Journey of the Do – Stage 11 – Mindset

Over the past couple months, I’ve been outlining how to ramp up your online business from nothing to something to profits. I’ll pass along some more updates soon just before my wife, and I’s online store hits the web.

Let’s chat about mindset

You’re out on your own when you’re starting a biz or it can seem that way, and the psychological barriers to success can limit you. These little rodents pestering your mind can keep you up at night, keep you away from family, hell it can ruin your business. So, how do you get your mind in shape to handle the day-to-day tasks?

You’re one of the very few, but you’re not alone.

I was speaking with a young, entrepreneur yesterday, and he told me about having a beer with his buddy a couple weeks back. His buddy has a decent paying 9-5 job, and he was in awe of this entrepreneurs new truck. Let’s call him Lee (the entrepreneur, not the truck).

Lee’s friend was pounding back a cold one, and the conversation went something like this:

Friend, “Is that a new truck? Didn’t you just come back from Disneyland? Didn’t you just remodel your house? How the hell do you afford it?”

Lee: “You see the ‘fun’ parts about working for yourself, but you don’t see what happens when I’m juggling numerous projects, when I’m up until 1am putting together estimates or when I have to forgo having a beer with a friend because I’m running a business.”

It’s sometimes tough to get over the illusion, and remember the good about what you’re doing. When you’re starting out – you have to do the things most people don’t want to do. You have to crunch numbers, deal with annoying suppliers, figure out who to hire, and plenty of unglamorous stuff. All of this can seem insurmountable. So how do you get around those barriers?

One little trick I’ve found that works for me is to set my phone timer for a few minutes, and tell myself I’m going to work on the website for x amount of time. Even though it’s only for a few minutes, when I get started, it’s difficult to stop. So 5 minutes turns into an hour, and a bunch of stuff gets done.

It’s like one of the lines from Dumb & Dumber, “I can’t stop going when I’ve started…it stings.”

Jim Carrey, dumb and dumber

Lloyd Christmas at his finest

It’s a little trick to frame your mind, and put it into work mode. I used to do this when it came to cleaning the house. I would tell myself to start with one bathroom. Then after doing the one, I know I wouldn’t like the second bathroom to be dirty, so I would clean it. Then I would clean the floors, and on we go.

Set your mind into work mode, and you’ll find yourself to be more productive, especially with those tasks you don’t really want to do.

Another tool

Do you use a calendar? It’s one of the most useful tools in my tool belt. I put EVERYTHING in my calendar. If it’s not in my calendar it doesn’t exist. I even go as far as putting when to shop for groceries in my calendar or when to sit back and think about whether or not I need Netflix (I do this about every 3-months). It’s the little cues that keep me going, and keeps my mind focused on the business at hand because I don’t have to worry about forgetting to shop for groceries because I know it’s in my calendar. It doesn’t seem like the most glamours thing in the world to have a schedule so regimented, but it works for me. Anything I can do to save brain power, I will try and do it.

Re-energize

Do you take time for yourself? This is key. Find a time, put it in your calendar and cherish it. Maybe you like going to the gym, meditatation or do yoga like I do, but find time for yourself to reflect, rest, and re-energize. It’s easier said than done, but it’s so important. I usually like to read before I go to bed or as I mentioned above – practice yoga. I do this every Sunday morning, and rarely anything gets in the way of it.

Find time for yourself, and your business will benefit.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. Feel free to leave some ‘tricks’ you use to get your mind in the place it needs to be by leaving a comment below.

Journey of the Do – stage 10 – Your own media company

I’m not the first to mention this nor will I be the last. In this changing age of tech anyone and everyone can be a media personality. Even your brand can have it’s own channels to promote and market your product. One of the folks who pioneered this trend is Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s a little over the top, but it works for him. He reinvented his father’s retail wine store into an online juggernaut through daily video blogs starting in 2006.

