Advice For A Third-Grade Entrepreneur

cliff ennico

Today’s entrepreneurs keep getting younger and younger.

 

I just read an article in my college alumni/ae magazine about an entering freshperson who created a smartphone app while a high school sophomore, sold it for $2 million, and used it to prepay for his Ivy League degree.  Heck, this kid doesn’t NEED college – he already knows what it takes to succeed.  All those classes on theoretical, academic liberal arts subjects taught by minimum-wage professors who need help crossing the street will merely sap his entrepreneurial vigor and give him a big head.

 

If I ever doubted that today’s kids are getting the entrepreneurial message, though, my wake-up call came last Sunday afternoon.  My front doorbell rang and when I opened it, there were five kids – three boys and two girls — that looked to be third or fourth graders.  Two of the kids – both boys – held rakes that were twice their size, while the two girls carried wicker baskets.  One of them said “hello, we are the Hollyhocks Lane Lawn and Gardening Service” and handed me a professionally printed business card that read:

 

Hollyhocks Lane Lawn and Gardening Service

 

Marcia, David, Jon, Alicia and Brandon

 

Weeding

 

Leaf Raking

 

Picking Apples From Your Tree in Your Front Yard

 

(The One Near the Mailbox)

 

Serving Hollyhocks Lane Since Last Week!

 

Like most of you, I’m sure, I thought it was the most adorable thing in the world – “The Little Rascals” brought to life (for privacy reasons, I have changed the kids’ names and the company name).  It certainly brought me back to my days as a grade school entrepreneur, which lasted about a week — between the week I wanted to run for President and the week I wanted to be a nuclear physicist.

 

Now, of course, I wouldn’t want to do anything to discourage a child’s naturally entrepreneurial spirit (not if I expect to have readers 20 years from now).  But if I had really wanted to bore these kids to tears — something a person my age finds absolutely irresistible at times — here’s how I would have critiqued their business model:

 

Marketing.  Your service mix is all over the place, and you don’t spell out your pricing in your marketing materials.  The customers looking for apple pickers are very different than the customers looking for weed pickers.  You must know the difference, and go where the profits are.

 

Competition.  There are tons of lawn services in this area providing a full range of services, and you have a competitive disadvantage in this marketplace.  Because their employees are grownups they can work seven days a week.  You can only work evenings and weekends after school, your dinner and homework.

 

Management Structure.  A five-member partnership is highly unstable.  You kids are splitting your money equally, and as long as you stay friends, that’s okay.  But if there’s a falling out, you will divide into cliques.  If two of you want to do something and two of you don’t, the fifth partner will end up running the company and will sell his vote to the highest bidder.

 

One of you should be elected President of HLL&GS with responsibility for project management decisions and organizational development.  Preferably one of the girls, who tend to have more advanced leadership skills and emotional intelligence at your age (sorry, fellas).

 

Finance/Capitalization.  You need more equipment, especially for the apple picking.  I’m sure you can pick up apples that have fallen on the ground, but the tallest of you is about three feet and you will need a ladder to pick my apples that haven’t fallen yet.  No one will pay you to do only part of the job; you must make the investment in the tools necessary to do the entire job.

 

Legal Issues.  Kids, your spirit is admirable, but the plain fact is that nobody is going to hire you to do work on their property.  In this part of the country, homeowners are liable for injuries sustained by “licensees” and “permittees” – people you invite on your property or who work on your property with your knowledge.  If one of you kids falls and breaks his leg, I’m liable, and I can’t afford that.  To say nothing of the fact that you don’t have workers’ compensation insurance (required for self-employed people in a growing number of states), and I’m probably violating at least 10 child labor laws if I hire you.

 

So what did I actually do with the Hollyhocks Lane Lawn and Gardening Service?  I apologized and told them that I already used a lawn service, but I gave them a dollar each anyway for giving me a great idea for this week’s column.  Hey, these are probably my neighbors’ kids.  Also, that memory of getting a buck for taking an entrepreneurial risk may start them thinking about other, more profitable, ventures.  Like maybe a smartphone app that pays their college tuition.

