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Season 1 Ep 41: Q&A with Jess, your questions answered! Part 2

This week on the xoxo, jess Podcast I am responding to commonly asked questions that I have received from all of you on Instagram. We are talking all about your minimum viable product (MVP) and keeping costs low at the beginning, communicating with your spouse or partner about your business, home printing vs. outsourcing, and more! Listen to the episode above, on iTunes HERE, or read the transcription below.

Episode Transcription:

Jessica Walker

Welcome back to xo xo jest where we dive deep into the world of greeting cards, the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, and the mindset tools needed to start creating the business of your dreams. Today, I am your host, Jessica Walker, here with another Wednesday episode. And today's episode is going to be part two of our q&a series, I'm unsure exactly how many they're going to be a might be up to four. But for now, this is going to be part two. So like I did last week, I got your questions off of Instagram and stories. If you have questions for me for a potential, Part Three or part four episode, head over to my stories, give me a follow over on at five dot post. And I share that fairly often over there. So we got some pretty good feedback after part one. So that's why I decided to answer a few more of your questions. And I picked a like three or four today that I want to cover.

So I'm just going to dive right in. And at the end of the episode, I'm going to share a little bit about what's coming up in five post because there's some really cool stuff happening in the next couple weeks. So let's just get started. So our first question is, how do I keep my expenses low at the beginning. And I assume this means like as you're like keeping your startup costs low, keeping your expenses low before you're making a profit. And just keeping a lean business model is how I read this question. So I would say several things one test, before you put a lot of money and time into selling. So what does this mean specifically. So if you are thinking that you need to create this big, expensive, beautiful website that takes a really long time to set up, and you're going to treat your business as this kind of secret thing until the day it launches, and you picture it like, I'm going to click Launch, I'm going to click live on my website, and then it's just going to take off, that would be amazing. But we have learned through I mean, I've learned this through personal experience. And I know that this through many of my clients and students that that's how it works most of the time. Creating a business is something that it takes a little bit of a given take from testing things out with your customers, seeing what vibes with them, staying true to yourself, making sure that you're providing a product that is good quality, getting response back, getting reviews back, taking that feedback in and seeing how you can adjust to make your product better. And this is why I recommend starting as small as possible with what we call a minimum viable product. So what I would recommend to keep your starting your expenses low, your startup costs low so that you can recoup as quickly as possible. Which your startup costs might be your home printer, your cardstock, your envelopes your packing, packing envelopes, or shipping envelopes. But like if you're looking at it from like, what exactly do I need, minimally? What is the bare minimum I need to start this business, it's a lot less than you think it really is just a way to print your cards away to ship your cards away to communicate to your customers that you have a product. So start there. And before you pay for that expensive website before you spend hours and hours and hours setting up hundreds of listings in your Etsy shop, see if what you're doing is working. Test your product with your customers get their feedback. So I would say do that by first just trying to sell on social media, I would say I would promote your products on social media, share pictures of your cards, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, see what people are liking? Are you getting feedback on what what cards are getting the most likes, and comments. And of course, like those can be vanity metrics. But they can also be important data that you're collecting from your potential future customers. So I would say start small in that way. First. Also, I would say start with free platforms. If you are just starting out, I recommend Etsy it's free they take a small commission but it is free to start super, super user friendly to get going on. And keep that expense low. So you can sell essentially for free if you use one of these platforms like Etsy

