The Best Ideas Sometimes Come From Outside

business ideasWe 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

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Margot Alder NPR Journalist and Wiccan High Priestess

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.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/30/business/margot-adler-68-journalist-and-priestess-dies.html?_r=0

 

Working From Home: The Potential for Burnout

home officeWhether 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.

Avoiding 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.

Example:

  • 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

 

 

Making The Shopping Experience Stand Out

bagSo 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

 

Leverage Facebook to Grow Your Customer Base

small business mattersIf you haven’t had a chance to look at Facebook for Business yet you should.  It has some really good resources to teach you how best to use Facebook for building your customer base both in store and online.

Here are some of their tips that may help you.

Attracting Customers In Your Store

  1. Run special promotions
    Use Offers to encourage people to come into your store to redeem a special discount you create on your Facebook Page.
  2. Share news
    Post fresh content on your Page about new products, seasonal items, daily specials or in-store events. Promote your most popular posts to increase their reach.
  3. Help people find your store
    Add your address to your Page so that people can check in on Facebook when  they’re visiting. You address and accurate Page category information will also help people find you when they search for a business like yours, or are using Nearby in your neighborhood.

 

Attracting Customers Online

  1. Acquire new customers
    Drive prospects to your site by targeting your ads. You can reach people based on things like age, gender and demographics, or use your own data to reach your customers by creating a custom audience. Ads can appear in the news feed on desktop and mobile apps, the logout screen, and the right hand side with Facebook Exchange. Also, leverage Facebook Exchange to capture in-market shoppers who’ve visited your website.
  2. Grow sales on desktop or mobile
    Merchandise products in news feed and right-hand side ads, linking directly to product pages on retail websites. Getdetailed, multi-touch attribution numbers beyond last click.
  3. Build loyalty
    Connect with the most active customers. Publish to them every day with engaging content to increase retention and word-of-mouth marketing.

These tips can help you increase your customer base using Facebook.  If you are looking for more help with managing your Facebook page feel free to give us a call.  We are always here to assist.

Small Business Matters

 

What Are The Biggest Obstacles For Small Businesses?

your small business blogAccording to a recent article from American Express Open Forum, small business owners were asked what their biggest obstacle for small businesses in their communities was.  Is it the local government or big-box?  The general consensus from business owners was big-box competition.  That big-box competition is a real threat to the small business owners.

It’s difficult for a small business owner to compete with the behemoth retailers.  Their ability to spend more on marketing, their access to high volume discounts and how they monopolize distribution channels.  These are all very big threats to a small business even more to a start up business.

There are advantages as well though, that the small business has over big-box competition.  When is the last time you went into Target or Walmart and easily found an associate to help you with finding a product? How long did it take you to find someone to assist you? Did the associate even know what the product was or where it was located in the store?  We’ve all become frustrated by the lack of service from the big-box competition.  Now walk into a local small business. You’ll find personalized, speedy service along with a better product more often.

Relationships are also another important part of small business.  Small business owners know this is one attribute they have over big-box competition.  Small businesses know the importance of building relationships with their customers and community. “Small business owners must engage customers, or those customers will quickly jump on the big-box bandwagon to shop price without even a glance back.”

Not only do small businesses need to build great relationships with their customers and community, they need to build a relationship with their local government.  Small businesses that reach out to their local government and community get more support.  You are making an investment in your community.

So they keep these things in mind the next time you hear a big-box moving into your area.  Yes, it will always be an obstacle, but your small business can survive. You will always have something big-box competition doesn’t.  Personalized service, quality product and a commitment to your community.

Small Business Matters

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Retail Feng Shui Tips

feng shui for retailI came across this article on how Feng Shui can improve your retail store and sales.  I found it very interesting and wanted to share some of the tips from the article.  You can read the whole article here.

The author of the article Rodika Tchi makes some really great points on how simply using Feng Shui in your retail space can make a dramatic change on how customers feel about your store.  It’s all about good energy in your store that will make your customers shopping experience amazing.

Here are a few of her tips she suggests:

  • Step outside your store and take a feng shui look at your main entrance, your store name, your window displays and your neighbors. Do you stand out or do you blend in? If you were to see your store for the first time, would you come in? If no, why? Feng Shui-wise, you want to create a strong and clear flow of energy to your front entrance. A strong flow of feng shui energy is created by a strong and clear presence, which includes a clean, crisp store name, well-lit and fresh window displays, as well as by using appropriate colors for the feng shui direction of your main door.

 

  • Come inside the store and notice where your attention goes. This well help you understand where the energy flows. Is your attention pulled to the right or to the left? Or maybe you are not drawn to come in at all, even though the store has many beautiful things? The important thing to understand is that you need to create pathways for the feng shui energy to flow, you need to direct the energy to create a pleasant experience and draw the customers in, then help them explore by themselves what you have to offer. Imagine Chi, or feng shui energy as water, and see where would the water flow, as well as see where would it get blocked.

