Selling Online – The Life and Near Death of LittleBuddha.Guru

Last October I set up my online business: LittleBuddha.guru. I wanted to sell bohemian and Buddhist items from Nepal and India. They were fair trade and I was going to gave a proportion of the profits to a Tibetan Buddhist charity. I was really into it. I got a domain from GoDaddy and a website. I soon realised the website didn’t really have the facility to sell lots of things so I later bought an online store from GoDaddy. This looked really professional and I could add lots of products.  I found a wholesaler in Holland that imported spiritual items from Nepal, India and Tibet. They had just what I was looking for. I was particularly taken with the Tibetan Singing Bowls which were hand made in Nepal and really good quality. They are a meditation aid and can be therapeutic. In addition to the website I sold on Ebay and Amazon.

Over the ten months I was running the website I only sold three items from it. I knew I had to advertise. I had the whole social media shebang with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. I fiddled around with the SEO trying to get my website to show up higher in the google search engines but it was an uphill battle. There were American sites selling singing bowls that always came out ahead of me. I did some Google Express Ads which got lots of people looking but nobody bought anything. They cost me a fortune so I jacked them in after a short time. I did google adwords which is cheaper because it is paid per click but still no buyers, just viewers. I did facebook ads which got people to like my page but only one person bought something. Pinterest and Twitter seemed to bring nobody in whatsoever.

Selling on Amazon was a weird experience. They control the buy box so as an outside seller you haven’t got a hope unless you are the cheapest price. After their huge fees you cannot make a profit like this. I sold a couple of things here but I didn’t like the platform. It was impossible to access any help as it is all done through automated emails. It was impossible to find an answer to your specific issue. I jacked Amazon in pretty quickly. The only way to do it would be to have lots of very cheap stock and sell by Fulfilled by Amazon which is expensive to run.

Ebay was actually my most successful platform. I started off selling things really cheaply that I had lying around the house to get some feedback and then I sold my Tibetan items. I have sold lots of singing bowls and also Tankas, clothing, scarves and ornaments on this site. It is quite easy to manage and they do have real humans on the help line who are usually quite good. The feedback system can cause a few problems as there are some really weird buyers who seem to enjoy being malicious. If it is grossly unfair you can get the feedback removed by ebay. I managed this once but I did have to kick up an almighty fuss. I becam a power seller and top rated pretty quickly. The postage times are a problem because people want everything as fast as Amazon. This is nigh on impossible for the small seller. If you have the things in stock it is still very expensive to send things express and the economy mail is quite slow. Customers want everything fast but they don’t want to pay for postage. Well you can’t have everything. I could just leave some things at the wholesale warehouse and order them for the customer but then the turn around time is so long that people start moaning. Having everything to hand means you have a lot of stock sitting in your house. So it’s expensive if you can’t sell it fast. I cannot sell fast. Ebay do charge commisssion for every time you sell so it’s a fair wack on your price. You can pay for a shop which has lots of whizzy features but this is yet again another monthly cost. Ebay would be great if people were willing to pay what things are worth but it seems they are not and to sell things you are constantly having to lower the price to the point where it is not economic to sell them. There are also a minority of people who try to scam you, claiming they didn’t get the item or that the item is damaged to avoid paying. You soon get fly to all this but it is wearing.

I loved selling my singing bowls and I liked to think that I was helping people with meditation and mindfulness and spreading the good news about Buddhism as well as helping artisans in India and Nepal. I just can’t sell enough to make it worth while. To date I have made  a loss in my business overall. I have shut down my website as I don’t want to pay another year’s fees. I am just going to sell my remaining stock on ebay and then rethink. I thought LittleBuddha.Guru was a great idea but as usual I realise I don’t think like the rest of the world. Maybe there just isn’t enough demand for spiritual items from India, Nepal and Tibet. To make money online you have to find a cheap product that there is a demand for but I really don’t want to sell counterfeit trainers from China so I shall have to think differently. If I were rich I would open a Buddhist shop in a busy part of London but I can’t afford to do that.  I have learned a lot about business though I am not a natural business person. The mess I made of my VAT return had to be seen to be believed. Sometimes I think it is not very Buddhist or spiritual to sell things anyway.

I am currently in a period of mourning for LittleBuddha but I am retraining as a therapist in October so I am hopeful about this. I haven’t quite killed off my business but I will have to put it on the back burner for now. I still need to learn more about the dark art of marketing.

Oh well. Onwards and upwards.

