Starting a Home Based Business: Stay at Home Mom Upgrades Volunteer Work into New Start-Up Business

The following is a guest post from reader Leslie, who shares her story of returning to the workforce by starting her own business in Florida. You can see more of her work at on Facebook and soon at LALGraphicDesigns.com (currently under construction).

Background

As a thirty-five year old mother of three, for the past decade I have been fully employed as a stay at home mom. When my first child was born I put my career aspirations and four year college degree aside to focus on raising our children. Before motherhood, I used to work as a graphic artist doing on-air graphics for a local TV station and a national satellite TV provider. Now that all the kids are all in school, with encouragement from friends and family, I recently started my own home based graphic art and design business. This is the story – or at least the first chapter – in a story which just began to be written about my home based business.

After “retiring” to run our household, I kept my artistic and computer skills fresh over the past several years by volunteering and providing free graphic arts services for community organizations, schools, friends and family. Samples of school T-shirt and business logo designs are copied in the margins. Although I committed my energies to raising our children, I had always wanted to run my own business. As set forth below, my contacts through our local parent teacher associations and charities have developed into business clients.

Formation and Formalities

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Entrepreneur Group Interview: Etsy.com Shop Sellers

A couple weeks ago, I was looking to interview a reader who sells on the handmade online marketplace, Etsy.com. I was surprised to get over 30 inquiries, and so I made up a short questionnaire to help better understand what it’s like to sell goods on the site. 16 shopowners responded, with folks selling everything from soap to jewelry to vintage fabric.

Here are my questions and a compilation of all their responses.

How did you get started with Etsy? When?
There was a wide range of dates given, the earliest being April 2006 and the most recent being September 2009 (The site first launched in June 2005). Most respondents indicated that they were already active in their craft area beforehand, and Etsy simply offered them a new (and often better) way to sell their goods. Competitor sites that were mentioned include eBay, Artfire, and JustBeads.

Primarily, people learned about Etsy via word-of-mouth from discussion forums, other crafters, or friends. A couple of folks mentioned magazine articles.

What is your top-selling item? Why do you think it is so popular?
I asked this because I wanted to see a good representation of popular items. Positive features mentioned included that their item appealed to a broad crowd, was priced fairly, and made a great gift idea. Below is one item from each seller, along with a link to their store (in order of e-mail response). Many sellers sell one-of-a-kind items, so the item may be sold, but you can look around for similar items. Item prices range from $2 up to around $40. I love the variety!

What is your revenue per month?

I promised to only share this information in aggregate. But my first impression was – Wow! Some people making serious money. Of course, at the other end, there are many people who are just starting out or are just treating it as a hobby. I forgot to ask if this was gross or net, but the fees are at most 10% of the gross, so it’s still very impressive.

Do you think the Etsy fee structure is fair? (20 cents non-refundable listing fee + 3.5% flat of each sale.) What would you do to improve it, or how does it change your behavior?
Interestingly, every single respondent felt that the fee structure was at least fair and reasonable. The fee can be significant, especially if you realize that it does not include PayPal transaction fees of 2.9% + 30 cents. You will notice that most items are at least $2, otherwise the Etsy/PayPal fees would kill all chance of profit.

Of course, people who really don’t like the price structure aren’t going to be Etsy sellers. However, many people noted that the fees were much cheaper than eBay. Also, selling items through a retail “brick and mortar” store or art gallery usually means giving up 30-50% of the retail price.

* Special Note: Re-listing Items
One common theme that I didn’t know about is the concept of “listing” and “re-listing”. Apparently, the search results on the Etsy site are sorted by how recently you listed the item. Therefore, there is pressure to “re-list” items regularly so that your stuff shows up higher on search results and brings more exposure. If you have 10 of one item, it is better to re-list a single item over and over as they sell. Others complain that re-listing sometimes doesn’t work properly, with items either taking a very long time to show up, or a bunch of items all showing up at once.

