When I started this blog, I wanted to chronicle my journey to financial independence. I was naive and filled with optimism. What I’ve found out is starting a business is incredibly difficult and few will be successful. The market is saturated with everything you can think of.
Here are a few things I’ve tried:
Kate and I tried our hand at making soaps and bath salts. It seemed like a basic idea, to restore the luxury of bathing. Today we all take 5 minute showers to save water and lather up with chemicals that are made of who knows what, and I thought real soap would be awesome. I found out that everybody is pretty content with the chemicals and nobody really cared about my stupid ideas. Advertising was a waste of time, and even if people ordered soap it took literally forever to cut and wrap it and I needed way more equipment than I had room for. Are people successful? I don’t know, I found people selling similar stuff online and they appeared to be successful at it. What were they doing that I wasn’t? Well, the ones I saw making money at it were in high tourist areas like the Wine Country or in Hawaii. They established themselves with local gift shops and moved up from there to selling online. I had interest from a few natural co-ops but the time it took for two people to make any significant amount of soap was incredibly frustrating and we gave up.
I then thought that I’d try selling men’s grooming products online, so I registered for a wholesale permit so that I could buy merchandise tax free and sell it online. The problem was I found vendors who let me fill out dozens of applications but until my website was up, they didn’t want to waste time talking to me. So this raised a problem for me, how could I start a website without any products? I was told by one supplier of imported German razors that the supply out of Germany was tight, and that he easily liquidated all of his inventory so he had no incentive open up a new account for me. He went on to explain that he has long established clients and that he wouldn’t want to risk upsetting the status quo. After finally getting access to some wholesale catalogues I found out that the prices I could get were far higher than what I could buy the exact same item for on Amazon. An example was a name brand hunting knife, the wholesale price was $68 and Amazon’s price was $55.
So where does that leave me? Well – I think there is room for retail if you’re incredibly small and incredibly niche. I’ve considered completely nuking ever website I have and every domain I own and just starting from a clean slate. Service oriented businesses may be the way to go as those cannot be outsourced and require physical bodies on the ground to get work done.
There are so many hats to wear with entrepreneurship – book keeping, taxes, customer service, and then you have to worry about the future of your business which is completely unpredictable. Take healthcare for example, the costs are sky high and what you get for the money is terrible. Right now I work for the State government and our employee union is huge. I probably get the best access to healthcare simply because the insurer would absolutely hate to lose us.
Things I’ve learned:
You can learn a lot listening to yourself talk out loud, or through writing thoughts and ideas down. There is a lot I don’t know, in fact I’m not sure I know anything. I do know what I’ve tried hasn’t worked. The only thing that has somewhat worked is writing this blog, and I’ve seen my traffic increase almost every month and I’m not entirely sure why. My last ditch effort to start a small business is 8EX and so far it’s going terribly. The idea is that film photography is coming back and there is a company that’s begun manufacturing film for polaroid cameras again. The cameras are no longer made, but they can be found all over eBay. I bought a bunch of them and shipped a few off to be refurbished.
There are companies that sell them refurbished and they have their own technicians. The main supplier is out in Asia but the minimum order is something like 10k – which is outside of my budget. I found a camera repair place out in NY that’s highly recommended but I’ve had problems with two cameras I got back. I sold 3 of them quickly but the 4th one didn’t move at all and the seller fees on eBay are expensive. I tried the forums, but I wasn’t successful there either. Strangely I found that the film moves very quickly on eBay but it doesn’t make me anything and just takes up time to get rid of.
So there are no answers in this post, just questions.