What else um, I would say order in small quantities. So when I was first ordering envelopes I was ordering by like 25 or 50. Now I order by about 5000. But it is something that grew and grew and grew. But it took a long time to get to the point that I'm at now, a couple years. So I would say start out by saying what can I get and of course, like at some point, once you get your up and going you want to make sure that your profit margins make sense, you will start looking for supplies in a larger bulk so that they're a lower per class per item cost so that your profit margins are higher but this is when you're first started and you're like I want to start a business but I don't want it to sink me. I don't want it to lose money on it. Absolutely not. And I think that that's why one of the reasons why greeting cards are such a great entry point into entrepreneurship kind of like a gateway drug into entrepreneurship. Because it really is can be such low startup costs, it can be affordable printers like I printed on an at home printer that was less than $200. For the first year and a half of my business, I still don't print on a printer that's over $300. And I do outsource printing now. But regardless, you can order supplies on Amazon, that can be the absolute basics. But that being said, your minimum viable product needs to be good quality. So I would say get the paperweight that you want, get the cardstock that you want, that you know is going to be what your customers expect. But buy in smaller quantities at first. So you don't have tons and tons of inventory that you cannot sell or end up needing to shift or change in order to sell. Why do I recommend at home printing first, this is something that it can look different for every business, this is the path that I went on. And I recommend it for several reasons. One, because of this, your expenses are low, because you don't have to buy large quantities of car designs from your outsource printers, a lot of outsource printers have minimums that you have to hit, maybe it's 50, maybe it's 100. And also, to keep your price low per card again, you have to buy in larger and larger bulk. So if you start a business and you buy hundreds of cards, 1000s of cards to start your business, and then you find out they don't sell that stressful, I don't want to start a business where I feel nervous and anxious and scared to sell like I want to start a business that feels kind of like playing and tinkering and I What can I do that's low cost and low effort to try to like move my margins in the right direction or move my business incrementally forward. So I would say start incrementally start with as low supply count as possible. And potentially utilizing that printer that you already have even there are ways to change the settings on it to get a better print. But if you are looking for more just step by step guides of what to look for in cards second, what to look for in printers and envelopes, check out my printer and paper guide, it is in the link in my Instagram bio. And I just spell it out for you exactly what I use and what is commonly used in the retail world. So that is what I would say.

How do I keep my expenses low at the beginning? So that's question number one. Question number two, I thought was interesting, because I've never actually, I haven't thought about it personally, because my husband was like pretty much in it to win it from the start, because I think he didn't really know what I was doing. So also like I would regardless do my own thing, because that's just how we are all but this person asked, What if my spouse is nervous about my new business? And how do I convince them? It's a good idea. So I would say one, don't start out trying to convince them it's a good idea, I would say, first convince yourself, if you're feeling that your partner's not on board enough, and you're not getting enough support from them. It's very possible, it could be a mindset block that you actually feel nervous about it, you're actually not sure about it. And you're kind of projecting a little bit I've seen that happened before. And I mean, I've done that in different ways in our my relationship as well. But get your ducks in a row first, figure out your business model, figure out how you would actually start figuring out the step by step guys that you would need to do reverse engineer at say like, I would love to start my business on this date. What do I need to do to get there? Do I need to figure out what printer to do to use? Do I really want to do that deep dive and maybe even get my greeting card business course that I'm actually refilmed this week? So I'll talk about that at the end anyways? Do you need more information? Do you need more education? Do you need more practical supplies? Do you need to order samples of things? and kind of see like the timeline of what it would take for you to get going? Then I would say also like going back to the previous question. See, how much would it? Would it really could it cost? And of course you won't know exactly like things could come up. But I mean, really, you can pretty much project like what will it cost to start this business? And I would have that with your business plan. And by business plan, I just mean can be super simple. Just how am I going to do this? What am I going to make? How much will it cost? How much will my customer pay? How much will it take? How much do I have to sell to then recoup my costs? Super, super simple. And then maybe present the idea if you feel like you need to have your spouse like on board before you start which that's up to you. I don't know how your relationship rolls but like if you feel like that's something that you need to move forward. Or maybe like your finances are, you're on a budget and you want to make sure that they are comfortable. I would say ask them what can make them more comfortable what parameters or what container Could you put on this idea that that would make them more comfortable maybe say I want to try this but I'm gonna keep my my day job until I can see x or until I'm feeling comfortable because of this. Or say maybe if you if you are doing this already and you're trying to get your spouse on board or feel comfortable with you doing it full time, I would say give it a container. Have a timer.

