Kids! What’s the Matter With Kids Today? Nothing.

You can always tell when markers are scented (you don’t get the full effect unless you shove them up your nose). Berry blue, green apple, black licorice, cotton candy pink- truly irresistible! I’ve got many a happy memory involving scented markers. I’m not sure what brand we had when I was in grade school, but I’ve idealized them in my mind as the pinnacle of perfumed pen perfection.  I think I may have licked a few.


When I was little my Mom and Dad used to tell me bedtime stories. Dad’s adventures usually involved Chip & Dale, “boom juice” and trips to outer space in a tree rocket. Mom’s stories were about Shiny, a little robot who lived in our house. Since he’s fascinated by robots, I’ve been telling Mike stories about Shiny. I also mentioned once that Shiny’s had a brother – Rusty – who did mining work on the moon.  Mike has become obsessed with these two robots. We’ve talked endlessly about them, drawn them, and now, more recently, made them out of Legos.

Obviously I’m thrilled that Mike likes Legos. He’s made a bunch of cool things that I wish I’d taken pictures of, so this time I seized the opportunity. I had told Mike that Shiny was painted green and so he collected a bunch of little green Lego parts and whipped up the robot above. The piece next to Shiny’s head is his “treasure shelf.” Mike told me to make Rusty and I obliged. Claire helped us build a fortress for the robots and Gabe threw up on it.

Speaking of Claire and Gabe. Fran got Claire a tea set and we’ve had several tea parties together. She’s quite the little hostess. And Gabe finally stared walking! Who would have thought that these little people could bring me so much joy?

What’s the Big Idea?

So you want a business huh? You want to build the next Microsoft, become the next Donald Trump and marry the latest popular arm ornament. Where do you start? I’ve got a great idea- start of the beginning. Where’s the beginning? Hang on tight, becuase I’ve got the answer. The beginning is the idea.

As I talk with potential customers [*1] about running a store, the thing that frustrates me the most is that they want to start their business in the middle somewhere. Lunch conversations have literally gone like this:

Customer: How do I do order fulfillment- do you think UPS or FedEx is better?
Cam: What are you selling?
Customer: Well, my buddy makes these little wooden puppets that kids seem to like. But maybe that’s dumb. Maybe we could sell something else. Maybe wooden hats.
Cam: Well, it’s important to figure out what you want to sell.
Customer: We’ll probably go with the puppets. But it’s hard to get to get these things off the ground, you know? I mean how will we find time to do advertising?
Cam: Well, the first step is to decide what you want to sell.
Customer: Is advertising hard? Do you think we should use Google?
Cam: I’d say the first thing to do is decide what product you want to market.
Customer: Well, one thing I know- we’ve got to sell something good. I hope we can find a cheap place to rent for a store. How much does your store cost?
Cam: I hate you and you’re lucky this fork is plastic.

Times are tough now. You can’t simply announce that a great idea will be forthcoming and have venture capitalists begging you to take their money. From what I understand this was the case a few years back, and now companies built on the idea of an idea are completely gone. Nice work there. So let me drive this home again- you start your business by thinking of an idea.

The idea itself can be anything. Maybe you have the great idea for a world changing invention (way to go!). Maybe your idea involves buying some spiffy niche product wholesale and reselling it (works for me!).  Or maybe you can provide some incredible service that everyone wants (make it free for Cam!). Lie in a hammock, brainstorm on paper, harass your friends- just find the idea.

Now you have to ask yourself an important and potentially uncomfortable question: Can i build a business around my idea?  Let’s say you love pickle and jelly sandwiches. No one makes a better PJ sandwich than you! Maybe you should open a pickle and jelly sandwich shop, right? But in the nick of time you realize that no one else on earth will eat your sandwiches.  Sometimes common sense is all you need for a business evaluation.  Other times it takes a little more work.  You need to churn your idea around. You need to imagine how a business could function around it. The idea has to be viable enough so that it can support an infrastructure of processes (processes are big- we’ll talk about them one day [*2]) to reach a desired goal (usually money!).  And even after you figure out everything in your head, you may not know an idea isn’t viable until you’ve started working with it.  We’ll go more into depth on that later.

So to recap: A business starts with an idea. Find an idea and ask yourself if you can build a business around it.  That’s the first step [*3]. Now is not the time to figure out of your cousin Bubba is going to be a good customer service rep (“I just wish he knew English”) or if you should start planning your retirement. Begin with an idea and evaluate it’s business potential as best you can.  Then you decide if it’s something you really want to do, something that will be within your ability range, something you can afford, and so on. We’ll get to that soon. If you want a business just start thinking of ideas.


[1*] Potential customers for our ecommerce software, Blaze.

[*2] Processes are a fundamental requirement to achieve a successful business. Processes solve problems, create order and make you feel warm and fuzzy. I’ll be writing a section on developing processes in the future.  This will be updated with a link when the post is done.

[*3] Yep, all my business started with an idea. “Can I sell knives on the Internet and make money?”  worked out pretty well. “Can I pour lime juice into water, add caffeine, add the words “natural” and “power” and make a million dollars?” We shall see.

Almost Done with the Freaking Store!

 After four months of steady work we’ve got the shelves, counters, lightning and tweaking done for most of the store. It’s quite an upgrade from our first storefront (you can a more detailed version of our remodeling progression and new storefront over on BladeHQ). There’s plenty of room for customers now and with the counters lining the store our inventory doesn’t get ransacked.

Speaking of counters- I know it may be hard to tell from the pictures, but our counter fronts and tops are glass to glass. This is a big deal for us, actually. When we went looking for displays one thing we noticed was that there was always a bar of some kind on the front blocking the view. With glass on glass the customer has complete visibility (these cabinets were custom made). We also lit the cabinets from the side so the view would not be blocked. The lightning was a big project, but Ikea came through for us).

 We still need to get the watch section of the store finished up (I mean real watches- check out our new online watch store), hang up our signs, LCD TVs, and get the entrance area polished a bit. We’re pretty excited about everything. Let the customers come!

Cam on Commerce

camoncommerceopenimage1.jpgMost of you are probably familiar with Joel on Software. The guy is a blogging champ and often comes up with some great ideas and philosophies I’ve applied to my own business. Yeah, he writes about software and his software company so not everything he says applies to what I’d doing. And then I got to thinking, “I wish someone would do a blog specifically geared toward commerce.” And then I thought, “I could do that. Cam…. Cam on commerce.”  So there you have it- the origin story.

Maybe I’m not the best guy to do it. Maybe I can’t write with the wit, clarity and stunning charisma of people like Joel. Maybe, maybe, maybe- but the domain is registered and I’ve set up the blog and I’m on my way! Maybe one day someone will read the other blog and find something useful. That would be really cool. One in awhile I may say something helpful. Plus it’s a nifty was to organize my thoughts on business. Go there now!

Business, As Usual

dcblogsdhqfran5.jpgFor anyone wondering exactly what Tasers are, you can check out their website HERE. Personally, I think they represent an excellent means of non-lethal self defense and I’m excited to be able to carry them in our store.

newstoresshqsdhq.jpgSpeaking of stores- we’re actually launching two new websites. There’s SelfDefenseHQ (which I just mentioned) and also SwordHQ which we’re hoping to get up in the next month. There’s still some design tweaking to do, but we’re getting close. I’m always floored by how much stuff there is to sell! Self defense items, emergency preparedness products, kitchen knives, multi tools, flashlights, custom knives, imports, fantasy stuff. We’ve barley scratched the surface. If only there was more time…