Category — Small Business Expert Interview
Running a retail business is like getting your report card every single day. It is a business of “thanks for what you did for me yesterday, but what can you do for me today?” It has to be one of the most stressful occupations in this country, yet if you do well, it can be the most exhilarating and fun businesses to live and breathe every day. What causes this stress versus reward cycle in retailing?
Good retailers balance looking into the future and planning for the next season with what is happening in my business today. The future plays to the heart of retailers because you analyze what went well last year and where there are opportunities to improve. Optimism abounds about the future because retailers are a confident and hopeful bunch…otherwise they would be in a profession that looks to the past rather than looking ahead. So planning ahead is the enjoyable part of retailing, because no mistakes have been made, yet.
Living in your business today is a different story. Most businesses measure themselves against what happened last year in sales. Sure there are mitigating circumstances that could alter the numbers you are up against, like more or less competition, change in customers’ taste preferences or suppliers of your key products going in or out of business. But every retailer has last year’s numbers recorded by day and look at these numbers three or four times a day during their peak seasons to see if they are going to beat them. Take my business as an example. Our two peak seasons are Back to School and Christmas. Currently we are in our Back to School season. Our staff meets quickly throughout the day to gauge where we are against last year each day. When we had the biggest day in our company’s history last week, it was the greatest feeling I have had since the day my son was born. When we only did half of what we did last year three days later, I felt like an old man who was on his way to retirement… so living each day in business to its fullest during peak seasons is like riding a roller coaster all day long. You are exhausted at the end of the day on bad days and exhilarated and can’t wait to wake up and start again on the good days.
We will get through the Back to School season, so now I am worried about the Christmas season. Do we have enough products to offer our customers and as important, are they the right products? Have we been watching the trends of the last few months to help give us an indication of what will be successful this fall? Do we have the most sophisticated methods to market to our customers efficiently and effectively during the holiday season? Do I have the right sales staff in place that will be able to relate to our customers? All of these are questions that will keep my staff and me up at night, because they are the unknowns…and then November hits and we are right back into the cycle of living day to day with our numbers much like we are in today for Back to School.
But I would not have it any other way. The ebb and flow of providing customers what they need when they need it at the right price is part of a true retailer’s heart and soul. The highs and lows that go with it are just part of the game of life.
July 18, 2014 No Comments
Two years ago, Jackie Eldridge, Marketing Director for DollarDays.com, met Richard Beeson, Director of Client Happiness Enforcement for AgoraPulse at a Social Media Conference in New York City. Eldridge was impressed with the platform at first pass; it seemed to be the perfect tool to manage our Facebook promotions and growth. The bonus to a platform that has every feature we’d been looking for is the customer service. Seriously, it’s not even customer service—DollarDays feels like this vendor is more like family, and that’s because they are are genuine in all of our communications AND available nearly on a moment’s notice. They are fun, light and extremely passionate about AgoraPulse.
As a company, we’ve never stepped out and fully endorsed a product, except now. Give it a look—we recommend it to any company who manages Facebook pages and is looking to grow their audience and reach, while having hands-on reporting tools and cutting edge promotional apps. Watch the video that captures our unsolicited take on AgoraPulse.
One more thing. You will not believe the price. Hint: the monthly fee makes our CFO very happy.
June 5, 2014 No Comments
Marc Joesph, founder of DollarDays Int. has a new article out on the International Business Times website.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
What has America gotten itself into? Just about every state and every city is cutting back funding to services needed by those who need it most.
In Chicago, the headline read “Temperatures Dropping. Will the State Restore Funding for Homeless Shelters?” It goes on to report that the 2012 budget was cut 52 percent for homeless prevention services. This cut is on top of the fact that more people were turned away from homeless shelters in Chicago last year than were taken in.
Read the full article HERE and make a comment!