Is this a hobby, part-time job, or full-time job?
Most folks were split between hobbyists (sales are erratic and not required to live on) and folks who treat it as a full-time job. Most full-timers said that Etsy was a big part of their income as artisans, but not the only part.

— End of interview questions —

Most shopowners seemed very happy to talk about their products and experiences. I think part of this is that this is a labor of love that you have to really want to get into. It’s not like being a receptionist where you’re just working so that you can eat while doing your passion. This probably is your passion.

In general, there were a lot of common views with entrepreneurs from around the world. Etsy shop owners love that they see a direct relationship between hard work and results, unlike some 9-5 jobs. Customer service is important. It can take a long time to build up sales and a brand, but many see improvement each month. Networking with other Etsy sellers is very helpful.

A more specific tip would be that taking good pictures is very important. Got more questions? Leave a comment! I will let the sellers know about this post.

Wanted: Etsy Seller For Interview

I’ve recently been interested in the website Etsy.com, which is an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of handmade items (and craft supplies and vintage items). I know someone who makes some pretty cute baby clothes with hand-stitched animals on them.

For sellers, the fee schedule appears to be pretty simple. You pay a listing fee of 20 cents for each item (nonrefundable if it doesn’t sell in 4 months), plus a flat 3.5% of every sale. The average sale is about $15-$20. With over $10 million is sales each month, this can be a easy streamlined way for creative people to make some money on the side.

I’m looking for a reader who is an experienced Etsy seller to do a sort of Enterpreneur Interview-type of post. You’ll get a chance to share your story and also publicize your storefront and products. Sound fun? Contact me :)

Free Incorporation / LLC Service From MyCorporation

Update: This offer has expired, but there is a coupon code CABIN-20D good for an additional $20 off their $49 dollar LLC or Incorporation filing package. Net price under 30 bucks!

In case your plans include formalizing your business ventures, MyCorporation is offering their LLC formation and incorporation filing services for free until 1/31 with the coupon code MYFREE. You must still pay shipping fees and the filing fees charged by each state.

Free Corps & LLCs: Regular price of $149 is being waived when coupon MYFREE is used to obtain discount. Document shipping, state fees, publication fees, and additional product fees are additional. Discount valid for orders placed for a new corporation or limited liability company only. Prices subject to change without notice. Limit one discount or coupon per order. Coupon is not valid on any other product or service. You must enter/mention the coupon code at the time your order is placed. Coupon or discount is not valid on previous orders. Refunds/credits/adjustments will not be issued on prior orders.

MyCorporation is owned by Intuit, makers of TurboTax and Quicken. I view such online incorporation services as similar to TurboTax for taxes. Yes, you could fill out your 1040 tax forms manually, but it’s much easier to go through a question-and-answer software that walks you through it and explains the steps. However, if you’re talking about a huge business or something that is complex, then you should hire a professional to handle it (accountant for taxes, lawyer for incorporation).

When I formed my S-Corporation, I used one of their primary competitors LegalZoom and paid about $150 for the service – not including the state filing fees and shipping – so having it done for free seems to be a great deal. (I’m sure they’ll try to upsell you some additional services.) It was good to have someone look over the forms before submitting, while avoiding thousand of dollars of fees from a lawyer for our little venture.

The decision between staying a sole proprietor/partnership or forming an LLC/corporation is not always simple. If you’d like to dig into the details, I recommend the book LLC or Corporation? How to Choose the Right Form for Your Business from Nolo Press. I chose to go the S-Corp route primarily for the payroll tax savings.

(You can even have a LLC and chose to have it taxed as an S-Corp, as if things weren’t confusing enough!)

Entrepreneur Interview: Lester of BevShots.com

Even in these tough times, there are still plenty of motivated and passionate people taking risks and starting new businesses. One of these folks is Lester Hutt, who is the founder of BevShots.com, which takes microscopic photos of your favorite drinks and turns them into beautiful art. The piece shown above is English oatmeal stout. I know Lester through a long-time friend, and he agreed to share some of his business experiences as well as how it has affected his family’s personal finances.

