Law School
Personal Finance

Calling the Reader Helpline: How Can I Get My Business Off the Ground?

My wife and I have a small business… well, sort of. It’s called Kate’s Calendars.

Back story on our product
Before Kate and I married and while I was on my mission in Tijuana, Kate would make homemade advent calendars and send them to me. I really looked forward to them because it was fun to see the different personalized messages she put behind each door. Because communication is limited on a mission, opening the advent calendar doors was like getting a letter or message everyday from Kate. My fellow missionaries were often jealous that I had a girl back home who would take the time to do this for me.

Fast forward two years. Kate and I get married. My wife shared with me that one of her dreams was to turn her calendar creating into a business. I loved the calendars while I was on my mission and most of the other missionaries said they would have loved to receive something like it, so I felt there was a definite market among LDS missionaries. We had a sizable amount of money from our wedding, so we decided to bite the bullet and start the business.

We designed a personalizable calendar and found a company that could produce them for us. We decided to market them to Mormon families who had children on missions. So, we put a picture of the LDS Salt Lake Temple. We had 1000 made at a cost of about $2,000.

My wife started a website and created an online store. Everything was in place. We just need to promote the things. There’s an email service for missionary families called Dear Elder that has a huge LDS customer base. They send out monthly e-mails to its users and include ads from other companies. We decided buy some pixel space, but it set us back about $450 for a small square. That e-mail brought in some business, but not too much. We haven’t used Dear Elder since because the cost is too much for us.

We started to send out samples to LDS bookstores. A few showed some interest and order some, but again it wasn’t that many.

We tried Adwords to direct traffic to our site. While we did get more traffic, no one bought anything.

Now that I’m in law school and money is tight, we haven’t renewed my wife’s website. I made a free blogger page with the same info, but of course the site isn’t that slick looking.

What we need help with
It’s been two years and we still have boxes of these calendars sitting in a closet. We really just want to break even, so if we can sell 5oo at $5.50 a piece, we’ll be alright. We’ve recognized our biggest mistake with this business venture is that we made our niche too small. There are only so many families who have children serving LDS missions. If we had put some other image on the calendar (like a picture of trees or just made it personalizable Christmas calendar) we probably wouldn’t have this problem. Here are some questions that perhaps my readers can answer.

  1. Is a personalizable advent calendar even a good idea? It seems like most people we’ve talked to don’t get too excited about it.
  2. How can we promote this calendar with little or no money?
  3. Should we just bite the bullet and invest in a better website for the product?
  4. Any advice in general to get the ball rolling on this?

Again, we just want to break even with this. If we can do better than that, great. We really want to expand our customer base. We have hopes of making a personalizable advent calendar for Christmas and maybe one geared for families who have troops in Iraq. But in order to do that, we need to sell these Mormon ones we have.

My wife and I appreciate any help you all can give. Thanks!