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percypony

Starting a New Business

I am just about to venture into a new business selling on-line and at local craft fairs.
Does anyone have any hints or tip? Things not necessarily first thought of? Things to aviod!?
Getting started stuff for now:
Best (meaning easiest to use!) website design software? I have signed up for 1 & 1 to manage the site.
Best company registering provider?
Where to buy wholesale stock? Are the on-line wholesale list providers worth joining?
Oh, I expect I will have a million questions before long but that is all I can think of right now.
Thanks
Percypony
tahir

What will it be selling?
sally_in_wales

Same question as Tahir for starters, a lot of the advice we can collectively give you will be based on what we have found works or not in certain situations, so knowing what you produce and what the target market is will be essential. Good luck though, its always a bit scary making that call to the Inland Revenue to say 'you'll need to send me a tax return to fill in this year' Very Happy
Penny Outskirts

Same question again Smile
dpack

in any venture make a business plan
be prepared to work really hard
learn fast
best of luck
tahir

dpack wrote:
be prepared to work really hard
learn fast


I think that's excellent advice, work alone gets you nowhere
hedgewitch

tahir wrote:
dpack wrote:
be prepared to work really hard
learn fast


I think that's excellent advice, work alone gets you nowhere


Agree. Also, always be ready to adapt and keep an eye on new trends whatever your business.
percypony

Blast! Posted a reply, previewed it, press back to change something and then it all disappeared!!! Crying or Very sad
OK start again:
I am planning on quality gifts, by mail, baskets, hampers, teddy bears, baby goods. Not food or alcohol at this stage as too many regulations etc.
I have had quite a sucess with a trial of this just before Christmas on e-bay and positive response from people I have talked to so far so it might be a go-er and I figure if I don't buy too much stock in one go at first then I have little to loose.
I really struggled before Christmas to find good presents for family and friends (I HATE shopping with a passion!) and thought I was probably not alone!!! I want something quick and easy for people with the money and not the time. But also to have a range for most peoples budgets.
Comments welcome.
sally_in_wales

So, the first thing to think about is what will link these items together. Will they all be sourced from local craftspeople for example, or will they all have something in common otherwise? It will probably help you market the overall concept if you can say something specific like 'a new and exciting collection of quality gifts, carefully sourced from ethical producers/specialist craftsmen/limited edition wossnames' or whatever the key marketing point is. Does that make any sense?
percypony

Ummm, never thought about that Sally. Will that really make that much difference do you think? At the moment to keep costs down I am looking more into what I can get from whereever at a good price but I suppose it could all look a bit hashed together then. I think it is the sourcing that is causing me the most problems so far so maybe a fresh approach is needed anyway!
Thanks got me thinking.....
Gervase

Sally's right - you need to unify your collection, either by source, or style, or price; anything to give you a unique selling point.
You're facing a lot of competition, so you have to come up with something that makes you stand out, and which will make fickle punters choose you over anyone else.
You can try to exclusivity (M-J's former in-laws have done that with a very up-market site - http://www.whippetgrey.co.uk/ - but they're having to work jolly hard to make it work). Or even simple oddness; have you thought about having every product in just one colour; pink, for example?
Then get yourself a memorable or unusual URL (like Penny's 'squat orange' moniker) and publicise yourself as much as you can.
And, above all, be reliable! Online selling is one of those areas where impressions make all the difference - courteous, impeccably-spelled material, prompt delivery, fair feedback and overall efficiency really matter.
sally_in_wales

Think of it like a highstreet, there are loads of little shops in tourist towns selling a real mishmash of stuff, and often the total effect isnt good even if there is some interesting material tucked away in there, are you more likely to go into a shop that effectively says 'get your well priced joblots here' or one that says 'get your carefully selected and competitively priced objects of desire here' You may offer many of the same items, but if the pitch is right the sales will be better Very Happy
Robinjw13

Agree with Sally. Your mix needs a common point for people to identify with. With such a wide range and to stay focused you'll need a driving aim, such as 'always the cheapest' or 'unobtainable elsewhere' or 'everything for (x type of) people' or 'everything from (a country or region)' for example.

General point 1: innovate, innovate, innovate.

