Archive for the ‘commerce’ Category

Life, Temporary?

September 28, 2011

Today’s project of fancy is: Tina Roth Eisenberg’s tatt.ly, a site that sells kid friendly temporary tattoos for design interested adults.  Click around and take your pick: four Popsicles, one half eaten? Small rainbow made to fit on your fingertip?  Or, my favorite, a “late” watch – designed as a band that wraps around the wrist – available in multiple colors.

From the looks of it, Tina started by making something that she’d like to buy.  Then she asked other people to design more of the same.  Last up she set up a nice and simple way for people to buy some for themselves.

The process may not have actually been that easy.  There may have been arguments between designers, e-commerce scams, profile troubles and even shipping and handling mishaps.  But from what I can tell from the site’s simplicity – there wasn’t much room left for failure.

Part of the magic could be Tina’s already active group of designy friends.  She’s not only the creator of Tatt.ly – but also of Creative Mornings, known by designy people as a meeting worth waking up for. Her design studio, studiomates, is based in dumbo and houses a collective of create young people.

Is seems that she’s recently  left her client design work behind to develop more of her own products – including TeuxDeux – a friendly looking, free, web based to-do app – with an add on iphone app.  What’s more fun than making lists, I ask you? Trying it out is next up on mine.

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Mind Your Money

September 8, 2011

Mind Your Money is the second post in a series of five posts about Must Dos for Self Starters.  The first post was yesterday, on how to respond to requests in a reasonable amount of time.  Today we’ll focused on money matters.

Too often what we want is not the same as what is sensible.  Nowhere is this more dangerous than online shopping  in your own venture.  Here are five simple ways to watch over your short-term goals and long-term possibilities when you’re starting a new business yourself.

1.  Make a Spreadsheet

You’ll want to have a few spreadsheets, actually: 1) for  the year – with separate lines for the amount you think you’ll make each month & 2) for the month – with separate lines for the amounts you think you’ll make and spend that month.

So for example, if you were starting a pottery business and aimed to sell $1000 a month in pots every month, first make a yearly spreadsheet with 12 lines and add that column up to a projected $12000 in sales.  Keep a column open for actual sale amounts to be filled in later.

Next up make another spreadsheet for each month of the year include both the money you think you’ll spend and the money you think you’ll make – like this sample.  Keep three months of spreadsheets ready and waiting with projected sales and expenses.  The actual balance each month carries over to the next spreadsheet.

2.  Rest and Review

Carve out a little time each month to review the spreadsheet with you and your executive team.  Numbers don’t lie – but every so often we humans make mistakes.  Use this time to catch any misconceptions, misunderstandings or mismanagement before disagreements or disappointments arise.

Check back in with your yearly spreadsheet and enter your actual balance for the appropriate month.  You’ll review the yearly spreadsheet no more than four times unless you are making big changes to your projected monthly revenue frequently.  Your yearly sheet will tell you how well you did after, say, three months, six months or twelve months of operating.

3. Change where necessary

You may love the turquoise glaze you bought in September, but if you haven’t made more sales as a result you may decide to stick with the basic materials for October or until you have some decent cash flow.  Spent less trekking your wares around the city than you expected? Treat your buyers with hand printed thank you cards for their purchase.  Make changes to your spreadsheets for the following three months of projected expenses when adding or deleting line items.

4. Be Realistic

It’s not important for your actual $$ amounts to be the same as your projected $$ amounts.  The projected number is just there to give you a basis for analysis.  What you want is to blow your projected $$ amount away; but that takes some time.  Even if you find yourself way below projected amount one month, don’t worry – as long as you have enough in the bank to cover the next three months of expenses, you’re in the clear.

5. Ask an expert

These documents are good for discussions.  Don’t be afraid to show other people the numbers – being visible in an essential part of making money.  Other people experienced in reading spreadsheets may see opportunities or oversights.

note to the reader: I did not go to business school and as such do not know proper finance terms.  Richard Branson learned the difference between net and gross with a fishing metaphor.  I just like to think of what goes in and what goes out and then what’s in the bank after I’m through.

got your own business?  tell me how you keep your numbers happy without obsessing over how much is in the bank at any given time

When The Going Gets Rough

August 22, 2011

In September 2009, I was hired as a project manager at a start-up.  The timing was right: I had been unemployed for about six months, and I wanted to get back to a regular paycheck.  Plus, there was my career to attend to.  Enough dilly-dallying I thought: it’s time to get back in the game.

Almost as soon as I arrived though, I noticed that teams had a bad habit: they frequently made promises to their financial backers that they weren’t able to keep. Each month the leads would go to the board and present what they were working on and each month their delivery fell short. The funders were getting frustrated with the teams inability to deliver and the team was anxious to produce something.

As the tension grew, the project began getting more and more convoluted.  The busines party began to focus on their priorities: a product that would certainly make money.  The creative party spent their time working on making something cool that would blow everyone’s minds.  In truth, neither team had a strong solution because a successful product needs to have a little bit of both.

I’m still struggling to understand how to find the balance myself.  When things get particularly stressful I want to just pick one side or the other: either go all creative and be willing to live on the edge, or be all business and be happy without creativity.  I think that it’s probably the tension between the two that keeps us all honest.

As for the start-up, I should have known better.  The project goals were lofty and the track record of success was already spotty before I arrived.  I imagined though, with the right management; they’d have a decent shot at survival.

My Body is a Temple

August 15, 2011

Like Betty Page, I am most comfortable in my body when I’m naked.  Without clothes on there’s nothing to remind me that there’s a body shape that I’m supposed to be that might be in conflict with the one that I have.  There’s no bra reminding me to defy gravity and no back pockets telling me where the curves of my butt would go if I had some.  Even nice bathing suits don’t help much – since the stomach wants to be popping out from between the top and the bottom like it’s got somewhere fancy to go.

If I could hire someone to make me a custom wardrobe to fit my body though, I think I’d have a lot more fun dressing up.  My fantasy is that someone could come measure me – each and every part of my body – and come up with different shapes and styles that would suit me best.  In fact, I’m pretty sure this would improve my life a lot because when I do buy clothing that fits my body well, I feel a lot better about myself.

In the past I’ve been very opposed to the idea that I can do something on the outside that make feel better on the inside.  The last thing I ever wanted was to spend a lot of time or money on clothing or make-up and doing so made me feel silly or self-conscious in the past.  It wasn’t until I spent more than a thrift store amount on clothes that I found out there were ways I could look nice and, in turn, act in a way that commanded more respect from other people.

But I feel conflicted about how to treat myself well without spending more than I have to keep up appearances of confidence. It seems to me that there’s a balance and, while I’ve tread mostly on one side of the scale – by mostly not minding my appearance –  I don’t want to swing to the other side and spend my salary on clothes I wear mostly to the office.  Sometimes I wonder whether it’s that it’s actually a whole life change that I want, so I avoid making the smaller changes that might help me on my way.

Penelope Trunk recently said:  “I feel mystified as to why can’t I just think of my body as a room and then be better with my clothes.”  I loved this question and I think I’ll challenge myself to do just that from now on.  My body is something that I live in so there’s no reason not to enjoy making it a place that I like to be.