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, April 28, 2017

The Last of the Real Clean Numbers

This will be the last month that QuickBooks gives me good year-over-year numbers. Because there was no "Curio City" class LY, I can only get numbers for Kraken Enterprises as a whole until next February, when the separate classes came into being. As soon as Blue Hills revenue starts coming in, general Kraken numbers will be ridiculously skewed -- I expect Blue Hills to book five figures in May. From an accounting standpoint, the two companies are not remotely similar. Whereas >90% of Curio City's revenue goes to costs, 90% of Blue Hills income will go to payroll.  

Does that make you wonder why I still even bother with Curio City? There are a lot of reasons. None of them are very convincing alone, but taken together they make a good case for Curio City's continued existence...for now. For one thing, Curio City reliably delivers at least a small paycheck every other week. Even though Blue Hills formally launched in February, it hasn't actually landed a single dime yet, and it's going to remain erratic for at least the next several months. That five-figure project that I alluded to above was a one-time thing that might or might not be repeated next spring. But this is grist for another post.


Total income: +10.9%
Total COGS: +11.2%
Payroll: -23.6%
Marketing: -49.9%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +699% (+$630)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$540

2017 YTD

Total income: +0.6%
Total COGS: +2.2%
Payroll: -54.9%
Marketing: -44.6%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +109.8% (+$2,120)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$189

An  unexpectedly good week made this an unexpectedly good month, considering that I pay little attention to Curio City beyond simply filling orders. Tuesday alone was better than most days in last December. As far as Excel is concerned, the YTD is actually running $43 ahead of LY (for once, QuickBooks' $72 gain is more optimistic). This was the sixth-best (seventh-worst) April ever, and another $73 in the next day and a half would bump it to fifth-best.

Last Tuesday I got a flurry of Metal Earth orders amounting to $182, almost all of them for Star Wars models. As I've lamented over and over, Metal Earth never sells outside of Christmas. A cluster like that means that there's got to be a random act of media involved. One customer used the "how did you find us?" pulldown to say "You were linked in a blog post or online article," while another one said "Searching for something on Google." IDK if a post about Metal Earth sent people running to Google, or if it directly linked to my store. My best guess is that it was a Star Wars fan site.  

Also, Dove kites started to move this week, so I presume the Christians are having another holiday -- Pentecost, maybe?

May should come in more-or-less flat to LY. I just signed my first contract for ongoing work as Blue Hills, so I expect more writing work next month, and I know there's at least one editing job coming.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fidgety Trends

A few weeks ago my nephew asked if Curio City had thought about selling fidget toys. It was the first I'd heard of them. Apparently they're the current rage among brainier Millennials and their children, the Marshmallows. Some people claim that they are therapeutic for some autistic types, and there might be something to that. Last Saturday they even garnered a Boston Globe story -- the kind of mainstream media attention that usually means that a trend is peaking or on its way out.

Some of my best-selling products over the years were recommended by people I know, so I always take their suggestions seriously. Googling "fidget toys" turns up a huge range of sizes, shapes, and materials selling for $5 up to $40 or more. These odd assemblages of gears, buttons, ball bearings, and switches that don't do anything are being sold everywhere right now. I don't know how to tell a "good" fidget from a "bad" fidget; wholesalers' descriptions generally provide little to no detail. One of my existing vendors is hawking some cheap ones, so it would be easy enough to test demand. If I had any cash on hand I'd place a few small orders with a few different vendors to figure out what my customers do and don't like (or if indeed I have any customers for these). Then I'd buy bigtime for Christmas when I think I've nailed the market. Since the fad is either cresting or still rising right now, selling the test orders is a reasonably safe bet. 


Fidget spinners and cubes violate most of the guidelines that define a Curio City product. They aren't useful, leaving aside the dubious claims about their therapeutic value. As a ubiquitous trend, they aren't unusual; I'd be competing with Walmart, Amazon, and eBay, among others. If you buy one, you're unlikely to "need" another, so they'd generate little to no repeat business. The cheap ones look breakable and, well, cheap. At a $10 retail, they wouldn't bring in much money. The target demographic (Millennials and below) skews lower than my usual customer base (Gen-Xers and above). There aren't any batteries to expire, but fads are time-limited by nature, and this is the greatest unknown -- is this a six-month fad or a three-year fad? These are all warning bells.

Mostly, though, instead of cash on hand I have a mountain of debt. So I really can't afford to experiment. Sorry, Aaron. You did motivate me to look for my old 1970s-vintage worry stone, though. I know I still have that somewhere.  

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