Hi there, I’m Marley. I’m a 4-year-old dog mixed breed dog that my mom rescued from a shelter when I was only a couple of months old. Since then there has been lots of things going on in my life and for my Mom and Dad. At first, we used to work outside in the garden all the time and swim in the big swimming hole in the backyard that I like to drink from. Then life changed when some of my really old pack brothers that were always around suddenly disappeared. Mom and Dad were really sad and I did my best to make them smile again, let them pet me and even let Mom cuddle with me for a few minutes. Then we started to live in this totally different place with really cool smells all around us of other animals, but they're not like me. I’ve also seen some really interesting looking animals like these birds that walk around and sometimes fly that make some noise when Dad and I are out in the gator – he says they’d look good on the Thanksgiving table. The white stuff on the ground finally went away but then came back and is wet, so mom has been working inside. I sometime try to help her out by being close by to provide emotional support when needed and cleaning support as when needed like when food sometimes falls from where she’s sitting and if I’m in the right spot I can get it before my two little new brothers, the Doodles. I’ll tell you more about them some day. Mom said we need to communicate with our customers and provide them with interesting content besides just making them garden bed kits. She likes to write a lot - you should see the stack of papers on her desk! Sometimes, paper falls off and my sister, Artemis likes to shred them all up, but I saved this one.
The Fine art of Starting a New Business
Sales is a tough business. You can’t be thinned skinned in sales. Woodworkers have tough skin from constantly working with their hands, but I have thinner skin than most. I hate rejection. People will ignore you or reject you more times than you will actually make a sale. But where is a company without any sales?
Marleywood is a young company that just came online this past year and dealing with website issues takes away from spending time in the workshop where we would rather be. We are a small family run company, it’s just the two of us – Mark and myself. Excuse me, the 7 of us, I forgot to include the pack : Winston, Artemis, Boomer and Gunner and of course, the leader, Marley. The Marley of Marleywood. We started Marleywood as a way of giving ourselves more year-round, full-time work. Our first business, Homegrown Harvest we started up 6 years ago. Homegrown Harvest focuses on helping people grow their own food with simple solutions to gardening. We have an online presence, as well as having a local service outlet which up until this year offered installation and garden maintenance in the Fairfield County, Connecticut and lower Westchester County, NY areas. One of our most popular garden kits we sold were cedar garden kits from down south, so when the company announced they were retiring and closing up shop we decided to take up the business. We knew the product very well, having worked and installed it numerous times and we also knew people want a quality, easy to put together cedar garden kit that would last.
As a small business owner, we wear a lot of different hats. You become a jack-of-all-trades out of necessity filling the roles of CEO, bookkeeper, web designer, woodworker, receptionist, social media director, seller…Our work days start well before “regular business hours” and end well after. Weekends, weekdays are pretty much one in the same and some holidays non-existent. Doesn’t sound very appealing, so why do we do it? It’s simple. It’s because we love what we do and want to bring a quality product to customers.
Young companies are bound to have hiccups along the way – it’s the very nature of a start-up that you don’t get everything right the first time. One of the many hats we have to wear is also one of the most important ones and that is playing the role of Customer Service Representative. Ugh! This is not always an easy role, since it can sometimes be an uncomfortable one depending on the situation at hand. For instance, a shipping issue due to a miscommunication with your website and the shipper’s real-time shipping info during the time of an online sale. For the record, if you are not familiar with what a fall-back rate is, I suggest you never leave that space blank on your shipping set-up. It can be a costly mishap, in our case causing us the loss of the sale completely when we notified the customer of the actual shipping cost. – they cancelled the order. Shipping cedar wood garden kits out can leave you with individual boxes weighing anywhere between 25-60lbs, depending on the kit ordered that can add up. Just remember to take the time to re-examine where things went wrong, fix them as soon as possible and learn from the hiccups.
Shipping is something that many online businesses struggle with on a daily basis. Today’s online purchasers are accustomed to free shipping on practically everything and they want it delivered yesterday. That might work for the big box stores like Wayfair and others, but it makes things particularly challenging for the little guy who is just trying to get a foot in the door. The little guy, who handcrafts their products here in America, not made and shipped from China. Nobody gets anything for free, but we like the perception that we do. It’s hard to remember that not everyone is your customer either. There’s that rejection again – people will walk away.
The other hiccup new businesses have to get over is making an online presence for themselves. It’s not a case of “build it and they will come”, thanks to Field of Dreams many believe this will be true. It’s not. The web design sites all suggest one way to help drive traffic and build backlinks to help your site is that you need to have a blog. Thus, I have created this first blog post for our Marleywood website. Communicating with your audience – opening up a conversation with them -- is all part of sales. There’s that word again – sales. Right back where we started. As a woodworker and artist, I cringe when I hear the word sales. I hate rejection and there is a lot of rejection in sales. I rather be in the wood shop or studio.
When I first started my career after college, I worked as a sales assistant in the radio rep business. The sales staff sold air time nationally of various radio stations we represented across the county – so say Hershey had a national campaign they wanted on radio they would talk to us. From there I worked for a local radio station, initially as a sales assistant and eventually working my way up to promotions director. After working a few years on the sales side, I didn’t feel I had the right personality for sales and chose to pursue a career on the programming side. The role of promotions director is one that has to work with the two sides of the station: programming and sales. Each department thought they were more important that the other. Programming was in charge of content (the product) and sales supported the station financially of course selling that content (product) – one cannot exist without the other. This was the most important lesson I learned from my radio days. The same thing goes for running any business – big or small, local or online. Sales is a necessary evil if you are trying to make a living, so it’s better to suck it up buttercup and face the music and learn how to market yourself and your business.