How to Apply Continuous Improvement to Early Business Mistakes

**Note from Megan:  I had issues with the video here, somewhere between iMovie and Youtube a few seconds got cut off the beginning.  Of course, I had deleted the file before I realized it.  I chose to post anyway as I believe that imperfect progress is better than perfect progress.  If my main focus was getting these videos perfect, I never would have posted anything.

I can’t believe that my supplier hasn’t just said, “Oh my gosh, I can’t work with you anymore, it’s too much.”  And then another update where that very same day, my supplier actually emails me and said, “I can’t work with you anymore, its too much.”

So that was kind of crazy and I spent about three or four hours being really bummed out about it.  I did send them a quick email to see if there was anything we could do to save that relationship but no response, so I’m going to take that as a very clear hint that it is time for me to move on.

Luckily, I did have another product in the works that  I am working on receiving samples for right now so we’re still moving forward, we’re still making things happen, its just kinda starting over again.

So, one thing that I have tried to work on, and this comes from something that I learned in my day job.  Which is the idea of continual improvement.  One thing that we talk about with continuous improvement is the PDSA cycle.  That stands for Plan Do Study Act.

So, what I’ve done, and this might sound a little crazy in the world of everything being digital, I actually printed out all my emails between me and that supplier.

Because I had a hunch that the whole process just took way too long, and it did.  The first email I sent was April the 7th and the last email I got back was May 17th.  So thats, is that six weeks?  Now we can back one of those weeks out because I was traveling and that’s when I was working on actually receiving the samples and because I was going to have to sign for the sample when it was delivered, I asked the supplier to not ship it before, it was April 14th or something like that.  So ok, we can back out one week.

But even just between this email correspondence and the correspondence I’m having with suppliers of the new product, it’s really night and day.  So I can only think that as I get better at this, the process will continue to move faster.  That’s my hope, anyway.  That was way too long and you know, at the end of the day I learned a lot.  It’s still a product that I’m excited about and I will try and find someone else to create it for me.  I was just really happy about working with this particular supplier because the lady I was conversing with was very responsive, very thorough, but you know, its just not going to work out, and so we’re going to have to move on.

So again, the PDSA, plan do study act, I want to talk a lot more about this in future episodes and as I get my systems kind of rolling and really figuring out a little bit better what it is I’m actually doing and like I said creating those systems.  I’m going to use Continuous Improvement things that I am learning during my day job and apply it to this and hopefully just make it a really clean, tight process.

So stay tuned, I’m excited to continue working on that.

You know and like I said, it is crazy to print all this stuff out, but it really helped me to lay it all out and see where I kind of went off the rails and went wrong with some things, and where I could be more clear in my communications so it was actually super helpful.  Sometimes, guys, you gotta get analog.  Don’t be afraid of it.  Paper technology can be where it’s at.

So that’s all I’ve got for this week, I just wanted to, because I was a little bit raw when I posted that video last week, the update video, I just wanted to come back and put a more positive spin on it.  So have a great week, we will talk next time.

Thanks so much for coming back, feel free as always to subscribe to this channel, leave me a comment about your experiences with PDSA, with continuous improvement, the CANI, which is Tony Robbins thing.  Any of that stuff, would love to hear about it.  Or you can email me at thebootstrapboutique@gmail.com.  Thanks guys, take care.

How Not To Speak Things Into The Universe.

Hey guys, my name is Megan and this is the Bootstrap Boutique where I document my journey to creating a small online business.

Now that we have that out of the way, I am shooting agin just a quick update video from my little hole that I work from for my day job.

You know, I’m not really into woo woo, and the Secret, and thinking that you can speak something out into the universe and its just going to happen, right?

Except, yesterday I made a video that I posted earlier today where I said, I can’t believe that my supplier hasn’t just said, “I don’t want to work with you anymore”  because of all the miscommunication that we were having.

So I thought that we were in a really good place and I sent a purchase order last night.  Woke up this morning, and I had an email that said, “We don’t want to work with you anymore. Your PO was way too complicated.”

