How to Start an Online Dog Boutique – Avoid Getting Ripped Off!

Starting an online dog boutique is a fun, exciting, and promising business venture for any dog lover. Creating a business around one’s passion is the first step towards success. Since most dog owners love their pets (and tend to spend a great deal of money on them) it only stands to reason that at some point, the owner contemplates the thought that perhaps running an online dog boutique would be a way to escape the rat race of their traditional job, replace lost income, or perhaps supplement their retirement. While all of these intentions are fine and well, the reality is that having a profitable online dog boutique requires much more than a love for animals. Often times, this is the first experience at an online business and also the first step into the pet industry, which is ultra competitive. This combination, unfortunately, often spells financial disaster for the individual stepping into uncharted waters.

Before I continue, I must clarify my qualifications in writing this article. While many who write such “advice” type articles have never really done what it is the recommend, I on the other hand, come from a position of experience. I own and operate not only a popular online dog boutique, but also a bricks and mortar storefront selling the same product line. I have seen the good, bad, and ugly. I have helped hundreds of individuals get started and I have witnessed incredible financial loss by people who refused to follow my advice. Regardless of your industry, any successful entrepreneur will tell you that a great deal of their success was due to the fact that they mentored with someone in their industry, followed their advice, and walked a similar path. So, with that in mind coupled with the fact that my company has been around for 6 years, I do offer a level of credibility to the reader.

The biggest pitfall that I see people falling into right now is being charged WAY too much for their website design and many of these design companies are over-promising and under-delivering. With the horrible state of the economy these past few years, literally millions of people are turning to the internet as a way of creating home based income. In response to this influx of internet “newbies”, web designers are flooding the scene trying to grab a piece of the pie. Knowing that they are dealing with an online novice, they can prey on the inexperienced entrepreneur. More often than not, 3-4 months later the boutique owner still does not have a functioning website and they have invested a small fortune, often $10,000 or more! Frustrating to say the least.

The second biggest problem I see with the new online dog boutique owner is that once their site is up and running, they literally have NO knowledge of how to market the site and get traffic. As a result, they again fall victim to marketing companies out there who are also aware of this situation and they end up spending hundreds of dollars each month on marketing methods that are ineffective and do not drive enough traffic to their website. In essence, they go from the frying pan into the fire and find themselves quickly out of business and out of savings!

The dog industry is unique in many ways, and although the web designers and marketing “experts” will claim to know what to do to ensure online success, the reality is that most are just looking to make a sale and have little experience creating successful online dog boutiques. Having a pretty site with nice products is nowhere near enough to be profitable. So, having seen the winners and the losers in this industry, here is my advice…

#1… Find a mentor who has experience in the industry. If you are going to take someone’s advice, make sure that it is someone who has actually “walked the walk”. You may have to pay something to get this kind of advice, but it is usually priceless experience talking.

#2… PLEASE don’t build an online dog boutique unless you know how to promote the site online and you have a budget for marketing education and training. It’s not an easy thing to do and many before you have failed. Online marketing is far different than your standard advertising methods and if people can not find you, you’re dead. But, if you take the time to actually invest in your education and learn effective marketing techniques and strategies, you’ll be ahead of 99% of the other website owners out there. Plus, this education can transfer beyond the dog industry and serve you in any business in the future.

Popular Educational Tours – Five Must-See Cities For Students

There is a picture in a maroon binder somewhere in the world of me standing with a friend in Colombia, South America. I am barely standing in my own strength, being so consumed by my own dramatic feelings of teenage homesickness. I had rarely endured 500-mile youth group trips until then, and here I stood across the ocean and several degrees closer to the equator from everything I had ever known. By the end of that photo album, I’m a new person. I have learned to love a culture so different from my own. I care about another language. I have friends here, I’ve learned to cross the street bravely and audaciously in the city of Ibague, and I never slam the door of a cab – the drivers really hate that. I have learned more than I could have known I wanted to. Travel is loaded with discovery, and students – in school and of life – should do it as often as possible. The experience I describe above was out of the country, but there are so many treasures for learning right here in the United States. These are five of the most popular destinations for educational tours in the United States.

Philadelphia

This is an obvious one. Our nation’s first capital and the site for the Second Continental Congress who famously signed the Declaration of Independence during the American Revolution is also the resting place for Benjamin Franklin and the memorial home of Betsy Ross. Benjamin Franklin was crucial in the industrialization and improvement of Philadelphia. His biographer, Carl Van Doren, said of Franklin’s burial, “No other town burying its great man, ever buried more of itself than Philadelphia with Franklin.”

Other historical attractions in Philadelphia include the famous Liberty Bell, Valley Forge National Park, and Old City Hall. But don’t only visit Philadelphia for the history. This city, which is currently the sixth most populated in the United States, is every bit the modern metropolis. It is home to Adventure Aquarium as well as of course the birth place for the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. Don’t forget to watch National Treasure before you go to both inspire you for some of the historical attractions you will see and to remind you how engaging history can be. And don’t miss the Philadelphia Museum of Art where art, history and pop culture converge as your students will no doubt want to attempt the famous run up the steps first immortalized by the fiction hero, Rocky.

Boston

Very similar to Philadelphia in historical significance, Boston, Massachusetts, is also rich with American foundations. Here you can visit Paul Revere’s house, the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, or the Children’s Museum. You can walk the Freedom Trail, a tour of Colonial and Revolutionary Boston and the famous sites related to America’s fight for freedom. In the Faneuil Hall Marketplace you’ll find eateries, boutiques, and street vendors crowded with Boston culture. And if you need a quieter tour, consider the traditional swan boats in the public garden lagoon. Boston is nestled in the heart of America’s first colonies and serves as an excellent destination for student groups.

