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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Adventures in Network Marketing – don’t do it – Kleeneze

In my multifarious attempts to gain an income stream without a bullying boss to contend with I entered the murky world of network marketing or mlm marketing as some people call it. I was lured in through deception which is what happens to everyone. I answered an ad on a local job site which was to deliver leaflets. There are hardly any jobs in my rural area so I was willing to give it a go to supplement my non-existent writing income. When enquiring about the job I was directed to a video. It was slick and clever and featured lots of successful people who had given up their corporate jobs to do this full time and had made a fortune. It wasn’t even about delivering leaflets at all. The video was all about posting ads online and getting buyers. It was that easy. Post a few ads online overnight and see the money come rolling in in the morning. Yeah right. Nothing could be that easy could it? I didn’t expect millionaire status but I could do with some extra money so I enquired further. I had a skype interview with a Midlands couple who did this full time. They were very matey and seemed to have a comfortable life. He had been a supermarket manager and she had been a nurse. They had to finally admit to me that the company was Kleeneze. I was slightly put off by this as I had heard of them before but I kept going.

Kleeneze was a company started in the fifties selling brushes door to door. They had expanded through network marketing and now sold all sorts through catalogues and online.

I rashly signed up for the online version of the job which was the cheapest version. I had to pay thirty pounds for which I got about five catalogues and access to a website which gave me all the information I needed to get started. What was really was involved was setting up a facebook group, inviting everyone you know on facebook to join it and then posting products from the catalogues in the hope that people would buy them. People could pay through paypal via Facebook message. It sounded simple. It really didn’t work for me at all.

The first problem was that network marketing is all about getting friends and family involved. The idea is that they will buy from you at first to get the ball rolling. None of my friends and family bought anything from me. I even sent my mum a catalogue who pronounced in her inimitable blunt style that everything was cheaper in the pound shop and flatly refused to buy anything. So much for friends and family support in your business venture. I posted in my group, advertised my group in local selling groups and got some new members. Nobody bought anything. I posted ads for the products in facebook groups. Nobody bought anything. I had to have weekly chats with my line manager/mentor supermarket guy who told me to keep going and it would happen. I told him it wasn’t working. He suggested delivering catalogues to get orders which was the traditional way of doing the business. He promised me that people would buy from the catalogues because apparently they always did. I had to buy the catalogues out of my own money. I bought about fifty. I delivered them in my small village and got two orders. I delivered them further afield and got a few more. I was averaging about two orders for every fifty catalogues. You then had to order the goods through the website and they would take weeks to arrive. You didn’t get free delivery unless you ordered loads so I orders some household stuff for myself.  When the products arrived they were all really poor quality made in China plastic crap. I was disappointed. Why would anyone pay a premium price for this stuff? The commission on each sale was pitiful and at the end of the month I had to pay a huge bill from Kleeneze for the goods. I was making about two pounds a week. So much for a get rich quick scheme.

I realised from looking at the support website that the way to make money was to recruit others. Money was given for each person that you recruited and you made money from their sales. It was like a huge pyramid with people like my line manager at the top. Pyramid schemes are illegal but Kleeneze is like a pyramid scheme in every way except there are actual real products which are sold. The thing  is the money is not made from selling the products but from recruiting others into the pyramid. You were supposed to yes again recruit your friends and family into the pyramid. This was not going to happen with my family. I tried recruiting through facebook job ads. I got a few phone calls but once people knew it was Kleeneze they weren’t interested. They were wiser than me. I got no recruits.

There was a facebook support group for Kleeneze reps which i joined. I needed all the moral support I could get. Apparently some people were making a lot of money. I talked on the phone to a really nice guy form Jersey who didn’t recruit but made a decent living just from the catalogues. The secret he told me is volume. He did hundred of deliveries a week. I liked the idea of just selling and not  recruiting. I didn’t feel comfortable at all recruiting people into something that might not work. There were a lot of vulnerable people being suckered in.  I bought more catalogues to do more volume and expanded into other areas with my deliveries. To my horror I discovered there were other reps in neighbouring villages doing exactly the same as me. Kleeneze do not give you your own territory. How could you sell to someone who has just had a catalogue the day before? Most of my customers were elderly and I felt massive guilt at selling them shoddy goods at inflated prices. They seemed to be the only people who were interested. Most people were lovely but some were incredibly rude and aggressive when someone dropped something through their door. Often I would drop a catalogue through and an enraged older person would leap out immediately and give me it back. Lots of people had no leaflet signs. Everyone was wise to this scam except me it seems.

My line manager got extremely shirty when he found out I had been talking to the Jersey guy. He said if I wasn’t going to recruit I couldn’t be in his team. Lots of people on the support forum were also far from supportive. It all seemed very poisonous and I abandoned the whole project after a couple of months. I didn’t even mind the walking delivering part and it made me think being a postman would be okay. I made peanuts. This is the modern gig economy and it stinks.

According to the many videos and marketing burb that Kleeneze produces there are some people making a lot of money. I can believe this to be true but it didn’t work in my case at all. Yes I could have kept doggedly on but I think the whole enterprise is borderline unethical. I kept in contact with some of the other poor souls who started with me and they have all since abandoned it with virtually no sales. I think the market must be saturated.

I wouldn’t really recommend this to anyone.

The silver lining is it gave me a kick start to start my own company selling what I want in the way I want and being able to be ethical. No line managers for me.

There are a lot of other companies operating in a similar way but I think the  outcome is usually the same. The only way to succeed is to recruit an awful lot of people.  I was out of pocket on what I had spent on the catalogues and I had probably alienated some friends and neighbours.

Beware.