By ThatKat | May 22, 2013
I was pleased to be one of the judges at the 16th annual Connecticut Business Plan Competition sponsored by The Entrepreneurship Foundation.
Each year dozens of teams from the entrepreneurship classes at Connecticut’s private colleges, state universities and community colleges compete for cash awards, trophies and the chance to meet some of the state’s most prominent venture capitalists and angel investors.
The event, like many such competitions, is divided into two halves: the first half deals with “personal businesses” (mostly retail and service companies serving a local or regional market), and the second half with “ventures” (mostly technology and product/manufacturing companies serving a national or worldwide market).
Here are some of the “ventures” concepts that were presented at the event, and my notes on each plan (written in “real time” so not grammatically perfect).
CONCEPT #1: A smartphone application (or “app”) designed to help sellers of large, heavy merchandise – such as refrigerators, office machinery and exercise equipment – find local buyers and arrange to meet with them in public places to close their transactions.
THE PROS: People do not buy heavy items from distant online merchants because of the huge shipping costs.
THE CONS: Craigslist® offers similar services. I was also not convinced that buyers and sellers would actually want to meet in public places to close their transactions as it would require both parties to hire a truck.
SUGGESTIONS: Consider rebranding the business as a “classified ad” site where buyers and sellers can contact each other directly and work out the details of their transactions.
CONCEPT #2: A smartphone app offering short questionnaires to consumers which they fill out at the point of sale in order to obtain coupons and discounts that merchants will make available only for the app.
THE PROS: Studies indicate consumers are more likely to fill out short questionnaires than longer, time-consuming ones, especially if a reward of some kind is offered.
THE CONS: There is no guarantee consumers will take the time to fill out even a short questionnaire, especially if they’re standing at a cash register with screaming kids and a long line of other customers behind them.
SUGGESTIONS: Test market the concept at boutiques and smaller stores with less consumer traffic that might welcome free market research and feedback.
CONCEPT #3: An online social media community for construction contractors.
THE PROS: Construction contractors don’t network on Facebook® or LinkedIn®, feeling that these services “aren’t for them”. Smaller contractors often have difficulty finding specialized local subcontractors when bidding on projects.
THE CONS: I wasn’t convinced that construction contractors would take the time to become social media savvy. I was also concerned that labor unions and contractor associations would want to develop their own social media solutions limited to their members.
SUGGESTIONS: Focus the service on contractors in specialized fields – for example, systems integrators – that aren’t highly unionized or organized.
CONCEPT #4: A crowdfunding website that enables environmentally conscious consumers to invest in wind, solar and other alternative energy projects in exchange for a percentage of the project’s revenue.
THE PROS: Crowdfunding – raising money online from strangers – is in its infancy and there are plenty of opportunities. “Project financing” is an ideal candidate for a crowdfunding solution.
THE CONS: Offering investors a piece of the project’s revenue is offering a “security” subject to federal and state laws. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is preparing regulations for crowdfunded investments such as this one but they are not expected to be released until later this year. So the business model is illegal, at least right now.
SUGGESTIONS: Work hard on perfecting the technology and hire an attorney to follow the SEC’s progress so that the service can be launched promptly upon the regulations being issued.
CONCEPT #5: A social media community offering real-time access to high school sporting events.
THE PROS: Many high school athletic departments, especially at public high schools, lack the funding to set up alumni/ae sites, so there is little competition.
THE CONS: I wasn’t sure alumni/ae would want to view live sporting events from their old high schools, especially after all of their friends on the team have graduated and moved on.
SUGGESTIONS: Consider offering the service as a video enhancement to Classmates.com or a similar website.
CONCEPT #6: An organic, seaweed-based liquid lawn fertilizer product.
THE PROS: Demand for organic lawn care products is skyrocketing. Easy to process.
THE CONS: As with any organic product, I expressed concern about the product’s “shelf life”, especially given that aging seaweed gives off a strong and unpleasant odor. I questioned whether they could obtain fresh seaweed in sufficient quantities to meet consumer demand, especially since the plan called for a mass-market rollout in WalMart and other “big box” retail outlets.