General point 2: learn from your mistakes. If things start to go wrong, remind yourself that the more mistakes you make the more you learn! But be sure to correct mistakes quickly and make changes to be sure the same mistake does not happen again.
percypony

I need to do a bit of thinking then if you guys think this is that important.
I am worried however of limiting myself too much a this stage as I don't know what will sell and what won't... Rolling Eyes
I also want to appear to a wide audience so obtaining things for a new baby hamper for example and for a birthday present for your granny might not be able to be linked together. Unless I am just not being very imaginative and don't know 'what's out there'! Very Happy
Penny Outskirts

What sold particularly well ? That's what you need to concentrate on, but do remember that almost anything will sell in December. Most retailers do something like a quarter (someone correct me if this is wrong, but I seem to think it's about that or more) of their sales in the 5 weeks up to Christmas - we certainly do. If we based our sales projections on this period they'd be very very wrong Sad

So as an example if you sold 10,000 worth of stuff a year - 2500 of that would be sold at christmas, leaving 7500 for the rest of the year or around 160 a week, compared to 500 a week at christmas. It's a big difference.
percypony

I did really aim my trial run at the Christmas market so you are probably right with your predictions there Penny and I also made it all quite 'seasonal' too. I think this is a bit of a bandwagon I can use though as there are loads of 'celebrations' throughout the year to use. Easter, Mother's Day, Birthdays, New Baby etc.
I am still trying to get my head around a theme though.... Rolling Eyes
sally_in_wales

percypony wrote:
I need to do a bit of thinking then if you guys think this is that important.
I am worried however of limiting myself too much a this stage as I don't know what will sell and what won't... Rolling Eyes
I also want to appear to a wide audience so obtaining things for a new baby hamper for example and for a birthday present for your granny might not be able to be linked together. Unless I am just not being very imaginative and don't know 'what's out there'! Very Happy



So, you want to sell focussed gifts for a range of key markets. How about taking that family structure as your marketing pitch? Picture your website, the first page has links based on a family tree maybe, and clicking on 'new baby' or 'auntie' takes you to the gifts you have identified as being ideal for that target market. (You can have the same things in more than one category) Add a simple questionnaire where the stuck present buyer fills in a few details (she likes pink, hates chocolate and likes crafts) and it offers some suggested products.

Call it for example 'Family Treasures' or something more imaginative (that was a first guess!) and the link between the product and the business is clear from the start
percypony

Ooooo Sally I like the family tree idea!!! Shame I have no experience designing websites yet and am relying on the free software provided... Might have to get learning fast.
Thanks!!!!! I am going to look further into this one...
Is this the sort of thing you meant regarding a theme???
sally_in_wales

You'll be fine with the website, start simple if needs be and give it a facelift once you know what works, what is more important is that it is glitch free and easy to navigate in the beginning. Just use product categories to convey the idea initially. Yep, that would be a theme, though I would also suggest having some clear thoughts in mind about the sourcing and quality of the goods, you need to have consistency across the range, which isnt to say that you can't sprinkle in a few cheap and cheerful extras to tempt people to buy just one more thing, just that the bulk of the stock needs to be able to sit together and look of equal standard.

Another thought if you liked the family tree idea- family tree research is mega big business, having 'family tree' somewhere in your website will get you loads of hits from people who started off looking for geneaology, clicked on you by mistake, but who might just hang a round long enough to buy their mum a present whilst they are at it Wink
percypony

Thanks Sally you are a star.... Very Happy
I'll let you all know how I progress... but keep the ideas coming too please! Website software, companies house, suppliers etc
Thanks S x
sally_in_wales

You don't necessarily have to register at companies house unless you are going straight for a limited company, you may wish to opt for being 'you trading as your company name' for the first year so you can see how it goes, and go ltd after that. A lot of us operate as sole traders, it keeps the paperwork simple whilst your trunover is still low
Penny Outskirts

For suppliers, take a visit to this show at the NEC in Birmingham. It's huge, and you may lose the will to live whilst walking round it, but you will find practically every wholesaler of anything in the UK has a stall there. Huge number of contacts and ideas.

Wear comfortable shoes Very Happy

http://www.springfair.com/
percypony

Hey that looks fun Penny... Might have to persuade hubby we need a weekend away! Laughing
Do I still have to register with someone though Sally? Some wholsalers are asking for a company number (or something along those lines) befoe they will trade with me.
Anyone read any good books on starting up? Or is there any published leaflets from the government or something? I don't want to find myself with a huge tax bill or something cos I haven't filled a form in! Rolling Eyes
sally_in_wales

All I did was call the tax office and tell them I was starting a business, they asked me what it was and what my first dayof trading was, and sent me some bumpf, that was about it. I've never had any suppliers ask for more than that, and if they do I just explain I'm a sole trader and point them to my online shop so they can see its a legitimate business
Bernie66

http://www.downsizer.net/Projects/Starting_Out/Starting_Your_Own_Business/
http://www.downsizer.net/Projects/Starting_Out/Starting_In_Business_Checklist/
http://www.downsizer.net/Projects/Starting_Out/Happy_Selling/

Are really good articles which hopefully may give you some more hints and tips and insight into life in business. Some girl off here wrote them, she knows what she is talking about too!!

