Monthly Archives: January 2008

Selling Palm Biz

Since I was in college I’ve always enjoyed starting small online businesses. Somewhere along the way I created palm r e p o r t . com

This is a website that allows users to upload images of their palms (either photographed or scanned) and have a professional palm reader look over them. The palm reader then sends you back an mp3 audio file with the reading.

What’s funny is I don’t particularly believe in palm reading…so how did this get started?

1.) Someone one day looked at my palm and jokingly said, “You have a small money line.”

2.) Trying to disprove them, I Googled it. I noticed there were many websites on palm lines, but none of them were very professional at all.

3.) I know a lot of people still get their palms read all the time, but I noticed the places attempting to read palms over the internet required ink prints of the palms to be physically sent to an address.

4.) DING! Idea!

A little extra research on Google, Overture and some other keyword counters revealed the demand for online palm reading was high, but very underserved. It makes sense: Most people who do palm reading aren’t the most computer saavy people. Look up programming websites and you’ll find tons of professionally done sites, but palm reading websites…the opposite.

So I went ahead and built an eCommerce site suited for Palm R e p o r t with the help of a Romanian developing team I frequently use, and Palm R e p o r t was ready. The best part of Palm R e p o r t is that it was designed to sell palm readings, so the backend is very helpful for it:

The system allows customers to upload their palm pictures directly to the website database for easy viewing. This eliminates the need for emailing pictures back & forth etc. The front page of Palm R e p o r t has a very helpful Flash banner which describes the whole process very quickly and easily:

Once the site was done, someone would have to perform the palm readings, so knowing absolutely nothing about palm reading I decided to educate myself. I bought 3 different books from Amazon.com for a total of $38 and learned that actual palm reading had some pseudo-science to it. There were measurements to take, angles to analyze and lines to count. This wasn’t “scientific” but “pseudo-science.” I could work with this, however the sheer volume of information to be learned was more than I anticipated, so it was obvious I’d have to find someone who already knows it.

This was the most fun part. I vaguely recalled seeing those “Palm Reading Psychic” places on the side of the road. I always used to think, “Ha! What a load of crap those are.” I was very right.

I noticed there was one of those psychic place by my apartment at the time. Deciding to do a little “research” I went and got my palm read. I swear it was exactly what I thought of a stereotypical pyschic readers office. Cheesy beaded curtains and an Eastern European looking lady with a shiny cloth around her head.

She sat me down, I explained I wanted the lines on my palm read, she said it would cost $20. The readings starts, and I kid you not this is how it went:

  • Psychic puts a fake, plastic crystal in my palm (which effectively blocks all the palm lines from sight). She then holds my palm like she’s receiving signals out of it.
  • She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and waits…..
  • All of a sudden her eyes open REALLY wide and she starts speaking in a loud voice like she’s possessed. Says, “You have lots of concerrrrnnnsss…..”
  • I struggle not to fall over and laugh.
  • She says, “You go out of the way for your friends, but when you need help, they are nowhere to be found….”
  • She says, “You’ve had a financial worry in the last year…..”
  • She says, “You’ve had an argument with a family member in the last two years….”
  • Says some other generic BS and I leave.

I knew this would be somewhat of a rip off…but seriously, THIS MUCH? I thought maybe it was a fluke, so I went to three more places. I was disappointed to find each place pulled almost the exact same routine. I would even specifically say I wanted ONLY my palms read, and they would proceed with the same routine. One lady told me I had a curse and that she could remove it….for $200. How convenient. The palm readers all looked the same too: Eastern European, gypsy-looking women.

So anyways, I spent some time posting Craigslist ads looking for palm readers with little luck, but then I randomly came across a list of “Hand Analysts” and noticed one right here in Austin. I met up with her, immediately noticed she was much more professional than the side-of-the-road gypsies, she liked the idea of Palm R e p o r t and we were in business. It was a relatively easy sell since I already had Palm R e p o r t .com up and fully running.

This lady did palm readings based on methods outlined by Aristotle and others. What I liked was that she didn’t tell the “future” like the other palm readers. Her approach was more psychologist-like than palm reader. This was good, because I didn’t want to be involved with someone who was blatantly misleading people like the side-of-the-road people.