 

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.

 

STOP! Do NOT Remove Your ‘Unfulfillable Inventory’ on Amazon!

Amazon-LogoWhy you shouldn’t jump in and respond immediately to those emails from Amazon that say, “Click here to remove your unfulfillable inventory.”

Yesterday I got one of those emails. I went and checked each of the SKUs they listed as unfulfillable. One I recognized as a customer return, one had expired, and two others I did not recognize. I requested a return on the customer return, had the expired item destroyed and then opened a case asking them to explain why the other two MSKUs had become ‘unfulfillable.’ This morning I get this email.

Lesson learned! (And passed on to ya’ll!) If I had my account set to automatically return all unfulfillable merchandise or IF I had followed Amazon’s instructions in the email and clicked to create a removal order for all of these, I would have lost almost $50!

Here is the email I received from Amazon this AM.

Dear Seller,

Thank you for writing to Amazon Seller Support.

I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

Upon verifying the records, I see that 1 unit of the FNSKU: X000I8RHEH and 1 unit of the FNSKU: X000I9FI3N are damaged in transit to our FC. Hence, I have submitted a request for reimbursement for 42.71 USD(after deducting all applicable Amazon service fees) will be credited to your seller account. This reimbursement will appear as “Other” adjustment on your payments page under transactions within 3-5 Business days.

The above reimbursement have been processed as per FBA’s:

Reimbursement Policy
https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/200213130

and Service terms
https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/1791#FBA

It was a pleasure assisting you and thank you for being a valuable part of the Amazon.com Community. We strive to put our hundred percent to resolve your issues and delight our sellers.

Please do let me know if I can be of further assistance. We strive to make your selling experience on Amazon as eventful as possible and therefore we are willing to extend any help that you may need at any time.

Wish you the very best in business and a good health.

And for those of you following my journey into adding VAs (Virtual Assistants) into my business and offering them to y’all, yes, I learned another lesson! I will now forward those ‘these items have become unfulfillable’ emails to my well-trained VAs and let them apply for reimbursement!

Classy Response from Adobe!

adobelogoFor those of you keeping up with the news, I’m sure you have heard that the Adobe company recently had a hack. I was one of those who was notified that my credit card data was some of what was compromised. I’ve been watching extra closely since then and changed a few passwords.

 

I thought nothing more of it, after all we are in the “Internet Age” and I’m pretty cynical about it all. It seems we hear a new Hacking story every week.

 

Imagine my surprise in checking the mail yesterday to recieve via snail mail what I first thought was a long apology letter. image my ASTONISHMENT today when I took the time to read the full text and realized that Adobe had paid for a free year of ProtectMyID membership. Very cool, Adobe, KUDOS for the classy way of taking responsibility for the hacking and trying to do what you can to make it right!

 

Are You Smart, Education, or (Perhaps) Both?

cliff ennico

I was extremely touched to receive an e-mail from a young lady in India who had read, and was reacting to, a column I wrote years ago called “The Trouble With Kids Today.”  In that article, I commented on the lack of entrepreneurial spirit and drive in a younger generation accustomed to having things given to them and structured for them.

 

Her e-mail deserves to be quoted at length:

 

“Education is definitely a boon bestowed, which if inculcated does
give you the result of being recognized in the society as educated.
But I think we have to ask:  is that the end or is it the beginning? If education was enough to be qualified for a happy life, then why do we have people in the category of ‘educated unemployed’?  With all this education and still striving to make a living, don’t you think that they are not truly ‘educated’?
My brain and my heart had a joint committee meeting and the result
turned out to be saying ‘education’ is the process of teaching and making
oneself productive enough in the field of his /her liking.  It is just not about hanging degrees and certificates around the neck but making the mark of self recognition.

