Purely Simple - In The Beginning
As usual, I thought I would do all sorts of things for this blog post. Heck, for this website. Free guides, multiple posts up for “launch,” et cetera.
But, then I stopped.
I thought about the point of this website, and the business it is intended to document. And realized how hypocritical I was being.
So here we are.
Here you are (thanks, by the way).
All of the other stuff can, and will, come later. For now though, this is all that is needed.
Hi there :-)
My name is Aaron Aiken. I am a husband (of 10 years), a father (of 4 years), owner of multiple failed businesses, and currently a full-time employee.
I have a J-O-B.
I am also a part-time student. Yeah, that too.
I was told years ago that I would need a degree in order to survive in life. Stay warm at night. And contribute in a valuable way to society.
Turns out none of that is true.
As far as corporate America is concerned, I am in a good management position, earning a decent salary (as decent as you can when you aren’t the owner of the business), and get the usual benefits package that comes with a job where you build someone else's business for 40-60 hours a week.
All of that, without a degree.
Except that now I am far enough along with this degree that I should just finish the damn thing. So that’s what I’m doing.
So here’s the deal
I am an employee, yes, but I am also an entrepreneur. Same goes with my wife, minus the employee part, but sure works harder every day than I do raising our extremely busy son, Mozzie.
But we are both entrepreneurs. And it kills both of us that I am still at this job, that we are essentially held back by doing what we want to do in life because we constantly have to ask permission for me to not show up.
And, seriously, it’s me, not the job or the people (for the most part).
Being an employee for the rest of my life just isn’t for me. It’s not who I am. And it is certainly not a lifestyle that I want to continue building.
So. Our solution?
Build a business…together.
We have both done this separately. And both have different skills. So we are combining our effort and directing it into one business.
And that is what this website, the one you are on right now, is going to document.
The business itself, and as part of that, the angle of it being owned and operated by a husband and wife team.
So why write about it?
Why go through the headache of writing about things?
Well, as Lindsay (that’s my wife by the way, sorry for not introducing her sooner) said: “Yeah, let’s create more work.”
Yep, that’s me :-)
But really, what I want to do more than anything else is to write, and to be a writer who earns his living from his writing.
There, I said it.
Yes, a business owner. But even more so a writer.
Well, put simply: life.
And the aspect of life I am going to write about now, for the unforeseeable future, is a BTS (behind the scenes) of a husband and wife going into business together.
So that’s why this site is here
To make my life busier than it already is, and to write.
Ok, a few more housecleaning items and then we will get into the reason you came here in the first place.
First, These posts are going to be long. Longer than what you may be used to. I have two primary reasons for this:
- My goal is quality, not quantity. While the soul of brevity may be wit, I am not here to be witty, per se. I am here to use complete thoughts, words, sentences, and paragraphs in order to make the point I want to make. And I’ll be as long-winded as I want to be. My writing goal is 450 words per day, Monday through Friday, publish on Saturday.
- SEO. That’s Search Engine Optimization. As far as Google and other search engines are concerned, bigger is better. It is more authoratative, and will do a better job of ranking for various search terms organically. Which is good. Because I hardly have time to write, let alone spend hours optimizing each post. Let what I write speak for itself.
So when you come here, come prepared. Act as though we are meeting for coffee. This isn’t a passing “hello” on the sidewalk. This is pull up a chair, and do you like your coffee with cream or black?
Depending upon your average reading speed, and my ability to write in a way that makes it easier on you, your brain, and your eyes, plan on spending 15-20 minutes per blog post.
Like I said: long.
But, it will be good material and is well worth your time.
Ok, a few more things.
- The style is going to be informal, and, hopefully, as a result, easy to read and comprehend.
- My goal, initially, is not to teach you anything. My goal is to document, provide resources, and otherwise give you a real BTS of starting a business (while also maintaining a job, family, school, hobbies, friends, and other areas of life).
- I do have a short eBook in the works, and it is nearly complete. So stay tuned for that. I’m also working on a “getting your business off the ground in all of the nitty gritty details” checklist. So also keep an eye out for that.
- Oh, and I’m going to have a post here either once per week (on Saturday) or twice a month (keeping with Saturday). It all depends on time available, and where things are at with our business. Your flexibility in this is appreciated :-)
- Close to finally, share with anyone who you think may enjoy reading about starting a business.
- And finally, I hope you enjoy this. Make sure you comment on each post! Gaining you as a reader, and an active participant, will be awesome!
Cool. Let’s get down to business.
What is this business we are starting?
