- Dec 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm #1811793
Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
I kind of disagree that your website has to look super professional, and I'm a professional web developer. I have purchased lots of products from some of the ugliest websites out there, mostly because they were unusual, cottage-industry products. Websites with rainbow colors and fonts, the tacky spinning animated gif mailboxes and rotating stars. Stuff like that. The key was that it was a homemade product I was buying. Sometimes if a website looks too professional but the product is supposed to be homemade, the vibe is all wrong. I'd say your site can definitely use some improvement, but it doesn't have to look any better than say, Jacks R Better's website . (Not that his is the ugly one I was referring to. Those were from musical instrument and pet clothing companies.)Dec 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm #1811795
"Naming a business / website is a tough one."
Yes. You need to jump back and forth between your locality's fictitious business name registry and a domain name search on the Internet. Of course, you don't really have to have your own domain name if you are simply a garage shop operation. On the other hand, it does add quite an air of professionalism, and it tends to work better for search engines. So, you almost have to try to decide, in advance, how you want to appear a year or two or three down the road. This is where the business plan comes it, as somebody mentioned earlier. Whether it is a relative that is loaning you $100 or a venture capital firm that is investing $100M, they want to see a plan. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it does need to be realistic.
–B.G.–Dec 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm #1811797
drowning in spamMember
There's no need to get the website name locked down right now. Multiple domain names could be purchased. They could all mirror the same information, forward to a single domain, or only one of them can be active while the rest are held so that no one else can use/abuse it. It does burn extra money though, so you have to decide if it's worth it to bleed more money while getting your business going.Dec 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm #1811805
Cayenne RedmonkBPL Member
@redmonkLocale: Greater California Ecosystem
The actual domain name is not important.
Most of your traffic will come from search engines, the important thing is that people searching for alter ego backpacking gear find your site.Dec 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm #1811807
Ken HelwigBPL Member
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
William, keep up the great work. There will be many of us out there willing to look and possibly buy your gear. Kudos to you for taking the leap. Don't get discouraged as the hard work is still to come
Actually William, if I can be a tad critical. You might want a different type of a website. What you have is for blogs and really won't work with what you are doing. Try to invest a little money and time or hire someone that can make a page for you.
BTW, your packs look greatDec 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm #1811808
Dan DurstonBPL Member
The bummer with changing domain names is that you can spend years building up credibility for one domain (ie. getting links to it, establishing a track record of key indicators) so that it ranks well in search engines. If after 5 years you realize that you should have chosen a better name to begin with, then you'll take a huge hit in the search engine rankings if you switch, which can mean a huge loss in customers if people are finding you through search engines. Even if you registered the other name at the same time, the real URL that you are actually using is going to establish much more of a reputation than the one that is sitting there as a re-direct.
I'm actually in this boat now myself. I started a website for fun about 3 years ago where I was writing articles on a certain topic as a hobby. It was just for fun, so I wasn't too concerned that my website used basically the same name & URL as another website. I knew about the other website (.com) when I registered my domain name (.net) but I didn't think much of it because the other site was terrible (no attention paid to it in years, virtually no traffic) and my site was just a non-profit hobby.
Fast forward a few years and my site has really taken off. After 2 years of creating content for fun and getting a lot of traffic, I decided to get some advertising on it just to pay for the hosting costs etc. These ads worked way better than expected and now I'm making almost enough to call it a full time job. So now I'm really in a pickle because technically the guy who registered the same name before me using .com owns the trademark to the name, and he could sue me and/or force me to give up my URL which would destroy my site.
I'd love to own the name, but if I contact him and ask him to sell his URL he might ask an obscene amount or just file a complaint/suit and grab my domain. Thankfully that guy hasn't visited his own site in years it seems and I doubt he knows I exist, but I still don't like being in this situation. I'm really not sure what to do besides either let it ride and stress for years, or take a risk and see if he'll sell instead of sue.Dec 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm #1811847
"I kind of disagree that your website has to look super professional"
It doesn't have to be flashy and high tech like the one for the company I'm freelancing at right now (they're a huge ad agency), but it does need to look good. This could be the mom & pop shop equivalent of a web site rather than Nordstrom's, though.
