Skip to content

Business blunders

Sales and marketing seem to come naturally to some folks.

I think running a home-based business is a tough job. Of course, sales and marketing seem to come naturally to some folks. They're the sort of people that could sell water to a drowning man, and I'm the sort that couldn't sell water to a man whose house was on fire. This truth was recently evidenced at a local farmers market where I sat with books for sale.

To pass the time, I decided to search for my website online. For some obscure reason, I found that a company has analyzed its value. After tallying the profits and running the numbers, it turns out I have an estimated net worth of—hang on to your hat—$8.95, and apparently rake in a whopping 15 cents per day. Step aside, Bill Gates. Of course, that's when book sales are brisk. I can't expect that big money to roll in daily.

When I was younger, I tried my hand at several home-based businesses, but none were successful. The first was for a popular cosmetics company. I like makeup well enough; I've even been accused of single-handedly increasing the sale of ruby red lipstick worldwide. However, liking it and selling it are totally different beasts. Mostly I urged people to save their money rather than spend it, which is a bit counterproductive. Plus, there was the whole demonstration component, where I applied makeup to naive participants. Sadly, after a party later referred to as the "clown-face incident", women got a bit reluctant. (News travels fast on the home party pipeline.)

Then came the crazy day I was talked into selling lingerie by a lady promising easy money and a lifetime supply of fuzzy pants. Whatever made me think I could do that? Showing large groups of women flannel pyjamas, cozy fleece, or cotton nighties was one thing, but when I found out I'd have to personally fit them with heavy-duty, corrective brassieres, I was done. This introvert collected her personal space, yanked on some steel-toed work boots, and learned to drive trucks.

The grand finale was my leap into the world of vitamins and healthy cosmetics; so good for you, they were edible. Of course, that wasn't recommended, but still. These were worthy products, to be sure, but again, selling them demanded a skill set I didn't possess. Nonetheless, I tried my best, held a few parties, and filled a few orders.

However ill-advised, my husband supported me in this venture and wished me well as, late for work one day, he grabbed his lunch and dashed from the house.

Later that morning, I stood at a customer's door, happily handing over her order. Unfortunately, any thanks died on her lips as she slowly pulled a poorly wrapped bologna sandwich from the bag and squinted at it in the sunlight.

I stammered an apology, fully realizing this was not the worst of it. Right about now, my husband would be taking a well-earned break. He would fling himself onto a hard bench in the doghouse (he worked on an oil rig), open his lunch bag, and stare in horror at two pink lipsticks, a jar of cold cream, and a lovely palette of earth-tone eyeshadow. Edible? I think not.

And that was where I threw in the towel. Until now, of course. All of you who run a home business have earned my respect.

Helen writes about the lighter side of things for Alberta Prime Times.