SUGGESTIONS: Start out small, advertise mainly online, and build a “cult” following for the product locally or regionally. Consider adding a scent to deal with the odor problem.
Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.
By Andrew Milburn | May 21, 2013
May Monthly Focus – Success !!
1 – Guests This Week
Curtis and Erin – Ship Station - http://www.shipstation.com Ship Station is a web based shipping solution that helps you stream-line your multi channel orders. Today we will hear the ins and outs of the company and how they can help you and your business grows.
Jordan Malik – My Local Inventory - http://www.mylocalinventory.com Jordan sells on eBay and Amazon, he is the author of three ebooks on subjects including how to buy low and sell high. He has multiple sites that are all designed to help buyers new and old sell and make profits.
2 – Chat Room Chatter:
- There was the normal pre-show chat – talks of moves, decorating, Jeeps, and best news Charlene has cancelled her account at the libary for the blind Fantastic.
- Well done on April selling her first 15 items this weeks as soon as they arrived at Amazon
- Shipstation talked about how they can help in building your online business while Jordan Malik talked about how and where to source your inventory.
- We learnt about some of the up and coming events happening in the nexy few months to help us take our businesses to the next level.
3 – Chat Room Links
- eBay - 20,000 free listings are you in ???
- Meetings, -
- Events – SCOE is coming up soon in Seattle WA May 29 – Jun 1 http://SCOE.Biz
- Next up is IRCE – largest ever eCommerce event – pushing toward 10K attendees! June 4 – 7 in Chicagohttp://www.internetretailer.com/conferences/
- eBay Radio party is SOLD OUT!
ICE Event in Atlanta still has some seats! http://ICERetailer.com. Atlanta GA Sept 20 – 21 – use THATKAT coupon code!
- Next up is The Kansas Jubilee in Kansas Oct 25 – 26 http://KansasJubilee.net
Other Links & Resources:
- That Kat Facebook Group: http://Facebook.com/groups/ThatKat – click on the “Join” button and I’ll add you to the group right away
- That Kat Blog http://ThatKat.com Sign up for my newsletter here!
- Do you have a question about selling on Amazon, FBA or any of the topics discussed in this podcast? Best place to ask is on the Facebook group – see the link above. Over 400 folks willing to help!
- Do you have a suggestion for future shows? Please send to Kat@KatSimpson.com
Next Show, May 27th, A surprise show with surprise guests, talking about success.
By ThatKat | May 20, 2013
Thanks to Bloomfire for this Infographic
By ThatKat | May 17, 2013
In recent news, it has been determined that the site’s growth has slowed down. At first, shareholders were worried because the sites shares have fallen and growth has been shown to have slowed. A market Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter, said “Unit growth is slowing which disappointed some…The law of large numbers is affecting Amazon too. You can’t grow 100 percent forever, otherwise you become the universe,” which goes to show how confident people are about the site. Regardless of how slow growth is, the site continues to be an internet giant and the main go-to source for shoppers everywhere.
There is a bright spot on the news radar though. Profit margins at the site have increased exponentially. At the very least, it’s a positive thing for Amazon. But, it would stand to reason that if Amazon’s profit margins expand, then ours would as well, right? After all, seller’s items account for 40% of the items stored in their warehouses. I hope that is exactly what it means. Amazon has opened up a ton of new warehouses, which have decreased shipping costs, leading to increased profit margins for the site.
What do you think about them opening up these new warehouses? Do you feel like it has made a difference in your revenue? I thought it would make a significant difference, causing the prices on my items to have to be dropped to maintain my competitive edge, but I believe the site is opening up more item categories that can be sold in order to keep from being flooded with the same inventory at each warehouse. Have you noticed that their food category is becoming easier to source for? What are your thoughts on the site’s growth of profit margins and supposed slow down in growth? Does it affect your business one way or another?
