The website is finally up!

We finally put the website for the experiment up. You can check it out at 8bitflorist.com. Feel free to like it on Facebook and tweet about it :D

Here on the right side of this post, you can see how the final version of the rose looks. I think the image is good but in real life is looks and feels absolutely fantastic. If you’re a fan of Minecraft you owe it to yourself to get one. I know I’m biased, but I mean it. Every time I look at it on our living room table I smile.

OK, some notes on the website.

Other than a purchase option (powered by Gumroad), I also wanted to provide a free download of the images we use to print the flower and the pot in case anyone wanted to do it on their own and just was on a very tight deadline and none of our shipping methods was enough. It’s at the bottom of the page, above the “Buy now” call to action. At first I thought about having an email-only form hooked up to Mailchimp to collect emails of those who downloaded the images, but then I thought: why not create a different product on Gumroad and set the price to 0+ (meaning people can set the price to zero and get it for free, or donate whatever they want)? Gumroad is awesome and they also let you send e-mails to all customers who bought (or in this case, downloaded for free) a product of yours, so I’m using them to run my little mailing list instead of Mailchimp. That way I have everything under the same service: sales and mailing list.

I’m using Google Analytics too so I’ll be sharing traffic stats at some point as well.

Finally, I settled on a final price: $19.95 shipping included. It’s not as cheap as I would like but without knowing how much we’ll sell, I can’t take the risk of ordering 10,000 copies and being able to price the product at $14.95 or so. Besides, I don’t think there are that many people who’d buy at $15 but not at $20. I think both numbers can be considered impulse purchase friendly. And after all, this is meant for gifts, and spending $20 on a gift is not considered a lot by any means.

Foldable.me‘s, which we love and kind of drew inspiration from for this experiment, are priced at $11.95 shipping included, which is awesome. However, I’m sure they move massive volume, since they have an amazing product. Actually, I know of quite some people that have bought a few after seeing ours. Also, their product fits in one sheet of paper printed on one side, while we ship four sheets of paper, two of them printed on both sides. On the plus side for us, though, all our prints are the same, while each of theirs has a unique design so they can’t print 10,000 of the same paper doll. Still, until (if ever!) we get to thousands of units sold, there’s no way we can get anywhere near $11.95 shipping included.

Tomorrow I’ll start contacting Minecraft and videogame blogs and websites and see if we can get some coverage and feedback. Exciting times! Will keep you guys posted.

On Shipping

I love the words “shipping included”. It makes buying physical products online so much more enjoyable. No need to think about “Where is this being shipped from?” or “How much extra is it gonna cost me?” And it’s not something that only the big players like Amazon can do, you can run a small shop and still follow this practice. From the start I decided I wanted to include shipping in the price for our little experiment.

We’ve been contacting a few shipping companies (UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc) and we’ve basically found out two things that apply to all of them. One, they usually focus on 1 to 2 day shipping. I wanted to include free 1 or 2-week shipping (which is cheaper) and then maybe offer the option of paying extra for 2-3 day shipping. The second thing we’ve found, though, is that they’re freakingly expensive, even for a lightweight product like ours. The very cheapest option is something like $30 to ship an envelope, unless you have some really serious volume, in which case it goes up down to maybe $15. I guess this pricing makes sense for more expensive items or very sensitive documents that need to be shipped fast, but not in our case, when it costs as much to ship (or even a lot more, depending on the destination) than the actual price of the product being shipped.

Still, being impatient as I am, I appreciate having the option of fast shipping (as outrageous as the price may be). If I found this particular product, wanted to buy it as a gift and didn’t have 1 or 2 weeks before my deadline (say, a birthday), I would totally pay $20 or $30 extra for faster shipping. Heck, I’ve done that before and I didn’t even have a deadline to meet. So yeah, if I can easily integrate (technically speaking) ”pay extra for faster shipping”, I will.

Collecting payments

I’ve been thinking today about how are we going to collect payments for the experiment. I thought about Stripe, but it’s US only. PayPal also came to mind, but I’ve had so many problems before (and heard of even more horrible stuff happening to other people), that I don’t think I want to take the risk. Then I thought about Gumroad, which I’ve had the pleasure to use before (as a customer, purchasing some of Nathan Barry‘s products), so I know it provides a good experience for the customer.

