In her prior career, Denise Johnson sold books to school districts in Maryland for 14 years. In 2010, she decided to quit lugging around such heavy merchandise and sell costume jewelry instead. She now peddles her wares at festivals and flea markets in and around the Old Line State.
The GoPayment Blog recently chatted with Johnson about how she selects her inventory, prevents theft, and accepts mobile payments.
GoPayment: How do you choose the jewelry you sell?
Johnson: I buy costume jewelry from three or four different companies online. It’s mostly word of mouth from different vendors. I look for as much variety as possible, and the price point is very low. I keep it so that people will [buy] a bag of jewelry instead of just one or two pieces.
Who are your target customers?
Almost anyone. Teens like the jewelry the most, but a lot of grandparents buy it for their grandchildren.
Do you have a certain travel radius where you’ll sell?
It’s mostly festivals and flea markets. I am doing a festival tomorrow in Maryland. The Lions Club is having a flea market tomorrow, and then during the week I am doing a women’s conference for three days in Delaware. They’re all over the place. I’ll be going inside to set up a booth space at an Amish market until Christmas.
What are your biggest business challenges?
The biggest challenge has been setting up. I usually carry between 3,000 and 4,000 pieces, which I try to arrange so they can be seen in a pleasing way. Customers like to dig though everything, so setting up so they can see it all is a challenge. During the summer months, weather can be a challenge if you’re outside. The big problem I had until April [when I heard about GoPayment] was accepting credit cards.
Do you ever run into issues with theft?
Mostly I do not. But the pieces are so small, if someone tries on a ring and decides to walk away with it — that can happen. I try to bring help, so they can keep an eye on things. Normally, it’s a family member.
What’s the best and worst parts of running your own business?
I guess the best parts are getting to travel around, meeting new people, and making new friends. I guess another good part is seeing when customers love the products and they keep filling the basket.
The bad part is when sales are low, which means maybe it wasn’t the best product to bring to this festival or there aren’t that many people. Also, lugging the stuff [around] and setting up and taking down.
What’s your advice to other small-business owners?
Most of this advice was from when I was selling books, but try to enjoy what you do because it is hard work and it is a 24/7 job. You’re constantly working on something, printing out order forms. Try to give customers more than they expected. Sometimes I’d throw in a free gift. Do what you promised to do. Make sure they get new products, and make sure it’s in great condition.
How has GoPayment affected your business?
It has been great! I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Before I used a credit card terminal, and lugging that around was a pain. The fees were outrageous. I tried the virtual terminal gateway. Those fees were pretty bad also. [Signing up with] Intuit made me catch up with technology. I had to purchase an iPhone and learn how to use it. Customers love to sign with their fingers on the iPhone. Most customers have email addresses, so it’s easy to email them a receipt.