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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, October 23, 2009

Paper Poverty

I first looked into the Medical Security Program (see last week’s post) right after Anne was laid off. Our income during their six-month lookback was too high then. Now it’s eight months later. Our COBRA subsidy is expiring, I’ve ruled out Commonwealth Care as a lifeline, and Anne’s January employment income no longer counts. The MSP is nearly out of money; I need to try for a piece of it before it dries up.

It’s going to be tight, but we’re pretty close to the state’s income cap (4x the poverty line). That's the sweet spot that everyone wants in this economy: Poor enough to tap some of the vast pools of government money sloshing around, but not so poor as to be seriously deprived. As soon as Anne fills in a couple of blanks and exhumes some documentation, I can mail in the application. I’m nervous about showing them exactly how much freelance income she’s earned, but we have honestly reported it and forfeited unemployment checks every time she bills a client. I do not intend to deceive or cheat anyone.

While I was researching all of this I learned that only businesses with six or more employees are subject to the unemployment tax that funds the MSP. Kraken Enterprises will be spared next year’s 40% increase in that tax, so I can afford to raise my payroll percentage from 18.75 to 19% (incidentally paying a smidgeon more in employment taxes, too). That’s right: effectively immediately, I’m giving myself another tiny raise! It diverts roughly $150 a year from my profits to my paychecks -- three bucks a week, woohoo!. It also takes me a small step closer to my long-time goal of devoting 20% of sales to payroll (I started at 15%, IIRC).

In semi-related personal news, Anne finally straightened out a medical billing error from last November. Everybody’s paid off, all of our copays and deductibles are met, and the bill collectors have stopped harassing us. Remember the story I told you about Blue Cross paying 85 cents of a $270.85 bill? Well, Anne shamed them into waiving the deductible even though we really did owe it. That’s right; she appealed for mercy on humanitarian grounds and won! How astonishing is that?

Curio City’s sales drooped early this week. As an experiment, I’m letting Google’s automatic “conversion optimizer” override my manual keyword bids. Their algorithm sets per-click bids based on my historical cost per conversion and each keyword’s conversion percentage -- basically replacing my intuition with their formula. Of course it’s designed to maximize Google’s revenue, so I’m watching costs closely. My daily spend has indeed risen. The jury is out on whether sales will go up commensurately. I'll reserve judgment for a week.

Now it's time to violate my open-to-buy budget for Christmas inventory. I’m already $350 in the red. I have three big new-product orders that I'd like to place ASAP and another huge one coming up in mid November; this is beyond routine reorders. I’ve said before that I’m more of a manager than an entrepreneur -- I’m most comfortable following budgets and keeping numbers in the black. But to succeed I need to break out of my comfort zone. It’s time to place bets on holiday hits, use the credit card float, and hope that new products start selling before the bills potentially expose me to usurious credit card interest rates. This high-stakes juggling would be fun if my own money weren’t on the line.

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