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Most of my work for this class this week has been on building my website- making it look nice and be functional. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but things are improving. I really need to figure out how to get some variations available in my products, like color, and adding a place for someone to give me the name they would like embroidered for custom items. Etsy really works better for the custom order situation at this point, I’m afraid.

The lessons this week were focused on business licensing and tax issues. They weren’t actually lessons, though- it was more of a “go do some research and tell us what you found out.” That frustrates me. I’ve already done that, what I want is to know where I screwed up and what I’m missing! Because I already have my business license and trade name I’m a little ahead of things at this point, which is nice. I did the research, though, and felt like I was okay. However, once I tried to connect my website to a third party that accepts credit cards, it asked for my EIN. When I went to look for it, I couldn’t find it, so I asked Google if my EIN was the same as my UBI. Nope. Turns out that I missed a step and needed to register with the IRS, not just my state, for this thing. That was taken care of (and free!), so now I’m good there, I hope.

I guess I’ll just keep learning a little at a time and hoping I get everything figured out eventually.

This week we read about and discussed site design. I used what I had learned from my Intro to Graphic Design class about the principles of design and really thought about what makes a web site look good and function well. I compared a few websites, and really searched to find a site that sold products similar to mine to get a feel for how I want my site to look and which features will help me get the most of out my business. What I discovered is that people who sell embroidered products online generally have really unprofessional looking websites. I did get some good ideas, however, and ended up doing a major rehaul of my website to improve how everything looks.

We also discussed check out systems and took a closer look at PayPal. I was happy to find that their company has shopping cart options that will work well for me, so that I can include options for personalization with my products. That gave me a huge sigh of relief, because I’ve really been struggling with trying to figure out how to do that part of things.

This week in class we focused on choosing a site builder and a hosting company. My first step was to read carefully the details of each company that were provided in the course materials. I felt that the language of the course builders favored SquareSpace over many others. My next step was to discuss a few options with my brother, Ben, who is a web designer by trade, and knows a lot more than I do about this sort of thing. He strongly recommended SquareSpace for my skill level and the things that I want in an online business. I continued to research several other companies, but I felt that they were the best to reach my needs, and they offered a great student discount.

After reading the discussion boards in class, I started to second guess myself, since Weebly was so highly recommended. I don’t like their templates as well, but I’m also not as picky as my brother. Because their website didn’t mention any sort of student discount I sent them an e-mail asking about it, and I included the price I could be getting with Squarespace. It took them over 48 hours to respond to that e-mail, and although the discount was much less than what I could get elsewhere, it was the response time that cemented my decision that Squarespace was the way to go.

However, as I began to look at hosting companies, my views were swayed again. iPage offers $1.99 hosting, which is a HUGE difference. So I really looked into what that would mean, since I would have to choose a different site builder. After a whole lot of research, I realized that iPage would be nickel and diming me for lots of things that Squarespace includes- like backing up my data in case of loss, and the ability to restore it, protecting my site from hackers and protecting the information of my customers, as well. The research process made me realize that there are quite a large number of factors that go into making a decision on a builder and host. I’m glad to have my mind (mostly) made up.

This week in our class we focused on brokers, manufacturers, and wholesalers, as well as affiliate marketing and drop shipping.

We were asked to compare some different wholesale options, both international and a US based company. One of the main things that I noticed from this assignment is that you really want to dig deep to make sure you understand things before you pick a wholesaler. The majority of my group felt that the US option was better, but they based their findings on faulty reasoning (they didn’t understand the pricing of the company and they assumed that the product was manufactured in the USA and that somehow it was automatically a better quality than an international option would be). As I dug further into the company I found conflicting return policies and some other things that made me confident that they would be a bad option for a web-based business.

During the second half of the week we focused our attention on affiliate marketing and drop shipping. I learned about Amazon’s affiliate program and that users can earn up to 15% (one place said 10%) when someone purchases an item from your link. Thus, and affiliate marketing strategy would require a really high amount of traffic in order to make a significant return, especially if readers aren’t coming to your site with the intent to purchase something. I feel that it works better as an addition to a business, not as their sole source of revenue.

