Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to Sell on Etsy

Advice for Etsy Sellers

My friend ennaree has a brother who has an Etsy business. It made me think about small business advice, especially for sellers of handcrafted goods. It made me think of Ramit's case study with someone who successfully sold on Etsy.

  1. Keep your margins. When you are making goods by hand, you will be undercut by mass-produced items. You can buy a wool hat for much cheaper at Walmart than what Etsy sells them for.
  2. Make sure your fulfillment model scales. What works for one or two items won't work if, by chance, you make it big. Ensure that people will get your stuff in a timely fashion. Consider using Shyp.
  3. Focus on the customer. Check things out from the customer perspective. How easy is it to buy and use the item? How long will it last?  What are the use cases?
  4. Optimize for search engine results. I was astounded to find that most of the cheerleading ribbon shopping results are on Etsy. Make sure you show up when people look for what you are selling.
  5. Define your target market. Don't make it "everybody." That's how you lose everybody. You need to make it a niche product at first. You should use Ramit's Two-Qualifier Method:
Ramit Sethi
Source: Forbes

The Two-Qualifier Method takes you from one level — say, tutoring for high-school kids – and layers another qualifier on top of it — say, tutoring for private high school kids. Of course, you can take this a lot further
WHAT MOST PEOPLE DO: “I’m going to tutor math”
WHAT YOU’LL DO: Get more specific using the Two-Qualifier Method.
In essence it looks like this:
So here are some examples:
* Affluent working parents in the San Francisco Bay area who want (tutoring for their high school kids).
* Small-business companies in the financial services industry who need (copywriting for marketing materials).
* Bloggers with 1,000 to 5,000 subscribers who want to (develop information products).
If you are selling upper-crust ski goggles, you aren't selling to the average ski bum. You have to ensure that they are able and willing to pay. Instead, you are selling to the affluent people who go to the slopes over Christmas break or the weekends. Where do they buy their goggles? What do they need out of them? If upper-crust people need replacement bands because the elastic wears out, sell or include extra replacement bands. Find your target audience's pain points and alleviate them.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Twitch, Austin Kleon, Dividend Mantra's almost-journey to Florida, and Oscar Wilde

Twitch Sells to Amazon

Twitch sold to Amazon for $970 million dollars today.

I first heard of Twitch earlier this year, during Twitch Plays Pokemon. All of the devs on my team had dark circles under their eyes for weeks, because they were staying up to watch and play.

My roommate GG's immediate reaction was: "They betrayed us! They sold out! They went corporate!"

Austin Kleon's Show Your Work

After the recommendation of one of the ERErs, I read Austin Kleon's work on being an artist of any kind. It's the sort of peppy inspiration much in the same vein as Seth Godin, with less of the cynicism.

To summarize a little bit, one of his points is that you will be called a sell out. You need to be ok with it.

Dividend Mantra and Resentment

That knee-jerk reaction reminded me of Dividend Mantra's recent post about almost quitting on reconstructing his life in Michigan and just giving up to go back to Florida. 
Source: DividendMantra

Oscar Wilde: Gutters and Stars

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
If you are in the gutter, then that's fine. You are the same as everybody else. If you are like DM and you've bailed yourself out of debt, then everyone expects you to pay more than your fair share, then calls you cheap when you pay what you should. It's a hard line to walk, and it's a difficult part of the personal finance journey. DM's scenario was pretty much my worse-case scenario, so it's interesting to see that play out.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Vomiting and Bank Switching: Why I Am Taking Money Out of CapitalOne360

Recap of Ramit Sethi's blog post when ING Direct was acquired:
  • Nothing will change for a while
  • Then Capital One, like a racist uncle, will not be able to help itself from revealing its true colors. It will make subtle changes to ING accounts to make it more profitable for them…and shittier for customers (timeline: unknown. My guess is around a year for the first changes, but who knows.)
  • It won’t be “so bad” for a while, especially since we’ve invested so much time in automating transfers to our sub-savings accounts
  • Eventually, people will start to realize ING has become “just another” bank, and there are better options
  • After I get fed up, I will browse to and vomit all over my computer just to spite them. Then I will switch to another bank, test it, and write a damning post, causing thousands of people to switch accounts within 24 hours
  • We will pick another bank and life will go on

Ramit Sethi may not have hit his threshold, but I have.