November 16, 2011 No Comments
Marc Joseph, Author; CEO/President and Founder, DollarDays International, Inc. has created a new article on the Huffington Post. Below is a quick sample. Head over to the Huffington Post to read the full article.
I don’t need to rehash what has been going on in Washington. The moves that were made with the most recent agreements, we are told, were made to protect our children and their future. I am more worried about protecting our children of today to make sure we don’t have a lost generation gliding through our school system.
Where is our country’s moral standard when we read the article in the Huffington Post on August 8th “Schools Caught Cheating in Atlanta and Around the Country“? This is not our kids’ fault; it is our society’s fault. Where is Washington when the Wichita Kansas Eagle reports this week: “Board approves heavy budget cuts” and goes on to say they are doing away with librarians and stringed instrument classes; or when the Corsicana, Texas Daily Sun reports “Mildred cutting budget” and talks about the band not being able to go to football games?
August 17, 2011 No Comments
DollarDays President, Marc Joseph, was recently interviewed on sellingbooks.com. Over the last decade Marc has built DollarDays into a successful wholesaler that competes with the likes of WalMart, Costco, and other discount retailers, and he’s done it by cutting costs and being efficient.
A few years ago, Marc was asked to write a book…which he did. The interview is interesting (a lot like Marc), and you get to learn a little bit about the man behind the vision. Did you know that DollarDays is the biggest B2B retail site online? You do now.
Check out the interview, I think you’ll find it really interesting. Then come back here and let us know about you. Are you an entrepreneur? What have you done to make yourself seen online and offline?
July 6, 2010 No Comments
DollarDays Please us give an overview of what your business is.
Nina Cullen I own a maternal wellness center called, NiNi Bambini, in Bedford, NH. We offer support, information, education and products to women and families from pregnancy through preschool. I am the owner, but I also do a myriad of jobs from facilitating groups, teaching classes, overseeing daily operations, running a counseling practice within the center and running the vacuum cleaner at the end of the day. I have four part-time employees, and we have a customer data base of 1,500 clients, 700 of whom are on our monthly newsletter list.
DD Where did the idea for NiNi Bambini come from?
NC I was a childbirth educator and doula for many years; doulas are people who are trained to support women through childbirth. I saw many pregnant couples and new parents who were in need of support and education beyond what they were finding through their hospital, obstetricians and pediatricians. Often women worked, gave birth and then returned to work within eight weeks. Often women were physically far away from extended family, and although they knew people from their work life, they really knew no other mothers with young children. I saw a need for a place where women, children and families could come to learn to be better parents.
DD Where did you come up with the name ‘Nini Bambini’?
NC Originally I had a partner, a woman named, Nicole, who was going to open the center with me. We took the first two letters from our names and made NiNi (hence the two upper case N’s). Unfortunately, Nicole has small children and soon realized that this was not the right time in her life to open a business. I liked the name and it stuck.
DD What need or niche in the market do you fill?
NC There are four million babies born in the US each year, and despite the economy, people continue to reproduce. There is a constant stream of new customers and a virtually never-ending supply of new babies!
DD Based on what I’ve heard and seen on your Web site, your approach seems somewhat unique in that it has a holistic approach, dealing with the health of the mother and child, from pregnancy to birth to early childhood. Talk a little about that is important.
NC A woman traditionally sees an obstetrician for the nine months of her pregnancy, and then for a follow-up visit six weeks after birth. After that, they are on their own. We are removed from the concept of “it takes a village,” women often don’t even know their neighbors, yet they continue to need the support of a community to help them navigate the waters of pregnancy and early parenting.
DD Who are your competitors, if any?
NC We really don’t have a direct competitor – although there are other infant specialty stores in the area, they definitely do not offer the kind of customer service that we do. There are other places to find playgroups or music classes, but not with the kind of atmosphere we offer. There are prenatal classes at most hospitals, but they are held in conference rooms with uncomfortable chairs, while we offer leather couches with ottomans.
DD What’s your client demographic?
