy finding the twitter handle of someone affiliated with whatever I’m posting and tagging them.  ;-D

One thing I’m really trying to do is provide more content than just sales pitches.  I mean, who’s going to follow me – and pay attention – if all I do is advertise all day?  No, I need to have more to attract people than just that.  So after I schedule out a dozen or so messages (more if the mood strikes) I look at what’s trending and find a discussion to contribute to.  Like the #YesAllWomen, for example, though I wasn’t doing this yet when that got started.

Basically, I’m trying to interact with others in the Twitterverse in a way that encourages them to pay attention.  Thus far I’m meeting with some results.  Pretty much every day something that’s come out of my feed gets attention from outside our flash attack group.  Which is the mark of success for what I’m doing – we’re all very attentive to each other, so when these ladies share my tweets it’s awesome, but doesn’t show the same results that I’m looking for in my other posts.

It’s a slow process, but I think it’s working.  At least a bit.  Which is really all I can ask for!  As my darling HSO is fond of saying, “Progress is.”

Time to be moving on

I have some unpleasant news folks; due to some recent policy changes, I’m going to shut down my Etsy shop.  A few days ago I got an email sent out by the CEO of Etsy discussing these new “clarified” policies, and frankly I was appalled.  Etsy bills itself as a marketplace for handmade goods, but over the past years the “handmade” section has been taken over by mass producers pretending to be crafters.  By checking sites like CraftCount that track the top sellers, this becomes obvious.  The top several sellers are from Far East countries well known for large numbers of sweatshops, and with average daily sales in the hundreds for each of these shops it’s obvious these aren’t individual sellers.

Well, as of January 1st, the rules allow these sellers to hire employees, use fulfillment services, and even involve outside manufacturers – as long as they’ve designed the product.  By redefining the term “handmade” to include work that CLEARLY is not handmade, it puts the nail in the coffin of small, indie sellers like myself who not only design but also create all our own goods with our own hands.

So I’m leaving.  This is not a decision I’m making lightly; I’ve spent nearly five years on Etsy.  This change will affect every aspect of my business.  But I can’t compete with that demographic and I don’t want to.  That’s why I went to Etsy in the first place – because I want to be part of a community of small sellers like myself.

To make a long story short, I’ve started migrating my listings over to Zibbet.com as of this week.  To where, you say?  I know, I hadn’t heard of them before either.  But they have the potential to compete very strongly with Etsy in time.  The costs are lower to start up, they actively police listings and flag (and even remove!) shops that are out of compliance, and they have a firm reputation for fast and personal responses.

I hope you’ll come visit me at my new web home http://www.zibbet.com/MelsBellsJewelry which will be (slowly) filling up with all the same goodies from my Etsy site, as well as a bunch of new stuff you haven’t even seen yet!  Thanks for all your support, as always.  I’m trusting that this change, though frustrating for me, will lead me to a better community that I’ll truly fit into.

Building Kitsap Businesses

It’s no secret that the economy is bad and local businesses are in trouble.  It seems almost every other day I hear about another local business closing its doors, and sometimes it feels like half the storefronts in the county are empty.

But there’s a quiet resurgence of small business in the county right now.  It’s being led by groups like Washington CASH and Washington Small Business Development Centers.  These groups are providing small business owners (like myself) with the tools and resources we need to rebuild the local economy from the ground up.  In fact, Kitsap County has proven to be one of the most effective areas in the state for small business seed money programs!  We do more and go farther in this area when we’re given the opportunity.

How can you help this trend grow?  By patronizing local businesses as much as possible – go to the “mom & pop” flower shop down the street instead of ordering a bouquet online, and hire a local handyman instead of calling the big box store on your next home improvement project.  By purchasing locally grown food – sign up with a local farm for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, shop at the farmers’ market, or buy the produce at the supermarket that has the “locally grown” sticker.  By keeping your money local – instead of patronizing a large national bank, pull your money out and put it in a local bank or Credit Union.

