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A Few Down, a Few to Go

A Few Down, a Few to Go

Our biz plans took a few giant leaps forward today. I did the initial filing for an LLC, the first step to create our an corporate parent framework. We will be an official company once it’s all done, though that’s only step 1 of many to get ‘er done. I also registered the domain to go with the parent company, and ordered a logo designed through FIVRR.COM. I still have at least three more logos to design, to go with three planned DBA’s. I have umpteen friends who are artists, but my brain farted itself out of commission so I hit FIVRR instead. Eh, I’ll get it together sooner or later. Then again, I need a very specific image format and resolution to make everything work. However, for something hand-drawn I could always scan it in and convert it.

I’ll announce the name once the corporate formation is done, then we need to trademark the product line names. We’ll have to do a little at a time, because trademarks are a couple of hundred bucks apiece. The LLC costs another $199 when you add up all the dotted T’s and crossed eyes. The domain is about $15 a year or thereabouts. More if you want privacy, but for a business domain I don’t especially want privacy – it’ll eventually have a business address attached to it. The package we got even includes printed stock certificates, though I don’t know if that’s something we’ll pursue (at least not this early into the game.) I won’t swear never to go public, but I hope if I do that I don’t let it corrupt the way any future employees are treated.

I actually sold our first product this week. I’d been experimenting with some mixes and took a bottle with me to work, for my own use. One of my colleagues was so thrilled she bought the partly-used bottle.

FYI: CBD oil is amazing for pain. Don’t ingest it. That was my mistake. Rub the liquid stuff into your joints. My colleague has arthritis and while I knew I personally had spectacular results with it, different people might not. It took her maybe ten minutes to come back to my desk. She said it’s the first time in YEARS she’s been able to hold a coffee cup with one hand. She’d put some oil on her knees and just used what remained on her hands to massage into her hands.

My sister couldn’t raise her arm higher than a 45ยบ angle up from her waist. Five minutes after I rubbed her shoulder with this stuff, she was crying because she could raise both arms over her head and move them with ZERO pain. My sister uses a combination of liquid and the balm, but she said it’s such a huge difference it’s mind boggling.

It ain’t cheap for the good stuff, but you use literally just a few drops. I was bummed because I’d gotten feedback saying the USAG called it illegal – but apparently as long as it’s not for ingestion, we’re all clear. Ergo the plan’s back on and we’re moving forward. Incidentally, one of the reasons I decided to pursue this in the first place is that the local place I bought my CBD oil raised their rates from $40 a bottle to $70 a bottle in a one-week period and said they literally couldn’t keep it on the shelves at that price. (This is a one-ounce bottle.) Even taking into account a decent profit, shipping, etc. I know I can sell retail for less than $40 a bottle. And that’s if I franchise out so other people are selling it and THEY’RE making a profit. If I just sold it myself I could sell for even less.

No, I didn’t make this stuff up, and yes it pisses me off all the disinformation that was distributed to do with marijuana and hemp. I wish I’d known sooner. On the other hand, these products are all fairly new. The good news is they’re not GMO. I hope they stay that way.

We’re planning to use the same parent company for my publishing company and for our stock photo site. One size fits most, ya know?

I decided to keep posting the brain-fizzling process because, as Hil pointed out, most people don’t post the part about how you start – how you choose a product or how you go about actually DOING stuff.

Incidentally, here are some of my resources, for anyone else interested in pursuing entrepreneurship:

Filing for an LLC: incfile.com
There are several other options for filing, but this company hit two important points for me. The price was right AND their price includes the first year of basic legal representation. We’re not talking about legal representation in a court case, but the statutory agent/lawyer required for any corporation. ProTip: don’t buy the cheapest package, ever, unless you’re a pro and have a full time attorney on call. For cheap you get the absolute bare bones that requires the most from you. You get a pretty good chunk o’ stuff for the money with this company. They had another tier I considered, but this ain’t my first rodeo, so I knew how to handle those details without help. Also, be aware this company only does your initial filing work. It’ll still cost, and take time, to publish the formative documents in the newspaper as required by law. That’s something you have to do all by your lonesome. It’s all part of the progress. You can choose other types of corporate structure, but since I’m the lone wolf in this thing and (on paper, anyway) 100% owner, LLC was the only way to fly.