"Some girl" being our very special Penny Wink
Old-Chads-Orchard

I used oscommerce for my web shop, not the easiest to setup how you may want it but it does come with a pre built setup. www.oscommerce.com
sally_in_wales

offroading.net wrote:
I used oscommerce for my web shop, not the easiest to setup how you may want it but it does come with a pre built setup. www.oscommerce.com


I fought and spluttered with oscommerce until I went with a webhost that installed it for me as standard, works a treat now Rolling Eyes and it is simple enough once its properly installed
Helen_A

Oooo Spring fair...

If all goes to plan I should be going, DP and I usually do it together.

You do need to register, it will help to have a minisite up etc. before you do as they *do* check you out if you give any web contact details, and coming from a .com or .co.uk will be an instant reassurance to them Smile Design and print up business cards - lots - but on paper is fine, I've never had a paper one queried when it looked good because everyone knows that everyone is on a budget Smile

Look at the site before you go and identify some companies you want to see (wrt baby goods/new parent stuff feel free to pick my brains - I do the ethical/organic/green/crunchy end of things with a bit of kitcsh and goth/alt thrown in for good measure, but there are loads of things out there i love and know there are markets for that are out of my remit and will happily point others at Smile )

You can do the whole thing in a day if you plan not to do any buying there and then. Be aware that most of the big gift end companies are looking for minimum orders of around 500 first order and 250/300 per subsequent. If you need to concentrate then looking in the association areas (new exhibitors, various craft associations, princes trust) will pay off as they will be much smaller cos with less usual products and happy to fill smaller orders (mushroom designs is a great co who do silk ties, photo albums and things with a screen printing emphasis and a craft finish, and their minimum is very negotiable... and they are simply lovely Smile so if you find them there then go talk to them!! )

Um, and I've rambled.... Grief only a couple of weeks to go.... If you can go on the monday or tuesday then those days are a little quieter, although sunday is fantastic in the toy hall as the exhibitors know that the 'buggy crowd' will be in and many pull out the stops Smile

Helen_A
Helen_A

FUMOP

If you want a show closer to home then there are Top Drawer and Pulse which are also gift led and are in London. Top Drawer is 14-18 this month, and pulse later in the year. Most of the big exhibitors there will also be at the nec, but a lot of the smaller cos only do the smaller shows because they are more affordable and better focussed, where as spring fair can turn into a networking event for the big boys.

http://www.clarionretail.com/ClarionRetail/ClarionRetail.nsf/vNFSiteHomepage/general?opendocument for details of all the Clarionretail shows this year

Helen_A
percypony

That sounds far too simple Sally!! Very Happy
Thanks Bernie, all downloaded for future reference!
I have a someone to look after my website if that is the term but wondered what everyone used to design theirs? Software wise?
I am still 'working on' hubby about the Spring Fair even if we just use it to look about rather to see what's available and at what cost than to actually buy anything. It is not that far really 3-4 hours on the motorway I suppose.
I'll sort myself out some cards, thanks for all the tips Helen! I think we will have to go for the Sunday so as not to 'have' to take time off work at this stage. I'll sharpen my elbows up then if it is going to be that packed! Having a large huband helps though! Very Happy
Bernie66

percypony wrote:
That sounds far too simple Sally!! Very Happy
Thanks Bernie, all downloaded for future reference!
I have a someone to look after my website if that is the term but wondered what everyone used to design theirs? Software wise?
I am still 'working on' hubby about the Spring Fair even if we just use it to look about rather to see what's available and at what cost than to actually buy anything. It is not that far really 3-4 hours on the motorway I suppose.
I'll sort myself out some cards, thanks for all the tips Helen! I think we will have to go for the Sunday so as not to 'have' to take time off work at this stage. I'll sharpen my elbows up then if it is going to be that packed! Having a large huband helps though! Very Happy

Don't thank me, thanks the lady Wink
percypony

Quite right but thanks for pointing me in the right direction anyway!
Thanks Penny wonderful articles!
Blacksmith

I used this lot for my business cards, they do good deals with included return lables etc.
http://www.vistaprint.co.uk/vp/ns/default.aspx?GP=1%2F8%2F2007+11%3A27%3A33+AM
Best of luck with your business !
percypony

Thanks Blacksmith. Nice site will keep it for future reference.
I am so excited about this all and want it rush things along but I am being good and just chipping away at all the bits that need doing....
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