My Business Journey · Planning

How I Run My Business – Overview

I am forever saying that I run my business without the use of social media so I thought it best to give a broad outline of exactly what I do when I approach a new product collection and how I view things overall. I have also outlined what I think is important to take into consideration when launching a product and generally operating a business.

Firstly, let me tell you that I don’t have anything against social media, I just don’t like it for myself. I am sure there are many business that are making a great success out of their business with Facebook and Instagram, I am just not one of them. I know I am not alone either in this hatred of the way social media works and in order to avoid being a slave to their ever changing algorithm, I come up with my own strategy to sell online. Hopefully this overview will be helpful to others, including you.

Why don’t I use social media?
I hate to start on a negative but these are the reasons I don’t use social media. I have tried in the past and joined the # brigade, I have done daily posts on facebook and I even joined snapchat in the hope that I could use that for business too. And while I never say never (because that is just silly), for the forseeable future, I cannot see me ever having the time needed, to dedicate to any of these platforms.

Reason Number One
The content we provide on social media is not evergreen. Posts are fleeting and even if you hit gold and get tons of likes and comments on a post, it disappears within a day or maximum 2. That time spent on another of my strategies would be certain to bring in sales.

Reason Number Two
We are not guaranteed to be seen by all the followers that have told Facebook they actually like us. We are a slave to their ever changing algorithm and what might work one week may not work the next. I was on Facebook in the days when everyone seen business posts, back in 2005 with my first business, and even then, it got a few sales but i reckon if the conversion was worked out in terms of time spent talking to people, the results would not be fab, monetary wise. Disclaimer: I am not saying advertising doesn’t work here, just that it is something I will not put my time or money into.

Reason Number Three
Respect the platform and its purpose. Yes, your demographic may be on there in their droves but ask yourself why? People are there to chat to their friends, see their status and generally pass time, they are not there to buy so are not considered a ‘warm lead’ at all and to get them off the platform with a call to action to visit your website, Etsy or Amazon (which is what you should be trying to do), is literally impossible. The other option is to take private messages for sales and that fills me with dread. Endless talking to customers back and to via a messenger app is such an inefficient use of time which could be spent on more evergreen tactics.

So, enough of the negatives, what do I do?

Ok, firstly I put all of my efforts into strategies that are going to reap rewards long term, or as I call them ‘evergreen’ strategies. You will probably have heard this term around the net and it is one that fits the bill perfectly for me.

I have outlined the strategy I follow with the rules I have set myself below. They help me to stay focused and while I am not saying that other strategies would not work for me, I am saying these do.

⭐️Products
With regards to the products you sell I feel it is really important to look cohesive and not like an online jumble sale. Think about when you are shopping. If you wanted a pair of earrings, would you be more tempted to buy from a jeweller who had a great collection of jewellery including maybe bracelets and chains or would you buy from someone who did cushion covers and wine glasses with the odd pair of earrings thrown in. Personally I would choose the former and I know a lot of others would too. Try not to beat yourself up or take this personally if you do have a random collection of makes, we all start out like that and it is easy to try new designs out in excitement. But reign youself in and make a plan and stay committed to one of two things.

  1. Be a specialist in one product and make lots of varieties of that product for lots of occasions.
  2. Or, serve the same audience. (For instance, all baby things are great, all wedding things, all things vegan). In other words, a cohesive collection.

Now, I am not saying you cannot move onto another product eventually, because I certainly have, but I made sure that I had a really wide range of glasses before I moved to other products. And, each new product will always have at least 5 collections within the product offering.

Product Collections
Firstly I produce a product collection. I sell wine glasses and an example of a collection would be an anniversary collection.

I make glasses people want.

I do not make glasses and then find people to want them.. that is TOO hard!

Take the love out of it, this is business. Sorry to sound harsh, but this is true. If you want money in the bank with a nice tidy profit, you have to give people what they want.

So, research what is selling. Look at trends, look at top sellers on Etsy, top sellers in the handmade section in Amazon, look for what people are searching for and make a collection of products that they want. For instance, if you were around a couple of years ago you will know that Unicorns were massive. Now it barely mattered what you sold, you stick a unicorn on it and you had a sale. This would have been true for nursery prints, jewellery, wine glasses, art work, soft furnishings.. need I go on? Now they are dying down a little but you only have to walk into your local high street to see that sloths and pineapples are taking over. Sell what people want, not what you want to make.

