Thursday, June 29, 2006

Time management

One of the forums I read asked members for ideas on time management. Anyone who owns an online business knows there is always a “to-do” list longer then an arm.

I’ve always been very organized so I thought I would share my answers.

1. Do the hard stuff first.

It’s amazing how freeing getting the thing you dread out of the way is. You can literally sail through everything else after that.

2. Make some things habits.
When you make exercising a habit you never have to ask yourself if you are going to the gym today. Of course you are! Same with a lot of your daily work. Just sit down and start. If you think that checking your emails, stats and certain forums every single day is important, then have a set time and do that.

3. Keep lists.
It’s encouraging toward the end of the day to see how much you’ve managed to cross off. It probably will inspire you to knock off a few more before bedtime too. Plus writing it down allows you to “see” how your day should flow and adjust as the day moves forward.

4. Know that you will never be done!But, you’ll never be bored!

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Learning about Stat Counters

I’ve been on a reading and learning kick the past couple days. Since this blog is about the trials and adventures of starting an online store I am assuming some people reading it are interested in doing that, so I invite you to learn along with me about statcounters:

Increase Your Site Traffic By Knowing Your Stats
Be honest, when was the last time you looked at your website statistics? If you're like most webmasters it's probably been a while. If so, you're missing out on a goldmine of information. By measuring and analyzing your website statistics, you can learn a lot about your site and the people who visit it.
How are site statistics gathered?
A hit is produced when any file is served. The web page itself is considered one file, as are any images. Therefore, if a page has five images, it could generate six hits.
Sometimes, web traffic is measured by packet sniffing. Usually a software program can interrupt and monitor traffic passing over a digital network.
As data passes back and forth over the network, the sniffer captures each packet and eventually deciphers and examines its content according to the appropriate specifications. All the data that the sniffer captured is recorded and included in the web traffic analysis.
What information can your site stats give?
* The average number of page views per visitor. This tells you how good your site is at encouraging people to click around. Lots of page views means visitors are finding something of interest and they'll be more likely to return - and they'll hopefully bring their friends!
* Average visit duration. Another indicator of how useful visitors find your site. If they spend a lot of time it means they're genuinely interested in what you offer.
* When people visit. Knowing the most popular days and times can give you insight into who your customers are. If most of your visitors occur during the day then chances are people are browsing while at work. Knowing the habits of your visitors will help you find ways to target them. It can also help you decide when you're best to run advertising and even schedule site maintenance.
* The most popular pages. Work on optimizing your most popular pages for the search engines, using them as advertising campaign landing pages or starting a PPC campaign for them. They must be popular for a reason and will be a good way to entice potential customers to visit your site.
* Most requested exit pages. Unless the most frequently used exit page is your "thanks for ordering" page, you have a hole in your site that visitors are slipping through. Figure out why they're leaving from this page and you'll be able to improve your conversions.
*Referring sites and search engines. Knowing where your traffic is currently coming from can help you determine where to focus your traffic generation efforts. Look for ways to get even more traffic from your best sources - and don't waste time on the ineffective ones.

* Keywords used to find your site. If visitors are finding you through the search engines, it's invaluable to know what keywords and phrases they're using. Use these keywords when writing content for your site or planning a PPC campaign since you already know they generate traffic.
The author of the above article is Gabor Olah:

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

I get website advice

I sent a message to a guy in Germany who had given a lot of helpful advice to shopowners on one of the forums. He sent me a list of things he would do to my site. It was a little daunting because it means significant changes from designs to descriptions. I’m debating how much to do, not because of time and effort involved, but I show up really well in the search engines now and I’m not sure how this would effect it. Much to think about!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Time off!

I’ve always heard that one of the perks of having your own business is you can occasionally leave it for a day or two or three. That you have greater flexibility. This week I have been helping on a church mission week and have to be at church every morning at 5:30 to make breakfast for all the kids, pack up their lunches to send them out on the road and clean up. I get a few hours off (today I came home and mowed my yard.) and then go back at 3:30 to start working on dinner, watch the crazy games and participate in the worship series. It’s very rewarding, but I don’t understand the “take time off and your business keeps going” promise. If I am not actively working on it every day it seems to come to a stand still and my list of “work things to do” keeps getting bigger.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Searching online

I'm sharing an article by my favorite webdesigner/internet consultant again.