NC Our typical client is a first-time mother, but that is mostly due to the fact that we’ve only been open for two years. We are now seeing returning customers who are pregnant with their second or third baby. Our women span the age range from early 20′s to early 40′s. We also have a fair number of grandparents and nannies who come to our classes. Most of our clients are in the upper-middle income bracket.
DD How has your business been affected by the recession?
NC The recession has had an impact on our business: people don’t spend as much, and some have had to opt out of classes for financial reasons. The recession really began as we were about 10 months into our first year, and while we feel a the hit, it hasn’t been as bad as it could have been. We instituted a “membership” program that helps us to gain income and helps keep costs lower for our customers. They pay $60 per year to become a member, and that gives them a discount on classes and access to “member Saturday” once a month when all purchases in the store are discounted 15 percent. Since Saturdays were traditionally a slow day for us, member Saturdays has helped with foot traffic as well as sales.
DD Does anything like NiNi Bambini exist in New Hampshire or elsewhere? If not, have you thought about franchising?
NC There is a similar business called Isis Maternity in the Boston area – they have three stores, and sell much higher end products than we do. The main income for Isis is from their retail sales, our income is distributed evenly between classes and retail sales.
DD What are some lessons you have learned about starting and running a business from your experience with NiNi Bambini?
NC I never anticipated how much work it would take to open a business! I have tried to surround myself with capable staff and a knowledgeable support team of friends, family and professionals. I’ve had to stop micro-managing every aspect of the business and trust that my staff knows exactly what to do!
May 1, 2010 No Comments
1. Tell us about your company and why you started it.
The Hippo Free Press is an unnewspaper. We publish weekly and are a more news magazine format with a large calendar and food section. We answer the vexing question of what to do and where to go in southern New Hampshire as well as address quality of life issues in the region, from traffic to the environment in an accessible fun way. From a very basic P&L standpoint, Hippo was started to provide advertising options for small businesses in the southern New Hampshire market. Looking over the market in 2000 we saw daily newspapers catering to national advertisers and large retail and auto customers. Similarly radio too focused on the national market. Many of the independent restaurants, retail and service businesses either didn’t advertise or felt their advertising was ineffective and expensive.
2. Describe the kinds of articles you publish, and who your target audiences are.
We tend toward quality of life type stories. We want readers to use our publication to get the most out of living in southern New Hampshire. We write about interesting political figures, new restaurant openings, and trends in live music. A recent issue explored the unusual life of birds in urban areas of southern New Hampshire. Our target audience is affluence, educated and active between the ages of 25 and 65. Most of our readers own homes and are married. This reflects the suburban nature of our market.
3. Describe the growth you’ve experienced over the years. Why do you think your publication caught on?
We started as a shoe-string operation with no employees, a few thousand weekly copies and 16 pages. Today we average 72 pages per week have the second largest circulation of any newspaper or magazine in the state and have 25 employees and 30 plus contributors. We have purchased a few other publications recently that are different from Hippo, but utilize our backend.
4. Most print newspapers that rely on paid subscriptions are dying out. What role is there for a free print newspaper in the digital age? What is your niche?
I’m not so sure I agree that paid papers are dying out. Clearly they face some daunting challenges in the classified arena, but many hold strong advertising positions in their areas of influence. And that I think is the key. It’s not as important what distribution model a paper uses, as finding a clearly defined advertising base. In the previous years daily newspapers tended to have a large base of classified advertising customers. Those customers have been moving toward more database driven models, such as craigslist or Monster. This has upended the paid daily business model. As for the role of free newspapers’ role in the digital age, I see free newspaper struggling with finding digital revenue streams just as much as the paid papers have struggled. The bottom line is you can’t earn enough revenue of a local audience online though banner ads. However, I do think that free and paid papers can use their digital platforms to create more value for current customers and maybe even use digital to break into new markets. Our niche from a customer perspective is small independently owned businesses with a touch of community banks and education.
