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Finally Entered the Fastlane - Hobby store & Ecommerce - Progress thread

A detailed account of a Fastlane process...

Jeix

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Hello fastlaners, I've been meaning to make this thread for a while.

- A short summary of my life -
I'm from Italy and I'm turning 29 this year 2023. I first read The Millionaire Fastlane 5 years ago when I was working in real estate and being paid under the table to ring doorbells for over 40 hours a week for a measly €750/month, a fitting end for a person that thought getting a university degree would change the reality of the job market in this country.
When I quit that job, I knew I wanted to make something with my life but I had much to learn still.
Aside from some failed hustles such as an app I wanted to make that ended up nowhere and other things, I started creating content online and was able to slowly grow that into a huge source of income (compared to my peers and the average income of my country) over the following years. In the meantime, I also met the person who is now my wife.
After my income reached a comfortable €2500/month (higher than the national average of my country), I began moving it more to the side and spent the past 12 months doing that. I barely lost any paid subscribers as I moved from creating 8 videos a month to just 1. Thanks to the sheer amount that I had created by hustling between 2018 and 2021 a lot of people were still coming in just to enjoy what I had already made and didn't mind a slower upload schedule.

The product of this five-year hustle is a job that I can work from home (or anywhere I have my laptop), only requires a handful of hours every week and brings in more than double what I would make from any full time job.
It was time for me to take my next step.
My job was nice but it would always stay a job, dependant on my own time and my own effort. It was hard to scale and hard to automate. At one point I was banned from youtube and lost the over 10,000 subscribers I had struggled so hard to build. Afraid that my life was too vulnerable and dependant to the whims of the giant corporations that control where people share and monetize their content online, I knew I needed something different if I wanted to truly own a business that I could call my own. I could continue this job to the side but it was far too risky to bank staying full time on it, especially since I had just gotten married.

- Entering the fastlane -
I've been passionate and knowledgeable about card games my whole life, having spent many years playing all sorts of card games and trading cards all over. I noticed the lack of a good store of that kind in a big town near where I live, with almost 100,000 people living there. I gathered 3 friends, all of which had been interested and passionate about starting this kind of business for a while, did some research and went for it, knowing we could rely on our experience, expertise and passion for what we were doing.

We set up our company in July 2022 but we opened our doors on November 19th 2022. In the meantime, we made sure everything was ready to go. We found a great place to rent, a small store where we could house 16-player card game tournaments (a required number to become a partner with most suppliers) and we set up a warehouse/workshop in the basement (which we had to clear out, do a few renovations and set up some furniture in). Rent was cheap, overheads low. I had a website developed and hired a designer to maker sure it looked good and functioned well (we are using shopify). In addition, we have a courier service right next door that takes care of all our ecommerce shipping needs.

As we opened our doors, we made €600 in sales on our first day.
Two weeks went by and we sponsored an old group of friends who were hosting a big tournament in Milan. We set up a little table with some products at the event and made another €500.
In the meantime, we were running ads leading to our ecommerce store hoping to catch some Christmas traffic. And boy catch it we did. In the month of December, the first full month we've been open, we made €7000 in sales, €2000 of which came from our e-commerce.

- What comes next & our future goals -
As a person who has lived alone his whole life, both as an only child and as someone who quit his job and built himself up alone, I was very surprised to find out how useful and important my business partners are. They've proven invaluable, committed and determined. All four of us are working two jobs and we take turns managing the store, I could not have even started this without them.
Our goals are to develop an MO (a way of doing things) that we can later package and sell as a franchise opportunity. We are looking to have this ready within 12 months and start discussing franchise opportunities with potential franchisees by 2024.
I understand it won't be as easy to replicate the Christmas success we've experienced in December but I've already taken that into account in my future calculations.
Given our unique position, each partner can contribute extra money every once in a while should the business need it, allowing us a more aggressive marketing stance, which should allow us to grow more quickly than otherwise possible.
Another goal we have is buying a small brand currently managed by some old time friends of mine, the same ones whose tournament we sponsored, because they regularly host 100-person events every two months and we would love to monopolize who gets to sell product there (us) as well as what cut of registration fees go into the prize pool and how said pool is given to the players (we'd love for it to be our own store credit) but they won't let us fully control all that with a simple sponsorship.
On a personal note, I'm doing some house renovations and setting up a studio in our spare room for both me and my wife to work or game in, that's going to be fun! Looking to get all that set up this year too.