Today, in my opinion, the ugly face of CapitalOne360 showed up.

Recent Trade

On Monday, I did a trade to buy some stocks of an interesting mining company. Disclosure: I hold stocks of this mining company, as of today.

Marketing Email

On Wednesday, I got an email that said that I should come back, because I hadn't traded in over a year.

At this time, I was just thinking #fail. It was a silly and minor inconsistency, and it wasn't really a problem.

My First Tweet About It

Their Response

I got a very polite email from them saying that the timing was unfortunate and that I got three free trading credits.

The email said to contact them if I had concerns. So, I did.

Phone Call

First Person

I called them to talk about it. I waited while the first person read the case when I gave her the case number. She says that she sees that I spoke to X (I hadn't), and that he had given me free trading credits. I said that was fine, but I wasn't calling about his email - and that I hadn't spoken to him, because he sent me that email pretty much out of the blue. I hadn't contacted CapitalOne360 Customer Service recently. They had sent stuff to me.

I told her that I was upset by getting spammed with an email telling me that I hadn't traded in over a year when I had traded two days ago. She told me that marketing probably put me on the list earlier, before my trade. Since my second-to-last trade was over a year ago, everything was ok. The email hadn't told me that there was anything wrong with my account.

I could have let it go there. I was still upset by the spam, though, and by their nonadmission of fault for sending me marketing that lied.

Second Person

When I persisted, the first person told me that she could get me a supervisor. She did.

I reiterated the story, and the supervisor gave me the same line: The email hadn't said there was anything wrong with my account. He said that it was just a marketing email about a promotion that I could take advantage of (it wasn't). He also said that marketing had probably queued up the email a month ago, long before my recent trade. He said that paths had crossed.

While I understand that marketing takes preparation, sending "you haven't traded in a year!' emails to people who traded days ago shows a blindness to detail. In my opinion, attention to detail is something you care about from your bank. Yeah, they can squarely place the blame on marketing - but why is marketing not checking this stuff before they send out emails?


Everyone from their side was polite. However, I pretty much decided to switch my accounts to some other bank after the second person. They did not think that there was anything wrong with sending me what was effectively spam, as long as it didn't tell me that there was something wrong with my account.

I have a fairly spread out banking flow.

Today's interaction was a bump in the road, and a very small one at that. If I solely banked with them, I'd brush it off.

However, with as many bank accounts as I have, I'm moving a fair chunk of my money yet again.

I'm planning on moving my rent and house downpayment out of my Housing/CapitalOne360 account. I don't want to knee-jerk close the account, but I am not keeping the fairly large chunk of housing money in there anymore.


Despite the recent troubles, I still believe in Simple's focus on customer service. I will never solely rely on them, but I can always keep them part of the mix. I will be moving the vast bulk of my Housing fund into one of their Goals.

Sharebuilder: Delayed

Even though their marketing for Sharebuilder is what set off this whole train, I have to be much more careful about rolling my Roth IRA elsewhere. My immediate thought was Etrade, and that's an option. I know that Scottrade and TradeKing have gotten interesting reviews.

I also need to roll my 401k out of my old company, so I'm looking for people for the long term. Vanguard will receive some of the money, but Vanguard won't get all of it. We'll see what I end up doing.

EDIT: The fourth contact post-survey

They sent me an email after the second person on the phone, asking how I thought it went. I indicated that I was still dissatisfied. They wrote me back with the workflow to unsubscribe from marketing (why was that not included in the original phone call?) and it's a UX nightmare. I did unsubscribe prior to the fourth contact, so I shouldn't receive those emails again. They also told me that I had three free trading credits.