5. In general, what are your thoughts on the death of the traditional news media? Why is it happening and how is this creating new opportunities for entrepreneurial journalists?
The term death is overused. People still watch the 6 o’clock news, they still listen to talk radio and, yes surprisingly, they even buy daily newspapers. True, some of the largest daily newspaper companies in the country have declared bankruptcy, but those bankruptcies are related to highly leveraged buyouts. In reality, large metropolitan dailies have created business models around a book of business that either doesn’t exist or that is moving to database driven avenues. If dailies are to survive they need to re-learn how to serve a local advertising base. That said, any business model upending creates plenty of business opportunities for entrepreneurs. People’s easy access to the Internet allows journalists to go after large affinity groups and create online communities that advertisers will pay to reach. I also see an opportunity for a one-person site to reach a large enough audience for that journalist to support themselves. The Internet lowers the cost of entering publishing but doesn’t mean it’s easier to be successful. Compelling content still needs to be created and an audience still needs to be reached. Both of these things are tough to do.
6. Who are your competitors and how have you succeeded where they failed?
We complete against several paid dailies, a few radio stations, cable, google and some glossy magazines. We’ve been able to pull a substantial number of advertisers out of the dailies’ weekly entertainment tabs. Most of those tabs offer very limited local content. We’ve also been successful against radio, which has seen a dramatic loss of audience and advertisers. Overall, on the business conversion side, we’ve been successful because we focus on small local businesses. More than 400 local businesses place display ads with us each month more than any of our competitors. On the audience side of the business we’ve been successful because we create compelling local content that isn’t available anywhere else. We keep standards high and keep advertising and editorial completely separate.
7. Do you have plans to expand?
We do, but not in a geographic sense. Last year we expanded our offerings to included commercial printing. We now sell most of our customers business cards, post cards and brochures. We can design, print and deliver those products very inexpensively with our current infrastructure. We also started a fan club to identify our most ardent readers.
8. How are you different than or similar to other free papers in other cities?
We’re not as youth oriented. Our market is more mature so we are too. We offer a large children calendar section and events for kids. We don’t have personals and don’t permit sex ads.
9. How has the recession affected your company and your competitors?
In some ways, the recession helped. We’ve seen many businesses that were once satisfied with their level of business start advertising to bring in new customers. Many unemployed or under-employed folks have decided it’s a good time to open a business. In the last year more than a dozen new restaurants have opened in our area. Almost all of them have some on board with us. This recession has really hurt those media outlets that rely on national advertising. Specifically radio and television stations have seen a steep decline in ad revenue. They have responded by trying to focus on the local market with lower rates to limited success. The dailies too have tried to attract more local customers by lowering rates. Both of these groups fail to realize it’s not the price of the advertising that’s the problem, it’s the value to the customers.
10. What lessons do you think your company’s story holds for small businesses in other industries?
Quality and focus. You just produce a good quality product and you need to have a customer base in mind that is large enough to support your business. We spend a lot of time and money creating compelling content so people will pick up our paper. This translates into a large audience with specific demographic traits that a certain group of local businesses need to reach. The key is “need.” If we didn’t exist how would the local cafe reach people? That’s how you know you have a solid place in the market that will survive recessions and changes in how people use technology.
April 1, 2010 1 Comment
Jon Strimling is President, CEO & Founder of the American Biomass Corporation
Please briefly describe your company.
American Biomass Corporation is the parent company of a family of logistics enterprises which, collectively, form the nation’s most efficient, most extensive network for biomass fuel distribution. AB works with hearth shops in unique, customized ways, from offering wholesale pricing on the highest quality wood pellets, to finding contract delivery solutions in often sparsely seeded markets. WoodPellets.com, our retail arm, provides a convenient online platform for consumers to order fuel for home delivery, as well as an educational portal that offers the latest information on fuel testing data, home heating technologies, and renewable energy legislation. We also have a subsidiary dedicated to the development of the bulk wood pellet market: Revolution Pellet Systems was inspired by the overwhelming successes of widespread bulk pellet adoption in the European market, and employs a team of engineers and some of the brightest minds in the biomass industry to develop domestic solutions for bulk-fed wood pellet heating systems.