Searching for, and filing for, a trademark: trademarkia.com
You might be able to file for a trademark cheaper than here, but the search function is awesome, and from what I’ve seen, dollar-for-dollar you get a better deal. Again, with this purchase you get legal service to defend against trademark infringement. I haven’t taken this route yet – but plan to.

Obtaining an EIN (Employer ID Number): IRS website
If you’re gonna do business, whether or not you’ve got employees, you need this. It’s issued by the IRS and it’s free. Don’t pay someone to request it for you. I personally will need to call to make the changeover, because I’ve had an EIN for years, from back when I first filed as a sole proprietorship. Lucky for me, when I did a business name change about a year ago, the IRS agent I talked to was a wellspring of information who let me know whenever the business structure changes (such as going from a sole proprietorship to an LLC) there is a new EIN needed. The IRS gets a lot of crap, and a lot of it’s justified, but a lot of these folks are honestly trying to help. If you need help, call them. Since most of these folks get calls yelling at them, I suspect they LIVE for the happy calls!

Get a domain name registered: GoDaddy.com (or any of thousands of registrars)
Seriously, this is both the easiest and the hardest part. I did this and the trademark search before filing the legal stuff, and here’s why. When you’re filing for your corporation, you ideally want a domain name that matches your business name. Even more ideally, your domain name should be a dot-com (vs. a dot-us, or any of the other dot-whatevers out there now.) It’s what people will expect of your business, and if your website name resolves to a porn site, it’s probably not going to be the image you were planning to promote. If your business domain name is 40 characters long, at the other end of the spectrum, people won’t remember it. Therefore – search your name in the trademark database and buy your domain first. Chances are if you’re clear on both of those, your name will also pass muster when you’re incorporating.

Yes you SHOULD have a website. If you don’t, in this day and age, you’re going to be instantly dismissed as a scammer. What’s more, your website should be presentable. Depending on the type of business you’re in, it can be kitschy or polished, but it should convey the general feel of what you’re trying to do.

The entrepreneur’s Bible, for someone who doesn’t know where to begin: The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferris.
This book wasn’t my first foray into running my own business. If it had been, I’d have done a hell of a lot of things differently. This is a detailed blueprint on how to build a business, from the ground up, with limited funding and resources. Yes, the author DOES promote a four-hour work week for business owners, once everything’s in order and running well. Ferris has a website with testimonials from a whole lot of people who employed his methods. I haven’t followed every line item. I don’t have the disposable coin (yet) to outsource my bill paying, for example. But this author’s business model is outlined in clear terms, he names names, and he tells you exactly how to replicate his success.

Small business is the backbone of America. Always has been, always will be unless we let the 1% take it away. This is how mom and pop enterprises are built in the 21st century. I’m in.

Hey Kettle, You’re Pot

Hey Kettle, You’re Pot

As I’ve been saying for a while now, hubby and I have been trying to find viable small business ideas, something that we can start on a shoestring and is still scale-able. In other words, we need to be able to meet the demand in the event of explosive growth. That’s not an option with the spouse-man’s yard sale turnovers, nor the various get-rich-slow projects he keeps throwing out, 99.999% of which involved my doing a shit-ton of time-intensive work.

We’ve got a little bigger shoestring now, but I know us. We need to invest the money while we’ve got it, before we blow through it all. Hubby had been nay-saying everything without contributing anything valuable to the pot in return, and I hit the point of saying, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. Deal with it.”

As I mentioned, I bought the stock for the medical marijuana website (the stock code is LBUY if anybody’s interested) and whilst it’s not making me rich, we’re in the black and staying there pretty consistently so far.

