Thursday, 15 May 2014

09:54 – Yesterday, I finished making up all the subcomponents for 30 chemistry kits, including 30 shipping boxes. Today, I’ll get those 30 kits boxed up and ready to ship.

When we started this business, I expected to sell science kits almost exclusively to homeschool families, with perhaps a few being purchased by DIY science hobbyists, private high schools, homeschool co-op groups, and so on. It turns out that our potential market is a lot broader than I expected. We’ve sold kits to many public high schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities, as well as local, state, and federal organizations. It appears that our potential market is easily ten times the size I expected, and could very well be 100 times or more. Rather than selling hundreds of kits per year, we could be selling thousands. Assuming that we want to do what it takes to do that.

We made three decisions starting out: we didn’t want to borrow money, rent space, or hire employees. I still don’t want to do any of those, but I realize that those decisions limit us to shipping perhaps 1,500 kits per year, and that’s working flat out on building and shipping kits, leaving no time to do anything else.

I still don’t intend to borrow money, ever. I don’t want to be beholden to a bank, and we can easily fund reasonable growth from cash flow. Space and labor are another issue. Eventually, if we want to continue growing, we’re going to have to rent or buy space and hire employees. Right now, space is the main constraint. And that’s easily solved for now. I can simply park my Trooper at the end of the drive and use the space that frees up to install industrial shelving for storing raw materials, component inventory, and finished-goods inventory. As to labor, we can make do for now. If necessary, we can subcontract out some of the time-consuming stuff, like labeling bottles. Eventually, when Barbara retires, she’ll be able to put in more time on kit stuff. But I don’t doubt that the day will come when we’ll have business premises and hired employees. I’m really not looking forward to all of the hassles involved in doing that.

Meanwhile, we’re going to do some stuff aimed at increasing sales to public schools, universities, and so on. The first thing is accepting purchase orders, which we’ve already started doing. The second thing is designing and building classroom kits. A course-based classroom kit doesn’t differ much from our current individual kits. It’s simply designed to support four workgroups rather than just one for a lab course that covers an entire semester or year. Topic-based classroom kits, which we’ll also eventually create, are different. Rather than cover, say, a year-long first-year chemistry lab course, a topic-based kit covers only a particular topic, such as chemical equilibrium, forensic blood analysis, or photosynthesis and respiration in plants. Topic-based kits make it easy for a teacher to pick and choose the topics to be covered.


12 thoughts on “Thursday, 15 May 2014”

  1. In this area, small business growth is no problem if one ignores debilitating state regulation. There is an abundant amount of illegal alien labor available and they get to work on taxpayer funded public transportation buses. My tax dollars at work.

  2. I really do understand the feeling of freedom that no debt can bring, but consider some alternate thinking.

    If we accept the premise that the government is printing money and debasing the currency, then borrowing money just might be a good thing. Pay back a loan with money that is worth less than that borrowed.

    I know it is not that simple, but assuming one can produce a greater rate of return than “inflation,” then borrowing is a net gain. If the loan interest is tax deductible, then even better.

    But still better is that the lender might assume the risk. This is one of a small number of areas where we little guys can benefit the same as the large corporations. Many an empire was built on debt. It is just a tool.

  3. I have no fear of debt; I simply don’t need to go into debt to accomplish what I want to accomplish. If I wanted to make huge amounts of money, I’d borrow what I needed to do that. But I don’t, so I won’t.

  4. An idea for labeling the bottles, etc.. There are “sheltered workshops” in many cities that have mentally and physically handicapped people to do piecework. My brother-in-law has Down syndrome and works in one. He does a few hours a week and is paid a sub-minimum wage. He had done tasks like pack bandannas, where they picked one, folded it, put it in a bag and passed it down to the next station. He worked for a while at a factory, boxing hinges and did well at it, but some behavior issues cropped up and he had to go back to the workshop.