I was under the impression that it only supported digital products (to be downloaded or delivered by email), so I was excited to find out they now also support asking for shipping information (address, country, zipcode, etc). In other words: support for physical goods that need to be shipped. You still need to upload a file when you create a new product on their system (as a seller), but I contacted them and they said that in this case the best thing is to add a PDF saying something along the lines of “Thank you for purchasing X, your product will be shipped to you soon and, blah blah blah“.

Gumroad’s fee is 5% + $0.25 so I’ll need to take that into account as well when deciding on a final price. However, for the ease of use and quality of the service they provide, it’s a steal. I’ll write more about them once I have actual experience using it as a seller.

Bulk printing quotes

After contacting a few printing companies here in Barcelona, I finally decided to get a sample print from a couple of them. More than the prices, which were quite similar, I used response speed & quality as the main indicator for who I wanted to work with. I feel like nowadays I find myself associating quick responses to customer satisfaction all the time. That’s why I always try to reply to my emails as soon as possible. But I digress.

One thing that I already knew of manufacturing physical products (in this case printing them) but that still shocked me was how big of a difference in price per unit there is based on how big is your order (in terms of number of products manufactured).

For example, if I only order 500 items the price per unit is five times bigger than if I order 10,000. Considering the product at hand and my marketing budget for it (zero), this makes it tricky to set a price for consumers. Personally, I’m aiming for 500 orders, so I’ll set the price accordingly. If I end up selling thousands, then I’ll have a higher margin, which added to the volume, means I’ll make a nice profit. If I sell a few dozen units, I’ll lose some money (plus lots of time), but not too much. I still haven’t decided about the final price, but I’ll write about it when I do.

We got a domain name: 8bitflorist.com!

We finally settled on a name for the website: 8bitflorist.com. If you go now there will be nothing, so don’t waste your time. How did we come up with it? Glad you asked.

The obvious name was something like MinecraftFlowers.com but I didn’t want to run into legal issues by using their trademark (although I did buy that domain, more on that later). Keeping that in mind, we thought about PixelFlower.com or PixelFlowers.com, but they are both taken. Then my girlfriend came up with 8bit Flower, which I really like, so I registered that one as well. But then I thought, would it be better to call the website / shop 8bit florist, since it’s a place where we sell flowers. And so the final name was decided.

Now, I also registered a bunch of other domains which I plan to redirect to the main one. It’s an old habit of mine, which I recommend, but for this small experiment it may be overkill:

minecraftflower.com
minecraftflowers.com
8bitflower.com
8bitflowers.com
8bitsflower.com
eightbitflower.com
eightbitflowers.com
eightbitsflower.com

Proof of concept

I really like it :-)

New Expertiment: Sell Minecraft-themed flowers for Saint Valentine’s Day

The other day I was sitting at the dentist getting my tooth drilled (you really never know when ideas are gonna come up!) and I had an idea for an awesome gift for my girlfriend that I was sure she’d love. She’s really into the game Minecraft, things made out of paper, and gifts; so why not combine them all? I could print out a Minecraft-style red rose made out of paper, put it in some nice wrapping and give it to her for St. Valentine (not that we celebrate it, but still). Genius! I was actually so excited that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, and told her. She absolutely loved the idea. Yes, I kind of spoiled the surprised, but I wanted her opinion on what goes next.

I thought: there must be other people out there in my situation (having someone special in their life who loves Minecraft: girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband, sister/brother, daughter/son, friend, etc) who would also love to do this but may not have the will, patience or time to actually do it all by themselves. After checking prices for doing it in a high quality manner (premium precision cut paper, Foldable.me style, which we also love) I quickly realized that manufacturing one or two units was very expensive. On the other hand, creating a lot of them (at least, hundreds) brought the price per unit down considerably. So I had a second idea: quickly come up with a prototype and website, promote the hell out of it and see how many sales I can have from now until St. Valentine’s (after which I presume sales would be lower). I have basically one month to pull it off. After talking to a few of my Minecraft-loving friends, I think it could be a great gift for so many people, so I’m quite excited about it. But the deadline until St. Valentine’s Day is very tight.