So say like, I want to try this for three months, I want to try this for six months or a year, would that make you feel comfortable, what would make you feel comfortable if I spent less than this amount on my startup costs, would that make you feel more comfortable if I had this plan that if if it's not up and running by this, or if I haven't done x, and you don't want to make yourself not feel spacious with these parameters, but try to find that common ground where it helps them feel more comfortable, because they can 100 wrap their head around it more. And by the way to do that, truly, is to get super clear on your vision and your business and where your head's at, to then be able to portray that to the to your partner.

Okay, question number three, excuse me, home printing versus outsource printing how to choose. So I did just talk, I talked about this a little bit in the first question. But home printing to me is easier place to start, because you can start with lower quantities, it also gives you more flexibility, even later down the line to decide what you want to test with your market, you could print, you can make a new design and put it up online. And then maybe only there's like two or three orders. But you can still print those out. You don't have to contact an outsource printer order a large quantity, there's just lower risk when you have the option to print in smaller quantities. And you also just have more control over what you can do. Maybe a customer wants to edit something if you if your business policies. Or just like your business idea, in general allows you to adjust images or customize the inside of the cards or write a note like these kinds of things that can be a lot easier when you're just printing at home. And also, they might not be possible. If you're not printing at home, you might not be able to accommodate these kinds of custom requests. If it's like smaller than a, you know a certain a certain amount.

I think also for testing, if you're going to be selling wholesale, I would like to before I buy a large quantity of things wholesale, I like to test with retail and I like to test with my home printer on the cardstock that I use is the same as my outsource printer or the printing quality is the same. So it's the same product, it's just that I can test it in on a smaller scale through my home printer. And, and it just like makes for simpler low risk testing of new products. I'd also want to mention that going back to startup costs, but also your running costs. If you are printing from home, you will probably have lower

or lower profit margins if you're printing from a home printer at the beginning of your business than if you're outsourcing your printing. Because again, you can order these small small quantities of cards and be confident that you are only you that you're going to use all of your products because if you're printing on demand like you would do with a home printer, that means an order comes in and you print that one card for that one order. So you know you are being as lean as possible with your supplies because you're never going to order too many of a thing and not be able to sell it. If you have blank cardstock that's great, that's for the future, you'll sell it but um, and you don't have to buy in huge quantities of that. But if you were to buy a card, like perhaps it's a holiday specific like you buy,

let's let's even do this past year, you buy a ton of like a pandemic or pop culture moment central centered card on you don't sell at all, then you're going to lose money on that. Because there, there's not really a great time some holiday cards can like be transferred over to the next year. But in general, you want to be growing and moving forward. And you're probably gonna have new ideas next year and new design. So another reason why home printing can be great is there's also less risks there and you just have more control over your inventory and your supplies. And the last question that I'm answering today is do I need branding is branding important? So I have to kind of two answers here, one at the beginning of your business, I think it's important to have just like your branding, fonts, colors, and just kind of the look of your cards to be somewhat coherent, but it can't change over time. Obviously, you want someone to be able to see your card, see your logo, see your website and know that it's yours. You don't want it to be super generic, you won't have sort of this like brand story, a cohesive experience for your customer and just for just for people to know to know like it's your card brand visibility and awareness. So yes. But that being said, I wouldn't feel like you need to go out and buy all the stickers and you need to buy custom packaging and that you need to have all of these super specific branded, like kind of add ons or extras at the beginning of your business because it's an expense that you don't necessarily need. I wasn't sure if I was going to continue my second card business which is five posts, which obviously I continued and I'm so glad I did but I gave myself one of those containers. I was talking about i was i said i'm gonna give it a year if this really takes off then i will start getting those extras those little details spending that money on a website spending that money to kind of amp up the branding and that is when i did i waited so there was moments when i was like oh this would be so much cuter if i had stickers or i had custom a different website it would be prettier but i just knew i said look you set this parameter let's wait till it's time and then by the time i did i was in a position where i could really scale up the branding and there's just no better place to do it so yes i think it's important the third thing i want to say about that is well yes it's important no you don't need to spend a lot of money on it at first the third thing i want to say is that it can change over time i have changed the name of my shops i've changed the name of this podcast many times if you will have gone back and listen from the beginning