Look at the latest colour schemes and fashion trends. Foliage was massive last year along with succulents and rose gold has been the latest colour scheme for some years now. You catch my drift don’t you? And, this does not mean copy what others are doing, it means use the trends to design your own products and make them unique. You will find that keywords are great to find when you are following trends.

Now, I am not saying this is all you should have. Every business needs their bread and butter products. As a florist this was always a white lily bouquet, they literally never go out of fashion. But, alongside that I would offer hot pink and green (this was the in thing back then) and this bouquet sold like hotcakes.

If you don’t want to find a trend, find a market to serve. There are plenty of markets that you can niche down in. Baby, vegan, LGBTQ, wedding market etc. And, although these are huge markets, you could niche down further to maybe offer twin products within the baby market, or gay weddings within the wedding market.

In a nut shell, you are looking for people who want to buy your product before you make it.

So, now you have found the product and remember this is only a brief outline of what I do, you then need to sell it.

⭐️SEO – SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION

I use SEO. Now if you don’t know what SEO is, I will tell you briefly but I intend to do a proper guide within the next two months. This is going to take some putting together though so bear with me.

SEO is search engine optimisation. This basically means that your listings or pages on your website, Etsy or Amazon are ready to be found within the search engine that the platform uses.

For instance, if you sell pink wine glasses, you want to make sure that your pink wine glasses come as close to the top as possible when people type in ‘pink wine glasses’ in the search bar. ‘Pink wine glasses’ would be considered a ‘keyword phrase’. You need to find keyword phrases that people are using to find products you sell. They need to be an accurate description because imagine if you searched for pink wine glasses and gold ones come up, would you click on them?

The first thing to remember with SEO is this..

‘SEO is designed to please the customer and show them products they want to look at’. It is not designed for the seller.

Each listing should contain keywords pertaining to the product you sell. Applying SEO to each platform is completely different but the same principals apply. Don’t over use the same ones over and over again, use long term keyword phrases (three of more words together) and be specific and generic at the same time.

Generic – personalised gifts for mum

Specific – Silver bracelet for mum

I cannot go too much into the SEO because this whole blog would be pages long and not in any kind of order and I really want the SEO guide to be cohesive and easy to follow. Suffice it to say that if you get your SEO right on your products, this is an evergreen strategy that should not be messed with once it starts working.

As soon as a product starts selling, other factors come into play from all platforms such as relevancy, conversion rate and authority. Basically, if the platforms see that people have clicked onto your pictures and bought as a consequence, they start to trust you and will show you to more people.

Please note that I apply SEO to Etsy, Amazon, my Website, Pinterest. I do not drive traffic to these places, I let them provide the footfall they say they can provide by making sure my SEO is as good as I can get it.

⭐️Other things to consider
Good clear photographs.
Good clear descriptions that answers all potential questions about your product.
Good materials list
Good price point (not too cheap and not too expensive, unless of course you have positioned yourself as high end). See my branding blog for information on where to place your brand strategically.

✨Please do not make excuses about any of the above. I really hate to be the one to break it to you but customers do not care if you don’t have good light, or haven’t had the time to write a good description or the kids were playing up so you couldn’t finish the materials list. You have to find a way to make it work, that is your job as a business owner.

⭐️The buying habits of a customer online
Below is my list of what I think customers do. This may help you realise what is important with regards to a listing and why.


✸SEARCH – firstly using a broad search term such as ‘gifts for mum’, then they see a variety of different gifts. They may like a bracelet they seen but then this makes them do another search so they do a
✸SECOND SEARCH – which is more specific and may be, ‘silver bracelet for mum’. They then
✸CLICK – on a product based on a picture that shows the bracelet in a clear light uncluttered that appeals to them. They then
✸READ – the description to see if it ticks their boxes, will it arrive in time for the birthday, will it fit her, can you personalise it. If they like what they see they will
✸BUY. Done and dusted, sale is yours.

It really is that simple. You have to make sure all of these things are ok. The good news is that you don’t have to strive for brilliance, ok is great at the beginning as you can then make improvements along the way. Bad is not ok though so don’t fool yourself with that old chestnut. Be self critical because if you are not, the customers will be.

My Launch Strategy
Ok, so I have outlined the list I follow when I create any product collection

💖Design collection
💖Research SEO
💖List on Website, Amazon and Etsy
💖Pin to Pinterest
💖Email / Blog
💖Put a gallery up on FB, simply to have a presence.

