Category Archives: eCommerce

Inventory Control Tattoo Experiment

When I first started House Of Rave I was in high school and going to college soon. I didn’t have the space to store inventory or the money to buy it.

To solve this I used a drop-shipping business model where I sell stuff, but send the order elsewhere to be fulfilled. This worked very well because I could concentrate on the marketing aspects and not worry about inventory.

Managing inventory is very difficult and generally incurs lots of over head costs. I’d rather leave this to the pro’s and focus on what I’m good at. However since I’ve never kept inventory myself, I decided I wanted to give it a try. So I decided to perform an inventory experiment with a cheap, small and convenient product.

Temporary Tattoos.

If you go to Google and search ‘Barbed Wire Tattoo’, HouseOfRave comes up on the first two image results:

The images take you to the barbed wire tattoo page.
Those pictures were taken by me about two years ago when I was doing some product photos. I put a temporary tattoo on my roommates arm and took these photos to show what the product would look like when used. Since then they’ve jumped to the top of the image results for people typing in ‘Barbed Wire Tattoo’ and ‘Barbed Wire Armband’ and other various searches.

The search results vary from time to time, but I get a lot of searches for those keywords coming to HoR. However since I’ve switched suppliers, the new supplier doesn’t carry temporary tattoos, so I was forced to pull those items. However I still wanted to capitalize on the traffic the tattoo pages and images were pulling in. My new supplier offered to carry the product, but this was an optimal product to try something with.

So the Tattoo Inventory Experiment was born. I basically bought a bunch of temporary tattoos from the manufacturer of them and send them out from my house.
Since the tattoos are extremely light and thin, I can keep tons of them without a lot of space. They also sell for over a dollar a piece plus shipping, but cost me only a few cents each.

My ‘warehouse’ is an old shoe box, my ‘storage racks’ are just labeled envelopes, and my ‘shipping department’ is a box of envelopes and some stamps. Basically a mini-business in a box!

So when I get an order which includes a temporary tattoo, I simply write out the customers address on the envelope, insert the tattoo, slap on a stamp and send it from the mailbox at my house.

Getting into the real nitty-gritty numbers of the order costs:

–Cost per tattoo: $0.20
–Cost per envelope: $0.02
–Cost per Stamp: $0.39
–Total Cost for One Tattoo Shipped: $0.61

HoR automatically adds a standard shipping fee to the price of the tattoo, so usually people order other items plus a tattoo. Perhaps I should make it really cheap if someone orders only the tattoos. This way I can entice more buyers who simply want the tattoo and nothing else from the site.

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The next step was uploading all the new tattoos to House Of Rave and create product photos. This went relatively quickly since it’s all the same type of product. Photoshop editing took the longest.

All the final tattoo images can be seen on the temporary tattoo page.

Setting up this whole thing took me about one day. The total cost for everything was $60. So far I’ve already sent out a few tattoos via this method. It’s not the most professional way of sending a product (the tattoos arrive to the customer in a hand-written envelope with no packing slip) but it’s just a small experiment. Of the 200+ tattoos I have in ‘the warehouse’ I only need to sell about 30 or 50 of them to break even.

Managing my ‘warehouse’ in a shoebox is easy, but if I had larger products and THOUSANDS of them, it would be a nightmare!

This Makes BodyMonkey OFFICIAL

BodyMonkey is OFFICIALLY a business….it has a shirt!
I wish that made it completely official, but it’s one step I got a kick out of.

Since I was just testing out what the logo would actually look like on a shirt, I paid $23 for one shirt to be made online. In bulk they cost much, much less.

Right now only the front says “BodyMonkey.com” while the back only says “BodyMonkey.” I’m not sure why I did that, but the next generation of the shirt will most likely include a “.com” on the back.

I also want to put the large BodyMonkey logo on the front instead of the standard small left-hand title.

The back logo looks GREAT, but I may need to scooch it up a bit.

The logo was actually just a very temporary placeholder while I got the BodyMonkey site redesigned, but it grew on me and I think it will stay for a while. It might however rotate and change with the season or corresponding holiday time.

It’s a weekend night, so I gotta get out and party….and I’m wearing the shirt!

Updates

H O U S E O F R A V E – U P D A T E :
Over the last 2 years HouseOfRave has gone from making a few hundred bucks a month in profit to $6,000+/month. However the supplier has been experiencing pains along the way with the increased order volume.

The same problems keep happening over and over and the same excuses are being given over and over. Despite all my best attempts, I can’t get them to fully cooperate with my steps for expansion, so after 6+ years of doing business, it’s time to say goodbye to them as my sole supplier.