Who are your competitors?
We’re the only company that does what we do, focused on home delivery of the highest quality wood pellets direct to consumers. There are certainly other ways for consumers to obtain pellets, but it’s often through an ancillary part of a different business. On the other hand, pellets are our business, and we pride ourselves on our world-class customer service and our knowledge of all things relating to pellets.
How did you become the leading provider of wood pellet fuels to residences?
In one word: efficiency. We use patented logistics software to streamline the entire distribution process, and, even more importantly, we hold all our producers to strict quality standards. By independently testing all of our products and working with manufacturers to ensure consistent quality, we’re helping to make pellet heat even easier for consumers.
Talk a little bit about the intersection of social, political, and environmental values with best business practices.
Our goal is to make heating with wood pellets a viable option for consumers, and we make sure to look out for our customers in pending and upcoming legislation. American Biomass is heavily involved with some of the most effective, most respected nonprofit organizations and environmental advocates in the industry, including the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI), the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) and the Alliance for Green Heat (AFGH). We also have an internal team devoted to promoting biomass thermal to local, state, and federal legislators.
Could you tell me a little bit about how you approach marketing.
We try to reach customers both online and offline through traditional outreach and Web advertising. But we’ve found that, far and away, the most effective marketing strategy revolves around positive word of mouth. There’s no better advertisement than a satisfied customer recommending your business to a friend. So we make sure encourage those referrals through our PelletBucks rewards program.
Explain how you revolutionized the distribution of wood pellets to residential consumers?
We maintain strict quality standards for all of our fuel, and are the independently test all of the fuel we sell through a third-party lab. Nobody else in our industry does that. We make those results transparent via WoodPellets.com, so customers know exactly what they’re purchasing.
Please describe any other innovative aspects to your business.
We’re working to help develop bulk wood pellet adoption, distribution, and storage, along with designing and maintaining automated biomass heating systems. We’re building off of the European model, innovating on the techniques used by countries such as Austria and Italy in achieving massive reductions in carbon emissions and astounding self-sufficiency in fuel sourcing. We’ve created customized central heating systems for clients across New England; and we’re working on some very exciting new technologies that will make automated pellet systems viable for a much broader market.
You recently changed your Web site from PelletSales.com to WoodPellets.com. Talk about the benefits of strategic re-branding.
The name change has been phenomenal. WoodPellets.com is a much more intuitive name, and we’ve found it’s easier for customers to find us on the Web.
What challenges does your business currently face?
Our main goal, the challenge we’ve taken on, is educating consumers and legislators alike about the advantages of wood pellet heating. Pellet heat is sustainable, cost-effective, and domestically produced, and it’s vitally important – to invigorate the American economy and to reduce our carbon emissions – that wood pellet heat is given its due place in public policy and the green energy sector. We strive to make sure the consumers and policy makers have access to the most current information about testing data, new technologies, and all the benefits of pellet heat.
How is the recession affecting your business?
The recession has affected our business because it has forced consumers to alter their buying habits. Many simply could not afford to buy an entire heating season’s worth of fuel all at once and, instead, purchased smaller quantities of fuel throughout the year. We had many customers looking to finance their fuel, to work within budget plans over the course of the year. This presented an opportunity for us to offer new and exciting benefits to our customers – we now provide a wide variety of payment options, including RevolutionCard, a credit card simple application process, progressive security measures, and instant approval, allowing customers to manage their fuel payments easily and securely.
As a small business owner what lessons have you learned since founding your company? What advice do you have for other small businesses?
The most important thing for any business owner is to keep the customers in mind: quality matters in everything, from the product or service you’re providing to the customer service you offer.