So did I speak that into existence and make that happen?  I don’t know.  But it definitely happened, so right now I’m kind of trying to figure out where do I go from here?  Do I try and salvage the relationship? I did send a quick email that said hey, what is too complicated about this PO? Maybe we can be flexible on some points.  I don’t know what they are going to say, we’ll see if they come back at all with a “yeah, you need to take out this clause or this clause” or whatever or if they just don’t respond.

Who knows what’s going to happen, but I’ll find out in the next six or nine hours or so.

So maybe we can salvage it, we can move forward, there are some things that are in that PO that I would be willing to compromise on, carton size, number of products, shipping cost, cost of goods, those are the four things that we’re not going to budge on but there are some other things in there that we probably could.

But you know, I really felt like I needed to have this long, really clear, leaves no questions unanswered, order because we have had so many issues with communication.  And I don’t know, maybe I just took it too far the other way.

I did use a template for this purchase order, and it’s really just if you have looked on the Jungle Scout Collaborative Product Launch, which I mentioned in previous videos, there is a template that they have there and I just used that, copied it and made it fit what I  have and so, you can go look at it, what I sent.

I don’t think its crazy but the supplier, what they said was for this simple product, what you’re ordering, you don’t need all this. This is too much.  So, I don’t know.  I’m trying to decide is it really too much, or am I just dodging a bullet here? Was I being a huge pain in the butt or is this reasonable? And I just don’t really know the answer to that yet.

I did post about it on the Amazing Seller facebook group that I’m a member of and am getting some kind of varied feedback as to whether its too much or if I’m dodging a bullet.  But like I said, it just feels a little too soon to tell.

So I wanted to shoot this quick video to update you because it is not all sunshine and rainbows over here trying to start a business. I talk about I want to see what does that hard work look like and I think I’ve said that time and time again the hard work is not the hours, its not the research its not trying to figure out problems, all that is kind of fun and its very different than what I’m used to doing, certainly with my free time.

What’s hard is how emotionally invested you get in this stuff and when things don’t work out like you think they will, it’s really hard not to take it personally.  So I can say all day long in my day job, “Oh, its just business, this is just a business decision that we have to make.” and so on an so forth, but when its me and when its what I’m actually doing to try and create another income stream and trying to start a business and see what its like, it hurts a little more.

It doesn’t feel like business, it feels personal.  And I just keep telling myself, its not.  So, yeah at the end of the day guys, this is tough stuff, this is real life, it is not all like, “Oh you do this, you do this, you do this, and you move through the process.” The reality is that it’s much more of like a spaghetti chart where everything is kind of cris-crossing and all over and it just looks like a mess.  So what I’m trying to do right now is tug on a string over here and tug on a string over here and see if we can kind of straighten out the line.  So, there’s some work to be done still.

And I just wanted to put out an update because you know, I think so many of us, we always try to hide the hard stuff and really amplify the happy stuff, or the easy stuff or you know, we want to shout from the rooftops when things go our way and I just wanted to share this chapter which is kinda stinky.  It sucks.

So, that’s all I’ve got.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Luckily I have started looking to a second product so if this one is a total bust and I have wasted the last six weeks of my life, scratch that, they aren’t wasted because we’re learning, right?  We are learning what not to do, which is just as important as learning what to do.

But, if that doesn’t turn into a product, at least hopefully I have something else in the pipeline, and this will not take me six weeks to get to this point again.  So, that’s all I’ve got, I just wanted to share that.

Feel free to shoot me an email to thebootstrapboutique@gmail.com, this is not an edited pretty video, this is very raw and very real, so thanks guys for listening to me rant.  I said in my video from earlier today that I will talk next week and I will have a better story to share, and next week I will, is just not today.  Its not this video.  Thanks guys, I will talk to you soon, I appreciate you tuning in.  Bye!

You Can’t Overcommunicate

Hey everybody, my name is Megan and this is the Bootstrap Boutique, where I document my journey to creating an online business.