Another example, and one of my favourite people on the planet who uses his own media channels is Jesse Peters – your social savvy Realtor in Winnipeg (of all places). Do yourself a favour, and follow him on one of his many platforms. You’ll see what I mean.

I’m not here to bash the existing forms of traditional media. I used to work in traditional media. Even items like Nest (radio), and internet.org by Facebook (TV) use traditional mediums to get the word out about their products. There are places for everything in this ever changing world. Having said that – if you want to put in the time, and effort – you can do it on your own. If you have a smart phone, you’re pretty much set.

JP Arencibia, Blue Jays, Guy with the Bow Tie, Radio

Interviewing former Blue Jay JP Arencibia back in my radio days.

For my wife, and I’s business we’re going to use YouTube, and other video sources to pull back the curtain, and let fans / followers in on what’s going on. We’re going to be very transparent of what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. The beautiful part – you don’t have to spend a crazy sum of money on camera equipment, editing software, lighting, etc… Yes, you can do this, but when you’re starting out, just use what you have, and let people know that you’re just starting out. It’s okay to be vulnerable even as a business.

For example – my wife, and I are taking our own pictures for our site. We purchased a lighting kit for $100, and we already have a decent SLR camera. Does it take the best photos, and do we really know what we’re doing? In one word, No, but we’re going to be open about that fact. If we grow, and as your business grows you can hire professionals to do the work for you, but when you don’t know where you’re going to end up we figured there’s no sense dumping a HUGE amount of money into something when we don’t have to. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to fill the need of a customer, and be open about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.

A slight tangent – when I was speaking with a recent high school grad about his future (he wanted to go into sports broadcasting), he didn’t know where to start or how to build his portfolio to get into college, etc… I simply asked him, “What’s stopping you from doing what you want to do right now?”

He has all the tools available to him. If he wanted to write about local sports he could start a blog. Yes, he won’t have a HUGE following, but that’s okay. It gets you thinking in a professional way about something you want to do. Do you want to be on the radio? What’s stopping you from doing a Podcast or using Soundcloud, and social media to get the word out through your friends? Want to be on TV? There’s a little thing called YouTube, etc…

What I mentioned above will never replace the traditional forms of media. You need those ‘professional’ checks-and-balances. With technology – media has shifted a bit, and it favours those who are willing to put in a bit of time for little to no reward (at first), and a little effort. For your business – this could be an amazing way to share your stories, your personal beliefs, and further connect you with your potential customers. You may not see giant sums of customers at first, but with time your CORE fans will develop that personal connection with you, and next thing you know – you’ll start to see your brand grow through referrals, and satisfied customers who come back time-and-time again.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Journey of the Do – Stage 7 – The Launch

It’s almost here! You’ve planned, prepared, bought, sold, researched, set up accounts for this that, and everything else. Now, it’s time to share you product / service with the world. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you launch.

Soft Launch

For this endeavour, my wife, and I have chosen to do a soft launch. We’ll spread the word through family, and friends (and this blog) before starting a larger marketing effort. We want to ensure we work out all the kinks before we really start generating some revenue. Some of you may want to wait until everything is perfect before you launch. DON’T. Get it out there, and work with your customers from there. There’s no shame in being up front with your customers that you’re new, and working on a few different things. Even make them a part of the discussion. Ask them questions on how else you can serve them. Do they have any suggestions for improvement, and so on.

For this e-tailer the plan is to leave a month or so to iron out the kinks before we start turning the crank. Your timeline may be different, and that’s fine.

Creating a Culture

The definition of brand has evolved. It used to be, and still is to a point, about what people are saying, and feeling about you. However, it’s a bit more than that in this new age of technology and globalization. Now you can survive as a small niche by creating a culture. Creating loving, devoted fans, and by having the most believers on your team. It used to be about getting the right / best people on the bus. Now, it’s more so about getting those that best fit your culture or the culture you want to create on the bus. People who live, and die for what you’ve created. They may not be the best in their field, but they believe in what you’re doing, where you want to go, and they’re willing to learn for the sake of the brand. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your accountant. I want the absolute best in the field. I cannot stress enough how important an amazing accountant is.

