My Small Business

I’ve referred to my (very!) small business before, but I thought I’d share a little more about it here. When my daughter was 10 months old, I accepted what was supposed to be a 10-week, part-time job. (Fast forward four years, and I still hold this job.) Because I was looking for a consistent, “adult” outlet, as well as a way to earn a little income, I started a direct sales business, selling children’s books for an independent publisher, Barefoot Books. The books are high-quality, emphasize environmental awareness and multiculturalism, and tell wonderful stories. As a parent, I loved the books! And while sales was something that terrified me, I knew that great children’s books would be a pretty easy product for me to sell.

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At the time, the compensation plan at Barefoot Books was very different from what it is now, and it allowed for much more flexibility. I was not interested in growing a team of other sellers, and Barefoot allowed “Ambassadors” to easily earn 50% commission on everything they sold. Since then, the program has been completely reworked, and it now places much greater emphasis on team-building. Also, the basic earnings plans is a lot less simple than it used to be. One must meet a monthly minimum to qualify for bonuses, and the bonus amount varies depending on your monthly sales total.

This notion of having to sell (buy, really) a certain dollar amount of products to qualify for bonuses and other leadership perks, is something I really struggled with. I’m embarrassed to admit that there were months when I bought more products than I needed, in order to achieve designated sales totals and receive my bonus. It can be very seductive, and I’m sure that’s why the plan is structured that way. (I’m not just picking on Barefoot Books here. I believe the same is true of many other direct sales companies.) I have become MUCH more adept at ignoring these impulses, and only buying what I need to at any given time.

I have really enjoyed sharing great products with my customers, so a little over a year ago, I decided to expand my business, and started offering some products from other companies. I chose products that complemented my primary products (children’s books), and focused on educational toys, puzzles, puppets, and more. I became a wholesale customer of these other companies, and purchase and resell these products at retail prices. I sell them online, at preschool fundraisers, and at community events.

Like most businesses, there’s a clear seasonality to my business. As a seller of children’s books and toys, October through December is by-far the busiest time of year. Demand and activity drops dramatically after Christmas, and tends to stay pretty into March, or even April. There are a good number of community events at which I can be a vendor during spring and summer months, but these are also the months when I most want to spend time with my family. So. much of my business happens in the final quarter of the year.

This past holiday season, I was very busy and earned a good amount from my business. Unfortunately, I also tremendously over-ordered products for a huge event I did, and I’m still extremely over-stocked as a result. I plan to continue with this business through the end of this year, and will then re-evaluate after the 2014 holiday season. In the meantime, I’ve posted some of my excess inventory in my Amazon store, and hope to pick up some additional sales this way.

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