HouseOfRave is currently in a state of two different suppliers as I switch sources, and by the end of February I will be completely switched to a new one who is oriented more towards customer satisfaction, fresh products and prompt delivery.

N E V B L O G – U P D A T E :
I believe comments will for the most part be gone from future posts. Comments are entertaining, but for the most part relatively useless. Occasionally I get some good ones, but the majority are a waste of time. I get GREAT emails, but comments are not well thought out and are generally self-promotion for someone else with a blog or some lame remark about blah blah blah…..

L E X U S – U P D A T E :
Lovin’ it!

E D U C A T I O N – U P D A T E :
After not being in school for a while the psychology course I’m trying to finish online before I go to China is uugghhh…..

I’ve been sticking to my schedule, but it’s not fun having read about, take notes on and then answer questions about bunk theories made by Sigmund Freud. Hopefully this course gets more interesting.

T W O – M O S T – I M P O R T A N T – T H I N G S :
The two things I’m most focused on for the next few days will be finishing the psych class and switching HouseOfRave over to the new supplier.

I might even have to ::shudder:: stay in on a Friday night and study.

M O O D – U P D A T E :

The Face of BodyMonkey

A new business I’m getting ready to launch called BodyMonkey.com is starting to take shape, and one of the gimmicks is having a monkey as the logo.

I’ve ignored the stylistic part of the design thus far because the backend functions and whatnot are much more important. As most of that stuff nears completion, I’ve had to get my creative side going and get a logo done.

Unfortunately if it were up to me to draw a “Cool, badass monkey with a heart of gold” it would at best look like:

….yea….so I’ve been searching around for an artist. The hard part is describing what I see in my head onto paper…partly because I don’t even know what I want “The Monkey” to look like. So one night out Downtown I saw a guy doing portraits for people at a bar. Got his card, called him up, and met him Downtown again a few days later, but this time with a binder full of monkey pictures.

In the dark bar on a Monday night I tried describing to him what BodyMonkey was and what I wanted…..since I hardly knew what I wanted, I let him go ahead and do his thing. With his headlamp on for light, here’s the first drawing:

I didn’t like it. I thought it looked kinda scary. I also thought it was way too “Monkeyish.” I want the character to be a monkey, but not a realistic looking monkey.

My lack of direction was apparent. I further told him that The Monkey would be in different situations on different pages of the website. In the Breakdancing Video section The Monkey will be in funky clothes bustin’ a move. In the Barware section The Monkey will be dressed in a suave tuxedo drinking a martini. In the Magic section The Monkey will be pulling a rabbit out of a hat and so forth……

So the next drawing came out like this:

Not bad! Since these were very, very rough drafts, this was a great start. After some fine tuning, adding more personality traits, coloring and Photoshopping, this picture will look like a finished character ready to post on the site.

The hardest part is getting the character down, after that it’s easy for the artist to re-render The Monkey in different locations and situations. Then after Photoshopping you can make The Monkey look like anything!

One small step closer to getting BodyMonkey completed!

Selling Off Resumite

It was a good idea that worked pretty well, but I’m no longer pursuing it and it’s time to go.

I’ve posted www.Resumite.com for sale in the SitePoint forums, the ad can be VIEWED HERE.

With all the added bells and whistles on the auction, it cost me $65 to post. A basic listing would have cost $20.

It would be nice to see someone take over the site and actually make money with it. It kind of ties in with my making money with simple web design instead of Web 2.0 thing.

I’ll see how much it fetches by Feb. 20th 2007.

Selling Some Sites

Over the next few weeks I’ll be selling off some websites on the SitePoint forums. It’s one of the better places I’ve seen to sell a site.

The sites I’ll be selling are sites which had (and still have) potential, but I’ve never been focused enough on them. I don’t think any of these sites failed as a businesses, they just lacked the attention they needed.

I will be selling off the following:
www.Resumite.com
www.FancyBlog.com
www.FacebookProfile.com

RESUMITE:
I remember building this site a while ago trying to sell Resume Websites.

Resume + Website = Resumite

I put up flyers around Austin, did some business and kind of lost interest. I wrote a post about it a while back, sometime when this blog was originally started.

FANCYBLOG:
I also did a post about this one. This was originally intended to be a place where people could browse blog themes from all different platforms of blogs. There was hardly any competition and a huge demand. I was never really into this site, but it now sits pretty on the internet with a PageRank of 5 and approximately 40-70 unique visitors a day. It hasn’t been updated almost since I started it in April ’05.

