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:


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

Challenge: Get Out Of My Comfort Zone Regularly

I read a lot about entrepreneurship, success, self growth, etc. and one of the common advice I keep seeing over and over is: get out of your comfort zone regularly. Every time I read it, I nod. But I do nothing about it.

The reason is, obviously, getting out of your comfort can be scary and is definitely uncomfortable (surprising, I know).

Still, looking back I can see how some of the moments in my life where I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone have stuck in my memory, either because I’ve been proud of myself, grown in some aspect of my personality, or just plain simple, had an amazing time. Some of these moments include going on my first trip (other than with school) with five other people I had never met, pitching a project, doing some prepared public speaking or hitting on a girl I thought was way out of my league.

If I feel so great about all these moments, why don’t I do it more often? Again, it’s scary. Every one of those moments was preceded by fear, and not precisely in small amounts. It could be irrational or not (most fear is), but that doesn’t matter. It matters that it was there, I went through it and achieved something important for me.

I constantly think of things I would like to do, because they could bring great things into my life or because they would help me grow in some form, and time and time again I put them on the “someday” box. Not because I don’t have the time now, but because it would mean getting out of my comfort zone. No more.

Starting next week, I’ve decided to do a least one thing a week that gets me out of my comfort zone, and I’ll be blogging about each of those things. Call it a challenge, if you wish. I already have a few very different things in mind, from public speaking to cooking to trying to get coffee meetings with potentially interesting people, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I think one thing a week is very doable (as opposed to my first initial idea of once a day), and I can always increase that number if I stop finding it challenging (I doubt it). I hope this new habit will allow me to grow in different aspects of my life that I want to improve, as well as learn different things and meet new interesting people. I know it’s gonna be scary. And most of the time, I’ll find excuses not to do it. But I’m looking forward to all of it.