Yes, it’s not a million dollar idea, and yes, it’s not a business that’s gonna last for years either (quite the contrary). But I think it can be fun, I absolutely love the product and most importantly, it won’t take much of my time (as opposed to most of my ideas for new businesses). I will be reporting here every few days with updates on how the project is going, stats on traffic, sales, etc. which (if they’re good!) I hope may inspire others to pursue their own crazy ideas to make money while at the same time making other people happy.

Just Do It

Sometimes I’ve found myself in the situation of having to do something that I knew I had to, but that I was dragging for too long because I was afraid of what could happen. Often, this meant asking someone something (a business proposition, a favor, etc). Other times, just telling someone something.

I’m the kind of person who wonders for weeks what will the other person say. “If they say yes it would be awesome! Life would be so easy. If they say no, then that would suck and I’ll need to find a plan B.”.

I don’t immediately do it because a) it’s usually an uncomfortable situation to be in, like asking someone for a favor, or maybe quitting a job and b) because, in case I’m asking something, that would mean facing the situation of having them say ‘No’.

But I’ve come to realize waiting to do those things doesn’t make any sense, for a few reasons. First, all that time I wonder what can happen, it’s just a waste of time and energy. I’m never gonna *know* what they’ll say until I ask, so trying to fantasize about each answer they can give is pointless. Of course you should plan the interaction, but don’t overthink it. A lot of times I’ve tried thinking about all the possible angles a conversation could go to, and then when I actually have it it’s completely different and unexpected.

Another important point is the realization that that interaction you’re dreading and postponing HAS to happen, and ask yourself: would you rather have a YES or a NO to something important to you NOW, or would you rather wait for a month, getting all concerned about what will happen if… If you’re gonna get a NO, you might need to think about a plan B, and if you’re gonna get a YES, you’re most probably going to have to do something with that answer (like move forward on a business transaction). Whatever it is, it’s always better to know sooner rather than later.

So leave the fear of asking aside and just do it now.

First Tuesday

This week, the thing I chose to get my out of my comfort zone was to attend First Tuesday Barcelona, a networking event for entrepreneurs.

I’ve always had mixed feelings when it comes to this kind of events. First off, they sound very promising. Lots of people working on interesting stuff, or at least wanting to, seems like the kind of crowd I’d like to meet. I could go there and end up with a bunch of really interesting connections, or even new friends. Then, the worst-case-scenario part of my brain kicks in. What if most are just there to watch, or are the kind of people who are always about to start something (but never do)? What if the talk (there’s usually a talk by some successful entrepreneur) is boring? And so the self convincing begins, and ultimately ends up making up enough arguments to make me stay home. Those are all rational questions, but at the end of the day, the main force driving me to out of those events is the fact that I’d be uncomfortable around lots of strangers, probably more successful than me, and in an environment where you’re expected to “sell yourself”, something I’m horrible at. Another comfort issue.

When I took on the challenge, I knew one of those things I had to tackle was entrepreneur events, and the first one happening in my area was First Tuesday. This time the talk was from TopRural‘s CEO François Derbaix. He gave general advice about starting up an Internet company, and was great. I’ve read lots of books and listened to lots of talks, and it still felt like fresh advice most of the time. Also, while not a ridiculously good speaker, François was very casual and honest about everything he said, which pleasantly reminded me of last year’s Bussiness of Software talk by Balsamiq’s Peldi Guillizzoni. A must watch.

So the talk was good, what about the people? Luckily I ran into a friend there -who was with two other friends-, and I was meeting another friend as well, so I ended up spending most of my time speaking to them. It was great, but it didn’t get me much out of my comfort zone, though. It was plenty of fun, so I can’t complain. At least I got myself to ask a question to the speaker in the Q&A round, though :)

All in all it was a great experience which I intend to repeat. Next time, though, I’ll try and network more with random people, see if I enjoy it or get something useful out of it.

Quote of the day

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done,
you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”
— W. L. Bateman