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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, August 29, 2008


August’s sales collapse worries me more each day. Is the era of the lighted cap over already? The competition doesn’t seem to have changed. Search volume on those keywords has dropped off badly and cap sales have nearly stopped. Those sales were still building at this time LY. Nothing that I’ve brought in over the past year has achieved notable success.

Traffic is down to a bit over 100 visits a day. With my conversion rate down to 1.5%, I should be seeing 1.5 sales per day now, versus the 3-4 that I’ve come to expect (and compared to the 10 per day that would mean success). My 10-day vacation and the ensuing days of technical difficulty make it very hard to define what went wrong; in fact, the max_connections bug (see last week's post) is still not solved. August will be the first month this year that didn’t whomp LY, and I’m going to miss it by 30%. That ain’t trivial.

September expectations are low. Things won’t really perk up until Halloween, when Christmas starts up. It’s all about Christmas, of course. Poor sales this November and December could sink this company.

But I am borrowing trouble. I was still running at least a little bit ahead of LY as recently as three weeks ago, the ensuing two weeks were abnormal, and I’m still grappling with a software bug. It’s not panic time yet. For now, I can still blame Fate (or God or George Bush, take your pick) and pray that things will come roaring back if I only whine pitifully and persistently enough to the right people.

I must fight drift, keep planning, and hope the customers come back before it’s too late.

Too late?

Being poor is a luxury that I cannot afford very much longer. My wife has been carrying our household financially since 2005. Her commitments exceed her income. We are deeply in debt, our savings are bleeding away, and we’re just one health crisis or lost job away from ruin. She is right to wonder when the time and money that I’ve invested in this business might show some return. The answer is discouraging.

In 2006 (Curio City’s first full year of business) I personally grossed $5,105, and plowed about that much back into the company. That was the year that I figured out what Curio City was going to be about and how this whole internet thing works.

In 2007, as I gradually figured that out and built upon it, I earned $5,125. More importantly, though, I did not inject any more money into the company, and in fact earned a profit of $1,200 (which I paid taxes on and should therefore count as income). Even though I didn’t take the payout, I technically earned about $6,325.

In 2008 – assuming that this August crash is just a blip -- I should gross around $7,000 in salary and $3,000 in corporate profit, and this year I’ll take out enough of the profit to pay the tax bill. So my total compensation will technically be about $10,000. I have started contributing in very small ways to the household budget, and Curio City itself has been reimbursing us for its telephone and gasoline subsidies. It’s not much money, but it’s something…and the symbolism matters.

My best-case plan calls for doubling sales next year. If I can do that, my compensation ought to reach about $20,000 in 2009. At that level I can help out more with the bills, but I’m still not pulling my own weight. Only if I can double it again the next year, and earn $40,000 in 2010, will I approach being an equal partner again.

If I can clear those two huge medium-term hurdles, the years beyond 2010 will pay me enough to justify the lean years that led up to them, and I could potentially enjoy actual wealth by 2012 or so. But it is an extremely ambitious goal, and I don’t yet have a solid plan to get there. Getting outside advice has moved up on my priority list.

If I fall short of those marks…at what point do I have to pull the plug?

My wife has believed in Curio City right from the start, even when I myself did not. She’s willing to keep slogging along for as long as my business shows evidence of success. But she has said twice that “You can’t be making $25,000 a year when we’re 55 years old.” I don’t want to enter old age in poverty, either. If I can achieve my ambitious plan, I’ll be 53 when I’m making $40,000.

It’s not like I could scrap Curio City and jump right back into a job earning $50,000 again. I’ve been out of the workforce for years, and I abandoned my previous career. I don’t know what else I’d do as a 51-year-old white man with no education and an unconventional work history. I will most likely be relegated to menial, low-paying jobs for the rest of my life.

I dodged the question of when I have to pull the plug, because I don’t know. I suppose I should define some checkpoints. If Christmas isn’t at least 25% ahead of LY, I’m going to be upset. But first I have to break out of the current slump.

  • Legal extortion
  • The zombie store
  • Wacky ideas

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