Drop shipping is the process of a company (often the manufacturer) letting other companies advertise and sell their products, while the original company takes care of shipping and inventory. Some companies give you a reduced price for the item (dictating how much you can sell it for), but most simply sell you the item and you can mark it up for whatever price you choose, dictating your own profit margins.

I like the drop shipping model for a company, but you have to keep in mind that because of it’s appeal, it is popular and can be highly competitive.

I’ve recently begun a web business creation class, and I’ll be using this blog for the next few weeks to record my reflections on what I am learning.

We began the week by reviewing different business models and discussing whether it makes more sense to determine a business model first, or to come up with a product to sell first. There was a lot of discussion on both sides, but my personal feeling is that it makes the most sense to come up with business ideas instead – the model and the product together, such as: sell purses in a merchant model, start a website with information about caring for horses and sell advertising on the site, or make and sell decorative bugs made from wire as a manufacture/merchant site. Not that I’m contemplating using any of those particular ideas.

We were then introduced to Google AdWords and created accounts there. I’m really looking forward to understanding this resource better. We began to learn about generating keywords and then looking at demand and competition for those keywords and building a business plan by looking at these factors. The majority of my classmates felt that less competition was more important than demand. In fact, in a comparison of a site to sell snowboards to a site of information about chess, every single comment said that chess was a better option due to the drastic difference in competition and the number of impressions available.

I’m looking forward to continuing in this course and building my understanding of web business.

I’ve officially made it today.  I think I might be a grown up.

While many women seem to balk at the idea of being 30, choosing to stay 29 for a number of years until they decide instead to stay 39 for a number of years, I have approached this number with enthusiasm.

For as long as I can possibly remember I have wanted to be a grown up.  I’ve wanted to eat ice cream whenever I felt like it, I’ve wanted to be in charge of what we had for dinner, I’ve wanted to be able to light fires & use the iron all by myself.  I’ve wanted to be married and have kids most of all, all these grown up things.

And 30 feels like a grown up number.

And 30 also seems like  a pretty big deal! In my estimation of things, I have now accomplished approximately 1/3 of my mortal life.  (I don’t aspire to be the one who lives the longest, FYI.) And it is an extremely significant third, so much has happened.  Let’s take a look in 5 year increments.

Ages 0-4:

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These were huge for me.  I basically went from a lump of consciousness to a walking, talking person.  I grew a body and learned how to use most of its functions.  I lived in 4 different houses in 2 states and ended up in the one I would spend the next 15 years of my life. I went from being the absolute center of my parents’ universe to sharing the limelight with 2 brothers. I even started going to school. So much!!

Ages 5-9:

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More learning, a new sister, making friends.  Strange that the only friendships I’ve seriously maintained from this period of my life  are with people who were already adults at this time (i.e. my mom’s friends and people from church).  I really don’t keep in touch with most of the people who were my own age.  I wonder if this goes back to what I was saying about always wanting to be a grown-up.  By the end of this period, I was already doing quite a bit of cooking & sewing and I knew that I wanted to be a stay at home Mom. I’m grateful that my Mom introduced me to these experiences early so that I had a longer opportunity to develop the talents that I use the most in the current portion of my life.

Ages 10-14:

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And the hormones began.  I think of this piece as the baby-sitting & developing greater interest in boys chunk of my life. I started baby-sitting early, my own siblings and then kids from church.  I loved it.  And I was a good baby-sitter, too.  Not only did I entertain the kids with something other than TV, I also cleaned their houses, put their kids to bed, folded their stinkin’ laundry… And I made about $1 an hour.  And I LOVED it!! I won’t go into my feelings about the current generation of baby-sitters in this post, but I’m sure this alludes to it enough that you understand.  I’m grateful for my church leaders at this portion who helped establish a testimony in me that would get me through the next part, which I’m already dreading thinking about.  Towards the end of this section I had developed some health problems that would stick with me for the next bit, as well as an unhealthy infatuation with members of the opposite sex.