Your culture can be defined by your core values or what you want to get out of the company. And we’re not talking profit numbers. We’re talking higher-thinking. Steve Jobs believed in design, inside-and-out. Zappos believes in serving the customer to no end. They even hire their team by encouraging trainees to take a buy-out of a few grand at the end of their training. Those who take the money…GOOD. They want people who believe in the brand, and the journey opposed to the money. You get believers working with you, and the money will come.

By having this culture within your company, it will spread throughout the customer experience. Making your customers believers, and when you have believers, you’ll have more and more followers, more and more buyers, and more and more ambassadors for your brand.

One way we’re going to do this is by encouraging our customers to get involved in the process. Include them in buying decisions on what they like, and don’t like. While we’re out on buying missions, we’ll post pictures of what we plan on buying, and include our fans in the discussion. We also plan to be as open as possible to them on what we’re doing, and why. Even going as far to post our revenue numbers on our website. We also plan to do a different sort of promotion to kick things off (more on that in a few weeks).

Dress, Ever Rose, Shop Ever Rose

A look into the future. Do you like?

The BIG Launch

After you’ve worked the kinks out through your soft launch, and things are working for you, and you’re starting to see the cash flow…it’s time to spread, and scale. Having worked in the media industry (I still do), and my wife’s crazy PR connections through her blog (canadiangiftguide.com) we’ve compiled a few tips on how to get free publicity. You can check those out here. This has to involve you picking up the phone, sending out emails, and reaching out to as many people as you can within your community. People like supporting those in the community, and they LOVE stories. Plus, media outlets need to fill time, especially LOCAL time, so keep at it, and you’ll eventually see your biz in the news, on TV, etc…

In my wife, and I’s case – we’re going to spend a bit of money too in a few different markets across Canada to get the word out. More on that over the next few weeks.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

PS. After all the purchasing of goods, website, domain names, logo design, etc.. we’ve spent just over $6000. And we’re almost ready to launch.

Journey of the Do – Stage 6 – Buying

This might not be necessary if you’re the product or make the product for your business. As an e-tailer, my wife, and I are going through wholesalers, which means we’ll be buying goods from others. Thus, we’ve decided to attend a couple buying shows throughout the year.

This past weekend we attended Trends in Edmonton as it was stocked with wholesalers shilling their clothing brands. My wife, and I thought we could pull off all our meetings in one day, and we did, but man were we exhausted. We poured over 1000’s of dresses, sweaters, tops, bottoms, and the list goes on. All in the name of finding a few items or brands that will end up lining the online shelves of our store.

The cool thing about being a buyer at these shows is it’s free to attend. You also get to see what the fashion trends are going to be 6-months out. Plus, you get to meet some quirky people (it’s fashion after all). When starting your online biz, you should see if there’s a trade show or buying show in your industry. If you can find one, try and attend it. It’s so difficult, and time consuming to reach out to wholesalers, get their literature, read through it, and figure out what you’re going to buy for your store. These shows put everyone, and everything (well, almost everything) in one place.

clothes, trends, fashion

My wife going through a rack.

Seeing as it was our first show – we wanted to get the ‘lay of the land’ before purchasing anything. Some wholesalers will try to hard sell you, and that’s fine. That’s their job. If attending one of these show go in with a plan.

Planning for your buying show – 10 Tips

1) Reach out to the show before hand to get their literature, and list of wholesalers present at the show. This is a simple Google search away. For the most part it’s effortless to sign up, and the show will ship out their literature within a couple weeks to get you started.

2) Reach out to those wholesalers to book appointments. When your literature arrives, go through it, and start reaching out to wholesalers (if you haven’t already done so). It’s important to book appointments as this gives you one-on-one access to the wholesaler. They’ll also fill you in on what’s selling, and what to look forward to.

