Hello! This is a continuation of my post regarding my attending the Country Living Magazine's Women Entrepreneurs' Conference in Chicago. I found this seminar very informative, inspirational, and comforting - comforting in that it is nice to know that most business owners don't have all the answers and even the seasoned owners continue to ask questions. Below are a few simple notes that I took away with me and wanted to share with you. I also have to put in my two cents worth, which are the comments written in red:
Random general notes about business as a store owner in no particular order:
*Divide up what you want to do into doable parts and then prioritize
*When it comes to advertising, if you are a wholesaler, get your customers (the stores) to help pay for the advertising
*Getting your name out is in the form of marketing, publicity, Internet, press releases, word of mouth
*Everything is about branding. Brand is a style promise, a quality promise, it keeps us separate from the largest competitors. (I am a big believer of this. I find that many new store owners do not spend nearly enough time really thinking about this. What makes yours store special? Why would someone shop at your little store when they could go to a larger store and get a similar product much cheaper? Branding, branding, branding is second only to location, location, location.)
*Design what you love - it is hard to sell something you aren't thrilled with (very true!!)
*Co-op pricing: manufactures help pay the retailers' ads, and the retailers pay for part of the ad that the manufactures are producing as well
*Set up a structure for sell: where do you want to sell? Who sells your product?
*Getting into the right gift show to sell your products is vital. Not every gift show is your market
*Regarding press releases: email is expected, but sending out something for the recipient to actually hold in their hand is very nice (these take more time, but I have always gotten great response with mailed press releases!)
Notes on E-Commerce site:
*Sometimes, it only takes one really good product to start the ball to seriously roll! Don't feel as if you have to sell everything to everyone. Start small.
*Learn about what you want, like and don't like regarding Internet stores
*You must be ready to sell the moment you up link your site. This means, shipping, phone calls, emails, packaging...
*Consider inventory integration for your site. This is a system in which your inventory on your site is monitored and your site will tell you when it is time to re-order, how much you have in inventory
*Load balancing: make sure your site can handle a heavy load of hits, emails, and responses
*Make sure there is a way for a customer to actually contact you
*Invest in security measures in place for credit cards and hackers
*Don't store credit card numbers or information. Don't set yourself up to be liable for stolen information from your employees or hackers
*Stellar photography is a must
*State all policies: return policies, shipping, product information, warranties, ship time...
*Rent email addresses - people who have signed up to receive targeted product emails
*"Go Ugly Early" meaning it is better to get it out and get it sold even if your site isn't really pretty (I have to disagree with this piece of advice. Unless you are selling only spark plugs, duct tape, tires, or light bulbs, then maybe you can get away with this. Internet stores are popping up by the 1000's daily! After a while, they all look alike - unless you take time to make yours special. I really think it is important to not only make the site easy to navigate, but it must be eye-catching and fun to shop!)
General Inspirational Notes:
*Don't judge the outcome of your dream too soon (VERY TRUE! I am not good with this, but it is important to remain patient, listen to your heart, and don't let others get you to make changes too soon. I once was in a co-op in which the owner of the store made changes almost weekly! Store hours changed, the hours, what she sold, and so on. She panicked only after 8 days of doing business and started to make frantic changes. Not a good idea at all. All the more reason to study your market, know what you are selling, who are you selling to. This particular owner was letting the surrounding neighborhood dictate her business when in all reality, her market of customers was several miles away, not down the block.)
* The power of a positive "no" is important. Learn to say "no" so you may say "yes" to those things that are really important to you
*Create what you want and have the courage to change what doesn't work (All because you switch gears, change a dream, adjust your path, or change course all together does NOT make you or your dream a failure. In my opinion, the only way someone becomes a failure is when that person just gives up all together. Changing a dream, or putting it on hold, or making adjustments simply means you are smart enough to navigate through the obstacles to get what you want, when you want it.)
* Only say "yes" when you can truly say "no" (This means that when you say "yes" to something, that most likely means you will have to say "no" to something else. For example, only say "yes" to something if that mean you must say "no" to attending your child's play, or giving up a job, or put something else on hold. There is nothing wrong with saying "no" to get ahead with your dream, just make sure that when you decide to say "yes" make it worthwhile.)
"Leap and a net will appear"
*Build up personal stamina, passion, courage
*To conquer fear you need to gain knowledge, gain support and come up with a plan. Then fear is replaced by excitement
*Recruit people who have knowledge and strength
*Never have coffee twice with any man or woman who drains your energy or discourages your creative spirit (I can't stress this enough. There are too many people out there who are truly excited for you. Seek those people out and hug them!)
Business Plan Notes:
*Write a plan in two ways: Emotional framework (look at your dream) and Practical framework (action steps to make your dream come true)
*Ask yourself: what am I building and why? (This is your vision) What are your short and long term goals? Why, where, and how would people hire me, or buy my products? What is the work to be done? Tasks, dates, responsibilities need to be written down. Then ask, does this plan support my dream?
These are the notes that I jotted down and I felt they were worth repeating. Some are very basic and may be even a no-brainer to most. However, we must remember that we all had to start somewhere. I wish I had these notes way back when I first began dreaming about owning my own business. I hope you find these notes a little helpful in your adventure of starting your business or growing your business.
It is an honor to offer suggestions that may make your venture a little less painful and serve as a reminder to have fun with it! Bottom line: if you aren't having fun most of the time, then you might want to change paths. Life is filled with a ton of jobs that aren't fun...and unless you are having fun doing what you are doing, then I hope you are making a ton of money doing it because I know on a personal level that I could easily go work for another company in corporate America and make four times the amount I am making now. But my heart and spirit needs to be filled more than my bank account (for now at least). May your spirit soar and along the way, your bank account too! Now that is a dream come true!
From my house to your house,