What Are We Searching For?

Just face it - the internet is part of our lives. Yes, there are some of us that do not have an e-mail address, and there are some that have never been online at all, but those folks are getting harder and harder to find. For the rest of us, the internet is getting to be pretty routine stuff…but what are we doing while we gaze into that rectangular piece of glass or plastic and type or scroll, or click, or wheel, or point?

A recent survey of over 2000 adults produced some interesting statistics in answer to that very question. Playing Texas Holdem? Buying new cars? Hooking up with a long lost sweetheart or a new one? We (you) may not be doing just what you (we) thought. No, real life is not what the headlines might portray, and with a quarter of us spending more than 22 hours online every week that’s a good thing.

Not surprisingly, the single most common use of the internet for most of us is connecting to each other though e-mail. Full 87% of us send/receive e-mail most/every time we go online. And guess which gender does the most of that? Yes, the ladies are in the lead when it comes to communicating on the internet just like all mediums throughout history. Interestingly, no other internet activity was skewed significantly to one gender or the other except for e-mail usage. The next most frequent reason that we go online is to wander aimlessly it seems. Over 55% of us surf with no specific motive in mind most/every time we go online. Don’t know about you, I found that quite surprising. Good thing we don’t drive with the same lack of intention, especially with the price of gas. The next most common online activity was search, and that is the primary subject of this column. It’s important at this point, to differentiate search from surf. The 55% number above represents those folks who just click on the first thing that catches their interest of the moment, and they’ve begun a journey winding through whatever links and connections present themselves. But let’s look closer at searchers who we’ll define as those who input a word, term, or phrase in a search engine in order to be presented with information specific to that input. Specific mission in mind; goal; interest…you get the idea.

So what are we all looking for? #1 is research (88% of those polled). The topics vary of course (the internet is infinite you know), but think research, education, knowledge. Most common research topics in order: Hobbies, Health/Medical, followed by job/career search; not headline material, but very respectable stuff. The #2 online activity is obtaining maps and directions at 75% (yes even men, though to a slightly lesser extent than women of course). 3rd is news/current events and further details of the study showed it is primarily to get differing viewpoints on issues. A surprising 54% use the internet instead of a phonebook to look up people and/or businesses, and a majority of that for local as opposed to non-local businesses. Business owners, make sure you have an online presence! Shopping made the list at #6 with roughly half looking for local retail where they can buy the product.

What about the search engines? Who is using what? According to comScore’s most recent data, Google handles 42% of our searches vs. 28% for Yahoo and 13.2% for MSN leaving the rest to the several hundred others combined. But…those polled showed surprisingly little loyalty with only 13% claiming to use Google exclusively, 11% for AOL, 10% for MSN, and 7% for Yahoo. In other words, most of us are comfortable using a variety of search engines depending on circumstances, and what we are looking for.

One last set of results caught my attention, and that is that a surprising 56% of online users said they do not know the difference between sponsored (paid) and natural (unpaid) listings and fully one half of the ones that do understand the difference either don’t care, or actually prefer the paid listings to the natural. So for the time being, advertisers can enjoy a preferred position with 75% of the online population.

Well, the internet is settling down into a pretty mundane part of our being just 20 years into its existence; useful and respectable. Don’t confuse that with stagnation though. It is changing and moving faster than oil through a goose, and there is nothing mundane about that!

*Survey done in April 2005 by Harris Interactive for icrossing. Complete report available on request.

John Geiger, owner of Webmasters ICE, has over five years experience helping small and medium-sized companies and organizations capitalize on the power of the internet through consulting, education, and supporting products and services. His focus and passion is the use of the internet in providing more effective overall marketing strategies and highly measurable levels of marketing success.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

4 of July stores

Summer is going way too fast! The 4th of July will be here before you know it.
T-shirts for that holiday have become very popular. Here are two sites with really quality 4th of July designs:

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Newly Wed store

I didn’t really do much work on my store today because we went up to the mountains all day. Then I popped into the CafePress forum to see what was new since I was on a day and a half ago and there were 1124 new posts! Needless to say I skimmed!

I’m still on a wedding kick. Maybe because tomorrow is my anniversary!
Here is another newlywed site that is a lot of fun!
This site has lots of Just Married bumper stickers and “newly wed” and “honeymoon” designs.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wedding gift store

June is wedding month. No doubt about it. I have been having more fun looking at this site; (hey, I worked hard yesterday – I deserve a little relaxation!)

