Now That You"ve "Made It" On The Internet, How Do You Keep Your "Eyes On The Prize&qu
You may have started with nearly zero funds using technology as your leverage.
You may have been a "trust fund baby" or backed by venture capitalists and sped things up quite a bit and it didn't take so long to "make it".
If you were like me, you started with a beat up computer, and a lot of confused friends around you.
Some of them dropped by the wayside, thinking you had lost your mind.
Maybe you were like me, hadleft corporate America to fulfill a vague dream, or maybe you had a your vision was already crystallized as to what people would see and buy from you on the Internet, and how much you would have sold, once you "had arrived".
My vision started in 1997.
It was still very vague and I did not have a business plan.
I had written thousands of cartoons, but could not draw well.
My vague vision was that i would find a risk-taking entrepreneurial artist who would work with me for years until this vision was completed.
The vision was to have at least 5000 single-panel offbeat cartoons completed, be world famous, and be in "the spirit of The Far Side" by Gary Larson who was a major influence.
I was naive.
My first artist lasted about 4 months and his wife made him "get a real job".
I was single.
I probably went through thirty artists after that over the next few years until I built a team that stayed with me.
By the year 2000, we had almost 2000 cartoons finished and posted.
My other vague dream was that once these cartoons were on the Internet, newspaper syndicates would come running to us begging for syndication.
I might as well have been buying lottery tickets.
Fortunately, I had the skill of barter, which I still use, and discovered that many companies indeed beg for the cartoons to use in newsletters, on their websites, and many needed custom graphics which my team provided.
Many paid and many bartered, but we did enough business to keep the lights on.
In 2001, I fell ill with heart trouble and sort of let the project glide for several months, even thinking of selling it or closing it.
Then I was contacted by a manufacturer in New Jersey who made everything from t-shirts to wall clocks to Christmas ornaments with artwork on them.
He wanted to do business.
The amount he wanted to pay us was not close to what I had in mind.
We settled on doubling it and he agreed.
That business has been profitable since the third month and didn't cost me a penny.
He not only creates on demand, but drop ships worldwide, buys all the ppc, pays for all kinds of other advertising, has over 30,000 of my products on Shop.
com (which has created affiliates also selling them), Ebay, and more.
Within a year, I was receiving monthly checks that blew my mind, and still do.
In other words, "the vision" or dream, if you will, took a life of its own and showed me I was limiting myself with my own narrow vision of what it could be.
So I took a few more chances.
Now I had a little money to play with.
I started the world's first cartoon gourmet coffee gift basket and it took off.
I sell it at my main store.
Human nature, I believe, is to sit back and enjoy the fruits of one's labor.
And I do try to stop and smell the roses when I can.
I believe that is important; otherwise, where's the fun? But there is a difference between smelling the roses and resting on one's laurels and there is a fine line between the two.
In today's competitive environment, smelling the roses for too long can put one in a vulnerable position.
I noticed other cartoonists were trying unique ventures, some almost copies of mine, one so close we even had to call in an attorney to take it down which he reluctantly did.
Not something I like to do.
In some ways, I'm glad all that happened, as McDonald's and Wal-mart learned early on, business is not done in a vacuum.
They are watching you and you are watching them.
Treating your customers and vendors and others with the same kind of respect you want back, may sound simple, but it is a major key to success.
I may have unusual copyrighted products that nobody else has or can have because they are based on my cartoons, my intellectual property, but buyers are savvy and feel a sense of entitlement today, and they should.
They want customer service and a real person with which to talk if there is a question or concern.
Doesn't matter how talented or wonderful we think we are.
So I started researching to find a niche and noticed a lot of cartoonists were making big money in the t-shirt business.
I didn't want to get lost in that crowd, but I did step in the waters of that industry and was quite surprised to find there is money there.
But I had to find something different, something that nobody else was doing.
And eureka! Nobody was doing a line of designer cartoon casual wear.
So I gave it a shot, and, again to my surprise, people were buying and buying big.
They continue to.
I decided not to use cheap silkscreen and half polyester products but all cotton and the new much higher quality digital imprinting which makes the image appear to be a part of the product.
People were willing to pay a few dollars more for it, as my instincts told me they would, because I would.
I never buy a cheap silkscreen t-shirt or any silkscreen anymore because I know within a few washings, even in cold water, the image is half gone, and often the fabric is already beginning to show wear.
So I took the chance on quality and it was the right move.
I added useful gifts like mousepads, cutting boards, tote bags, coasters, aprons and such and low and behold, people bought.
The success mix?Funny cartoon (nice artwork), quality product, excellent customer service, and worldwide shipping (almost 20% of my sales come from other countries).
Today, I am smelling the roses.
The way I smell the roses, often is to take a long walk, play with my very old dog (age 20) who used to walk with me but now cannot, and write an article that might be of help to someone else struggling with issues of launching and running a successful Internet business.
My way is not the only way.
In fact, if someone asked me if they could copy my business model, I would say "Sure, but you'll save yourself a lot of headaches and pain by developing a business plan and taking it to investors".
But that might not be their style.
It was not mine.
I don't consider myself a control freak, but I did want control over this project.
Selling stock, bringing in investors etc.
from the start, dilutes that control.
Now that I've "made it on the Internet", my accountant says maybe it is time to incorporate and see what the people think of owning stock.
I may do that, I may not.
I have the luxury of not making that decision at this time, and so will you if you will simply plod along, work hard, keep your eyes on the prize, and never, ever let the naysayers (there will be plenty) deter you from their dream.