I’ve been thinking a lot lately about small business ownership.

I’ve owned Good River Gallery for a number of years now, and its certainly a small business.  Its one person, sitting behind a desk or a bead tray being a complete bead addict.  I make jewelry, I make beads, and I write tutorials.  I travel and teach at bead stores and societies across the USA.  From time to time, I get to consult bead stores and artists on how to up their online sales, and I teach classes on how other artists can sell successfully online.  You can take a look at those tutorials here.  Working for myself is really satisfying.

I sell online mainly, which is great for me because as a small business that has one-of-a-kind pieces, I have a global market potential.  I “just” need to get my pieces exposure.  Easier said than done, right?

I post a lot on social media sites, just trying to get word out about my work.  I believe that businesses will continue to develop on the global online marketplace so websites are no longer optional, even with a brick and mortar store.  I believe that social media marketing is the way to go and is also not optional.  Fortunately for me, I can measure my ROI (return on investment) and my business continues to grow.

ROI for me is my time=money, not an actual dollar amount I’m paying someone else.

More specifically, I’ve seen a lot of really unhappy changes in the beading world this past year.  Many of the independently owned bead stores in my city have closed while a number of the online retailers have grown.  They have been offering beads to the public at below wholesale prices – a technique that I think was learned from Walmart and other discount shopping centers.  Small businesses just can’t compete.  We can’t buy at the same quantity, so we don’t get the price breaks that these larger companies can afford.  As a matter of fact, these companies can sometimes offer the public prices less than the independent business owner can even purchase.

While we like to blame everything from the economy to the larger online resellers when it comes to beads, I wonder if the truth of the matter is just that the market got saturated.  I’m sure that’s not a popular idea with my constituents, but we’ve seen a rise and fall of interest in the beading community.

But then I look at the small independently owned bookstores and see them closing as well – they can’t compete with the online warehouse bookstore either; even once the customer pays handling and shipping charges the price is still below that of a mom-and-pop shop.

Here’s the thing – I walk that line all the time.  An online bead reseller offered recently to buy and sell one of my tutorials.  I had to say no.  In spite of the fact that they would have probably placed a large initial order and repeat orders later, there were a number of issues.  Its that cutting off your nose to spite your face thing – I teach for small bead stores across the country.  Would they stop inviting me to teach if I were to sell to this retailer?  Would the retailer start producing the tutorial on CD without sending me royalties?  I couldn’t answer these questions.

How else do we keep up with the large discount warehouses?  That’s the real question of the day.
We just hope that people really do prefer to support their local stores and want to see what they are purchasing in person.  Or independently owned online galleries.