Ages 15-19:

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Can we skip this part? I mean, not only thinking about it, but also in my own kids??  These were some rough years.  I did manage to graduate from high school (just barely. I know that lots of people say that, but, oh boy! That was certainly a close call!!) I’m going to just skip over most of the angst, depression, and junk, and mention that I did develop one of my most meaningful & lasting friendships in here (albeit I did manage to estrange myself from my siblings. One of my greatest regrets. Thank heavens that didn’t last long.). I moved away from home to go to culinary school, dropped out of college, got engaged, called it off, moved back home for a little while, moved away again, moved back again.  I also did a lot more sewing during this time. Yeah, thats enough.

Ages 20-24:

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The Utah years.  I moved to Utah to help care for my grandparents. It really worked out exactly the opposite though.  There were plenty of lingering hormones, as well as some lingering health issues, but we made it through.  I went to college, graduated with an Associate’s degree, went to work as a Medical Assistant. I spent the greater portion of these years wanting DESPERATELY to be married.  Ridiculously so.  I learned to be a much better employee than I had been in my other jobs.  I went to the temple often and made some sacred covenants that greatly improved the quality of my life.  I worked in the temple on my day off.   Most importantly, I met my husband and at the very end of this chunk of time, we were married.

Ages 25-29:

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Wow. I feel like I’ve grown as much during the last 5 years as I did in the first.  You read the first, right? That was some heavy growth! These years have been my most significant so far.  For so long I wanted to be married, to start my own family, and it happened, and it was so much more wonderful than I could have possibly imagined.  Being married is so much better than the alternative.  Steve is the best thing that ever happened to me.  The best thing that could possibly ever happen to be.  Being a part of him and him a part of me… I have so much more of a respect for the phrase “greater than the sum of its parts.”  I am a better person because of him, and he is a better person because of me, and while we don’t get everything right, we are doing pretty darn well.

And kids!  My whole life people have called me smart, and I felt smart.  There is nothing like having a kid to make you realize how much you don’t know! But they teach you so much.  I think that is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is centered around the family.  I could have kept learning & developing myself into a better person alone.  I could have done so many great & incredible things without getting married and having children, but I could never have done it as quickly and as thoroughly as I am doing it right now.  More than anything, my kids have taught me how to love.  Love is amazing.  You worry that you might not have enough to divide between your kids as they come along, but your capacity to love increases so much that I don’t just love the new child as much as I loved the first, I also love the first one more than I did before!  It’s this crazy love growth spurt cycle that stops just short of spinning out of control.

My family really only grew for the first 7 years of my life, as I added 3 new siblings and became a family of 6.  But during these 5 years I’ve added exponentially!  My husband, my 3 kids, my brother’s wife & kids, my husband’s family (new parents! new siblings! new nieces & nephews!)… I’m not going to take the time to count them all out right now, but I know it is much bigger than 6!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying life is a piece of cake and that I don’t have significant struggles with my sanity on a day to day basis.  I’m not saying that I feel like I’ve learned it all, or that I’ve become the person I want to be.  No way, Jose.  That is what I will spend the next 2/3 of my life doing.  I’m so excited for these 2/3!!
So, in short, Happy Birthday to me!!  30 feels so exciting.  As I start my journey into the next decade of life I’m grateful to be doing so on such a great path, in a place that I love, with the people I love.

I have lots of goals, lots of dreams & aspirations. And lots of time!  

Easter Bunny 2013

We have had a really fun week this week, with a trip to Leavenworth and a nearby petting zoo, and an adventure today in Seattle where we got to visit with Uncle Ben, Grandma & Grandpa Flynn, Uncle Josh, and the Easter Bunny!

The kids’ Easter clothes aren’t finished yet, but I made them little embroidered shirts, which got totally washed-out in the picture.  Oh, well.  Mikey was exhausted and not terribly thrilled with the idea, but he remained stoic at first.

Then this happened:

Sad with the Easter Bunny

Ah, well.  Maybe we’ll get a smile next time.  Next time there will be 3.  Good heavens, I’ll never catch up with my sewing list.

Thanks for the great pictures, Uncle Josh!!