 

  • Create a primary focal point, as well as several secondary points/areas for exploration. This has to be very clear from the moment the customer steps into the store. You want to avoid the overwhelmed feeling of “too much stuff” with no breathing room. On a feng shui energy level, this can create a feeling of a very loud, uninterrupted noise; nobody is attracted to that. Music is created by the silence in between the sound. I personally have come across this in many shops “too much stuff”.  It makes me feel crowed and usually I don’t stay long. Keep this point in your mind at all times when placing items and displays. Don’t overcrowd.

These tips alone will really make you take a look at your retail space and help you decide whether you have the proper Feng Shui. Be sure to read the rest of her tips here.

Small Business Matters

 

Trash to Treasure

You would have thought with the long holiday weekend, we might have taken some downtime for ourselves.  Turns out it didn’t work out that way.  But that’s ok.  Instead we found some treasures for the store.  A friend of ours was assisting a friend with a clean out of a home and we got to go pick through what was left.  Yes it may sound strange to most, but one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

This is just another way we find things that can be used in our store.  I was able to find this really cool shelving unit, that once was used in a police department to file their forms.  It will get cleaned up, painted and used in the new-age section to hold books and essential oils.  I’m so excited about turning this into a treasure and show piece for the store.

I’ve come across many items whether in yards sales, second hand shops or even the side of the road that I’ve refinished and used for the store some way.  It makes for interesting decor in the store and costs us little to nothing.  When you are a small business you need to be creative and find ways to decorate your store without spending a small fortune.

We even incorporate pieces of nature into our store.  Our window displays are old cut down tree stumps.  They work really well when displaying product and give the window a warm and welcoming feel.  Anything can be used as a display, you just need to think outside the box.

displays for business

So the next time you are out driving keep an eye out for yards sales or free items on the side of the road.  You might just find that perfect piece to add to your store. Another person’s trash may be your treasure.

Now I’m off to price and stock some really cool new items we just got in for our new-age section.  Be sure to head to our Facebook page to check out all our products.

Small Business Matters

 

 

Happy 4th of July Weekend

It’s here, the long 4th of July weekend so many of us look forward to. A time to get together with friends and family and enjoy cookouts and fireworks.  Unfortunately the weather isn’t looking great for many outdoor events in our area (northeast, ct) tomorrow.  So it may turn into a lazy day to just kick back and relax.

I thought instead of doing our normal blog today, I would share some cool things I came across on the internet when it comes to celebrating the 4th of July.

How about making this cool 4th of July cake for your cookout from Betty Crocker.  I bet all your guests would love this.

Here’s a cool way to spice up your ordinary ice cream cones for the 4th of July.

I also came across some really cool crafts you can do with the kiddo’s for the holiday as well.  These look like a lot of fun and pretty sure the kids would have a blast making them.

How about making these as centerpieces for your table.  I really liked these.  So simple too.

I hope you enjoyed these great ideas for your upcoming 4th of July celebrations. Feel free to share any cool food or decorations you did for the 4th of July.

Have a great and safe holiday weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Your Business Strong During The Summer

keeping your business busy in the summerHappy early 4th of July to everyone.  I hope you all have a great long holiday weekend.  This is a great time we all look forward to spending time with friends and family.  Whether you are heading out for vacation or having a backyard celebration for the 4th of July this is some well deserved downtime.

For many businesses summer is their busiest time of year.  If you happen to be in a tourist area, your planning to be very busy during these summer months.  But for other businesses located in small non tourist towns, business may be a little slower.  I know in the almost five years we’ve been in business, we noticed as soon as summer hits business slows down.  School is closed, families are off taking vacations and our town seems to turn into a ghost town.  This year I personally think will be different for us.  Why? Because we’ve done a few things in our town recently to really grab attention from outside of our area.  The efforts we have put into recent events I personally feel will pay off for all of us.  Usually we start to see the slow down right after school lets out.  So far our June has been exceptionally busier than previous years.

Which leads me to how to increase your business for the summer months.  You need to think ahead if you know you are located in a town that slows down during the summer.  Plan your marketing for the summer.  Offer special sales or events for July or August to attract new customers and keep existing customers shopping.  Only do these special events during these months each year so customers are looking forward to it.  You need to be creative and stand out to draw customers to your store.  It can be a difficult task, but if you think outside the box you can continue to thrive during these summer months. Consider partnering with other local businesses to do a special summer offer.  There’s more power in numbers.  Regardless of what or how you do it, keep doing it.  Don’t give up if it doesn’t work right away. This is the only way we will know what works best for our business.

Wishing you all a Happy 4th of July and a successful summer.

Small Business Matters

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