Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Woman Entrepreneur Plans to Bring Back the Neighborhood Bookstore

If you are new to this blog – my wife Christine sells books online, plans to open a ‘brick and mortar’ bookstore, and had her dreams dashed only to find out last week that her plan has legs and may even run. So the bookstore dream is back on and I am going to tell you more today.

Christine is focusing on setting up her new ‘bricks and mortar’ bookstore, so I am posting on her behalf (I will be doing all of the posting during this process). I’m going to give you our preliminary plans, thoughts, and feelings about our next entrepreneurial journey. We are going to keep posting as this business progresses so please subscribe to this feed if you want to keep track of our entrepreneurial venture in real time.

Keep in mind that this blog is a collage of personal-development and entrepreneurial stories. These are stories about our lifelong pursuit of personal freedom. We’d love to have you join us on our journey… So come back often.

We are putting together a basic business plan…

Continue reading Woman Entrepreneur Plans to Bring Back the Neighborhood Bookstore

How to be a Better Negotiator

I’ve never been good at negotiation – I mean negotiating a price – and neither has Christine. But I put the negotiating puzzle together this week. This story could save you thousands of dollars. These two simple tips I stumbled upon this week saved my family $50,000 to $100,000 dollars. And that was by accident. Imagine what they could save you if you intentionally applied them to your life. Continue reading How to be a Better Negotiator

How Do You Balance Creativity with Profitability?

Steve Pavlina Recently Posted 10 Business Lessons From a Snarky Entrepreneur, and take note of #10 – Do What You Love but Be Damned Sure it’s Profitable.

I’ve written a lot about passion being required to be great at anything, but I’ve never mentioned profitability and there is a reason.

Focusing on profitability is distracting for creative types. I know… I know… Steve Pavlina is right… Profitability is critical but… Continue reading How Do You Balance Creativity with Profitability?

Don’t be afraid to change your business plan, some plans don’t make sense

For those that are new to our blog– I’m Christine – Steve’s wife. Some of my previous posts are here and here. I haven’t posted in a couple of months because I’ve been so focused on my book business. Anyway…

My dream is to own a successful profitable business doing something I love. I want to make money, but it must be doing something I love and I love books.

I’ve always planned to open a retail bookstore – a discount bookstore with all bargain remainder type books. I’ve been in the book business for over 14 years. I visualized every aspect of my new store:

  • The employees I would need
  • The computer architecture
  • The shelving
  • The trim
  • Where I’d position the counter
  • The name
  • The style
  • The logo
  • Everything

I’ve owned and run several small businesses. I read tons of books on running small businesses, retail trends, and why people buy – see my favorite booklist below. I thought… when my boys get a little older, when I have a little more time, when I have a little more money, you know the excuses… finally, a few months ago I thought, why not now? I can do it. We have the money, the kids are in part-time Montessori, and I can make it work. I started scouting out my surrounding area and took down phone numbers of both new strip malls and older out of the way places. After making several phone calls my dream of a retail store began to fade. Rent was outrageous! The new malls wanted $22 per square foot plus $8 – $12 for taxes and maintenance fees. The second rate malls wanted $15 – $18 plus the added extras. A well-stocked bookstore needs lots of space. I was looking at $4000 – $6000 per month just in rent. To be honest, I think I could make it, but it doesn’t make sense to pay that amount in rent. It isn’t profitable enough. I could probably find cheaper rent in a downtown area but I wanted a suburban bookstore. A place where stay at home moms could drop in during the day and browse books with their kids or dads could give mom a break on the weekend and the kids could play in my ‘kids den’ area, all while dad shops for books at a cheap price.

Altering the Dream

2 weeks ago I had one last phone call from a property owner and he said he had a great deal. After speaking to him I knew I had to alter my dream. The “great deal” was $14.00 per square foot. Wow! I thought it was pretty good considering the location. Then he said “Oh, and the taxes and CAM (common area maintenance) are $8.00 per sq. foot.” My heart sank. I cried. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not about to give up on the book business, but my plans needed to change.

I run an online bookstore from the basement of my house. Business has been awesome. I’ve broken my yearly plan by over $10,000. My sales are double what they were last Christmas Season. My original plan was to build up my inventory and move it into a retail bookstore, running the retail store with a large web presence. After discovering the cost of retail space and finishing the book Tax Loopholes for eBay Sellers I realized my retail dream is dead. When I look at all the tax write offs I have for running a business out of my home and employing my kids when they get older, hands-down a home based business is the clear winner. In Minnesota we could buy a 6,000 sq ft house on 10 acres and build a 5,000 sq ft building for less than the 6K per month I’d shell out on retail rent.

The new plan is to just keep growing my online business.