⭐️Email List
I have done a three part blog series showing exactly how to build and use an email list. You can find that here. Read them in order of numbers as this will make more sense. 1,2,3.

⭐️Pinterest
I have also done a series on how to set up pinterest for business and how to make sure it is SEO friendly. You can read that here.

⭐️⭐️What I DONT do.⭐️⭐️

I have listed what I do but I am going to list what I don’t do too. This has also helped me to keep focused on the job in hand.

✹I don’t panic when sales are slow. In my experience sales slow down during all school holidays, when the weather is really good and in November and January. In my third year in this business I have managed to stay steady during these times but in my bricks and mortar and the first two years of this, these trends followed and across lots of areas too. I know lots of business owners, online and off.
✹I don’t moan about changes. Etsy and Amazon have created their own rules. Stick by them and get on with it or move on. Moaning is not productive and will not make you feel good and it will also definitely not make sales, that is for sure.

I have always kept in mind what a customer doesn’t do either.

⭐️They don’t care about any amount of ‘love’ that was put into the design.
⭐️ Don’t wonder how many hours of work was put into it.
⭐️ Don’t think about the sellers family.

This may sound harsh and I of course care about other people’s families and how hard people work but buyers don’t and that is fact. You may find the odd gem who does but in the main, nope they don’t care.

I am really sorry that I have rambled on for so long. I am also sorry but not sorry for being blunt in places but I am blunt with myself too if that helps. I do hope it has helped some of you even create your own strategy and maybe get rid of some things that are just not working to help you stay focused.

Remember you are not superman or superwoman so cut down, keep it simple and doable. Do the boring stuff that others wont do, it can sometimes be what sets us apart.

And, most of all, put in the graft, you have to remember to graft. But it has to be focused graft, not all over the place. How do I know this? Because I have run a business without a plan, without a strategy and by the seat of my pants. Yes it did well but I know for a fact if I went back with my attitude now, I could double that turnover for sure!

Oh, and I know that you are probably thinking that you need step by step hand holding for SEO and I totally understand I really do. Please remember this is a passion project and I will be getting onto the guides as soon as I possibly can.

But, TTFN

Paula 🙂




My Business Journey

Stick a Fork in Me – Christmas Update 2019 20th Dec

As I write this, it is the 20th December and my first ‘proper’ day away from the office. I don’t say day off as I still answer customer messages asking about their orders and whereabouts and while they can get repetitive, I really do appreciate why they ask. But, on the massive plus side, I am not slogging away with the 100 plus orders I found myself doing and prepping for every other day.

I really feel for the first time selling online, that it went as smoothly as it possibly could have and we certainly had the best sales I have ever had. Now, I am not saying it was without a bump. I sent out a couple of glasses with spelling errors (that I of course rectified immediately), I printed one notebook that I was honestly ashamed of (and I said so) but other than those minor hicups everything else went fine in the business world. On the home front, a family member is not very well and faces quite a difficult surgery and subsequent treatment in the upcoming months.. this has definitely left a cloud above Christmas for sure. I only mention this because I think it is important to show how small business do have external factors that can influence their progression and while for the most time, I say crack on through everything, there are some things that just require you to stop and give support. Because of course, family and life must always come first when serious.

Back to business though. So, as I said in the last diary blog, Christmas this year certainly picked up momentum at the beginning of November and by the third week was in full swing. The 480 wine glasses I glittered certainly did help with the smooth running but I had to do a few top ups. I have recorded these in my sales and marketing planner though so I will have a better idea for next year what volumes to do. The other thing that helped was not deviating from my workflow. I feel like a robot sometimes as I always talk about work planning and efficiency but as someone who treated my first business in a slapdash, fly by the seat of my pants type project, I really do notice a difference in this approach and am desperate to pass on that enlightenment.

Hey, I must add though, in my personal life I am fun and spontaneous and don’t do massive planning. I go with the flow, it is just in business, although you must always be ready to adapt and change and go where the business is showing signs of growth, you really should start with a plan and alter the plan.

So, my workflow looked something like this. I did work most Saturdays and Sundays, I am not going to lie, not ideal but I needed to put in ‘the graft’ if I was to get through this unscathed.

Monday – Print off orders, prep lettering in colour order, allocate glasses and wash, send out cards.
Tuesday – Make orders ready for Joan to pack, ship.
Wednesday – Print off orders, prep lettering in colour order, allocate glasses and wash. Print notebooks ready for binding, print cards and send.
Thursday – Make orders ready for Joan to pack, ship.
Friday – Finish orders left from the week (usually from Thursday).
Saturday – Punch and bind notebooks and send.
Sunday – Flexible day to mop up any tasks that needing finishing and also any prep for the upcoming week.

