Running my own business is way harder than I ever thought it would be! There are so many parts to this business I love like:
1. Finding new products that have a great story and really make a difference in the world
2. Meeting amazing customers who love my vision and appreciate the items I carry - the stories and the feedback are incredible!
What I didn't anticipate were all the other aspects of the business that I would need to become an expert on "or become good enough at" because in my small business, I do almost everything myself. (Well that isn't entirely true - my husband is the main folder and recycler of boxes and if I catch him in a good mood, I can usually convince him to load up the car for me before attending a show.) I've quickly realized, what I'm sure most people that run their own business know, how few hours there are in a day! If only I didn't have to sleep! There are never enough hours to get everything done. I've also realized that I'm not an expert at everything, in fact, I'm not an expert at most things! I am really good at shopping (and selling) and I truly believe that we can make the world a better place through socially conscious purchases. The line that inspired Giving Gifts is still so true for me today - "Buy the change you want to see in the world."
I set a few goals for 2013.
The first was to find cheaper shipping rates! I would love to charge less for shipping! In fact, I'd love it if I could ship for free or pretty close to it! On an average day, I get 35 visitors to the Giving Gifts website. On Free Shipping Day, there were over 1000! This says a lot! People like (no they LOVE) free shipping! I wish I could charge less for shipping, but as it is, I pay $5 to $7 on each package I ship. I am always splitting the cost of shipping which sometimes means that I lose money on orders. Also, I pay a lot in shipping and customs fees to get packages shipped to me. I hate how prices are higher in Canada then they are in the USA, but it is true, Canadian retailers have to pay a lot more between shipping and customs than Americans. I really wish there was a better way! I am hopeful that I can solve this problem and find cheaper shipping rates so everyone is happy.
The second goal is to get more customers and sell more gifts. There are so many new product lines I would love to get! There is always a constant list of new products with amazing stories, that I can't wait to sell at Giving Gifts. But...I honestly don't sell very much online. I've had close to 400 orders online in 2.5 years! I can get 100 orders in a weekend at a market! I really wonder whether this business of having a small online store can ever be profitable. I was speaking to a marketing expert yesterday and he advised me to spend $500 on Google Adwords a month. I am happy to spend that money (once I find the money), but there is no way that I will get enough sales to ever cover the cost of the Adwords. When I pointed this out to him, he said "yes, I see... Let me call you back with better advice." Canadians just aren't huge online shoppers and when they do shop online, I am doubtful that they shop at small retailers. I think they tend to buy directly from artists on Etsy (which is amazing!) or from big stores.
My biggest goal is to make Giving Gifts successful in 2013! I promised my husband that I would give it one last year, but this is it!! I'd be so sad to give up on Giving Gifts, but I have been working every day for 2.5 years for free. It has been countless late nights, tonnes of days away from my family and too many frustrating moments to continue for much longer. I love Giving Gifts (as it is my passion) but when people request a specific product and I don't have enough money in my account to place an order, it is hard. (That is my challenge today...) Or when I go to a birthday party and not one party guest has bought a gift from Giving Gifts (these are all my friends), it is hard! Or when I get an order of Kauzbots and shipping and customs comes to over $115, it is hard (another complaint from today)!
My biggest dream is to have a thriving little store. I am so thankful to the 100s, probably thousands, of people that have ordered their gifts from Giving Gifts. Giving Gifts has had so many amazing accomplishments in 2012 and we wouldn't have them if it weren't for all of you!
Here are some highlights:
We donated over $1000 to local and international charities that benefit children. The recipients of those donations have been: Free the Children, Carli's Kids, Blessings in a Backpack and BC Children's Hospital. Over $3000 has been donated to charity in total since Giving Gifts started in 2010.
In 2012, Giving Gifts led a fundraising campaign with Change Heroes and raised enough money (over $10,000!) to build a school in Kenya through Free the Children! A whole school that will teach 30 kids a year for a long time! How crazy is that!
In 2012, Giving Gifts purchased over $1000 worth of books that were donated to babies and kids in BC.
In 2012, 100s of people gave items from Giving Gifts as gifts. There are way too many amazing stories to mention! PeaceBomb bracelets were given as gifts to the cast on a TV Show (I wish I remembered which one!), Boom Boom cards were given to 40 people at a business coaching workshop, our personalized wood holiday cards were given to 100s of clients of a real estate agent and thousands of our gifts were given to people that were thrilled to receive them! The feedback I get about my little business is incredible!
I am really proud of Giving Gifts! But I am so frustrated with it too! I am so tired of asking people to shop all the time! I love shopping, but it doesn't mean everyone does... Does everyone have a love/hate relationship with their business? Is this the life of a entrepreneur? Is everyone with a small online store constantly struggling to find the money to place the next order and pay off their visa bill? Does everyone feel like there is always way too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it all?
I've promised my husband that I will only put one more year unto this business to prove that it can succeed. Here's to an amazing 2013 full of Giving Gifts!