This site has everything wedding related. One thing I thought was very clever is a “Save the Date” magnet for your refrigerator! Isn’t that great?

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I reorganize!

I decided to reorganize my lists again and try to start catching up in a more logical way!

I labeled one piece of paper Site and listed everything I want to do to my store: from new products, new sections, backing the whole thing up (!), promoting the custom section and promoting buttons. Then I labeled a sheet Affiliates and made that list: an online class I want to take, sites I want to look at, etc. My Writing sheet’s list is the longest and I have sadly neglected it! I could spend a year locked up in my office and maybe get to the end of that list! Then I made an Internet sheet. That list includes things like “read everything I’ve been sticking in Favorites, spend time on every forum I’ve joined, read all the email I’ve stuck in the folder titled “Read When Time”, do an online web design class I’ve saved and several dozen other sites and ezines I want to learn from. Next I made a Promotion sheet for all the places I still want to promote and designs I want to promote. Last I made a Work on Continuously sheet, which is basically things I should be checking on, and doing every day.

It helped to divide it out. Then I planned out the next week using a few things from each list on each day. Today I’ve been reading the chats on CafePress and starting to read some of my emails. Got distracted by and ended up adding two of my t-shirts to his site. I also added a bear to his DarnFineBear site. I wish I knew if anyone besides other storeowners look at those kinds of sites! My daughter also helped me add a scrolling bar of pictures from my site to my MySpace profile and change all the background. It looked so much better I sent some bulletins out to a few of the groups I belong to.

So that’s pretty much my day!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wedding buttons!

Whether you are having a wedding this month or just got engaged, I found the cutest site!

There are hundreds of buttons guests can wear to engagement parties, bachelor parties, the wedding and everything in between. Even the help at the reception has their own buttons!
You can go funny and spread them out on a table and watch people try to find out which button is meant for them or you can go traditional with “bride” “mother of the bride” “guest” etc.
Here are just a few examples:

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Monday, June 12, 2006

givitup's logo line

Just for fun I tried my logo on different products. I liked a lot of them, especially the buttons and the magnets, so I created a section of logo wear!

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

pxl vision interview

Day162 is one of Randy’s sites.

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

I was always drawn to having my own t-shirt line. I thought it would be great as a test to see if my designs were good enough for retail. With the ease of it made it all the easier to start up too. I have been in the graphic design field for 6-7 years, so that obviously helped to make my own designs rather than pay someone to do them for me.

2. When did you open your store?

I opened my store, Fluo, on November 2005

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

The marketing. Oh boy is it harder than what I thought. Anyone can have a site, but it takes something more, something special to keep him or her there and or buying something.

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

Not just having my designs on shirts and such, but also customizing the shop to my liking and showing that I am not just limited to simple little designs.

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

How hard the marketing is.

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?

Well I am using for advertising and it has gone great. I have met people that I wouldn't have if I saw them on the street. And from that I also am starting to collaborate with bands to push my designs as well. Featuring shirts on the artists and sponsoring events. It has all worked really well.

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

I also have another CafePress shop, it is HDP Tees at for adult humor and just funny tees that don't fit in with my Fluo line. There is also a Fluo blog as well And I also do freelance graphic design at (site under construction).

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Baby Bird Productions interview

Today we are talking to Barbara about her online store.
Her site is called Children's Clothing, Stories and Family Gifts from Baby Bird Productions, and can be seen here:

1. What drew you to opening an online store? Were you in a related field?
Over the years I've been an art teacher, children's librarian, free-lance professional storyteller and puppeteer. I've always created artwork, stories and such and I was thrilled to finally see a way that I could share them with others anywhere in the world.

2. When did you open your store?

I opened our shop in January 2005.

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

Optimizing the site to the point where it could be found in Google for my search terms. It's been a very slow, uphill battle, as I'm competing with some sites that have held top spots since Internet's infancy - everyone did and still does automatically link to them making them more and more entrenched. Waiting for income while persevering through Google sandboxes and other hurdles has been tough at times.

