Today I decided to share some love with some small businesses that we support in our area. These small businesses have had an impact on our lives. As a small business it is important to us to share the love and support other small businesses.
One of our favorite small businesses right here in town is Middle Ground Cafe. It’s our little local coffee shop owned by Katherine Aspelin. It’s the perfect place to grab a coffee and a muffin in the morning along with lunch come afternoon. The shop has been in town for 3 years now and is the cornerstone to Main St. It a great place to meet friends as well as business meetings. I have had many business meetings here and tell everyone that comes into our store to be sure and check them out. Their freshly made cookies, muffins, scones, donuts, pies and so much more are worth checking out for yourself.
Another great business in town that we support is Pastries 4 Pets. This small dog bakery provides homemade dog treats along with custom dog cakes. Our dog Bentley truly looks forward to getting treats from this shop. Donna Hart Shovlin is the owner of Pastries 4 Pets which opened in 2012. Donna and her dog Butters is always there to greet the customers and help them pick out the best treats for their pets. We are so pleased to have this business right in our own town.
For local produce and fresh breads we head over to Veggies n Stuff. They have a great little store on their farm here in town where they grown everything. We enjoy the fact that we can get locally grown food from our farms. I feel better about what I’m eating knowing where it came from and how it was grown.
Now Sabor 44 recently opened here on Main Street in May. What a treat it is to have this store in our town. For those who enjoy cooking this is the place to go. You can get a great variety of olive oils, vinegar’s, spices and more. I can’t help myself in this shop. I love the oils and vinegar’s they have along with the pastas. The owner Luis is fantastic and really has a passion for his business. We are so pleased to have Luis and his business as our newest addition to Main Street. If you are in the area be sure to stop in and check it out for yourself.
Lastly is Festi’s Power Equipment & Oil. This business has been around a long time in Stafford and provides all your lawn equipment and heating oil needs. We use them regularly, whether for oil for the lawnmower, belts for the snow blower or any other thing we might need for our lawn equipment. The service is exceptional and the owner Tillie has carried on a proud tradition her father started years ago.
These are just a few of the small business in town that we support regularly. There are so many other great little business in town as well, but I can’t mention them all. What’s most important is that we do our best to support as many local small businesses as possible. The saying Shop Local, Support Local…well it’s part of who we are and we hope many others will start thinking that way as well. We hope if you are in the area sometime you’ll come check out all these great places for yourself. And when you’re done, be sure to head on over to our store as well and say hi at Artisans’ Corner.
Small Business Matters
As a retail shop we work with wholesale companies as many shops do. Many of us use them to get the product we need for our store, but do we really know them outside of a basic order or two you place a month? Well we had the opportunity to meet one of our wholesalers yesterday. We took a ride out to Western MA where the wholesale facility is located.
The scenic drive was well worth the one and half hours it took to get there. What we saw when we arrived was amazing. This massive building sitting atop a hill with rolling fields around it. It almost looked like it didn’t belong there. When we arrived we were greeted at the door by one of the employees. He proceeded to give us a tour and educate us about this amazing building. Why is this warehouse any different than the next? This building was built with the intent to use the natural resources that surrounded them. Making use of the sun to heat the building, a small watering hole that is used as a pumping station for them and the town along with a variety of gardens inside and out of the building that the owners and employees have planted and use. This building truly fit the meaning of green. This business was built from the ground up. A family business. Starting small in a basement of a home to this amazing warehouse that employs many people in the community.
What amazed us even more was how the owners use the building to help their community as well. They have a community room that is open for use by local organizations, for day care, providing meals for the community and so much more. The owners are truly amazing people and give back so much to their community. We continued our tour of the building and made our way to where all the product was held for distribution. A very simple, basic setup, but very well organized. It wasn’t full of fancy machines for packing and shipping. Just the basic to do the job required. The employees seemed happy to be there working. There was a sense of calm in the warehouse among everyone. We were kindly greeted by many of the employees who offered their assistance if needed while we were there.
We then were offered the opportunity to shop for the products we needed while visiting. Allowing us to see the product in person and pick out what we wanted to purchase. A very important aspect to our store has always been having product that is made in the U.S. The one main reason we have chosen this company is because they offer so many varied products that are U.S.made. Our tour guide helped us with finding products that we needed, that were U.S. made for our store. He understood our needs and made the whole experience exceptional.
