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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Birthday Gift Ideas for Your Girl Friends (or Girlfriend) in the $50 Range!

I tend to put a lot of thought into the gifts I give for birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions. With Valentines just a couple days away and one of my friend's birthdays recently, I've compiled some gift ideas that have been big hits over the years for me with my girl friends:


Urban Decay Naked3 Palette - $54
If you are any sort of beauty maven (and even if you are not), the Urban Decay Naked palettes are the holy grail of eyeshadow palettes. I don't wear eyeshadow normally, but the Naked palette got me wearing eyeshadow a lot more when I go out. It is in such a convenient packaging, with the brush, mirror, and several different colors. It's easy to bring when traveling too because it doesn't spill, and there's not many different color pots to clutter up your makeup bag. I loved it so much I got it for one of my friends on her birthday and she said she loved it too! Most girls who are really into beauty and makeup will probably own this, but I am sure even girls who don't wear much makeup will find use of this palette.
 


Vera Wang Princess Perfume - $60
This is my favorite perfume. It is sweet and girly, and the packaging is so pretty and elegant. I love seeing this beautiful perfume bottle on my bathroom sink, around all my makeup. This is one of those gifts that you don't really think about getting or giving, but its something you can wear everyday. You will get so much use out of it.



Blue Apron - $59.94 for Three Meals for Two
I originally got this for a friend through GiltCity so it was even less than the $60 price tag. She loved it so much she ended up subscribing to it for the rest of the year. I tried it as well, and I really loved it. They send you three delicious meal recipes, with the ingredients portioned out for exactly what you will need. The food is really good and really fresh and its more unique and better than meals that I would be able to create at home on my own. Sometimes recipes call for ingredients you normally don't use, but BlueApron provides everything you need and everything is shipped to you. It's also a lot healthier than eating out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tips and Tricks to Growing Your Etsy Business!

I started off my Etsy shop with just three items. It has grown from those three items, to now 62 items and over 1,600 sales. While I had hope that the store would grow into something bigger, I didn't think it would happen so fast. I want to provide some tips on how to make a successful Etsy shop and what my husband and I did with our shop that worked for us:
Our First Three Jewelry Items

1. Invest in Yourself - When we bought the materials for our first three items, it was a big investment for us. I believe it cost me around $300 at the time. Imagine, we have no shop, no sales, nothing. We just have an idea, and we decide to spend $300 of our own money to buy some materials. I felt like I was taking a big risk. What if nothing we made sold? That would be a total waste of $300. However, I kept telling myself I could just price it lower and lower. There is no way I would lose ALL my money because I could always just sell my product for a loss and earn back some of my personal expenses. Well - it turns out I didn't need to worry. People bought our product and we started earning back the money we spent plus more! It's scary to put in money on your business endeavors, but think about other ways we invest in ourselves and don't think twice about it. My college education and living cost expenses were around $75k for four years and I never thought about how that was such a large investment. Spending $300 on your small business is chump change compared to the investments you've made in education for example. Don't be afraid of taking that risk if you really believe in your product.

2. Continuing to Invest! - I can't stress this enough. This is where my husband really helped with the business. I was okay with our three items. They were doing well - but my husband knew if we wanted to seriously grow our shop, we needed more designs and more items. He kept pushing for us to do more designs and spend more on materials. So we did! And it kept paying off! There were hits and misses along the way of course. Some of our designs were just plain not good and did not sell very well. Some were just total misses - that I never let them go up on our shop because I wasn't proud of them. But we kept pushing for more new designs and were able to find out what worked. If you have three items that sell well - why not add three more? And three more after that? That is how the shop really began to scale and see a lot more revenue.

These are the same flower crowns and the same model (me) - but the photo on the left sells more than the photo on the right.

3. Photography! - This is a must must MUST for Etsy. It cannot be downplayed. You need good photography. If you don't have a good camera, you can rent one from a photography store. Rickard and I have a DSLR with a lens, but even then, we have rented a better lens for a photoshoot. I am always tweaking my photos, and changing the main photo if something is selling slow. I've even re-taken product photos. Above you can see the exact same item, but taking a better photo of it immediately got us more sales. Photography is VERY important to any Etsy shop. Lighting or a hair style (in my case) can make a big difference in the product photography and can ultimately make a difference in your revenue

4. Etsy Ads - We spend on Etsy ads and it has been worth it. We've tried Facebook ads and Google ads, but Etsy got us by far the best return for our money. Make that investment! If you don't get good sales from the ads, consider revising your product or photo.

