It's just (small) business

Tips, tricks and the occasional tumble

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The End of Sugartown?

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Never under-value your product!

Recently encountered an artisan vendor who asked me what she should price her goods for. She admitted pretty freely that she usually sells her goods at cost. Yes, you read that correctly. She usually sells her goods at cost, does not factor in labor, does not make a profit. What?!

I quickly created a draft pricing sheet for her, and it looked something like this:

(Cost of Product)x2 = the minimum you need to make

The minimum you need to make + retailer’s cut (30%-50% of retail price) = retail price

I didn’t even calculate for her what her labor is worth exactly, but I’m sure it would have increased the retail price of her product tremendously. 

I know it’s difficult to find a sweet spot between a fair retail price and a reasonable profit margin, but THE GOAL IS TO MAKE MONEY. You may love what you do, but your time and materials cost money, and your sales need to recoup that loss or else it’s just not sustainable. 

It’s time we flip the Walmart mentality. Don’t set yourself to compete with cheaply mass-produced imported products, because you will lose. Let your customers know your product has real value, tell them about the quality materials you use and the love and care that goes into each product. You’re in a league of your own, so act like it!

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A Year of Gained Wisdom in #Business

Tonight I’m throwing this little shindig to celebrate the approaching one year mark of Sugartown Vintage Boutique. I have A LOT to reflect on, and I hope some of the things I have learned will help others. Here’s a list, because I like lists, of things a person learns when they start a business (in no particular order):

  1. learning how to take and edit digital photographs is invaluable
  2. be flexible
  3. jump on every opportunity
  4. recognize hurdles as opportunities
  5. customers with an emotional connection to you / your brand are the most loyal
  6. There are a lot of professionals willing to donate their services for cross promotion. There are countless ways to collaborate with others in your community.  
  7. self employment doesn’t mean you work for yourself, it means you work for EVERYONE
  8. narrow your niche, have a clear brand early on
  9. know exactly what you want, and how you want it, and don’t delegate those most important decisions to other people
  10. everyone will sugar coat criticism, everyone will under-estimate how difficult your endeavor will be, and everyone will offer you advice regardless of what they actual know or don’t know. Be polite, but take every opinion with a grain of salt and a pound of your own research 
  11. start small, or, to quote Sun Tzu “Do what is great while it is small.” let your business grow naturally, and don’t get ahead of yourself. if you try to conquer the world in a day, you’ll fail. but if you work up to larger goals with smaller goals, you’re more likely to succeed in the long run, with less heart ache to discourage you.
  12. nothing is free. people who offer you help as a gift always want something in return - be clear on what that is before you accept help. even and especially from family
  13. give yourself time to think through every decision. don’t let anyone bully you into something you may not want or need by rushing you to decide quickly. take your time to read and research every agreement you sign (advertising contracts, merchant services, your storefront lease, vendor agreements, etc etc etc). 

Did I forget anything? Have a question? Shoot!

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red-eyed-faerie asked: I am all for shopping local! But I have a serious question and I am not trolling. I shop at a lot of big box stores (aka Walmart) because it is cheaper than a lot of local stores. I find when I want to do all my shopping in the local shops in Kingston (down by dietz) woodstock and saugerties it is too expensive for me (cuz I do know it may not be for other people.) How do I support local business when I currently can't afford it! Also come to FYE I give 110% customer service every time! :)

It depends on what you are purchasing, but there are always small business alternatives. Some of the thrift stores in the Kingston area may be a better option for you for many things. You can also save money on groceries if you buy direct from a farm (CSA or community Supported Agriculture farm share is inexpensive and there is a meat and veg. farm in Esopus that participates - I personally buy my vegetables from Sauer farm on Sawkill Rd in Saugerties during the warm months and it is very affordable). Just remember, what you get that is cheap price-wise is often cheap quality-wise. The other thing to remember is that Walmart treats their employees poorly, blocks unions, has a culture of institutional sexism that frequently get’s addressed in class-action law suits, and they always push their vendors to drive prices lower, which means setting up factories overseas and exploiting laborers who will work for peanuts for 12+ hours a day while we lose jobs here.  Not to mention the ecological impact of shipping all those final products back into the U.S. Your “savings” are actually indirectly hurting countless people in a long change of action involving a lot of sacrifice. Those savings actually hurt our local economy, and indirectly keep serving the very systems that make it hard for you to afford to shop in some places.

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Occupy Wall Street, don’t, or a third option:

OCCUPY MAIN STREET - Studies have shown that money spent locally is more likely to stay local. Money spent at corporate, big box chain business is money that goes to fat-cat CEO’s; what’s left is distributed across satellite locations all over the country and sometimes all over the world. 

Spend ALL of your money at local businesses. This is an entirely possible thing to do, I swear. Big-box stores are convenient, but think of Main Street as one big box. Find your downtown commercial district and be surprised when you can buy everything you need in one place.

Bonus: local businesses owners are passionate and knowledgeable. They are often on-site to serve your needs. This isn’t just a job for them, this is a passion - how often does a big box store employee seem passionate about the products they sell?

Also, local business owners are more accountable as they are more accessible than a CEO working at HQ 5 states away! 

By locally hand-crafted. Trade quantity for quality. Buy something made with love, instead of made with a series of automated machines. Buy from your neighbor.  Buy from your family. Also, locally made products are easy on the environment and often easier on your wallet because they don’t need to be shipped from far away. 

Or be a hand-crafter. How about knitting for the 99%!

Local businesses support local artists and musicians. By supporting a local business, you are a patron of local arts!

Best examples of local businesses:

Pharmacies - benefit: attention to detail, sincere investment in your health

Clothing stores - benefit: personal attention, you will feel pampered (instead of stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed by screaming children, fluorescent lights & bad music)

Consignment stores - benefit -a great example of how you can directly benefit from a local business’ success is to sell your own goods at a cosignment store

Restaurants - benefit - fresh food not from frozen, chefs instead of cooks, slow food instead of fast food, nutrition instead of fillers, community & ambiance instead of corporate-dictated clutter

Credit unions - benefit - It’s a big step, so maybe just set a date to go to your local credit union and ask them some questions about what they offer - you may be surprised they offer most of the same services!

*Bonus tip: Pay with Cash - and avoid debit card fees, big banks getting a piece of your money!

Wine Stores - benefit - an honest, helpful response to “what would go best with…”

Hardware Stores - benefit - they have everything a big box store has - just ask!

Farms - benefit - sustainable, better for environment, healthier/more nutritive, you can ask your farmer just how something was grown, better tasting. You can only legally buy raw milk (which is said to be healthier than pasteurized and easier to digest) on farms in NY State. If you can’t drive to your local farm, buy fruits and veggies that are in-season from farm markets, farm stands, & local independent grocers. 

Jeweler - benefit - will buy your old gold, can custom produce unique pieces

Bakery - benefit - more delicious, more fresh, and more healthy - less filler ingredients, less processing (sugars and fats found only in nature and not made in a lab), less preservatives, less food coloring

Antique/Vintage Stores - benefit - one-of-a-kind, unique stuff for your home & your wardrobe, great gifts

Thrift Stores - benefit -Local thrift stores support local non-profit initiatives, and from my experience, smaller thrift stores have better treasures and better prices than their larger counterparts

That was just off the top of my head. For more reasons, go to

UPDATE: Please also check out this great article: 

Study Finds Successful Local Businesses Increase Real Estate Values