I've changed my brand colors i've changed my coaching style i've changed so many things over the last several years and you don't have to explain yourself honestly like people are just going to jump right on board with whatever you have coming next if you feel like you need to shift it and change it give it some time just make sure that's really what you feel because it does take some effort to like read do everything but make sure i mean it's make sure it feels right to you like if you feel like it's no longer your style your cards have shifted your style has shifted and your branding no longer matches your card styles then yeah i would say go ahead and change up your branding it's kind of fun it can also be a good opportunity to kind of like relaunch your shop on to society because it's like hey i have new branding i have new website i have this like go check it out and it's kind of like this resurgence of energy or insurgence of energy i don't know what i'm trying to say infusion of energy into your shop and yeah can be a fun marketing moment so those are the questions that i'm covering today if you have more questions like i said you can head over to instagram send me a dm you can send me emails and i will make a log of the questions that we have left to answer and potentially do a part three if you're interested so if you did like the if you do like this style of episode or just the podcast in general of course i would love you to love you i would love it if you also i love you i would love it if you would support the podcast by going over and clicking five stars leaving a review subscribing so that other people can find this and it's just further up the itunes list so that we can expand our audience and bring even more people into this greeting card community

Okay so what's coming up in what's today i'm recording this on sunday on the 10th my seven cards in seven days challenge is coming back this was such a hit last time we did this in i think it was october or maybe it was earlier than that but um we are going to go over to instagram it's a free challenge so you should all join so i'm going to talk about we as if we're all doing this because i want to encourage you to do it because it really is such a great opportunity to kind of jumpstart your card line amp up your creativity if you're feeling stuck lately get ready for the next holiday so what it is we're going to be on instagram every day for seven days we're going to be creating a brand new greeting card you're going to tag me in it i'm going to share them at all day every day we're just going to have like kind of a little celebratory moment for this the greeting card makers online and i'm so excited it's

It feels like it's like something that you're like i can't design seven cards in seven days that's too much but that's why i'm telling you now and also you could regardless a lot of people joined like day three and then still made seven cards by the end of the challenge if you ask them card idea start jotting them down put a note in your phone just make seven slots available start getting a little a little creative and thinking about what you're going to do and we are going to be using the hashtag card maker challenge if you're not following me on instagram go ahead and do that over five posts i'm gonna be sharing all about it this coming week and then of course during the challenge starting on the 10th so that's a wednesday through tuesday the 10th through the 16th is the seven cards in seven days challenge and i am so excited also bonus reasons why you should join i am going to be relaunching my greeting card course it's the cardmaker business course i'm rebranded it i have re recorded every video it's very exciting if you've previously purchased it you now have access right now to all of the new content and all of the new videos so go take a look surprised and for anyone who hasn't joined it yet or hasn't taken my course i will be relaunching it on the 17th so that's the day after the challenge and if you are a participant of the challenge and you create a seven cards in the seven days you're eligible for the scholarship, I'll be giving us one scholarship away to be able to access the course for free. And again, it's lifetime access, you have access to all future updates. So that is a great reason to join the challenge. I'm gonna be sharing a lot more news about all of that open cart prizes, there's a lot happening. But just to give you a little taste, you could be a scholarship winner just by participating in the free challenge seven cards in seven days, it's going to be awesome. So head over to Instagram, meet me on the 10th. And I'm going to be doing a couple live streams throughout the week just to kind of give you some free trainings while you're working through it. So I just wanted to help just like again, infuse some energy into what you're doing and infuse some energy into your business interior designs. Let's just get the ball rolling and start this month off. Right so I hope that you guys have an awesome week and I will see you next Wednesday here on xoxo Jess.

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