I set the palm reader up with an open-source recording program on her computer called Audacity and a headset microphone for hands-free recording of the readings. This way she could look at the hands on her computer and record the reading. I would then upload the hands & reading to a page for the customer once the reading was done.

On a live version, the customer would be able to download the .mp3 file.

——————–

So Palm R e p o r t was launched and started making orders, but two years later I really have no interest in running this business any longer. I haven’t updated it in who-knows-when, but the site has garnered a lot of great SEO traffic over that time. This is what keeps orders coming in.

The site gets between 100 and 200 unique visits per day, and hundreds of quality search results landing at the site per month. You can see the stats here:
(UPDATE: stats removed)

I decided to post Palm R e p o r t for sale on the SitePoint forums, much like I did before with the Facebook Site and Resumite.

You can view the auction here. (UPDATE: auction removed)

With the sale you don’t get the palm readers personality (Kianna Smith), so it must be re-branded. So the new owner will get the custom built system and corresponding WordPress blog template for the Buy It Now price of $4,000.

I always thought this business could blow up really big because of the demand for the service and the lack of competition, unfortunately this was never a passionate thing for me. It was unfortunate because once properly established, this business can rake in orders day after day with relatively little work compared to other sites. In an effort to start concentrating on a core group of things, I must let Palm R e p o r t go. However if it doesn’t sell for an acceptable price, I’ll still keep it since it still makes money.

No one has a done a good job at branding themselves as an expert palm reader online, so this is a great opportunity. Much like Erin Pavlina has created a brand for herself doing intuitive readings….I’m not really sure what they entail, but they cost $195 for 30 minutes and she’s book up for weeks at a time.

Anyhow, it was interesting to see this business start then grow. Now it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves to a new owner!

Oggz – The Product That Helped Pay My Tuition

Oggz are egg-shaped lights that slowly change color. That’s it.

This surprisingly simple invention is now selling in Wal-Mart which means its been proven at every level of retail up to the highest.

Since I own an online rave store that focuses on light-up stuff, I was one of the early people to start carrying this obscure product several years ago. It was manufactured by Can You Imagine, and the single Oggz unit retailed at $19.99 and the 3-Pack retailed at $49.99. Till this day the price is pretty much the same. The kicker is now you can buy the triple pack Wal-Mart for $28.00 (a full $22.00 cheaper than standard retail price). Wal-Mart’s retail price is even lower than my wholesale price!! Definitely shows the massive purchasing power Wal-Mart has!

I don’t usually see most of the products I sell online since everything is dropshipped, so I was always flabbergasted by the volume at which these Oggz sold at. This product was definitely a large staple for HouseOfRave and most definitely a large income earner. Another plus was people never complained about the product breaking, malfunctioning or not working. Customers loved them. I loved them too because they sold well, had a high margin and no one ever returned them.

I was in college when Oggz came out, so the extra income from this single product was greatly appreciated.

I eventually ordered some Oggz to see why so many people of different backgrounds kept ordering this product, and then I finally saw why people like them….they’re just neat. They slowly morph into different colors as you watch them. They don’t JUMP to different colors…they gently move through the spectrum of light creating a mesmerizing or soothing effect. They’re quite a nice nightlight, play toy or decoration. Lots of spa’s and masseuses would order Oggz to create a nice ambiance around their offices. They have a sleek looking and compact charging base, and when you remove them from the base they stay lit for 24 hours or more without charging.

I ended up liking the product a lot, but noticed the standard manufacturer photos of the Oggz didn’t really fully describe the product effect:

This inspired me to do my very first set of product photos on the Oggz:

I also did my very first product video with a triple pack of Oggz and a bottle of flammable Everclear. You can check it out, but be prepared to laugh!

Keep in mind it was my first product video. I’m not sure what I was thinking with the Journey song in the background or the overly dramatic intro with the fire, but it was fun at the time, and you have to start somewhere! I’m still too embarrassed to watch it the whole way through! I ended up taking this product video down from the Oggz description page because of the extremely high cheesy-ness level, but it still resides on YouTube.