What we learned yesterday was the importance of really knowing who you work with on a daily basis in your business. Not just knowing your customers, but the wholesalers, artists or others you depend on to make your store what it is. Our experience yesterday gave us a chance to know the people behind the company we’ve been working with. Getting to know who they really are and their true commitment to providing quality product to stores like ours.
So the next time you go to place an order for your store, stop and think about that business. Do you know them really? Give them a call and see if they would be willing to give you a tour as we did. Get to know them, building that relationship with them will only help you and your business in the future.
Small Business Matters
Pricing is probably one of the hardest tasks business owners have to do. How do you know what is the proper price for your product? Do you know how much the market can bear, before you’ve priced yourself out of the market? What are your competitors charging? These are all questions business owners must ask themselves when pricing their products.
There are two methods that are commonly used when pricing based on whether you make your product or purchase your products wholesale.
This is the most difficult to price in our experience. The rule of thumb when pricing a handmade product is to total the cost of your materials + your labor x 3 = retail price. Now you know as well as we do, that doing so will many times make that price unreachable to most who want to purchase your product. So you have to get a little creative when it comes to pricing handmade products. For us we’ve taken the cost of the materials x 3. Yes that means we don’t get paid for our labor, but we are still making back the cost of making the product plus a little. Yes our handmade product is worth more, but in this economy you can’t price yourself out of the market. It’s easy to ask too much because you feel it’s worth it, but others don’t understand that. In their mind they are willing to pay a certain price and no more. So keep this in mind the next time you price that beautiful piece of jewelry you just made. Keep it affordable, but not cheap….there is a fine line. Charge to little and people think why is it so cheap, it must not be made well. That’s the last thing you want your customers to think.
Now if you are a shop that purchases your products from a wholesale distributor than you have an easier time pricing in our opinion. You already know what you’ve paid for the product. On average the mark-up is 30-40 percent. Of course this varies depending on the type of industry you are in. Also you’ll want to check your competitors in the area that have similar product. You don’t want to overcharge. Sometimes it helps to be a little less expensive than your competitor to draw in customers. Remember price is important to customers, but even more so is the customer service. So even if you are priced exactly the same as your competitor, your customer service needs to be exceptional so you stand out. The initial shopping experience will determine whether they will be returning customers.
We hope these tips will help you with pricing your products in the future. It’s not an easy task and takes some trial and error to see what works best for your business, but you will figure out what works for you.
Small Business Matters
So we’ve been on a search for the right POS System for our store. There are so many options it’s really difficult to choose what is right for you. But I wanted to share this information from Shop Keep which provides some valuable info when looking for the right system for your business.
Originally posted on Shop Keep. In no way do I sponsor or receive payment from Shop Keep for sharing this information. I just felt their information guide was helpful and wanted to pass this on for other businesses to refer to when looking for a POS System for their business.
Why Choose A POS?
If you don’t have a POS system, you probably don’t know what you’re selling, when you’re selling it, and how much of it you’re selling. You don’t know
your inventory counts. You can’t check sales without being in the store. You don’t know who’s working and when. Basically, you are facing a serious
information deficiency that is making it more difficult for you to make smarter business decisions.
- Using a POS system allows you to manage your business more effectively by giving you the tools to keep track of everything from sales to inventory to
employees and much more.
- Using a POS system saves you time and money by providing you with real-time and accurate reporting that can help you make smarter business
decisions and better position your business to plan for growth and expansion.
Key Elements in choosing a POS system
When choosing a POS System, there are a number of factors to consider. In this guide, we will walk you through each of these Key Elements that we
believe to be most important:
- Ease of Use
- Customer Support
- Adaptability and Evolution
- Simple Pricing
- Robust Reporting
- Data Accessibility
- Data Security
- Quality Hardware
Once you have chosen to use a POS system, it should be easy to set up and simple to use.
- You should be able to manage the setup process yourself and training cashiers and managers should take minutes, not hours. A system that’s
confusing to learn or complicated to use will decrease employee satisfaction and waste time that could be better spent elsewhere.
- Your POS system should offer an intuitive interface to process sales quickly and keep lines moving. A system that is difficult to use leads to longer
lines and unhappy customers who are then less likely to be repeat customers.
- Managing inventory and employees should be straightforward and painless, allowing you to be able to change things easily on the fly.
- Running reports should be simple and the reports should be easy to understand so that you can get a snapshot of exactly what you are looking to
learn about your business without having to ask too many questions.
Hopefully this information will make choosing the right POS System for you business a little easier.
