Humble Beginnings

If you’re familiar with Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk, Head of VaynerMedia), then you have probably seen one of his numerous social media productions called Trash Talk. It’s a series of videos about Gary running around town on a Saturday morning and checking out garage sales. Now, if you know anything about Gary, you know he’s one of those people you could drop off at any street corner in any city with empty pockets and he would end up owning a business by the end of the month and making a comfortable living. He just does it. It’s in his nature. So, he hits up these garage sales and he knows what to look for.

He has an eye for rough market value and trendy items and, more importantly, he does his research. On one trip, he found a collection of Olympic pins. The seller wanted a dollar each. Gary offered him twenty bucks for the set. The seller took it. When Gary went back to his car, he had over two hundred and forty pins and he ended up selling them, individually or in small sets, for a total of several hundred dollars. He bought a box of matchbox cars the same day for forty bucks, researched them online, and sold them individually or in small sets for a total of over a thousand dollars.

A Few Items which Tend to Do Well

  • expensive text books
  • name brand sneakers, NIB (new in box)
  • certain collectible toys and plush dolls, in great shape, better with original tags
  • name brand watches, NIB

These are examples of some of the mark down items you may want to seek out for resale. The idea is simple. You are taking marked down items from a local market and placing them on a global market for a higher price, where there is a much larger audience and more of a likelihood that someone will pay your price for it.

Now, Gary Vee doesn’t need to be doing this for income. He has already built quite the empire and substantial wealth. He does Trash Talk for the same reason he does all his social media. He is always trying to help people understand that building a business can be done from scratch if you just get up and do it, if you just do the research and dig in and make it happen. And his basic tenants are that you build a brand and everything else is built around it. Build a good brand, reputable, reliable, honest and understand that you work for your employees, not the other way around. You are there to give your employees everything they need to their job and they will take care of your business for you. It sounds fresh and simple, but if you live it like Gary lives it, you can really see the results. I mean, check out Gary Vaynerchuk. You’ll see what I mean.

So, What’s the Point?

Having said all this, I come to say: It appears a certain portion of Gary’s followers have followed Gary’s Trash Talk idea and extended it to their own purposes in their own territories. You should see the number of YouTube videos there are out there of people with Bluetooth bar code scanners connected to their phone out there scanning merchandise in any kind of store from GoodWill to Ross’ (Dress for Less) and Target, Belk’s and J.C. Penny. They wander through the aisles with bar code scanner and bar code scanning rings, hooked wirelessly to their phones, and checking the results in anhy of a number of apps designed to let them know what that items is currently selling for on Amazon. Closeout on on Nike’s in Wal-Mart? A quick scan will let you know whether to go grab a shopping cart and fill it with boxes and head to the check out. And, yes, they do it with books.

There are folks who do their own fulfillment and others who pay Amazon for fulfillment and ship all their product off to them. Be careful if you pay a third-party like Amazon or anyone else to do fulfillment. If your product doesn’t sell fast enough, you are left with storage fees which could eat any potential profits.

Be Aware…

That amazing array of unique coffee mugs you acquired from years of estate and garage sale hunting? You may have some winners in there but don’t let that inventory sit if it doesn’t sell. It will cost you. Make wise choices. Do your research. Know that what is selling right now may be a dead item six or even three months from now. Expensive text books tend to be profitable. Trade paperbacks are typically not.

At any rate, I mention it here just to let you know: It is one more of the myriad of means by which people make ends meet. It can be fun. It can be risky. It can be quite profitable. And it can break you bank if you don’t pay attention. So, it’s basically just like any other entrepreneurial experience.

Have a great weekend and, as always, keep the momentum.

#keepthemomentum

Finding Books for Retail

It’s been about eight months since Baker & Taylor announced they would no longer be providing wholesale distribution of books to retailers. Ingram Books is the only remaining major wholesale book distributor. Yesterday, I received an email inviting me to The Bookshop. I haven’t thoroughly checked it out, but it’s apparently a new wholesale book distributor, opening on January 28th, with a prerequisite of having a membership with the American Book Association. (Edit: It turns out The Bookshop is in conjunction with Ingram books and the A.B.A. membership is optional, but membership gives the bookstore 25% of the sales it makes versus 10% without it.)

