Saturday, June 24, 2017

Scalability

"Sounds cool... but can you scale it?"

If you are in the entrepreneurship scene, it seems like everyone is concerned about scalability. Brick and mortar businesses are a thing of the 20th Century. Now, in the Age of the Internet, online-based businesses are all the rage.

Will brick and mortar stores start to disappear?

The United States has way more retail square footage per person than any other country. We have over 23 retail square feet per person compared to 16.4 square feet per person in Canada (the next in line).

Have we overdone the retail space? Stores are shutting down locations or at least being careful about building new ones. Will they soon be a thing of the past?

I don't think retail stores are over and done with, but they are on the decline.

That means that today's entrepreneurs need to be strategic. What services must have a brick and mortar location? Which industries can forgo that overhead expense?

The businesses that do not require the brick and mortar location, the businesses that can be 100% online based, definitely have the advantage of easier and quicker scalability. And that's what will ultimately make a bootstrapping entrepreneur the biggest dollars. The more people they can reach, the more customers they can have and the more money they will make.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Defending vs Educating


Yesterday I wrote a post about pop tarts. It's not that the topic of empty calories and processed food isn't important, but it did feel like a silly topic. But I only devote about 10-15 minutes a day to writing a blog post. That's not a very long time to expand upon a deeper topic or one that requires more evidence or explanation. So if I do not write about topics that are lighter or easier to explain, I get nervous to write a post at all.


I hold a lot of unconventional views. I believe things about food, medicine, child birthing, government/politics, and business/jobs that a lot of people do not agree with. More than a few people probably think I am ignorant, naïve, and/or a conspiracy theorists. That does not change my view on the topic, but it does make me wary to speak about it. I do not want to risk turning someone off of my view just because I cannot express my argument as well as I have read or heard others express it.


If I have plenty of time to explain myself, look up my sources, and provide some evidence, I feel much more confident defending myself. But the goal for me is not really to defend myself (I already know what I believe) but to try to open other people's eyes to these ideas that I hold. It's less about defending myself and more about trying to educate others on what I believe.


What are some of your unconventional views?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

There is Nothing That Can Redeem a Pop Tart

I purchased some strawberry pop tarts last week. And I am really trying to figure out why.

I toasted the first set of two pop tarts and began eating.

They were absolutely disgusting. Dry, not much flavor, and made my mouth feel chalky. I couldn't finish them.

When I purchased them, I thought they would remind me of my childhood. I did not eat them often as a kid but they were always a treat and a huge deal.

As an adult, I find them gross. And when I began looking at the ingredients and nutrition content, I realized there was nothing to redeem them.

The first ingredient is enriched flour. This means that they stripped the original ingredients of any and all nutrition so they had to add nutrients back into it to give it any vitamins or minerals. Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose soon follow back-to-back in the ingredient list.

At least there is only 200 calories per pastry (so, 400 to a pack of two). But what are those calories made of? Flour and sugar. And with 38g of carbs per pastry and less than 1g of fiber and less than 2g of protein, this pastry's calories are pretty empty -- just a bunch of simple sugars and simple carbs which provide a quick hit of energy that doesn't last long or provide any significant source of nutrition.

Why do pop tarts still have such a large market share? Why do people keep buying and eating these things?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What 30 Days of Blogging Taught Me

Yesterday was my 30th daily blogpost. I did not write ahead but wrote each post the morning I posted it. I was not sure I was ready for this "challenge", but I wanted to see if it was as magical as some of the other Praxis advisors and participants claimed.


It has been a great experience. I have been forced to get creative every single day. There was only one day where I really did not know what I wanted to talk about, so that was a bit of a challenge. And then there were other days I wrote a paragraph or two and decided to scrap it and change topics because I was not getting into the vibe. Then there were other days where I put together some thoughts, published, and then felt like it was a sloppy piece later that could use some clarification. But since I enjoy writing anyway, actually writing the posts was not the biggest part of this challenge. It was the daily discipline -- the commitment to myself -- that made this interesting.


I can completely understand now how it would be quite the commitment to do this daily for a year or longer. Even just completing the 30 days gives me a boost of confidence in my ability to have some discipline in my life and stick to my goals. Not sure I'm ready for a yearly challenge, but this experience has been a wonderful way for me to reset my creative side and practice discipline and goal setting.

My three most popular posts from the past 30 days (in order of popularity):


1. How I am Continuing College Debt Free



In other words, it seems like people enjoyed reading about my experiences. My posts about ideas were not nearly as popular as my posts about things I have done. So that means, in order to crank out content that people really resonate with and enjoy, I have to do cool stuff.


What was your favorite post from the past 30 days?



I tried to decide on my favorite but failed. I wrote about tidying and decluttering the home, about personal finance and budgets, about entrepreneurship, podcasting, earning college credit at a discount, and other experiences and thoughts I have had recently. I have blogged about some of my favorite topics in the past 30 days and the ones that mean the most to me right now. It has been a fun month of blogging and I hope I have brought value to my readers.



 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Do We Always Need Disclaimers?

I cannot express how difficult it was to publish my post from yesterday without adding a dozen disclaimers. I wanted desperately to remind people that you can have a happy and successful career working for someone else. I wanted to tell people that you can make it big while working for a corporation. I wanted to make it clear that I have a job and I know jobs are necessary for a lot of people. I wanted to write that you can climb the ladder and become the CEO of a company.

But I didn't add disclaimers. If anyone took my post to mean that everyone should quit their job and bash those who don't, then they misunderstood the point of my post.

