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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Friday, January 16, 2009


Apropos of nothing…my wife took this photo on Monday, Dec. 8, just as I was about to load up the Forester with the weekend’s orders. The huge box in the foreground is about 4 feet deep. All three of those boxes are filled to overflowing with orders. She named the file “why isn’t the mayor smiling.jpg”. The mayor is stunned. The mayor thinks his business may have outgrown him. The mayor is rethinking this whole "success" thing.

Anyway, on to today’s post:

It looks like the Obama administration is going to parade into Washington throwing fistfulls of cash to anybody who asks. I’m tempted to grab a piece of whatever action they toss at small businesses, even if it means taking on debt for the first time -- we all know that government debt never has to be repaid.

Here’s what I’d do with a big pile of free government money:

  1. Take Curio City beyond Sunshop with a custom e-commerce engine and a graphical makeover. I just met a developer who’s going to take over from Eric very soon -- solving one of my longstanding challenges -- and who would happily step right into a complete redevelopment.
  2. Contract with a marketing firm to bring Curio City to America’s attention. Last Christmas proved that people love my store…when they stumble upon it. Long-time readers know that marketing has been my Achilles heel since before I launched this company. Three years later, I am no closer to figuring it out myself.
  3. Rent commercial space with warehouse, shipping/receiving, and office capabilities. Nothing lavish…I use maybe 250 square feet of our house now; quadrupling that to 1000 would be luxurious.
  4. Hire a part-time or seasonal employee to handle the shipping/receiving duties, freeing me to focus on the intensified admin requirements that points 1 & 2 would impose. The above photo should explain why I need to do this. Do you know how long it takes me to ship that many boxes?

The new regime has promised most working Americans an extra $10 per week from reduced federal withholding. Ten bucks would be a nice windfall. How am I going to spend mine?


My paychecks are too small to trigger the federal withholding tables. Since our combined household income is taxed at 25%, I just withhold as much as I can afford without shrinking my paycheck to invisibility. To date, I’ve arbitrarily taken 10% for federal withholding. Starting with my most recent check, I raised that to 12.5%. So unlike the rest of America, I’m getting a 2.5% “tax hike” that will reduce my average weekly paycheck by about $3.50.

My wife, being a grownup, will reap the Obama windfall. That $10 per week will help offset a fraction of this year’s $100 monthly health insurance increase. Our combined net income is going down again for the fourth year in a row. Hopefully a round of deflation as other Americans join us in the shrinking income department will make it a little easier to survive on less.

To battle this, I gave myself another raise, to 18.25% of gross. If Curio City defies gravity again this year, we might be able to hold our ground.

Oh, and while we’re on taxes…in the past week Kraken Enterprises deposited:

  • $1,236.81 in federal Q4 payroll taxes
  • $259.89 in state payroll taxes
  • $56 federal unemployment
  • $235 state unemployment
  • $69.23 in sales taxes

Put that together with our personal Q4 1040-ES payment and our quarterly property tax bill, and it’s hard to understand why the government is broke. Maybe we are the only people who actually pay our taxes.

Let's end with a parting shot at Blogger: Every time I Preview a post, Blogger changes the font and removes my formatting. It's probably because I paste in text that I composed in MS Word, but you'd think that after all these years they would have fixed that. It is highly annoying to see everything changed to LARGE and all of my line breaks gone. It's why my posts don't look consistent from one week to the next. This paragraph, for instance, simply refuses to convert to Verdana.


  1. Over Christmas, I bought my son a Venus Flytrap from on online vendor. The twist was that he was actually located in Houston, so instead of shipping, I just went to pick it up. He operated a greenhouse out of a weather controlled self storage unit. This probably would be really beneficial to you as you could even do it seasonally.

    It's been a blast reading the blog. I'll definitely be keeping up.

  2. My wife has mentioned the storage-unit idea a few times. On the down side, I'd have to set up a temporary work/storage space, physically move a large pile of merchandise, boxes, packing material, giftwrap, etc for maybe 2 months...and then schlep everything back home again in the dead of winter, when access to our bulkhead is difficult at best. If I don't hire a shipping clerk, I'd have to commute back and forth each day to a place that probably doesn't have secure internet access; if I do hire a shipping clerk, I'll have to find somebody who can work without supervision. On the up side, it would be the cheapest possible off-site solution, and it would enable me to hire seasonal help. The logistics would be challenging, but not insurmountable.

    Thanks for making the suggestion. The idea is in play, although probably not for 2009.


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