Washington D.C.

Don’t forget our country’s current capital, not that anyone would. Washington D.C. is arguably one of the most visited destinations in the country. Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, and all kinds of museums of art and science make up this classic American focal point. Arlington National Cemetery is one of the greatest places to visit in Washington D.C., and student groups will never forget the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and its traditional changing of the guard, which occurs every half hour in warm months and every hour in winter.

Most visitors will not feel their D.C. tour is complete of course without visiting the White House itself. In an election year, student tours can be planned for the following year’s grand inauguration. What a memory for any student to be there for the swearing in of their new president! But a trip to our capital city in any year will certainly awaken in anyone an appreciation for our government and the branches that work together to uphold it.

New York City

New York City holds ready-made thrills for almost any young person in America. Art, history, culture, science, and commerce all make New York City a prominent hub of activity. The Metropolitan Museum of Art can take two days to fully appreciate. The Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building are famous symbols of American culture, although Top of the Rock – at the top of Rockefeller Center offers a more interactive journey and beautiful view of the city. Time Square has become a more modern symbol of the various aspects of New York City culture, and Broadway is of course famous for live shows and theater certain to dazzle any New York visitor.

Like the other cities, New York City of course offers various tours already designed for you in order to help navigate this overwhelming metropolis. Circle Line Tours does it in a boat ride, Central Park offers one based on popular movies, and the city offers several other walking tours as well.

Orlando

Walt Disney was passionate about “general mass education” and he loved to accomplish the goal through his fantasy worlds designed as showcases for technical innovation, cultural diversity, and sheer arts and entertainment. The parks in this city are more than tributes to popular cartoon characters. They are rich with sights and sounds and service that will thrill students and adults alike. Don’t expect to only learn in Epcot Center, famous for its tribute to science and innovation. There is something to discover in all of Disney’s theme parks. In this generation, the mere inspiration behind an entertainment giant of such magnitude can shape the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders in arts and science.

I will never think of Disney World again without thinking of Randy Pausch, the professor and scientist whose dreams as a child came true when he was offered the chance to be a Disney imagineer. Today, Pausch’s lessons from that reality have been included in one of the most inspirational lectures and books of our time about the value of our dreams and the effort it takes to achieve them. Orlando is rich with this kind of inspiration – the kind people discover on their own when you just give them the chance to imagine what could be.

The choices for amazing student tours are really endless, but these are five of the most popular cities for any student group. There is a world for them to see and discover and so many things for them to invent and create. These cities can open the door at least for their inspiration.

Seattle Fashionista – A Profile in Online Education

Kristin Connell keeps pretty busy these days. As the manager for Shoefly, an upscale Seattle shoe boutique, she spends between forty and fifty hours a week in the shop–that is, when she’s not planning special events or jetting off to Los Angeles for a week of meetings with wholesalers.

While she values her professional experience, Kristin also knows the importance of a solid education. In order to advance her career in the world of fashion, she’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fashion design. As many working students know, making a school schedule dovetail with professional responsibilities can be tough. For Kristin, the solution includes participation in online coursework. I sat down with her in her Capitol Hill apartment to get the 411 on her online fashion design class.

Mr. Smith: Your fashion design program includes both online coursework and classroom work, so you have the best of both worlds. What are you currently studying?

KC: I’m taking a few courses, but the online course is fashion sketching.

Mr. Smith: Which involves what?

KC: It’s the start of creating a piece or line of attire. You develop a basic visual concept–a sketch–for a piece of clothing. From there you can draft patterns and actually create the piece.

Mr. Smith: Could you describe your online interface?

KC: It’s basically an all-in-one website. There’s a place for you to get assignments, a place for class discussions, a link to lectures and research materials, and the grade book, which is where you can check your grades after you turn in a new assignment. That part’s helpful, because you can monitor your progress daily.

Mr. Smith: How often does the material update?

KC: Well, the syllabus pre-established at the beginning of the quarter. But the teacher can post assignments as often as he likes. The discussion boards are constantly updating, throughout the duration of the class.

Mr. Smith: Could you describe a week of coursework?

KC: The lesson plan follows the textbook, so we do a chapter each week. The teacher posts a reading assignment, discussion questions, and homework. We use Adobe Illustrator to design fashion sketches, and turn it in as an email attachment when we’re done.

Mr. Smith: How would you compare your online class to a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom?

KC: It’s actually more strenuous. It’s not like a normal class, where just showing up gets you a participation grade. The onus is on you to participate heavily. For example, with the class discussion board, you have to post often and your posts have to be insightful. I got nabbed on that a couple of times.

Mr. Smith: And compared to traditional classroom, how much classmate interaction is there?

KC: Well, of course you don’t get face time, but you have about as much interaction. It was a requirement for us. With the discussion boards, each student has to respond to the teacher’s question, and then to at least two classmates per posting to receive credit.

Mr. Smith: What’s your favorite thing about your online coursework?

KC: Well, while you do have deadlines, you can still work at your own pace. Even though we had weekly deadlines, I was able to turn in my work on the first day of the week.

Mr. Smith: How about your least favorite thing?

KC: To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of my professor, but that really didn’t have anything to do with the online format of the class.

In addition to her online coursework, Kristin also attends a four-hour pattern-drafting course each week (the brick and mortar being necessary for hands-on participation). While her schedule is tight, she remains determined: “I work as hard as I do because I know it’s worth it,” she says. “I think it’s important to have goals and to make a point of pursuing them.”

Well spoken, I think. After all, if–as Thomas Paine once observed, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,” then busy professionals can look to Kristin and others like her, for a model. After all, Kristin and her fellow students may be determined, but they aren’t all that unusual. As far busy professionals who moonlight as students go, Kristin’s really a textbook example.