- In conclusion -
I hope you found this thread insightful. I'm open to any suggestion or criticism and I'd be happy to answer your questions.
I'll pose one to you too: we are getting a lot of traction from google ads but almost nothing from advertising on meta platforms. Is this something you've experienced too recently? We plan on branching out to TikTok soon as well, given how some of our card games are aimed at a younger audience.
I'll leave you with today's lesson, something I'd like to write in every post I make here if I can, talking about something I've noticed or found out in this experience I'm having as a new business owner.

- Today's lesson -
Today's lesson is actually a quote from a user on this forum whose name I've forgotten that I've come to realize how true it is.
"A business is something you can walk away from and when you come back 2 years later it's grown to ten times the size."
A lot of jobs such as creating content or dropshipping from your bedroom, however nice and comfortable they may be and however profitable they may get will always remain jobs and they'll stop working the moment you stop doing them.
I traveled to the US for the holidays and my partners continued to manage every aspect of the store for me without any issues. In the future, if the business gets big enough, we could hire employees to do that as well as a manager to manage them. At that point, all of us could go abroad for a full year and come back to a business that has opened seven new locations and a fat check with our names on it for our yearly dividends.
I know, wishful thinking for now, but an entirely plausible scenario if you play the right cards.
Notice how I didn't say "if you play your cards right".
Take it from a person who has played a lot of cards in his life: no matter how good you are, you'll often lose if your deck is bad. You can be the best player in the world but you'll go nowhere trapped in a 9-5. Conversely, terrible players will win a lot of games if they are holding a powerful deck because it will carry them with minimal effort on their part.
As we made the switch to entrepreneurs we realized that very quickly. We were in a position of power. A position we had never been into before and from which we had the freedom to do as we pleased in a lot of situations.

Take care and until my next post.
- Jeix
 
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Jeix

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UPDATE - A Math Lesson & More

Since I'm relatively new to business and this is my topic, I'm going to share what I'm learning as I go, even though most of this stuff will sound obvious to the veterans. Hopefully there are other newbies out here that will find it helpful. Besides, I'm here to share and it's what I'd like to do.

On Retail
One thing that's important to understand about retail businesses is that most of what you make isn't actually profit because you need to immediately reinvest that money into more product to sell, otherwise you have no way of making money. It can get tricky to calculate your margin when you deal in a lot of different products all with different margins. I try to keep a conservative estimate as my average. For example, if some of my products have a 15% margin, some others have a 30% margin but sometimes I run discounts that can bring my margin down to as low as 5%, I can keep a conservative estimate and say that my average margin is about 17%. Obviously my actual margin will never be that but it's good to be wrong and find out you actually have more money than you thought rather than the other way around.

Because of what I've just described, our business is currently in a position where it doesn't have a lot of overheads, about €1000 a month on average, though a lot of them are one-time payments that happen once a year and 70% of that is just rent + accounting expenses. However, like I said, I can't generate €1000 of sales and be safe. I have to generate sales so that my profit is €1000, then use the profits to cover my costs and reinvest the rest of the money my sales generated to buy back more product to sell at a profit.
This is how our wheel turns.
If my margin is 17% and I must cover overheads for €1000, the formula to calculate the break-even point is: (COSTS/MARGIN)*MARGIN
If you are using excel, your margin will often be expressed as a percentage. You'll need to convert it into a number (for example, 17% would be 1.17) then use this formula: [(COSTS/MARGIN-1)*MARGIN]
Applying what we've learned, to break even and cover costs of €1000 when my margin is 17% I need €6882.35.

