Posted in Growth, New Office, Sales, Seasons, Social Media, Time Management, Uncategorized, Virtual Assistant

What Must You Do Before Starting a Home Business?

I was recently listening to several podcasts by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck and found there were a few steps I never completed before starting my previous business.  I thought I would share a checklist that I will try to complete before opening my next business.  The items listed are not in chronological order or in order of importance.

  1. Do the research!  With my previous business, I headed to Ebay to check and see the median price for a pair of used Levi jeans.  This was something I felt I would have great access to at various thrift shops. When researching this business, I have been using Etsy and Pinterest to pinpoint the one Alzheimer’s fidget craft that will make a profit and fill a need.  Fidget mats seem to be a saturated line of fidget crafts.  Cuffs, Pillows and Aprons are not as prevalent.  The first two are small which would have a lower price point and a higher gross profit.
  2. Create a business plan! How much cash will it take to make a number of prototypes?  Do you have the equipment needed to complete the task?  If not, add that to your list of expenses. Will you need some classes or training to make your prototype?  You will be competing against masters of a craft.  What  what will make yours different?
  3. What type of business structure?  There are people and research you need, to plan for before opening.  You will need an accountant to at the very least, file your taxes.  Do you need a partner, in order to complete a quality product in a timely manner?  Do you need a source of funding in the form of a partner?  Do you need a virtual assistant to do the mundane and repetitive activities?  Can you survive financially creating and running this business on your own?
  4. Where will you purchase your supplies?  If you are very lucky, you have the needed supplies to create your first prototype.  If that is not a possibility, can you purchase items from a thrift store, garage sales, a warehouse or a discount retail establishment.  Do not cut quality standards in order to get the lowest price!
  5. Social Media is your Friend! You don’t want to be “that person,” on Facebook asking friends and family to purchase.  You need to get the word out.  Develope your own business Facebook page.  That is free and the cost to boost exposure is minimal.  Start an Instagram account.  Create a Twitter account.  YouTube is a very popular place to get the word out.  Last, begin a SnapChat Account.  If you are not knowledgeable about these platforms, get on the internet or ask your kids for direction.  This is something you need to land on both feet running.
  6. Find some Office Space!  It is very tempting to say you’ll simply work on your laptop from your bed!  What a life!  You’ll go nowhere, quickly.  Can you clear out a closet and begin with all of your equipment stored and a small space?  Can you to take over the corner of a room?  Can you take over an empty bedroom and totally devote this space to your business.   It is so important to separate your business from your personal space in some meaningful way.  You will burn out and be overwhelmed if your house is filled equipment and supplies.
  7.  Make a Portfolio!  This might be as simple as ordering business cards, letter head, thank you notes and envelopes.  You might need a resume and a or presentation of some kind to show possible partners and investors.  Be sure to do this before you open as you will be very busy creating and you need to be prepared for your first sale!
  8. Decide on an Opening Day! Nothing is worse than beginning without a goal.  Okay, maybe opening without all of your ducks in a row.  Either way you will be overwhelmed and disorganized.  Make sure the date is far enough in advance, but also timely.  If your product is Christmas related, you may need to hold off a year as

This is by no means a complete list of things to do before opening your business.  Hopefully, this will trigger your creativity or even help to provide some additional steps that you had not thought of.

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Posted in New Year, Sales, Social Media, Virtual Assistant

A Thirty Day Review with Assistance

Today marks 6 weeks from the day I hired my first Virtual Assistant.  There have been some ups and definite downs.  While my experience will probably be different than others in the Reselling Community, mine might be helpful nonetheless.

