Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
My brother and I always talked about going into business together. So we did. Except we didn’t. My brother was too important at his job that he could not leave but he invested in Pitkin Stearns. He was the president and I was the vice president of a one-man company for 10 years. Finally, it was obvious that he would not leave his career so I became the president and he became the chairman. As we both lived in Japan at the time, we thought it natural to start an import-export company.
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
We are the US agents for products made/designed in Austria and Germany. Our flagship product is the KB collection of sand art. Moving Sand Art. Turn it over and watch the sands fall to create mountains, valleys, and dunes. Different with every turn! The perfect gift for anyone, especially yourself. Our second product is the roll-up travel games by Sondergut. Designed in Germany with two things in mind: To be the lightest travel game on the market (7.9 ounces) and the highest quality. These roll-up travel games come in backgammon and chess/checkers. Our third product? The BTFL roller skates also designed in Germany. Retro style from the late 70s, these skates are beautiful. Skate. Dance. Have fun.
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
I tell my kids the hardest thing you will ever do is take someone else’s money. And that is called sales. All businesses have details that must be done well but customer service is what makes customers happy. How do you create a business that makes people want to buy from you? Everyone’s money is limited. A key to success is making the buying process enjoyable.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
An entrepreneur gets to work for half days!!! And you can pick which 12 hours. Sigh. True. My business is an extension of my personality. Doing who I am and what I love to do. Nothing wrong with that. You cannot dictate success but you can dictate failure. Being a successful entrepreneur means you will do what it takes to make your business a success.
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
Focus. A vision has a destination. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever get there? It is like writing a book. Write the first few chapters and then write the conclusion. Between point A and Z, there are many roads but you must get to Z. A beginner must know what he/she wants to achieve and then be flexible to get there.
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
As the importer/distributor/agent, my role in creating is more explaining what I think the market is looking for.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
SKILLS: I heard once the common thread between all successful entrepreneurs is kindness. I suppose I agree with this. If you are kind, listen to your customers, and always answer one more good question that was not asked, you will do well. Most often, people do not know how to phrase or ask their questions. If you can answer that question kindly and offer a small tidbit of unexpected helpful information, you will close the sale almost every time.
What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
ROAS. If no one knows what you are selling, you will lose. If no one knows you are selling something, you will lose. The key then is to find a way to get people to know about your products. Does this mean trade shows? Google ads? Facebook / Instagram? Sampling? In the end, you might find what method of promotion brings in the most business.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
A human voice. So many people are shocked that they can speak to a human and have a human even answer the phone. Or a timely response. How long is timely? Some people say 24 – 48 hours. What’s wrong with an immediate reply or an ASAP reply. And answer one more applicable question than was asked. People are blown away by the additional relevant information to the product or the specific question.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Having fun. If you are profitable, you are having fun. If you have freedom in your business, you are having fun. Losing is no fun. Find a way to enjoy what you do. Stay positive. Karma rewards.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I say our office hours are 8 – 4 but in reality, I work before 8 AM. And after 4 PM. As an entrepreneur, you don’t do just one thing. You have to get your work done. Each day, that order of getting things done might be different. As long as everything gets done, does the sequence of getting things done matter? Only if it does matter!
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
I am good at what I do. But, without a supporting cast of good employees success would be difficult. As much as possible, everyone needs a role and knowledge to do their job without micromanagement. A good team allows for the foundation of business growth.
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There is a lot of competition for the $20 bill. There is less competition for the $100 bill. Be different and be better than your competition.