It’s hard to change my plan to own a retail bookstore because I love the idea of being a visible part of our local community. You are a destination where people come to shop and feel happy. When you are online you are a mystery. Nobody knows or cares who you are just as long as they get their product. My plan will now consist of buying a bigger piece of property. Something I can build a large 4-season outbuilding on. Instead of nice wooden shelving with the books organized by category it will contain steel shelving with books sorted by barcode. Instead of having a staff of knowledgeable ‘book people’, I will have my children and neighborhood teenagers running around folding boxes and slapping address labels on them. I’m not giving up; I’m just accepting the changing reality. All this is fine with me because – in the end – what I really like to do is – make money doing something I love. And I love being surrounded by books.

You can browse my eBay bookstore here:

Recommended Reading List (sorry, I don’t have them in my inventory right now)

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Tax Loopholes for eBay Sellers

EBay Powerseller Secrets

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Cashflow Quadrant

Own Your Own Corporation

Why We Buy

Call of the Mall

Why Getting a Good Job isn't the Best Way to Earn Money

There is a better way to make money. I’m not telling you to quit your job and become an anarchist. And I am not saying you’re stupid because you have a job. I have a job. So you ask, what did you mean?

A job is a way to earn money. It’s how most people earn money. It’s what I do today. It just isn’t the best way to earn money. I wish I would have known this twenty-five years ago. I wish my parents had taught me this, I wish the schools had taught me this. In a minute, I’ll share the secret with you.

I’ve had one job or another for 24 years. I’ve made all my money working for someone else.

I’ve had a job…

  • Picking Pumpkins
  • Peeling Shrimp – worst thing ever!
  • Driving a Truck
  • Maintaining Networks
  • Developing Software
  • Managing Customer Service

Today I have a great job that helps put my family in the top 5% of income earners in the United States. I am grateful for my company and my job.

I manage a team of software developers that enhance and maintain our Oracle e-business Suite. For me it is the perfect job, at the perfect company, with the perfect people. Like you, I worked hard to get where I am. I can’t imagine a job being much better. I don’t complain about my job and I have few worries about money.

So you’re probably thinking – so why do you wish you never believed a job was the best way to earn money?

Because If I knew ten or twenty years ago what I know now, I would have created far more value for myself and everybody else.

The best way to earn money is to build assets. When I say assets, I’m not talking about your home, an IRA, or a 401K. Let me explain.

Until recently, I believed entrepreneurship was the same as working for someone else, except with greater income potential. And instead of working for your boss, you work for your customer. For some entrepreneurs this is true, but for smart ones it isn’t true.

I read Rich Dad/Poor Dad and The E-Myth Revisited and it hit me…


I should be building assets for my family. I wish I had spent the last twenty-five years building assets for myself instead of trading my time for money while building assets for someone else.

So this might be your next question – If you aren’t talking about my home, IRA, or a 401K, what assets are you talking about?

Real Estate – Rental Income
Twenty-Five years ago, a guy in my neighborhood had this figured out. He was a blue-collar union guy that worked a printing press for the Star Tribune. He saved his money over a decade and purchased several apartment buildings. The income from the rental property allowed him to quit his job and he used the time he saved to build a construction company. He told me once – do what you love and never work a day in your life. I didn’t get it then; I thought he was nuts. I get it now.

Businesses that are systems
If your business doesn’t run without you, it is a job. To be free, you need to own a business that generates income whether you are there or not. I know another guy that started a franchise restaurant when he was about twenty. He built the business up and trained good managers, which allowed him to step away. The restaurant produced income that paid his bills while he pursued other opportunities. He built a second restaurant and stepped away. Built a third restaurant and stepped away. Now he owns multiple restaurants that produce income – without him working at any of them – so he can spend his time fishing and golfing. Another example of this type of asset is Steve Pavlina’s website. Some people commented that Steve is telling everyone to quit their jobs and start blogging. That’s not what Steve is saying. Steve is telling you to be creative and build yourself an asset that works for you so you have time to pursue new opportunities. Blogging is just one of infinite ways you could do this. The only limit is your imagination.

Intellectual Property
When you create intellectual property, you only work on the initial creation. Once it’s finished it can generate income for many generations. For example – Let’s say you wrote a book, and the book became popular, your family could receive income from it for several generations after you were dead. You’re making money from the grave!

A few types of intellectual property:

  • Books
  • Software
  • Audio
  • Music
  • Video
  • Scripts
  • Art
  • Patents

In my opinion, intellectual property is the best of the best ways for you to make money.

There are probably many other asset categories too.

So, since I wish I had never believed that getting a good job is the best way to earn money, I am not going to teach my sons this adage – get a good education so you can get a good job.

I’m going to teach my children this:

If you learn how to create value for other people – doing what you love – you’ll never have to get a job.

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker

5 Steps to Start a Business & Purchase Wholesale

It’s easy to set yourself up to buy goods from wholesalers. You can do it from your home office. Follow these steps and PRESTO, you’re ready to go in search of suppliers.