Today, I feel like I could scream.  I have been really making some mistakes as I go about starting this business and I have really been having some issues that I am trying to work through and not lose my freaking mind over but it’s really starting to test my patience.

So let me tell you what’s happening.

A couple of things, first off, I have realized that you cannot over communicate.  When you think you are being clear, you’re probably not being clear enough.

And what I mean by that is this:  I have been going back and forth with my supplier for, I don’t know, six weeks now? Forever, it feels like.  But back when I first started the process I was trying to make some changes to a sample and it was going to be really expensive.

They were like, “well if you can get by with just out standard size product then that’s what I would recommend that you order.” So I said, ok, fine send me that sample.

Well, I never said that I didn’t want the sample size for my big product order and they never asked.  I also never said that I wanted my initial specifications, so I just never said.  And I was working off an assumption that I was just going to order whatever their sample was, and they thought I was working off the unique creation or whatever.

So that’s why we kept butting heads about the numbers.  I’m like, you’re changing the price and they are like, no this is the price we quoted.  Went back and looked at the email, we were both right.  I was right about the price they had quoted for their sample, she was right about the product that they had quoted for their unique creation.

So we were just not communicating with each other there well, at all.

And then, somehow, when I started emailing and asking for a smaller carton sized box so it would fit the Amazon warehouse specifications, she went back to thinking that we were talking about the different product specifications that I had and not their standard size, while I was still talking about their standard size.

So I think we have changed their shipping quote like four times at this point and it is just getting to a point where, I’m sure this lady in China is a very lovely person and she probably, when she sees emails from me is like, why am I dealing with you still? I can’t believe that they haven’t just said, “We’re not, we’re not doing this.”

You know, at the end of the day right now this is all pre-money and there is nothing really on the line except for our time and all my pride and ego, so that’s a good thing, I’m glad we are hammering it all out now, but wow, it has really been frustrating.  Because when you are dealing with somebody on the other side of the world you send an email and wait twelve hours and that is really stretching out the time.

The other way that I mean you can’t overcommunicate, so that is dealing with somebody in a foreign country, English is not their first language, we are dealing with a big time difference and this is my first time doing this and I am a complete newbie at it, where I believe that they are very experienced actually, but you know, I’m willing to give a lot of grace there for myself and the people in China because it is totally new and different.

I had a different issue today and that happened with somebody in this country, right up the road, speaks English, just didn’t really know what they were talking about and now has wasted a lot of my time.  Thankfully again, no money.

I went to open a checking account, a business checking account at a local credit union.  And I was like “I’m going to get a credit union account, because they are supposed to be awesome.” And not that they’re not awesome, but when I was going through the account opening process, I was asking lots of questions and one of those questions was, do you do international wires? And the guy said, “oh yeah yeah, we do that.”

And I thought, hmm, ok, that’s fine.  You know, sometimes you hear what you want to hear, right?

And if I had taken a step back and thought about it as I did after this situation happened, I wasn’t totally comfortable with that guys answer.  I did kind of get the feeling that he wasn’t really sure what he was talking about.  And that is something that I have to really work on a lot during my day job and pick up on people when they are giving me an answer they aren’t entirely sure is true, to really press and make sure that we’ve got the right information.

So I didn’t do that in this situation because I was doing what I often warn people that I work with about, which is don’t hear what you want to hear, hear what is actually being said, and I heard what I wanted to hear.  So, I get in there today, and I’m ready to send a wire, we’re ordering samples for product number two, which I’m really getting ahead of myself in the steps, but that’s an issue for another day.

I was ready to send a wire, these people are expecting a wire, I’ve got my paper with the bank instructions, and everything that I need to go and I’m ready and the lady says, “We don’t do international wires.” And I thought, “You’re kidding me.” And she said no, and I said, “You don’t do them ever?” and she said no.  And I just smiled and said, “I need you to close my account then.”

Because, it’s one of those things where you just can’t even believe that that just happened.  It’s like, if it wasn’t so frustrating it would be really funny.