  • I hired 2 virtual assistants and a ‘real’ assistant.  One was assigned to list on my smaller Ebay store and Poshmark, the second was to list on my larger Ebay store and the third was to package and ship.  Today, I have one virtual assistant taking care of 2 Ebay stores and one shipping assistant.
  • The first virtual assistant was not a ‘fit’ for what I needed.  He charged a higher fee and could not complete the work on time.  He tried to appeal to me on a personal level as to why his work was unsatisfactory to the point that I was actually emotional and drained when I let him go.
  • I also found out that no one outside my country could access Poshmark.  I have not found a VA in the United States willing to be paid $1 a listing.
  • This past week, my virtual assistant listed 90 items in 14 hours for $57.  63 cents a listing.  My shipping assistant receives $2 per package.
  • Here is my math:  One pair of Levi Jeans sells for $20.  I purchased it for $2, Listed it for $1, packaged it for $2, Ebay and Paypal receive  $3, and shipping is $6.30.  Profit is $5.70 or 29% profit.
  • My total listings in one month went from 200 to 500.
  • According to Ebay, my sales have increased the past 30 days by 89% in my smaller store and 169% in my larger store.
  • I ended every listing that was not clothing so that my stores looked like a clothing outlet and not a thrift store. All items that did not sell within the 1st week are placed on a 20% off sale.  All items not sold in 30 days are auctioned off beginning at .99 with $6.30 shipping.
  • All of this sounds wonderful, and it is.  I am so grateful each morning and cannot wait to begin working.  Nothing is perfect and there have been some pitfalls.  I (me personally) need to catch up my assistants and sales.
  • I am working longer hours each week.  Monday, Tuesday, 1/2 Thursday, 1/2 Saturday and Sunday.  Each day is from 7am to 6pm.  I am either photographing,  entering information on a spreadsheet, or desperately seeking the sold item that needs to be shipped.
  • I did not change my inventory system that is not detailed enough to handle 750 items!  My house might qualify for a Hoarders Episode simply because every wall has boxes of inventory against it with words such as Women’s jeans.  Some are boxes of clothes that have been photographed and in the spreadsheet.  Thankfully, because I have kept up with sourcing, there is only a small ‘death pile’ box.
  • So today, #JewelsForThePauper is officially closed.  The phone and computers will be shut off.  All inventory taken out of boxes and sorted into brands and sizes.
  • Some other day, I will be clearing out my original office (decimated when our college graduate moved home for a few months) so that my business can continue function.

Hiring assistance (assistants) was definitely needed in order to grow my business.  For the most part, it has gone smoothly and I am happy with the results.  I just forgot adjust my inventory system to catch up with the growth!

Excuse me while I shut this computer down for the day …….

Posted in Fees, Sales, Virtual Assistant

Should they stay or Should they go?

The past 8 days have made me ask this question.  In fact, I have asked this question several times a day for those 8 days.  Should I fire my virtual assistants and search for 2 more.

When I worked in the corporate world of Retail Grocery, I had to fire people.  I would have to go through all of the disciplinary steps of warnings, write-ups, suspensions, etc.  Honestly, I thought it was so that they quit instead of being fired, this no unemployment.  Now I believe it gives the manager time to review options and reflect on if they can do an intervention instead of having to go through the task of interviewing, hiring and training.

I have 2 Virtual Assistants.

#1 has a full grasp of the English Language.  He works quickly and is very efficient.  He has even given me idea on how to photograph my items better.

#2 has good grasp of the English Language.  His work is flawless.  I can tell that he really needs this job and will do just about anything to make me happy.

Sounds great?  I have the perfect virtual assistants!  But wait, there’s more.  Neither has put up 60 listings a week and neither has worked 15 hours a week.  While my invoice at the end of the week is $60, my sales will not support this for very long.

I am literally holding on to 120 listings that I have photographed and outlined because they are around 90 listings behind.  My inventory can’t be put away efficiently because it is in limbo.

I have discussed this with them in Hangouts and both have said they will get right to it.  I will see 6-12 listings each go up, then nothing.

Today, I will go through my spreadsheet and make sure I have all my facts straight.  Then I will tell each that the 60 listings a week are nonnegotiable.  If not completed by noon Sunday my time, I will be hiring 2 more and not sending any work their way.  Change the password and move on.

I have compassion for these two and know they need the money.  However, I have a plan.  It is to grow this business by hitting the maximize listing number.  Their actions are not conducive to my plan.

End of story.

#JewelsForThePauper

Items Fit for a Queen

But

Priced for the Pauper

 

 

Posted in New Year, Sales, Virtual Assistant

Weekly Business Summary

If I had to summarize this week in one sentence it would be that we changed a few things and received fast feedback and results.  However, this is a blog so I better say more than that.

First, I took a hard look at what was bringing my business down and caused me stress.  One word – Clutter.  I had items that weren’t in my clothing niche, that had been there a year and I had not sold them.  I made the decision to delete them from my stores and inventory.I will donate them and take the tax write-off.  Who wants to keep looking at mistakes and doing nothing about them?  Not me.

Second, I received my lighting kit, changed my background and added a Tiara to the corner of each of my pictures.  My pictures turned out so much better.  The colors that I had difficulty with (red, purple and blue) came out crisp and true.  There was just one problem.  The tiara.

I had purchased the jewelry to place in the corner to ‘trademark’ myself.  I wanted people to see the photograph without reading the title and know it was from me.  Both of the Virtual Assistants disagreed, had difficulty editing the photos and one was even nice enough to send a video on how to properly photograph.  Anyone need a Tiara?

