Kenwood Pools

Starting From Scratch

February 16, 2013 8:27 pm0 commentsViews: 25
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Jill Herbert

Usually, when I tell people that I am starting my own home based artisan craft business without ever taking out a bank loan or using credit cards, they look at me with shock and disbelief. What surprises me the most, though, is how little people know about the resources and technology that are available to just about anyone who wants to turn their dreams and talents into a small business. Here is my list of tools that can do a lot to help get you started at surprisingly little cost, if any!

1. Get Free business Start-up Help with Score

Score is a national non-profit organization that offers free one on one mentoring for starting a business. They also offer many tips, tools, templates, and online workshops to help get you started. Score’s mentors and resources can help steer you in the right direction when drafting a business plan, marketing your business, and keeping your finances on track. Our local Score chapter and mentors are on Hood Boulevard in Fairless Hills. www.scorebuckscounty.org

2. User Friendly Online Sales Sites

There are many websites that allow you to sell your products online using an easy, low cost format.  One of the most popular online sales sites is Etsy (www.etsy.com). There, you can sell handmade products ranging from household items to handmade soaps & body products to unique items for pets. You can also sell vintage items and crafting supplies. The site is very user-friendly and free to set up. Etsy sellers all have their own shop name and customizable shop page with a URL address that can be printed on business cards or linked to other web pages. It is only 20¢ to list an item for sale for four months. They charge a 3.5% fee for each sale, but not until after the item is sold. The site also includes many features to help you get your items seen by its millions of international online shoppers.

3. Fair & Festival Search Websites 

Fairs and festivals are a great way to show off your products to customers and other area businesses. Event search sites like www.pavendors.com ;allow you to find events by location and event type in order to pick and choose the ones that are right for you. They also provide the contact information and instructions you’ll need to apply to be a vendor at each event.

4. Websites; Blogging is the New Black! 

Did you know that you can set up a blog page to look and operate just like a website? Also, most blog hosting sites are free and very user friendly to set up! You can customize the layout and design, use your own photos, create any kind of page, and organize the page menus to your liking. You can add a gallery, an “about” page, events listings, or anything else that your business might need. You can choose to link an online sales shop like Etsy right to your top menu, or choose one of the blog hosting sites that now offer e-commerce so you can sell your products or services directly through the site. One of the advantages of having a blog over a standard website is that you can keep your customers updated on what’s new and give them a more personal behind the scenes look at your business. You can post frequent updates and photos right from your smart phone or computer rather than contacting a web designer to make changes to your site. Blogs can also have a wider reach because they are connected to your blog host’s community and get passed around social media if you write about things that are interesting, entertaining, or useful. Some of the more popular blog hosting sites are WordPress (www.WordPress.org) and Blogspot (www.blogspot.com).

d212A0WTi3EDC2A8.med5. Improved Smart Phone Cameras & Photo Editing Options

You no longer have to pay someone for product photography, business cards, promotional mailers, and catalogs. You just need a smart phone, a computer, and a printer. There are also a lot of smart phone apps and online options for editing your photos. You can crop your photos, add text, create collages, and add effects that range from artistic color adjustments to fancy borders. If you aren’t confident in your photography skills, there are many tips online to help you take great pictures. Once you have some photos that you like, you can turn them into business cards & promotional mailers, attach them to emails, and even upload them to various websites right from your phone or home computer.

6. Smart Phone Credit Card Readers.

Signing confusing contracts and paying a big monthly bill just for accepting credit cards is a thing of the past! Smart phone apps like Square Reader & Intuit allow you to accept credit cards from your smart phone or mobile device while only paying a small percentage of the sale. All you need is a tiny card reader to plug into your phone, which some companies offer for free. Then you can just swipe the card, have your customers sign on the touch screen, and the money goes right into your bank account, minus the small fee that is automatically taken out of the sale. This is a fantastic fuss-free feature for when you’re out at an event, hosting or attending a home show, or providing services at another home or business.

7. Social Media Pages

Social media is not just for looking at funny pet pictures! It’s free advertising with the potential for world wide reach! You can set up a business page on any number of social media and picture sharing sites to share with the world what your business is all about! You can post updates on new products, spread the news of promotional sales, and tell stories of happy customers. You can also post links to other places online where your business can be found. This is where you can really get creative with your marketing skills. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating interest for what you do!

8. Social Media Trade and Interest Groups

Could you use a few tips and words of advice for your business, but don’t know anyone with similar interests? The world is full of people with just the right knowledge and skills to help you out! Many social media sites have forums for groups of people with similar interests to talk about all kinds of subjects relating to what they do. You can find trade groups for people in the same business as you, small business & entrepreneur groups to help you learn about running a business, and web technology groups to help you improve your online presence. You may even find yourself making some new friends and offering some tips and advice yourself!

9. Guilds & Trade Organizations

The majority of trades and businesses have some kind of guild or trade organization on the state and national level that provide information and resources to its members. They typically charge a small yearly fee, and provide any number of benefits for membership. Examples might include access to educational materials, group sponsored opportunities, lists of reputable service providers, and wider exposure through the group’s website or events. Some will even work with a national provider to offer health and business insurance at a much lower rate than you could get with an individual insurance plan.

10. An Accountant in the Cloud! 

Do you envision piles of receipts in shoeboxes and paying big bucks to an accountant when you think about managing the financial side of your business? It doesn’t have to be that way! Bookkeeping systems can now be set up to automatically update your records when linked to your sales site, bank account, or Paypal account. You can even update your sales right from your phone or mobile device when you’re on the go! These programs are designed to be customized to the needs of your business in order to have all of your financial records ready for tax time. All you have to do is click “print” and you’re ready to go!

11. Crowd Funding Sites

Crowd funding is a new and innovative way to raise funds that you don’t have to pay back, using the wide reach of social media and the idea that everyday people will provide support for projects that they love and want to see succeed. All you need is a great idea and a creative way of presenting it to the world. One of the more popular crowd funding sites is Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com).  Basically, what you would do is present your idea on a web page using text, photos, videos, or whatever you can think of. Present it in a way that clearly describes the project, who you are and why you are doing it. You then set your monetary goal for the project and explain exactly what the funds would go toward and why the funding would help your project along. Anyone who goes to your page can donate whatever amount they can afford, even as little as one dollar. You don’t have to pay the money back, but you would typically offer a small gift relating to the project for certain dollar amounts. An example might be: If you’re raising money to buy the sewing machines needed to expand your independent organic cotton clothing business, you could offer a free scarf for a $10 donation, a shirt for $20, and a dress for $60. Once you are all set up, you send out the word about your project through any events or social media pages you can find and then see how much you can raise!

These are only a few of the resources that are out there to help you along. Once you get started, you will learn that opportunity can be found in the most unexpected places! Just remember that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to starting a business that works for you and your individual lifestyle. All you need is a little creativity, dedication, and positive thinking and you’ll find that amazing things can happen if you’re willing to just take a leap and try.

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