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Lessons Learned: Richard Kuipers of Windmill Trading

Shopping Cart Software

“I began on Zen Cart. I downloaded and started configuring, and after a week I still was not done. Running out of time since the holiday season was coming up, I decided I would get something simpler and signed up with E-junkie. I worked with one of those programmers, and we got it to work so E-junkie will work with my website. It’s quite simple to configure, add things and edit the items. It costs me $15 per month. I really do wish they had a tutorial. They added a lot of features, and I really don’t know how to use them.”

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Hosting

“I made and put together my own website that’s quite bare bones. I host with 1&1. com. I have had that since 2006. I had a few hours of downtime a few years back, and that was it. I just barely scratched the surface of what you are permitted to host, they give you so much space. FrontPage is my editor of choice. I’m sure folks cringe when they read that. I really bought VCOM Web Easy, which cost like $100, and I worked with this 2 months and gave up. It was filled with bugs, poorly supported, and it did not follow Windows conventions. I had a copy of FrontPage, and I stuck with that.”

Employees

“I am a 1 man show. I am a control freak; nobody works as well as I do. I could hire a high school kid to do my packaging and shipping, but I am afraid they won’t do as good a job as I do. So long as I can manage it myself, I will continue to do it.”

Marketing

“I don’t advertise in any way, it is all word of mouth. I spend a whole lot of time on SEO (search engine optimization), and I have a newsletter I send out each month. I request clients to recommend my site to other people who may be looking. I do interviews about five or six times annually. I prefer to have more controlled expansion. That’s what it is about for me.”

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

“I’ve never tried it. I understand there are some problems related to it, but I just see no need for this since I am much more a private business than a number company.”

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Search Engine Optimization

“I find a website that does well. When I have a new thing, I do a search on the product and locate the sites at the peak of the search. I look at their key words, and’steal’ them.”

Expense Control

“I work at home. Generally speaking, I really don’t have that many overhead expenses. I don’t advertise. I fund with a credit card, like most small companies. What I do is keep your eye on the charging cycle and attempt to synchronize the buying with the credit card bill.”

Accounting Software

“QuickBooks Simple Start, the simple version. I am happy enough with it. I do not do very comprehensive accounting, though I should. I’ve had no issues with the program.”

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Order Management Software

“I do not use order management applications, just my own system. It is my monitoring system I developed over the years in Microsoft Excel. If I get much larger, I’d think about an order management system, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon because I imagine growing more in the drop shipping company compared to stock business. It will cost more money, but in the long run it is easier.”

Shipping and Order Fulfillment

“I work from a large guest house with a two car garage that I use as storeroom. When it’s something over $100, I use a drop shipping company. I didn’t used to sell larger items. I started doing this about a year ago. I keep my own records in a really detailed spreadsheet. I deal with two drop shippers, WYNIT.com and Petra.com. You need to be careful who you do business with. You’re putting your reputation in somebody else’s hands. After checking them out, you say a prayer and just hope it works out. And here’s a word to the wise: Never pay for the’privilege’ of doing business using a drop shipper. In my experience, those are the reputable ones.”

Credit Card Payments

“I use Google Checkout and PayPal. I try to drive up to my credit card company to Google Checkout. I hate PayPal, but as it is the biggest name in the city you need to use it. There isn’t any customer service. If I send an email to Google Checkout, I receive a private email within hours. I call PayPal, and half the time they do not know what they are talking about half the time they do not care. If Google were to actually put in an effort, they actually could place PayPal from business. When I tell my clients I could send a Google invoice, they say,’Oh, what is that?’ I say I could send a PayPal invoice, and they say, ‘Go ahead. ”’

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Social Media

“I don’t use any of those social networking sites for business purposes. It is here to stay, and I’m sure eventually I will have to join in, but right now I really don’t see the need. I will likely have to join in sooner rather than later. I’m not really excited about that. I’m busy enough as it is.”

Blogs

“I actually used to get a site, and I stopped doing it because I really did not get any business from it. I didn’t take the time to update it frequently enough. I’d only do a post about once weekly, which I have read isn’t really great. I didn’t find an advantage, so I have stopped doing it. I didn’t observe any change in SEO. My hits haven’t suffered at all because I stopped updating the site. For me it did not work, and it is probably my own fault.”

Customer Service

“Windmilltrading.com is quite unsophisticated, and I think people like this. I deal with my clients on a personal level. They do not have order numbers, they have titles. Every order receives a private packing slip, which I sign. My background is in computers and consumer support. I believe people like that since it is somebody behind the help desk that knows what he is doing. I figured out pretty soon as a small business owner there is no way you can compete with large retailers on price. So, obviously, that which you compete with is customer service and speed of ordering. If someone places an order at 10 a.m., it is packed with 11 a.m. and ready to go. My clients usually receive their item in front of a sizable competitor has shipped it. I spend about an average of 30 to 60 minutes per day talking to clients. Sometimes they have only a computer problem, even if they have not placed an order. I have a lot of customers that I don’t have any problem sending a product even before they cover. One of these, he is purchased from me since 2005. It is a hope that I’ve built up with my clients.”

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General Business Attitude

“I am very happy. You will never get rich doing this, but you will get paid in another way. I’m not as stressed, even in these gloomy times. Business is down from last year, but I am still happier than having to slave for a paycheck. When I worked for a company and did the online company part time, I had a high-value wages, but I got no pleasure from my work. I create nowhere near that, but I am much happier. I don’t get worried.”

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