Again, I'm not really bothered or touched by the three credits. I appreciate them, but they aren't really useful to me, since I'm moving my investments out.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

uberX in Chicago and Car Ownership

Source: Geekwire

The uber marketing team is brilliant. One of the main draws of Zipcar is that it makes sense to have a Zipcar membership rather than a real car if you live in an urban area like DC. They used a calculator on their website to show how much it cost to own a car. DriveNow from BMW, which I've written about before, offers cars in the San Francisco area for $12 for the first 30 minutes and 32 cents per minute after that with not membership fee. If you need a car for 24 hours, it costs you $60, which is definitely less than Zipcar.

uberX just upped its game by putting up a comparable calculator. They are saying that the average car ride using uberX is $9. You'd have to take 90 trips to exceed that.

They are inviting everyone to use uberX now that the price cuts are permanent.

I don't live in Chicago. I live in Wisconsin. But Chicago is the closest major city to both Indianapolis (where I'm from) and Madison, so I'm likely to use uberX if I'm in the city. If I did live in Chicago, it'd probably be worth it to me to take public transit most times and pay for an uberX the other times.

uber is capitalizing on the trend that Millennials don't want to own cars. A recent Yahoo! article spoke about Millennials preferring to rent rather than own. You can go on Airbnb to stay in a chateau in France for $200 a night. We'd rather uber and watch the car come to us than to stay and pray that a taxi will come by. uber is promising us that they will drive us wherever we want to go on an a la carte basis that comes in way below the cost of car ownership. That sounds like a pretty good deal.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Have Your Kids Join the Montessori Mafia

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

I watched a Google Talk today by the two economists who wrote one of the major books (The Second Machine Age) that I used for my senior thesis, for the end part where I had recommendations about jobs moving forward, knowing that the manufacturing industry was both coming back to the United States and not providing that many jobs.


Around minute 48, Erik says that things that require creativity, invention, and entrepreneurship have not been affected. He also says that children need to be able to learn to adapt to new things. I've spoken about that as adaptability.


Andrew McAfee goes on to say that the biggest question that they get about their work is from parents, worrying about what they should do with their children. Around minute 50, he tells parents to send kids to Montessori; he also says that there's a Montessori mafia among the tech elite. The Google founders both went to Montessori, which starts around minute 1.

"The training of not following rules and orders...Being self-motivated, questioning what's going on in the world is a little bit different." - Larry Page
McAfee goes on to say, "It taught me that the word is an interesting place, and your job is to go poke at it." Speaking a little more on his experience, he says:
"In fourth grade, I went into the public school system in the Indiana town where I'm from, and I felt like I had been sent to the gulag. I'm like, you want me to sit here, all day, and a series of things is going to be inflicted on me at 45-minute intervals. What are you people, sadists?"
I loved it - not because he was talking about Indiana - but because he was unknowingly advocating unschooling or homeschooling. I went to Montessori myself, and part of my recent transition to self-employment is rediscovering that I very much prefer to be the captain of my own ship.

Double Majoring

Put down the beer pong paddle, and just go do a double major. Go hang out with the theater geeks at one side of campus, and the math geeks at the other side of campus. Fill up your toolkit as much as you can. - Andrew McAfee
I had multiple majors. I ended up with four, and it's interesting to look back on what I had to say about multiple majors back in 2011. McAfee's validation of that choice felt good, because I had disparate majors.

Having a full toolkit doesn't make you invincible, but it gives you options. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Revival of the Cottage Industry via Etsy

Rockford and Etsy

Fred Wilson just posted a 3-minute video of the Etsy CEO talking about the Rockford mayor connecting with an Etsy community leader to work on getting more people running Etsy businesses.