1. Apply for an EIN (Employee Identification Number) at The IRS
You can apply for a number online. It’s instant!

Be sure to read Top 5 Reasons for Rejection of an Application

No need to become a corporation now – unless you have employees or plan to sell a product that may trigger a lawsuit. Sole Proprietor will work fine for starting out, it’s easy to upgrade if you decide to take your business to the next level and become a corporation.

2. Apply for a Tax ID number in the state you live in.

After applying for an EIN, wait a few days before applying for a State Tax ID number. Your state will need your EIN so you want to be sure the IRS has it in their database.

Google your state’s Revenue Department (example Florida).

Since I live in Minnesota (definitely NOT a sales tax free state) I went here: On the front page under the Business header is a link to Register for a Minnesota Tax ID Number. If you are fortunate enough to live in a sales tax free state you will need a disclaimer form. You can find this on your state’s Revenue Department website.

3. Get a credit card just for business.

Wholesalers want you to establish a credit history before giving you terms – like Net 30 Days. They want you to pay up front with a credit card the first few times you place an order.

I like to have a card that gives cash back. This only works if you never carry a balance. If you plan to carry a balance, even for a short period, go for the card with the lowest interest rate.

4. Choose Business Name

If you plan to sell online on your own website or eBay you need to answer these questions:

  • Is a domain name available for the name I want?
  • How about eBay? Can I create a user name that is the same as my business?

If you are a Sole Proprietor you don’t need to run a check on your business name. But, if you plan to become a corporation later, you should run a Business Name Check in your state. You cannot legally use a name that someone else is already using in the state you live in. To run a check, go to Google and type in Corporate Name Check Your State (example Wisconsin).

5. Open a Business Checking Account

It’s best to have a separate account for all business transactions. If you are not a corporation, tell your bank you want to set up a DBA (Doing Business As) account or they may not deposit checks made out to your business name. Get your business name on your checks. I like to use small, local banks, because I find them more helpful getting my businesses off the ground. Don’t pay more than $10.00 per month for a basic business account.

Congratulations! You are now a business. You are free to seek out wholesalers and buy until your hearts content. Be careful out there, many businesses call themselves wholesalers but their prices do not reflect that. They are usually middlemen and take advantage of people who don’t know better. Anyone who advertises We Cater to eBay Sellers is probably too expensive and million other people will be selling the same junk.

To find out more about how you can start your own internet based business check out Skip McGrath’s site.

Skip even offers a program for buying wholesale.

How a Stay at Home Mom Lives Her Dream Selling Books Online

When I mention I am a stay at home mom who sells books online, people’s ears perk up.Christine Olson I bet they would perk up even more if I told them I am going to do over $70,000 this year working 3-4 hours a day. Some things are better left unsaid – that kind of information is better spread by gossip. I could causally mention it when asking a neighbor if they know a good accountant. It’s fun to brag, but one needs to be careful.

Exactly one year after I had my first son I was aching to fill a gap in my life. That gap was selling books. I had managed a bookstore for the previous 12 years. I was ready to give it all up to be a full-time stay at home mom. I started to get the itch after a few months, but at the one-year mark, I was going crazy.

So I …

  • Got myself a credit card
  • Registered with the IRS
  • Registered with the state
  • Opened a bank account
  • Made room in my basement
  • e-mailed a wholesaler
  • Asked for a current booklist
  • Ordered $500.00 worth of books

Book in Home OfficeIt took a week and about 500 bucks and I was in business! I was able to pay the $500.00 back in 2 months. Since the initial $500.00 investment I have never gone into debt. After that, I just kept on ordering and kept on selling. The books crept out of the space I had set aside into more common areas of the house. It was obvious that if I wanted to keep expanding the business we were going to need more room. 2 years into the business we bought a bigger house and had another baby boy. Now I have 500 square feet set aside set up with industrial steel shelving. That space is quickly filling up.

  • There is no secret to making money online – it’s like any other business – I provide value to my customers
  • People assume I buy most of my books at garage sales or library sales and sell them for a small, tidy profit – they are wrong – I buy them wholesale
  • I’ve been in the book business for over 12 years – but it doesn’t take 12 years to build wholesale relationships. I’ve never met most of my wholesalers or even talked to them on the phone
  • I order all my products online, from my cozy basement home office
  • Once in awhile I will go to a trade show to find a new wholesaler, but honestly, I haven’t done that in over 4 years

If you think I’m going to tell you who my wholesalers are, forget it. No one making a good income selling online is going to hand over a list of their wholesalers, so don’t ask. The bookselling business is insanely competitive. My wholesalers sell online to the public; competition can’t get much tougher than that. I’m convinced that I can reach $150,000 or more per year without sacrificing my customer service and small business feel. I am constantly trying to figure out how to get technology to become my surrogate employees.

Read this to learn more about selling books online.

To find out more about how you can start your own internet based business check out Skip McGrath’s site.