Small Business Ownership? Sometimes it’s just gut wrenching!

Richard Charpentier Notes from Rich 5 Comments

This is a venting post after 3 extremely frustrating weeks.  I ramble too……..So, you may just want to skip on past this one and wait for a happy photographic post or something.  I’m sure if you visited the Blogess site you’d find a good laugh.  Or maybe go check out “What the Duck,” I like that cartoon!

I can’t pull any punches here.  This has been a tough month with setback after setback.  Quite frankly, this has been the worst month I’ve had since starting up my business.

What’s gone on?

  • The first week of November found Goodwin Street under construction.  No parking in front of the building.  Interestingly enough, while we have a parking garage right behind our plaza, closing the street side parking absolutely kills business.  For the entire week I made $0.  Ugh.
  • Week 2 found me doing a few canvases.  Unfortunately they had to be reprinted as a printhead failure butchered the pieces.
  • Printhead replacement and ink replacement actually set me in the negative for the month.  The reprints set me even further behind, and is blowing through double the canvas of each order since the first canvases got toasted.  Don’t even ask about the amount of ink used for recalibration and the paper used for testing and proofing.
  • After “resolving” the head issues I started re-running canvases, only to find that the yellows were still dropping out.  Reprint once more………that’s what I’ll be doing this week.

Black Friday to the Rescue

Honestly we’ll have to wait and see on this one.  Black Friday is normally thought of as the day where people camp in front of Best Buy or Wal-Mart to wait for those super bargains.  It’s the day where large scale retailers supposedly get back in the black and out of the red.  Does Black Friday really spill over to smaller shops in downtown settings?

Well, I sure hope it does.

This Friday we’ll be manning the gallery for Black Friday.  Last year the morning through mid-afternoon was dead.  Everybody was at Best Buy getting that super cheap flat panel TV they saw in the adverts!  But later in the afternoon we did see a good bit of traffic.  Looking back through my books though that traffic didn’t translate to anything huge.  We’ll have to wait and see what this year holds.

So, to all of you shoppers out there…..  How about spending some time in your favorite downtown.  Patronize a local business or two.  Help them have a Black Friday that gets them out of the red.  In my personal case, a few thousand dollars of my own canvases would be a great boost and get me out of this upside down month!

Small business isn’t easy

If you own your own business you know exactly what I mean.  You learn a lot in your first few years.  Choosing the right and wrong place to setup shop, knowing what’s reasonable and unreasonable as far as lease terms and pricing, actually checking into traffic of other businesses in your area…..etc, etc.  For 2 years now I’ve been schooled, and my eyes are wide open.  There’s a lot I would do differently, and it really would effect my bottom line.

One of the most interesting things I see as a downtown business owner is price point sensitivity.  What do I mean by that?  Well, being told that my price for an 8×10″ glossy is higher than that of Costco……

Of course my price is higher.  The print also looks a lot better (as one client found when he brought me a print to compare).  There really is no comparison.  But to many “would be” small print clients, that price point difference makes the decision every time.  Interestingly enough, my higher end clients (not generated by walk through traffic) normally find my prices extremely reasonable.  Actually, George Molnar often gets his invoice and says, “That’s it?  Really?”  So, do you cater to different market segments in a different manner?

Unfortunately you can’t.  Would be nice though.

Suggestions for the photographers out there going into business

Here’s something positive I can pass along after several years of doing this.  And this is addressed specifically to the professional photographer (or would be pro) out there.

You don’t need a lot of over head.  You most certainly don’t need to set up shop in some prime retail space.  It doesn’t buy you anything at all.  What really generates business for you is referrals, good shoots, good print quality, and engaging with your clients.

The bulk of my personal business is built on referrals.  Painters who print with me tell other painters who also want reproductions and they come see me.  That’s pretty much the business model that has kept me going for two years now.  My location really doesn’t draw these types of clients in.  The work I do for them does.  And the referrals from current clients and other businesses engaged in similar ventures is what helps build a healthy revenue stream.

So, when considering setting up shop I suggest Warehouse districts as a first choice.  Big open warehouses make for great studio space.  They’re also at least 1/3 the price of a retail space that normally offers less square footage.  You really don’t need a cafe next door, that’s not what your clientele is looking for.  Heck, operating out of your own home is another option if you’re doing location work.  If I was printing out of a garage I’d keep every big client I have without a doubt.  The high end retail location just isn’t going to buy you much.  So avoid it!

Deep sigh…..

Okay, the venting helped.  Before you send a complaining comment about being positive….well, just don’t send one.  Everybody has a rough month here and there.  And at some point you need to just vent.  So, I’ve vented.  Now I’m going to get the day going, work on getting corrected canvases done (yes it’s my day off), and see about swinging by the grocery store.

Comments 5

  1. Ok, no flowers, no poems, no inspirational speeches, but… you know my number, so if you need to yell or scream, I’ll listen.


  2. I hear you Rich… It will get better, you do amazing work and your name is getting out there!
    Have a great day and I will be in tue or wed to pick up my print!

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