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Behind the Scenes: Small Businessisms March 15, 2018 05:00

UPstudio has been around for a few years now, but we're continuing to grow in our knowledge as small business owners.  There are of course, lots of responsibilities that come with a small business that are no brainers, like taxes, hard work, and endless hours.  But there are plenty of blog posts that go through the basics of starting a business - what we're talking about today is the opposite side of the spectrum, the sometimes fun, mostly quirky, maybe helpful things that have we have learned as UPstudio grows.

 

  • We're friends with our local post office workers.  With a time sensitive product like a planner, we make every effort to ship out orders ASAP, which means that we're making daily (sometimes multiple!) trips to the post office.  Inherently, we see the same people every day and get to know them.  We even gave Christmas gifts and share baby photos with our local PO workers, because they're so great!  (Thanks Jackie and Allen!)
  • We know way too much about shipping rates.  Another reason to spend time at the post office was to get as much knowledge as possible about shipping rates.  After researching USPS vs UPS, the overall rate for our products was better with USPS, so we ship through them exclusively.  Shipping is the fastest way to lose money as a small business, as it can get very pricey depending on the option.  We offer both priority and priority express as shipping options.  On occasions where free shipping has been offered as a coupon incentive, we've had to eat the cost of the substantially more expensive priority express shipping.  We also frequently price shipping rates to areas outside of the US for specific customer questions.  
  • We barter with other local businesses.  Don't get us wrong, we are big fans of supporting other businesses (see next bullet point) but sometimes there are opportunities that present themselves, and it doesn't hurt to take advantage of them.  For example, our day jobs are located just upstairs from the best sit down or grab and go lunch spot in downtown Raleigh - Manhattan Cafe.  Because we're in there so frequently (especially MB!), we've gotten to know the owners.  They've catered for our parties in exchange for a planner or two or design services.  Win win!
  • We aim to pay cash whenever we can to other small businesses.  Especially if you're at a show and not ordering online, cash when possible is the best way to ensure that the small business owner is seeing the most profit.  Credit cards are incredibly convenient and of course we use them, but we know how much a 3% charge can add up over each transaction, so try to help out others too!
  • We work the system to fulfill bank card requirements. As a small business, and especially one with a seasonal product, sometimes we struggle with enough getting the required number of transactions on our bank cards that are needed in a month.  For our bank, 10 are required, which seems totally doable until you realize how many things are automated within larger accounts.  For example, our website is hosted through Shopify.  Shopify offers a slightly discounted shipping rate for products, so we use them instead of paying for shipping individually from the PO each time (which would otherwise be on our bank cards).  So, instead of multiple transactions, we just have 1 through Shopify.  Whenever we are purchasing multiples of something, we try to do as many transactions as we can!  We're not the only ones that do this either, as cashiers have asked if it's for a business bank card.  If we still fall short, around the 28th of each month, we're buying a pack of gum or a drink to get a transaction, and reimbursing the company, just to make it work.
  • We research free apps to install on our website.  Unless you're initially really successful or going through a crowd funding site, you're probably putting in some of your own money to fund your small business.  Because of this, we try to save any money we can wherever we can.  We take the time to research free apps to make our website a little bit better than the standard, and research any coding that is required for things we can fix ourselves (read: MB does all this - she's an engineer and knows coding and is completely running the show on this stuff.  After she learns what to do she gives me the short version in terms I can understand, and we work together where we can.)  Here's an example of one genius thing she's fixed.
  • We are genuinely excited when people comment on blog posts.  This one has the most comments by far and we LOVE them!  One of the reasons we started a "lessons learned" series is for other small business owners who are out there struggling with the same issues that we are.  If we find a solution, or learned something the hard way, we're happy to share it. 

UPstudio Reviews March 08, 2018 05:00

People today are shopping online more and more frequently.  You can't beat the convenience of having something delivered straight to your door, but it's sometimes a risk since you don't have an opportunity to touch and feel a product to know if it's truly what you want.  In order to gain some assurance before ordering, many people first look at the reviews.  How many stars has the product received?  Do other people find it useful?  Is it really what the photos show?  User reviews are priceless, and help to verify a product, and in many cases, justify future purchases. 

As a small business, we can't say enough about how critical these reviews are!  Because we have a small reach, we rely on our website to do a lot of heavy lifting for us in regards to marketing.  Our photographs need to be simple, clean and authentic to showcase our products in a true light, and reviews need to be as high as possible with positive information about both our products and our company.  We value good customer service and high quality products, and are proud to say that we have received many wonderful reviews. 

If you haven't taken the time to review an UPstudio product on our website, on Etsy, or on Amazon, please take a minute and do so.  And don't forget to do the same for other small businesses, trust me, they appreciate it more than you know!

Here are a few reviews that we have received - THANK YOU to those who have left any comments and ratings!

(2018 Planner - 5 Stars on UPstudio Website)
A SIMPLE YET POWERFUL WEEKLY PLANNING TOOL AND JOURNAL
I always envied the planners of my friends who had a Day Designer or something similar, but they were way too over-the-top and bulky for my needs. After some research I found UPstudio and the perfect planner for me. I specifically wanted a planner with weekly pages and room within each date for a daily to-do list, and this has the perfect layout. It also has a nice monthly view as well. I feel very on top of my weeks now!

Also, the graph pages at the end are perfect for taking notes on events, interviews, or for more intense lists and planning, all in the same portable package and without the need for a separate journal.

Just bought my 2018 planner and excited for many more years
(Customer Service - 5 Stars on UPstudio Website)
GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE
I want to commend UPstudio for their excellent customer service. When I experienced an issue with my 2018 planner, they promptly made it right. I will be using UPstudio planners for years to come because of the excellent way that they treated me, in addition to the fact that I find the UPstudio planners the best fit for me. Thank you very much! Keep up the great work! 
(2018 Planner - 5 Stars on UPstudio Website)
IMPROVEMENT ON PERFECTION
If they ever stop making these planners I’ll cry. No suggestions or complaints here. This planner is perfect in form and function from cover to cover.
(2018 Planner - 5 Stars on UPstudio Website)
LOVE THIS PLANNER
I love this planner! It is logically laid out for a large overview calendar at the beginning of the month, with weekly, more detailed scheduling between the months, and great grid pages on the back half for any projects. Bullet journaling is great with this. I personally do not like college and wide ruled pages, as most of my projects need more flexibility in planning out than what lined pages allows. The durability and quality of this book is amazing! The thick heavy cover is extremely well made and durable. The pages are thick and my pens do not bleed through. The pockets on the front and back make it easy to keep up with random little papers (great for receipts!). The elastic strap wears well and does not stretch out over time like many of my other notebooks have done. I'm cheap, and I spurge each year on one of these! It is well worth it!
(Everyday Cards - 5 Stars on UPstudio Website)
QUALITY & DESIGN
I got the arrow everyday cards & am thrilled with them. They're surprisingly thick - I'm not sure I've held paper this thick before & they feel like they're super high quality. The design is on point & I've already used 2 for unexpected & very different reasons. I'm so glad I had these on hand because they're less formal than something like a Hallmark card that feels like you need to find the "right one" to match the event, yet they're so much more personal than just an email. I'm definitely going to get more!!
(2018 Planner - 5 Stars on Etsy)

Heidi on Jan 2, 2018