Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cry me a river

I want to grow my tiny business of handmade shiny things. Not that I have illusions of pulling in a six-figure income with it, or ever outsourcing production and becoming a household name (like the woman that started the Spanx company, for example).

And speaking of which, how cool is it that Spanx come in maternity sizes too?! Hopefully that means I can still wear cute skirts and dresses for a while until I'm just too big to want to be compressed like that (which is probably at the same point I will retreat to sweatpants until it's all over, like when BabyX is 18. Just kidding, TJ.)

But I digress. Growing my business, right. I'd like to put my effort into becoming successful as an online seller. Because I dislike selling in person. I'm just not "sales-y". It makes me deeply uncomfortable. Now, in order to be really successful, I may have to change my attitude and try it again, but for now I'm focusing my efforts online. Because I can do other things while my items are hanging out waiting to be bought by that right person.

So my new experiment, for the next three months, is opening a shop on No small feat, as it turns out. It costs a fairly hefty monthly fee, and also required some cash outlay on my part so that I could purchase UPC barcodes for each of my items. So I'm in it for some money. But you gotta spend money, to make money right? (That's what I tell myself, anyway.)

My last job at Mercent gave me a surprising education in the world of online retail. I never thought I'd *use* that info for myself. But having helped several customers get up and running on Amazon has given me a lot of great insight in getting my own shop going. Granted, I can't afford nifty automated data feed tools, and I enter my products in one by one, but the principles are the same.

Now is the hard part - waiting to see if I'm successful, and tweaking things as needed. I've only gotten a handful of products uploaded, and after a day of being "live" have no sales yet. I know I shouldn't expect much - it took me about a week on Etsy to get my first sale and they were few and far between for the first 6 months or so.

But for some reason I had these visions of orders just streaming in on Amazon. Hehe. My handmade pet tags are more expensive than most of the mass-produced ones currently listed on the site, so I suspect it's a special set of buyers I'm targeting. Now I just need to figure out how to reach them.

It's kind of nerve-wracking but also exciting. Wish me luck on this wild ride, and let me know if you have any good advice. I know I need to list more products, and work on getting the images into Amazon's format rather than the artsy Etsy format. And I *definitely* need to work on search terms, SEO, and all that. Would love any pointers to good articles/books on those subjects, for sure!

So I'm waiting for that elusive first sale to happen, so I can then begin to obsess about the second and third. But in the meantime, there's a lot of work I need to do over there.

Anandi's Laboratory on Amazon

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Can't return it cuz you bought it

For those who read my blog and don't have kids, and don't want any, I apologize for the recent baby-focused posts. It's sort of all-consuming and I need an outlet to vent.

One of the more pleasant aspects of being pregnant is the cute baby stuff I get to shop for, and buy. Thanks to Rachel on my Facebook group, I found out about the Baby Bargains book that really narrows down what you need to buy, and what brands are best (hint: not always the most expensive ones). That's been a great roadmap for the shopping extravaganza.

Between this book, and my generous friends who have lent/given me a bunch of baby stuff, I figure we've saved a *ton* of money already. Which is good because a significant part of my maternity leave is unpaid.

Besides buying things from big-box stores and, I've been able to find some really cute handmade things on 1000 Markets and Etsy. One of my recent favorites is this baby sling from GorgeousBaby:

Of course, as an idealistic person with no babies yet, I love the idea of babywearing, but we'll see if BabyX cooperates. But the kimono fabric of this sling is just *gorgeous*, and it's well-constructed and padded, so I'm hoping it'll be a viable solution for both inside and outside of the house. I'm sure it'll take some practice. Maybe Spike will volunteer to be the sample baby :D

A few years ago, I met a friend for coffee and she had her brand-new baby with her. Since babies get hungry on their own schedule, and not when it's convenient, she had to feed him at the cafe. She had this cool thingy to use as a cover so as not to be exposed in public. I hope to be able to leave the house someday too, so I found this cool cover by nursing undercover on 1000 Markets:

She allows you to choose from a huge set of retro print fabrics, so I got mine in this very cool geometric pattern, and I love it:

I'm also having a hard time finding maternity shirts in anything but solid colors. I wanted something cute and patterned. But not ugly and muu-muu like, or nasty polyester, either. So I was thrilled to find Flaunt It! Maternity and this cute 100% cotton long sleeve T-shirt:

That's just a small list of stuff we've managed to acquire so far for Project BabyX, but I thought I'd share since they're just so pretty. Now I'm off to scour Craigslist for a good wood dresser for BabyX's room. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

World shut your mouth

One of the crazy pregnancy symptoms I had during the first trimester with BabyX was becoming *very* angry for either no reason, or very little reason. Now generally, I have a low tolerance for stupidity and/or incompetence, so the hormones just made it worse, I think. I spent a lot of time at work in my office with the door closed so I wouldn't be mean to people who didn't really deserve it :)

But the one thing that annoyed me enough to take action was the lack of intelligent conversation on pregnancy-related message boards and websites online. Unlike a technical forum, or even a crafty/business forum like Etsy or 1000 Markets, the pregnancy sites attract a wide cross section of people, a lot of whom seem to be the sort you *don't* want to procreate. Yes, I know that's rude. That's regular me talking, not Angry Pregnant Woman. Deal with it.

A few years ago, I remember a couple of friends from Caltech talking about starting some kind of mailing list for Caltech alumni parents, because Techers are a unique bunch, but also generally a cohesive bunch. At the time, the conversation sounded to me like "blah blah blah kid blah blah baby blah" because I just wasn't ready to think about that stuff.