Small Business Matters
We’ve all encountered issues with displays in our stores, but sometimes what we miss is the obvious solution. You can change out display units, move around product but if the lighting in the store isn’t correct it just won’t do the trick. We’ve encountered this in our store from the first day we moved in.
The first thing we did was change out old track lighting fixtures and the bulbs. They were the standard bulbs in the fixtures and the fixtures themselves where so old they just were not attractive. With a gift shop specifically we wanted to make sure the product was seen under a clean light. We used daylight bulbs instead of your standard bright white or soft white. We also use the CFL bulbs instead of your standard light bulb. Not only are you saving on your electric bill, the light produced is much cleaner and easier on the eyes.
Simple changes in the style of bulb used and the type of light it produces can make all the difference in how your product appears in your store. The right lighting can also play a role in the comfort and mood of your store. Also the type of lighting fixture itself can make a huge improvement. Not only is it attractive to the eye, but the style and shape of the fixture will effect the way the light is disbursed.
We’ve been puzzling how to work with the window lights to help display products better when it’s overcast or dark. We’ve had the old spot track lighting that was in the window since we moved in two years ago. We have been doing our research and decided to give pendant lighting a try. So we picked up a few this past weekend and installed them like the one pictured. We only started with one pendant light in each of the windows. After installing them, adjusting their height we noticed a drastic improvement in the light disbursement through the window. But it’s not quiet enough, so back to the store to get two more. Each window will have two pendant style lights allowing for much better lighting throughout the entire window. And the bonus is how attractive the lighting is compared to a basic spot light.
So the next time you are struggling to see what isn’t working quiet right with your displays….look up at your lighting. It’s a simple fix that can make a huge difference in your store, and save you some money on your electric bill too.
Small Business Matters
We know in our every day lives that many times we struggle to come up with our own ideas. Many times you’ll find that idea where you least expect it. Whether it’s from something in your environment that sparked it, or listening to a friend, neighbor or perfect stranger. Regardless of where the idea comes from you need to listen. Mainly if that idea comes from an outsider looking in. Many times we don’t see the obvious because we are so wrapped up with our general lives.
The same is true in business. We work so hard to keep our businesses going that we don’t stop and take time to listen to what others say or suggest. This rings true for me as well. I always try to listen to what our customers say whether good or bad. That’s the only way we learn and know what our customers want. Sometimes the advice or suggestion may not be what you want to hear or even thought of yourself, but that’s ok. Take time to think about their advice or suggestion and see if they will fit into your business. In many cases these outside ideas and suggestions are just what your business needs.
I did just that this week. Our friend and neighbor had visited a store while out this past weekend and saw a few things that stood out to him within the store. He came back with this information and shared it with me and suggested it may be a good addition to our store. Guess what, he what spot on. His suggestion fits in perfectly to our New-Age section of the store. So the wheels started turning and I figured out how to add this new product line to our store. The response from social media once shared has already been very positive. So now to wait and see the full effect of adding this new product line. Do I think it will work? Yes I do, because it was advice from an outside prospective that lead me to it. Many times the best ideas come from outside. You just need to keep an open mind and be willing to entertain ideas and suggestions from outsiders, whether friends, customers or perfect strangers. You never know what that suggestion or idea might lead to.
Small Business Matters
I thought this was the best thing I could write today. It’s a very sad to hear of Margot Alder’s passing. She was an amazing women and a huge part of the pagan community. I wanted to share this article written about her amazing life by the NYTimes. RIP Margot. Your work on this earth will not be forgotten.
Whether you are self-employed or work for a larger company many times you will find yourself working from home. This has become more common in the workplace these days. Many employers are allowing for telecommuting with employees. This is a great option for many of us, but there is the potential for burnout. Here are some great tips from Balancing Change Mindfully from their blog that may help you avoid the potential for burnout.
Blog originally posted at Balancing Change Mindfully.
Step 1: Designate a specific area as your home office
It is important to set up the home office properly in the beginning. A poor work environment will only harm productivity. So, make sure that you are comfortable and have all of the tools that you need to do your job well.
The Set Up:
- Location: Choose a separate room or a location that is out of the way. This will help prevent distractions and create a professional work environment. You also need to make sure that it is well lit.
- Equipment: Make sure that your equipment is functional and that you have everything you need.
- Clear out the office: Remove items from the office that are not work related. It is not a storage shed.
- Organize: Organize supplies so that they are accessible, easy to use, and functional.
- Make it a workspace: Limit the office use for work. It is not a play area.