Well, it is called Purely Simple.
It is a lifestyle product business. Our goal is to provide our customers with simple products for their homes and themselves.
The products are simple in use/appearnace, and also in how they are made (the process) and what they are made with (the ingredients).
In everything we do our aim is to have as few steps and ingredients as possible. Which, naturally, create a very natural and organic product.
Our initial product line is this:
Why this product line?
Well, we know how to make everything, and we also know how to sell it.
And that’s where this is a perfect match as far as a husband and wife team are concerned.
She, Lindsay, has the know-how and experience to make the “natural” products.
I know the sale, fulfillment, technical, and business components that are required in order to sell what we make, and scale what we sell.
All of that, the team aspect of this, was through through by Lindsay before even talking with me.
(Well, truthfully, she probably brought this up numerous times before…I just wasn’t listening).
So, on Monday, January 2nd, 2017, we grabbed some coffee, locked ourselves in our bedroom, and talked about how this would look and work.
- Is this something we want to do?
- Do we have the time?
- Do we have the funds?
- What are our roles?
- When can we launch?
- What is our name?
- What is our logo (icon)?
- WordPress or Squarespace? (Easy was out of the question).
Let’s go through all of these questions, and that will wrap up this post.
1. Do we want to do this?
This was a real question from Lindsay.
This was all her idea, to combine forces and such, but she really wanted to know, from me, why now?
She wanted to start a business together, but she was curious why I was open to the idea and entertaining it.
“Well,” I started, “why not?”
Up to this point it has been close to 8 years since we tried a business together. A lot of things have transitioned in that time, and we both have grown into ourselves a lot more in that time, as well as naturally in life. As life moved on, we both also acquired a lot of very specific skills, we can be combine very easily.
Plus, up to this point I have tried everything by essentially doing it on my own. I am ready to see what we can become when we combine forces.
2. Do we have the time?
No. Not really. But we do, in a way.
It is all about priorities, focus, and how badly we want this to become what we know it is capable of becoming.
So, no, we don’t have time. But we are not going to let that stop us.
3. Do we have the funds needed to fund the startup costs?
And also thankfully, the startup costs are fairly low to get up and moving.
As part of our philosophy we are keeping everything very simple. A nice side benefit to this is low cost.
So, bootstrapping this is doable. We are funding the startup with funds from my salary, and when we are able to, we will reinvest profits back into the business and slowly stop funds from our personal finances.
4. What are our roles?
We wanted to have roles known right out of the gate. Despite both of us having a rough idea, we knew that this topic was important enough to justify discussing at the very beginning.
These will morph as we grown, and some will be celebrated over time to other people (like bookkeeping, pick/pack/ship, etc).
At a high level, Lindsay is our product designer (and also maker). This includes sourcing supplies/vendors, managing inventory, and most likely picking, packing, and shipping, and therefore is also our fulfillment and shipping manager.
I am handling the following: business operations, bookkeeping, website, email (autoresponder - MailChimp), photography, and strategic marketing.
We are both working on our marketing efforts together. The photography and marketing aspect of things is something we are both giving insight to.
So that’s what we landed on. And, obviously, we both will realistically touch every part of our business for the first year or so, or until we are to the point financially where we can justify outsourcing some of these tasks. But our goal right away is to have both of us focused and working to our strengths.
5. When can we launch?
Since day numero uno we have been targeting February. Last weekend I spent some time working in OmniPlan to get as close to a realistic date as possible. It brought us to February 14th: Valentine’s Day. So this is what we are currently shooting for.
The biggest unknowns that may have a negative impact on that date is the LLC approval, fictitious name approval, and our sales tax license. The first two, the LLC and fictitious name, are required for us to open a business account at our bank. The bank account is needed for creating a Stripe account. And the Stripe account is needed so that we can accept credit card payments on our website, which is pretty damn important.
6. What is our name?
This one is important, and thankfully I had absolutely nothing to do with it. This is the one part of starting a business that I do not excel at.
I asked Lindsay how she came up with Purely Simple.
She said that she wanted something general, but that also conveyed a theme of natural products and simple statement pieces.
And she’s lucky. For all of my businesses, and ideas of businesses, the name has always been the most difficult part of the startup. Not for Lindsay.
She came up with two ideas. The second one was the winner.
The first one was “naturally…something…” She can’t remember the exact wording. But whatever it was, it made her think of granola bars. And we definitely are not selling granola bars.
Her next idea was, you guessed it, Purely Simple.
Pure conveys the natural and organic ingredients and processes. Simple conveys the over arching philosophy she wants the business to operate from.