FACEBOOKPROFILE:
This site was started in May 2006 and picked up extremely quick. It had some appearances on Digg and similar sites and STILL gets between 1,100 and 1,450 unique hits a day, even though it hasn’t been updated.

It was intended to be a Facebook resource site for ASCII art, hacks, tips and tricks etc…
It started well, and even made a couple of bucks a day in Adsense, but I didn’t have the will to update it often. I’m sure someone could do great things with this site.

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Every week I’ll post one of these websites in the SitePoint For Sale forums and see what they fetch! It costs $20 to post them, so that should be my only cost of selling them other than possible domain transfer fees.

New Ecommerce Website

A new venture I am working on is another ecommerce business which will be based on a Yahoo Store Ecommerce platform.

It will be called www.BodyMonkey.com

The name came from a body jewelry store I was going to create, but my lack of interest left the domain for dead. I then needed a temporary domain name to let the Yahoo designers build the site, so I used BodyMonkey and then started to really like the name. It’s catchy and can eventually become a brand. ……and the name just makes me laugh!

A setback on this business is of all the shopping cart platforms out there, the one I know the LEAST about is Yahoo Stores. Another setback to the process is the limited number of Yahoo Store designers out there, because Yahoo uses their own custom programming language called RTML. This means a specialized designer must be hired, and “specialized” always equals “more money.” I’m not a fan of spending a lot of money on a business until its proven itself….but I had to suck it up on this one.

So far the rough shell of the site has been posted, and work is about 30% done on the site. Currently the site is a duplicate of my House Of Rave business, but that will somewhat be changed in the coming weeks. I will focus more on the design and layout in the coming weeks.

BodyMonkey will work much like my first online business, but this time I can correct a lot of the mistakes I’ve made in the past, and implement new features the HoR software doesn’t have. Something I’ve been having a lot of fun doing is making product videos and taking product photos for all the products that will be on the site. The supplier carries over 2,000+ products which I will eventually also carry, so this is no small undertaking and will be an ongoing process.

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I’m trying to find some sort of logo for BodyMonkey, and maybe even a character. When the site is running I want to rotate the logo every two weeks. Customers will be able to submit their logos, and if they’re used on the site, they get a free t-shirt or something like that.

This will be the first time I’m commissioning art for a website, which should be interested. It’s interesting to watch a talented artist use their creativity. So far, this is all I’ve come up with on my own:

The reason I think this business will do well is because I have so much fun doing stuff for it. Getting artwork done by caricature artists, learning a new ecommerce platform, taking product photos, playing with the products myself, making product videos etc…

The reason BodyMonkey never turned into a body jewelry store is because I don’t care or know anything about body jewelry. The whole project would have been half-assed and therefore never become anything big.

I wrote about taking product photos a short while ago which is challenging and fun, but even harder is making product videos. My first few were horribly cheesy, and I realized the need for proper camera techniques and proper editing. I may eventually invest in some expensive video editing software.

Here is one sample of a product video for these really neat Luna Candle things:

I’m sure I’ll get better at these product videos as time goes on.

So over the next few months, BodyMonkey.com will be transformed from just a simple shell of a site, to a fully functional Ecommerce store.

Screw Web 2.0 – Make Money with Simple Web Design

When I was in high school, EVERYONE had started a “Web design company” at one point.

It’s such a simple way of making money that seems to have been lost in all the talk of “AJAX” and “user generated content.” Web design is simple. You make a website, someone pays you…done.

A lot of people are caught up in this Web 2.0 mentality crap where you create a massively popular social website or widget, then start making money somewhere down the line. The chances of success in this case are astronomically slim. People also get caught up trying to start some lame business which I think Ramit explains very nicely.

I have never learned how to program or even fully use HTML, but thanks to Frontpage, Dreamweaver, WordPress etc. you don’t really have to know too much detail. Any kid with some simple web design experience can make good money like this.

I used to utilize a guerilla marketing method for web design, and it would bring in pretty good cash for a relatively simple service. Nowadays with content management systems, CSS and all that other dynamic content stuff, it’s easier than ever.

Here is an example of what I would do:

1.) Find restaurants /businesses with no webpage. CitySearch.com is a great place to start. I generally focused on restaurants at the time.

2.) Scope out the restaurant and obtain one of their menu’s.

3.) Buy a domain name with the restaurants name in it.

4.) Design and host their website, including their full menu and some pictures, information about the restaurant etc..

5.) When finished with the website (They still don’t even know I’ve done this)…Contact the person in charge of the restaurant.

