Fast Company

In over our heads

It's April 5th and Bella and I are often wondering what we are doing. Late last year we decided to start a web based holistic and eco-friendly pet supply business. We didn't want to just say we were green, we wanted to really do it... in everyway possible. This has been proving to be more than slightly frustrating in that choices and options are either extremely limited and/or nil OR on the other hand... abundant enough that our heads spin as we try to circumnavigate the marketing mumbo jumbo in order to find the most sincere and intelligent choice both for the environment and for our customers.

It's been hard and this afternoon, with Bella asleep beside me, I feel no closer to an answer and no closer to launching than I was in December 2007. Funding is extremely tight, the housing market has made the equity in my condo miniscule at best and banks do not like to loan to "e-tailers" since the 90's. So, I have been begging and borrowing from friends and trying to do as much myself as possible. Have any of you ever tried to design a website and shopping cart with zero experience? I have a vision but cannot begin to understand how to make my vision for the site match up with my non existant coding and programming abilities.

Last night I was up until 4:30 am as I downloaded yet another site builder... this one called site studio and appearing to be more promising than the rest. Atleast, the templates are of a higher quality and the layouts cleaner and more professional looking. I am exhausted. Yesterday was a long day, It was a true New England spring day, high 40's and rainy. I had a semi full client load but chose to leave Chico at his home and opt for two shorter visits rather than take him out in the rain all day. So, after 8 dogs and almost 10 miles of walking I headed home and changed gears from the real to the virtual business. When I am not trying to create this web business I provide residents of certain Boston neighborhoods with pet care services such as walking, sitting, running and nutritional counseling. I enjoy going to work and being greeted by happy tails. When my last corporate gig ended I knew I needed to be working in a field that i felt provided a greater benefit to the community then my sitting behind a desk booking flights for executives and ordering company lunches for absurdly socially awkward geniuses. I don't jest... some of my colleagues were MIT engineering grads who could happily live without human companionship for the rest of their lives if they had their computer and a vending machine. These people made the job interesting and I truly loved everyone (well most) I worked with, especially my indie- folk music loving suburban boss. He was great BUT I didn't want to be there, I didn't want to pretend to be happy, so I stopped pretending and we all decided that I should be happy. Walking out of the office that day, knowing it was my last time, was bittersweet. I love what I do now, but I miss the people I worked with... and the vending machine.

My neighbor is playing music that reminds me of that annoying habit of when a child learns a few notes on the piano or a teenager a few chords and they then proceed to play these same notes and chords over and over and over again at varying degrees of ear splitting volumes. This is all I hear and feel through my walls, three notes over and over and over again.... someone save me. I have only been awake for a few hours. The recent bout of insomnia combined with having a home office and unlimited internet access is a ticking time bomb. Bella is whining in the other room because she wants to go play but I have work to do. I should take her into the city and for a long walk but I can't motivate myself The french press broke last week and the coffee shop is a mile away. Will they deliver a latte I wonder? Hmmmm. But this laziness clears and I realize.. having a latte delivered isn't very eco-friendly... even if the coffee shop I support does use corn based pla to-go ware. Maybe they will walk it over to me for an extra couple of dollars. Ha Ha Ha. Yes, I am THAT tired at the moment.

Time to get back to work. Until the next post, if anyone can recommend a great list of things I should be checking off when building a green business on the web... I would appreciate the help!

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5 Comments

  • David Arthur

    Have you considered funding through a peer lending service such as Prosper.com? If your need is less than $25,000, this might be a viable option. My understanding is that potential green business owners garner a lot of attention from lenders on these sites and this translates into better rates. It might be worth a look. Dave Arthur www.GreenBusinessOwner.com

  • Nathan Bagby

    Absolutely! what does not kill us makes us stronger, a great quote to live by also... pain is weakness leaving the body. :0) wow, launching may 1st congrats! so you found a web developer? Let's keep in touch my company and I are looking in to ways to innovate the way small business owners do business. We have some things coming into fruition around July that could be very helpful. Good luck on launch day!

  • Michele Martin

    Nathan,

    Thank you very much. This is much harder than I originally thought it would be as it feels that once I reach one step I realize that there are a multitude of questions and answers that go along with that one small step. I have no regrets though as it is easier to start green than to switch everything over later. I just want to make sure that I am making the best decisions along the way. This sure would be easier with a partner BUT that which does not kill us makes us stronger, right?! :-)

    As for the questions regarding the book and the site.... I have not read the book but will pick it up after the chaos is over. The site? I want to be launched on May 1... May 15th the latest BUT I am shooting for May 1. AAACK

    :-)

    Michele

  • Nathan Bagby

    Michele, first allow me to commend you on your decision to go green. A hard step but definitely one we all need to think about taking very very soon. I wonder have you ever read the book by Doug Fine called "Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living" (Villard, 2008). A fantastic guy, really funny too. As far as web design and development, how soon do you need it by?

  • Donovan Wadholm

    I don't know about green...but have you tried eBay Prostores? Seems to me they have the best shopping cart/storefront setup and it will integrate with eBay (with a discount) and Paypal should you choose to sell there. www.prostores.com

    Also, have you thought of outsourcing your website production? You can typically find a programmer on the cheep at www.rentacoder.com somewhere in India...unless you are into the nationalist mentality (Buy USA!).

    Good Luck with your project.

    Donovan Wadholm
    www.diybizplan.com