About a month ago, I came to the stark realization that 2015 was coming to an end. The year went faster than any other I can remember. At least, that's what I thought until I started going back over everything that has happened since January 1st, 2015.
On January 8th, my dad and I loaded up a van full of goodies and headed for New York City. I had never been on a business trip. I'd never traveled anywhere without my children. I hadn't even been to the East Coast before. I was a little bit excited.
My children were a little less than thrilled with the idea.
Our goal in New York was to meet with Philip Weiss, a high-end auctioneer on Long Island. My dad connected with Phil a few years ago on Antique Roadshow, where he is a regular appraiser. On the show, he picked up the scent of our golden-age comic book collection. On our way out the door that day, we picked up Mr. Weiss' business card. We talked soon after the show, and Philip Weiss Auctions later sold that comic collection for us. We had since acquired more comics in need of proper homes, as well as other valuable antiques and collectibles. Our hope was to meet with Phil on his home turf and further develop our business relationship, as well as hand over some of our goodies for auction.
Along our 1,000 mile journey, we endured snow storms and wrong turns, one of which led us straight into the chaos of Time Square, but we made it.
On the day of our big meeting, we sat and talked with Philip Weiss for TWO HOURS. He shared his limited time, passed on knowledge and swapped stories with us. He took several items we brought with us and held them for a future auction. He even let me hold an original copy of the Batman #2 comic book. I nearly fainted in nerdy delight. Dad and I walked away from our meeting feeling encouraged and inspired.
We went. We conquered. And we returned home, prepared to do business better than ever.
When we arrived in Missouri, we hit the ground running. After the sales problems encountered in the previous year (I talk in-depth about those in a previous blog found here) we knew that we needed to take action. We planned and brainstormed for months, and now it was time to do. With help from Notionfront, a local web content and marketing business, we developed a new logo and created a promotional video.
These steps were all a small part of a bigger picture: it had been our hope for some time to develop a website of our own, in addition to our eBay sales avenue. After countless hours spent brainstorming, developing content, taking pictures, choosing font, selecting colors, editing words and adjusting pixels, those hopes came to fruition on February 10th, 2015, when RoofTop Antiques was launched.
The arrival of rooftopantiques.com came just in time for our entrance in the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. The first part of the contest required that we solicit votes from friends, family and fans.
Our voters came through, pushing us on to the next level of the contest. From the top vote receivers, FedEx would select 100 small business finalists. On March 31st, we received the following email:
Congratulations! Your business rose to the top 100 of thousands of entries in the 2015 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. The top 100 finalists were selected based on several factors, including their compelling business stories, product/service offered and votes received. We are impressed and inspired by all of these stories and look forward to getting to know everyone better through the second-round submission.
We were hopeful, but tried desperately not to get our hopes too high. The day before the results were to be announced, we shared the following with our followers:
We have been selling on eBay for more than 10 years, and have been a "Top Rated Seller" since the program's implementation. We have improved our business by leaps and bounds, and even increased our inventory three-times over...yet 2014 nearly killed us. Our eight-person team continues to sell on eBay, but due to the many challenges that the market has faced, we decided to expand our vision and reach. The process has not been easy. There is no guidebook for venturing into the land of internet sales alone. Daily tasks, such as properly packaging shipments and promoting our business online, required months of research. We expanded into freight shipping, allowing us to offer furniture for sale online. We mastered the art of “free shipping”. We poured over websites and stumbled through the process of creating a website of our very own.
The very week that we began the process of reinvention, we became aware of the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. This contest has been the motivation for us to push beyond all barriers and launch our business to the next level, growing in ways we had never envisioned. We are so proud to have made it to the top 100 finalist out of thousand of entrants.
We would love to win the grand prize tomorrow. We would put the money to good use by continuing to develop our brand through our website and social media. We also hope to continue to mentor other sellers both online and in our local community. Even if we are not declared the winner, we can honestly say that all we have accomplished during this process has been rewarding. For this, we are sincerely thankful.
These words still rang true the next day, April 21st, even though we were not on the list of winners from FedEx. It was a bitter sweet (and slightly ironic) moment, for as we came to the realization we had not won, the FedEx Freight truck pulled in to pick up a large set of furniture we had just sold. It was as if we were being told "life goes on".
While the contest was going on, we carried on with business. We made our very first website sale on March 5th, just 23 days after our launch. It may not sound like much, but this was quite a feat. One sale in less than a month meant that our website had been discovered. Out of thousands of other antique websites, ours was visible. Most importantly, we had been deemed worthy of consumers' trust. Just one week later, we made our second sale. This sale was literally 17 times larger than our previous sale. This sale called for celebration.