3) Attend appointments, and ask questions. If you set an appointment – show up. Pretty straight forward. After all, you’re building relationships with these wholesalers, and you don’t want to rock the boat by missing an appointment. While at the appointment, get to know the wholesalers. Why are they doing this? How did they get into it? What’s selling or has sold in the past? And fill them in on the idea for your store.

4) See product, take pictures, and notes (we used our iPad). All of the wholesalers will have samples of their goods. In my case, it gave me a good idea on the quality of fabric, the cut, and how it will look on the body. My wife, and I took a bunch of pictures, so we could see how the clothes looked on a screen. After all, we’re selling online, so how it looks on a screen is HUGE to us. For example – there was one dress that looked fine in person, but really popped on the screen. There were also numerous scenarios where it was the opposite.

5) Figure out what you’re going to buy (ask for show specials). You can buy right there at your appointment. You might have to limit what you purchase or come back at a later time depending on your budget. You can also change up your order or cancel it later on down the road depending on when stuff is supposed to be shipped to you.

6) Set a budget (if you’re going to be spending money). Don’t blow it all in one place. Generally, these are giant shows, with thousands of wholesalers. Take your time, and don’t get sucked in to buying too much, and blowing your budget. You should have a decent knowledge of how much each brand costs going in as you’ve already spoken with the wholesalers.

7) Figure availability and shipping dates. Some items are available now, and can be shipped the same week. See it, buy it, ship it. Other items are only available a few months out. Be sure to ask your wholesaler these questions if they don’t mention shipping dates.

8) Don’t overbook yourself. This was our error. We made too many appointments in one day. Moving forward – we’ll probably book two appointments in the morning, and two in the afternoon, and call it a day. Then do the same the next day, and the next. This also allows you to take in what happened that day instead of your head turning to moosh. Everything looks, and feels the same after a few appointments.

9) Have fun. You’re there, so you might as well make the most of it. Not too mention, you should leave sometime to explore the city you’re in. This will take your brain away from the show, and the craziness it sometimes brings on.

10) Bring a partner. This allows you to do more in the one-hour you get with the wholesalers. You can run through the racks, as questions, take pictures, and more. If you’re going solo – I can see how this can be extremely overwhelming. Bring a partner if you can, and split up your duties. This also helps you deal with some of the wholesalers who are trying to hard-sell you.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Journey of the Do – Stage 5 – The Website

dresses, e-commerce, dress

A little product preview

If you’ve been following the journey for over a month now, I’d like to reiterate…You do not have to follow this step-by-step (ooooo baby). This is to serve as a guideline on building an e-commerce biz from scratch. And it’s the actual steps my wife, and I are taking.

This week – the website. It’s your store front, your moneymaker, and your driver of profits. It’s one of the most important parts of your e-commerce biz. That’s why it’s taken some time for my wife, and I to get this going. We’ve trial tested a couple different platforms from Bigcommerce to Shopify (you can find a good breakdown here). We’ve also spoken with a couple web designers to see if building a site from scratch was an option.

The site really comes down to whether or not you want proprietary control over your platforms, and algorithms. To develop something like this is very expensive, but you own it. You can make it do whatever you want, and you have full-on control. One of the downsides (aside from upfront cost) is the ability to evolve. When you’ve developed your e-commerce platform from scratch, you’re pretty much stuck with it. You can try, and evolve, but it can be quite complicated. We’re starting to see this with some of the e-commerce companies we’ve researched. At the time, their technology was cutting edge…now it’s old, and tired, and difficult to change.

That’s why my wife, and I have decided to go the ‘plug-and-play’ route. The technology can evolve as new algorithms, tech, etc… come to market, and the expense isn’t too much to evolve, and to start up. We’re giving up control for something that can grow with the business. Having said that, we understand we may need to develop something on our own if we outgrow the Shopify option we’ve chosen.