That required A.B.A. membership will set one back two or three hundred dollars (dependent upon the level of membership) so, no small consideration for the average small business bookstore, however, membership has its privileges. There are many benefits to a retail bookstore for having a membership with A.B.A. including discounts for insurance and other things a store would typically use. Having said that, one could also use Ingram books as a distributor with no such membership requirement. Depending on the type of bookstore one has, they could even go directly to publishers. Many specialty stores do exactly that.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I initially thought there may have been another competitor in the running, something to keep Ingram Books from being the only major distributor out there. As it turns out, it’s another Ingram option for booksellers just getting started or already established and looking for alternative venues for book selling.

All very interesting! I will post an update when I find more information on the launch and how everything goes. In the mean time, there are always new ways to get into the booksellers field and less of an excuse for anyone pondering it. Always do your research, find out what’s best for you and get started on your journey. Keep the momentum!

Hustler vs. Hassler

Marketing and branding and advertising are all hard to get right and we don’t get them right when we first start out. It’s practically impossible because determining whether we get it “right” depends on feedback and results from our earlier efforts. Hell. Quite a few of us can’t even define a distinction between marketing, branding, and advertising. (There is a difference.)

But what’s on my mind at the moment is a equally important distinction: The difference between the Hustler and the Hassler.

First, what’s a hustler? There are plenty of perceptions of a hustler. It’s someone who gets up early and works hard, works late, and makes thing happen through sheer effort and motivation. Alternately, it’s someone who shirks “real” work to try to con other decent, hard working people out of their own hard-earned money through questionable and downright despicable methods. Which one of these is correct?

I don’t know that either of these descriptions is correct but I know their is enough of a disparity in the conception and use of the term “hustler” to make it inaccurate and unusable in most discussions. I once, years ago, described someone I met as a hustler because they were working hard and getting bills paid. I meant it as a compliment. They were slightly offended and let me know right away they were legitimate and a completely upright business. That little discussion was an example of the different perceptions of the term “hustler”.

So, while I used to think of a hustler as someone in a positive light, I now keep it open-ended when I hear the term in a conversation, until I know more about the speaker’s interpretation of the word. Honesty, there’s no telling where a comment is going until they clarify it with some form of compliment or disparaging word about their subject. The English language is funny like that in a lot of situations. Something can be “cool” and “hot” at the same time. Something that is amazing is “sick”. You know…the slang that makes people like me sound like an old man when we talk about it.

So, while I keep hustlers and hustling open-ended, I will say there is a third category with a more distinct meaning to everyone. A hassler is someone who tries to be a hustler but is just spinning their wheels and annoying people. Hasslers like to talk a lot and may believe they are making a difference to their prospective client and their bottom line, but has no actual idea of any real effect of their efforts.

A hustler, whether they be upright or scandalous, still manages to get things done. A hassler is simply turning a crank handle which isn’t attached to anything. They make a lot of noise, which people try to block out.

I say all that to say this: is your marketing targeted? Are you reaching those targeted people with a specific message? Are you running at least two or more campaigns to see which one works better…and then ditching the low one and replacing it with a third one to compare to the winner…and then repeating the process…continually?

You want to know your message is effective. You need feedback. Feedback, by the way, is NOT your friends or your mom telling you you’re doing great. You need actual analytics to act upon with your marketing and advertising. These are easily obtainable, and often free, depending on the form of online advertising you’re doing.

Make sure your message is reaching your intended audience. Make sure your message is clear and precise and specific. Get your clients interested by association and by relating to them. Make it local. Get feedback. Build on your positives. Cut back the negatives.

Be a hustler, not a hassler.

Keep the momentum.

Considering Arbitrage (Fancy Word for Selling Used Stuff)

So, the new year is just about 4% over and what have you done so far?

I’ve spent a good bit of my Sunday afternoon looking into the intricacies and pros and cons of being an Amazon Pro seller. Of course, I have been doing all of my research on the second largest search engine in the world: YouTube.

Oh, so many options!

Now, I am NOT going to make this a post where I try to teach you how to get started in Amazon reselling or how to create a Pro seller account, or anything of the sort. There are plenty of good YouTube videos for that. I’m just letting you in on a little bit of my personal thought process.

So, if I understand correctly, there are

  • monthly seller fees (~$40 per month)
  • additional per-item selling fees (a few bucks, depending on the item)
  • optional third-party app fees (~$40 per month)
  • the cost of a hand-held BlueTooth scanner (optional, about $50)
  • packaging and shipping costs
  • and, of course, the wholesale cost of the product)

Again, the third-party app fees are optional but they apparently can make short work of the otherwise pressing decision as to whether an item is a worthwhile economic investment. It checks Amazon to see how many of that item are for sale and what the prices are and does some additional calculations to consider fees and shipping so it even calculates whether it would be profitable for you to invest in the product.