What was your inspiration for Bevshots?
I was working as a business research analyst at Florida State University, and my job was to find possible business opportunities out of university research projects and patents. I came across the work of research scientist Michael Davidson, who took photographs under a microscope of a variety of items including DNA, biochemicals, and more. He also did cocktails, which he initially used for a tie collection.

I’ve never really understood abstract art, like a blue wall at a modern art museum that is supposed to express “man’s frustration with industrialization in the 20th century”. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to make a form of modern art that is affordable to the masses.

What previous experience did you find most useful in starting this new business?
For one, my time working for Apple taught me the power of good industrial design and creating a great user experience. In addition, I had just spent the last several years running every aspect of a small business, from product development to managing employees to sales.

How did you come up with the initial funding costs?
We used a combination of loans from family, personal cash reserves, and a revolving line of credit with local community bank. Thanks to my existing banking relationship from the aforementioned small business, it wasn’t difficult to secure a loan with relatively favorable terms.

How did this affect your personal finances?
It definitely affected us quite a bit. For one, we went from two incomes to having only income to support our family. We started looking for places we could cut back, including going out to eat, canceling our cable television, clothes, and travel. We’re also thinking of buying a used car as our next work vehicle.

Besides trimming expenses, we also found that we were unable to take advantage of other investment opportunities like real estate that we might have otherwise pursued. We do still maintain an emergency fund with 8 months of liquid cash. Even in a worst-case scenario for the business, we will still be okay.

More after the jump:

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Online Business Savings Accounts

Someone e-mailed me about high-yield savings accounts for businesses. These can be a helpful tool to maximize interest income for all kinds of businesses with idle cash, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLC’s, and corporations. Here’s a quick rundown of some favorites.

Capital One 360 

The Capital One 360 for Business Savings Account pays 0.40% APY and has no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees. The benefit of this savings account is that you get the “it just works” factor of Capital One 360. There are no bells and whistles, it simply pays you a good interest rate, and provides easy and fast transfers to/from your existing business checking account.

Capital One / Costco
If you can open with at least $1000 and will keep at least $100 in your savings account, you can get a slightly higher interest rate of 1.40% APY with the Business Money Market Account from Capital One Bank. The perks of this account include checkwriting ability (you are limited to 6 withdrawals per month, 3 of which can be checks) and the sign-up bonuses for Costco users. Executive members can get $60 and Gold/Business members can get $20 after you open your first account and deposit $5,000 within 30 days.

(Considering upgrading to Executive? Buy a Costco membership certificate and get over $50 in coupons.)

Fidelity Investments
For maximum flexibility, you can open a Fidelity Account for Businesses and invest in anything from a money market fund to bond mutual funds to individual stocks. (Online stock commissions range from $8 to $19.95.) You’ll need $2,500 to open, but there are no minimum balance requirements or annual account fees. Currently, money market yields in general are very low. The Fidelity Cash Reserves fund currently has a yield of 0.28%. But if you were so inclined, you could invest in Treasuries, municipal bonds, inflation-protected bonds, or even dividend stocks.

Outliers: Hard Work, Luck, and Success

Why do some people exceed far more than others? This is the question asked by the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. The short book argues that most people erroneously believe that very successful people are primarily products of a high intelligence and lots of talent. But there are many other variables out there, ranging from their date of birth, to their family’s cultural background, to sheer luck.

But the most important relationship was between hard work and luck. In the Chapter called “The 10,000 Hour Rule”, Gladwell states that it takes 10,000 hours to master a subject – be it hockey, music, or computer programming. There are no shortcuts to this.