Both virtual assistants did not Max out their hours.  Sounds like a score.  It wasn’t.  Neither of them listed over the weekend.  Both are 60 listings behind and I am ready to send another 60 by tonight.  One seems to have gone AWOL and the other promises he will have all of his completed, plus what I send him today, by tonight.  Admittedly, I don’t send these listings on a schedule because my life’s not on schedule.  Both do fantastic work on a budget I can afford.  I guess I will need to be more clear on the fact I want these done by Sunday at noon.

32 items have sold the past 7 days.  It is not a record, but it showed me I was on the right track on what I chose to be listed.

Jeans, by far, sold the best.  Tall, Short, Tiny, Huge, Levi’s to Faded Glory it did not matter.  They sold.  A close second was Spring Shirts.  Last were spring and summer shoes.

Looking forward to this week, listing items will be primary.  I am in search for another virtual assistant, USA based, that will cross-post to my Poshmark store.  I will be sourcing from my closet because I will need cash to go on my sourcing trip next week.  Last, I hope to declutter, throw away and donate.

Before I sign off, I want to give a ‘high five’ and gold star to my sister.  She opened her first EBay store on Friday with less than 10 items.  Buy it Now, Best Offer, Free Ship and no auctions.  Within 24 hours, she had accepted a best offer and sold some fabric that had been sitting in her closet.  Within 48 hours, she had listed more items and sold another item!  A new EBay store, 50 feedback, less than 10 items sells 2 items in 48 hours.  No one does this!  Except my sister!!.

#JewelsForThePauper

Where everything is Fit for a Queen

But

Priced For the Pauper

 

 

 

Posted in Auctions, Fees, New Year, Shipping, Sourcing, Time Management, Virtual Assistant

Go Do – Musings on #GaryVee

If you have never heard about the phenomenon – Gary Vaynerchuk – I invite you to Google his name and listen to what he has to say or buy one of his four books.  What is he?  He is a Day Trader of Attention.

Yesterday on Instagram, he had a screenshot with encouragement that became my wallpaper for the day and I found myself repeating it over and over.

Stop Thinking

Stop Pondering

Stop Strategizing

Stop Debating

Go Do

These past two weeks, I have been terrified to do just that.  I had a plan but my fear was that I would fail.  So what, right?  Wrong!  Failure would mean that my family’s budget would be blown, I would have a very disappointed assistant that needs the money, I would have two other virtual assistants with nothing to do and might put me at the bottom of their workload, I could lose my business completely from bad feedback and Below Standard Rating, not to mention the embarrassment and a lot of inventory.

I am not a success story, yet.  I am seeing  results after implementing my plan and I want to share it with you.

  • I hired virtual assistant #1. They list on EBay Store #2 which is Top Rated Plus.  I pay them $4/hr, they have completed 101 listings and I have paid $80.
  • I hired virtual assistant #2.  They list on EBay Store #1 which is Below Standard and on Postmark.  I pay them $5/hr.  I did not respond to complaints quick enough and I couldn’t keep up with the 1 day shipping.
  • I hired my sister to pack and ship at $2/order, as well as photograph at $1/clothing piece.
  • I have started 3-5 auctions each day on items that did not sell after 30 days.
  • I have sourced 100 clothing pieces and 30 from my ‘death piles,’ each week to be listed.
  • I have stopped looking at profit and only the number of sales because I am focusing on my sell-through rate.
  • Each item has a cost of $16 max   .  That is $8 shipping, $2 packaging, $3 sourcing, $1 listing, %2 fees.  I am comfortable accepting $20.  Period.  No more computing profits.  This is about product movement.
  • I am going to do this until April 30th.  Sales die off after that date.  If they don’t, I will keep going!

Yesterday, my sister shipped out 16 packages.  She has 3 more today.

Last Monday, I shipped out only 10 packages.

I thank Gary Vaynerchuk and several YouTubers for giving me the ideas, strategies and the desire to continue the Hustle.  It is hard some days, because our work is solitary, most of our family members don’t understand what we are doing and 30 characters of feedback are not always warm and fuzzy. We are our own cheerleaders.

One day, I will have a selfie with #GaryVee.  One day, I will meet Nicole, Craigslist Hunter, Lindey, Chad, Ronny, Jason and Natalie and thank them for their content and encouragement.  Until then, I’ll just keep hustling and Go Do!

#JewelsForThePauper

Where every item is Fit for a Queen

But

Priced For the Pauper!

Posted in Time Management, Virtual Assistant

Where are you going and How to Get There

I am a You-Tube Junkie.  I learn so much from other resellers that have done what I am doing.  They have become my Co-workers in a job that can be very lonely at times.  One reseller said something last week that I wrote down and eventually helped me to make some decisions going forward.

“I wish we had 48 hours in a day, but I would still work 40 and sleep 8 hours because I love this so much.”