 

Many people with little formal ‘education’ have ended up as chapters in the school books for the students to draw inspiration from:  for example, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, [Indian entrepreneur] Dhirubhai Ambani, [Indian cricket star] Sachin Tendulkar, and William Shakespeare.  Their success hardly rested on the virtues of education but on the shoulders of the determination and focus that brought out their abilities, which enabled their recognition as pioneers in their own fields.

 

Despite unprecedented technological and cultural sophistication, this
generation’s 20-year-olds lack some of the ‘soft skills’ that are
necessary to move up the professional ladder: perseverance, humility,
flexibility and commitment.  Instead, they are obsessed with textbook education and white-collar dreams.

 

Could you please write something about this?”

 

You bet I will.

 

The difference between “book” education and what I will call “street smarts” – the ability to deal with people, to see and exploit opportunities, and to adapt to a world that is constantly changing – has been noted for generations.

 

One of my favorite quotes, from former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, is that “nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

 

Or as one of my teachers once told me, about the necessity of a college education in contemporary America:  “If you are not educated, you had better be smart.  If you are not smart, you had better be educated.”

 

Of course education has a role.  You cannot be an entrepreneur in the information technology industry without a thorough grounding in mathematics and computer science.  You cannot be a star athlete without intensive practice every day and studying the professionals.

 

But it is not education alone that gets results.  I am the proud owner of a degree (magna cum laude, no less) from a prestigious Ivy League college.  I worked very hard to get that degree, learned a great deal both in and out of the classroom, and wouldn’t trade my four years there for anything on Earth.

 

If anyone asked me why I have achieved what I have, however, I would not give credit to that college but to something that happened much earlier.

 

I grew up in Yonkers, New York, a working class community just north of New York City, and lived in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with my parents.  Next to Yonkers was an extremely wealthy community called Bronxville.  Many of my friends in grade school were Bronxvillians, and when I visited their homes I was amazed at the amount of space they had, the beautiful back yards where we played, and the fact that they often had their choice of three or four bathrooms.

 

I was embarrassed to invite them over to play at my home, where there was barely room for me, and swore very early on in life that someday I would have a big house in a place like Bronxville.  I read books like crazy and drove my teachers nuts with questions.  My first grade teacher understood what I was doing and kept me after school every day doing advanced reading and math assignments.  Soon I skipped a grade, was reading at a college level at the age of 10, and started on the path to that Ivy League college.

 

My education was important, but my desperation to get out of that damned apartment and get something better out of life made me what I am today.  And I am still hungry.  If you are any good, the hunger stays with you for life, and your education never stops.

 

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.

 

Amazon.com ASIN Change Notification

While I ALWAYS advise reading all your email from Amazon. I would like to share an important reason to pay CLOSE attention to emails with a subject that reads like the title of this post.

 

I am very happy Amazon is sending these out and I have been getting a lot of them lately as I have hired a VA to work on my listings with ‘quality alerts’ so she has been adding keywords, search terms, descriptions, photos and more. (More info: Amazon Suppressed Listings Gig)

However, I’ve been skimming each email I get to make sure everything is correct. This morning I’m really glad I did! Check the info below and see if you can find the 4 words that made me sit up straight and head straight to Amazon to open a case.

2013-07-06-0434 B004OF3UW2 PRODUCT_DESCRIPTION: Great Neck 8 Piece 3/8 Inch Universal Joint Socket Set. 3/8 Inch Drive. Sizes Include: 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″, 9/16″, 5/8″, 11/16″, 3/4″. Case pack: 4 sets. SHIPPING_WEIGHT: .75

 

 

 

Did you catch it? Look here again . . .

2013-07-06-0434 B004OF3UW2 PRODUCT_DESCRIPTION: Great Neck 8 Piece 3/8 Inch Universal Joint Socket Set. 3/8 Inch Drive. Sizes Include: 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″, 9/16″, 5/8″, 11/16″, 3/4″. Case pack: 4 sets. SHIPPING_WEIGHT: .75

 

 

 

Yep! They changed my listing to a Multi-Quantity!  So I headed straight to my Seller Central page and opened a case with Amazon. I supplied the ASIN number and what change was made. I pointed out that my inventory (In SINGLE pack) was already at Amazon and if a customer ordered and only received ONE  instead of the four in the description, they would be very unhappy. I expect an answer within 24 hours from Amazon.