However, Bill Gates got 10,000 hours of computer time while attending an elite private school before he even reached college in 1973, at a time when many top universities didn’t even have computer labs. Before they became famous, The Beatles ended up playing at a club in Germany for over 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. This meant they accumulated more live stage time (1,200 performances) in a couple years than most bands had in a lifetime. In other words, they both had a nice does of luck to be able to get their 10,000 hours in when very few others had the same opportunity.

At the same time, they also had the ambition and drive to actually complete those 10,000 hours. Sometimes I think that “talent” is no more than loving something so much that you don’t mind spending endless hours doing it.

So to be extraordinarily successful, you need both luck and hard work. People can interpret these stories differently. One person might say “Yup, those guys were successful because they were more lucky than I was.” and then feel better about their lives. The thing to remember is that between hard work and luck, you can control only one.

If you don’t put in the hours, there is essentially zero chance of success. If you do, then when opportunity hits, you can flourish. Gladwell connects the Chinese proverb stating “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich” to a special public school network within low-income areas that creates kids who can compete with those from private schools in wealthy suburbs.

Although I was initially afraid that this book would try to put too much emphasis on the role of luck, in the end it actually reinforced my own basic beliefs about hard work. You can’t control the cards you are dealt. All you can do is play them as best you can.

How To Be Happy With Your Work

Bud Caddell shows us how to be happy in business with a clever Venn diagram. Very insightful and concise!

Which is harder? Saying no to work that pays well, getting better at something you’re not, or learning to monetize? It was definitely tough for me to say no to something you do well and get paid good money for. I had to save up enough money first to be comfortable with getting better at something else I like better. Via Daring Fireball.

Buffett: Wealth, Estate Taxes, and the Ovarian Lottery

I’ve finished reading The Snowball, and one of the things that struck me was how Buffett thought about individual destiny, meritocracy, and wealth. For one thing, he is a wealthy person who supports an estate tax for those with very large estates (currently for those greater than $3.5 million). Here’s a glimpse of why:

Wealth is just a bunch of claim checks on the activities of others in the future. You can use that wealth in any way that you want to. You can cash it in or give away. But the idea of passing wealth from generation to generation so that hundreds of your descendants can command the resources of other people simply because they came from the right womb flies in the face of a meritocratic society.

I also connected strongly with a related concept Buffett termed the “Ovarian Lottery”.

I’ve had it so good in this world, you know. The odds were fifty-to-one against me born in the United States in 1930. I won the lottery the day I emerged from the womb by being in the United States instead of in some other country where my chances would have been way different.

Imagine there are two identical twins in the womb, both equally bright and energetic. And the genie says to them, “One of you is going to be born in the United States, and one of you is going to be born in Bangladesh. And if you wind up in Bangladesh, you will pay no taxes. What percentage of your income would you bid to be the one this is born in the United States?” It says something about the fact that society has something to do with your fate and not just your innate qualities. The people who say, “I did it all myself,” and think of themselves as Horatio Alger – believe me, they’d bid more to be in the United States than in Bangladesh. That’s the Ovarian Lottery.

He also made a comment that if born several hundred years earlier, he and Gates probably would have been some other animal’s lunch because they did not see well and could not climb trees well. I’ve had the exact same thought, as my eyesight is really horrible. If was born in the 1700s, I’d probably be considered a cripple.

This led me to a post by a Kiva Fellow working in Uganda. Kiva is the site where you can lend as little as $25 to low-income entrepreneurs.

Any one of these people could be tremendously successful in America (economically speaking). Maybe a CEO of a prominent company, or a hotshot lawyer who wears a two-thousand-dollar suit to work everyday. But they arent. And the only reason for that is because of where they were born.

[...] I won the ovarian lottery. I am a US citizen; got a good education; enjoy great health; and came equipped with a “engineer” gene that allows me to prosper in a manner disproportionate to other people who contribute as much or more to society. I’m in the top 1% of the entire population of the world.

Kiva, to me, is simply a way for those of us who drew the best tickets in the ovarian lottery to help those who drew less fortunate ones.