I just don’t know…

I believe, if I wasn’t already working a full-time job and had time to commit to going out every day and searching for product, well…I’m still not sure it would be sustainable for me even then. LOL I suppose it would depend on the items I found to sell.

Again, I am not experienced in this process and I’m not trying to convince anyone out there into trying it, or into shunning it. I am just not convinced it would be the right solution for me. Apparently, there are people making good money at it, and I commend them for their effort. At the moment, I am going to sustain a wait-and-see attitude towards this.

One more third-party app…

There are even further third-party apps which will re-price all of your existing merchandise several times a day depending on what other sellers are selling and the prices they charge, all in an effort to be constantly competitive. When you consider there are other sellers out there using the same services to automatically re-price their inventory, I imagine it’s kind of like vetting the A.I. against itself in a huge war game for a race to the bottom, price-wise, kept reasonable only by the sellers who refrain from using the third-party apps and manually price their products. If it weren’t for that, pricing may get quite scary for sellers.

Aaaand, we’ll see…

I would love to be competitive on Amazon. With all the stories of under-priced bootleg books from pirate publishing houses and other stories about…well, that’s a whole other blog post…I think I need to really know my stuff before I delve into it. I need to do my research. Does anyone out there have any experience in the realm of Amazon Pro selling? Let me know what you think!

As always…Keep the momentum!

Row books and white background. 3d illustration

Why Aren’t You Reading?

I made beef stew last night. It is thick and warm and hearty. I made a fresh pot of coffee and found a day-old loaf of olive bread for ninety nine cents. I just had a bowl of stew, a chunk of bread and a mug of coffee. We are set up in the living room with our books and our laptops and a fire in the fireplace. We can watch the snow melting on the lawn with the security cameras. Life is good.

This morning is perfect for reading…or writing…or both. But little distractions can wheedle away at my time. I’ve made sure the dogs have been fed and let outside for their morning breather. I’ve cleaned up the dishes and stoked the fire. Now, the television and the radio are off, my coffee is refreshed, and I’m down to the business of reading. Yes, it’s a pleasure, a luxury, AND a necessity for our modern life, but sometimes I need a little push.

I have to physically and mentally prepare for the hours ahead spent absorbing amazing stories and plot twists and facts and news articles and such. I have to consciously and purposely eradicate as many potential distractions as I can. It’s the difference between getting it done and just dabbing around the edges of what I intended to do.

It’s a pleasant thought that we can have a leisure-filled morning, but it’s far less likely if we don’t make an effort and prepare for it in advance. Help achieve your goals by preparing in advance to achieve your goals. Get rid of those upcoming distractions. Put the phone on a charger in another room. Turn off the television. Get some needed chores out of the way first. Make it happen.

You have books to read.

Keep the momentum.

I’m in Paradise!

I truly am. I’m in a Paradise Bakery in Dallas at the moment with a coffee and my favorite proprietary Paradise muffin: The Mandarin Orange muffin.

Alright. Apologies for the clickbait title. Technically, it’s true…and it is a damn good muffin.

The purpose of this post is to tell you of an opportunity for World Market members. If you are a World Market member and have not checked your email yet today (I really am limiting my readership for this post, aren’t I?) then you need to catch up and run down to your local World Market for a free cookbook.

I made the trip to pick up a couple items and also redeem what I figured would be a pamphlet-style publication but turned out to be an actual hardcover book with some actual hardcore favorite recipes. It is the Original GreenPan Everyday Healthy: 40 Family Recipes.

The four categories in this GreenPan cookbook are Soups & Sides, Pasta & Rice, Maine, and Desserts. An example of some of the sturdy and delicious concoctions are fennel and bacon soup, spinach and feta pie, and strawberry rhubarb compote. They have pasta carbonara, veggie chili, chicken curry, zucchini quesadillas, and ratatouille. Top it off with zabaione, cheesecake or lemon tarts, or any of the other amazing, simple and hearty recipes and you will not want for anything but a nap.

Anyway, it’s today only! If you have a World Market near you, check’em our.

Keep the momentum!

