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Anonymous 46766

Does anyone here have experience setting up their own business/being self employed? Any advice to share?

Anonymous 46767


My bf desperately wants to leave his job and proposed we start an online shop. He's a fantastic artist and has been studying graphic design in his spare time. The online store would consist of items he's designed (most likely prints, pins, shirts) and I would manage the finances/customer support/stock since I have a little experience in those areas. He has quite a bit in savings and we can avail of a grant to get ourselves started.

Is this even a viable idea? Or is it stupid? Has anyone done similar and would like to share how they got started?

Anonymous 46775

I have far too much experience with starting up businesses. My family has been through three of them.

When I was young, my parents had owned a physical store. They were somewhat successful at first, but when they became too ambitious, their inexperience caught up with them. Aggressive investments in products that didn't work out, relentless and costly advertising in the wrong places, and hiring shady employees led my family to bankruptcy. Even now, two decades later, we're still suffering the fallout.

About five years ago, my mother began a business of her own by making and selling jewelry. She had an online store and went to some conventions, but eventually dropped the online store since it wasn't as successful. She makes a killing at conventions, but whenever there isn't one, money is stretched really tight. She's also miserable and works sun up to sun down every day, often crying when she thinks no one's looking.

Inspired by my mother's success, I had tried to start a business by 3D printing stuff and selling it since that seemed popular. I invested in a fancy printer and sold at some conventions, but quickly realized I was in way over my head. I was forced to throw in the towel and abandon my $1000+ investment.

I know, blog post, but I wanted to get my point across about the dangers it poses. I'm not going to lie, it does seem fun to have an nontraditional job and, if you're successful, it can prove quite rewarding. My mom never has any time for herself, but at least she can stay at home doing it.
I would be careful about making any rash decisions. My father actually wants to leave his job to help out my mother (and because he hates his work), but he likely never will. It is just too important to have a reliable source of income. I would recommend your boyfriend to start up this business on the side, and if it seems profitable then he could consider leaving his job to work on it full time. It may take a while though to get to the point where your own business is more practical than a steady job. I don't know if you work or not but, if you do, that could lessen the blow of him leaving his job tremendously. If neither of you plan to have a job though besides starting up this online store in its earliest stages, that is extremely risky.

It helps that savings and grants are available to you. Ever since the bankruptcy, my family's never been out of debt. I just want to stress the importance of not moving too quickly. Don't have him quit his job right away and invest thousands into this or you may ruin yourselves for the rest of your lives.

The American Dream is certainly appealing, just proceed with the upmost caution.

Anonymous 46778

If you're going to do it, you have to commit entirely or risk burning out within a few weeks once the realities of organising international shipping really hit home and it seems like there's a mountain of work and responsibility with a giant ticking clock above it.

The best advice I can offer is to balance overall price point with avoidance of Chinese companies and understand your customers. When I started out I was smithing by hand just about everything and Chinese sellers had supposedly reliable stock shipments for less than half the price of domestic suppliers. I quickly learned approximately 50% of Chinese suppliers are simply scammers who cannot be prosecuted internationally and the other half are simply incompetent, sending stock which was way out of spec and at one point sending copper stock which was practically slag runoff. It turns out the only reliable Chinese sellers charge pretty much the same as domestic suppliers. Getting any of these companies to do anything is like pulling teeth. Even getting someone to double check a missing order can take weeks, and if even a single problem arises during the processing of an order, often times they will simply refund you and give up entirely. It's a recurring issue I've found with all Chinese companies, that if a single inconvenience pops up, they just don't shrug and not look for any solution.

I quickly changed practices to avoid them as much as possible, but that's because I could. My customer base is completely willing to pay for the difference in price point, because they intended to buy an expensive handmade item in the first place, and the extra cost isn't going to scare them off. Making prints, pins and shirts, you will absolutely need to contract Chinese companies, because you're selling a lower priced item that many would see an extra 30% added to a simply decide perhaps they don't really need it at all, or they can find a more reasonably priced alternative elsewhere.

So, I suggest getting a comfy headset, cheap VOIP, Mandarin translation service and collecting the business license, references and samples from everyone you're looking into. If any one of those throws up a red flag, just move on since dealing with Chinese bureaucracy means waiting 4 months to get a single record telling you if the company has any breaches or cases filed against them. You may also want to double check any references by cross-referencing with other businesses to see if 4 or 5 of them all share references, indicating it's just an empty shell to scam westerners.

Anonymous 46779

Most usefull thread in a while. A shame I know nothing.

Anonymous 46786

I always see good businesses that fail because of terrible locations, like dead parts of shopping malls or hidden in some corner. My dad had multiple businesses over the years and he always said location was super important.
Also be very careful with who you hire. We had businesses in the US and hired a middle aged Cuban lady who came crying because nobody would hire her, and she gave herself an injury on purpose and sued us. The case was dismissed but we left the country anyway. Now I live in the 3rd world and every single of our employees has stolen from us and two tried to sue. Don't hire Latinas basically.

Anonymous 46806

Wow I wasn't really expecting responses but everyone offered amazing advice. Thank you.

Thanks for keeping it realistic, I needed to read that. I've stressed to him that if he's serious about this, he needs to start market research, making a website, ordering test products and maybe just selling one item online asap to see if we actually can do it. He's pretty determined that he's going to leave his job regardless of whether this works out or not but if it does, we'll likely get part time jobs until it's something steady. I'm in a field where I can do temp jobs so if I need to do something for 3 months or a few days a week to help us out, I will.

We've already ordered some prints from a European company (we're European so it makes sense lol) which were great and I'd like to stick with them. People actually offered to pay more for them so I guess we have an idea of what people will pay. He stopped that though because he was worried about the legality of selling fanart (which is weird because I see plenty of people doing it online?) but he's going to stick to original designs now. So hopefully that's something unique enough to draw in an audience that can't just buy the items somewhere else.

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