Happy Birthday Spiel Pro, some things I’ve learned this first year

logoAround this time last year I started Spiel Pro. I made $20 in sales by the end of the month. I’ve learned so much this year that I thought I would share some of the most important things. I didn’t come up with these ideas, but this is the first time I’ve understood them enough to put them into action.

A little history first. Spiel Pro started after I started selling my extra stuff on eBay to make a little bit of cash. I found that I REALLY, REALLY enjoyed selling stuff online. As with other things that I get obsessed about, I began to seek out information on how to get better at it. I read everything I could get my hands on about eBay and online retailing.What people were telling me was simple:

  • Focus on a product niche.
  • Find ways to capitalize on that niche.
  • Grow the niche
  • Use the cashflow to expand the niche.

I had recently begun playing and enjoying boardgames, so I decided that might be a good place to start. At this point I was pretty much just reselling vintage games that I was finding at thrift stores. I found with a little knowledge I could quickly turn some nice margins on these games. I also found that there was a odd market for used game parts.

So I decided near the end of February last year that I would start to shift from vintage games to selling new game parts. This has some huge advantages. Vintage games can be hard to source. They are intermittent and unreliable. I also found the new board game market to be flooded with online retailers that are driving the prices to the bottom. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to sell board games.

It was my success with selling used parts that got me setting up SpielPro.com. So, I picked the parts that were selling the best and ordered some. It started to work almost immediately. Sales have been consistently growing. I did take a  bit of a mid-year break to go work for Eagle-Gryphon Games, but returned this holiday season.

So what are the key things I’ve learned this year?

You aren’t a business until you sell something
I don’t remember the book title, but I will always remember reading this and going WOW.

– “You don’t have a business until you sell something.” 

Spiel Pro sold $20 in it’s first month. That was more than my previous project, HuntersDB,  made in 2 years of development. If I had to do it all over again, I would make HuntersDB a paid service from the beginning. You must sell things. Get to selling thing quickly, because CASHFLOW is king.

Mistakes will happen
I screw up…sometime a lot. The key to success is to remind yourself not to make that same mistake tomorrow. So, I’ve learned to create procedures that help me fix my mistakes. One of my first orders on Amazon was wrong. I shipped the wrong amount of an item to a person. Today, I have a system where I double check the contents of my shipments. I’ve made it a habit. It gets checked when I put the item out, and it gets checked when it goes into the package for shipping. Mistakes are going to happen, don’t let them happen twice. 

Always be testing
Testing is a must. How are you going to find new markets or new product or new customers if you aren’t trying different things? Most of my testing has been done in the amount and mixtures of my products. I also learned that my idea of retail inventory was all wrong. I used to think that you needed to buy a shit ton of product to sell. It’s not true. Buy two or three of something. If they sell, buy more. If they don’t, reduce them and move on. Testing is so crucial to grown. ALWAYS BE TESTING.

Ship today, because..why not!
I was a bit surprised at how much my customers commend my speedy shipping. Is it really hard to ship immediately? What do you gain by holding on to it for a day or two? From day one I have shipped fast and often. What surprised me what how much of an added value this can be. Apparently people are use to getting things slowly. So, my motto now is ship today.

Find a community you enjoy
This was something I learned from my previous project HuntersDB. I like hunting, but I learned that I really, really dislike the hunting community.  Sure, there were some great people that I met and corresponded with. But, it was a daily slog to try to engage a community that I just didn’t enjoy. Now a year later, when I look back on the people I’ve met with Spiel Pro, it all makes sense. I LOVE the board game community. These are my people. I want to make shit for them.

I’ve learned lots of other things, but this is a good start. Happy Birthday Spiel Pro! I’m looking forward to continued growth this year.