I should not have to add a dozen disclaimers to avoid being misunderstood or hurting someone's feelings. Obviously not every word of my post applies to everyone at all seasons in their life. Obviously there are people who are happy and successful having a job.

The point of my post is to shed light on the situation most people are in: only being able to survive 3 days to 3 weeks without their job. That is what I mean by just over broke. If you lost your job, you would soon lose a lot more. And if that's the kind of life you would like to live, so be it. But it's not my ideal.

Again (another disclaimer), I'm not there yet. I still have a long journey ahead of me. But I know where I want to go and what I need to do.

Do you?

Monday, June 19, 2017

J.O.B. = Just Over Broke

I love to talk about personal finances. I've blogged recently about budgeting and about having an emergency fund, even if it's just a small one. I don't pretend to have it all together financially, but I do know where I want to go and I do know what will not make me rich: having a job.

If you have a job and you are not concerning yourself with any other projects and investments that will bring you income, you are 100% reliant on your employer for your present and your future. You are completely at your employer's mercy when it comes to your annual salary, how much money you make, and therefore your earning potential. That is not to say that you cannot make a decent salary working for someone else. But the likelihood that you will ever "make it big" is a lot slimmer than someone who steps out on their own.

We get dressed up, we get to work on time, and we grind. But for what? You make the same or extremely similar salary as the guy who's there but doesn't give a shit. If you stick it out long enough, you can climb the ladder one 10-15% raise at a time. But again, you're limited to what the employer says you can make.

Having a job is a false sense of security. You know that pay check comes every two weeks no matter what. But you're replaceable. The company doesn't need you - they need what you produce. They don't hire you for charity; they hire you to get something out of the deal.


But what if your employer goes under? There are innovations all the time and companies do go out of business. Pensions are underfunded. There are lay offs. There are no guarantees of success.


We make these feeble attempts to "get ahead" and that's the extent of our financial success.


You are your own business. You are your own brand. There will likely come a time in your life where you will have to stand on your own merits. And if you are not bringing value to people, you will fall.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Experience with Blue Apron

Meal subscriptions have become more and more popular in recent years. I have looked into trying them out before, but always chickened out. I do not consider myself much of a chef. My regular cooking mostly includes one dish meals (so, something I can stir fry, put in a pan and bake, or put in a crock pot).

I finally ordered a meal kit from Blue Apron and it arrived almost two weeks ago. In my order, I received all of the ingredients (minus oil) for three meals that each made two servings. Two of the meals included a protein while one was vegetarian. I am fairly certain they always do it that way. The items came in a sort of box/ice chest thing with some massive ice packs to keep everything cold. My first impression of the ingredients is that they are high quality and organic.



I made the steak meal first and let me say: this meal made me question why I ever eat fast food or just any meal that is not 1,000% amazing. I have never even cooked steak before so it was definitely not due to my cooking that this meal turned out so darn amazing. My husband and I loved it and we even fed some of the steak, asparagus, and potato to our 17 month old and she loved it as well. The meal also included parsnip which I do not ever remember eating so it was good to try something different.

The second meal I made was a Persian chicken with crunchy rice. Again, absolutely incredible and exotic. Just like the steaks, this was a restaurant quality meal. The ingredients are high quality and they already have everything pre-measured so the chef's only job is to follow the instructions. All three of us enjoyed this meal as well!

The final meal was supposed to be creamy lumaca rigata pasta with spinach and asparagus. Unfortunately, I waited so long to make it (about 12 days after receiving the box) that my vegetables had gone bad. I could have gone to the store for replacements, but decided just to make the pasta by itself. Even without the veggies, it was still amazing!

These recipes are not one-dish meals like I am used to cooking. I dirtied several dishes plus one or two cutting boards with each meal. They also called for me to do things I would never dream of doing in my normal cooking. For example, the pasta meal wanted me to blanch my asparagus (boil it and then put it in ice water). For the Persian chicken, I cooked the rice and then took half of that rice and baked it in the oven to make it crunchy. This provided extra texture to the meal but I would probably not go the extra mile in my normal cooking. Maybe these are things you are used to doing in your day to day cooking, but the meals I cook are always much simpler. Each meal also had a little topping to make. For example, the topping for the steaks was made of oil, garlic, and some other spices. These toppings were another little touch that I would not normally do in my cooking but really added to the flavor of the meal.

Overall, I had a great experience. The meals are high quality and delicious. The ingredients are amazing. As far as the cost of the meals (about $10/serving), you will spend less than eating out at a nicer restaurant. Heck, we spend more than $10/person when going out to something as simple as Panera Bread. Of course you have to do the work yourself, but that's part of the experience. I seriously cannot emphasize just how delicious these meals came out. And none of it is due to my cooking skills. Blue Apron pre-measures everything and provides the instructions and amazing ingredients.

But with a little child running around at my feet, these meals required a lot more from me than I am used to doing day to day. I cannot imagine doing three of these meals every single week as I just don't have the time and energy in this season of my life. I do not expect to order from Blue Apron too often, but I imagine I might order from them on occasion if I feel I have the time that week to devote to the meals. The goal is to get through all three meals in one week. It took me almost two weeks to get through my box which is why my veggies went bad before I cooked the pasta.

If you want some delicious meals delivered to your door and/or you want to stretch yourself as far as your cooking skills go, definitely try a box. And don't pay full price -- search around for some first timer discounts and you should be able to get as much as 50% off your first order.

Have you tried a subscription meal service? What was the outcome?