I invested in a decent camera for hubster and we’re building a portfolio of high quality photos. I have one friend who’s a retired pro photographer, one who worked many a year for a portrait studio, and I’m going to be begging for more submissions from my friends in the near future (Hil, you KNOW I’m gonna be talking to you, and probably Dangerspouse specifically for food porn, if he’s got a good enough camera.) I bought some stock photo packages for resale, but the better option is to build something that’s different than everybody and their brother offers. I talk to people who are ALWAYS looking for stock photo sources for blogs, magazine articles, book covers, etc. Book designers and bloggers don’t have deep pockets, and everybody’s looking for images that aren’t being used by thousands of other people at the same time. If you submit and your photos sell, you get paid. We’re trying to figure out a way to keep it cost effective for buyers and for us, while still treating our photographers fairly. I do know most of those categories prefer to get their photos from paid sites vs. free ones, because with free ones you’re never quite sure of the picture’s legitimacy. I know people who got sued for using free stock photos on their blogs.

The camera base and a couple of basic lenses, first year’s hosting, and software, together will run us $1500 or so. In terms of business investments, that’s peanuts. My partner in crime in Canada wants me to drop $3000 into our joint effort there, and I might eventually – but not until I sock some more cash back. If that ends up happening, next year the photo site will move to our own servers and we’ll have another prong added to our business portfolio.

Then today I sent a query about a fourth option, one I think could ramp up insanely fast if we can cut the deal.

With all of my health issues, I’d been debating the purchase of a medical marijuana card. I have zero desire to get high, but I’ve got neurological crap going on and I know cannabis is known to help with pain and other neurological factors. During my wheeling and dealing on Simbi, however, I traded for a couple of facials with a local lady, who told me I didn’t need a medical marijuana card for CBD oil. I had also run across CBD oil as an option when looking into a franchise, but that turned out to be a MLM scam. It’s legal since it contains no THC, but does all the things. At least, it does all the things for which I wanted medical marijuana.

So I bought a bottle, despite the price nearly giving me a coronary. $40 for one liquid ounce. I don’t know the cost of marijuana, but considering you can buy food-grade hemp oil at the health food store for $10 a 16-oz bottle, that sounded steep to me. (The version sold for food has been stripped of its cannabidiol, the medicinal component.) Since my youngest daughter’s neurological issues are becoming life threatening and the doctors say verbatim there’s nothing they can do, I gave her my bottle to try and went back to buy another. It was up to $75 for the same one-ounce bottle. What’s more, I bought the last bottle they had and they said they couldn’t keep it in stock at that price.

Considering what I considered price gouging, I decided to hunt online. I found the option from the MLM – also around $75 for the same size bottle. And I found a seller on eBay for a pittance in comparison, and ordered a bottle, which was delivered today. Thank goodness for the delivery, because eBay kicked the seller to the curb, wouldn’t let ’em sell their product on the site. I couldn’t find it anywhere else for less, nor from any other seller that cited comparable details about the makeup and potency. (The MLM came close, but no cigar.)

The seller enclosed pages and pages of documentation with the bottle I bought, including their website address. I just emailed them to ask if I could buy from them wholesale. Because DUH.

Incidentally, this is all legal and above-board. Medical marijuana is legal in Arizona and a few other states, but hemp oil is legal in all 50 states, without a medical marijuana card. It won’t make you high. It DID, however, provide pain relief for me without 1) making me giddy or lightheaded; 2) making me nauseated; 3) causing me to lose feeling in my hands and feet; 4) making me tired; or any number of other nasty side effects I’ve encountered with prescription and over-the-counter options. It DID reduce my stress levels, too, and unlocked my muscles I didn’t even realized were locked until then. There’s more, but this isn’t meant to be an ad for the stuff.

If I can work this deal, it might kill two birds with one stone, as it were. I can potentially help myself and others, while developing a line of business I can do from home, or by opening a small shop close to home. I want eventually to sell online, but even at a local level we could potentially do extremely well. That’s doubly true if I can undercut the competition. If this goes through, I can undercut the heck out of them, and that’s if I pay this seller’s retail price per bottle and sell it for double what I paid for it. If I buy 50 or 100 bottles at a time, for example, I’m sure I can negotiate for a better deal.