To extrapolate this data further, if I plan to make sales for that amount, I need to buy a quantity of product that's capable to generate those sales given my margin. The answer to this question is simply SALES-COSTS, so €5882.35, meaning that I need to already have this liquidity available if I want to buy enough goods that will generate the sales I need to cover my costs.

I think these simple math lessons are very important to any retail business. It's a world with low margins and plenty of logistics, the biggest challenge is probably the logistics aspect I'd say. If you can build a well-oiled machine that can deliver products to your customers efficiently, you've got yourself an Amazon on your hands (okay, not that big but you get the idea).

Naturally, any other venture I might want to go on, such as an ad campaign or simply ad spending, must be put through this calculator to determine if I expect to be able to generate enough sales to cover it or if I expect that it's okay to operate at a loss because I think my sales will go up in the future.

Predictably, the month of January was quieter than December but we still generated about €4000 in sales. Giving that it was only our second month, I thought it was going to be a lot worse. The website still accounts for 20% of our sales, proving to be an invaluable ally.

Our margin varies wildly, especially when dealing with collectible cards. Oftentimes we buy them for a fraction of their market value and sell them for an inflated amount because we operate in a captive market (a tournament where the only choices people have is to buy or to not play that card that day). Yesterday, for example, we bought over €100 worth of cards for €20. One of them alone is worth over €50.
It can be tricky to keep up with all this when this is where your business operates, so I've come up with shortcuts.

A Lesson in VAT (for EU businesses)
Companies in our country owe VAT whenever they sell something and they charge the customer for it. It's similar to US sales tax but it's always included in the price the customer sees and never added after. Also, whenever a business buys something, they also pay VAT. However, unlike final consumers, this expense isn't lost and becomes tax credit that you won't pay next time you are owed VAT.
For this reason, whenever you calculate the real margins of your products, you must always take into account VAT.
If you sell at a profit (which you do), you'll always owe VAT. The profit of a product is calculated as follows:
PROFIT = SALE price - COST before VAT- OWED VAT
If you buy a product for €8, you'll pay a 22% VAT tax on top of it.
Your total cost is €9.76, since VAT is worth €1.76.
Let's say you sell it at a profit and the customer pays €12.
22% of 12 is VAT tax that you owe, meaning you now owe €2.64 and you are left with €9.36.
However, you had already paid €1.76 in VAT so you don't owe that.
Your final profit is €12 - €8 - (€2.64-€1.76) = €3.12.
In a tax-free world, your profit would be 12-8=4 but it's actually 4-owed VAT. At the end of the day, this product has a 26% margin, not bad for the industry I'm in but not very exciting either.

Due to VAT, whenever I sell products that don't normally carry it (like collectible cards that follow market value), I always make sure to add an extra 22% to the price so that I'm certain I'm collecting VAT from the customer, otherwise I'll owe it regardless and it will eat into my profit.
You might think a customer would refuse to pay an inflated price but the world of collectible cards is full of captive markets and shipping costs. If the customer wants to buy elsewhere, shipping costs alone will probably set them back more than my extra charge, plus they'll have to wait for it.

So, how's the store going?
After mixing together all of our margins and taking into account special events that are worth thousands, I've estimated we would need about €5000 monthly to cover our expenses and break even. Naturally, it's higher than that if we start to add advertising costs and the like but I'm keeping a close eye on it.

Like I said earlier, January went well considering it was only our second month, I was expecting it to go a lot worse.
We did a one-time ad on a local TV that came with a free 13-second reel from them, which we got their permission to reuse. We put it to use as a Youtube ad and we signed a deal with a local movie theater to air our ad before their shows 100 times every week to an average of 56 people each time.