6.) Give them the one line sales pitch……”If you like www.TheirWebsite.com, pay me $XXX.XX and $XX.XX for hosting.”

Charging $15/month for hosting would often make me more money than the actual webpage over a few years.

7.) COLLECT CASH.

Designing an entire custom webpage for someone who may not buy is just crazy, so to streamline the process I made a templated page that could be outfitted with a different name for each different restaurant. Just change the name, contact info, opening/closing times etc. and I was done.

Nowadays you can go to

www.TemplateMonster.com and just pick out a fantastically designed web page specific to your field (Real estate, restaurants…) for less than $50 and outfit it with the business name and content….EASY! Like this…

THE BEST PART is this method can be used with mechanic shops, restaurants, lawyers, law firms, dentists, doctors, retail stores, real estate agents…you name it. MOST small businesses don’t always need a crazily complicated website. They often just want SOME online presence to state their location, contact information, rates, menu, open hours and such.

This way of getting web design contracts is MUCH easier than putting out ads on Craigslist or hunting for business….because the webpage is ALREADY made, meaning the buyer sees it, likes most of it…and only minor changes are generally made…..and if they want more changes, then you charge them accordingly. You can upsell services such as search engine optimization, hosting, custom design, changes. This method of selling also doesn’t require you to have an established portfolio of websites.

If the owner totally rejects the offer, ohh well….the only thing lost was $9 for the domain name and a few hours of work (if even). I’d say I had over an 80% success rate selling websites like this.

Essentially this is very simple web design, but it’s ACTIVE SELLING rather than passive.

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Instead of trying to jump straight to opening an online retail store or some other scheme to make money online, this is a GREAT way for someone young or old to get started, and you will learn tons along the way.

Online Business Exceeds the $5,000 Mark

Through some simple marketing and a bit of luck, I’m glad to say House Of Rave received 530 orders this October! Profits exceeded $5,000 for the month which is good news. Hopefully I can successful sustain at least 80% of his profit level in the non-Halloween months. According to my sidebar, I made $1,120 in profit from House Of Rave just one year ago in October 2005, so there has been significant improvement in profits.

This is a new milestone because it indicates I could realistically live off just one venture of mine if needed. Now the real work starts, sustaining and growing these temporary results.

HoR still runs almost the same, just a few modifications that cut out certain steps like manually charging each customer or creating orders one by one. My time should be spent growing, marketing and adding content, not caught up in small details which can be easily automated.

New Camera – Cannon S3 IS

I’ve been taking lots of product photos lately, and my Casio Exilim does the job, but not very well. After the screen was crushed, I can only see the bottom part of the screen, meaning it still works fine, but I can’t see how to change light settings or set the automatic timer. This is a big problem, and renders the camera almost useless for product photos.

Another problem is the low-light settings aren’t great on the Exilim, at least not for product-photo purposes. So I went ahead and got some advice from a photographer friend and bought a Cannon S3 IS.

Now this camera isn’t going to fit in my pocket or come out to parties with me, rather this is more of a tool to help me take more creative product photos.

I’ve been setting up my ghetto photo studio in different places, but I’ve been finding the kitchen seems to be the easiest because I can regulate the lighting within that area pretty well. I’ve taken some pretty cool pictures so far with this basic setup:

Who says you need an expensive studio for photos?? This new camera isn’t as point-n-shoot as the previous cameras I’ve had, so I’m starting to learn more about photography. Since most e-commerce sites nowadays have such a generic feel to them, taking original product photos is something which can set a site apart….hopefully this theory pans out for me in the next few months!

I’ve been learning how to set the ISO, white balance, shutter speed, night settings etc. to help make photos look great in different light settings. This is an example of dark light setting where I should have changed the settings to make it less grainy, but it still looks nice:

Here’s a black light photo I really liked of some Lucite shot glasses that glow under black light. I think this photo looks really cool. This new camera has already proved its worth.

Here is a low-light shot of a color-changing candle. This basic photo already far surpasses the ones provided by the manufacturer:

Here is a best seller item on my biz House Of Rave called Oggz. I’ve already put some of these new photos on House of Rave to give customers a better idea of these things. The image below hasn’t even been Photoshopped except for size cropping. The camera does an amazing job at catching the vibrant colors.

I think that shot looks much better than anything the manufacturer has, and it will be unique only to my site. Hopefully this $350 investment will pay off, I have a feeling it will. I’ve been trying to do one or two products a day along with their descriptions, and it’s actually pretty fun “work”!