Something to spread a little humility. You or I may have worked hard, but that’s doesn’t mean we didn’t get a huge head start from winning the Ovarian Lottery. Would you be where you are if you grew up in a country where nobody would even teach you how to read?

FedEx Shipping Discount Code: Up to 30% Off Overnight + Permanent Discount

I received a snail-mail postcard that advertised up to 30% off certain FedEx Express shipping services, and 10% off FedEx Ground until May 31st, 2009. After that, you’ll still get either 16% or 8% off eligible services. Seems like a potentially useful offer for those with eBay businesses, online shops, or other shipping needs.

The card actually directs me to chinese.fedex.com, but the English enrollment link ends up here with code cs10578709. Available to both existing and new FedEx account holders. The fine print:

Apply now to enjoy up to a 30% discount on select FedEx Express services and a 10% discount on select FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery services, when you ship with FedEx now through May 31, 2009.

After May 31, 2009, your account’s previous discount structure, if any, in place immediately prior to joining the Choose FedEx program, will be reinstated, subject to the terms and conditions of such discount structure; if no previous discount structure existed on your account prior to enrollment in this promotion, discounts of up to 16% on eligible FedEx Express services and up to 8% on eligible FedEx Ground and eligible FedEx Home Delivery services will go into effect, subject to applicable terms and conditions.

Eligible FedEx Express services for the 30% discount: FedEx Priority Overnight®, FedEx Standard Overnight®, FedEx 2Day®, FedEx Express Saver®, FedEx International Priority®, FedEx International Economy®, FedEx 1Day® Freight, FedEx 2Day® Freight, FedEx 3Day® Freight, FedEx International Priority® Freight, FedEx International Economy®Freight

Eligible FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery services for the 10% discount: All FedEx Ground, and FedEx Home Delivery, single piece shipments.

FaceBook Advertising Coupon Codes: Free $300+ In Ads

If you have a website that you would like to promote, there are several coupon codes out there that can get you a free $200+ in credit towards Facebook Ads (update: codes are expired). In addition, if you join the Visa Business Network and install application, they’ll kick in another $100 (still available). Via this SlickDeals thread.

You’ll need a credit card to sign up, but it shouldn’t be charged until after you use up all your credits. Watch the expiration dates, and set your ad budgets wisely. Facebook ads are pretty low-converting from what I’ve heard, but at least this way you can test for free.

Entrepreneur Interview: Maury of PennyPortrait.com

Today, I wanted to share an interview involving a unique website business thought up, constructed by, and maintained primarily by just one person. Maury is a long-time MMB reader and e-mailed me recently about his new venture – PennyPortrait.com. There, you can purchase a kit that allows you to create a portrait of Abraham Lincoln solely out of differently-shaded pennies:

Each kit includes a poster of Abe Lincoln made from images of actual pennies. The poster is suitable for framing as is, but with a little effort, some glue, and 846 of your own pennies, you can have a unique work of art that truly shines. (No, really… it shines!)

Here’s the interview:

Where did you get the idea or inspiration?
I read an article online about a father and son who created a giant portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies. Their image was 24″ x 36″ and they used two shades of pennies. I thought other parents and kids might enjoy a project like this and went about trying to create an improved, easier to assemble version on my computer. Using four shades of pennies, I was able to decrease the size of the image to 18″ x 24″ (846 pennies) which seemed a bit more
manageable.

Did you set up the website yourself? Do you have previous experience in this area?
I have a background as a graphic designer, but had only created a handful of small sites previously. The trick was to use one of the various free CSS templates available on the web and go from there. For example, the Penny Portrait site is based on this free template. Using a free CSS template allows you to create an impressive site in short order. Some of the graphic
elements took a little bit longer, but the layout was a snap.