I believe the brick and mortar store has a much higher conversion rate than our website because people who took the time to drive there and check us out are less likely to leave empty-handed, even if they can find better deals online. Also, in the store we sell a lot of card packs, whereas online we sell entire boxes of them. We have a higher margin on packs than we do on boxes so if we could sell all our boxes as packs we'd be a lot happier.
Online, however, customers are always one click away from a better deal and it's harder and more expensive to get them to convert.
Still, like I said above, our store is worth 20% of our total sales, a godsend.

Early February started with a bang. We had a massive launch event to the latest Yugioh set and we sold out on our product right there, making over €1500 in a day. That was good but now we can't meet the rest of the demand on launch, which is when people go crazy and buy a bunch. Next time we'll try to stock up more so that we can satisfy launch demand and still have some product leftover to catch the stragglers of the following weeks.
The day right after we had a big tournament that we attended as a store and set up shop. Over 150 people attended and we totaled over €1200 in sales. Two of our partners kept the store open that day as well and sold a few hundred euros of product. A great start to the month and there's still another big MTG release coming up in a week, we'll see how that goes.

Our website is growing, ads aside, and now features a live chat, option to pay with PayPal and an affiliate program. We are already reaching out to content creators to have them join it and get a discount code for their fans. I think it's a great way to drive traffic that you don't pay for until you've sold something.

Our biggest challenges right now are logistics. I'd like an extra pair of hands on the job and honestly I wish there were better suppliers. They keep running out of product and every time a customer wants something it's always the thing they don't have in stock. Shipping is a nightmare, they always want cash and they keep trying to deliver when the store is closed.
As a long term goal, I wish to turn my store into a franchise and become the supplier for my own chain. I think the industry has A LOT of room for improvement that nobody is capturing because they've been running their php websites for the past 20 years and it's still working so why bother upgrading? Who cares that it keeps crashing and customers can never find what they need? I'm the biggest in the country, LOL!
If they took a page out of amazon's book they could improve their service 1000% without a lot of effort. But, again, you can't teach an old dog a new trick. Seems like it's up to me yet again.

Lesson of the day: watch your discounts and your real margin!
This is a real story from a real store owner that is now out of business.
He would offer his customers a 10% cashback as store credit, no questions asked. Meaning that if a person spent €1000 on product, they would get €100 to spend on any product.
If you are familiar with cashback programs, you know you are lucky if they go above 2%. There's a reason for this.
Let's go back to our lesson in costs and margins and let's assume this person had a resonable 20% margin on its products. If you offer a 10% cashback, is it the same as a 10% discount? Not at all. If you sell €1000 at a 20% margin, you only make €200 profit. If you then give out an extra €100 for free, you are actually giving up HALF your profit.
You must always be very careful when offering discounts or you'll risk messing up your entire business. Mistakes are costly when margins are thin so you need to be on top of your game.
I'm sure this wasn't the only reason this person went out of business but it was certainly NOT a best practice to have. Discounts are well and good but you can't forget that you must always make ends meet at the end of the day.

I hope this update was interesting to you, I'll be back next month with more!
Cheers!
 

sanas915

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thank you for the post!!! congrats for the step that you did in your life and keep going
 

Jeix

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March update

February went very well, we made about €8000 in sales. We had a few things going our way such as new product release and a new affiliate program on our ecommerce website. We signed up a few youtubers to promote it and we got amazing results.

I predict March will not go the same way because there's less product coming out but it's definitely a good thing that we are starting to make a splash in the different communities of our area.

We are also learning from our mistakes. This business carries low margins so one must be careful when managing cash flow. The wrong investment at the wrong time can leave you illiquid and have you miss out a big product release and therefore a lot of money.
Similarly, buying the wrong amount of a product could leave you with unsold inventory that clogs up your cash OR with you going sold out on day one and missing out on the biggest demand there is because you couldn't keep up. By the time the product is restocked by suppliers, it's already too late.

