The first day of the month is always my favourite. I open up my spreadsheets and go through how all my businesses have done. I look at what progress has been made, count my pennies and make plans for the future. I love it, and hopefully you will find it interesting seeing how a lifestyle entrepreneur spends their time.
A couple of things about me to begin. Firstly I am very self-critical. I am always reflecting on what I could do better and where I am slacking. Don’t take it too seriously, my life is great. Secondly, I work on my businesses ‘full-time’. But as I am my own boss what that actually means can vary quite a lot (read my lazy entrepreneur manifesto). Therefore I have come up with four metrics to rate how my month has gone. Here are the scores for February:
- Work Rate: This is the raw number of hours I’ve spent working. I am comparing it to a 40-hour working week. In February I reckon I’ve worked a measly 20 hours ish a week.
- Productivity: This is how much I’ve managed to get done. Even though I didn’t get many hours in in February, they were very efficient hours and I’ve actually achieved a lot.
- Profitability: This is how much money my businesses have made that month. Yeah, February wasn’t great… pretty much every business was down vs January.
- Optimism: This is generally how happy and excited I feel about the future. I am currently very optimistic as there are some really cool projects in the works.
Ok, let’s dive in.
Table Tennis Brands
Firstly Palio: after almost two years of planning, we have finally launched the Palio bats in India! I cannot begin to describe how many hoops we had to jump through in order to stock our bats in India. They take bureaucracy to a whole new level. I will probably write a post all about it at some point, but the end result is that now our bats are stocked using Amazon FBA India. Woo! This is a really exciting development as India has the potential to be a very large market. Amazon India is in English and they have a very fast growing middle class willing to pay Western prices for top quality goods. According to Jungle Scout, my favourite market research tool, the best selling table tennis bat on Amazon India is selling about 500 units a month. That is already a lot (similar to the bestseller in the UK) and is only going to grow as Amazon takes hold.
We also completely rebranded our website: We have been struggling with a lot of copycat brands releasing bad quality imitations of our bats. In early February we won a hearing in the UK against one trademark infringement, but we don’t want to have to spend a lot of money on lawyers to fight each case. So by developing our off Amazon presence, we are hopefully going to be able to lock out some of those copycats by taking over the first few pages of Google for any search result about our brand. That is all very exciting.
But on the downside, our sales were the lowest they have been since June 2016, selling about £5,000 less than we did in January. To be fair if we take into account that February is a shorter month than Jan we actually sold the same amount. But we don’t want to see stagnation. We want growth!
The market is definitely getting more competitive, but we have also been a bit slow on our own marketing. We have been so focused on getting our products into India and redoing the website that we haven’t paid enough attention to selling what we currently have. Now that we are set up and well stocked we will be shifting our focus to marketing again.
And on Eastfield, we launched a new top end premium bat! The Eastfield Offensive. We’re excited about this for a different reason. We have spent a long time and a lot of money developing this bat and it is our ticket to the big leagues. This bat is just as good as anything else on the market in the £200 region and is good enough for us to appeal to professional players. We have plans to start building a network of sponsored players. Keep your eyes peeled and hopefully, we’ll be seeing this bat used in the 2020 Olympics.
On a less happy note, we also spent quite a bit of time trying to find a fulfilment company who can store and deliver table tennis tables for us. We have a table ready to go, designed and really good quality for the price we want to charge, but it is just too heavy for normal delivery methods. We have contacted over 50 different fulfilment companies only to be told that it is too big or too heavy for them. The few who did offer us pricing were far too expensive. For the time being we are going to park our plans for a table tennis table and come back to it later.
Sales were good for Eastfield products considering that we have been struggling with stock issues. We are currently sold out of quite a few of our products and it is showing. That will all be sorted in the next week or so and March should be a good month.
I am in the middle of starting a craft gin brand! I am writing about it in detail here as we go.
February was a month spent on design and branding. We have a logo and are working on the labelling and website (no sneak peeks sorry!): I am soo excited about the gin. I keep saying that we are close to launching, but now I feel like we really are. Everything takes longer than you expect and we keep tweaking and improving our recipe, but honestly, we are now almost there!
Follow Pipehouse Gin on Instagram for updates as we get closer to launch.
Since releasing Expert in a Year: The Ultimate Table Tennis Challenge in August 2015, sales have ticked over pretty steadily.
We were the #1 bestseller in table tennis for over a year, but in the last couple of months, sales have started to die down. We only had a handful of sales in February, about a third of what we did in January.