I live approximately an hour north of Rockford. If I wanted to fly on a straight shot over to Clearwater near my parents, I could drive an hour and go to a tiny airport to get to Florida. I've heard of someone who works in Madison living in Rockford with her husband commuting to Chicago. It can be done. It's a moderately central place.

Central Transportation

Most of the packages I have received lately have been from somewhere in or around Indianapolis. As a native, I've been moderately surprised by how many warehouses seem to be in Indiana. I know that FedEx is there and that it's the secondary hub in the US; however, I never imagined that it would become a primary place for sellers large and small.

Amazon vs. Etsy: Commodities vs. Art

Amazon is one of the major players who uses warehouses in Indianapolis. It sells commodities. Etsy sells lovingly hand-crafted works of art. They are targeting different needs.

Living in Madison, I find it easier to buy things online than to hunt for them at the mall or try to find them locally. Thus far, I've bought commodities; I'm a Mustachian, and I'm normally unlikely to put money into things that serve no purpose.

I love a lot of the whimsical stuff on Etsy. I'm willing to pay more for a handcrafted headband than a standard black headband.

Rockford is one of the towns that has watched industry come and go. As fewer people are able to find corporate jobs or manufacturing jobs, a lot of them are turning to making things. It's a revival of artisanal work in the face of 6% unemployment.

It makes more sense for Etsy to form teams than for Amazon to do so. The comments on Fred's post (including Fred's) make it seem like Etsy is a large-scale revival of the cottage industry, whereby a lot of people made a living doing small things. I like it a lot.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Badassity, Gender and Mustachianism

Yet another post, like my Mark Cuban one, where I talk about the gender divide.

The latest Mr. Money Mustache post is about Mustachianism ruining a marriage.

I found it fascinating that somewhere, someone existed who completely validated some of the complainypants comments. For example, on the WaPo article that features Mr. Money Mustache, many posters said that he obviously didn't have a wife or children, or that his wife was going to leave him for forcing her to live an austere lifestyle. He said that it was ludicrous to think that his wife was anything less than an equal partner, and he was not forcing her to do a thing.

Someone said that to him. He posted the email.

Subject: Please Stop
Dear Mutilator of My Monies,
Please stop writing. My husband is enthralled. I am watching all of my dreams of a mommyhood filled with Tahoes, lattes, endless monogramming, and a pottery barn dream house go up in smoke. 
The email is significantly lengthier, but the gist is right there in the first few sentences.

There was a poll taken on Mr. Money Mustache in the forums about gender; even though men bemoan the lack of Mustachian women, more than 50% of the forum is comprised of females. Today, we get to peel back the current to see someone who is not remotely Mustachian and actively hates the idea of early retirement.

Mr. Money Mustache said:
 On the other hand, you might want to explore your feelings towards challenge. I mean, who is so soft that they prefer a gasoline-powered throne to a muscle-powered bike? And is this weakness something to cherish and cultivate, or to overcome so we can live a more fully human life? 
She said:
Also, I fear that the comment, “who is so soft that they prefer a gasoline-powered throne to a muscle-powered bike?” has quite missed its mark. I like “soft.” Remember, I am a woman? I put conditioner in my hair so that it’s softer, I shave my legs, so they’re softer, I put lotion on my arms, so that they’re softer. I even smudge my eyeliner a bit to give it a softer look. “Soft” is a feminine thing to be desired and in no way is it a turn off. Sooo YES! I am SOFT! And if a Tahoe makes me softer, bring it on!!! Also, I’ve never had muscles in my life and am totally ok with it.

She is a prototypical anti-Mustachian, come to haunt Mr. Money Mustache in his own home. Her badassity quotient is low.

Kacy Catanzaro

While I know nothing about Kacy Catanzaro's finances. I do know that she's a hard worker. She's a former college gymnast who did things that I would've sworn were impossible. She can use her body in ways that I didn't it could be used. She has split-second time, and the whole-body strength to do incredible things. She works hard.

That's what badassity is.