So please, never ignore ANY email from Amazon, but also make sure you look through ALL the ASIN change notices you get!

Free eBay Seller Webinar – “How to Shoot Pictures Like a Pro” presented by eBay

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REDWOOD CITY, CA GoDaddyOnlineBookkeeping along with Page Mage Inc., eBay Radio, Stamps.com, Terapeak and Kabbage will be hosting a free webinar for eBay® sellers. Presented by executives from eBay. Using better photos, as well as multiple photos from different angles and poses, increases your chances of boosting sales. It also makes eBay a great place for customers to shop. That’s why eBay has set new quality requirements for photography.

But don’t worry. You don’t need professional skills to take a quality photo. All you need are a few simple tips. Presented by Jim “Griff” Griffith, eBay’s Dean of Education, and Jahan Shafizadeh, PhD, Head of Trust Factors at eBay.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to Shoot Like a Pro
  • Driving Sales Through Photos
  • eBay’s New Photos Standards
  • How to Identify and Fix Listings at Risk
  • And more!

 

WHEN: Wednesday, November 6th, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. PT / 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. ET

 

SIGN UP: http://pagemage.com/education/webinars

 

You do NOT have to be a Top Rated Seller to participate. The webinar is for eBay sellers of all sizes and levels. The webinar will be recorded and a link sent to all registrants when it’s complete.

 

PRESENTED BY:

Jim “Griff” Griffith – eBay’s Dean of Education, is author of The Official eBay Bible, the authoritative eBay guide for the beginning bidder, seller, and the professional entrepreneur as well as host of eBay Radio

 

Jahan Shafizadeh, PhD – Head of Trust Factors, eBay. Jahan has been at eBay since 2004 working within and leading various teams including Search, Developers Program, and Catalog Infrastructure. He is currently managing the Trust Factors Team, which focuses on identifying and improving bad buyer experiences across the site and working through process, product and policy solutions to deliver an exceptional ecommerce experience to our community.

 

Top Rated Seller Webinars Sponsors:

 

About GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping

GoDaddy Online Bookeeping 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. GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping’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. GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping 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!

 

About Stamps.com
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.

 

About Terapeak

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.

####

MEDIA CONTACT:
Mallory Snitker

SS|PR

msnitker@sspr.com

(847) 415-9300

Amazon Called Me!

100-amazon-card-for-65-usd-contact-giftcard-live-cn-728be

This was a new one for me! I was driving down the road today (on the way home from Sonic!) and got a call from what my phone reported as, ‘Amazon.’

First, my heart fell (what is wrong!?!) and then after calming myself answered the phone! It was a customer service rep with a strong accent. It took me awhile to understand that she had a customer on the other end who had a question about an order. Now, keep in mind that I am 100% FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) so I don’t do any shipping and have no inventory at home. The rep wanted to know if I could pull up the order to check on it. I told her that I was in the car and she said, “Okay, thank you,” and proceeded to connect me with the customer after telling me the customer’s name. So customers Susan (not the real name, of course) is asking me if I can help her as she ordered a pair of my boots. They were the only size 10 I had and she was having trouble getting her payment through Amazon!!!

As an FBA seller will know, I am helpless at this point, LOL. So all I can do is explain to ‘Susan’ that all of my inventory is already at the Amazon warehouse, so I can’t set aside anything for her, although I would be happy to if I could. Then I explain that I have nothing to do with the payment process.

So she asks, “Well, why did they connect me to you?” and I have no answer. So after Susan & I share a laugh, I advise her to hang up, call back in and tell Amazon she is needs help with her payment method as this rep obviously didn’t understand her.

So that is my Silly Amazon story of the week – do you have one to share? Come on, we could all use a laugh about now! Please share!