I have not done my figures officially and will do them in January but it looks like I was 30 -40% up from last year. I will be thrilled if this is the case although I consider anything above 20% a good growth rate at year three. I feel this is down to my SEO strategy all year that makes my efforts evergreen and why I do not use social media. Work I did in March helps in December. A post in march on Facebook will not have impact even a day after, let alone months, but that is a different story for a different blog.

Tomorrow while everyone is out, I am going to have a bit of chilled out time and then I am going to work on a new planner for sales and marketing. I did one for just me in April and I have used it religiously every month so I intend to do it much better and maybe I will put them for sale too. I certainly found it helped me focused on my yearly and monthly goals. I am also going to do a personal shopping planner for our family… I am sick of ‘mum did ya get…’. So now, if they want it, they can write it on the list. I know, i am bordering on planner overload but I am just really enjoying being organised haha, leave me alone. I might even put these for sale, not sure yet, I will see how that goes.

I am then picking my daughter up from work and we are going shopping for those last minute bits and pieces. We usually have a little giggle so I am looking forward to that. The weekend will be spent wrapping presents and Sunday shopping for those panic bits and pieces that I just feel I just cannot do without.

So, this really is the last blog before Christmas so i would like to wish anyone who reads this, a happy and healthy Christmas and new year. Use the down time to be inspired for next year and think about all the great things the year 2020 can bring business wise.. and for those of us old enough, the millenium was 20 years ago, utter madness I tell you, utter madness!!

Enjoy..and TTFN

Paula 🙂

My Business Journey

Business Diary 22.11.19

Wow, has it really been 4 weeks since I last blogged?

This will probably, in all honesty , be the last blog I do now before Christmas because orders have been ramping up since the first week in November. For us, they usually start in the third week in November after Black Friday, but I have definitely felt a good increase in orders and I am certainly not complaining.

So, since the last blog… what have I done? I interviewed Karen and she started with us and is doing great. Amazon dropped the bombshell that all listings were going to be ‘not shown’ if we did not amend some keyword placement and so 700 listings later and Karen is familiar, shall we say, to Amazon. I am of course joking, I got stuck in and we did it together but that extra help certainly was a God send. The only downside is that she is on holiday on the 30th November till mid December but, while this was not ideal, I thought it was best to get the right person and muddle through rather than pick someone just based on their availability for Christmas.

I carried out my glittering plan and worked a whole weekend and glittered 480 glasses.. but who’s counting ey? Can I say I was totally exhausted but am now reaping the benefits of orders getting out on time and not having to take as much time out to do general glittering. I do still have my allocated time in my workflow, but that is for the more custom orders that we get. I really will do a workflow blog as I do feel it is what I am good at, efficiency and would like to pass a few tips on. i warn you though, I am brutal in my approach to ‘telling it how it is’.. I do not take prisoners, or any excuses that people find for not doing to the work. Well, not if they can find hours to spend chatting on facebook. I have to admit though, I have a slight addiction to twitter so I do ‘get it’..

What’s new in the product world? Well my new notebooks are going down really well and my plan to change the making methods really has worked. It is still about 5 minutes too much on each notebook but I intend to reduce that as time goes on. I am happy with all my suppliers, and my customers seem to be happy with the results too. They are not selling on Amazon as much as I thought but sometimes products can take a while to cook in there. I am confident though, that once they do start, they will continue to do so as this seems to be the way of Amazon’s algorthym.

My plan for the next four weeks is to basically be stringent with my workflow and stick to each day as planned. On a personal level, I have started to fast intermittently and whilst I have not seen any weight loss yet, my energy levels certainly are great when I have stuck to it for a few days. I intend to carry on with this and also to stay away from alcohol. I hardly drink much these days and when I do I only have a few, but good god do I feel it for a few days after. I am lethargic, totally demotivated and generally a bit of a debbie downer so no booze for me till Christmas. Plus, i want to say healthy. Over my business career, I have encountered two Christmas periods full of real illness which is no good for making money and growing a business.

To be honest I don’t have much more than that to write about really. I am nibbling away at new ideas while I am sat on the couch at home and at the weekends.. mainly to avoid housework haha. But the main thing is getting through Christmas, making my customers happy and getting all orders out on time.