March 1, 2010 No Comments
Dollar Days Blog (DDB) – Please tell us a little about yourself and HARO.
Peter Shankman – Since I founded HARO in 2008, it has become one of the fastest-growing social media companies in North America. Every day, HARO brings nearly 30,000 bloggers, reporters and journalists, over 80,000 news sources and thousands of small businesses together to tell their stories, promote their brands and sell their products and services.
Since its inception, HARO has published more than 60,000 journalist queries; has facilitated nearly 7,000,000 media pitches, and has marketed and promoted over 2,500 brands to the media, small businesses and consumers.
HARO is entirely free to sources and journalists. Unlike a majority of social media companies, HARO is independently owned and funded and has been profitable since day one. HARO’s tagline, “Everyone is an Expert at Something,” proves over and over again to be true, as thousands of new members join at helpareporter.com each week.
Beyond HARO, I would describe myself as an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and worldwide connector. In addition to HARO, I am founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., a boutique Marketing and PR Strategy firm located in New York City, with clients worldwide.
DDB – It sounds like HARO is meant mainly for reporters. What are the advantages for small business owners?
Shankman – HARO provides small to mid-size businesses with 75-80% open rates on the ads that headline each of its thrice-daily email digests containing reporter queries. HARO also helps many small businesses directly market to their key audiences and make money. Everyone who receives the HARO newsletter must opt-in, meaning they choose to receive the e-mail. The advertising messages are custom-written either by HARO founder Peter Shankman or by a HARO family member and presents the product or service in a fun and positive light that highlights its importance and utility. Furthermore, since HARO is a digital newsletter, hyperlinks are directly embedded within the message.
DDB – How can media exposure help a small business? Do you have any success story examples from your clients?
Shankman – Media exposure pushes a product or service into the spotlight, instantly gaining consumer focus and attention. The best way to demonstrate HARO’s success is with by citing the successes of our users.
For example, Michael Jordan, owner of BullyStickDirect.com, called the response to his ad ‘overwhelming’ and noted that he received about a 2,000% increase in website hits the afternoon his ad appeared and into the next day. Not only was HARO the most successful advertising venue Mr. Jordan had tried, he’s also used HARO to achieve additional visibility by getting quoted in a book and major publications simply by responding to HARO queries.
Another HARO user, Jason Sadler, has called his HARO ad the ‘tipping point’ for his website, IWearYourShirt.com. Sadler said his first ad helped him sell 2-3 months worth of shirts in days, moving $8000 worth of merchandise and generating ‘a ton’ of press exposure.
DDB – Since HARO is itself a small business, what are some of the decisions you’ve made that enable HARO to compete with larger players?
Shankman – HARO was originally conceived as a Facebook group. Since Facebook caps group emails at 1,200 people, an e-mail newsletter was started. As HARO’s readership grew, HARO realized that there was great potential to include a simple, subtle, and creative ad at the top of each message. As a small business of its own (HARO has only 6 full-time staff members), HARO has generated $1.4M in revenue in 14 months. By utilizing technology and automatic distribution services, HARO is able to keep its overhead low while, at the same time, continually offering high yield ROI on its ads.
DDB - What are some of the best decisions you’ve made as a small business owner?
A) Hired people whose skills complement my own.
B) Listened to people I trust; ignored the naysayers I didn’t.
C) Believed in my idea.
D) Listened to my customers and audience. Constantly.
January 18, 2010 1 Comment
Dollar Days Blog is pleased to share the expertise of Shel Horowitz, ethical/Green marketing expert.
Dollar Days Blog (DDB) – Please describe your background and business expertise in a nutshell.
Shel Horowitz – I founded my own business in 1981 with a total investment of $200, of which $12 went for initial marketing. I am still in that business, although it has morphed several times and bears no relation to its original incarnation. These days, I break down the bulk of my work into these areas:
January 4, 2010 3 Comments