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Monday, September 7, 2009

Running your own business

I was reading an article in the NY Times that was uncomfortable reading - Out of Work, and Too Down to Search On.

It hit home personally. After Y2K there was a recession in the technical area and it was not a fun time for technical types like me to get hired. Hiring was frozen. The good news was I got a lot of experience substitute teaching that taught me a huge amount about teaching and started work on my teaching credential/masters.

Running your own business is a great alternative and I appreciate how supportive my family has been on this. ChildBook is 12 years old, but most of the time I was running it at night. So I would have my day job, then at night do Childbook (exhausting). After I left my last outside job over two years ago as a Director of just about everything (started as marketing, kept on getting areas assigned to me such as HR, IT, and Quality), I took the opportunity to work full time on my business and it has been challenging.

My business plan missed the fact that the worst recession since the Depression would come along a year into my full time odyssey. Being very open, it has been a very challenging retail experience. The good news is I have kept on improving ChildBook to make it an even better shopping experience as well as expanding my inventory.

Many people ask me how ChildBook is doing, usually Chinese. I often have this feeling they are checking if they should start a business doing the same thing. Some of the questions I have gotten include how much are your sales, how many employees do you have, etc. And people will copy what your doing! They will open the same exact business right next to you. A family friend has a Taiwanese Restaurant and somebody opened the exact same type of restaurant right next to them (landlord should not have allowed this), which resulted in a price war. The other business finally left.

I am very open that selling Chinese Children's Learning Materials is a challenging business. From getting quality items, keeping the web site going, translations, marketing, answering phone calls, and there is a surprisingly amount of competition. Dealing with customers can be very challenging and my goal is to be fair to them, and my business.

For me, I am very happy working on ChildBook. It is using all the skills from my previous positions working for other people that I have learned so much from and giving me the chance to apply it to my own business. I have been very lucky working with some brilliant people that I learned so much from (thanks Rob, Dan, Steven, Komal, Andrew, Sani, Jeff Z., and many more at Mall).

Future plan are to keep on improving Childbook with the top goal of providing a great shopping experience, from the first click on the site, selecting the right product, to dealing with returns.

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