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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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Friday, January 05, 2007

Possible Future 1: Curio City Offline

Curio City was originally going to be a physical store, with an ancillary website that might possibly overshadow it someday. See Kraken Enterprises Begins and related posts for the full skinny on that.

As I refined the concept and made choices during the summer of 2005, I realized that I wouldn’t have either the time or the money to open a store in time for that Christmas. Opening a store at any other time of year is foolish; you need that initial big surge of sales to make it through the lean months. Yet, I couldn’t very well wait another full year to make some kind of career move.

Then my wife came up with the brilliant idea of going web-first. The rest of the story is in my posts tagged “early history.”

All of my money and energy went into making the website succeed. I’m confident that Curio City Online will become profitable this year, but I can see that I can’t handle the volume necessary to earn a decent living. Christmas 2006 pushed my abilities as a one-man operation right to the edge. Next Christmas, I hope to double that volume; I have serious reservations about coping with it. Come 2008, I need to move Curio City Online out of my cellar. Our house is too small, and the sheer bulk of stock going in and out is too great. Plus, I can’t very well hire anyone to come work in my house. I can probably get through 2007 without help, but then I’m going to need an employee.

Offsite space has to provide not only warehousing and shipping, but also a rudimentary office from which I can manage the business. That means internet access, which means cable or a phone line. And because I refuse to commute any distance, it needs to be close to home. Commercial space is expensive anywhere around here.

Going offsite will bring major new expenses – rent, utilities, internet, insurance, and things I can’t foresee. An incremental sales increase won’t cover it. I’ll need to make a serious leap. I don’t see any way around opening a storefront. And so we’re back to the original idea for Curio City.

There are two ways Curio City Offline could go.

(1) Nice retail display space in a good location. In this approach, I start out with a full staff to prevent shackling myself permanently to a busy cash register (and free myself to focus on my web store). We’d be talking about 2,000+ square feet of prime space with a staff of 2 or 3 fulltime people besides me. This is a high-risk, high-debt proposition. It’s inconsistent with the bootstrap approach that has gotten me this far…but it also offers the best prospect for a increasing sales sufficiently to cover the huge leap in costs.

(2) Cheap warehouse/shipping/office space with a simple counter for low-volume retail sales. In this approach, which I think of as “Curio City Offline Lite”, I’d continue to keep costs as low as humanly possible. OTC sales are secondary to the web business. I remain a one-man operation, with part-time seasonal help for a little relief. This has the advantage of being comparatively low-risk, with the disadvantage of being unlikely to increase sales sufficiently to cover the new costs.

Every time I start thinking about Curio City Offline, I eventually talk myself out of it. A store is a ball and chain. I would practically have to live there. It would suck down all of my money, time, and attention. Mostly, I just don’t think I’d enjoy it. Although I'm good at customer service and don't mind interacting with people in writing, I don’t care much for F2F contact with the public.

This much is certain: I must get Curio City out of the house if it’s going to grow large enough to support me. This leads into my next possible future: Curio Metropolis Online.

Forthcoming Topics:

  • Possible Futures 2: Curio Metropolis Online
  • Possible Futures 3: Tentacles of the Kraken
  • Credit Card Processing
  • Startup Phase 3 Revisited
(P.S. As you can see, I decided to try a different template for a while. Not because anyone complained about the basic black one, but because I was bored with it. Let me know what you think of the change)

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