Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What's Left to Say?

After all these years, this blog might be finished.

When I upload a post to Blogger, an app called IFTTT (which stands for If This Then That) is supposed to copy the post title and URL to Facebook, which then sends it to Twitter. Nearly all of my readers come from that Facebook post. I don’t use Twitter, but it puts a link to the post at the bottom of my store page, and that drives the rest of my readership. Virtually nobody ever comes here except from those two links.

IFTTT failed to cross-post my last update, and turned itself off. “There was a problem with the Blogger service,” it says, with no details. I suspect it has something to do with the cookie disclaimer that all sites are required to display now for some reason. Today I turned it back on. If it manages to publish this post, I'll be back occasionally. If it doesn't, I am just screaming in an empty auditorium.


My plan to close Curio City by the end of December hasn’t changed. I cleared out a lot of stock over the summer and hope to sell more during one last Christmas season. QuickBooks says I still have $11,800 worth of inventory on hand (down from $17,400 in January), and I’d love to get that below $10,000 before I write it all off. Today I killed the "mayor@curiocityonline" email address that had turned into a spam bucket...but I also renewed my SSL for another year, so I still haven't done anything irreversible.

Blue Hills Editorial didn't meet expectations this year, but I haven’t done anything to flog it yet, either. I'm pretty sure I lost one of my biggest clients when they were unhappy with an assignment that I turned in (I won't go into why, but I believe the blame for that is mutual). 

So far this year Curio City has only paid me $3,400 (gross!). I only need one big (or two average) editing projects to make that up.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Pay As You Go

This week brought a $117 bill for another year of web hosting. Since I don’t intend to keep Curio City going past December, I switched to monthly $11.50 bills instead. I can keep paying that to keep the site up indefinitely, if I want to, but now I have another incentive to shut ‘er down in December.

I wouldn’t have thought twice about buying another year of hosting if I were enjoying a robust kite season (see my last two posts). But I’m not. Jackite never got their dove kites back in stock, and now they’re out of poles (blame China). However, my other merchandise is clearing out more successfully than I had expected, so sales are still high enough (and costs are negligible when I don’t have to buy kites) to justify going on. I don’t have any more big annual expenses between now and December. 

Recovering some of the dollars locked up in dead stock isn’t profitable, but it’s happening, and 25% of those dollars find their way into my pocket. I’m going to miss that money when it goes away:

  •        Blue Hills Editorial has stalled. The two big jobs that provided most of my income last year (and which I had thought would become annual gigs) didn’t recur this year, and I’m not getting enough piecework to make up for it – especially over the summer. Blue Hills has paid me $3,400 so far this year, versus just $1,860 from Curio City, and more BH work can come along at any time…but $3,000 of that BH salary came from one job.
  •        Curio City contributes $110 for internet and phone access to our household budget every month. That will be hard to replace.
  •        Curio City got much less annoying after I removed my phone number from my website and omitted Curio from my voicemail message. Customers have to use email to irritate me now.
  •        The workload and brainpower required are minimal since I stopped seeking out new products and reordering old ones.

I still haven’t done anything that would preclude rebooting my store with all-new merchandise next year. Not that I want or expect to, but I could.

OTOH, I could still decide to shut it down before December if the bargain hunters stop finding things to buy; I do run out of another item or three every week, and the cellar is starting to look positively roomy. But I still have a fair number of Christmas decorations to sell, and of course there are way, way too many Metal Earth models (which only sell during Christmastime). That stuff should start to move just about when kites die.

The Supreme Court’s decision that states can collect sales tax from all retailers was the death knell for all mom-and-pop online shops. The legal and accounting details will be crippling. I hope that it will take months, at least, for states to codify their extortion schemes, so I’ll probably be gone before that happens. But if laws come together sooner than expected, and if there aren’t any carve-outs for microscopic businesses like mine, that will put an abrupt end to that. 

And don't even mention that EU cookie reporting requirement. I have no idea what to do about that. I just hope that I'm too small to attract anyone's attention, and that I'll be gone before it can matter.

Friday, May 11, 2018

After the Gold Rush

Curio City needs a successful kite season (per my last post) to cover its monthly operating expenses. If it can’t pay its bills, it has no reason to exist. How much money is that?

Less than you might think. Arithmetic tells me that $1,000 a month will do it. CC has made that much every month this year – even in February, when I closed for a week after my computer died. If you remove kites from the equation, the bar falls closer to $750 because I’m not replacing any other inventory. 

Quickbooks says that there's still $15,300 worth of stuff in the cellar, and that it would be worth $32,100 at full retail. Quickbooks can’t see markdowns until an item sells, so it can’t tell me what it’s worth at the prices currently marked…I’d guess that's around $20,000. Selling $1,000 worth of stuff every month gets more remarkable as my stock dwindles. If I can keep reducing inventory by $500 a month, I could shave it to as little as $11,000 by the end of the year. After 13 years of acquiring things, that would mean that I ended up with less than $1,000 worth of dead stuff per year. Is that good? It seems good to me. 

It’s been a long time since Curio City actually required me to put in a full workday, but this week Mothers Day and Pentecost apparently combined to drive a whopping nine orders yesterday alone, and I've been in the saddle for five hours so far today. With expenses cut to the bone, CC’s checking account is finishing each month comfortably in the black, even after buying me a new laptop just three months ago. So I just gave myself a raise from 20 to 25% of sales – that’s more than I’ve ever taken out of it before. Congratulations, me! Monday’s paycheck will be the best one so far this year…and possibly better than any that will follow, since I just don’t have enough stuff left to keep up this pace. 

Just as I started to get carried away by the rush and reconsider closing my store, a problem customer reminded me why I'll be so glad to put an end to it. She ordered the wrong thing because she didn’t read the description. She demands her money back…but she doesn’t want to pay to return the product because this is my fault, somehow. Naturally, this was a dropship, so I have to loop the vendor in, too. 

As the old retail joke says, this would be a great job if there weren’t any customers.

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