By ThatKat | May 15, 2013
It’s no secret that folks love a social site. With Facebook profits reaching into the trillions soon, and new social sites opening daily, is it any surprise that everyone would try to tap into this social market? EBay has recently announced that they will be launching new social features, along with a next generation profile page. They said in their announcement that it was supposed to “drive deeper involvement and inspire people to shop more.” The first phase of this new development came in October, when the site released the new homepages that included a personalized feed, where users can follow their interests, and eBay gives them a display on their homepage that matches those interests. EBay will be taking this up another notch this year, by allowing users to not only follow their interest, but also their favorite themes, people and collections. Eventually, users will also be able to follow places on the site as well. EBay will also put recommended people and themes for users to follow, and if you click on those links, they will take you to the users profile or the page of the theme.
Now, granted, this is no Facebook. But it is a start for eBay, who has in the past shied away from social media-type features. A great feature of this new software, though, is that you can now link your YouTube and your facebook page directly to your eBay page, which may drive your sales based on the fact that you Facebook and YouTube followers can reach you directly through your eBay site and view your products for sale. I believe that this will help with sales in a big way. What do you think? Have you tried out the most recent page updates from eBay? What do you think of them? Do you believe that this will help your business at all or is it just another social media site to keep up with? It’s anyone’s guess how big this will grow to be, but at the very least, at least eBay is trying to keep up to date in this social media-driven world of ours. So props to you, eBay!
By ThatKat | May 13, 2013
Thanks to DMW news for this infographic!
By ThatKat | May 12, 2013
Celebrating Mother’s Day can be a challenge when your mom is an online seller, spending her days running from the computer to her camera to the printer to that pile of shipping boxes and back again. If your mom is running an online business, here are some tips on how to share (and survive) Mother’s Day with her.
1. Pick up errant packing peanuts for her. Here’s a peanut pick-up tip – collect runaway peanuts with a plastic file folder. Rub the folder up and down your pants to generate static electricity, then move the folder over the peanuts and watch them attach like magic. Just keep the folder away from you, or you could end up as that person walking around with peanuts stuck in their hair.
2. Go on a box-and-bubble-wrap run. Take a tedious chore off of Mom’s “to do” list and go get some boxes and bubble wrap for her. You might think flowers would make a better Mother’s Day gift, but for an online seller, boxes and bubble wrap smell like roses.
3. Make sure the coffee pot is full. After a few hours of running around finding products to be shipped, packing items, answering customer emails (some of which are the topic of a different set of tips), and dealing with marketplace insanity, your mom can end up exhausted and conked out on the couch. Keep a strong pot of coffee available so she can revive whenever she feels the need.
4. Don’t plan a barbecue for shipping day. Barbeques are always fun – except on shipping day. Your mom doesn’t want to be seen by your friends as “that crazy lady”. Determine when she does her shipping, and save the barbeque for a less hectic day.
5. Hide your baseball cards. You know mom wants to get her hands on those baseball cards you’ve been collecting since childhood. She’s just waiting for the right moment to swoop in and post them on eBay. Do yourself and mom a favor – hide them, so you can continue to enjoy a great relationship.
6. Get her a plant – she needs the oxygen. When mom is frantically running around, an oxygen-emitting plant will help her breathe, and remain calm and focused. Plus, she’ll get to enjoy a bit of greenery in her workspace.
7. Learn how to use a box tape machine. Yes, you. You could help out once in awhile, you know. Just remember to watch where you put your hands when taping a box. Otherwise, your fingers get stuck to the tape, then the tape gets stuck to itself, and you end up with a big sticky mess.
8. Cook your own dinner and do the dishes for once. Of course your mom makes the best lasagna
this side of Rome, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at making spaghetti. If all else fails, there’s always the microwave. Zap up a meal, and forget about doing dishes.
9. Make sure her phone has a mute button. As every online seller knows, there are times when a mute button comes in handy. Your mom don’t want those “difficult” customers to hear what she really thinks. Get her a phone that will let her vent – at full volume – while keeping everyone happy.
10. Get your laundry out of her workspace. There is nothing worse than tripping over a sock when you’re piled high with boxes. It would be a wise move to clear her workspace of any laundry, shoes, golf balls, or other assorted items that have the potential to ruin her day.
