The Journey I’ve Been On Growing this Business (Page 1 of 2)

My Brush with TV Fame

I hope this blog inspires you to expand and share news with your network.

I served on a volunteer commission for some years and met many interesting people.  I particularly hit it off with a few of them.    

One fellow was particularly intrigued when he learned of my calendar business.  When I moaned and groaned about the difficulty I was having getting media coverage, he mentioned that his wife worked at the local TV station.  See where I’m going with this? Grin.

He kindly agreed, with no guarantees, that he’d mention me to her.  Fast forward about 3 months. One afternoon I got a call from a producer at his wife’s station.  He asked if I’d be available tomorrow for an interview in my home. After a quick check of my calendar, we set a time and I provided my address.  He told me the name of the woman who would be doing the interview.

Early the next afternoon, a young woman with a tv camera and tripod on her shoulder arrived.  We chatted as she looked around and suggested I sit in a comfy chair in the family room. Her kind demeaner and genuine interest in my effort put me at ease.  For the next 40 minutes, as she stood beside the camera, I responded to her wide-ranging questions. The experience came to feel like speaking to an interested friend. 

When we thought we’d about covered everything, she said it would be on today’s 6:00pm and 9:00pm news.  Sure enough, there it was. Of course, it had been edited down to a few minutes, yet it retained much of what I hoped would be there.

While the pieces were only viewed by those in that station’s viewing area, many friends and acquaintances remarked that they saw it.  I can only hope that perhaps someone who would benefit learned of it as a result.   

So, never doubt the value of both expanding your network and sharing with them what you’re doing.

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Thank you Rochester Post Bulletin and Boomer Grandpa

Hello friends,

I’m so pleased that Loren Else, the man behind the Boomer Grandpa column, featured me in one of his articles in our local newspaper, the Rochester Post Bulletin.

Karen noticed in the paper an upcoming Saturday event at the Civic Center called the Healthy Living Fair.  We stopped in that Saturday after hitting the Farmer’s Market. Apples and spinach were in my backpack.

When Karen and I walked in, she pointed out that our newspaper had a booth.  Believing that local newspapers are very important, we have subscribed since moving to town.

Loren Else, writer of the Boomer Grandpa column

I said, “Let’s step over”.  Loren Else, who writes the Boomer Grandpa column, was staffing and talking to people.  Never known for being bashful, when he was free I confirmed that he was the person who wrote about what some boomers were doing in our community.  When he confirmed that was indeed him, I pulled out a copy of my calendar. I intentionally took one, just in case such an opportunity might present itself.  

Loren looked at the calendar and asked a few questions.  I could tell he had a keen ear for possible stories. After a couple of minutes, he asked for my card and said he’d be in touch.  It sounded promising, but I’ve heard such words from others before that led nowhere.

What a pleasant surprise when he called a couple of days later to arrange a chance to talk.  Two days later we were sitting across from each other with coffee between us. We talked for almost an hour and a half with his little recorder running the whole time.  

He asked all sorts of questions about my early years, my many career paths and much about how the EZ2See® Weekly Planner/Calendar came to be. And throughout the time, I got to learn a bit about his interesting life as well.  The following week, the article came out. How fun it was when I heard from those who know me. Hopefully, it makes someone who it might help aware of the product.

You can read the article here, in the Post Bulletin

Image of Edward, owner of EZ2See

Edward Cohen is the creator of the EZ2See® weekly planner/calendar.

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When I get an order through the mail

One of the major things that motivated me to turn this calendar idea from something just for me into what it is now, was  the feeling I got hearing the comments from those first enthusiastic buyers.  I’d think to myself, “Wow, I’m really helping someone”.   Could this be what a teacher, medical professional or the like experiences as they go about their work?  How few of us ever get to experience such a feeling.   

As each handwritten first time or repeat mail order form arrives, it reminds me of that original feeling.  Sometimes people give me feedback via the website or in a note stuck in the envelope.  How rewarding it is to hear that this simple product is making a difference in people’s daily life.  

While orders to resellers and over the Internet to individuals are a vote of confidence, these mail-order customers are somehow special to me.  I hope I never lose this feeling.

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On finding help with this business

I have quickly come to realize that the range of possible market avenues that I could explore far exceeds my time to do so.  Plus, I’ve learned that this whole marketing and sales thing can be learned, but doing it on the job is a slow and painful process.  

