Wednesday, June 18, 2014


This is a very expensive mistake I have seen many people make! I did not have thousands to pay someone to create a website for me so I taught myself what was needed to do it myself. Back when I started, there were not very many options for free websites and built in templates. I taught myself HTML, CSS, MySQL, and learned how to use Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Now, you can build a website for free without any knowledge how it all works, but I think it's still important to know the basics so that you can tweak your template how you want (more on that later).

When I first started, I used Zen Cart which is totally free and has free templates. This is where html and CSS came in handy because I did not like the look and feel of the free templates. There are also premium templates that you can pay for and install. 

If you only have 1 or 2 products, you may consider using Wordpress. You can create a free website easily and there are quite a few free templates to get you started. Don't worry how "simple" your site will look at first! A nice clean design will attract your customers :) One feature I do like about Wordpress is the built in SEO right out of the box. 

Domains: You can find domains super cheaper (as low as $2.99 I have found) but be warned, you pay for what you get! Many of these companies that offer those super low prices make it very difficult for you to direct your domain to where you want to host it (if you chose to host at another company). I use Dreamhost both for domain registration and hosting. It's only $8.95 a month to host as many domains as you want! I have used other companies to register a domain but did not like their hosting plans and would have to wait several weeks for them to transfer my domain so I only now use Dreamhost for my registrations and hosting. It's $11.95 a year for a domain but I find it is well worth it! Even if you don't use them for hosting, it's very simple to transfer to another host without any hassles :) 

I have become a pretty loyal customer of Dreamhost mainly because their customer service is awesome! You wouldn't believe how many times I screwed up a line of code and contacted them for help :D 

If you are ready to register your domain, I have a promo code for a Free Registration of a domain! Just enter this promo code: FREEREG14

Shopping Cart: I mentioned Zen Cart earlier which is totally free to create a website and have a shopping cart which is what you will need to sell products. I used it for a few years before I felt I needed more features and support. Like most entrepreneurs, I wear many hats and keeping up with the demands of a website that you have to keep tweaking and updating to make it work for your needs was becoming difficult. 

I researched many shopping cart, tried many free trials and ultimately ended up choosing 3dCart which has many built in templates and features that I needed. It was also the most cost efficient. I needed a cart that had the ability to easily track inventory, customers, order and the ability to have wholesale customers which is a big bulk of my business! Since switching to 3dCart, many more cool features have been added that I love. 

Payment Processing:  At first, I only accepted Paypal because it was FREE, duh!! With the basic free Paypal account you can accept paypal payments and credit cards. I eventually signed up for Paypal Payments Pro which includes their virtual terminal to process credit cards manually. I only needed the virtual terminal for wholesale transactions that were made over the phone, by email, fax or by sales reps. The cost for the Pro is $30, but they do have a cheaper plan if you just want to accept credit cards directly on your site. 

I eventually changed my credit processing over to Chase Paymentech because their fees are lower and there was not a set up fee (which most major processors charge). I even switched my business account over to Chase Bank so my payments get directly deposited into that account very quickly.

There is so much that goes into creating a website so I will be following up with additional posts :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014


What is a trademark and do I need one? A trademark is a brand name.  A trademark or service mark 

includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and 

distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of 

the goods/services.  Although federal registration of a mark is not mandatory, it has several advantages, 

including notice to the public of the registrant's claim of ownership of the mark, legal presumption of 

ownership nationwide, and exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods/services listed 

in the registration.

Once you think of an amazing name for your company, you should trademark the name. 
Why? Because, as you grow you do not want others using the same name and confusing your customers! Don't waste money by using a service or a lawyer to do this for you! It's quite easy to do and I will walk you through the steps now:

  • Before you trademark, you need to do a search for similar marks:
  • You will need to decide how you want your mark format.  1. Standard character format (If you are trademarking your brand name, this is the one you should choose.) 2. Stylized mark format (This is if you have a design or logo to protect but you still would trademark using standard format your brand name separately to be protected). 
  • Know your classification of good you intent on (or already are) selling. 
  • What is the difference between a "TM" or ® symbol? You can use "TM" without filing for trademark to make people aware you are claiming rights to that mark, although it does not give you all the rights that a federal registration mark would. A ® can be used only after the USPS actually registers your mark. You can only use the mark for the goods you registered with. 
  • Ready? You can file online here for $275 (per class of goods- $50 extra if you want to add another class of goods):
And there you have it! The online form is pretty self explanatory and very easy to do yourself :) 

Friday, June 6, 2014

DIY Business Tools

I have been in business for several years and the first thing I learned is to keep your ideas to yourself! Every entrepreneur is afraid of someone using their ideas and we tend not to be very helpful to other start ups when they have questions.  Why? Because we learned our lessons the hard way, kid so go fend for yourself! Ridiculous, right? Why not help someone if you have some insight? Well.... many of us do, at first! Then, it becomes a real issue of having enough time to help others. Many of us learn many hard lessons by being "burned" by others and start having a "dog eat dog" mentality. I am so guilty of doing this and I hope by creating these posts of DIY Business Tools, I can help others just starting out!

What makes someone want to start a business? For me, it was wanting to help support my family while able to spend time with them. I did not have the funds to hire people to do things like creating a website, sourcing productions, mock ups, graphics, etc., etc. So what does any good entrepreneur do? Do it yourself! Seriously, with the vast amounts of info online, you can teach yourself to do just about anything and for free! You heard that right... FREE! Don't pay for something you can get for free, EVER! Unless you have an endless supply of money.. then go for it ;)

Stay tuned for free tools to get your started (or to keep you going)!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Back to blogging!

A lot has changed since the last time I blogged, both in my personal life and business. I found myself saying to myself "I should blog about this" but usually would either forget or as things kept getting busier and busier, it was difficult to stay on top of everything ALL of the time! :)

Last year has been a crazy ride, I have learned so much in business and have had to make several changes to fit my life better. My youngest son was not doing well in Kindergarten (despite being told by the school he was doing fine). We had a bit of a struggle getting him evaluated at a developmental disabilities institute (the only one in the area with a long wait list).

Towards the end of the school year, we started looking for a new house in a different school district. We compared our options and settled on an area that we fell in love with with a house that had a basement to move my office back into the house- I needed way more space than what I started with (more on that later). It was a difficult decision to  take my 2 boys out of a school that I first loved but after receiving little support for my kindergartner, I saw the writing on the wall and KNEW we had to not only make a change, but make it quickly!

I am happy to say that after a full year in the new school, I am floored at the difference of support provided for kids (and parents). Both kids, now 11 and 7, have adjusted not only well to the new school but to the community and I couldn't be more relieved that we did it!

And now that summer is approaching, I will be planning on keeping the kids busy and making it a great summer for them! And, now that I have them in a school with no worries, I can focus more on growing my business in new ways :)