In the spirit of the Open Source software movement, I'm sharing my learning as an e-commerce entrepreneur. 2008 was an incredible year for ModernTribe.com and No Limit Texas Dreidel. Our first full year in operation was filled with triumphs, mistakes and exponential learning. Here are some of the best & worst, biggest flubs and greatest wins of 2008:
Best Marketing ROI (return on investment):
Direct mailing of postcards to media resulting in editorial in the Los Angeles Times, B'nai B'rith Magazine, and more. Approximate Cost: $500. Estimated ROI 5-10x!
Most Exciting Unexpected Editorial:
Inclusion in Newsweek's holiday gift guide which we found out about through a customer. We didn't believe him and then he scanned in the page and emailed it to us.
Biggest Advertising Disappointments:
With the sad closing of Jewish Living Magazine we lost our banner ad, some great editorial links, and an editorial feature of our Stainless Steel Scroll Menorah. Also, the Google Jump Start program conducted during Passover was a blood bath: our $116 average purchase cost us $93 (that means each $46 gross profit, cost us $163 to generate -- ouch!)
Best Buying Decision:
Listening to a product rep and stocking the best sellers from the line including the Jumbo Glitter Crystal Balls.
Biggest Supplier Nightmare:
Selling 80 Peace Sign Menorahs over the weekend and then finding out our order from the manufacturer wasn't coming.
Biggest Buying Mistake:
Not paying attention to an invoice and missing that an artist increased his wholesale price 40%. (The dollar's weakness against the shekel was part of the reason why). I'd set and advertised the retail price, based on the original wholesale price.
Biggest Manufacturing Triumph:
When the No Limit Texas Dreidel games were late, insisting that a small amount be air shipped to fulfill a large customer's order.
Second Biggest Manufacturing Triumph:
Games arrived in pretty good condition, pretty much as specified, and late but early enough not to miss the season. (In manufacturing, this mediocre result is a triumph).
Biggest Manufacturing Mistake:
Failing to get a detailed, complete price quote in writing resulting in us paying $1400 for production molds we had understood were part of the per piece price.
Biggest Heart Attack Moment:
Getting a call from "The View" and then finding out they were looking for one of our suppliers, not us.
Biggest Heart Attack Moment II:
Getting a call from NPR and finding out they were looking for us!
Erica with her complimentary skills and geographic desirability became a business partner after getting a gift from ModernTribe.com from her mother.
Best Unofficial (and Unpaid) Business Partners To Whom ModernTribe Owes Big Thanks:
My husband Webb contributes his smarts and talents to nearly every aspect of the business. Todd, Erica's husband, manages our intellectual property. Jill, Jeremy's wife, edits and contributes to the blog (and just started her own editing/writing business). Mike Weiser and Beth Shapiro of Donner, Weiser and Associates provide excellent accounting services and advice. Brian gives his opinions freely about our ads, influenced our design direction considerably and gave us the lead for the Time Out New York editorial that lead to one of our biggest sellers of the season: Mix Tape USB Stick. Meredith Jacobs included No Limit Texas Dreidel in her TV show on The Jewish Channel, named for her book and her website: Modern Jewish Mom, and talked about us on DC radio. Lauren is always looking out for PR opportunities for us and introduced me to HARO, my favorite PR tool. Christy hooked us up with two Pittsburgh retailers who sold No Limit Texas Dreidel. My mom, our loyal customers, and many others have helped make 2008 a success for ModernTribe. To all of you, my most sincere thank you!