Is this your first side business?
This is my first retail business of any kind. I’ve had a lot of experience with service businesses (animator/designer/consultant), but I’d never actually sold anything tangible before. Part of the reason I wanted to do this project was to learn how a retail business works with inventory,
suppliers, sales tax, credit card processing etc. It has been extremely educational from that standpoint.

Who sorts the pennies? Are you using child labor? (You could fund your child’s IRA this way…)
I just sell the kits, so customers are responsible for supplying and sorting their own pennies to glue on the poster. I had considered selling completed portraits, but I think the real satisfaction with something like this is to have something on the wall you created yourself. (That and shipping all those pennies could get expensive!) The sorting part is surprisingly easy if you have a bunch of pennies to start off with. I was able to sort enough pennies watching TV one night for at least two portraits. As far as funding my kid’s IRA, I toyed with the idea of paying him a “talent” fee to be included in the photos, but thought I’d better not push my luck with the IRS – He is only eleven months old.
(My mistake, the buyers provide the pennies. That’s much better!)

Do you construct the kits yourself, or are they put together by a third party?
I have a little assembly line in a spare room where my wife and I put the kits together ourselves. Each tube holds a poster, a booklet with fun facts about Lincoln and coin collecting, an assembly guide and a pouch with a 1943 Steel Penny. At this point, other than marketing, that is really the only time consuming part of our business.

How did you decide on pricing, and not making it too high or too low?
Pricing was one of the toughest decisions to make. I talked to a number of people including retailers to get a general idea. It is a unique product with no competition, so I’m not forced into competing on price – which is nice. My competition ends up being other unique products you can buy for about the same amount. One thing I learned is that brick and mortar resellers of your product typically use “keystone” pricing. This means that retailers expect you to sell them products at 50% off the suggested retail price. So if the suggested retail price is $20, a retailer will want to buy them from you for $10. This only applies to bulk orders, but my suggested retail price needed to be high enough that I could still make a little profit through traditional retail channels in addition to e-commerce.

What other difficult decisions have you had to make?
The toughest decision was how many poster to purchase initially. I wanted a high quality product, so didn’t want to skimp on printing or materials, but printing can be quite expensive. There are online places like PSPrint.com, which will print posters for you at great prices, but the paper quality is lower and when you include shipping, the savings disappear. I ended up going with a respected local printer to avoid shipping costs and to oversee the quality of the product. The trick with printing a poster this size is the initial setup fee is about $1,000 whether you print one poster or one thousand. My fun little “learn about e-commerce” project suddenly got expensive! Of course, the more you order, the cheaper it is, but it was
nearly impossible to guess initially what the demand for a product like this would be.

Another tough decision involved shipping tubes. I really liked the way my product looked in a clear tube, but the cheapest supplier of clear tubes charged $1.40 per tube and had a minimum order of 500 units. Cardboard tubes cost about half that and I could order just a few at a time. I ended up breaking down and ordering 500 clear tubes, but am using those strictly
for retail. Online orders I ship in the more durable white cardboard tubes. It was a tough decision at the time because $700 is a pretty big upfront expense for shipping tubes! (Not to mention I have a garage full of them.) This is one situation where my design sense vetoed my business sense. We’ll see how it works out.

How many hours a week do you spend on this project?
I would guess we spend about 5-10 hours a week on it at the moment. I have a full time job, so I mainly work on this in the evenings or on weekends. At this point, it is simply a matter of assembling the kits, and shipping them out as we get orders. My wife recently left her job to stay at home with our first child, so she is a big help in this regard. The only other thing that takes time is marketing. I’ve found that sales are directly proportional to how much effort we put into marketing. My wife does a lot with marketing as well.