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

I’m reading The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell, a conglomeration or anecdotes and adages about bookstores and their owners. Each of the stories averages two a couple pages but they are all quaint and entertaining. The content of this book meets or exceeds the minimum criteria for quaint bookstore anecdotes which make the reader want to get out and visit their local bookstore.

Within this book is the explanation of the origin of the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

If that isn’t enough to make you want to read the his book, I don’t know what will. Seriously, though, it’s just a plethora of peeks and previews of little book shops, mainly in Europe, but all over the globe. You will imagine yourself with a croissant and an Americano in a street side cafe across from the independent book shoppe where you just purchased the copy. (I used the classic olde English spelling to add to the already supersaturated quaintness up to which I’m trying to build.)

Its like watching You’ve Got Mail bundled up on your couch with snow on the window and a hot chocolate and a puppy on your lap. Yeah. Just about like that.

Ok, I’m going to leave you with that. I need to get out and pick up a few items today. I’m braving the quarter inch of snow we received here in Texas which melted when it hit the sidewalk. Only the flakes agile and smart enough to land on the grass was able to survive. Tomorrow, it will be nearly seventy once more. ‘Gotta love Texas.

The Birthday Bash!

My wife had her birthday celebration a couple days ago. I took the day off. We started with homemade waffles. We went to a neighborhood nail spa and got her a mani-pedi. We went to see Jojo Rabbit, an award-winning movie with an amazing cast. I fixed a seasoned steak dinner with baked potato. The steaks were seasoned hours before and grilled medium rare. I got two slices of her favorite Italian cream cake from our favorite local pizzeria. It’s a good thing her birthday comes only once a year.

Got Some Books for Me!

Someone in the bookstore owners group recommended a title for book retailers wanting to operate pop up stores and I had to check it out. I found a couple more titles along the way which pertain to pricing and the economics of owning a bookstore. The book industry has been a trade of narrow margins. I want to read up and lean on the experience of others to reduce the number of mistakes I need to make on my own.

If anyone out there has ever mustered their resources and opened a retail shop successfully, be sure to toss out some tips in the comments.

In the world of book selling, as in a lot of the retail world, I suppose…people tend to wander in to book shops, browse through books to find what they like, and then take out their phone right there on the spot and order it cheaper from Amazon. Many modern bookstores stay afloat by offering food and coffee at a decent markup to help stay afloat. Books alone don’t always cut it in a world with Amazon.

Its a mixed bag online, though. There are authors selling their own titles on Amazon and then there are pirates selling bootleg copies of popular titles at a cost less than they could purchase it from the publisher, and at reduced quality as well. The press reported Amazon was under investigation for allowing so many of its sellers to market bootleg books.

I realize its hard for a company the size of Amazon to regulate what their sellers do, but its also hard on the writers and publishers and distributors and retailers already trying to make a living by selling the legitimate books. If you ever bought a new book online for a great deal and received it in the mail and noticed the print seemed slightly blurry, or the glue in the binding began to come loose after a while, or there were more than a sparse handful of typos and grammatical and spelling errors, you may have a bootleg book. Sometimes the paper quality is thinner or not as bright as what you remember from the copy you held in the store. Sometimes it may have a peculiar chemical smell when you flip through the pages, or the ink may actually rub off onto your hands as you read. These are some signs of a fly-by-night pirate press.

Well, I may have gone off on a tangent, but its something I believe bears saying from time to time. It’s a great bane to the real book industry out there, much like pirate copies of movies hurt Hollywood and bootleg copies of music has kept income from the coffers of musical artists. Anyway, enough of that.

I bought three books and they should be arriving tomorrow. The plan is to study up and then design and develop a good pop up venue I can use all around town in various retail environments.

I’m also looking into paper bags, the ones with the little cord handles, and a means of printing my logo on them. I’m probably going to end up with a stamping machine or an embosser and doing it myself. It’s more affordable than purchasing custom printed bags (unless you’re buying in mass, bulk quantities, of course).

Alright. Enough for now. I have to get up and running. It’s a new day and I have stuff to do.

I made it to lunch!

Oh, the first real day back after the holidays is always the hardest. All the traffic and workflow and business is all back in full swing. I suppose it is the epitome of idiocy to complain about having lots of business, right? Always grateful for business.

I hope all of you are bolstering up for the new year and making it into the next big year for you and yours. Its always done one month, one week, one day, one hour at a time. Get to it!

Keep the momentum.

Turkey sandwich for lunch. I’m being good!

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