So, she was satisfied.
The tagline, “whatever is pure whatever is lovely,” came to her while she was falling asleep one night. It comes from Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
She was sold.
The purelysimple.co domain name was available, and very close variations of PurelySimple.co were available on all of the primary social media sites.
7. What is the logo (icon)?
Because it looks awesome.
It is simple. It is an object from nature, which makes it jive with our “organic” concept. And the symbolism of the pineapple is almost exactly what we are trying to achieve with our online boutique.
Here are two write-ups about pineapple symbolism:
The pineapple is recognized as a traditional expression of “welcome” throughout the South and in areas along the Eastern Seaboard. Appearing on all sorts of décor – from door knockers to quilts – the fruit symbolizes those intangible assets we appreciate in a home: warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality. (source)
Um - perfect. This next one, though, is my favorite:
The pineapple has been a symbol of hospitality since the days of the early American colonies. The legend began with the sea captains of New England, who sailed among the Caribbean Islands and returned to the colonies bearing their cargo of fruits, spices and rum. According to the legend, the captain would spear a pineapple on a fence post outside his home to let his friends know of his safe return from sea. The pineapple was an invitation for them to visit, share his food and drink, and listen to tales of his voyage. As the tradition grew, colonial innkeepers added the pineapple to their signs and advertisements, and bedposts carved in the shape of a pineapple were a common sight at inns across New England. The legend has continued to the present, and frequently one sees the pineapple symbol in hotels and restaurants to signal the presence of hospitality. (source)
Boom! The pineapple symbol embodies the exact experience we hope to give to our customers.
8. WordPress or Squarespace?
Ok, you are almost there. Last question to cover for today. We’ll dive into much more in the next post.
But before we do that, let’s talk website.
Yeah, Easy? Absolutely not.
A marketplace like Easy may provide a few perks, but the overhead (in shitty backend systems and crippling policies for shop owners) far outweigh any supposed benefit.
So, then the questions became one of WordPress or Squarespace?
I made the final decision based on my experience with both platforms/frameworks.
Here’s a real scenario with WordPress, and is how I sold it as a solution to clients in one of my past businesses.
Begin sales mode.
WordPress can be whatever you want it to be. It can be as light as a feather, or a heavy as a skyscraper. It is entirely up to you.
Themes and plug-ins. Just install them and you’re work is done.
End sales mode.
Your work is done until your website starts to do things you didn’t tell it to do. Bad things. Things that could cripple your business.
So you call the guy who built your website. He says pay me $500 and he can definitely maybe fix it. And it may cost more than that, but he won’t know until he gets in there.
Or you take your problem and type up a post on the WordPress forum.
Everyone yells at you for posting the question. They tell you to search Google before coming here. And definitely search the forums before posting your stupid question. God forbid if you ask a questions that has already been asked by someone else. The trolls that lurk in the forums will know that you committed this heinous crime and will make you feel lower than they are.
So you contact the theme developer. And also various plug-in developers. They all tell you to disable all plug-ins and re-enable one by one to identify which one is actually causing the problem. Then they tell you to contact them only if it turns out to be a problem with their theme or plug-in. Otherwise, don’t bother them. They have more important things to deal with.
Meanwhile, your source of income is not producing an income.
The problem could be your WordPress installation (are you running the latest version? Did you backup before updating? Are all of your plug-ins compatible with the latest version of WordPress?), your MySQL database, the theme, a plug-in, or an even an issue on the server which is controlled by your hosting company located in a different timezone with shitty customer service.
I have experienced the scenario(s) above. Both directly on my sites, and also on the receiving end as the “developer” who built or sold the website in the first place.
None of that includes setting up an e-commerce solution, or getting the SSL certificate installed, which will be required if you want to sell and get paid with credit cards.
Screw all of that. I know how to do everything with WordPress and that is why I refuse to use WordPress for our website.
I want to spend my time working on and building our business…not my website.
So Squarespace it is.
- No server to setup.
- No installation to complete.
- No database to manage.
- No rouge theme or plugin that will randomly explode and take our site down.
- No need to go through the SSL process.
- None of that.
Because everything we need to setup a website and sell online is taken care of for us by the awesome folks at Squarespace.
Plus, try to bring a Squarespace site down. It can’t be done.
So Squarespace it is. This was a no brainer.
Ok. So there we have it, and that’s where I’m going to leave it for now.
The next post will get into all of the startup stuff that happened after our initial conversation. But, until then, comment, like, and share!