Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Selling Wholesale: Being Prepared

I began thinking about selling wholesale in early last summer. How I made that decision was based upon my desire, not only to get more product into stores, but to increase my revenue. Yet, for as much as I write about being prepared and making sound business decisions, once I entered the wholesale market, I found I was not as prepared for selling wholesale as I thought I was.

Here's how it started: I knew I needed more revenue. I know it's just as easy and no less time consuming to pour five candles as it is to pour one. So my logic at the time told me that if I could sell more candles, I could make more money! And working full time, I did not have the time to market my product, so why not find someone to do that for me?

But here are some issues I was struggling with:

  • Branding - I wasn't happy with my branding. Like most entrepreneurs, I did not have a lot of revenue to invest in graphic design. But in my for me, much of my product line needs to be sold with graphic design. Until you can smell through your computer, I needed something else to help me sell my product.
  • Inventory or financial management - I didn't have an inventory or financial management system. Yes, I promote the fact that I create my product at the time of order. And yes, I was keeping track of my revenue and expenses. But I did have a small inventory that I kept for craft shows and farmer's markets.
  • Promotional materials - If you followed my newsletter series, you know how much I enjoy marketing. I didn't think developing promotional materials would be too big of a task.
  • Policies - I had a vague thought in my head of $100 minimum orders and payment upon order, but that was it. I hadn't thought about policies for samples, shipping, order processing, returns....the list goes on and on.
I had approached some local stores before about selling my products. I had even sent sample tea lights and basic information. But I wasn't getting anywhere. When I found a site to place a free listing for representation, I decided, why not? 

So, imagine my surprise when two days later, a representative did in fact contact me about repping my line!

My wisdom to you today is to be prepared.  If you're struggling with an aspect or two of your business as it exists now, the problem will only magnify when your sales become larger. Take time out of your busy schedule now to identify a problem. Maybe you know you have an issue but can't identify exactly its cause. Or identify where you have an opportunity to do better. Then take time to think through how to resolve it. Reach out to other business owners if you need to. Ask for help from friends. But don't think that by waiting "until you get that large order" means you should avoid dealing with it now.

With Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping weekend ahead of us, I know many of you won't have as much time for my weekly business lessons. The next few weeks, we'll address each of the issues I listed and how they were resolved. If you have struggles with any of these problems or other issues and concerns, please let me know.  Let's work on them together over the next few weeks and start 2013 with a bang!
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