It is a game, a puzzle, a recipe with many ingredients that put together in Different portions can lead to success.  Others need to be removed to be more successful.

In the last week, I’ve made lists, researched, made a plan and acted.  Hopefully it will bring back extra hours I have lost and increase my income.

 

  1. I wrote down two lists.  One was what I love or hate doing.  The other was what must I do myself or what can be delegated.  I used these two lists to help me decide what I would be comfortable with changing.
  2. I researched the cost of delegating these activities that are necessary for my business.  I am a perfectionist that will need to supervise closely at first to ensure that things are getting done with the same quality as if I were doing them.
  3. I took all that research, combined the lists, crunched the numbers and I came up with a plan that I can live with emotionally, time-wise and money-wise.
  4. I reached out to the people I felt comfortable with, gave them the proposal and as of last night, it’s all a go!

The changes in my business plan:

  • I closed down my Amazon Merchant Fulfilled store.  Sourcing low-cost books and selling them with a huge fee and increasing shipping prices, for miniscule weekly deposits only created a “library” in my home.  The space they are taking up can be filled with fast-moving stock.
  • I called EBay and got a listings increase on my second store.
  • I hired my 1st virtual assistant last week for the 1st store and it is going well.  I am interviewing a 2ND assistant for the 2ND store.
  • My 1st virtual assistant will be doing 90 listings a week.  My 2nd will be doing 30.  This means I will need to have a minimum of 120 items a week that are placed on a spreadsheet and have pictures.  It also means I will need to source more.
  • I contacted my sister/best friend and asked if I could hire her to ship packages twice a week, and take pictures once a week.
  • Etsy and Postmark will take a backseat for a little bit while I grow EBay.  There are no monthly fees to worry about, so it wont cost anything more.

To say I am relieved, is an understatement.  I have been under a lot of pressure lately and felt there was no room for fun.  The problem was not enough hours in a day.  It was not delegating responsibilities.

My path seems crystal clear… at the moment!

If you have comments or suggestions, just leave them below.  If you really like this blog. Smash the subscribe button!

#JewelsForThePauper

Where everything is fit For a Queen

But

Priced for The Pauper

 

 

Posted in Virtual Assistant

And the winner of The Perfect Virtual Assistant is…….

This is Part 2 of my Journey to find a virtual assistant.  This is not a ‘How To’ Blog because I believe there is no right way to do this.

My last blog entry began with my thought process of going about finding candidates and ended with 5 prospects.  One American, two Filipino and Two Indian candidates were picked for the short list.

I wasn’t particularly interested in interviewing them via Skype.  I know that this is common practice when hiring a virtual assistant.  I submitted 25 questions and a short task to each applicant.  It was their written words and abilities I was interested in, not their ability to speak.

The American (at $15 an hour and no weekends) answered the questions and did not do the short task.  Her answers were not checked for spelling but she did end it with her opinion on this process.  Apparently during her long career of 3 months, no one submits questions or asks others to complete a task free of charge. I must be a weirdo or creepy because I am hiding behind some virtual curtain.

That went well.

The two Filipino women (at $2-3 limited weekends), one did not fill out the questionnaire or do the short task.  The other did fill it out.  She did not have the experience of listing on Ebay, but she promised to try very hard to learn.  She had a bachelors degree in Business and a family that needed her attention.    I honestly wanted to give her a chance, but her grammatical errors and inability t complete the short task correctly made me realize that I would be spending a lot of time training.  Time is the reason I am hiring a virtual assistant.

Indian gentleman number one ($5/hr and weekend availability) completed his questionnaire.  His spelling and written English was better than some of the Facebook posts I had seen.  He was eager to please.  Looking at his work for pasts clients, he leaned more towards graphic arts and anime.  Neither are important to me, but he is quite talented.  Unfortunately, he did not complete the small task correctly.

Indian gentleman number two ($5/hr and 24/7/365 availability) completed his questionnaire, making me wonder at times if he is an English teacher.  He completed the small task, adding a few bells and whistles.  He has been in constant contact with me and even went the extra mile to research my business and reach out to me on my business Facebook page.

What was the small task I asked each to complete?  Construct a spreadsheet using Google Docs.  Please include 8 fields which will be the information needed to complete an Ebay listing along with an inventory number field that will automatically advance with each listing. A 10 minute task at the very most.

Indian Gentleman number two will be hired as The Perfect Virtual Assistant for JewelsForThePauper.

I believe my relief in knowing that my business will be growig exponentially far outweighs the process of  finding this person.

If you have comments or suggestions for future blogs, I would love to hear them!   Just comment below.

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#JewelsForThePauper

Where items are Fit for a Queen

But

Priced for the Pauper