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

The fun lies in creating things, whether it's inventing stories and artwork that are the products of my own imagination, or creating and developing the shop itself, or the satisfaction of building my own business from the ground up. I began by knowing NOTHING about home computers or Internet.
There's never enough time to do everything that I want to do, but there's also a great sense of satisfaction in doing it all - as my knowledge and self-confidence have grown.

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

I wish that I had gotten in on Internet when it first began - when it was faster and easier to get a site noticed. Newer sites face swelling numbers of sites to compete with, sandboxes, well-entrenched older sites with thousands of incoming links and other difficulties. Also, if you are going it alone, you really need to do your homework about search engine optimization, how to use html code, how to get backlinks, how not to get penalized by Google for doing the wrong things, etc. A good product idea alone is not enough.

6. Could you share some of the marketing you¹ve tried so far (on or offline) and what has worked and what hasn¹t?

I've tried posting on: related forums - hits but no sales; writing articles - hits but no sales that I know of; Google Adwords - a complete waste of time; Craigslist - some sales; a couple of ads on other related sites - another waste of time; a few press releases - none have gotten picked up by the media; T-shirt countdown and other sites like it - hits but no sales, which is not a surprise as my shop is for children and babies and not for the usual T-shirt crowd.

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

I have a blog at

Nancy’s comments – I feel the same as Barbara about what seems to work and what doesn’t in marketing, although I’m not quite ready to give a few of them up yet. I think the CafePress forums should be treated as sharing information or getting affiliate interest only, we shouldn’t expect a sale from posting there, I too get a lot of hits from Craiglist, but so far none have converted into sales. It is fun to watch the statcounter after putting an ad on Craigslist though! Only one person who’s tried Adwords thought it was good (for people who sell things with not much markup) I think you would have to have a high priced item to have that be beneficial. I write a fair amount of press releases and mine have gotten picked up and I plan on trying the article route. SEO seems to be the biggest thing you have to get right and then have your site set up to entice people to buy.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

"No Video Games" products


I just read that an addiction center is opening Europe's first detox clinic for game addicts, offering in-house treatment for people who can't leave their joysticks alone.
Video games may look innocent, but they can be as addictive as gambling or drugs — and just as hard to kick, says Keith Bakker, director of Amsterdam-based Smith & Jones Addiction Consultants.
If you want to offer your support to those trying to kick the addiction or quit yourself, visit and check out our no video games line.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Busy Bodies interview

I blogged about these little people on Day 152 because they are about the cutest things I’ve ever seen! Heidi was nice enough to let me interview her.

1. What drew you to opening an online store?

After learning how hard it was to sell my designs “brick and mortar” style it just became the next logical step to try selling them on the internet. Discovering CafePress by accident led me to start thinking about it more seriously. They made my idea possible.

Were you in a related field?

Yes. I’m currently an illustrator and graphic designer and went to college for graphic design. While in college, I earned money in the summers drawing and airbrushing caricatures at ValleyFair amusement park in Minnesota. After about 5 years of doing that I decided to give airbrush T-shirts a try and painted tons of shirts my last summer at ValleyFair. I learned a lot about the T-shirt business: what kinds of designs sold, what prices people were willing to pay. I later opened up my own T-shirt booth at the Dakota County fair and sold my first BusyBodies designs there, each airbrushed by hand. They were the most popular designs at my booth.

2. When did you open your store?

August 27, 2003.
The “I Golf,” “I Fish,” “I Grill,” and Bride & Groom designs were the first designs in my store.

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

Marketing and time. Making my shop visible to potential customers and realizing the hundreds of hours it would take to create designs, tag them, price them, organize them, etc.

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

There’s so much I enjoy, but here are my top three:
• The global market. It’s incredible that I can sell my designs across the globe.
• The People. I’m so inspired and encouraged by the people I’ve met through my store. There are a lot of great people out there and I’m honored so many of them actually spend their hard-earned money on my artwork. I’m truly grateful.
• No Day-care. The best thing is that my CafePress income is just enough to enable my husband to work only on weekends so he can care for our baby during the week. That is truly priceless.

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

That my hard work would pay off eventually. It’s easy to lose motivation in the beginning, working alone in the basement on hundreds of little stick figure people, wondering if anybody will even care. Persistence pays off. Had I known it would be this successful, I would have had my store open much sooner.

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?