This sale also connected us with the amazing ladies at Modern Whimsy Interiors. It has been our absolute pleasure to conduct business with them twice now. We are grateful for their support of our endeavors, and look forward to future opportunities to work together. I also enjoy keeping track of Kellie and Natalie via social media, and am fairly certain we could be real-life friends if Missouri and Oklahoma were just a little closer together :).
May 2015 was a quiet month on the RoofTop, which prepared us for an eventful June. We started off the month by successfully grabbing the attention of some of eBay's biggest names. We connected via email and phone conference with executive members in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom. Communication from this group of people gave us hope for the future of eBay, and our small business, currently dependent on their existence.
Our website continued to grow, and we were averaging 70 unique visitors each day. We had been told not to expect many visitors at all within our first few years, so we were thrilled with our progress. On June 24th, I shared my very first non-eBay related blog. That day, our unique visitors reached 118, pushing us over the 100-visitor number for the first time in our short history. The very next day, we were shocked when one of our recent customers, a man by the name of Michael Wurm, mentioned little old us in his blog post. We had done a bit of research on this "Michael Wurm" as we were packaging his fireplace for safe travels to Pennsylvania. We discovered that he is kind of a big deal in the design, DIY and blog world. His Pinterest account alone boasts 3.2 MILLION followers. The post that day was titled Deck Decisions, and it contained not only kind words, but links to nearly every single one of our social media accounts, our eBay store and our website. Our daily visitor count suddenly shot up to 178, and remained that high for the next 8 days.
We are now regular followers of Inspired by Charm, and forever indebted to Michael Wurm for providing inspiration we didn't even know we needed.
Just 2 days following the post read 'round the world, 3 members of RoofTop Antiques headed to Omaha, Nebraska for Antiques Roadshow. The blog post I mentioned earlier (that one that pushed us over 100 website visitors for the first time) started our most popular blog series to date: RoofTop Antiques Meets Antiques Roadshow. The trip to participate in one of our favorite shows turned into one of our biggest adventures yet.
Our day at the roadshow included 8 appraisals of items ranging from a 1,000 year old Costa Rican bowl to a collection of letters written during the Civil War. And our best moment of the weekend? Well, that'd have to be the time they wanted to put us on TV. Or arrest us. We aren't really sure which they desired most.
The final half of 2015 was a true whirlwind at RoofTop Antiques. Fall brought numerous revisions and adaptations. The crew itself lost a member when our Restoration Specialist, Scott, took on a new job teaching special education at a local elementary school. Our photographer, Bethany, became a stay-at-home mom to her sweet, infant son. Rather than replacing the irreplaceable, we adjusted our remaining crew to cover the holes in our system.
Hoping to expand our reach in the world of social media, we joined Periscope. Periscope is a live stream broadcasting app, allowing users to "explore the world through the eyes of somebody else." We shared DIY demonstrations, behind-the-scenes tours and even a RoofTop Drop. Our crew also connected with Megan Schmitt, a local designer from Megan LaRae Designs, to create a Mid-Century Modern vignette using only items found in our shop. We hope to continue using Periscope (and to work with Megan more) to share more about our products, people and business in general.
Growth and change were dominant characteristics in the year 2015. Perspectives were stretched, adventures were capitalized on, blows were absorbed and new heights were reached. I believe 2016 has many of the same elements in store, but I like to think we are a bit more prepared this time around.
Here's to another year of small business survival. We thank you, our family, friends and fans, for your undying support. RoofTop Antiques looks forward to sharing 2016, and everything it throws our way, with you.
There are actual vintage relics hanging on the walls of long-closed shops or hiding in the back of someone's garage, just waiting to be discovered by the right person. But how do you get them wall-ready?
Frankly, I am not fond of monkeys. They affect me the way spiders and snakes affect other people. The flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz” and the rogue monkeys in Robin Williams’s “Jumanji” were menacing to me, and I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see them.
I love when passion and persistence give birth to inspiration and fulfillment. That’s the experience I had this weekend at my favorite antique mall, Artichoke Annie’s, near Columbia, Missouri.
We headed to Columbia on Saturday morning to meet a new online acquaintance for a furniture trade. I didn't realize it at the time, but the Willett Mid-Century Modern end table she placed in our hands would become the centerpiece for a collection of untold treasures.