Maybe in five years I’ll tell this story and laugh.  Today I am not laughing.

I wasn’t one of those people that was going to make a huge deal out of it, international wires are not something that you are going to just start doing, but I was pretty frustrated.  So now I have to go find another bank  and set up a whole other account somewhere.  So that is frustrating, that wastes a lot of time.

Business accounts, if you’ve ever set up one, I actually used to work in a bank so I used to do the actual set up of them, they can take forever.  There’s a lot of moving parts that go into it and so I’m just thinking I can’t believe that I have to do this again.  But, I’m persevering, I am going to continue to move forward because, you know, these are not the worst challenges that I’m going to face in trying to start this business, and like I said, hopefully one day I’ll just laugh about it.  But yeah, today, not a happy camper.

So I’m going to wrap it here for this week because I don’t want to go into full on angry Megan mode, that would not be fun for anyone.  So you know, tell me about some challenges that you’re facing, tell me about how you overcame because it always makes me feel better, misery loves company and its good to know you’re not alone in something.

As always, you can subscribe to this channel, leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts, you can email me at thebootstrapboutique@gmail.com or hit up the blog that is going to have the full transcript her at thebootstrapboutique.wordpress.com.

I will talk to you next week, I will have a better story to share I am sure of it.  Thanks guys.

What is Your Unfair Advantage?

Hey guys, my name is Megan and this is The Bootstrap Boutique, where I document my journey to creating a small online business.

This is week eight, I can not believe I have been doing this for two months already.  I also can’t believe that I don’t have a product in production already, but that’s a different video, we have covered that already, we are moving forward!

Today I want to talk about unfair advantages, and how everyone has one, whether you believe it or not.  I got the idea from this from a podcast that I like to listen to.

I work from home so I listen to a lot of podcasts during the day because you know, it gets kind of quiet when you’re at the house by yourself and I don’t think my boss would appreciate me having the tv on.

So I listen to this podcast called Startup which is made by Alex Blumberg who documented his journey of creating a business via podcast form.  Which is weird, its almost like other people have done this before.  So anyway, Alex created Gimlet Media, and Gimlet Media produces the podcast Startup.  Alex Blumberg, if that name is familiar to you at all, he is formerly of This American Life and Planet Money, which is another of my absolute favorite podcasts to listen to.

Anyway, in episode one, Alex is talking to investors about funding his business and he talks to the big mac daddy of investments or venture capitalist, a guy by the name of Chris Sacca.  Chris Sacca I have also seen on Shark Tank, I have listened to him on the Tim Ferris podcast, it is just one of those things where once you hear a name or learn about a concept it just starts popping up all over the place, it’s been kind of that experience for me.

But getting back to the point of the story, Chris asks Alex, “What is your unfair advantage?”  Because basically in business, if you can’t identify your unfair advantage, what is the point of anybody paying attention to you?

So that kind of got me thinking about, when I try to work on starting a business, what are my unfair advantages?

And actually, what I mentioned earlier, the fact that I work from home, I consider a big advantage for me.  For instance, these videos, I produce, or I shoot them anyway, during my lunch break.

Most people have to go out to Subway or to Panera or wherever and actually eat lunch on their lunch break.  Me, I eat all day.  I’m just grazing all day long.  So when I’m on  my lunch break, before I started this I used to do chores and stuff or go walk my dogs around the block, but now I sit here shooting videos most of the week, so, that’s fun.

But it is something that, you know, if I didn’t have this job where I get to work from home I just wouldn’t have time to do.

The other nice thing is that I don’t have a commute so it gives me time to unload the dishwasher, make up the bed, all that stuff in the morning or right after work instead of spending it sitting in a car with kind of just down time and not really using that time productively.   So, you have advantages that other people don’t have.

Maybe you just have spent a lot of time in the past developing knowledge in creating websites or you’re a really awesome artist and you sell your products on Etsy.  That is an advantage that I do not have.  I am not creative or musical or artistically talented in any way what so ever.