The Oggz seem relatively easy to manufacture. The Ogg itself is simply a white, slightly-bendable poly-urethane case shaped like an egg:

Inside the casing resides a simple yet sturdy mechanism with an on/off swith and three led lights that sequentially change color to create a full-spectrum light show that blends together:

This is now a pretty common effect, you can see many products on HouseOfRave that use this same lighting effect.

Anyways, I’ve always been curious how this obscure and relatively useless product went from mom & pop sales to the big time. Reading a lot about product licensing from Stephen Key also fueled my curiosity of how the Oggz got started.

I decided to call the always helpful folks at Can You Imagine, Inc. to get the full story:

  • An inventor in Europe first made them, but they were a very, very expensive item.
  • The inventor licensed the Oggz to Can You Imagine.
  • Can You Imagine re-engineered them to make them cheaper and easier to manufacture.
  • Started production of Oggz and sold to small distributors to test the product.
  • Oggz sold well and started selling to larger distributors.
  • Oggz sold really well and eventually got into Wal-Mart.

So whenever a set of Oggz is sold, the original inventor gets a cut of the sale. Considering these things sell so well PLUS they’re sold in the largest store on the planet…I’d say this guy is sitting pretty! Cool thing is the original inventor hardly does a thing now. Shows the possible money making power of licensing a product!

While I’ll never make as much as the inventor off these, the Oggz still made enough money to help me pay my tuition!

What I Did Today Wednesday Jan. 16th 2007

Exciting title no?

  • Woke up at 11:00am (I went to bed late last night)
  • Sent out HouseOfRave & BodyMonkey orders + handled existing customer issues.
  • Created a new section of Neon Signs to HouseOfRave. Added the section + all the products. Went faster than normal because everything in this section is priced the same.
  • Created the banner for the above Neon Signs page.
  • Created the copy, screenshots and other images for my upcoming sale of PalmReport.com.
  • Rode bike to gym. 4.6 Miles.
  • Rock climbed for one hour at rock gym + weights. My fingers and forearms are starting to get re-acclimated to the large stresses placed on them when climbing. I’m getting to the point where I can complete level 3 tracks decently well.
  • Rode bike back from gym. 4.6 Miles. Going back is was so much easier after a good workout gets you pumped.
  • I’ve started eating a whole lot more fruit recently. Today I ate 4 bananas, 8 clementines and 2 tomatos.
  • Read several chapters in the book I’m currently reading: ‘CIA, Inc. Espionage and the Craft of Business Intelligence’
  • Wrote out this list of things I did.
  • Timed everything I did.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to keep time of the things I do so I can speed everything up and do more work. As the old saying goes, “Anything that is measured and watched, improves.” Actually, that’s from What Would Bob Do.

So about a week ago

so I could start timing all the little tasks I do. So whenever I start handling the HouseOfRave.com orders for the day, I start the clock and try to beat my estimated time.

One of the scary things about timing yourself is seeing how LITTLE work you actually do. Whenever I have a boring task to complete, it feels like an hour, but unless my $12 Wal-Mart stopwatch is wrong, it only took me 18 minutes. Instead of going downstairs to get a quick snack after the task, I’ll realize it only took a few minutes and keep working on something else.

On the flip side it also keeps me from spending too much time on something. For example as I was making the Disco Ball section banner for HouseOfRave I had to stop myself and just upload what I had as the clock started ticking past 10 then 15 minutes. I usually have fun doing those kinds of Photoshop tasks, but tinkering around with different backgrounds and fonts for an hour doesn’t increase productivity.

Of course there’s a bunch of stuff I don’t document here, but I like looking back to see what I was doing at a similar date the previous year. This at least gives me a little snapshot.

Review of Detailed Image

I don’t like many blogs but one of the few I regularly read is Adam McFarland’s. I particularly enjoy his blog because he’s about my age and does mainly web related businesses, so I can definitely relate.

Adam and 3 other guys (who also each own small businesses) formed a company called Pure Adapt in which they all pool their talents. Through a collaborative effort they’ve managed to take George’s online business Detailed Image to a whole new level and it’s now one of Pure Adapt’s most promising businesses. Detailed Image sells everything related to high-end auto detailing like car wax, paint buffers, leather cleaners etc. If it makes your car look good, DI probably has it.