•SEO! If you don’t know about it, read about it on CafePress. The best investment of your time is Search Engine Optimization. Have things labeled properly in your store and people will find you.
• I continue to use them for advertising.
•Google AdWords. Easy to set a budget with them.
•Various free online listings and paid ads on interest-specific sites (with a niche market).
•Prompt, courteous responses to people’s emails always pays off. If you want your business to spread by word of mouth, you need to take good care of your customers!
•Early on I used web rings, forums & link exchanges to get noticed, but learned that those generally don’t convert to sales. These methods seem to just get traffic from other web designers looking for traffic. And they just don’t look professional on a store, so I’ve been removing them from my site.

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

I currently have four more CafePress premium stores in the works that I’m really excited about. Hopefully they can all go live in the next year. Other than that it’s just BusyBodies Stick Figure T-Shirts & Gifts. Please stop by and check it out!

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Road Rage t-shirts

I just read in the USA Today that a study of Road Rage is said to really be part of a bigger problem - intermittent explosive disorder and that over 16 million people in the US suffer from it. The chairman of psychiatry at the University of Chicago's medical school, Dr. Emil Coccaro, said, "People think it's bad behavior and that you just need an attitude adjustment, but what they don't know ... is that there's a biology and cognitive science to this,"
I apologize if my "no road rage" items seem frivolous, but suggest the design can also mean getting help!

See the rest of my “no road rage line” at

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Atomsart interview


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

I have not got such a great job at the moment so I was hoping I could sell some of my designs to help me get a bit more money. I also really wanted to show people my abstract art and get some feedback on my work in general and having the designs on t-shirts allows me to both make profit and show my art at the same time so I thought it would be a great idea.

I have also recently decided to make some designs in a fun way with things that people would probably want to wear on a t-shirt which is a change but I have enjoyed making the new designs, they can be found here -

I currently have a total of 21 designs but I enjoyed making them all so I plan to open more stores at some point.

2. When did you open your store?

I have been a member since 4/15/200. I opened my first store on that day then later updated it to have separate pages for each design. The links to the different products can be found at the top of the pages for both stores.

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

For me at the moment it would definitely be selling stuff, this may be because I’m currently using the basic shops service and a lot of people say the premium service sells a lot better so I will probably be trying the free 15-day trial CafePress offers soon and see how things go.

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

I like getting good feedback from people about my designs. I’m sure I will like getting money when I finally start to sell stuff, but for me good feedback from others is definitely the best thing for me.

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

Probably that there is not as much interest in abstract art as I would have hoped. Through the CafePress forums I have recently learned this. Also that basic stores can be quite hard to sell stuff with, as they don’t show up in search engines very well.

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 have added keywords to all my pages and designs, submitted my site to google etc, put links to my stores and posted on forums. I currently have not gotten any sales yet, but I have gotten some good feedback from various people.

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

Nancy’s comments – I think when he gets his premium shop, it will be much easier for customers to navigate. I did really like the Fractal Greeting cards! See if you can find them!

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Sag Art interview

Our next shop owner has quite a few sites as you will see at the end of the interview, but here is one of them:

SagArt T-Shirt Designs

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

No, I was definitely not in a related field unless you count cleaning the porn off of my son's computer field related. Once I stumbled upon the site (he must of got side-tracked) I was drawn to it from the
standpoint of their marketing strategy and the "dream" they offer to chart your own course and control your destiny via your own e-commerce business.

2. When did you open your store?

I seriously dedicated myself to this wonderful adventure a little over a year ago. Prior to that, I was busy learning how to turn the computer on and fiddling with a few designs for family and friends.

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

The hardest thing for me to wrestle with then and now, was/is understanding all the "techie" jargon in the "how to" part of getting a shop up and on the right road. Due to my stubborn attitude, I didn't let that hurdle stop
me and jumped in with both feet and dog-paddled my way around the pool.

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

Beside the accomplished feeling of making a sale, the best thing about being an online shopkeeper is the community of shopkeepers I am privileged to rub shoulders with everyday. I would have drowned had it not been for the generosity of information and help I have received along the way. For me, that is as valuable as any sale I make.

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

I would describe myself as a blank sheet of paper when I started this adventure, but it would have been nice to have a bit more knowledge under my belt or at least some concept of what e-commerce entailed in that first month of startup efforts. I, like many new shopkeepers, thought that throwing a few products up on a site meant I was "open for business." I quickly found out that the process to realizing a degree of success required much more dedication and effort than I originally believed.