I’ve reached out to family and friends across the US and Canada.  To a person, they were happy to learn of what I was doing and encouraged me.  While several offered posts on their Facebook page or offered to show the Sample around, in the end no one had an interest or the time to do more.  Totally understandable.

Since launching this effort, I knew that I’d need someone with real business experience if this was ever going to be more than a “hobby business”.  At every opportunity, I’ve sought such a person or persons.  I’ve been approached by an occasional earnest and talented recent college graduate already interested in marketing, advertising or sales.   A few others have taken calendars to show when they headed south for the winter.  I’ve also begun to look for actual independent sales agents with only partial success.

The most often repeated advice from people, who know such things, is that once I am selling in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 a year, the help I need will appear.  It is all about showing that real money can be made with this product.  

So now that it looks like sales of the 2018 edition will hit that mark, I’m hopeful that a team member or even a partner will soon be found.

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Would it help to have a video?

Early on, I started  thinking about adding a short video to my website.  People who know such things, said that this would be a good idea.  The video would focus on the calendar; not me.  

For some people, merely looking at pictures of the calendar on the website does not explain the product or clearly communicate its innovative features.  For others, seeing it in someone’s hands as they flip through it would be helpful. Such a video would have to be short, only two or three minutes long. 

It was also suggested that I consider adding short videos showing the various practical techniques and practices I’ve developed and use that help as my vision declines.  Sounds good, but where to find the time and more importantly, the video resources? For now, I’ll try to put such things into print. But I’m always on the prowl for video help.  

Little did I know how my network would eventually come to the rescue and the experience be written in a future Blog. 

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On Being Selected for the BizPitch Competition

Towards the beginning of the 2016, I was informed of an upcoming event called BizPitch.  It is put on by the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in this area, a very helpful organization.  If you were selected, you could present your small business idea or actual start-up to a small group of local business-savvy people from various sectors. It was presented like the TV show “Shark Tank”, but without any money being offered.

I submitted my application and was one of 3 folks selected.  The director of the local SBDC office who alerted me to the opportunity, drove me to the event.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the first presenter because it showed me how it all worked.  It took place in the classroom of the local community college.  Tables ran around 3 sides of the room with the panel, observers and the other presenters sitting on the outside.  The first presenter was a young man with some kind of mobile app idea.  As he spoke from behind the lectern, it became apparent that the fellow was known to two of the panelists.  The feedback was basically, “yes we’ve heard all this before, what have you done with the advice we gave you last time?”  An awkward moment.  So I was prepared for some tough love.

Since no one said not to, I had already spread out all of my stuff on the tables on the 3rd side of the room.  So I was more or less ready when they said it was my turn.  I stood near my materials and talked about the situation people face who are dealing with vision loss as they try to manage their daily schedule.  I ran through my experience with seeking a product I could use and the path that eventually led to me starting my business.  That story is on my website if they wanted even more information.

Over the next 20 minutes I showed them the original, partial-year calendar that got so many people to urge me to start the business.  I showed them the 2016 version that I was selling and the Sample I created and sent out to prospective quantity buyers.  Then at the end I passed out the profit and loss statement that the accountant I had recently hired to  had created.  I finished up describing how my first year went and my plans for the next year.  

The time went by quickly and I heard little or nothing from anyone during my talk.  So I was unsure what they’d say.  With a smile growing on my face, I heard one positive statement after another from the panel.  Some assumed that I had a business background because they approved of all I had done.  One panelist was a numbers person and was thrilled to see actual figures on sales and expenses.  One panelist took a Sample to show in a near-by city to the entrepreneur support group there.  A young man who had come  to watch took a card to give to someone he knew would be interested.

The most ironic part of the day came when the 3rd presenter promoting a summer camp at an unused nearby facility, bought a calendar on the spot.  She was having increasing vision trouble and this was the first weekly planner that would work for her. That had to be my favorite part of the event.    

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EZ2See Products are on YouTube!

My story is on YouTube! Mark McGlinch, a fellow attendee of Rochester Open Coffee Club Tech Meetup, created and posted this video for EZ2See Products.