All these things will keep money in our local economy and build our community up, instead of sending our money out-of-area or out-of-state, or even out of the country!  Kitsap County has existed as a kind of “bedroom community” of Seattle for too long.  Many of our residents can’t afford to buy a house here, and our graduates leave the area in droves as they look for work.  Let’s all do what we can to build the local economy and keep Kitsap dollars here in Kitsap.

No more sales

Just concluded my 20% off sale for Easter, and have also concluded that sales don’t really work for me.  I got a little bit more traffic while the sale was going, but no actual increase in sales themselves.  In fact, the only thing I’ve done recently that’s successfully boosted sales is posting on Facebook!

So I’m not going to do any more sales.  At least not for a while.  Instead, I’m going to do some product giveaways!  In fact, I have the first one planned already…  Keep your eyes peeled, I think you’ll like it.  Will post it in a few days once I work the kinks out of it.  😀

Bad news

Let me be brief: I’m not opening a store any time soon.

Yup, after spending the last year writing a business plan, doing market research, and building interest, I’m going to have to set aside the plans to open The Bead and Bean (and Broads and Bullets and Brews and I forget what the other thing was), at least for now.

Apparently I should have taken a few steps earlier that I waited to take till I had my stuff together better.  One of those things was sitting down with somebody from the bank and talking turkey.  ‘Cause it turns out, the turkey is me.

The short version is that after a brief presentation of my business plan to a panel of four mentors, they’re very impressed with the work I’ve done and the passion I have for my dreams and ideas, but – here’s the kicker – money talks.  And I’d have to have an awful lot of it to get a lease.  In my case, around $50,000.

Once the hysterical laughter subsided and I picked myself back up off the floor, I realized they weren’t kidding and there’s no way I can do this.  I mean, really?  Fifty grand?  Ain’t gonna happen unless I win the lottery, and you can’t win if you don’t play.  So I’m out.

Now, the good news is that by waiting, I’ll be able to open the store at a better time, when the economy is stronger and I’m in a better position to make it all work.  I mean, there really isn’t any advantage to opening a store now.  Let’s be realistic.  Consumer spending is starting to come back up, but it’s still pretty darned low.  And the commercial real estate market isn’t like the residential market; all those empty buildings are not causing lessors to lower their rates.  So there wouldn’t be an upside to opening now anyways.

Still, it’s pretty disappointing for me to have to do a 180 on this, especially since I could have spent the past year improving and refining my presentation for market.  But you know, I’m still teaching, and I’m still offering classes and parties, and I’m still selling online.  And I’m not giving up, not by far.  Just going to focus on those aspects of the biz for now, and leave the store for later.

So it’s bad news.  But it’s better than opening the store in ignorance and failing miserably!

I’M IN!!

I’m in I’m in I’m in I’m in I’m in!!!

I just got approved for an Individual Development Account for the biz!

Basically, the IDA is a matched savings program.  It’s funded by Paul Allen, and for every dollar I save (up to $2k) they will match me TWO dollars (up to $4k) for a total of SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS!!

I have to save for at least 6 months and there’s restrictions on what I can buy with it.  But it’s FREE MONEY!!

Yep.  Totally stoked.

Coffee Fest part deux

IT.  WAS.  EPIC.

We missed Saturday unfortunately, due to a decided lack of sleep on my part, and Rosi missed Sunday due to a previous engagement.  But still, it was awesome.

Friday we dressed casual and sat in a bunch of seminars.  Learned SO MUCH!  One of the classes was a short version of “Barista 101” which I wished had lasted 10x as long.  Another one wasn’t so good; the presentation had no flow to it and the guy jumped around a lot, but at the same time I have to cut him some slack b/c his laptop had been stolen out of his car the night before.

Then we hit the show floor and checked out some of the vendors.  I’ll be honest with you, we got ignored a lot.  We were surrounded by snappily dressed people who looked like professionals, and we didn’t really feel comfortable.  But we got a little info, and we got a feel for what was where.

Saturday I was soooooo tired that I just gave up on the whole thing.  I feel really bad for Rosi, she got up and get ready and headed down to the ferry, only to have me bail on her.  Mea culpa, seeester!  🙁  It’s really too bad, too, b/c there was a Retailers Roundtable that I was very interested in attending.