If I can blog before hand, i will because honestly I want to look back next year to see what I was up to. If I can I will but if not, I will be back in 2020.

TTFN and good luck in the Christmas season.

Paula 🙂

My Business Journey

Business Diary 20.10.19

I am actually quite proud of how focused I have been this last couple of weeks and feel I have achieved quite a bit to be honest.

Firstly, as I explained in my last blog, I have amended my process of making notebooks to make it more efficient and as such have changed all graphics and am in the process of changing them across all platforms. At the time of writing this I have a handful more to change on Amazon and Etsy which will make me up to date in this goal (and I intend to do them today). All have been changed on the website which meant me giving up a dull damp Saturday and work in my home office to do this. I never mind the odd day at home working as when we are not at home we are out in the campervan and this lifestyle I have given myself lets me do that so i count my blessings and crack on when I need to. So work it is…

The other thing I have finally accepted is that I simply cannot get around to doing all of the bits and pieces I need to do.. for instance, Amazon have now decided that as an EU seller, we need to send an invoice to every customer and me being me with such admin tasks have firmly buried my head in the sand. This means that I currently have over 350 orders awaiting an invoice that I am pretty damn sure they neither want nor need. And, to make matters worse we can use the actual document I send them in the parcel with their order. This means downloading it and then uploading it and sending it to them electronically. That, along with other amends I want to make to various listing are simply never going to get done. I literally do zero marketing which concerns me so I have decided to recruit another assistant to join me and Joan, my packaging lady.

Now Joan is amazing and we really do get along well so I hope that the person I am speaking to on Monday will be good for the job and will fit in well.. both me and my daughter thinks she looks very friendly. The new person will have lots of admin tasks and also hopefully help with prep when needed. Even requesting reviews, which is a basic must online, is neglected and something I hope the new person will remedy. Please wish me luck, we chat tomorrow so next time I write a business diary, I am hoping that she/he will be very settled and rubbing along nicely.

I have to say, on announcing that I had some casual work on a Monday afternoon for 4 hours, that could lead to more, did in fact encourage lots of people to message me to ask ‘what day is the job on, how many hours and was it full time or part time’. I also got messages such as ‘more info please’. Needless to say, that if they could not be bothered to read the initial post on facebook or give me the respect of a full sentence, they didn’t get a response. I did however, get 35 replies from what seemed like lovely people all really wanting work. And although I sent them each individually the job information, I have yet to reply to them properly as I have decided to chat to one particular lady and if she is good enough she will get the job. I will of course message each and every one else back regarding the position and thank them for their time, because I think that is good and proper (to coin a political phrase). By the way it is worth noting that if this job was for 16 hours and was a more fixed permanent position, I would be getting more people in. However I do not think that is fair on everyones time as it is such a smallish position.

On a personal level, today I have been dumped for the football. My husband and son are both season ticket holders for their team and have a major fixture today, so have opted for a booze cruise on the local fan bus. I will be firmly pretending to be asleep on their return although it is my son who I feel sorry for as he barely drinks when he goes the game, and will be privvy to my husband repeating himself a million times. Add to that, that everyone thinks they are going to lose and this is not going to end well.. But, it does give me the house to myself to crack on. Well, I say to myself, my daughter who is 18 has just discovered going out and rolled in at ‘whatever o’clock’ this morning. Needless to say she is lounging around in her bedroom rehydrating herself as we speak. So it really is just me, the football widow and my basset, the football widog.

Anyway crack on I will. My plans include a full stock prep plan for next weekend when I will spend the whole weekend at the office glittering hundreds of glasses ready for Christmas. I am also going to finish all notebook amends on the platforms I mentioned above and if I am still awake after all of that I will start designing my christmas card range. My cards have really gone mad with regards to orders since I changed the design so I am hoping to keep that momentum going over the christmas period. This is usually a time when the card shop gets closed down but what the hell… in for a penny in for a pound ey?

The other thing I am really wanting to do before the end of the year is master this video malarky. I have been videoing various glasses before they have been sent out and I would love to showcase them on the website. I know google loves a mix of media so a great video should work wonders on a product page. However, as usually nothing is quite as straight forward as I would like so I have to get my head around adding them. They are also not super profesional looking so I don’t want to dampen the look of the website as I am fairly happy with it aesthetically at the moment.

So, along with everything I have committed to today, my plans for the next two weeks include trying to get out new collections in time for Christmas and generally getting ready for the boom to begin.. assuming it will. Once mid November hits I will resign myself to getting orders done and out within a timely fashion and that will be my one and only goal.