Now hopefully I’ll hear back from these people and they’ll consider my proposal. We’ll see how it goes.

On a more somber spot, my younger kids’ health took a turn for the worse. I’m not talking just my daughter, though she’s had one crisis after another. My younger son is going through a similar trajectory now, too. My daughter finally went to Mayo Clinic and they said at minimum she has POTS syndrome – which, unlike the tongue-in-cheek reference to “pot” in this entry, is neither fun nor profitable. It means her autonomous nervous system is progressively further out of whack. In plain English, all the things the body does automatically: heartbeat, blood pressure, kidneys, liver, pancreas, lymphatic system, breathing, neurology – all that stuff is moving to its own erratic beat. And there’s not a damned thing they can do with it. We believe my son likely has the same thing, and the other two kids have some variant.

Yes, it’s as deadly as it sounds, and it’s genetic, meaning it’s likely the grandchildren will also have inherited it. They’re still doing test after test on my daughter but we’re compiling as complete a family history as we can. We don’t know now if my mom died of ALS or if she had some variant of this. We assume my baby sister and I share somewhat milder versions of it. Sister has been taking meds for tremors and other issues for a few years (something I didn’t know until today.) Not sure yet whether or not it’s related to the childhood seizures, though we’re throwing that into the folder, too.

Gainfully and Stuff

Gainfully and Stuff

After my last entry, I guess I should clarify – for those who don’t follow me on Facebook – that we’re not in imminent danger of starvation. We’re doing reasonably well, though I’d breathe easier with a few more cash flow options.

I did invest a couple of hundred bucks (literally only about $200) on some stock. Pot stock, sort of. The legal marijuana option is a hot topic, and I figured I’d gamble on 100 shares of what I think would be considered penny stock. It’s legit enough to be offered through my eTrade account, but pretty sure instead of the NYSE, it’s traded in back alleys somewhere. Rather than investing in direct marijuana sales, I invested in a website (Leafbuyer.com) that’s a kind of Priceline.com for legal weed – where to find it for less, etc. I don’t personally use the product. I’m not a prude about it, nor am I stupid. I think the market’s too strong to dismiss. If you want to get high and it doesn’t harm anyone, go for it. If you’re doing the medical version thereof, good for you! If I can make a buck or two from it, better yet.

I logged into my investment account on principle, knowing that a week into things doesn’t mean a thing, I lost I think $4 in value (for all 100 shares combined.) Given the fiasco in the White House has sucker-punched all markets, I honestly consider that pretty good. Besides, it’s only been a few days AND I wasn’t going to invest anything we couldn’t afford to lose.

We also did a different type of preliminary investment, and we’ll see where it goes. Stock photos are big deals these days, but the low-cost options are being gobbled up by the big boys. I used to have a $10 a month membership, which Adobe acquired and tripled the cost. If I absolutely had to have it I’d probably pay that, but like most designers, I can’t justify shelling out that kind of money unless it’s making me some significant money. I belong to a lot of author forums, and most bemoan the loss of reasonably priced sites. I have some connections to photographers and I personally can do other types of illustrations via Photoshop. Figuring our upgraded hosting, we’d only need about 5 subscriptions at $10 a month each, and we’d be making a little bit of money. (This is operating on the thought of paying photographers a percentage, too – otherwise our profit margins would be even better.) Anything over that would be gravy. The spousal unit and I can easily handle upgrades, and spousal unit knows photography well enough to approve and reject submissions. He got voluntold for the job.

Could end up making pennies, or could take off. 100 subscriptions – not a huge figure, obviously – would put us squarely in the black and pad our income nicely. 300 subscriptions would be enough to pretty nearly replace my income as it sits now. Not that I’d retire with that, not for a single website. But there are other types of businesses that would be doable for similar investments. If this one comes together, we could expand into other areas. The idea is as much as possible, keep the upkeep and outlay on the low end.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – er, job – I’m on a pilot team for a new program. I take all promises from this company with a grain of salt, mind you, but the scuttlebutt is it might spell more money, because the scope of the job will change significantly. We shall see.

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