But considering we haven’t done any marketing at all since we launched in 2015, it’s amazing that it is still trickling in sales. True passive income. We make about £3 a sale and the market isn’t big enough for us to really have any incentive to promote it. We’ll just leave it ticking and hopefully, sales will pick up naturally.
Both blog traffic and income was pretty bad. I had the lowest number of visitors since December 2016 and the lowest income since September 2016. The blog made £3,673 in February, down from £5,265 the month before.
I am not overly surprised (although still a bit disappointed) as I made a conscious decision in December to stop all marketing and instead focus my blog time on creating content. Revenue and traffic have been dropping ever since.
That sounds like a strange decision but I had lost some love for the blog and was seriously considering stopping it altogether. I did some soul searching and realised that I was losing interest largely because of how draining it is trying to get people onto the site. Posting on Reddit or Quora or Facebook and chasing likes or upvotes really did not suit me.
My plan is to ignore the blog stats and just focus on making it as good as possible. I imagine my traffic and income will suffer for the next few months but will then start to grow again.
Having said that, I have been playing around with one idea that I have been working on in February. I have soft-launched a new service where I will analyse new Amazon FBA business owners’ products to try and catch any beginner mistakes.
My most popular post is my guide to starting an Amazon FBA business, and since writing it a lot of people have read it and gone on to launch their own products, and are sometimes kind enough to send me one. But, some of them have made some really basic mistakes which I could easily have caught if I had seen their plan before they dropped a few k on an initial order. So for £200 I will confidentially analyse your product idea and give you my opinion on where its weaknesses lie. I have been on the lookout for a while for something that I can sell for a high ticket amount that is actually useful (unlike most ‘courses’ bloggers love to sell). I think this could be it. The problem with blogs like mine that rely on affiliate income is that you need a lot of traffic to make any money, which means you can’t use certain forms of marketing to promote it.
But by selling a high ticket item that all changes. Now I can start doing pay-per-click advertising and also offer affiliate deals of my own (where other people get a kickback for any sales they generate). I’m still in quite early stages (hence why this is the first time I am telling anyone about it) but please drop me an email if you’re interested in promoting it.
One form of marketing I am still doing (because I committed to it a long time ago) are my entrepreneurship grants where I give away $3,000 every three months to budding entrepreneurs. The last round of applications has just closed and I will be spending the next couple of weeks reading through the 83 applications and choosing the 15 finalists. This is the last of grants I’ll be running. I’ll go into more details as to why in next month’s review.
This isn’t my business but I thought I would include it as it does involve me. If you have been following the blog for a while you may remember that I convinced my girlfriend (now wife) to quit her job and start freelancing. That was always just a temporary plan to keep her earning and independent while she looked for something that she was actually passionate about doing.
She loves food and cooking and has always wanted to turn that passion into a career. While we were travelling the world she spent a lot of time attending cooking courses in different countries, and now we have settled in Tunbridge Wells she has started to make that dream a reality.
Every two weeks she throws a paid for supper club. We host 10 people at our house each paying £30 a head for a three-course meal with canapes and truffles.
She has done 10 supper clubs so far and in February we hosted two. They both went down really well.
Please show her some support and like her Facebook page, or if you nearby please come to one! Although she isn’t earning much from doing just one dinner party every two weeks, and although it is a lot of work (she is currently trecking through the snow looking for somewhere that sells plantain), it is something she loves and is a low-risk gateway into a full-on foodie career.
There is a lot of potential for her to leverage it into a larger business. Maybe she could make sauces and sell them online, or host bigger supper clubs for 10 times the number of people, or start a restaurant, or write a cookery book, or start a YouTube channel, or get affiliate deals with local suppliers. It’s all very exciting, and by slowly transferring her time from freelance marketing to her own businesses, there is almost no risk.
Not much to report here. I continue to put my money into peer-2-peer lending (read more here) and the Vanguard Lifestrategy 80% acc fund (a global tracker fund). I invest the same amount each month using what is known as dollar cost averaging.
The stock market dipped at the beginning of Feb but as I’m a long-term investor I paid no attention.
- Launched a table tennis brand in India
- Launched a new high-end table tennis bat
- Won a trademark infringement case
- Hosted two supper clubs
- I started some new daily habits that are going well
- Spent a lot of time-consuming entertainment: films, tv shows, video games. I have an addictive personality and go through phases of binging content.
- Slightly lower bat sales
- Low blog traffic and revenue
- Much lower book sales