Seasons Are Changing: Are You Ready?

Smallbizmatter.orgThis coming Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer as we all know it.  No summer really doesn’t end for another three weeks, but this is what we have come to accept.  Labor Day comes, the children are back to school and the summer is complete.  The weather may tell us otherwise, but we know the shift in seasons is coming and we need to be ready for it.  As a business we know that change in season means a shift in our business.  For many us the summer season is a slow time in sales as people are on vacation.  After Labor Day everything seems to go back to normal.  So are you ready?

The change is season means we are heading into holiday season.  Yes none of us want to think about Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas this early, but if you are in business you need to.  You need to start preparing for the upcoming holiday season now.  Be prepared for the increase in traffic and sales.  So if you own a retail shop you should consider getting in orders to stock up your store early in preparation for this.

Have you stepped into a large retail store lately?  Guess what they all have the fall lines out and Halloween decorations.  I agree it seems to early and always have thought why do they start this earlier and earlier each year.  Why you ask?  Because the general public starts shopping that much earlier each year.  With everyone’s budgets tightened over the last several years, people are more apt to start their holiday shopping earlier.  Many buy a little something each week and put it aside. This train of thought is what we have to keep in mind with our own stores.

So when you are placing your next order for product for your store, or getting stocked up from your local vendors, consider padding each order.  Add two extra of each item for the next 4-5 orders.  This will give you a little padding for the upcoming holiday seasons.  I know ourselves that’s what we will be doing to help prepare ourselves for the upcoming shopping holidays.

Being prepared and ordering early will help you with the upcoming shopping season.  Don’t forget to enjoy that last three weeks or so of summer though.  Take a little mini vacation for you too.  Recharge, Refresh and get Ready.

Small Business Matters

 

 

Continuing to Grow & Learn With Your Business

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Small Biz Matters

As we all know it’s important to continue to educate yourself daily when you own a business.  The old saying “learn something new everyday” is really true.  We as business owners learn something new everyday.  Whether it’s a better system to run our business, creative ways to display products, new tips on marketing and so much more.

I personally have found some great ways to continue to educate and grow myself so I can continue to grow our business.  There are many forums that are directly related to small business owners and entrepreneurs that can help with growing your business. Whether it’s free online classes, a forum for business owners to share tips and tricks or meetings.

These are just a few of the places I regularly check out and provide a variety of valuable information, classes and tips on ways to improve and grow your business.  I thought I’d share these with everyone as it may be helpful for you as well.

CreativeLive offers a variety of online classes that are usually free.  Anything from photography classes, to money management, public speaking and so much more.  Go check out there current classes and see if there is one that might be of help to you.

I also follow Facebook For Business always a lot of great tips, tricks and info on ways to improve your marketing through Facebook.

Entrepreneur Magazine is another great resource to follow.  Tons of great articles that might give you some great ideas and tips on ways to grow and improve your business. Learning from how others have done things is always a help.

Mashable is another one I follow regularly.  Always great business tips, social media tips and tech information.  Check them out, you’ll find a lot of great information here as well.

These are just a few that I follow all the time.  Hopefully one of these resources will be helpful to you as well.  You never know what you’ll come across that could help you with continued improvement of yourself and business.  Keeping yourself educated and up to date with all the changes is the only way you can keep your business growing.

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Supporting Small Business

support local businessToday 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get To Know The Companies You Do Business With

cropped-your-small-business-blog-1.pngAs 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 Your Products

pricing your productPricing 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.

Handmade products:

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.

Wholesale Products:

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

Small Business Marketing

 

Facebook Changes

Recently many people may have noticed when they tried to check their messages on their smartphones through Facebook you would receive a notification stating, to continue seeing your messages download Facebook Messenger app to access messages from friends. The changing is rolling out gradually, so many people many not have seen this yet.

facebook messenger app

Many of us may have already downloaded the app and currently using this.  For many thousands of others though, they haven’t done so yet, as they are making a stand of their discontent for being forced to another change by Facebook.  At this time, messenger isn’t the only way to access your inbox.  Just log into your account from your mobile browser and access messages as normal.  Eventually this option will no longer be available as Facebook continues to roll out the Messenger app.

So what are your thoughts on the Messenger app?  Are you unhappy with again another forced change from Facebook?   Many are unhappy with the change shown by the 807,526 1 Star reviews of the app currently. So what do you plan to do?  Will you make the switch now or ride it out until the end?

 

Looking for some help with your Facebook business page?  We are here to assist you, from setup, design and maintenance.  Let us handle your social media networks freeing up more time to run your business. Contact us for more information.

Small Business Matters

 

 

 

Choosing a POS System For Your Business

pos systemSo 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighting Makes The World of Difference

lighting in your storeWe’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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

 

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