Post contributed by Vendio Services, Inc. Vendio provides Simply Powerful services for online sellers.
By ThatKat | May 10, 2013
Hosts of the eBay Party & Conference have begun announcing topics to be addressed by featured speakers at the event, which is slated for June 18, 19, and 20 at Bally’s in Las Vegas. A full day of product-sourcing will be offered on June 18, sponsored by Kabbage.com, with featured speakers to include Tom McElroy, Vice-President of Marketing & Ecommerce for Genco Marketplace.
June 19 and 20 will focus on eBay seller education. On June 19, Keynote speaker Jim Cockrum will kick off the event with a presentation on ecommerce marketing. Debbie Levitt, founder and CEO of Certified eBay Store Designer As Was, will speak on “The Art and Science of User Experience (and How It Can Help You Sell More)”. John Lawson, CEO of ColderICE Inc., will present “Back to the Future: Past, Present, and Beyond – How to Dominate Social Commerce”. Thrifting with the Boys (Bryan Goodman and Jason Smith) will round out the day with “Thrifting: The Game – Don’t Put Yourself in Jeopardy While Out Thrifting”.
Marsha Collier will be first to present on June 20. She is the bestselling author of the For Dummies series on eBay and Social Media as well as The Ultimate Guide to Online Customer Service. She also was recently named by Fortune magazine as one of the Top 20 Women in Social Media. Ginger Leishman, Marketing Manager for eBay Mobile, will address “eBay Mobile: The Buyer Experience”. EBay Radio host, Dean of eBay Education, and author of The Official eBay Bible Jim “Griff” Griffith will present his digital photography workshop, specially updated and reformatted for the event. Lynn Dralle, the Queen of Auctions, will bring show and tell to 21st century ecommerce with “Why in the World Did You Buy THAT?”
Also featured on June 20 will be a round table plus Q&A session with eBay team leaders. There will be live radio broadcasts all three days as well, along with plenty of networking and assorted festivities celebrating the 10th anniversary of eBay Radio. The eBay Radio Party & Conference is produced by Voicemarketing, Inc., producers of eBay Radio.
Those interested in attending the 2013 eBay Radio Party & Conference can find details and register for all 3 days or just June 19-20 at erVegas.com.
By ThatKat | May 9, 2013
As I sit here writing this, the Senate is considering a bill that would give states the ability to force large online retailers, such as Amazon to collect sales tax on all purchases made over the Internet. While Amazon (who was once adamantly against this idea) has changed its tune and now supports this tax, eBay is opposing it and even sent out an email to their members encouraging them to contact the Senate and let them know that you don’t want this bill to pass.
Ebay chief executive, John Donahoe pretty much summed it up in his weekend email to members that stated in part:
“This legislation treats you and big multi-billion dollar online retailers û such as Amazon û exactly the same,” Donahoe wrote. “Those fighting for this change refuse to acknowledge that the burden on businesses like yours is far greater than for a big national retailer.” While the bill is proposing that retailers that make more than $1 million in annual out-of-state revenue tax would be the one’s paying the bill, Donahoe thinks that the number should be $10 million or higher.
Although Donahoe’s clearly against it, you might be asking yourself — why is it Amazon for it? Well, there are two answers to this question. First, Amazon thinks it will be a burden on smaller retailers to keep up with this tax and for them, that is a good thing. Second, Amazon has decided to build more warehouses in more states in anticipation of their ôsame-day deliveryö program. Since they are already going to have to pay the tax in those states anyway, they aren’t really too worried about it at this point.
Interestingly, while you might think that all of the talk about this tax is new, it really isn’t. An NPR news article explains it the best by stating that the current tax law states that if you live in a state that collects sales tax and you buy something from a retailer online and they don’t collect the sales tax, then you are suppose to calculate the amount of tax and add it to your annual state tax bill. As you can imagine, however, not too many people do this and therein lies the problem.
