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"The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible"

~ Anonymous

Tea Time with Liv

Don't cheat your business

You are a crafter and everyone says wow you should sell your work and you think yeah I will sell online. There are plenty of free things I can use. This won't cost a dime!

Not the case. A business takes money regardless of your budget. Don't cheat your business before it even starts.

First thing is first. Get that business name. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Keep it relevant to your business. You don't want to use sweet treats when your business is graphic design. You also don't want to use what everyone else is using. Boutique, bowtique, one stop shop, are all common. Using your name or your child's name is over done. Unique spelling look fun but if nobody call spell it, how will they find you? So don't use thins like "Oliviaz Designz". And no long names. They are hard to remember. "Olivia's Jewelry Accessories and Custom Designs" sounds great but will those who don't know you remember this? Even the ones that do know you, will they remember it all when telling friends?

Once you choose your name Google it. It's an easy way to see if someone is using it. Nobody using it? Now head over to godaddy.com and check the domain name. If available, buy it. Don't use the excuse I don't have the money. You don't secure it now, someone can come in and taken from under your nose.

Now go get an email account with your business name. I like gmail because this is Google based and Google based is great for online exposure. This account should be used for business only.

Now go through a few social networks and secure your name such as Twitter and Facebook. These are highly recognizable and anything recognizable is great for your online exposure. Plus you want people to search for you even if you are not an online business yet.

Now this is the part people ignore and skip. Doesn't matter how small you are or if you only sell on places like eBay or etsy, you must register your business and get a business license and resellers license or tax id. Check with your county clerk or state to see what you need as state to state and county to county can vary. If you get caught running a business in your state without these, you will get fined and charged with tax evasion. It's not pretty so don't go there.

You've jump the hoops and survived the ring of fire so take a deep breath and get that website. It sounds intimidating but really it is not. You can start small with places such as wahmshoppes.com and move up as you need. Stay away from free sites. Not only are they limited but getting in the search engines are a pain, you cheapen your business because visitors wonder why you can't afford proper hosting, and you do not appear to be reputable because its a red flag for fly by night scams. You came this far so don't cheat your business.

Don't overlook the exposure and opportunities you have with blogging. Some think that they don't see a benefit to a blog for their business or that it is a right fit for them. Blogs give you the opportunity to go in depth on your products in a way that a website or social networks do not offer. Social networks are for relationship building, websites are for sales, blogs are for information.

You have the product, the name, the website. How does anyone know you exist? Design and order those business cards. Pass them out. Give family and friends a stack to pass out for you. Use those business cards every way possible. Marketing is key to your business. Free ads sound good and just posting a link here and there is easy but if nobody knows you are online nobody will even look.

Now that you have a few things to get you started with building your business, go out there and get that exposure.

Olivia Vidal

© 2009-2011

Know the facts

Recently I have seen a lot of talk about conducting business on facebook including discussion about promotion guideline changes. It is great to see so many coming together to brainstorm for viable options and clarify the facts. What is not great is the misinformation and blatant misdirection.

Everyone is always trying to come up with the best ways to promote and conduct business within social networks (not just Facebook). This can be tricky as there are rules and guidelines that must be followed as written. Not as they are interpreted. DO NOT rely on what others tell you and be sure you are reading the TOS of any site you are using to be clear of what is allowed using their site. Reading the TOS can be long and sometimes confusing but read it for yourself. Just because someone else tells you it is ok does not make it ok. Ultimately you are responsible regardless if everyone else is doing it. Ignoring facts do not make them go away.

I have seen a few deliberately ignore the information offered and choosing to continue knowing they are in violation. There are a few who have told their fans to just change their giveaways to product testers and it will exclude them from the rules. A promotion is a promotion no matter what name you give it. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, you can call it a cow but it doesn't make it less of a duck.

You can follow the rules or not follow the rules regardless of the situation or place. Even if someone else is not caught it does not mean you won't be caught. Are you willing to lose everything you have gained over a mistake you chose not to investigate the facts about prior?

Olivia Vidal
© 2009-2011

Mobile Office

If you meet a potential customer or recruit away from home, are you prepared to service their needs? When you are out and about you want to be prepared for anything. Just because you are off running an errand doesn't mean you are off "the clock." You want to create a mobile office.

Your mobile office can be a simple file box with separate file sections for catalogs, hostess packets, recruiting packets, business cards, brochures (sales and recruiting), order forms, calculator for on the spot orders, and pens. I use a really nice accordion file at the moment. Everything is organized and neat. You can even use those nice colored milk crates with hanging file folders.

You may even want to consider a mini demonstration kit so you have a few of your most popular products available to show. Samples are other items you may want in your mobile office.

Keep your mobile office in your car (or any car you are driving at the time) so you are always prepared when you come across a potential customer or potential recruit.

A couple things to remember:
  • Check and restock your mobile office weekly or as needed. This way you always know you are never out of anything and avoid that moment of saying "I am all out"
  • Keep that car clean. You do not want to have your potential customer or potential recruit looking over your messy car. Even when you are making house calls, this is an extension of your home office. Keep it clean and professional.
  • You may want to also consider a car freshener. Most don't think about this because we are used to how our car smells but it may have an odor. Having an air freshener helps with this. Don't go overboard. Just something simple and light such as vanilla and lavender work well. 
  • Do not smoke in your car. Regardless if your mobile office is in the trunk or backseat, smoke does linger and will get into your mobile office. Many people are allergic to the smoke while others are simply turned off. You do not want your personal habit to get in the way of your business. 
  • If you sometimes travel with your pets, it may be best to keep your mobile office in the trunk. This area is less likely to come in contact with pet hair and dander that some people are allergic to.

Olivia Vidal
© 2009-2011

Knock Offs, Replicas, Mirror Image

Knock offs, replicas, mirror image are common terms used for illegal copies of products such as designer purses, designer glasses, or other copyright/trademarked goods. But are these ok?

It is illegal no matter how you try to reword or excuse it. If it has the designer name and is an exact replica of the real deal, it is illegal. You cannot sell these. It does not matter whether you state these are fake. If it looks like the real deal, it is illegal and you can be prosecuted to the extent of that law.

Knock-off handbags are also known as counterfeit purses and they are made to look like an original designer version and are meant to fool others into thinking they are the "real thing." Knock-offs are big business. There is lots of money to be made in selling knock-off versions of the best designer handbags, but at what cost?

You can sell inspired styles meaning they are not replicas or attempted to be sold as the real deal. Handbags and sunglasses that say they are "designer inspired" don't have a fake designer label on them. They are purses that look similar to the latest styles and in fact are inspired by the latest designer purses but have their own unique characteristics.

Even if not sold as the real deal you still need to be careful. You may have seen a story at one point in time where target was sued for a purse design they sold was too close to the original design and it infringed on their trademark and/or copyright.

I bring this up because I am seeing more and more online stores opening with these illegal knocks offs and many do not realize it is illegal. They see others doing it and figure hey it must be ok. Its not. You can research this online, call your local small business administration, business lawyer, the US patent office.

Trademarks and Copyrights are put in place to protect the original design. Would you want someone to steal your idea and sell a copy of it as their own?

DO NOT get in the middle of knock off purses and the legalities of this. You can be buried in legal fees, fines, your reputation, lose your freedom.

No matter what business you begin always do your research. There is no excuse for not knowing something. It is your responsibility to know your business and how it works. A little homework can go a long way in your success.

Olivia Vidal
© 2009-2011

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