Thursday, May 18, 2006

Jon Baas interview

Jon Baas is at

1. What drew you to opening an online store? Were you in a related field?

Well, not exactly a related field. In real life I am a professional actor and artist. My job (beyond playing pretend and creating commissioned artwork for a living) is to market my creative talents and myself.In essence, I am my own brand. I already had a personal website where I promoted my work. Extending that site to include a store where I share my creativity with fans, friends, and new visitors alike seemed like logical thing to do.

2. When did you open your store?

I opened my store in the summer of 2002. I remember the days when CafePress had only the basic products available for sale. They've come a long way since then!

3. What is harder about doing this then you thought it would be?

Oh, probably finding the time to continue adding new designs and rotating older ones. CafePress has certainly made it a heck of a lot easier in recent years. But back when I first opened my premium store, everything had to be designed and added product-by-product. That took forever.

4. What do you like best about being an online shopkeeper?

I think, without a doubt, it's the unique CafePress business model where I do not have to maintain an active inventory. While I absolutely love hosting my shop and sharing my creative designs, retail business is not my primary calling. If I had to focus on maintaining a tangible inventory, printing my own merchandise, and shipping all sales orders, it's a pretty good bet that I wouldn't be a CafePress shopkeeper. Letting CafePress take care of all the hands-on sales elements in my store, allows me to continue focusing on what I do best; acting, art, and design.

5. During the very first month, what do you wish you had known then that you do now?

Oh, there are many things I'm sure, the details of which I wouldn't be able to relate here. But, as with any endeavor, there is always an element of learning involved. When I started my store, I was just beginning to learn the nuances of both hosting an online commercial presence, and familiarizing myself with CafePress's business policies. But, four years and a lot of experience later, I'm easily a CafePress veteran. It's all about growth, and learning what works and what doesn't. And, no matter what anyone says, that's always a personal journey one must take on his or her own.

6. Could you share some of the marketing you’ve tried so far (on or off line) and what has worked and what hasn’t?

I've probably tried almost everything that the marketing guru's have suggested over the years. In the end, though, it's all a matter of what works and what doesn't - for the type of success someone aims to achieve.

If I had one suggestion, though - for the newbies reading this - I would probably say, don't underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. If people like something, human nature is to share that news with others. That's just how we're "wired". The trick, though, is not to approach your store like a manager looking to make the most money possible. Rather, be generous, personable, share your knowledge, and above all, help the customer with their needs and desires first and foremost. Learn what those needs are, and fill them. It's as simple as that. Customers are the pegs that drive business. Ignore them, and you're out on the street.

You know that old saying, "It is better to give than to receive", right? Well, it's true. One hundred percent true. Volunteer to give more of yourself in your business ventures, and customers will take an interest in what you have to offer. Building relationships is far more important to running a business - even a CafePress shop - than merely sitting back and collecting a paycheck. Yet, sad to say, the majority of people who open a commercial presence on the web, fail to consider this. And that's why they don't succeed. Success in anything is hardly easy. You really do have to put more work into it then you receive. But, as those of us who have been successful with CafePress can attest, hard work pays off in the end. Just be willing to remain persistent.

And remember, it took Henry Ford -- the innovator of the American automobile -- two failed attempts before he founded his successful Ford Motor Company. Even American business legends have had lowly beginnings. Be a Henry Ford. Experiment. Be persistent. If at first you don't succeed, then pick yourself up, and try again.

7. What other sites, blogs, etc. do you have if any?

There's my personal online blog (journal) that covers my career pursuits in art and acting:

(Hint: Read back to the summer of 2003, and you'll find my personal 15+ day journal about my time spent acting on the set of a Hollywood movie!)

And, similarly, my main website:(filmography, art gallery, etc.)

And, then there's a creative art project that may interest some of my fellow CafePress shop owners. It's called "Paint My Pixels", and exists as an art experiment that asks the question, "Can thousands of people work together to create a single painting, using only small blocks of colored pixels?"Not only does it allow participants to be creative in an experiment setting, but it might also be a clever place to promote your CafePress store. {Hint, hint!}

Nancy’s comments – Jon’s digital landscapes are fascinating and beautiful! He even has the section set up so customers can send free e-cards of them!

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At 7:19 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

I'm sorry Jon's link was wrong to his store for a week! It is correct now!



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