We made at least two mistakes like that so far. On top of that, we were reckless on our publicity adventures. I won't lie when I say that going from zero to 6k a month in 3 months can get to your head and my partners were falling into a sort of "whatever it will be fine" mentality that tends to make you skip due diligence. We bought ad spaces that will probably turn out to be a complete waste of money but we still managed to snatch a decent deal by paying in installments, the next one is due in September so we have time to prepare. It probably won't be our end but we definitely should tread lightly. Given the incredible results that sponsoring content creators has given us, we should just focus on that and forgo other less targeted stuff like generic ads in random spots like local movie theaters, no matter how good of a deal they may seem.

Another important mental pitfall me and my partners face is being scared of buying product because you f*cked up last time and are afraid you won't sell it.
At the end of the day, product is the only way you can make money. If you buy less and less, you'll make less and less until your overheads bury you. If anything, one should be ten times as wary of shiny initiatives (like ads or fancy spots at events that are barely related) that promise a lot but are only a guaranteed expense rather than of product itself, your bottom line without which your entire business can't function.

For our next steps, we plan on increasing our focus on the content creators because they are extremely targeted audience and they've brought great results. I think an approach focused on targeted advertising to drive both traffic and sales coupled with investments in stock can work.
Another thing we are planning on doing is hosting our own tournament circuit for card games, something that can be very lucrative if done well. We already have some contacts for it but it's something that we'll organize in March for April to give us the appropriate amount of time to advertise it.

That's it for now, see you in the next update!
 
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Jeix

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Any chance by "trading cards" you're referencing Pokemon, etc.?
Yeah, we are a hobby store so we deal in the big 3 tcgs (magic, pokemon and yugioh) and related products, on top of mangas and comic books.
We might expand into warhammer and D&D at some point in the future.
 

KiwiEC

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MTG and WH40K are my guilty pleasures.

I have stopped (too expensive and time consuming) but I really enjoyed those universes with stategy, collecting, and social interactions.

My usual store had a room for playing, trading and meeting new people. Maybe is it a good development for the future? IF people know they can meet people sharing their hobbys, they will come frequently generating reccuring income.

When I will get successful, I will definitely spend some free time on these games.
 
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G

Guest050x2

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Yeah, we are a hobby store so we deal in the big 3 tcgs (magic, pokemon and yugioh) and related products, on top of mangas and comic books.
We might expand into warhammer and D&D at some point in the future.
Fantastic. Feel free to connect, if you'd ever like. Been in the industry 20+ years and my first brick and mortar was in this industry. Currently creating an application for players.

Always cool (and rare) to meet fellow industry peeps.
 

Subsonic

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Thanks for sharing. It's always inspiring to see others succeed.

Gl to your store and I hope to see the franchise listed on the s&p500 some day ;)
 

Jeix

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April update

We actually made around 7k in March despite not having taken part in any events, which have so far been our biggest bursts of income. This is interesting because it shows the business has potential even during slow months.

This April we are starting our own tournament circuit and we've been advertising the event for over two weeks now, still another two to go but we're already getting registrations for it!

A few things to point out now.
1. Brick and mortar is going strong!
While it may be harder to get people in because they might not live close enough, the conversion rate for it is a lot higher than any online store you could have, which faces tough competition all year round and people are always one click away from a better deal we can't match. Brick and mortar customers are often willing to pay a higher price than the competition because they've already made the trip and they like having someone to talk to or ask questions who's knowledgeable about the industry.

2. Community, community, community!
Oftentimes self help books promote the image of the macho man entrepreneur who doesn't need anyone else but his laptop to succeed and who shouldn't talk to anyone else because they just don't understand his grind. This, however, could not be farther from the truth. There's A LOT MORE money to be made if you work together with other people in your industry and make friends. In other words, connect with them. When events happen, go talk to people and introduce yourself, ask if there's anything you can do to collab or host something together.
For example, I know a lot about Yugioh because I've played it for years but I don't know as much about Pokemon or Magic. A few key connections in those areas could lead to a new customer base and events, always seek those out!