I hope you stick with me on my business journey, I am loving every minute of it and although I loved my previous life as a retail florist, this life trumps that 1 million percent.

I hope you are grafting too.. if you want to join in and tell me what you are grafting at, please do in the comments section below.

TTFN

Paula

Planning

Christmas Planning

It’s the middle of October and many people in the online retail space may think this is fairly late to start Christmas planning and to be fair they are probably right. However, with the sales we experienced in August and September I could hardly catch my breath. So, it is what it is and I have a strategy to approach my third Christmas as an online business with a view to beating both 2017 and 2018 in terms of efficiency.

2017 was my first Christmas as an online seller and I worked on my own at home. Chuck a huge upturn in orders in with a severe chest infection that literally bed ridden me and I was left with a curve ball I did not need and did not cope well with at all. Luckily, my customers were amazing and my daughter, husband and son all really pulled together and got me through it. I vowed after that, that The Sarky Cow would be the most well oiled machine during any future Christmas rush and the only way to achieve that was with great planning. And, to be fair Christmas 2018 was pretty good as far as efficiency was concerned but I want to beat even that.

Christmas 2018 was a pretty big deal and by that time I had a packaging assistant and had done some pretty good planning ahead. We got out 800 plus orders and wasn’t late with any. I adjusted my workflow to meet demand and did the 14 hour days necessary to get through the heavy workload. I am not for one minute saying it wasn’t tough because it really was but with a plan ( and a distinct lack of chest infection), it went well. However, we had to turn off orders on the 11th December and while I am happy to do this again this year if necessary, I don’t like leaving money on the table and would love to extend that time for 3 days at least. I do maintain though that customers come first and if there is a slight chance that orders are not going to be met, then processing times are extended.

So, with all this in mind, if my strategy goes according to plan, Christmas 2019 will be bigger and better.

Product Planning
The main product going out is always glassware. And, as the wine and champagne glasses are all glittered, they do take some prep work over three glittering and drying sessions. Now, my weekly workflow allows for up to 100 glasses to be made over the week. This covers 17 colours and give or take one or two, we manage to keep stock for all orders.

My plan for Christmas and for ongoing stock prep is to spend a full weekend doing bulk glittering. This will take place at the end of October just in time for the rush which usually starts mid November. This way, the time spent weekly keeping up with stock will be able to be spent on getting orders made which in turn will allow for more orders to be taken. I aim to glitter at least 300 glasses which should give me enough stock to cover the two main weeks. I am taking into consideration that other non glittered glasses form a good 50% of our orders.

Now, I am assuming that you do not sell personalised glitter glasses, because quite frankly, thank God, not everyone does. But there will be a way of prepping your upcoming orders. It may be to cut out your patterns for sewing in advance, printing those prints or cards that are usually popular, having all wooden signs cut and prepped… you get the picture. I can guarantee that if you are someone saying, ‘it’s not like that for me’, I bet I could find a way to make it more efficient. Efficiency is the key to profit and sanity, without a shadow of doubt.

Stock Planning
As you will know, planning goes beyond the obvious and typical stock levels are just the obvious things to stock up on before the busy period begins. I have outlined a list of things to consider stocking up on to ensure a smooth Christmas. I am starting to what I call, ‘squirrel’ this stock in prep for Christmas so that I do not have an extra big bill before hand and also so that I am prepared should it hit early.

Now a lot of this stuff wont apply to you, but it is always worth checking, just in case. It may trigger a supply that you use and should think about.

As a side note, I use trello for keeping a track of what I need to remember for Christmas as it is my list bible, you might want to check that out as a planning tool because it takes those lists right out of your head and into your phone and desktop. So, whenever something pops in my head (not just for Christmas obviously, it is not the proverbial puppy) it goes right into the appropriate list in Trello. The link is right below (and yes it is my link, it just gives me an upgrade that means I can use special features of the software, I don’t get any money off I promise).

https://trello.com/paulaforbes5/recommend

Post and Packaging
Franking machine labels
Franking machine ink
Card envelopes
Brown boxes
Brown tape
Sellotape
Packing peanuts
Bubble wrap
CN22 stickers
Airmile stickers
Cable ties
Post sacks
Dymo address labels
Postal pouches