But Sunday was really fun.  I ended up on a later ferry than I expected due to a few last-minute things, so I missed the first couple classes I wanted to attend.  Then, the buses in Seattle were rerouted due to the President’s visit, and our driver missed a turn!  So I ended up walking an extra four blocks or so, which made me late for the last class I was really interested in taking.  Fortunately, I got there in time for the Latte Art championship.  I hadn’t planned to attend that at all, but I figured it might be interesting, and the convention wasn’t open yet anyways.  It was so fun!  I ended up sitting near the mom of one of the baristas, and we got to chatting as the contest went on.  It turns out that she beads too!  So I’ll be letting her know when we open the store, and she’ll come visit.  Her son won the competition, and I had a little geek-out moment and got a photo of the two of them, which was funny.

I was so impressed with the art tho.  There are four basic shapes they can pour: circles, hearts, tulips, and rosettas.  They can also add details by dragging the foam or adding syrup, but for this content they only poured the designs.  Sometimes the two baristas in a heat would do very similar designs, other times they would do completely different things.  But it was all amazing.  Made me want to learn it myself!  Perhaps we’ll come up with a design for our store, maybe something evocative of our logo…

After my experience Friday, I decided to dress up a bit more for Sunday.  I took nice shoes to change into, wore jewelry, did my hair nice, etc.  Sure enough, I got a lot more attention from the vendors.  My goal for Sunday was to talk to roasters, which I did quite successfully.  Got a bunch of contact info, took it down to a short list of 4-5 to follow up with.  Accepted offers of lattes and espresso and all sorts of coffee…  And guess what?  I discovered that (while I can’t really tell good coffee from bad coffee) I no longer get the funky headaches!  So I became a coffee drinker today.

At about 1 (I think) I took a break to sit down and see if I’d missed anything I wanted to see.  When I came out of the convention floor, I noticed that everybody was at the windows looking at something.  I popped over and saw that the streets under us had been blocked off.  Not three minutes later, the President’s motorcade passed right under us, on the way to the Paramount.  So I guess my unplanned detour wasn’t for nothing, right?

Short story long, I got a bunch of goodies, and a bunch of information, and even some potential customers.  All in all, it was an extremely useful weekend.

Oh, and as I was waiting for the ferry, I got to hear the cheers from the stadium, telling me that my Seahawks finally won a game.  Huzzah!

Coffee Fest

This weekend is Coffee Fest Seattle!  I’m really excited to be going, since I actually know just about nothing in regards to coffee.  Well, I know that it gives me funny headaches, and I know that I’m going to be selling it in my store.  But most importantly, I know that I need to know more about it.

So I am therefore devoting the weekend to learning about coffee.  Rosi and I will be spending 2-3 days at the Convention Center in Seattle, attending workshops, trying to find suppliers, etc.  Hopefully we’ll at least get an idea of what’s out there.

You’ll probably get one lump description at the end, since I’ll be playing my last two gigs with No Baggage this weekend.  So I won’t have much time for blogging, or anything else for that matter.  “Albert?  Who’s Albert?”

Out of business?!?

I told you a couple days ago that I opened an Etsy shop for the Bead and Bean, to sell my beads and findings.  I did not mention (I don’t think) that since I wasn’t happy with the photos of some items, I only listed a few things.  And since I only had a few things listed, I didn’t publicize the new shop yet.

Well, a funny thing happened.  The next morning I woke up and checked my email – and found I’d sold almost everything I had listed!  Holy crap!!!  I had multiples of two of the items I sold, so after I relisted those I had a grand total of 3 items listed for sale.  I didn’t have time to take photos today, but lo and behold when I checked my email this afternoon I’D SOLD ANOTHER ITEM!!  Out of a nearly empty shop!!  Holy crapola, Batman, I think we’ve hit the freaking mother lode!!

I’m not entirely sure why this is happening all of a sudden…  But I sure am glad it is!  At any rate, I’ll be finding time tomorrow no matter what to take more photos, so by tomorrow night I’ll have a respectable selection for sale.

I just find it really funny that I’ve been successful enough in my first week that I sold myself out of stock.  Too funny!