I'm glad you found some photographers you can use, William; if I'd been local to you I'd have offered, but I didn't want to make you send your stuff all the way across the country to do it. :)
The offer to help you with your site text still stands, though. If you would like, I'll ask around to see if I can find someone who might be interested in helping you with a logo.
One thing you might want to consider is to put up a "coming soon" page that shows a teaser image.
Also, don't try to launch a lot of products at once. That will doom you. Getting one solid product out there will serve you a lot better than several products, because you won't be able to handle the logistics otherwise, since you simply don't have the staff. When the time comes, start looking at outsourcing whatever you can (e.g. accounting).Dec 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm #1811894
Good to see you seem to be taking all the feedback as positive advice and not personal.
First off, I think education is important. So the following is not meant to slight its importance. However, a diploma or degree is no guarantee for success. Since I have been involved with small businesses most of my adult life, I can tell you that success is the result of drive, hard work, innovation, and tenacity; formal education helps, but cannot be substituted for these qualities. Grammar will not improve your gear, and ultimately the quality of your gear is much more important than how well you write.
About 50% of small businesses fail within the first 3 years, and over 70% within 10 years. Not to discourage you, but if your business does not make it, a good education will help you find something. Diplomas and degrees may help you get your foot in the door, but you still need to prove yourself. Hopefully you will not be one of the 70%. And I applaud you for your effort, especially at your age.
So what is important for you right now? Probably to define what you do best and concentrate on those strengths/skills. If it is gear design and/or building the gear, concentrate on that. Get help on the other stuff if you can.
Okay, the site needs work. That is fairly easy. Even if you clean it up yourself, the site is not the most important thing at this point of time. There are some successful cottage manufacturers with not-so-good sites. They sell most of their gear via word of mouth, such as testimonials on BPL.
Now, lets talk about what you do best — your strengths. Is it designing/building gear? Are you really good at the wide range of products you offer? Most cottage manufacturers specialize in one type of gear, maybe two. They are really good at one, maybe two things. Then after time, some expand their offerings after perfecting the base offering. Some never expand their line, just refine the product over time. Even some of the large "mainstream" manufacturers started out with one product. So analyze what your offerings are. And know why someone should buy gear from you, not a competitor.
Go for your dream and good luck.
Lastly, what differentiates your product from the competition? Why should someone purchase gear from you versus someone else? Value, price, convenience, unique or innovative?Dec 13, 2011 at 11:18 pm #1811911
Nick wrote "About 50% of small businesses fail within the first 3 years, and over 70% within 10 years."
And the primary reason for failure is undercapitalization (not enough cash).
–B.G.–Dec 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm #1811919
"And the primary reason for failure is undercapitalization"
You got that right. Also many people just don't know how to run a business. They just turn a hobby into a business and end up working for minimum wage or less.Dec 14, 2011 at 6:35 am #1811961
Sarah KirkconnellBPL Member
@sarbarLocale: Homesteading On An Island In The PNW
And also from lack of basic accounting – not knowing what you are spending vs. coming in. And not paying taxes.
My Mom was a longtime accountant/IRS enrolled agent and if I had one thing drilled into me is never, ever think you can cheat the Gov't out of their share. Keep good books, file your state quarterlies (if required) and file your yearly Fed taxes. Paying taxes means you made money is the way I look at it.
It is easy for online sellers to treat a company as a "hobby" and not get a state business license and to think that a little bit of money won't be noticed. And sure, it might not be for awhile, even years, but ethically it is wrong. Also, one cannot have a business checking account without being a licensed business. Further….becoming an LLC protects the owner to a point from a customer that is unhappy.
My Mom spent her career rescuing sorry saps from quagmires they made – often days before the state revenue department was coming to shut them down for failure to pay taxes. They were good people who got in over their heads with small business dreams. Please spend the time to read up on setting up a small business – know what is your responsibility in your state – and the legal ramifications of being underage as well. I happen to love being self employed but I am also responsible for everything I do – if I mess up I pay for it.
And PS: On money…I am of the mind that one can rarely live on a business for the first couple of years. You have to have money to get it going. Doesn't mean you need to be rich, but that profits need to be rolled back into the company so you can buy more fabric, better sewing machines, etc – you must build it up as much as you can.Dec 14, 2011 at 9:19 am #1812024
"Also many people just don't know how to run a business."