While some people, such as the Bill’s author, Republican senator Mike Lenzi believe that it will help brick and mortar businesses by leveling the playing field between them and online sellers, most online sellers still see it as more of a headache and more complicated paperwork. Regardless of the outcome, it is apparent that there will be a clear winner on this and there will also be a clear loser. We’ll just have to hope that whichever direction the vote goes, it will be one that both sides can live with.
Free eBay Webinar – “The Top 5 Tips for Profiting with Multi-Channel Selling” presented by Janelle Elms
By ThatKat | May 8, 2013
Outright along with Page Mage Inc., eBay Radio, Stamps.com, Terapeak and Kabbage will be hosting a free webinar for eBay® sellers. Are you letting your selling platform run your business? Dramatic changes have taken place in the online selling landscape. Join us to learn how to stand out in search engines, appeal to buyers, choose the right selling platforms for your business and make profitable decisions no matter what changes your chosen platform makes to their search capabilities. Presented by Janelle Elms, a best-selling author, speaker and leading eBay educator.
A few of the things you’ll learn:
- The future direction of online selling
- How Cassini will affect your eBay selling
- Obtaining worldwide search visibility
- Choosing the profitable selling platforms for your business model
- Tools for multi-channel selling
You do NOT have to be a Top Rated Seller to participate. The webinar is for eBay sellers of all sizes and levels. Sign up even if you can’t participate live. The webinar will be recorded and a link sent to all registrants when it’s complete.
Space is limited! Please sign up today to ensure you get a spot.
Who: Presented by Janelle Elms, a best-selling author, speaker and leading eBay educator. She is the author of numerous eBay books and visionaire of OSI Rock Stars
When: Wednesday, May 22th, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. PT / 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET
Where: Register at http://pagemage.com/education/webinars
Outright has one goal: to make bookkeeping as simple as possible so the self-employed can spend as little time as possible on the least enjoyable part of running a business. Outright’s easy-to-use online accounting solution automatically brings together all of your sales & expenses in one place so you always know what’s going on with your business and are ready come tax time. No math, no manual entry, no paper work. Outright integrates with eBay & PayPal, e-commerce accounts, and, of course, your Bank and Credit Card Accounts so you can stay up to date effortlessly and instead focus on doing what you love.
About Page Mage
Page Mage is transforming the way sellers market their products on eBay. Page Mage provides easy to use applications for creating better listings and bigger profits. Our Billboards and Smart Gallery applications in the eBay App Center are both “Top 10 Most Popular” and let you create breakthrough listing designs to stand out from your competition, look more credible and professional, improve selling performance, and increase confidence among buyers.
About eBay Radio
The host of eBay Radio is Jim “Griff” Griffith, .eBay’s Dean of Education and author of the Official eBay Bible. eBay Radio broadcasts (eBay Radio; eBay Radio’s Ask Griff & Lee; and eBay Town Hall) feature helpful guidance, advice, and information from eBay team leaders and guest experts along with hot eBay topics, news direct from eBay, and your calls!
Stamps.com (Nasdaq:STMP) is a leading provider of Internet-based postage services. Stamps.com’s service enables small businesses, high-volume shippers, enterprise shippers, and consumers to print U.S. Postal Service-approved postage with just a PC, printer and Internet connection, right from their home or office. The Company targets its services to small businesses and home offices, and currently has PC Postage partnerships with Avery Dennison, Microsoft, HP, USPS and others.
Terapeak is a leader in ecommerce market research and payment analytics, and is the sole authorized re-licensor of eBay data globally. The company provides custom insights and SaaS technology-enabled solutions to e-commerce merchants around the world.
Currently aggregating over 20% of all online commerce sales data, Terapeak helps merchants make faster, more-profitable business decisions based on real-time market trends, pricing, and transaction data.
About Kabbage, Inc.
Kabbage, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, has pioneered the first financial services data and technology platform to provide funding to small businesses in less than 7 minutes. Kabbage leverages data generated through business activity such as selling online, shipping data, and dozens of other data sources to understand business performance and craft financing options for small businesses.