Periodically it was suggested that I make a video showcasing the calendar.  The idea was that seeing someone flip through it would do a better job explaining than reading words or looking at still images.

Okay, I get it, but where to get the help to do this at a price I could justify.

At an entrepreneur meeting, I had the good fortune to meet another semi-retired guy with a strong video background.  When I mentioned my product and that I was hoping to someday make a video, he was intrigued.

As so often happens, by being out and about, I’d met an interesting person and made a valuable connection and even a friend.  At our first real meeting, Mark said he wanted to do this.

I shared that I also had a video background and brought my descriptions of each shot of the video.  Needless to say, Mark was happy that much of the groundwork was done.

Some time later, he returned an updated and improved version of the shots.  Using his equipment and my kitchen as the set, we planned our next steps.

Mark’s version had fewer shot segments with longer limes for me to say.  Repeating them over and over I learned them, but just barely. Since I wouldn’t be able to see cue cards, getting help with my lines was my biggest challenge.  If I only knew braille better!

To keep the video brief, every word was important, so no ad libbing.  Eventually, all the segments were shot and Mark went off to put it all together.

It was a thrill when the email with the link to the video appeared.  Taking a deep breath, I watched it for the first time. Mark’s work was great, but I felt my delivery was awful.  It isn’t at all how I talk.

But Mark and my wife said it was fine.  So, with grateful thanks to Mark, and with their support, it went online and you can see it here.   Only time will tell how helpful people find it.

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On Coming Up With a Counter Top Display

During the first year, I had several retail outlets offering the calendar.  As the second year started to roll around, I spoke to all of them.  It appeared that those who best displayed the calendar sold them the fastest.  Most of them agreed that if they could stand up the calendar rather than laying it flat, more people would see it and possibly buy it.  Thus I was launched into the enormous world of “point of purchase” countertop displays.  After this experience, I will never look at product displays in the same way.  

After hours of store visits and online research, I narrowed down the options to two methods.  One was a fold up display made of white cardboard that could hold about 10 calendars.  The other option was a clear heavy plastic stand that would hold 3 calendars at a time.  Each had their advantages and disadvantages.

The cardboard ones were cheaper but when shipped were quite large.  Meaning they would not fit into the carton with the calendars.  This meant both additional shipping cost, hassle and the store had to do some assembly to set them  up.  Although the  acrylic display was more expensive, it  would fit in the carton with the calendars.  Lastly, I had to come up with a way to decide on  the text that should go on the display and how to get it on either display without costing an arm and a leg or looking like a middle school art project.

So much effort exerted to encourage a few additional sales.  But I choose not to look at it that way.  If my goal was and still is to get these weekly planners into the hands of people who need them, then I need to do what I can to support these retailers.  I chose the acrylic displays.  I used the computer to print out another slogan, “Finally a calendar you can see”.  My wife is far better with scissors and tape.  She affixed it to the small panel across the bottom and taped it so it almost looked professional.  Now we’ll just sit back and hear if it was worth all the effort.

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What’s in a slogan?

Why did I add the slogan to the cover, “The calendar with the edge”?  

Actually it started out, “The calendar with an edge”?   Was it too “gimmicky”?  

I kept hearing positive things about the benefit of the black edge around the weekly pages.  That simple feature really helps those who share the same challenge that I have.  I do not clearly see the edge of the page, especially  when it rests on a white work surface or on top of other papers.  So I decided to trademark this slogan and put it on the cover.  I’m proud to let people know that this calendar might help those who could use an “edge”.

Thoughts on improving the product after producing the 2016 edition

After the first year, it was time to consider what improvements were in order. For example, what about the location of the monthly pages; keep them up front, or slip them within the appropriate weeks?  The cover raised several questions:  alter the design, make it more durable, should it be a dark color?  What about the holidays?  Who knew there were that many to choose from?  Because  the design-print-sell cycle is so demanding, there was only a few months to make all of these decisions.  

With the help of a new graphics person, I updated the appearance of the cover.  Working with the printer, we found a way to both stiffen the cover and make it moisture-resistant and yet keep the cost down.  For now, I decided that a white cover is fine and we’ll keep the monthly pages up front where they are.

All of these plans and decisions took much discussion, research and some agonizing.  I  listen closely to the feedback I get and continue to try to make this the most usable and accessible product of its kind.  

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