Shopify

The one thing my wife, and I really like about Shopify is the customizable themes. You can also pay to have one developed for you. Every site comes with a monthly fee depending on what options you want to have available to you. We’ve chosen the most expensive route, which gives us the most options. It also helps that Shopify is Canadian (although you have to pay in US dollars), and their customer service is phenomenal.

You can secure a domain through Shopify or you might have to find it somewhere else. For our store – we had to go through a GoDaddy auction to secure the domain we wanted (it’s a somewhat simple process to link your URL to your Shopify store, and Shopify gives you step-by-step directions on how to do this). My wife, and I also secured a couple other names similar to ours, so we can point those URL’s to our store.

I could go on and on about the options of Shopify, and other e-commerce sites, but it’s best if you go, and explore on your own. Most e-commerce sites give you free trials, so you can experiment. I highly advise you do this. As I mentioned before – this is your store front, and your money maker. Take time to invest in the different options available to you. Reach out to the customer service folks at these companies, and speak with web developers. You owe it to yourself, and your business.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

PS. The design, and template through Shopify cost a couple hundred bucks, plus the $100+ US monthly fee. With this expense we’ve spent close to $2500 including some product.

The Journey of the Do – Stage 4 – The Brand

This week it’s all about the brand. A brand is what your customers think, feel and say about you. Having said that, you can craft your message(s) to make people think, feel and say certain things about you.

In our research phase – my wife, and I checked out the numerous e-commerce fashion sites, and dissected the look of the logo, the style of their website, tested their customer service, ordered products from them, returned products to them, etc… From that we saw what we liked, and didn’t like. In doing this – we’re able to figure out a few differentiating factors for us.

#1 – we’re only going to ship in Canada (sorry, US)
#2 – we’re going to support as many Canadian wholesalers as we can
#3 – we’re going to have a different twist on shipping
#4 – the price is the price is the price (don’t have to worry about paying duty, etc…)
#5 – return policy will be nothing like our Canadian competitors

You also have to factor in what you’re going to do about customer service, and how you respond over the phone, online, social media, etc… It should all be consistent. If you use certain words over the phone, you should also use them online, and vice versa.

bow tie, man

You will rarely see me without a bow tie. Go personal brand!

The above points help out in the feel, and say portion of our brand. For the look – there are numerous sites to go to for logos:

Withoomph
Hipster Logo Generator
GraphicSprings Logo Creator
Logoshi
Logaster

And many more. A simple Google search can also help. If you want someone else to do it for you – I wouldn’t spend more than $500 on a logo design. Yes, a logo is important, but it’s not worth a HUGE investment. Plus, a good one, by a talented designer at most should cost you $500.

The logo is only a portion of the look, as we’ll be ensuring our colour schemes, and looks go across the entire e-commerce site, packaging, etc…

For the logo – we’ve hired a designer who’s done a few other things for us, but you can use any of the sites above. My biggest thing – is you have to be different from your competitors. Just because you like blue – doesn’t mean that’s going to be a core colour of your brand. Five of your competitors could be using blue as a colour.

In our case – we’ve found a couple colours that aren’t being used and we’re going with that as our colour scheme. We’re also using a handwritten script as a font, which is somewhat similar to a few other logos in our space, but our colours are what’s going to set us apart.

From there – we can start building our website. Again, none of this would have happened without the first few steps I wrote about in previous weeks. Some people go out and make logos, print business cards, and all this shit without doing their research, and testing to see whether or not their product / service will sell. My wife, and I have already done this, so now we can spend the extra expense for the ‘professional’ look and feel.

The brand is your baby. Take care of it, but also allow it to evolve with time. As people change, and markets change, and customers change, your brand changes. Never stop testing, and experimenting with new things.

Next week – the website.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

The Journey of the Do – Stage 3 – Banking and the Product

You can choose to follow this stage by stage, or you can find your own way. Either way – just do what you’ve set out to do. You’re one of the 5% who is taking an idea and putting it into action.

