Category Archives: Building a business

Building a Business: Lesson #2

You always spend more than you plan to.

I have an excellent example of this. I need to get some packaging & shipping supplies for all the stuff in With Heart. I’ve shopped around and compared places and settled on a company out of the US. There is a Canadian company I may use later on, but I have to buy everything in such huge quantities… I just really don’t need 500 boxes right now. Where would I keep them?

So I ordered a smaller amount from the US company.

While their prices are competitive, the shipping (for my shipping supplies! Double LOL!) is what’s killing me. I spent about $50 on product, and the shipping is $30. Ouch. But otherwise I would be spending more like $300 just to get what I need.

Another great example of this that I want to have a good variety of items in the store. I’ve got some amazing finds and artists ready to hop on board, the only issue of course is money. I’ve spent most of my start-up inventory funds already, and can’t really add more items until I sell what I’ve got. Or get more money, somehow. I’m not sure whether I should add some more from my personal bank account to get some of these things, or if I should be more responsible and wait til more sales come in. (BTW, have you taken a look at the shop yet??)

I think maybe the happy medium might involve some kind of voting system. I’ll pick a few sample items, post them here on on the website blog (whenever I get that issue sorted out… *sigh*) and let you guys pick which artist I buy next.

What do you think?

 

Have you seen my new shop yet? With Heart (www.withheartshop.com) is an amazing collection of Original & Interesting Stuff that I have curated myself! Lots of beautiful handmade and hard-to find things for your shopping pleasure. Don’t forget that the holidays are just around the corner!

More Good News!

So you all know that I was featured in the New York Times article about my involvement with the company Airbnb.

Now I am happy to announce that I officially work for Airbnb! I just got the offer tonight and I’m totally excited.

It’s not a lot of money and it’s a temp position to start, but I’m not really worried about any of that. Since I’m a SuperHost with them I already know the system so I’m sure I’ll do amazing and get the permanent job in a short while (which is also when I can negotiate a more reasonable salary).

I’ll be doing customer support through email, which works great for me. Airbnb is flying me out to headquarters in San Fransisco for a week of training, then sending me home with a shiny new MacBook Air so I can work remotely. I’ll be able to work anywhere there is internet. Woohoo!

This is really the best situation for me right now. I love Airbnb and being able to work from home is a godsend… It means that I’ll have the flexibility to continue working on my online shop and growing and succeeding there. So convenient!

Really, I am just thrilled and jumping all over the place!!! Everything seems to be finally falling into place.

It’s going to be a lot of work these next few months (years?). I’m essentially working 3 jobs (With Heart, Airbnb & hosting on Airbnb) plus blogging which sometimes feels like a job. I am also looking into teaching some workshops on various things around Toronto via Skillshare.

A busy girl indeed!

 

So obviously I’m taking on more work and throwing an epic BBQ this weekend. And a cute boy is coming. A cute boy who I’m pretty sure likes me…

Let’s see how this develops!

It’s Alive, Alive!!

It’s true! I finally got the site up and running, my friends!

I’m going ahead with a soft launch to start, and the official grand opening is scheduled for October 1st.

The soft launch will let me work out any kinks, learn what sells and basically practice everything. I don’t have a logo yet (but it’s in the works, more details after the weekend!) and I don’t have all the products in yet, but I have enough to start. Every day I am adding more so I hope you’ll keep coming back.

Without further ado,

www.WithHeartShop.com is live and taking orders! Go forth and shop, my blogging friends!

 

If you have any suggestions about products or crafters I should check out, please let me know. I will be continuously sourcing the latest and greatest items made or designed with heart.

If you could also do me a favour and spread the word I would really appreciate it! I am trying my hardest to live my dream and get the business doing well enough to pay me a salary to live on. I have other irons in the fire right now just in case, but ultimately I want to do this store, and open up a bricks and mortar location within a few years.

I think I’ve done pretty well. I got the business up and running from nothing in just under one month. I’d say that’s pretty impressive! I only incorporated on July 13th :)

Building a Business: Lesson #1

People are crazy.

I recently made some new friends, one of which is a graphic designer. I need a logo, she’s a designer, maybe we can work something out. I asked her if we could get together and talk about things, to see if we’re the right fit for each other. She invited me over to a BBQ at her house and introduced me to a woman who is apparently her business partner. The woman had been doing sales & marketing on a small scale for a long time so she handled the business side of things and my friend did the design. They hired themselves out as some kind of consulting/design team or something.

This woman is incredibly pushy and overbearing. She seems to think she has the solution for everything and that she’s never wrong. She also doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise. I think if she had actually listened when I was speaking to her that night all of the following problem could have been avoided.

Anyway I tried to be polite, smiled & nodded, said “uh-HUH, I’ll think about that” “thanks for sharing” and all the other kind of nice noises you make at someone when you are actually more knowledgeable than them in a topic but are trying to be polite.

