Running a Small Business in Today’s Economy

There’s been an article circulating around on Facebook. I was sent the link by a friend and found the post to be on Bill C.’s Facebook page. I won’t put his last name on here out of respect for his privacy… or lack there of… it is Facebook.. LOL

The story is as follows…

“Christmas 2011 — Birth of a New Tradition
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift
giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!
It’s time to think outside the box, people….”

Reading this man’s thoughts on Christmas and buying locally, I got to thinking about what it means to buy locally and how being in business for yourself has changed over the years. When ever someone thinks of a business owner setting pricing for an item, the old 50% markup jumps into the mind, at least it has always jumped into my mind… that is until the Homesteader’s Supply endeavor came to life.

I always assumed that business owners made good profit on items, though I soon realized that any retail is a super competitive adventure. The “Mom and Pop” stores are a pretty good collection of folks… we talk often to others selling Homesteading products and share what’s working and what isn’t working, ask questions and offer advice. While we’re “competitors” we’re all just folks that homestead and want to share knowledge as much as we want to sell the great products we find. We have been doing this much more recently with the new push by Amazon to enter into any untouched market. By this I mean, they are seeking out manufacturers and wholesalers to carry products way beyond book, music, movies and the like. Recently the push has been on homesteading items and it’s really hit sales. Sales for us the last couple of months have been cut in half… we talked to others in our little niche and found their sales had tanked also.

When we dug into the WHY… we found that Amazon was selling items we sell for less than we can even purchase it for. Our little store doesn’t generate the volume that Amazon does and we can’t compete! All cards on the table, we make between 10 and 20% on our items and that doesn’t leave much wiggle room to cover expenses, let alone a payroll. Small business are really struggling on Main Street as well as Cyber Street… And while buying local is the big push, people’s pockets are hurting too and those few dollars saved are important. I get that, I really do. I just don’t know how small businesses will make it if the big box stores and the big box virtual stores keep under cutting everyone involved. There has to be a balance in there somewhere so everyone can compete.

What did we do??? We caved… like many other mom and pop cyber shops and put some of our custom created items on…. Amazon. We still have the store, but we have to flex with the times and figure out how to stay in business because the other option is to just close the doors and we have so much time, labor, love and money invested to just close the doors.

Now back to the story above…. the author who shared his thoughts talks of this very struggle, the struggle of small business owners to compete in a time of pricing wars and often… profit elimination. This can only go on for so long before more shops just close their doors and the owners try to reenter the labor market. So, this holiday season, if you have a chance to support a local business, a mom and pop cyber store… please do so knowing that they too are just trying to earn a living, trying to get by and trying to share a passion that they have for the items they sell.

I wish you all a safe and happy Holiday Season.

Nance Sparks
Homesteader’s Supply