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?

Sure! I've placed ads on various sites and some have produced well, while others have not. My best tip for marketing a site is SEO'ing it to the best of your ability. Nothing takes the place of that effort or produces better results for a shopkeeper. Because I am windier than a popcorn fart, I blog and have to say that it is one of the most pleasurable and productive marketing activities that effects my sales and affiliate sales than
anything else I do.

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

You may be sorry you asked! LOL
SagArt Blog
Children's T-Shirt Teacher
Happy Birthday Zone
Watch Clock Wall Clocks
Breast Cancer Awareness Shop
Wedding and Wedding Anniversary Gifts
Christmas Gift Closet
Ballet Ballerina Dancewear Shop
Funny Bumper Stickers

And I attempt to maintain the following portals that include affiliate efforts:
SagArt T-Shirt Designs
Christmas Gift Closet
Children's T-Shirt Teacher
Happy Birthday Zone
World War II Shop
Wedding And Anniversary Gifts
Democrat America
Watch Clocks (under construction - when I find the time)
Kids World
With the additional MySpace, Squidoo, and other sites I endeavor to try and maintain.

I also maintain other sites, but they are not related but are an offshoot of the skills and knowledge gained through my CP adventure.

Nancy’s comments - This is like visiting the Mall of America! For someone who started with a blank sheet of paper a little over a year ago, she has really come far! I especially like how she throws in tips for using items other ways and party and decorating ideas. The sites are fun – just like their owner. Sag-Art is always one forum post I know I’ll have a good time reading!

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

3 Girls and Us interview

Today we visit with Matt at 3 Girls and Us

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

My partner is a fashion-junkie and very creative with it. She's also always been a huge fan of the simplicity of jeans and a T-shirt. And she's always talked about opening her own boutique "one day". So when I came across CafePress a while ago it sounded like the perfect outlet and when I went home that night we signed up right away. We've got 3 daughters so decided to theme our store around baby clothes and kids clothes, with a few designs for hip moms and dads. They also inspired the name of our store - 3 Girls and Us! As for me, my real job is in the technology side of marketing and I wanted the challenge of helping my partner build an online business with minimal outgoings - trying to build it with word-of-mouth-marketing and search engine optimization.

2. When did you open your store?

We opened at the end of May 2005

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

With virtually no budget for marketing, it's tough to build volumes of traffic - but it's also the challenge that I love! Our traffic numbers have steadily increased (we broke through the 1000 page views a day yesterday!) and we're now starting to see the real benefits reflected in our monthly sales figures. If you work out the hourly rate we're on for running the store it's terrible - I in particular spend a lot of time on marketing activities. I probably spend at least an hour a day promoting the store and so it's more time intensive than I originally thought. We're in a very competitive sector - there are lots of great stores selling groovy kids clothes, but our products are selling well so we feel we're definitely up there with the others.

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

The solution that CafePress offers is great - the store hosting, manufacture, customer service, payment and so on is great. I love that all we have to do is come up with the great ideas and market the store. It leaves us doing what we're both best at. And when the "You made a sale" email comes through it still brings a smile to our faces knowing that someone out there will be wearing our creations.

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

We started off in the first month using standard CafePress templates. It took a while, but taking the plunge to a custom-designed template makes our store standout I think. And I guess I wish I'd known how much time it takes to drive quality traffic...but then again if I had it might have put me off opening the store in the first place!!! The effort is well worth it now though!

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?

We've tried one off-line ad in a parenting magazine here in the UK (we live in the UK), but with little success. (We're looking forward to CafePress changing their international shipping model so our products are more cost effective for UK customers.)

Most of our marketing efforts are focused online at the moment. I spend a lot of time on search engine optimization (SEO) and link building. Plus contacting key sites in our market sector and asking them for reviews (I send them product samples).

We also do monthly free product give-aways (to get our products out there and encourage word-of-mouth) and a newsletter.

I tried Google AdWords in the early days, but the return on investment was too low so I cut my losses and stopped, preferring to focus on SEO to get us in the natural search results.

I've bought ad spaces on a couple of sites just to see if that works, but it's too early to say at the moment.

I also have a blog which we use to announce new products and which brings in a bit of traffic.

