Don’t know why I can’t help but think about ice cream trucks while enduring winter in NY but I think it is engrained. I remember buying candy cigarettes and firecrackers from mine, but now the business possibilities for something on wheels seems endless.
Sure start-up costs may be lower but if you are a considering a business on wheels here are a few places to find some inspiration and information:
“Jeff Harvey, CEO of Burgerville, which introduced its Nomad food truck last July, says food trucks are not only cost-efficient, but also represent a new way to engage customers.” Read full article (QRS Magazine)
“To Burt, combining these national trends—fast food and cars—was a no-brainer. He just needed to figure out how to get his portable treat into the hands of hungry kids. In 1920, Burt invested in 12 refrigerator trucks for distribution around the city.” A Brief History of the Ice Cream Truck, Mental Floss (can’t say it’s really all that brief, but interesting)
“According to Los Angeles-based industry-research firm IBISWorld, the street-food business — including mobile food trucks and nonmechanized carts — is a $1 billion industry that has seen an 8.4 percent growth rate from 2007 to 2012.” Food Trucks 101: How to Start a Mobile Food Business, Entrepreneur Mag
and here’s a great breakdown, although most likely dated, of start-up costs:
“In the chart, you’ll find three areas; one time start up costs, re-occurring start up costs and costs that vary from area to area. Each of these sections is subdivided by three price ranges; $ = low, $$ = average and $$$ = high for each area.” How Much Does it Cost to Start a Food Truck Business, Mobile Cuisine
Here’s the reality of your profile pic- it is your first impression. We know this isn’t an accurate depiction of how life really works but as small business owners, we need to acknowledge this. Your profile pic, whether on social media sites or – the focus of this topic -your e-commerce shop, is not about your appearance but rather how you could best convey your craft and personality in 75×75 pixels (for Etsy profile pics).
I have spent hours this last week tweeking my shop listings photos but still figuring out what would make a great profile pic. I looked through a few shops, whose profile pics I really liked. Each were distinct: some were of the product, some label/logo, some with the shop owner. But there are few things I’ve picked up that are important to consider when selecting your photo, and please do it wisely.
Here are a few tips:
- Find out what you are comfortable with. I can’t pull off wearing something really artsy on my head in the middle of a bare warehouse, but some can. Know what works for you.
- What do you want to convey? Who is your customer and will your photo be appealing to your target customer? Remember you pic is part of your brand.
- Choose a well lit photo. I ALWAYS prefer natural light- I also don’t have a professional photographer in hand but if you do than go for artificial. Natural light, with a particular wall in my house is how I like to do it. And if your picture comes out dark then use a free online photo editor like Luna Pic or PicMonkey.
- Take a few selfies … it won’t hurt I promise. You’ll get to see whats a good angle for you, how you would like to smile, teeth or not etc.I cannot stress the important of having a well lit photo. If you don’t want to smile thats up to you but I warn you, I’ve put together many marketing pieces for my job and it boggles me how many small business owners do not have a good picture handy and how many border looking like a prison shot. Not smiling, against a poorly lit, grayish, yellowish wall is never a good look for a business owner.
What are some of your suggestions?
I never venture out on Black Friday, and let’s face it, the sales at big retail stores are mostly hype. With Cyber Monday you have an array of small business owners, start-ups, local businesses, and big retailers offering authentic deals. I have a shop on Etsy and taking a look around all I see are small business owners working hard to make a sale, and be found. So if anything Cyber Monday is not just a great way to find last minute deals for holiday shopping, it is also an incredible opportunity to step away from the chaos and support a small business, or two.
Some facts about Cyber Monday:
- It is an international phenomenon with online retailers in Canada, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Germany, Chile, Colombia, Ireland, Japan, and China all using the marketing term. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyber_Monday)
- The first Cyber Monday was in 2005 after research from 2004 showed that the Monday after Thanksgiving was “one of the biggest online shopping days of the year”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyber_Monday)
- Sales are consistently on the rise for Cyber Monday. “In 2012, comScore reported that Cyber Monday saw a 17% increase in sales from 2011, totaling $1.465 billion.” (BestCyberWeek.com,Cyber Monday 2012 Predictions Results)
- Cyber Monday growth forecasts include a 20 percent increase in sales volume that day. Clothing will be the top gift item. ( Forbes, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday: Which Should You ShopBlack Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday: Which Should You Shop?)
Find local/small business to support via your social media sites, many may have retail locations and no website but are still offering deals through their social media outlets. Etsy is another source to find great, one-of-a-kind gifts, and most sellers are embracing the Cyber Monday customers with amazing deals from free shipping to 40% off. Also organizations that support entreprenuerial efforts are making directories available. Like Workshop in Business Opportunities, a private non-profit based in NYC. Their directory features businesses of alumni from their 16-week workshop, How to Build a Growing and Profitable Business. Check their deals out here.
Whether you have an online business or brick and mortar, it has been established that social media could serve as a powerful tool to build your brand. Small business owners have it tough, usually being the sole marketers of their business, but here are a few simple tips to build customer loyalty.
- Do not use social media tools simply to gain “likes” or to blast your new products/sales. This is what I consider the equivalent of talking at someone, rather than communicating or engaging in a conversation.
- Inconsistency on your social media sites is just as bad as not having a presence online at all. If you have set up a page on Facebook but do not visit it, you might as well take it down. Set aside a few hours a week and schedule posts, share personal tips and photos of you in your design process or at work. This is an opportunity for you to tell your story.
One thing I have learned using social media as a marketing tool, and what I enjoy so much about it, is the interaction you can build with customers. Let them know how much they are appreciated. Let them know you couldn’t do it without them and don’t forget to respond to questions. People are finding it easier to communicate concerns through social media. The more open your dialogue is with your clients and followers the more likely they are to spread the word.
Not only am I a fan of ecommerce, I think I might be addicted. Not so much to the shopping, it’s more about the hunt, I could spend hours on ecommerce sites finding the perfect deal or the most unique items. I think there is a curiosity about selling online, it seems like a mystical land where it’s possible not only to make some extra money but to make all your dreams of owning your own business come true.
Over the years I have observed and gathered information of what I think makes a successful e-commerce shop, so if you are thinking about doing it yourself consider these three tips to turn your passion into profit:
- Learn and Connect to Others in the Industry– When I was selling on Etsy I loved to see what other people were doing and Etsy provides a great platform to do this, with thousands of forums and groups you could join based on your particular interests or expertise. This applies to anyone who would like to start a business, online or not. Chances are someone, somewhere is doing it and doing it well, so learn what you can from them. Connecting with these people could be a powerful tool for your business.
- Connect With Your Customers– To say its takes effort would be an enormous understatement, what it really takes is heart, sweat and tears to organize your listings, figure a price point, and most importantly create your product. One of my favorite shops and one that I regularly return to especially for gifts, is LuminousCreation and it’s because they have it right. The shop is organized, products are consistently high quality and reflective of descriptions and pictures are clear with options to view from different angles. I especially appreciate owner Jaclyn Dreyer’s personal touch to each package and customer service. If ever I had a question she responded and quickly. Each package comes with a thank you note and sometimes a small gift. Figure out how to make a lasting impression and stand apart from the rest!
- Do Your Research! We make the mistake as sellers to want seize the opportunity to make it 100% about ourselves, what we offer, what we made and how we would like it to be presented. Truth is, it’s a little about you and mostly about your market. What need are fulfilling for this market? Figure this out as far as price, and presentation and you will build a cohesive brand for your business.