I like Detailed Image as a business because it gets EXTREMELY high conversion rate of orders per customer. So if Detailed Image only gets less than 50 visits a day, they’ll still make 10 or more orders from that. One of my businesses HouseOfRave is the exact opposite. I get tons of traffic but low order rates. So I may get 2,000 visitors per day, but only 10 orders. They do this by staying very active in auto-detailing forums and adding lots of content to them. People are much more likely to buy stuff recommended by an active member of the forum.

This post was completely un-asked for by the guys who run it, but here is my review/impressions/suggestions for Detailed Image.com:

1.) Left Navigation.
It reminds me of one of those standard OScommerce menus. I’d suggest putting some bullet points to tidy it up:

Maybe even alphebetize it:


2.) Product Image Location.
No need to change this, but I was definitely confused when viewing products. I browsed through a couple of items and thought, “Why don’t they have product photos?”

They’ve integrated the product photos into the side bar which is made to look like a GPS navigation system on a dashboard, but when browsing the web your brain generally separates the information in the side navigation bars from the main content. Even now, I still look at the site and forget each product has a picture.

This isn’t really a problem, but a simple fix which could help a not-so-astute person like me is integrating the picture into the whitespace of the main content. This gives the effect of the product picture being a “part of” the main content instead of separated from it. Something like this:

Of course this particular example doesn’t fit into the whole “dashboard theme” very well.

3.) Shopping Cart Upgrade System.
Adam has been talking about how he’s completely revamped the shopping cart system for the site. It’s AWESOME! Instead of making someone go through the site and ADD small ancillary items to the cart individually, it automatically adds related items for you. This way when you UNCHECK items in your cart, you feel “Well, I will need one of those…” and keep it there. This equals larger orders.

Adam mentioned this feature has effectively DOUBLED the dollar amount of each order. Doubling income overnight? I’d say that’s one highly successful modification!

4.) More videos and before/after pictures.
I’ve seen some really nice before/after pictures George has posted in various forums. Some of them were so convincing they had me nearly buying $100+ worth of stuff from DI! However I can’t readily find any links to those highly convincing posts from the website. It would be nice if DI had a small section of before & after pictures of cars with different colors. I drive a black GS 300, and when I saw some before/after pictures of a black Infinity G35 during a detailing, I was VERY close to buying everything in the article. The key was seeing how good my color of paint could look when properly cleaned and polished.

The video of a buffer you guys recently posted is a great addition to the site. I never would dream of buying an expensive buffer had I not seen that video!

That’s all I’ve got for now, great job with the site guys. I can’t wait to see it grow in the coming years!

First Post & Goals

First post of the year!

Let’s get started. For starters, I’m not going goal-less this year like I tried in 2007. That worked out OK, but setting clear goals is quite an important task. I was using some pretty flawed logic in that goal-less post.

Short Term Goals:

  • Join the Austin Rock Gym instead of a regular gym. Two years ago I went indoor rock climbing every other day for about 3 months and saw big changes in my all around strength. Rock climbing is more fun than a normal gym, uses more muscles and this gym is only 4 miles from where I live so I can bicycle there…which bring me to:
  • Buy a bike. I found a good trick to buying a cheap bike that will last. Go to Wal-Mart, buy one of those $100 bikes, then go to a bike shop and get a $30 tune-up. I didn’t believe it at first, but it literally changes the entire way the bike rides and feels. I used to have one, but I left it at my old apartment when I moved, and within two weeks it was gone.
  • Locate 3-D Printers around Austin. I’ve been interested in the newly emerging technology 3-D Printing (aka rapid prototyping) for a long time, and want to start getting involved with it in some form. I’ve already found a $49,000 3D printer I can use on the cheap. <-- Just the thought of that gets me excited!
  • Buy a big stopwatch. Shouldn’t be that hard :-) I’ve been timing myself when doing work, and it makes things so much more interesting! Suppose I have a bunch of orders to sift through on a Monday for HouseOfRave and Bodymonkey, I’ll keep a mark on time and see how fast I can knock them out of the way. It keeps me from goofing off during the task, makes me work faster because I’m “racing” against the clock and makes the work more interesting. If I set a goal of 20 minutes for myself and finish before that, it makes me feel like I’ve “won” something, sounds dorky, but it works! I tried doing this with an egg timer, only to find out that egg timers tick REALLY loudly. Plus they only measure elapsed time which doesn’t get you racing quite as fast.