I've dipped a toe in the water of online PR (using and I'm now starting to look at writing articles to create content and submitting those to article sites with a bio and link back to our store.

In summary, if I were to say what works best so far it would have to be SEO. Oh, and the CafePress marketplace too - so I make sure I tag ALL of our designs with great keywords!

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

We have a couple of other sites:
Our blog: Baby T-shirts, Tshirts for kids, moms and dads

Affiliate site: Funny T-shirts

Nancy’s comments – I actually won one of their monthly giveaways several months ago! I got my choice and ordered a toddler “I (heart) My Daddy t-shirt which arrived in about 3 days!

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Jazilla interview

Today we visit with JaNell Golden whose shop is:

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

I've always doodled and come up with little poems and puns, and I have a degree in Advertising Art, although you couldn't tell it from my site, which is a standard CP template.

2. When did you open your store?

Fall of 2004. I think. I had a Basic shop earlier with a different name, but that's about when JaZilla started in its current form.

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

The sense of frustration during those times when you're burned out both creatively and with marketing and networking. There's also keywording; I spent several months uploading photos to a few microstock photography places prior to re-starting at CafePress this past fall, and accurate keywords are important when doing that. It's a real brain stretcher, figuring out how many different ways people from different parts of the country (and world) would search for your photo or product. It's all about the synonyms, I think, and some understanding of colloquialisms...
Then the fun part, where you research and find out which of those word are searched most often, and throw out most of your list, and try again.

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

I enjoy keeping my own hours and being able to work on the front porch of my favorite coffee shop while other people labor at the cube farm. The very best part, the part that would keep me doing this even if I had a regular job, is the satisfaction of having another person think that my creative work is good enough to spend hard earned cash on. That's really the truest compliment. All your friends can praise you, your family can compliment you, but the only way you know that you've succeeded with a design is when it's compelling enough for a total stranger to buy it.

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

That I could, in fact, sell this stuff! I'd not have let years go by without adding products if I'd known that. There's also the keyword issue again; I was describing the designs very succinctly, which is my preference but WRONG. Now I try to cram as many variants of a keyword or two into the descriptions and still have it make sense. Sometimes I'm burning out and the descriptions end up surreal or even nonsensical, but they've got those keywords. I occasionally even deliberately miss-spell a commonly miss-spelled keyword to catch searches that way, too. All of that I learned in the last year from reading the forums and any SEO info that I could get my eyes on.

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?

Google ads didn't work well for me; I tried them after eComXpo because they offered a $100 credit. I couldn't get just the right ad going to make it worth it before that credit ran out. Yahoo gave out free credit, too, but their ad building and submission process was so frustrating that I never did use it. Yahoo free classified ads are much easier to work with.

Nancy’s comments – I really liked “Iced Gold” and “Sea Blossom” – look for them and see if you don’t too!

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Friday, June 02, 2006

vaniteez interview

Just in time for the wedding season! Check out Shannon’s interview and stores: and

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

It's funny, but I saw the Wall Street Journal's front-page article on CafePress in spring 2005. I liked the CafePress business model of offering a totally outsourced solution for its shopkeepers. I work in the financial services industry, so I thought this would be a fun opportunity to apply some of the marketing skills I learned in business school but don't get to use in my day job.

2. When did you open your store?

I opened my vaniteez store in summer 2005. I'd included a bachelorette party design at the suggestion of a friend, and it became my best seller. That success inspired me to launch vaniteez bride in the fall of 2005.

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

I wouldn't say marketing is any harder than I expected, but it certainly requires the most thought and energy.

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

I love the flexibility CafePress offers. It's easy to change the layout of the shop, add new designs, and mix things up.

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

Don't pay for Google AdWords!

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 had good results with my PR strategy- especially with submitting press releases to PRWeb. I've also learned that targeting particular niches (such as weddings and bachelorette parties) is much more effective than going after a broad demographic group. And the CafePress affiliate program has been a great source of traffic for me.

Nancy’s comments – If you are too late for the next wedding you are involved in, think ahead! The wedding items would make great engagement gifts and as one of the designs says – you can always start the “year of the party.”

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Busy Bodies shop

I love these little people! This site is so much fun to browse through! I pulled some I thought were especially cute for Father’s Day gifts, but the store has everything: weddings, graduations, sports, hobbies and occupations. Check it out at:

and my favorite:

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