I think you just produce a superior product or service and then you collect the money, right? NOT.
I've seen people who ran a multi-million dollar company, and they did not do it for sheer profit. They did it more for personal prestige. Working for a company like that gets a little strange.
–B.G.–Dec 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm #1812175
@keith_bassettLocale: Pacific NW
A lot of good comments.
Nick and Rakesh's comments about limiting the range of items you sell really strikes home. If you can do 1 or 2 things better than everyone else, and a wide range of people want those items but can't easily make/find them elsewhere then you have a good foundation for success.
Sarah is on point about paying attention to the money, the licensing and the taxman. Those can all crush you, but can be avoided if you are mindful.
When the Assault pack is debugged and ready, perhaps that would be a good centerpiece for you. Small and Large versions of a pack could be a great starting point.
Nice to see the tone change back to what I expect from BPL. :)Dec 15, 2011 at 5:47 am #1812384
You should check out my Web site. I have been on the Web one year this month (December 2011) and I am already in the top 1 percent of all Web sites in the world. I use a full service hosting company and they have a holiday special right now. See the right column on my site or the link at the bottom of page.
I am a hiking enthusiast and I wish you much luck with your new site! Joe from Backpack and Gear
Only two forum posts and both quite obviously ads. I've left the URL to your site, please note our forum policies before posting further.
Backpacking LightDec 15, 2011 at 5:59 am #1812386
Travis LeannaBPL Member
Joseph, just be careful. Your section on Backpackinglight.com copies some paragraphs pretty much verbatim what is listed in the "About" section here on BPL. At least provide a link.
Edited because I apparently don't know the difference between "you're" and "your" this morning.Dec 15, 2011 at 7:19 am #1812408
Dan DurstonBPL Member
"You should check out my Web site…I am already in the top 1 percent of all Web sites in the world. I use a full service hosting company and they have a holiday special right now. See the right column on my site or the link at the bottom of page."
Congrats on your first BPL post.
You should mention you get a nice little payday if anyone subscribes via your website.Dec 15, 2011 at 8:55 am #1812436
Joseph wrote, "I am already in the top 1 percent of all Web sites in the world."
Top 1 percent for what, latitude?
I can always spot a marketeer who has little substance.
–B.G.–Dec 15, 2011 at 9:37 am #1812450
Steven EvansBPL Member
Lots of good advice here. Does your website stink? Yep, but so does mine and I know it!
This is word for word from my FAQ's:
Q: "I think you need to update the look of your website. Why does it look like an amateur built it?
A: Thank you for the compliment :) Believe it or not, I openly acknowledge the dated feel of the website and am embarrassed (not really). However, I spend my free time building and developing gear, as well as using it in the field. I have chosen this path over learning the intricate art of website design. If and when I come to a point where I feel the need to teach myself some new skills, I will. Until then, I urge you to enjoy the information contained on the website and mentally block out the visual aspect of it."
You can see where I am going with this. I would lean towards not worrying too much about the website (for now), but get it to a point where it is functional (and legible). Keep it simple.Dec 15, 2011 at 9:41 am #1812452
Travis LeannaBPL Member
Steve, I actually like your website.
Not to mention I'm intensely jealous of the time and resources you have available to design, tinker, build, and test your gear! :)Dec 15, 2011 at 11:39 am #1812484
James holdenBPL Member
personally as a consumer … as long as the website is legible, simple and has the information i need, i dont worry about it too much
what matters to me most is the quality of the gear, the price, the design, and your service
for example zpacks, MLD, etc … have pretty simple websites … but it gets the job done … we wont even talk about mchales ;)
a fancy website is always nice … but i suspect you need to prioritize
IMO what sells gear initially for you would be word of mouth …Dec 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm #1812504
we wont even talk about mchales ;)
Exactly. Dan doesn't have an electronic store front. You can't buy anything online. And he doesn't accept credit cards, PayPal, etc. Just good ol' cash or a check that clears the bank. You have to talk to him personally to purchase a pack, and it takes time to get it. And he has been in business for longer than many BPL members have been alive.
Some would say this is not a customer friendly way to do business, but it works for him. Plus he does not sell 'off the shelf' stuff. No two packs are identical. Torso size is measured in fractions of inches; not S,M,L,XL. And people are waiting in line to get the product.
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