I think somehow she construed this to mean I had hired her??? I don’t know?? As soon as I got home I started getting bombarded by emails from her about one thing or another. They were all loosely related to my business, but just barely. She’d send me info on products I could carry (that were not part of my image), sent me links to promotional supply companies (I don’t need those, I need actual consumer products) and then she started in with the demands.

At first I thought it was just that she was interested in my business ( a lot of people like to weigh in on things & ask me about it out of curiosity) and maybe wanted to give me a tiny bit of help. I tried to reciprocate by doing research on product vendors for her and also sharing industry information with her. But it was SOOO frustrating. She’d send a million emails a day asking unclear questions in each, all while preaching at me for one thing or another. None of it was useful to me, it was just her trying to be important.

She demanded information from me on a trade show I’m going to next week. I gave her the info on that and everything else she asked for (I was trying to be nice) but it seems like she didn’t even read anything I responded with. She kept asking for the same stuff, over and over. Why is any of this MY problem?

The final straw was today. She “called me out” on the fact that I didn’t answer all her questions on something this week.

1. Why am I obligated to answer her on anything?
2. did she even read any of the 3 previous emails where I told her the answers?!?!

And then she demanded that I sell her a product I was getting for the store at cost. At first I misunderstood. I thought she just wanted to make sure I ordered enough items so she could buy 4 of them. I told her I would order them and give her free shipping since she’d be picking them up. That’s nice of me, right?

Oh no, it wasn’t good enough. Here is her response and some other juicy bits from the email train. My original email to her is in purple.

Dear Lisa,

I am not paying retail for your products. I will buy them from you at cost price.

It’s called barter or contra. I have helped you in your business, and you have helped me in product purchase. Trading services.

On Wed, Aug 3, 2011 at 2:50 PM, Lisa <@gmail.com> wrote:
I’m lost! There are so many emails! What questions do you still need answered?

You do realize that Retail is all about answering questions & service. You will need a lot of energy to execute the process.

If you answered my questions per email, my questions reduce down to 1 email only.

Here are my questions again off of email last night  –  (…)

 

Unreal.

That was it. I have no obligation to this woman, I owe her nothing and she’s not helping me. Somehow she thinks we’re doing business? There was never any talk of trade or an agreement. I know what contra, trade and barter are. It was part of my job when I worked in advertising. It’s not contra when the other party doesn’t know anything about it!

I called and left her a voicemail saying we were not doing trade because I was unaware of it. I offered to give her the items at cost to smooth her feathers but told her it was a one-time thing. I also told her that it couldn’t have been trade anyway since I never asked her for anything, and the things she did “share” with me *cough*shovedownmythroat*cough* were things I already knew since I worked in marketing, too. Basically this woman has provided no value to me at all. I tried to be diplomatic about it but there’s no getting around it.

She thinks she did all this work but it was pointless since I never asked for it. Why should I trade or give payment for something I never wanted nor agreed to?

So that’s what I learned today. I guess once people hear that you’re going into business they start coming out of the woodwork. Everyone wants something and a lot of them think they can get it for nothing.

I’ll help you out as much as I can, but I have to draw a line somewhere. This is my livelihood and I have to look out for myself because no one else will.

Roadblock!

Well I’ve come up against the first business-related roadblock that I can’t sort out myself.

I had no trouble getting a bank account for my business, but when it came to a credit card…. no dice.

I had to give RBC my whole life story (financially speaking) sending in networth statements, tax documents and the promise of my first-born child to try and get a measly $3000 limit Visa card for the business.

After waiting a week I find out today that they’ll give it to me on a condition, unfortunately that condition is not possible to meet at this point.

In order to get the dinky little card, I need to hand over $3000 in security to the bank for 18 months. Now, this isn’t like pre-paying the card, I literally give them $3000 for the privilege of using a Visa card. I get the money back after a year and a half, but that is a TON of money for me right now and I just can’t afford it. That is literally all the money in the business bank account right now. If I fronted the cash, I would have nothing left to use to pay the damn Visa off, and then I’d lose the $3000 anyway!

What a poopy catch-22.

The bank dude felt bad for me. He said that for someone of my age and status I have demonstrated remarkable financial responsibility. He said that it was pretty awesome I even got a conditional offer from the bank for my new business.

 

Too bad I can’t roll with it. Having a corporate credit card sure would have helped me out. A lot of my bigger suppliers only take credit cards. I guess I’ll have to keep using one of my personal Visa cards for the business. At least I can keep all the money separate.

In other news, today I placed my first inventory order!!! I’m so excited! I have some really awesome stuff to share with you all once I do my soft launch! Stay tuned!

Successful shopping for the store

Well today went fairly well despite the continuing heatwave.

I was lucky enough to stumble across a listing for the Big On Bloor festival on Friday night. Lucky because it was going on the following day, and was a great place for me to source some vendors for the shop!