So basically, everybody has their thing and you need to identify what is that thing for you and how can you use that to move your business forward.  So think about it, tell me what your unfair advantage is, we won’t steal it.  Its your advantage.  You know, nobody can take away the fact that I work from home for me, except my boss again, but you know, this is lunch time just so you know, and leave in the comments.

Feel free to send me an email, visit the website, thebootstrapboutique.wordpress.com email is thebootstrapboutique@gmail.com.  And I will see you guys next week.  Thanks.

When You Don’t Meet Your Goals

Hey guys, and this is The Bootstrap Boutique where I document my journey to create an online business.

And today I just wanted to do a quick update so I am shooting in a different place than normal.  I work from home and I’m just in my little corner office space so first things first, I apologize for these curtains and this paneled wood, I know its not the best look but it’s a rental house, I didn’t make these decisions.

Anyway, didn’t want to take the time to set up the camera and do all that stuff today because its Friday and I’ve got a lot of things I have to run out and do on my lunch break which is usually when I shoot these videos.  But I did want to update you because on Wednesday I posted a video outlining a goal that I had set for myself and my business.

That goal was that by today, by Friday, I was going to have sent my first wire to Taiwan so that production could start on my first product and I was so excited about it.

And I am very sad to say that did not happen.  Actually, I think we may be further from that happening since I have been since I started this process and I am just…I’m bummed out.

So why did that happen?

Well, with Amazon when you send things to their warehouse for Fulfillment By Amazon, they have pretty strict requirements about what they can take into their warehouse, which totally makes sense. One of those requirements is that cartons, or boxes where you pack your products, can not be longer than 25 inches on their longest side.  The carton size that my supplier had quoted me was actually 27.5 inches, so too long.  What that means is that if I had them ship that to me, then I was going to have to repackage those products into smaller boxes before I could ship them to Amazon.

So I’m already trying to work with a smaller margin product and if I had to buy all those boxes that would just kill my margins.  So, it’s a problem, couldn’t do it.  I was trying to make it easy and I emailed my supplier and said hey do you have anything smaller than, I think it was 780 millimeters was the size that they quoted me.  They came back and they did.  They could get it down to about 21 inches on the longest side.  So I thought great.  We agreed to a new MOQ or minimum order quantity and I thought we were set.  I was typing up a purchase order and everything was good to go.

Last night I got an email that they raised the price of the carton by six dollars, so six dollars times fifty five cartons is a lot. It actually increased the cost by over twenty percent.  So I emailed the supplier back and said, “you are killing me.  I can’t agree to this price.  There is no way we can make this work.  If you and I, if we can’t work together to find something closer to, if not the original purchase price we agreed on, then I’m just going to have to drop the order and move on.”

I was really trying hard to just say that very plainly to give data without emotion but I will tell you that I have been in a bad mood all morning.

When I said in one of the earlier videos and again in a more recent video, Hard Work and the Fear of Failure, you know I didn’t expect the hard work part of it to be so emotionally hard.  I had no idea how emotionally invested I would get in this idea and in wanting to do this business.

So this is a big roadblock, I mean if I can’t move past this I’m going to have to just start over with a whole new product.  I know that won’t be the end of the world but I’m just really disappointed, I really want this one to work.

I’ve already put six weeks into just working on this one product, which is a lot of time in the Amazon Private Label world and I just want to get going so bad.  This is just another hurdle, another thing to overcome.

Something that you have ever dealt with?  If you have any suggestions for me as to what I should do, or other things I should think about please leave them in the comments, feel free to subscribe to these videos for more updates.  Hopefully not much more of me whining about how things aren’t going my way but lots of good positive, upbeat stories and thank you so much guys!  Take care.

Setting My First Goal

Hey guys my name is Megan and this is week 7 of The Bootstrap Boutique. Thank you so much for joining me again as I go through this journey of starting an online business.

So this week, I just wanted to share something I’m really excited about, and that is…I have set a goal.

Probably doesn’t sound like something to be super excited about right? We’re going to have to set lots of goals to get this business off the ground, but the reason I’m so excited about it is because I really needed to bring some focus into workingon this business.