Free eBay Seller Webinar – “OMG! It’s October and I’m Not Ready for Holiday Selling!” presented by Lisa Suttora

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REDWOOD CITY, CA Outright along with Page Mage Inc., eBay Radio, Stamps.com, Terapeak and Kabbage will be hosting a free webinar for eBay® sellers. Presented by Lisa Suttora, ecommerce marketing strategist. The peak holiday selling season is just around the corner and yikes! you’re not even close to being ready yet! The good news is, it’s not too late, if you act now.

Join us for seven KEY “late to the game” holiday sourcing, selling and marketing strategies! Simple steps that you can take NOW to track and make this your most profitable holiday selling season ever. In this webinar, you’ll discover:

  • How to get your best holiday products in front of the largest number of buyers
  • Holiday sourcing shortcuts! How to get in-demand holiday inventory at this late date
  • Your #1 marketing focus for the holiday selling season
  • Getting your products found in eBay and Google search!
  • Spotlighting your holiday merchandise (don’t make your buyers work for the sale)
  • Pricing for profits!
  • How to convert more sales and raise your average order price
  • And more!

 

WHEN: Wednesday, October 23rd, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. PT / 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET

 

SIGN UP: http://pagemage.com/education/webinars

 

You do NOT have to be a Top Rated Seller to participate. The webinar is for eBay sellers of all sizes and levels. The webinar will be recorded and a link sent to all registrants when it’s complete.

 

WHO:  Presented by Lisa Suttora, ecommerce marketing strategist, and Founder of Lisa Suttora International and WhatDoISell.com. Since 2004 Lisa has worked with online merchants in 8 countries and over 2600 niche markets, to develop the skills and strategies that create thriving online stores.  Lisa is a frequent speaker on stage, radio and in publications on the topics of what to sell online, and how to use today’s most effective marketing tools to attract new customers and increase sales.

 

Top Rated Seller Webinars Sponsors:

 

About Outright

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!

 

About Stamps.com
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.

 

About Terapeak

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.

####

MEDIA CONTACT:
Mallory Snitker

SS|PR

msnitker@sspr.com

(847) 415-9300

Sales Tax In Multiple States? What Did I Get Myself Into?

That is likely how you felt when you found out you would have to file in different states because you sell  Amazon FBA, right? If you weren’t aware, did you know that, when selling through the FBA program, you are now responsible to pay sales tax across multiple states? Each state in which Amazon has a warehouse is considered a “nexus,” which is a state you will have to pay sales tax for. If you want to be completely compliant with this policy, you should be registered in all of these states, and you should also be charging a sales tax on your items that are selling from them. Don’t worry, though. It is much simpler than it seems. In my book Introduction to Sales Tax for FBA Sellers, I go through the process and cover everything. For now, I will simply cover the basics.

 

You have to register your business with each state before you can begin to collect sales tax there. There are some states that require you to file with individual cities instead of just the state. Simply figure out which warehouses your items are located at and go from there. Here is a cheat sheet with all the different states’ websites for registering: http://www.sba.gov/content/incorporating-your-business.

 

The rest is just a bit more complicated. You have to figure out which of your skus are at which location and send Amazon a complete list of skus, informing them that you wish to collect said state tax for these items. If only it were as simple as checking a box, right? Each different type of item is a different type of sales tax and you have to charge a flat tax rate, which leaves you open to the chance of charging either too much or too little, based on where the customer lives.

 

The true burden of being compliant lies with you and only you, though. As of yet, Amazon doesn’t offer any kind of remittance service for sellers to help them with this issue, nor do they follow up on whether or not you have. Sales tax returns are known for requiring enormous amounts of time because many states require sales and sales tax collected to be broken down by local jurisdictions, instead of just simple lump sum figures. All in all, it’s a very lengthy and detailed process. I would highly suggest finding a tax professional to help you with, or at the very least reading a book about the subject. If not mine, anyone’s. Just be sure to do your research, as it can be a very difficult endeavor. I am here to offer whatever help I can. Let me know if you have any questions or need help being pointed in the right direction!