 

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Extract from my novel Syria Ch 4

 

I woke the next morning late. I scrabbled for my mobile phone to see the time. Damn. I had slept in. I had missed two lectures and a tutorial. It wouldn’t matter. Nobody would really miss me. I could make it up later. The bed was warm and cosy and I wanted to stay there longer. For me I felt amazingly relaxed. I didn’t feel the need to do anything. Just be. It was glorious. Must be all that curry. I wasn’t really hungover which was all to the good. I was serene. I finally got how cats feel. They wake up, they stretch, they go back to sleep. Nothing is a big deal. There is no urgency. My mind wandered to Taj. He felt right. My old voice still warned me that no good would come of it, but there was a new Molly waking. A Molly who wasn’t afraid to try new things, to think differently, to live…

I got up and hauled my laptop into the bed with me. I fired it up and put Islam into Google. I was fascinated. Of course I had known Muslims at school but I had never really thought about it seriously before. They kept to themselves and we kept to ourselves. I started with Wikipedia. It made Islam sound amazing. It was a magical world where angels appeared. The centre of Islam was the family. Women were revered as mothers. The whole mind set seemed completely different to the one I was used to. Magic was everywhere. Spirituality was everywhere. It was all about worshipping God. Everything was an act of worship. It all sounded rather wonderful. I read on and on, finding other sites. Some were more critical, especially about the treatment of women but this seemed to be mostly in Saudi Arabia. Then there was the war in Syria and wars popping up all over the place. There seemed a problem with different factions of Islam and some extremists. It all sounded so different from the world I had grown up in. Religion had been a mystery to me. We had never gone to Church. Dad had always scoffed like he did at everything. Here were rules to live your life by, a good life and at the end the reward of Paradise. I felt beguiled by it all. It was a strange, magical otherworld which had been right under my nose all this time.

I spent the whole day in bed, reading about Islam, sleeping, eating and drinking tea. I felt like a light had come on in my head. I felt different. I clicked on to Amazon and ordered a copy of the Koran. I wanted to know more.

I finally managed a shower, enjoying the pressure of the jet on my skin. I scrubbed myself fiercely. I felt like I was washing all the alcohol out of me and sloughing away all my old life.

In the evening I made stew for Dad and me and we sat and watched TV together. Stew was one of the few things I knew how to make. Mum had taught me before she passed. I suppose it was Irish stew that she had learned from her mother. It was simple and bland but comforting. The cubes of meat were chewy. For once Dad was half sober and we managed to get through the evening without arguing.

We ate with the bowls on our laps in front of the ever-present TV. Dad was addicted to it. That’s why I spend so much time in my bedroom, to avoid it. Tonight I humoured him. We watched a chat show and then a documentary. Later on there was an action film. Dad made a running commentary all the way through everything, mostly critical. I felt a new, fuzzy warm feeling enveloping me. Everything would be ok. That’s what it seemed to say.

When it was time to go to bed I got down on my knees at the side and prayed. I didn’t know how to pray as a Muslim but I just prayed anyway.

‘Dear Allah. Keep me safe. God bless Dad and Miles. God bless Taj. God bless Mum. Amen.’

‘God is great,’ I finished with, having read this expression on the internet. It probably wasn’t a Muslim prayer but it would have to do. I wondered if it was true if Mum was in Heaven like it said on the internet. I hoped so. I looked up and asked Allah to keep her safe.

‘Mum are you there? Are you ok? I hope you made it to Heaven.’

Mum had died years before and my memories of her were getting thin. I remembered warmth and laughter, pennies for sweets and heavy perfume.

It comforted me to think of her up there with Allah instead of scattered to the wind. It was all lovely. Hopeful. I had made a new discovery and it was all down to Taj. I felt warmer when I thought of him.

I felt cosy and loved and slept soundly. I dreamed of the Paradise I had read about that day. I imagined fountains and rivers, children playing with garlands of flowers, green grass, eternal sunshine, lions and lambs playing together. There was a total sense of peace. I loved it. Then I dreamed that Taj and I were together there too with two children, little dark haired boys. I was smiling in the dream, smiling like I never smiled, beaming with happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Flashman’s Lady George MacDonald Frazer

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I have read several of the Flashman books and always find them great fun. Flashman is an old boy of Rugby School, ex Horseguards officer and general scoundrel and cad in the Victorian era. The books purport to be escerpts from Flashman’s diary which was found abandoned in an attic. In reality they were written in the 1970’s by a journalist turned novelist but they are very convincing. This is the hey dey of the Empire and Flashman’s political incorrectness is hysterical and a refreshing change from the current rather dull snowflake era. In this particular adventure Flashy has to rescue his pretty but empty headed wife from the clutches of a pirate turned gentleman from the mysterious East. We are taken by ship to faraway places with exotic characters. Flashman is for a time imprisoned on the island of Madagascar by its evil Queen and forced to be her lover. We are treated to tales of head hunters, boiling pits, poison and generally swashbuckling derring do. All smashing fun.