I’ve been working on this for six or seven weeks now and as I’ve gone through I’ve just been happy with making little decisions here and there and just moving forward in a really incremental way.

But it’s time to do something bigger and so what I’m going to do is by this Friday, so today is Wednesday so by Friday, I will have placed an order with my supplier in Taiwan and sent a down payment for the order.

So that is my goal, I’ve got to make it happen. I still have a few things I’m trying to work through with the suppliers. If any of you guys have ever done this before, you know its kind of difficult because of the time difference, they are about twelve hours different from what we are here on the east coast, and so you know that definitely adds some time.

So I have learned a lot forwhen I try to do this again and replicate with a new product as far as what to actually get out in those first few emails to make sure that this process doesn’t drag on for weeks and weeks.

But the simple fact is that its time to take action. I’m so excited that by Friday my product will be in production and I just can’t wait. So come back next week, I will update you on what happens and we will go from there.

If you are interested in following me along as I go down this journey please subscribe to this channel, you can also leave me a comment down below, you can send me an
email at thebootstrapboutique@gmail.com. I will look forward to talking to you next week.
Thanks so much!

Hard Work and the Fear of Failure

Hey guys my name is Megan and this is Week Six of The Bootstrap Boutique.  Thank you so much for coming back again!

I want to talk about something a little different this week and that is hard work.  If you remember back to the first week of this video series I said I’ve always wanted to start a small business and when I read about small business owners of successful entrepreneurs they are always talking about how in the beginning there was so much hard work, but no body ever really expands on what that means or what that looks like, so I wanted to do that through youtube videos.

So where I am in my business is that I’ve done all the easy stuff.  I’ve started a business, I have the LLC, it has a name.  I’ve registered with my city, with the state, I’ve got the sales tax license and all that stuff. It’s all good to go.  I’ve got a checking account, we are ready.

Now, I’m at the place where I have to do the hard work, which means actually fulfilling a product, getting it to Amazon, and that doesn’t sound that hard, it really is just like sending emails and wires and stuff, but what is hard about it is that I have some big decisions to make.  The product that I’ve researched, is that what I want to move forward with.  How do I get photos, at what point do I sign up for Amazon seller central?  I think I need to do that before I get my product submitted or purchased but I don’t know.  That has a cost attached to it so I don’t want to do it too soon.

These are the things that have been keeping me up at night and I’m just not sure really how to lay out a plan of attack.  And that to me is hard.  I’ll be honest, there’s another thing that’s really hard to and that’s the crippling fear of failure.  There is no guarantee of success doing this and that makes me nervous.  That makes me scared.  And I think that is normal.  There are some special unicorn people out there that like to dive into this kind of thing headfirst but I don’t believe that entrepreneurship is about taking risks for the sake of taking risks.  I think its about taking really calculated risks and making really smart decisions about how to spend your time and how to spend your money.

So I’m really worried that I’m not making the right decisions, but there’s no way to know if I am or not, except for if I go out and do it.  So that’s what I try to keep in mind.  I’m really working on just getting one or two things done every day to move forward because when I’m not doing that and I’m instead thinking about how this may fail, then that’s really scary and it just kills my momentum.

So I’m trying so hard to stay on task, to do something every day to move my product launch forward, but its hard and it’s not hard in the way that I thought it would be hard.  Like I would have to really think about things or do some kind of crazy hard thing that I’ve never done before that I don’t even know.  I know what I need to do but its that decision making that is just tough right now and I’m struggling with.

If this is something that you’ve ever dealt with and you have some great tips on how to get myself out of my own head and just continue to move forward, please send them to me, I would like to know what they are.

You can email me at thebootstrapboutique@gmail.com.  I’m posting all these videos also to a webpage thebootstrapboutique.wordpress.com.  You can leave me a comment here, just let me know what to do to stop being scared and to embrace the hard work.  Thank you guys, I can’t wait to talk with you next week.  Take care.