Gift Wrapping
Tissue
Ribbons
Glue sticks
Gift boxes large and small

Marketing
Insert leaflets x 2
Gift cards
Cello sleeves C6

Glass Stock
Wine glasses
Whiskey glasses
Champagne glasses
Pint glasses
Tumbler

Stationery / Notebooks
Printer paper
All specialist paper for notebooks
Cards and envelopes
A5 white card
Printer inks
Metal coils
Laminater sheets

Consumables
Vinyl
Transfer tape
Glitter
Glue
Paint brushes
Vinyl tape
Uhu glue
Blade and cutting mat (spare)

Other important things to consider
So, in a nutshell, these are the products we need to keep the office running smoothly and the orders . Remember that if we are busy, then our suppliers are too and if we let ourselves run low, there may be a delay in getting things to us. This would be so frustrating. Even nipping to the local shops to buy printer paper can cause delays so it is my aim to avoid it at all costs. If you are wondering how much of everything to buy, double what you think and at least you can use it next year if you don’t need it all before hand.

But what about the coffee? Yep, get that in too, along with dried lunches such as noodles and rice etc. Don’t forget sugar or sweetners too. I do not want to be thinking about eating when I am in the middle of getting 100 plus orders in the post, and I don’t suppose you will either. Cold drinks can be stocked up too along with snacks for that extra sugar boost we may need. I don’t know about you but my working days during Christmas can go up to 9-10pm so all of these things can really help.

Hopefully you will find this useful and even if you don’t use any of the things I do, it will hopefully spur you on to compile your own list and get started because once Christmas hits, it hits and that spare five minutes you thought you would do stuff in, suddenly disappears and you use it for sleeping instead.

As a last little note, I just want to say that I hope you all have a prosperous Christmas and for those of you who are just starting out, don’t be discouraged by people who get really busy at this time, be inspired to graft your way to where they are.

So, TTFN.. and keep grafting!

Paula




My Business Journey

Business Diary 03.10.19

So what’s been happening this last few weeks? Well, business normally shows a slight slow down in September with the return to school and college and the end of the summer. But, glad to report that we were still up 40% on last year so the growth is nice and steady.

It is looking like next week going to be a bit mad though as the orders are piling in already. Monday and Tuesdays are always our busiest days as we find most people order on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. This means my Monday prep day is a heavy day and my Tuesday making day is mental. Following my first mad Christmas a couple of years ago, I introduced a weekly work flow which allows all glass orders to be shipped within the 3 day turn around time. We can produce up to approximately 100 orders a week with this system and any more than that I would probably have to tweak it a bit. I will be doing a planning blog as I actually think this would help a few other handmade business to be honest, it really did help me. Don’t think me big headed, but efficiency really is my thing. I have to work out the quickest and easiest way to do something in bulk whilst maintaining a high standard. It reduces stress, brings cost down with regards to time and also makes customers happy.. Win win I reckon! I have a few planning strategies up my sleeve that I use and am really consistent with. I don’t just jump on the latest bandwagon that I see so many do, that is crazy. I have a couple of tools that I use and they really help me to be productive.

Speaking of productivity and efficiency, I am doing a turn around on my notebooks. It took me 6 months to develop a method of making my hardback covers and while I really love the finished result, it is just not proving efficient enough so I am changing them. I have let this interupt my schedule because it is going to have a negative affect on Christmas so I really need to prioritise it. Luckily I have been working on an alternative for a couple of weeks and am happy with the result, so I just have to change my pics and update my listings. It is a bit of work, but I am a grafter after all so I am hoping to get it done by the end of the weekend.

I have had other obstacles thrown in my way this last couple of weeks too including a supplier not supplying my glass jars that I use. It took quite a bit of searching but I eventually found a replacement. Bit of a pain when this happens as it stops the flow of work but it is just something that crops up occasionally in the life of a small business.

Christmas prep is big on my list of things to do this next week too and I will be preparing a blog on all things to consider during the lead up to the festive season. I am doing this as much to help me as my readers to be honest, a good honest list with a tick sheet is a god send during busy times. Part of my prep this year is to bulk make my glasses. I normally keep a good stock and top it up on a weekly basis but this is proving to take up quite a bit of my time so rather than take another member of staff on just yet, I have come up with a cunning plan. I am going to spend 3 whole days Friday, Saturday and Sunday and prep a few hundred glasses. It will take a bit of thought though as to how many of each colour to do. If this is succesful I will be doing a quarterly stock make which will mean 4 weekends of work throughout the year but this should hopefully cut out at least 4 hours per week of my work flow which would free me up to do more developement and marketing which I am desperate for. Fingers crossed it works..