If you need a refresher on Stage 1 (idea to action) and Stage 2 (testing and research) click the corresponding link.

This week we’re really getting into it. This is is the part where you’re going to be spending a bulk of the money, but you have to spend money to make money. By this point, my wife and I have spent under $1000 on the business. This is a venture wholly funded by ourselves, and we’ve set a distinct budget, and timeline for sales. We’re not spending more than $5000 on product (your number may vary), and if we don’t see a steady growth in sales over the first month, we’re going to cut bait.

Your sales cycle may take a bit longer, but either way you should have a date set for an out. I’ve seen SOOOO many start ups keep thinking they’re going to make it, and they burn through money with no real exit plan. Set a date, a realistic expectation of sales, and if you don’t hit it. GET OUT! Or pivot to something else.

Banking

You should probably have a relationship with a bank for your business. For whatever reason banks don’t take too kind to small businesses. Banks like to see a track record of growth before they start handing out loans, etc… However, there are some options out there for the little guys. If you’re only going to be conducting business in one province you may want to check out your local credit unions. They offer some great products, and services you won’t find at a major bank. However, they are somewhat behind when it comes to technology. Do your due diligence, and set up meetings with numerous banks, and credit unions to see what they can do for you when it comes to a business bank account.

My wife, and I have settled on RBC and their e-account. As the majority of our transactions are going to be online this was the best fit for us. Plus, we’re going to be conducting business across Canada (at least selling nationwide), so a credit union didn’t make sense. The credit unions even told us a national bank would be better for what we’re trying to do. Again, we wouldn’t have known this unless we set up meetings, and asked questions. SET UP YOUR MEETINGS!

Product

Kids sweater, sweater

I’ve always been fashionable.

You need products or a product to sell (whether it’s a service or an actual good). This is where the bulk of your money will go. We’ve contacted numerous wholesalers in the US, and Canada regarding their goods. If you have to go through wholesalers, just Google “Clothing Wholesalers” or whatever you’re interested in selling. If you’re developing your own product, then my suggestion would be to find 3 potential clients, whether their friends, family, etc… and test your product or service on them. Do your homework to see if your idea is going to fly. Really focus on Stage 2. In my case – my wife and I know there’s a market for our products. We still did our testing, and research (and continue to do so), but we didn’t have to do as much.

If you’re importing goods you’ll need an import/export number from Revenue Canada (remember US fans – I’m Canadian). Go to the CRA site or search “Import/export number.” Another thing to keep in mind – the dollar. With the Canadian dollar where it’s at my wife and I are trying to go through as many Canadian wholesalers as we can. If you’re importing goods from the US, you may qualify under the NAFTA agreement where you don’t have to pay a duty. Talk to your wholesaler(s) about this. On clothing – you’re probably going to pay a duty which is 18%. Plus you have to factor in GST (and HST if outside of Alberta), and shipping. My wife and I have figured we’d have to add about 40% to the wholesale cost if we import from the US (based on taxes, and duty fees).

My wife has really taken the reigns on the product side of things. Here’s the kicker – we actually have a plan when it comes to the product (get ready marketing people).

My wife, and I have a woman in our minds every time we look at product. She’s a late 20’s professional working in an office building downtown. She’s a 9-5er, and she likes to go out every now, and then. She wants something she can wear to the office, that doesn’t make her look like a skank while still having personality, and she can wear the dress, shirt, jacket, etc… out for drinks after work without looking and feeling like a stone cold business person. Every time we come across an article of clothing we always ask, “Does this fit into her closet? Does it have the personality of this woman? Would she really wear this?” If the answer is Yes, we get it. If it’s No, we don’t. That’s how focused we are on the product side of things. This focus is also what’s going to aid in building our brand (and your brand if you follow this strategy).

Next up – The Brand!!!!

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. So far we’ve spent about $1000 on product. That brings the overall total close to $2000 in biz expenses.