Next, in my honest opinion we are doing a shit job at online advertising, there's so much more we could do but it's hard to find the time. Definitely looking to improve on that, content creation is interesting because the algorithm pushes it for you if it's good so it's free publicity, the best kind.
Despite this, we are still doing well with preorders so I can only imagine how we would do if we were more competent at it.

Goleador candies have doubled in price, it's the greatest tragedy of our era.

Until next time!
 
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Jeix

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May Update

April has actually been our record sales month with over €10k in revenue, which is interesting considering I've been away for most of it, maybe I should do it more often? Lol.
Me and my wife went to see New York for a little over two weeks, it was a great experience and it's nice to see the store didn't crash and burn in the meantime.

We started running our tournament circuit in April and the first installment was a success, with a 40-person turnout.
Thanks to my experience with these events, I found ways to improve them by implementing digital shortcuts for registrations, pairings and decklist submissions. It was a success, everything went very smoothly and players liked it.
After the event, we gathered feedback from the attendants and we're making the changes they requested.

This leads us to our next point: sales don't mean much without profits.

It's true that we turned over more than €10k this month but the reality of the matter is that at least €3500 were from goods that net us less than 10% profit. In other words, the weight of that money on our monthly costs is a lot lower than if we had sold other products. If we adjust the income based on that, we only notice a slight trend upward from the usual. So yes, we are growing, but not in an explosive way as the numbers may mislead you into thinking.

When dealing with retail, profit margins aren't great. You are looking to average 20% and that's about it. How do we increase that? You clearly can't buy goods for much lower than you already are and you can't sell them for a lot higher than market price. So what do you do? Events is the answer we found and are trying now.

When hosting events, only a fraction of registration money goes towards the prize pool. Everything else is 100% profit.
After each event, I count how much we made. It's usually around 1.2k. After our first event, having deducted every expense, our total was around €400. I was confused, I thought we did pretty well. Then it occurred to me that that money was pure profit. It was the equivalent of having made €2000 in sales, except we got to keep our stock. What had just happened?
It feels like a scam but that's the nature of a tournament: you only make your money back if you win and the people joining it know it. Most of them will pay €25 and make nothing. Still they won't complain because they know that's how it works. The top 8 players will make at least €60 each. Most of this money won't even cover their travel expenses but that's not important. It's an EVENT. People attend for the experience and to have a day trip to another town with friends, to go get fast food or hit the club aftwards. You are selling an experience.

When hosting events, we are basically a travel agency. We want the smoothest, easiest experience as possible for the players and the best locations we can find. I'm talking free wifi, plenty of food options, smoking areas, charging stations, air conditioning, you name it. They must feel like doing it again even if they lost all their games. This is what we are looking to make out of our tournament circuit brand.

Before we continue, I'd like to take a moment to tell you about something personal I've noticed through my years of attending events and tournaments like these. There's 3 roles at play that emulate how our society functions.

The first role is that of the player. As the player, you are like a consumer in real life. You are paying to have a good time. You can register for a tournament like you can buy a lottery ticket. If you win, you make your money back. If you lose, tough luck. The player only wins if they win the day but they get to take part in the experience. It's like gambling on a cruise ship. Yes, you could theoretically make back the money you paid for the cruise but you probably won't. Regardless, you paid to be on a cruise. Enjoy it while it lasts!

The second role is that of the judge. As the judge, you are like an employee in real life. No matter how the tournament goes, you'll get your agreed-upon cut, even if nobody shows up. You have nothing to lose if things go poorly and you only stand to gain from the day. In exchange, however, you'll have to work and trade your time for money. Meaning you can't have fun and play, you have to make sure everything flows smoothly and do as the organizer tells you to. It's on you to make sure things go well, and you'll be compensated for your efforts.