I headed out there this afternoon and meandered along, alternating between mopping my brow and fanning myself. I felt like some kind of old Southern woman or something…

It was a cute little festival, and I had no idea it existed! A couple of bands performing, food vendors, lemonade stand and all kinds of little pop-up shops. I just love going to stuff like this. I find a lot of them can be hit or miss, with either too many people or too many of the wrong kind of vendors, or the opposite of both. Today’s seemed to be just the right amount of vendors and activity.

Anyway, I meant to go shopping for the store today (and I did!) but ended up doing a little shopping for myself.

My cute new necklace, and the earrings match!

At the end of the day I ended up with earrings & necklace set for myself, earrings for my mom’s birthday, a ceramic mug, a sun hat and a new wristlet for when I go out (HA. IF I ever go out again, that is…. *sigh*)

But I also made some valuable contacts for the shop, and will hopefully set up some meetings to talk business next week.

By the by, I’ve already had one meeting with a vendor. It went ok, but she didn’t really seem to have her act together yet, so it was hard for me to wade through things. At first I thought it would be cool to give guidance on the kinds of products I’m seeking… but now I think I’d rather just take a look through what they’ve got and commission just a few things. I guess my work is cut out for me… I need to find the crafters that are more inclined towards business as they’re much easier to work with.

Next week my plate is pretty full with more vendor meetings, and also my second try at the OSEB program. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go for it again, but this time it looks a little more hopeful. It’s at a different location and they seem way more helpful already and really seem to know what they’re doing. Now that I know the kinds of things they’re looking for I might be able to make it. If not, I got a chance to refine my concept a little more.

Sorry about the blog,

I know a lot of my posts lately are about the business, but you have to understand that my whole life is pretty much the business right now. I don’t have a whole ton else going on, plus getting all this stuff done is sucking up all my time. You should see my to-do lists, they’re behemoth. There are just so many little details to cover, decisions to make and people to talk to.

I’m not going to say I didn’t see this coming, I did choose to jump in with both feet. But it’s certainly a handful! I’m still confident that I can do this though. I try not to let the little monsters in me get too loud and bring me down.

Anyone have any organizational or productivity tips to share with me? I’m doing ok most of the time, but occasionally get overwhelmed. I definitely need some kind of system to deal with stuff. Suggestions???

Setting up the business bank account

…was surprisingly painless.

After taking a quick look around to find the best account, I settled on the $6 RBC small business account.

It’s basically pay-as-you-go, but it was the cheapest one out there. All the rest of the banks wanted to charge you way more every month, plus additional fees for every single transaction you do.

Coming from my free personal banking with PC Financial and ING Direct I’m having a hard time swallowing the idea of ANY fees at all. But I suppose it’s one of the costs of doing business.

Setting up the account was easy. Apparently you’re a more valuable customer if you’re a business because I got a rep on the phone right away. I started the application, then set an appointment at my local branch for the same day. It’s a 20 minute walk away which is a bit of a downer, but at least it’s walkable. I should have picked a cooler day to try it out though! I was so sweaty when I arrived that the bank person asked if I was ok!

Anyway, some chit-chat, 15 bazillion signatures and a showing of my certificate of incorporation and I was done. I feel good having this all taken care of, despite my chops as a personal finance blogger, business stuff scares the poop out of me. Its a whole new world I will have to learn about!

I couldn’t apply for my corporate card there (ooooh I feel so important saying that!!! *squee!*) so I went home and skyped up the toll-free.

Again I got someone right away, and he was actually pleasant to deal with!

Did you know it’s actually harder to get a credit card than a bank account? I guess it makes sense but I’ve never had trouble getting one before!

There was a lot of detail to go through. They pulled my personal account history (I have an RBC Visa), my credit report/score, took down my work history, salary, professional background details, amount of work done on the business already, projected sales figures and even my personal networth! I also have to send in some tax papers from the past few years to prove I’ve been paying them. I think after that I’ll have to send in my first born child.

Now here is where I’m super glad that I’m a PF blogger! It really paid off!

Being young and having a new business (vs. being established and having revenue) are big counts against you if you’re applying for business credit. Your risk levels are higher and you basically don’t have anything there to guarantee that you’ll pay off anything you borrow.

What made my application stronger than the next young entrepreneur’s is the fact that I have a sparkling credit history, a high positive networth for someone my age, and no debt at all.

But even with those things working in my favour my application still came in at a ranking of “C” on your standard report card scale. Woah.

But the bank dude assured me that it’s waaaaay better than other people like me. Apparently you only get an A or B if you’ve been in business for ages with positive growth year over year. Since I don’t have that since I’m just too darn young I still have a pretty good chance of getting the credit card.

So my fingers are crossed that I will get this… right now it’s tough to separate all the business costs from my personal accounts. Eventually I’m going to have to use QuickBooks or get an accountant and I don’t want to mess things up.

 

I’m so glad this is done!

PS. The sponsor of this page, HSBC promises the same happy moment for Australian readers with their Business Accounts. Check it out!