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 25, 2013

Here Comes the Sun

The Solar Powercaps finally came! They really are as cool as I had hoped. If I don't sell hundreds of these I’m doing something wrong. They will appeal to frugal people who don’t want to keep buying batteries, to eco-conscious sorts, and to techies who are geeked about solar power.

I’m going to bring in lighted visors this summer and winter hats this fall. Those will find an audience, too, but I really think the solar caps are going to blow outta here. 

That’s all for this week. January numbers coming next week.

Friday, January 18, 2013


I decided to flog the old Vostro for one more year. QuickBooks brings my poor computer to its knees. I just archived all transactions prior to 2011. It doesn’t shrink the company file, but maybe it loads less of it into memory. Then I ran Crapcleaner and Defraggler. We’ll see if that helps. I’ve never had a Dell crap out on me yet…let’s hope this won’t be the first.

I’ve already spent the $1,000 that a new computer would’ve cost on solar-powered caps from Panther Vision, and I have my eye on lighted visors as well (no links because they’re not here yet, but you can find them in New Products next week). I’ve had requests for visors before and solar is just plain cool, so I’m confident that both lines will sell. Since Panther isn’t offering these on their wholesale site yet, I will have at least a temporary leg up on the competition. These new products will inevitably cannibalize some sales from my venerable lighted cap lines, but I’ll bet that they’ll land enough new business to buy me that computer next January. I just hope that one can still buy Windows 7 machines by then; I sure do not want Windows 8!

Even though it’s money well spent, it's spent. Cash flow is still comfortably in the black, but I can't buy any more new products if I want to keep it that way.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Draining the Swamp

January always makes me wonder how the government can be broke. Sales tax, state and federal payroll taxes, state and federal employee withholding, and state and federal unemployment tax deposits sucked a cool $2,036 out of the bank this week (thank the gods that my lockbox idea let me make these payments without raising a sweat). I still owe the state $456 for the privilege of being a corporation and the Secretary of State $109 just because (seriously, I have no idea what the nominal justification is for that one). Then there’s my CPA’s fee for tax preparation. Now that those costs are all either paid or covered, I can finally see how much money I have left for products.

It ain’t much.

I don’t ordinarily buy the Republican slogan that the federal government has a spending problem. The gap between taxes and spending doesn’t care how it’s closed. Since tax cuts and two unfunded wars got us into this mess, tax increases clearly need to be part of the solution. Those puny hikes on the top 1% that came out of the fiscal cliff deal are more symbolic than substantive, and the 2% Social Security hit to everybody else just restores the longstanding status quo. But it’s clear that further increases aren’t going to happen. That political reality, combined with the big checks that I wrote this week, make me more sympathetic to the “spending problem” line even if it isn't true

Of course, draconian spending cuts are no more likely than broad tax increases. Our economy depends too much on robust government spending (much of which lines the pockets of the same powers that installed "our" representatives) and taxpayers do want the services that we bitch about paying for. Plus we’ve seen how austerity works out for those unfortunate countries that are lurching down that unhappy path. Any reasonable person can see that a combination of spending cuts and new revenue, derived from a rewritten tax code, is the obvious way forward. Watch Congress avoid the obvious as the next crisis goes down.

I still might buy a new laptop this year. My enormous Quickbooks company file strains my three-year-old Dell Vostro’s poor little memory, and it’s started to punish me with the occasional blue-screen crash. It’s also inadequate for playing games during the one week out of the year that it fills in for my personal computer, and I would like to leave Windows XP behind. The hassle of migrating to a new machine is formidable and I sure don’t want Windows 8, but I certainly don’t want to risk seeing the Vostro die, either. 

Dropping a thousand bucks on a new laptop will come out of 2013’s year-end profit and bonus, so I indirectly pay for it out of pocket anyway. Using pre-tax dollars is the only advantage to making Kraken Enterprises buy it. Diverting that money from new products is the main disadvantage. I could easily drop a thousand on merchandise in an afternoon. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Crappy New Year!

This was one of those weeks that make me want to say “Screw it.” Whatever was wrong with Curio City before Christmas is even wronger now. The fiscal cliff political posturing got 2013 off on the wrong foot and the looming 2% payroll tax hike isn’t going to help. I’m all for funding Social Security generously (being just 10 years shy of cashing in myself) but a 2% pay cut, however well justified, erases what little money people had for non-essentials…which are, of course, all I sell. The first week of the new year delivered the worst weekly sales since last July’s vacation. 

Or almost did. Minutes ago, a $600 Switchables (!) order saved the week. This bolt from the blue doesn’t help with day-to-day crappiness, but the week’s going to be fine anyway. You just never know.

Incidentally, I’m going to digress into the economy and politics a little more frequently this year. The past 325 posts have exhausted both the details of running Curio City and my readership, which has fallen to eight regulars. Even my best posts only draw 40-45 readers. I never meant for Curious Business to be a marketing tool, and I sure succeeded at that. I’m flattered that even a few people care to follow my weekly ups and (more often) downs.


And now, on to the kind of bookkeeping tedium that sends readers packing.

If I took this week’s paycheck as scheduled on Monday 12/31, adding a 27th payday to 2012 would plump up my salary by $756 while reducing my profit correspondingly. Excel says that 2013 started on Sunday, 12/30, and Monday’s check should have been the first one of this year, not the last one of last year. I was inclined to push it into 2013. But putting that check in different years would have set Quickbooks and Excel at odds for the rest of this year. In the end, Quickbooks won and Excel can just go sulk. 
So last week’s year-end numbers need to be rewritten. That problematic paycheck reduced 2012’s “raw” profit from $3,000-ish to $2,231. I’ll owe 20% in taxes, or $446. My traditional 75% bonus (technically, a loan repayment) from the remaining $1,785 is just $1,339. My final year-end payout (bonus plus taxes) was $1,785, compared to LY’s $2,350. The extra paycheck pushed my 2012 salary up to $13,586 and total compensation up to $15,371 -- $140 more than last week’s calculation. So how did a $756 paycheck shrink to a $140 increase? I’m honestly not sure, and I’m facing too many other boring tasks to waste time running it down. Excel says that my 2012 sales fell by 1.41% and compensation fell by 1.93%. Close enough for me.

Kraken Enterprises has now repaid $15,152 of my original $28,500 investment and generated $69,216 in salary. It will never pay me a living wage, but I don’t know of any other way I could’ve turned $28,500 into $84,368 in seven years that included the Great Recession. Well, not legally anyway.

If you thought the fiscal cliff was an embarrassing show of official ineptitude, wait til they get down and dirty on the debt ceiling two months from now. I wonder what they’ll cook up after that drama plays out.

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