Sharing my personal story and asking for your help.
I’m going to admit, this is difficult to write.
(There’s a giveaway below, so stick with me, OK?)
On March 16th, I was interviewed for a news piece for ABC World News with Diane Sawyer about Middle Class families having financial struggles. You can read about it more on my personal blog, A Whole Lot of Nothing.
Way back in 2006, my husband and I decided it would be best for our family for me to stay home with our two young girls, 2 and 6 months old at the time. My teacher’s salary, even with the extra pay for having earned a Master’s Degree, was barely more than daycare costs for our two young girls. We still needed a few extra dollars a month to make ends meet, so I began selling maternity & baby clothes on eBay. I got the bug for selling after I started making extra cash on my own. I felt proud of the little accomplishments in sales I was making.
After having completed a few sales on eBay, I found I needed some Nuby replacement spouts for my girls’ sippy cups, and like anything else, I figured I could buy them on eBay. A few sellers had some spouts listed on eBay, and seeing as I was an up-and-coming entrepreneur, I found out where I, too, could buy and resell the spouts.
Really, it was a massive success. I found my online-selling niche in little silicone parts for sippy cups.
The next step was to start my own web store. I would be selling all of the Nuby spouts that the US distributor was selling out of their office, but didn’t have available online, nor were they advertising the availability of the spouts to consumers.
Total SCORE for me. Next up? World domination.
I started finding other products that were either hard-to-find or created by mom-owned small businesses. The business was growing every month, and I was spending more and more time doing something I could be proud of.
It was not unusual for the store to have 20+ orders a day. Less than 20 orders a day, and I was worried. Every month was better than the last.
My business was successful.
Until the Fall of 2008.
I was naïve to think I was immune because I was doing so well the 2 years previous. I was naïve to think that I could pay off the debt I had created that I was steadily paying down in my success.
I had been supporting small businesses, I was helping parents purchase products they needed at an affordable price, and I had a growing return-customer base.
But the damage had been done. Consumer confidence immediately dropped as news reports increased about cutting back on personal spending. I didn’t even need to watch the news reports and see the statistics to know that people were holding on to their money much more closely than they had just the month before.
Yes, people were losing their jobs at an astonishing rate.
Yes, people were becoming more conscious of how they spent their money.
And yes, consumers stopped buying “extras” for themselves and their kids.
This happened seemingly overnight.
I can see the drop-off in my own business’ financial statements.
Where I once had the confidence to be a successful and responsible small business owner, that confidence was now replaced with mounting debt, skyrocketing interest rates, and the inability to help support my family.
I have had to drastically change how I market my business by basically slashing my prices, offering deep discounts, and depend on word-of-mouth marketing.
To be honest and fair, I’ve not treated my customers with the attention they deserve. It now takes me longer to ship orders out, I have shut off my business phone (partly because the hours of operation were not respected and I was receiving calls at 1am), and I am not as quick to answer customer emails.
I wish I could do better for my customers, but because the web store is not bringing in the money that it used to, I have had to take on other writing jobs to make extra money. That additional work has taken away from my store’s time, and it has left me playing catch-up with my customers and their needs. For that, I am deeply apologetic.
My sincere hope is that my customers (and potential customers) will see this article and understand that supporting small businesses, even in the smallest capacity, helps our economy. I, too, have not been doing my full part in supporting fellow small businesses, but when I can, I will.
I am making a concentrated effort to focus more on my customers.
I am selling off most of my inventory to focus on a smaller product line.
I am telling the world about my struggles.
I am hoping for a miracle.
My family and I are struggling.
We need help.
We don’t need handouts.
We need the powers of the internet to guide us and help us with my mom-owned, woman-owned, small internet-based retail business.
If you have a blog or a website, I would love to have my store’s badge up on your site (it’s over <—- there all coded and ready).
If you Twitter, please tell your followers about my store.
If you email (and I know you do), please subscribe to my newsletter (below).
If you feel you can, please tell your blog readers, friends, and family about my store.
The support I’ve received from my friends online so far has been overwhelming. People are calling me “brave” and “courageous” for coming out of the shadows of debt and sharing our story.
I’m not doing this for the attention.
I’m doing this because I am no different than so many of you.
My 3-second piece on the national news has given me an opening to be able to share our struggles and to ask for help.
Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support that has been extended already, and thank you to those of you considering extending a few minutes of your time, and possibly a few dollars, to help me and my business.
You are truly appreciated.
Giveaway (because you stuck through all of that)
Leave a simple comment letting me know the name of your favorite item in the store.
I’ll pick a random winner from the comments left between now and Wednesday, March 24th, at 8:59pm EST to win a $50 Gift Certificate to Good for the Kids.
If you Twitter about the contest, leave a link to the tweet in the comments for an additional entry.
Two total comments allowed per person, per day.
(One out of the two comments must be a tweet.)
Updated: Jill is our winner and has been contacted!