What forms of advertising are you pursuing?
We use Google Adwords which is absolutely fascinating. It allows you to run variations of ads and use different keywords to generate targeted, effective ad campaigns. Google has shown my ads thousands of times and provided me with valuable feedback on who my target market really is. At the end of the day, it is a great business model because their interests are perfectly aligned with yours. They only make money when people click on ads, so it is in their best interest to make sure your ads appear where they will be clicked. I have an advertising degree, and one of the things that stuck with me all these years is that by simply adding the words “free” or “new” to an ad will cause it to drastically improve results. I tried this theory out in Adwords, and sure enough those ad variations were my most effective. Google
Analytics has also helped me in seeing what parts of the site people visit after they hit my homepage. I’ve been so impressed by Google I actually broke my rule of only buying index funds and picked up a little GOOG after the recent market crash.

In addition to Adwords, I’ve also had success advertising in various online forums. For example, I will hop onto a coin collecting message forum and give a free kit to anyone who guesses a number I’ve chosen between 1 and 100. I end up giving away a free kit, but I typically get about 50 potential customers to look at my product and even comment on it! It has been useful as a marketing tool and also for improving my product based on comments.

Oddly, one of the most successful forms of advertising I had nothing to do with! Someone submitted my site to “Stumbleupon” and it immediately received over 1000 hits. Stumbleupon is a very cool social networking application where users give a “thumbs up” to sites they find interesting or entertaining. By installing the Stumbleupon toolbar, you can rate sites you visit or click on “stumble” to have it take you to random sites others with your same interests rated highly. I was pleased to see so many people liked my site.

What other backend tools and/or third-party systems do you use?
I use E-junkie for my shopping cart system and have been blown away by the product and support. It costs me $5 a month for a polished shopping cart system that works flawlessly. I even contacted them about a unique problem I had (Texas charges taxes on shipping & handling, many states don’t) and they were nice enough to add that ability to their system. They also have a simpler version they provide for free if you don’t need certain features.

I went with Google Checkout for the payment processor for a couple of reasons. It was really easy to setup and was cheaper than PayPal. I was worried with PayPal that people would think they needed a PayPal account when in fact, all they need is a credit card. Google charges me 2% of the purchase price + .20 cents per transaction. So I pay Google .60 for every 20 transaction which is reasonable. They have a complete system you log into that makes billing and shipping a snap. The final reason for using Google Checkout was that when I spend money via Google Adwords, they kick me back a portion of what I spend on advertising in the form of free transactions. So if I spend $50 on Adwords in a month, Google will process
$500 worth of transactions free for me that month. PayPal and other merchant processors couldn’t compete with that.

Great. So how’s business?
Business is going well! We’ve sold over 100 kits so far and are really just learning how to advertise via the internet. This week, for example, we are exploring marketing via Amazon and Yahoo in addition to Google. We are also looking at the possibility of getting in some retail catalogs and have been working with local toy and coin shops who are now stocking the product. It’s very satisfying whenever an order pops up in my inbox.

Has your businesss been affected by the economic slowdown, or is it too early to tell?
The product is pretty unique, so I think for the people who want it, the price is not prohibitive. My main problem is making sure people know my product exists! It really doesn’t fit into a traditional product category which makes it a bit tricky to advertise. As the product just launched, I’m going to miss some Christmas opportunities (e.g. catalogs and retailers) but I’m hoping 2009 will be a good year for this product. There will be four new penny designs released next year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the penny and Spielberg is also making an Abe Lincoln movie starring Liam Neeson. I’m hoping these events might generate some interest in pennies and Abe Lincoln. They certainly can’t hurt!

– End of interview –

Recap
I want to thank Maury for letting me pick his brain and see into the “nuts and bolts” behind PennyPortrait.com. I think there are a lot of us (me included) that have had their own niche ideas but haven’t gotten over the hump to making it happen, and I think he showed us some practical tools and tips to help us along.

Look for a giveaway of these neat kits soon. If you can’t wait, you can get $5 off using the coupon code “MyMoneyBlog” (I get nothing). If you have any further questions for Maury, please leave a comment below. If you’re an entrepreneur with a unique story and would like to be interviewed here as well, please feel free to contact me.

Past Entrepreneur Interviews: