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, February 24, 2017

Race to the Bottom

I wasn't expecting another double-digit decline because I was barely paying attention. At this time LY, Curio City was enjoying a 6-cent YTD profit; this year it's suffering a $295 loss. But there are some hidden Blue Hills startup costs dragging it down, so it's not a dramatic move.  


Total income: -15.7%
Total COGS: -13.2%
Payroll: -14.5%
Marketing: -13.8%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -491,533% (-$295)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$295

2017 YTD

Total income: -8%
Total COGS: -4.5%
Payroll: -60.4%
Marketing: -21.1%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +678.2% (+$390)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$332

I didn't divide Blue Hills and Curio City into separate "classes" until the second week of February, and I can't accurately compare year-over-year numbers because there were no classes last year. $130 worth of Blue Hills startup costs dragged the overall numbers down. On the bright side, Blue Hills should receive its first income next week. That's going to wreak havoc on my numbers for the rest of the year...but, oh well.  

Excel says this was the second-worst February ever. Another $150 would bump it up to third-worst. Last March was actually a fairly decent month, so I have low expectations for beating it this year. Jackite's badly-needed pole shipment has slipped from "March" to "the end of April," so no hope there.

I'm sad to see a sixth consecutive year of declining sales taking shape. But I'm not surprised, since I'm spending as little money as possible and most of my attention is elsewhere.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Broken Apples?

Another caller complained about being unable to check out because my site delivered an error message instead of postage rates. As usual, I placed her order myself without incident. It still reinforced that nagging hunch that something might be wrong, though. This woman offered that she's using a Macintosh with Safari, which might explain why I can't reproduce the bug. I neglected to ask if she's using an iPhone or a proper computer...I'm always suspicious of mobile devices, but a Mac is a computer.

AFAIK my checkout page doesn't use any scripts that aren't ubiquitous across the Net. Analytics shows Apple devices still contributing sales, so it's not a general Apple incompatibility.

Over the past 30 days, Safari users made 33% of my visits but placed just 24% of my orders...which might or might not mean anything; a general technical error should lead to zero sales. In the PC/Android universe one might suspect that a specific hardware/software configuration isn't working right, but Apple's walled garden is supposed to eliminate such variations. I don't own any Apple devices so I can't conduct any testing. I have a feeling it would be fruitless anyway. 

More fun from Google Analytics: Chrome is the most popular browser with 40% of visits/54% of sales, Safari was second, Internet Explorer third at 14%/12%, and my own favorite Firefox had just 7% of both visits and sales. Microsoft Edge, the Windows 10 version of IE, barely registered. Mobile devices accounted for 29% of all sales despite my efforts to discourage those paid clicks, with iPhones and iPads together accounting for 49% of mobile sales. 


The Blue Hills website is about 90% done. I have a few fiddly graphical and layout details to clean up and some placeholders to swap out, and the content needs my wife's input. I won't announce it to the world until those things happen...probably this weekend. But you could click the link in my banner if you want a sneak preview.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Still Crawling Along

It was a very productive week for Blue Hills. I opened a two-year account with InMotion Hosting, secured my domain name, created email addresses, chose a template, learned BoldGrid (their WordPress site editor), and got halfway through building the website (creating five pages is taking a lot longer than I had expected). Meanwhile, someone hired my wife to copy edit a 300-page young adult novel; she's going to delegate that work to me. It won't be a Blue Hills project, but it will be my first editing income in years. I should earn four months worth of Curio City salary in a month or less. 

Curio City, OTOH, went through another one of those frustrating dead zones that make me suspect technical malfunctions. My only sale in three days came when someone called to complain that the shopping cart wouldn't calculate her shipping charge. Everything looked fine and I placed her order without any anomalies, so it was probably user error...but that complaint kept nagging at me as the drought dragged on. February is always a slow month anyway, and eventually things returned to slow normal...which, at this time of year, is just one sale a day. It's a good day if it's a big sale and a poor day if it's a small one.

I don't know how long dividing my attention between two businesses is going to work out. It's easy to do while Curio City's in a slump and Blue Hills is still in development. Ideally, Blue Hills will occupy me from January through October and I can concentrate on retail in November and December, but in reality it won't separate that cleanly. I'll just have to make it up as I go along. 


The people at Switchables admonished their former accounts that they have not, in fact, gone out of business, but merely stopped selling wholesale. Although that's the same thing as going out of business from my perspective, they are still selling off their remaining inventory at retail on their own website. They could probably make a nice go of it as an exclusive retailer if they were inclined to remain in production -- even if their costs doubled, as they said, so would their revenue without us middle men. 

Anyway, from the consumer's perspective they are still alive and kicking. The record is hereby corrected.

Friday, February 03, 2017

(Almost) Introducing Another Curious Business

The astute reader will notice that my blog's header now includes Blue Hills Editorial Services. This week I gave the Town of Braintree $35 to officially create the new DBA. That enabled me to open a checking account so that I can receive payments under my new name. I'm still grappling with a mental block against creating the new website -- it's going to be a long and difficult task, and it's going to cost me somewhere in the vicinity of $100 that I don't have. But that's the last step before I can actively solicit clients, and I'm going to force myself to start it as soon as I finish this post.

I already filed the paperwork to become a contractor for one client who pays $50 an hour for editing. After my recent pay cut, Curio City only pays me around $50 a week, so $50 an hour will make me feel like the 1%. You can see why the editing business might quickly crowd out my store, but I still intend to keep both endeavors going for as long as I have the time. I don't expect to get more than a few hours a month from this client, and Curio City has a lot of inertia going for it. Unless Blue Hills really takes off quickly, I am committed to running Curio City through next Christmas, at least.

When I incorporated in 2005, I became Kraken Enterprises -- plural -- thinking that I might eventually branch out, so Blue Hills fulfills a contingency that I foresaw 12 years ago. I don't know if I'll keep Kraken alive if Curio City ultimately folds. It costs $1,165 a year to keep the corporation in business and, while that structure makes sense for my store, I could save most of that money by running Blue Hills as a sole proprietorship instead. Blue Hills is a Kraken enterprise only because Kraken Enterprises already exists and it costs me nothing to add the second DBA. Curio City and Blue Hills share the same QuickBooks company file and tax return, and I can pay quarterly payroll taxes for both businesses with a single 941. It's all just Kraken Enterprises as far as the IRS is concerned. 

I'll tell you more about Blue Hills after I get that website up. I've run out of excuses to dodge that chore, so expect to see it in next week's post.  

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