The cheap kitchen scale we bought to weigh our shipping

5. Ship Same Day! - Rickard helped me with this one too. I didn't understand printing shipping labels at home and how much things cost to ship depending on weight. This was a nightmare for me as I would drive to the post office and have them figure out how much it cost to ship every single time I made a sale, but now I see how simple it is. I would recommend getting a cheap kitchen weigh scale for weighing your items for shipping. Now we just print labels from home and put them in the mailroom of our condo, instead of me driving everyday to the post office. In addition to printing shipping labels from home, make sure to ship the same day! Your customers will really appreciate the fast shipping and it will show in your reviews.

6. Customer Service - We get a handful of questions a day from our Etsy customers and respond almost immediately if possible. This way we make sure we don't miss out on a sales opportunity. If you wait too long to respond, they may lose interest. If you respond right away, the customer will be impressed not only with your customer service, but will also trust you more when buying from your shop. It is more likely to translate into a same-day sales.

One of our best-selling items

7. Product - The product is important. It has to be good quality because you want customers to be happy with the product at the end of the day. Try to make your product something that will provide a solution for someone. For me, I started selling hair jewelry because when I was getting married, I was looking for Indian headpieces and I couldn't find anything. During my wedding I had friends comment and ask me where I found a headpiece. I didn't know other people were interested in these types of items and they were really difficult to find online so I decided to find a solution for demand that was out there. And that is how NaynaJewelry.com was born. We have tried many different designs over the last year, but we keep tweaking and trying to make things better and offer more designs. We often get requests and try to accommodate them as well. For example, we had customers asking for hair jewelry without the chain going down the center because you can't wear it with a side-part. So I started doing the jewelry without the center part. We try different colors, and different materials and just keep on tweaking and making it better. At the end of the day, even if you have the best photography and best marketing, if it's not a product that you believe in or will really connect with a consumer then it just won't work. However, just because one product or design doesn't work, don't give up either! Keep trying to improve and make it better!

I hope you find some of my tips helpful. I would love to hear any comments below and any other advice any of you may be searching for in regards to running a successful Etsy shop.

Cheers,
Nayna

Monday, February 9, 2015

Would You Sell Your Wedding Dress?


Today a co-worker of mine brought up the idea of selling your wedding dress after you are married.

The thought had crossed my mind after my wedding. After so many expenses that go into the wedding, I had thought about selling my wedding dress to offset some of those wedding costs. In a wedding there is a cake, there is food, a dj, and flowers - but after the wedding all you are left with are the photos, the memories and the dress.

I will confess I posted my wedding dress on eBay and Craigslist but I'm pretty sure I priced it way too high for a used wedding dress. For me, it was worth at least that much since it is the dress that I got married in and it means a lot. But then I took down my listings because I couldn't go through with it.

It's one of those sentimental items. I know it's just sitting there in its box in my closet. And I actually have two dresses (a white wedding dress and a red Indian dress).

I sell a lot of clothes and different items I don't use on eBay and don't have an attachment to them. I've sold an old iPod, my phone, various clothes and purses over the years. Even my friends say how does my home feel so light (and not cluttered), and its because I get rid of things often. I don't like being overly sentimental about things, but I guess I cannot part with this wedding dress at this time.

It's the dress I married my sweetheart in and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. A dream come true for me. I am sentimental about people and experiences, but I want to insist I am not sentimental about things, except when it comes to my marriage day. Maybe someday I will be able to sell the dress, but for right now it will keep taking up extra space in my closet.

What do you think? Would you sell your wedding dress?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunaina's Guide: Etsy Shop Accounting and Taxes

I've been doing my own personal income taxes for years now, and I've never hired a tax person to help me. When your only source of income is from an employer who provides you a W-2 form, it is pretty simple and straightforward to use TurboTax or HR Block.

However, since starting my Etsy shop and watching it grow this year, things have started to become a bit more complicated. If you own an Etsy shop like me and generate any earnings, you have to pay taxes on these earnings. When my husband and I started doing a lot of sales, the accounting portion of our business suddenly became overwhelming. We did some research and found that one of the best solution out there for Etsy sellers right now is GoDaddy's Outright Bookkeeping product.



