Mommy Needs a Business is all about the joys of running your own business. You never drafted a complete business plan, you couldn't be further from your law school degree and you are now referring to your 12 years of law enforcement as your "former life." But you get to screen print tee shirts in your pajamas while pulling your toddler and preschooler out of vats of ink. What more could a mom want?
Check out Kristen's blog, Mommy Needs a Cocktail.
How about this economy? Are you freaking out as a small business owner? Let’s just blow off all those political promises right now and get down to the brass tacks of YOUR small business. Nobody knows what anyone is going to do for the small business owner until the rubber meets the road. You have to rely on your instincts and sound economic principles now to make decisions that are best for you. Here are some things to think about dealing with your business right now.
1. Know your audience. If the buyers of your products have always been online but online sales are dipping, maybe you need to consider selling local. Or maybe the reverse applies. There may be other ways to expand your audience. I started with maternity tees. Small audience, right? Buying time is roughly 3-4 months for women buying for themselves (from 4 months to around 7 or 8 months) and perhaps a month longer for the consumer buying for the pregnant person. Once I expanded my line to moms, dads, aunts, grandmas, nanas and kids, I blew my audience wide open. I still appear to have limited myself by using the word “Mommy” (which appears to generally refer to mothers of small children) but “Mom needs a cocktail” doesn’t even remotely have the same ring as “Mommy Needs a Cocktail.” Branching out to Mommy Needs a Cocktail Parties also widened my audience to all those people who like to host product parties. It expanded my business because it got my products out to people who would not necessary have known about them at a relatively low cost to me. Providing party discounts and perks for hostesses encouraged higher (and immediate) sales.
2. Make adjustments. Figure out ways to save money in your business and decide what measures you can take. The number one way for me to cut overhead costs in my business would be to lower the quality of my tees. I use what are arguably some of the most expensive tees on the market today. People would probably still buy my tees if I used a tee that wasn’t as soft. I choose, however, to stay with my product choices. I now either have to chase rising prices of products with raising my prices, lower my profit margin or come up with some other way to make up the difference. I’m still working on my solution. I know a woman who makes gorgeous handmade paper bag scrapbooks. Her answer was to cut back on the number of pages she added in her books. Not one person noticed or complained. The cost-savings made up for the increase in materials prices but she didn’t need to raise her prices beyond her target price point.
3. Make realistic goals for the long-term. I have lost a ridiculous amount of money from my retirement fund thanks to the tanking of the economy. I am not alone. But you know what? I can’t retire for 30 years and to be honest with you, my retirement account grew a ridiculous amount during the tech boom. I put it all in perspective. I’m losing the fake money I made in the late ’90’s. The economy will rebound (sooner or later, depending on decisions made in Congress) but it will rebound. I’m young enough to ride this out because I don’t have all my eggs in one basket. If retirement is right around the corner, you might not have the same flexibility. Your choices may be more difficult than mine. Sit down and map it out. Last year may have been a banner year for sales but making 10% less this year might not be as big a deal if you are no longer paying off a piece of equipment.
4. Don’t be arrogant. You may have been one of the first people to think up this creative idea, but realize that most ideas can be copied or even improved. Someone might be able to do your job better than you can do it. How often as a mom are you explaining to your children that there will always be someone who is taller or who can run faster or who is smarter. What is important is that you do your best. The same applies to you. There are some things you can do to protect your ideas (copyright, trademark). Places like Law.com have great resources for your questions about some of these. Sometimes your business isn’t copycat proof. There might be five vendors at a craft show selling similar-looking jewelry. What is different about your business that makes you stand out or would make someone want to buy from you? Developing personal relationships, having competitive pricing and providing excellent customer service can make the difference between the sale going to you or going to the person beside you. You can also seek out situations where you are the exclusive vendor of your product category.
5. You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. This is probably one of the toughest decisions you have to make. If and when to close your business is a tough decision. It’s like playing the stock market or the housing market. Everyone wants to buy low and sell high. If you are forced to close your business, doing it before it causes lasting financial hardship is probably your best bet. It is a lot easier said than done.
Only you know if you are going to make it through these tough times. Hang in there and make decisions with your head instead of your heart. Once again, easier said than done.
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