  5. Had to turn the heat back on. Got down to 59F in the house, as it has not been above 50 outside for the last 2 days. The extremes we have experienced are amazing. Last year at this time, we were in the grip of a heat wave of above 90F, and entering our second summer of drought. This year, I have the heat on later than ever, and we are practically drowning in rain. We are at 120% of the normal yearly rainfall to date, and that is only water from rain and does not include the flooding from heavy snowfall earlier in the year. Reservoirs are well above average, the Great Lakes (at least around here) have recovered deficits of the last few years of summer drought, and my grass is growing to knee high in a mere 6 days.

    Had my spirea bushes cut even with the ground 3 weeks ago before they budded green, and they are already back up to shin high. If this keeps up, farmers around here ought to recover everything they lost in the last several years of excessive heat and drought.

    Meanwhile, San Diego, whose average high in the warmest months is 77F, topped out at 93F yesterday. Hope that temp is not on its way here.

  6. Weather extremes – that’s what small talk has always been made of. What has changed is not the weather – it’s always been changeable – but the fact that every single weather event is now fodder for the “climate change” panic.

    Over on Slashdot, the reductions in Antarctic ice mass was in full swing. I posted links to an equally valid study in the NASA archives, showing that ice mass is increasing. In other words: two studies, opposite results, maybe we should do more analysis rather than panicking. But, no, the comments are all about the panic, and my comment was buried…

    People seem determined to panic, almost like they enjoy it. It’s reminiscent of a girls sleepover, when the little girls start egging each other on, screaming at the shadows of imagined monsters. It get’s tiresome, after a while…

  7. It get’s tiresome, after a while…

    Not when there is money involved. If you want to apply for funding for climate research, somewhere in that grant you have to be seeking to prove that humankind is responsible for climate change otherwise you get no money. Any valid research will be rejected because such research is not supporting the agenda.

    Somewhere there are a few companies poised to make billions of dollars on carbon reduction. Even the feds are looking into a gravy train of carbon taxes. The feds would tax exhaling if they could figure out a way to measure the discharge. Yet these same feds have no problem traveling in their motorcades with 25 or 50 vehicles all spewing tons of carbon.

    Current climate research is not about science, it is about trying substantiate a position tossing all contradictory evidence. You can “prove” anything if you want to exclude data that does not fit the agenda.

  8. I still don’t intend to borrow money, ever. I don’t want to be beholden to a bank, and we can easily fund reasonable growth from cash flow.

    Say Barbara runs your company and then you can qualify for all of those woman-owned business grants. If only she were half black, half Native American, with a wheelchair. and a spouse that died in 9/11… 🙂

  9. An idea for labeling the bottles, etc.. There are “sheltered workshops” in many cities that have mentally and physically handicapped people to do piecework. My brother-in-law has Down syndrome and works in one. He does a few hours a week and is paid a sub-minimum wage. He had done tasks like pack bandannas, where they picked one, folded it, put it in a bag and passed it down to the next station. He worked for a while at a factory, boxing hinges and did well at it, but some behavior issues cropped up and he had to go back to the workshop.

    I work for a company that employs these types of workers. They do routine tasks like get an empty plastic egg from a bin, put one piece of candy from each box into a plastic egg, set filled egg in different bin, repeat. It works out well for both parties involved. We get the work done and they get employment. Of course, there are some serious tax incentives involved and the state will pay for their training and in some cases even provide someone to supervise them.

    I worked at a title and escrow company years ago and we had a blind guy working there doing data entry with screen reader software. The state paid for someone to sit with him for the first two months (including helping him learn how many steps and turns to the bus stop and whatnot). The state also paid for the screen reader software and the tax breaks from the state paid for most of his salary. It was almost like we got a free employee.

    My opinion on these programs varies widely and I waffle a lot on the pros and cons. It certainly is preferable to having all of these mentally and physically handicap people sitting in front of a television all day at taxpayer expense.

  10. When I lived in Melrose, Mass. there were a couple of communal living places for people with Downs Syndrome there. Businesses in Melrose and the two towns north, Wakefield and Reading, readily employed them. You could see them rounding up grocery store carriages in parking lots, cleaning off tables in Burger King, and doing other routine things for various businesses. Obviously this costs, but there was a lot of support in the community to have them working, and as Chad says, it is preferable to having them watch TV all day at our expense.

  11. I’d have no problem doing this, and I may consider it if/when we need to start subbing out stuff like labeling bottles.

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