Step 2: Set your boundaries
It is difficult to establish boundaries in a home office; people do not view a home the same way they see the work office. Because you do not have company policies to prevent distractions, you need to create your own boundaries. You can base these boundaries on the rules and boundaries of your old workplace. For example, do not take personal calls while you are working. Just like other boundaries, expect people to challenge them. You must stick to your boundaries, however, in order to be effective at your job and keep your work life in balance.
Step 3: Distractions will arise just know how to deal with them
It is easy to become distracted while working from home. There is no one to supervise, and your family can easily forget that you are working. Fortunately, a few safeguards will help you avoid distractions.
- Limit access: Ask your family to stay out of the office while you are working. Family, children especially, can be very distracting.
- Use a timer: Schedule breaks for activities like social networking. Do not constantly surf the internet.
- Turn off the television: Even if you need a television for work, it does not have to be on all the time. Turn it off to avoid distractions.
- Set aside time to talk on the phone: You cannot allow yourself to be distracted by every phone call.
Step 4: Make a schedule and stick to it
Working from home gives you the chance to create your own schedule, but you do need to create it. If not, you will have trouble accomplishing tasks on time. Most people find a schedule that sets tasks for each hour helpful, but you may use any format or time block you like.
- 8:00 am – Breakfast
- 8:30 am – Return emails
- 9:00 am – Call clients
- 10:00 am – Research
No matter how you create your schedule, you must stick with it. It is too easy ignoring your schedule when no one is monitoring your performance.
These are very important steps we can make to ensure we are effectively working from home and decreasing our chance for burnout.
Small Business Matters
So yesterday we did one of our day trips. This time we headed to Point Judith, Rhode Island. The weather was just fabulous for a day at the ocean. Not too hot or muggy. Of course while we visited we always go check out the local shops and see what great little treasures we might find. But as I’ve said in past blogs, I see how other stores are setup and present their merchandise to help with giving me a little inspiration. While the little stores located in the Port of Galilee were cute, had your typical tourist attraction items, they lacked in the inspiration I was looking for. The stores where pilled high with merchandise from floor to ceiling making it even difficult to walk through without knocking something over. This is something that has always been a pet peeve of mine. Proper spacing in retail is essential so customers don’t feel claustrophobic and just want to leave.
We then headed over to Point Judith Lighthouse to admire the amazing view and rocky beach area along the lighthouse. I am always inspired by the ocean scenery. But I was on a mission to find more drift wood, as my supply is running very low. No luck was had though. I was able to collect a mason jar full of ocean water though, which will help me when needing a dose of ocean air to get my creative juices flowing.
We then decided to take the ferry over to block island. As it had been many years since I had been over and my fiance had never visited we thought it would be a great chance to go exploring on the island. Exploring we did for sure, enough so that we got a little confused by the ferry schedule and landed up on the last ferry out for the evening. But that mistake was well worth it. The sunset on the ride back was just breath taking. We checked out the lighthouse on the island and the Mohegan bluffs. What an amazing sight to see.
We then heading into the stores to check them out. Two stores stand out in my mind. The first was Strings N’ Things. The minute you walk into the store smells of incense linger in the air and a feeling of comfort and warmth surrounds you. The lady working was so pleasant to speak. We enjoyed some laughs talked about our store back home and found some really amazing items in the store we just couldn’t leave behind. What stood out most was the arrangement of merchandise throughout the store. Easy to see from everywhere in the store, not overcrowded and just well displayed.
The next store was actually the last store we went into for the evening, Block Island Trading Company. Walking in you see a wide variety of merchandise pleasantly displayed while you enjoy some Frank Sinatra playing in the background. A very relaxing atmosphere. What stood out most with this store was the care the cashier took when packing up our merchandise. Everything was wrapped safely for the trip back, but also very decorative. Using a simple paper bag with their store logo and adding colored tissue paper for an extra flair. Simple, but elegant. It really stood out and made me think, that’s a good gift store.
We too have purchased decorative bags with our logo label on them, but I really hadn’t gone the extra mile and picked up coordinating tissue paper. So seeing this got me thinking that is something we need to do as well. Making the shopping experience amazing from the time you walk in till you leave with your purchase is what it’s all about.
So not only did we get a beautiful day at the ocean, we learned a few things on ways to further improve our store and the shopping experience for our customers.
So remember the next time you are out and visit a business similar to your own, pay attention to how they do things with their business. They may give you a little inspiration of your own.
Small Business Matters