Start-ups: The January Blues (9)
By Mellissa Morgan, aka Ms Cupcake
When you think of January, you are likely to think of grim weather, resolutions, diets, penny-pinching and a general post-holiday malaise. Not the greatest time to try and sell cake. This usually follows a couple of weeks where you have been closed for the holiday season, so cash flow might already be tight. What's a small business owner to do to combat the January Blues? Try looking at the quieter times as a blessing, not a curse. Here are some helpful hints to get January working for you.
Run classes - If you aren't running classes already, this is the perfect time to start. Decide what you do best and offer to teach it to others. If you do not have a teaching or training background, run a free trial class first so you can get comfortable with your material and how you can communicate your knowledge. At Ms Cupcake we are running baking, decorating and even classes on how to run a food business out of your home. It has created excitement with our customers and helped bring in income.
Seek out new contracts/customers - With a bit more time on your hands, get inventive. Perhaps hand-deliver product samples to local cafés/shops you'd like to supply to. Try having an ‘open house' evening where you can invite local business owners in your surrounding area to come in for an informal drink and cake party, so they can get to know you and your products.
Run a sale or promotion - This one might seem a bit obvious, but rather than just knocking your prices down across the board, try running a deal for members of your Facebook page or Twitter followers. Post a special phrase or code word online that they have to say when they come to your shop.
Recipe creation - Use this extra time to create new things. Sell the results or hand them out as samples and get customers' opinions.
Do what you've been putting off - January is a great time to do your tax return, an in-depth inventory, a fixed asset report, update your business plan, renovate your workspace or even just do a really deep clean.
Research - Spend time researching cheaper alternatives for your fixed costs. Try finding a new packaging supplier, courier or wholesaler that is cheaper and better-suited to you.
Try a new market - If you run a market stall, try a new market. A lot of market traders take January and February as their annual holidays, so often market managers are looking for traders to fill their spaces. This is a great time to try and develop a new client base.
Treat yourself (and your staff) - Our bakery is next to a fabulous cinema, so I have given each of my full-time staff a cinema afternoon in January, where on a quiet weekday one of them goes to see a film in the middle of the afternoon rather than working. They still get paid and the enjoyment they get out of it boosts the mood and morale of the whole team.
January will soon be over, diets will be forgotten and customers will start looking towards Valentine's Day. The greatest thing is you'll be poised and ready for them.