Outright can sync up to your Etsy shop and Paypal account, as well as eBay shop if you have one. That way, anytime you make a sale, the transaction is reported in the bookkeeping. It keeps track of your earnings from PayPal, your costs for shipping (if you use eBay or Etsy to ship), the fees that you paid to Etsy or eBay or Paypal - and the best part is everything is automatic. You don't have to enter this information yourself because it automatically pulls the data from your accounts.

However, now that it is tax-season, I am going back and updating my expenses that Outright can't automatically track. For example, we have costs associated with buying materials for our jewelry. This is the bulk of our expenses. We also have costs for things like shipping envelopes, product cards, business cards, camera rentals for photoshoots, and some meal expenses from our photoshoots and business events (like a Coachella promotion event we did last year). These have to be manually entered or you won't get an accurate tax estimate.

Rickard and I try to keep our receipts from all our business expenses, but I"ll be honest, we haven't been the best at it - and I am realizing how important it is to keep track of these! The more accurate and more expenses you report, the lower your overall profit is and the taxes that you pay are much less. Keep track of everything! You can potentially expense a portion of even your rent and utilities if you operate out of the home and store your inventory at home.

As a business owner, it's important to keep track of not just the expenses, but also sales because you do have to pay taxes on them. So oftentimes, when you get money, try to portion out a percentage that needs to be paid to the tax-man. We weren't doing this in the beginning because we were "newbies", so this is going to cut into our refund this year because we should have been paying these taxes.



Realizing that I have to pay all this tax on my sales throughout the year, I have now decided to select an option in Etsy to charge my customers sales tax for California customers. If you own an Etsy shop, this can be done by going to "Your Shop" -> "Finances" -> "Accept Payments". Click on the "Sales Tax" tab and you can update the tax rate depending on the state of the buyer. You can also change this depending on the country. There are different rules/regulations around tax rate depending on the state and the one that you are based in. I have estimated my California tax so I can begin portioning off the tax portion at point-of-sale, rather than doing it all at the end of the year and realizing I owe so much to Uncle Sam!

I'm going to do some more blog posts on running your own business and would love to hear from other Etsy sellers as well on how you run a profitable shop and pay your dues as well!

Feel free to leave comments/feedbacks or even tax suggestions for me below.


Disclaimer: I am not a qualified tax consultant or professional tax advisor. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

LA Eats Review - Sadie's Kitchen and Lounge


Yesterday, my husband and I decided to go out for a dinner just the two of us, someplace a little nicer.

We have been strict in saving money for a condo the past couple months so haven't been eating out very often. We decided to splurge just for old time's sake by heading over to Hollywood for a Friday night dinner date.

We went to Sadie's Kitchen & Lounge right off Hollywood Blvd. and Las Palmas. I really loved the decor of the place - fancy chairs, beautiful lighting, and some fashionable people at this restaurant. After living in the Valley for so long now, I forgot how when I used to go out in LA I often wore high heels and full on makeup and got dolled up. I think if you want to get dressed up - you will fit right in at this restaurant which is fun to do sometimes. 


We ordered our drinks and food from the waitress, and it took probably 15-20 minutes. They arrived with our food before our drinks. Because of the wait for our drinks, they did not charge us for it - which was nice. I thought the menu was on the price-y side for what it was - but then again it's Hollywood and a nicer restaurant so that is expected. You can expect to pay about $30 for any entree. Drinks run from around $8+. I know they have a happy hour special, but we were too late for that. 

The food was great. My husband said the portions were too small for him - but I think they were just right. I think for the price - maybe they could have had more food, but I don't really expect Denny's' or iHop portions when I dine at nicer restaurants.

He had the fried chicken and waffles - which was really delicious. He said that it should have had mashed potatoes instead of salad though.

I had the black cod which seemed very fresh to me and really delicious. I enjoyed it a lot. It came with some kind of mushy mashed potatoes which I thought could have been way better - but the fish was really good.

I like the ambiance of this place. It's a classy place. My only complaint would be the waitresses seemed a little slow, and the prices were a little too high for what it was.

Afterwards we walked around looking for another lounge or bar, but weren't able to find anything we really liked. There was a Cabo Cantina and some "Mullet" bar across the street, but it didn't really fit with our more "romantic" night out.