Update on my plans from the last business blog, I stuck to my plan and changed over all my card designs on Amazon and am already seeing a really good result with card sales. I have also sent in a batch of my best sellers to FBA which is fulfilled by Amazon so hopefully I will get a relatively passive income from that stream too. I will be monitoring this method over the next month and will give you all an update in my next business blog.

My plans for October is to prep for Christmas like I mentioned, change over all notebooks to the new design and design a Christmas card range. I will also be introducing my email marketing strategy again starting tomorrow.

I think that will keep me grafting for the month so ta ta for now. Thanks for reading if you actually got this far and I will write soon for those interested.

Paula 🙂

My Business Journey

Business Diary 10.09.19

Thank god I am back to some kind of normality. I know it goes against major popular opinion, but bank holidays literally freak me out business wise. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love to spend an extra day with the family and stuff. I love the BBQ’s and gin drinking that I get to do but man oh man does it interfere with my workflow.

Add that to my daughter’s fab 18th birthday celebrations and you have one shattered worn out Sarky Cow..

However, after a 13 hour graft yesterday, I am now completely caught up with stock glasses, buying lists and notebook covers. All 60 orders for posting today were prepped and successfully delivered to the post office on time and are hopefully now on vans and trains heading towards their final destination. My turn around time is 3-5 working days which is tough at times but my trusty workflow that I spent a while engineering helps me achieve that promise, and I swear it is part of the reason for the high sales and year on year growth we are lucky to be achieving. A quick check before showed that Etsy was up 42% on last year and Amazon a massive 71%. The website is in its infancy and we have no reports for last year so I can’t comment on that just yet. That reminds me, I need to add ‘figures’ to my things to do list on Friday.

I have also completed my studio tour blog on both this blog and my sarky blog so that my customers can see behind the scenes. I thought it was important to show people that we are a real life business so they know we are not scammers… there are so many about, it is scary! I did want to do a video tour but I literally just didn’t have the time so I had to compromise. It is in my list of things to do though to create some more video footage of the studio and our products. I think the studio blog will help customers relate to us more personally, I really want them to get to know The Sarky Cow and team.

So, what are my plans for the week? Well, tomorrow (wed), I will be doing wages, prepping all orders that have come in on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, glittering stock glasses and making more notebook covers for stock. All outstanding notebooks will be printed and bound and ready to ship on Thursday.

I also have plans to organise a supplier list that is comprehensive. I do have all the information written down but feel it needs to be more organised. I use trello but I also want a paper based information system so that it is to hand for me should I not have any internet at any point, or in fact if Trello ever goes down. I mean I could find all this information but think it will be easier to have it in one handy place.

Oh, and I am bloody determined to get fit. I currently feel like I am the most unhealthy and heaviest I have ever been so I am going on a walk with my friend Louise after work of course… And, hopefully this regime with some intermittent fasting should see some weight come off. Any tips for weightloss, please do get in touch because honestly it is the one thing that I let beat me. I think I self sabotage but that is another post isn’t it? Anyone relate?

I also need to contact my accountant. I am usually very organised and have my accounts done by April but this year we lost one of our dogs, Ozzie, and we were nursing him around the clock from April which meant my time was stretched (and when I say round the clock I mean round the clock, we took turns with a night shift and everything for 10 weeks). I prioritised orders and communication but everything else was put on the back burner, including my accounts. So, I have some catching up to do. We lost Ozzie after all that nursing but I wouldn’t change a thing because the time I got to spend with him was so so precious.. If you haven’t guessed I am a huge animal lover. Our other dog Dennis comes to the office with me now as he has always been a pack dog and doesn’t know how to exist on his own, he has always relied on others to lead the way. Besides, he keeps me company so it is a bonus.

Friday is the day I work ‘on’ the business and I do this from home. I have plans to continue to add my new card range to Amazon. It is on Etsy and the website but I have yet to add it to Amazon. I am doing it one product line at a time and Friday I will be adding the rest of my anniversary cards. The new designs are flying out on Etsy and my website to be honest and I have a feeling that Amazon will see the same success. I’ll keep you updated. I also have plans to work on my email strategy which I have also neglected due to the events of the summer. But, I will get back on that email horse and plan some emails for the lead up to Christmas.

Not much more to report really… I will stay focused, I will stay on plan and I will carry on grafting..

Until next week.

Paula 🙂