Of course, when I got pregnant it was like flipping a switch. I now wake up in the middle of the night wondering if we should send BabyX to private school or if public schools around here are good enough. Or whether BabyX should be a vegetarian. Or if BabyX should be allowed to watch TV, and how much. Or any number of things I don't really need to think about for a long time. (Because I'm crazy like that.)

So I reached out to some Caltech friends on Facebook and started a private group to chat about baby and kid-related topics. So far it's been great. It's nice to know that other people are annoyed by the sites out there, and the tone of some of the baby books as well. I've gotten some great recommendations on books to read, baby stuff that is essential (plus what's not) and just general info on what worked for others.

So that's all fine and good, right? In the "community" spirit, TJ and I attended an overview meeting about a local program that exists for new parents to get together and chat about baby stuff. They put you in groups based on where you live and how old your babies are. It all sounded good, so I thought we should get more information by attending this overview.

And wow, was it not my thing. If there was ever anything that underscored my introvert tendencies, that was it. It also confirmed that I do not want to discuss intimate details about my body with complete strangers. While I know I'll have to confront these details eventually with this whole childbearing thing, I still know I'll feel no need to discuss them with anyone except maybe my doctor. Literally 15 minutes into the orientation we got to hear about peoples' breastfeeding issues, cervixes, baby poop, and other things. It was all I could do not to get up out of there and run away screaming.

It also didn't help that TJ was only one of two men in the room and we were the only couple that attended together. Sigh. I know that people need support, and they need to share with others in the same situation, but I was hoping the oversharing would be limited to the *actual* meetings, not the orientation. Some people just like to talk, I guess, and don't realize that others might actually be uncomfortable.

It did confirm that if we are going to participate in this program, we are definitely going to do the couples' one, rather than the moms-only one that meets during the day (which incidentally, annoyed me, because there actually ARE stay at home dads too, duh). I'm hoping that the couples one, and the presence of men, will limit the oversharing of bodily fluid details, and focus more on the parenting aspects.

The facilitator mentioned that the first meeting consists mostly of people sharing their birth stories. OMG, that is about the last thing I want to hear once the ordeal is over. It's *certainly* not something I want to hear now. I'm actually dreading our childbirth and labor course because I am so squicked out about the whole thing. Just drug me and get it over with as soon as possible. I don't need any "miracle of life" here. Better yet, maybe Amazon Fresh could just deliver one BabyX to our house when s/he is ready.

So maybe this support group thing is not for me, and I should just stick to my comfy cozy little Facebook group. We'll see.

And P.S., please don't leave your birth story in the comments. Thank you :)

Friday, April 03, 2009

She's got her own thing

For some unexplained reason I am completely in love with Ne-Yo's song "Miss Independent", despite mostly hating R&B in general. But I'm a sucker for kickass woman songs.

Today at work we did the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Personality Inventory, as a team. Microsoft seems to be a fan of these kinds of teambuilding events - I did another one with a color scale on my previous team. I guess it must be a corporate thing in general, because I took the MBTI when I was working at Deloitte.

Interestingly enough, even though I took it 10 years ago, when I was just out of grad school and brand new to the workforce, my "type" was essentially the same. Which gave me more faith in this analysis because they say it's personal preferences and doesn't typically change over time.

So this time I came up as an ISTJ (introverted-sensing-thinking-judging), but only a moderate introvert. Meaning I had some extrovert tendencies. Last time I was an ESTJ, but only a moderate extrovert. So I guess in the intervening years my true nature has come out :) I suspect being married to TJ, who I'd guess is a very strong I, has encouraged me to become more that way, and prefer it.

Of course, this wasn't really news to me. I know I'm an introvert, but can be gregarious around people I know well. And the S-T-J part is totally strong - I love facts, I plan ahead (to a fault), and am way organized and definitely not spontaneous. That's why I'm a project manager, and love it.

It's also why I bought two major baby items this week on, because we have Amazon Prime membership, and thus free shipping, for a little while longer (needed it for Amazon Fresh grocery delivery). I saw screamin' deals on the infant car seat I wanted, plus the extra car base, plus the Pack N Play thingy (looks like a baby corral, also has a bassinet). And for all that heavy stuff, free shipping directly to my house? How awesome is that?! I dread going to Babies R Us, so the more I can order online, the better.

So this first shipment of baby STUFF will arrive next week. Oh, and Jasmine loaded me up with books and a bunch of her stuff as well, and we're going to pick up a *gorgeous* crib from my friend Carey, so we're already nicely stocked, about 5.5 months in advance. That's just the way I roll, y'all.

And true to my 'J' nature (plan ahead, organized, blah blah blah), I tried to get us a hotel for the 2010 Olympics in Whistler next February. We have tickets to Biathlong (skiing and shooting, what could be better?) on one day. I figured that was a good one to start early on. And dang, I didn't start early enough. *Everything* in Vancouver is booked. Anything left in Whistler is literally over $1000 per night. And the Olympic folks claim they aren't letting anyone drive into Whistler.

So now I'm kind of stressed about that. Ordinarily I wouldn't be - we could just drive to Vancouver that day, take the shuttle to Whistler and go home the same night, right? But I'm thinking that kind of long day isn't really going to cut it with a 4-month-old BabyX in tow. So I'm researching alternate places to stay. Without a lot of luck. Sigh. I'm hoping some rooms will open up as the event gets close. But it seems a little ridiculous to sell so many tickets and not have accomodations available. Grrr.

On the bright side, we ate at Fatburger for dinner. YUM.

sharing is nice

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