Thursday, July 3, 2008

Baby Boss, even through the lean, mean times...

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Let's face it. Times are tough. Gas prices are into the stratosphere and food prices are not far behind. The economy is sluggish, almost at a standstill. Companies large and small are feeling the pinch, some even shuttering their stores as a result of the tailspin. And caught in the middle of the maelstrom is the American Consumer who is being forced to scale back on every little extra these days just to make ends meet, and even then they're struggling. It's not pretty out there, folks. It's not pretty at all.

So it comes as no surprise that Baby Boss sales - however meager they were before - have slowed to a crawl. And by crawl I mean stop. And by stop I mean dead stop.

For an established business with a solid customer base, the lean times, while difficult to be certain, are not a death knell. Odds are they have been though similar slumps and know how to loosen up for the long, bump ride. Cut back on unnecessary spending, thin the employee ranks, dip into reserves. They come through bruised, battered and maybe even bloodied, but still breathing.

Smaller companies, on the other hand, do not have those same luxuries. Dips in the economy that lead to drops in consumer spending strike fear in the heart of many a small business owner, who is likely beholden to a bank and facing a mountain of bills from vendors and service providers. These businesses - and their employees - typically sustain themselves in a hand-to-mouth fashion, so when the cash flow in the front door is restricted, much scrambling ensues to figure out a way to make up for the difference of what has to flow out the back.

Fortunately, Baby Boss is not a brick-and-mortar business yet. Operated out of our home, and with only two "employees" (three, if you count our son, who periodically helps cut fabric), it has blessedly little overhead, so the effect of the economic downturn is less financial and more psychological. Simply put, it's hard to continue spending every second of our free time devoted to building a business and a brand when there is so little return on your investment.

We have discussed this issue on the Etsy forums and the results have been mixed. Many people have responded with experiences of similarly sluggish sales but encourage us (and themselves in the process) to stick with it, while others remind us that 12 sales in a month is extraordinary for a new store on Etsy and chastise us for needlessly whining. Although I do not think we come across as whiners, I have to say I agree with both camps. Sales are down, but the market has not bottomed out, so there is still money to be made, and the only way to get a piece of the action is to be strong. On the other hand, as compared to other stores our age, we are ahead of the curve and are in a market that will always be alive (unless, of course, people stop having babies).

Regardless, even in the best of circumstances, running a small business takes tenacity and fortitude, and between the two of us, I think Laura and I have what it takes to stick it out.

And to all of the other little business owners out there who can share in our pain, I offer a salute. Say what you will about the old guard - General Motors, IBM, GE - but the little guy is the life blood of this country. Without our determination, our ingenuity, our absolute need to find a better way to do things because we have no other option than to improve on the status quo, this country would still be mired in the 19th century.

Hang tough!
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1 comment:

Dancing Monkey Jewelry said...

Thank you for this post - very well written and well, it put things into prespective. I will refer back to it on an as needed basis.