Medium Term Goals:

  • Learn Joomla. Joomla is a dynamic content management system. In a nutshell, you can build dynamic web pages with it and there’s lots of benefits to using it. I usually download software, install it then play with it to learn it, however this time I’m viewing every Flash tutorial I can find about Joomla and learning it BEFORE I install it. I’ve alreay started all of this.
  • Learn AutoCAD. Once I have 3D printers to use, it means very little unless I can provide a .stl file for the printer to print. I want to learn the 3D drafting system AutoCAD (very commonly used in architecture & engineering) so I can create and manipulate 3D files. I’ve already got my hands on it and installed it on my desktop. In the future I’ll most likely send my AutoCAD work to a drafter, as this program takes talent to use very well, however it’s always good to know what you’re talking about when sending a project to an artist.

Year Long Goals & Wants:

  • I want to fly on a private jet. Cheapest rates I’ve seen are $1,100/hour for a 6-seater Learjet. Purpose of this goal? None really, I just think it’s a neat, rare experience.
  • Take a Zero-G Flight. For $3,675 you go on a Boeing 727 and do 14+ parabolic maneuvers which make you completely weightless for about a minute followed by 1.8g’s of gravity against you as you go up. How…..freakin…..awesome! This is really expensive and doesn’t include lodging or a flight to the take-off location, so it might have to wait till next year.
  • Go to Japan. I’ve been to Japan before…and seen THE AIRPORT. I’d like to take at least a week this year and properly visit. EVERYONE I know whose been loves it for the high intensity energy of the cities, the food, the culture and the absurdly dedicated work ethic (I could use some o’ that).
  • Re-Learn Spanish. All those years of formal training in Spanish through middle school, high school and college didn’t do it for me. It’s said that learning how to use between 100 and 200 essential words in any language is enough to be partially fluent, and this is what those “Learn Spanish” CD’s teach. I’ve already started doing these courses, and after only 10 lessons of the Pimsleur Spanish course I swear I could have decent conversations. However the Pimsleur course teaches formal Spanish which works well in Spain….but since I live in Texas, this doesn’t fly. Therefore this goal is to re-take a different Spanish course that offers a more Hispanic translation, I’ve been recommended to use the Rocket Spanish course.
  • Spread the word about Jelly. It’s a great way for independent workers to work together.
  • Practice speed-reading more. No need to explain the benefits of being able to read a page of a book in 60 seconds or much less. I used to be able to do this in high school when I’d read about 2 books a week…mainly just on the bus. Nowadays I practice this by going to the public library and reading every newspaper they have REALLY REALLY fast. At first you hardly pick up any information, but over time you start absorbing more and more by simply scanning through. Since about 50% of an article in any news story is generally fluff, being able to quickly spot and pick up vital information so quickly is pretty useful. This means I need to go to the library maybe twice a week and practice for 30 minutes at a time (the rest of the time I usually read all the new magazines).
  • Go to more city council meetings. I’ve randomly gone and sat in on city council meetings before, and sometimes they’re boring, sometimes they’re interesting. However you always learn about new city decisions much before they’re announced. It can’t hurt to attend more of these, you never know who you’ll meet or what information you’ll hear.
  • Increase eCommerce income by 100%. This means HouseOfRave.com and BodyMonkey.com should both double their income from the corresponding month last year. This will be accomplished through recently changes in both systems and email marketing, both of which have already started.

That’s all the publicly available goals I’ve got for now, I may add more later. Have a happy & prosperous 2008!
-Neville

Happy 2008!

No matter how well you did in 2007, I hope your

Now, it’s time to celebrate!

Best wishes,
Neville