The third role is that of the tournament organizer. As the tournament organizer, you are like a fastlaner in real life. There's a risk nobody shows up and you'll still have to pay to rent the venue and pay your judges but it's in your control to advertise the event well to make sure that doesn't happen. As the TO, you'll make the most amount of money for the day as well as publicity for your next events. If your machine is well oiled enough, you won't even need to show up. You can be elsewhere and let your employees (judges) manage the event for you, reaping the rewards afterward. Being the TO is the hardest job because you are responsible for setting up the whole thing. Without you, there wouldn't be any event.

This metaphor is very interesting because it captures the fastlane idea in a nutshell. To understand how to make money, climb the hierarchy steps to find the top. Being a judge is a job. Being a TO is a business. Now apply it to different aspects of life. Can you find the similarities? Consumer --> Job --> Business.

My personal goal is to create a tournament structure that functions without me so that I can take part in the tournament myself, winning either way and still getting to play the games I love at the competitive level I love.

Moving on to my next topic:

The best thing about businesses is that they cheat.
It's a tale as old as time. Why does Jeff make billions while people struggle to get by? It's because he cheats. His time is worth thousands of times more that of others because he built a machine that works for him. Don't try to do things legit (the tale of the pyramid builders from TMF ); find a way to cheat the system.

If you want the card game example: don't try to make the best out of a bad deck, play the best deck instead.
In real life that would be: don't try to find the best job, start a business instead.

When I was a player, it was always a pain to trade cards and make a good deal because neither party was in a position of power over the other (rare excetion being you need the card minutes before a big event). It took a lot of effort to eek a few bucks off of a deal.
As a store, it's child's play. Why? Because stores are known to buy your cards at a lower price, reselling them is their business. When a customer walks in and I offer less than half what cards are worth, they know it's a good deal without me having to spend time explaining. When they ask for a €0.20 card and I charge €1, they understand immediately why that's okay and don't even ask. Got rent to pay bruh.

Businesses cheat. Just for having the store I get to buy stuff for a fraction of the price and sell it at a markup and nobody bats an eye. If a person does it, they get a bad reputation.

When I calculate prize pools for our tournaments, I take that into account. If I charge €25 to register but you get 3 "free" packs, you can bet I'm removing those packs from the registration fee at full price (€5 each, even though they only cost me €2). If people run the numbers in their head, they find that it makes sense because to them a pack is worth €5. However, to me it's only worth €2 because my business cheats.

If you want an absurd example of cheating, know this: big official Konami Yugioh tournaments don't give out any prizes that aren't promotional material, occasional game consoles or travel expenses for the lucky winner who goes to the world championship. Got first place? Here's a special card that you can resell on ebay if you want. It might be worth €1000+ but it's still a piece of shiny cardboard that Konami manufactured for cents. Worked as a judge? Here's a special playmat you can resell for maybe €100. However, it's just rubber and cloth and it probably cost Konami less than 5 bucks to make from a Chinese manufacturer.

Does any of this deter fans from attending? Of course not, they are still hitting record numbers event after event. That's because they are selling an experience. It's a field trip to a distant city, often foreign if you are European, with tons to do. It's FUN to attend and so people do.

Back to our prize pool example.
If I sell sealed boxes of cards, my margin is 18%. However, for every pack that I sell individually, I have a 36% return. That means I can double whatever money I make on the products I sell if I manage to sell them individually.
But how do you sell large amounts individually?
There's multiple answers. The first one is clearly events, like I stated, where each registration is the equivalent of selling 4-5 packs at full price. Even if I only cut a few bucks from registration to cover event fees I'm still making massive profits because my margin on packs is so big. More people means more profits and I'm only capped by attendance or venue limit.

The second one is walk-in casual customers, which there's a lot of but obviously not a lot of them exist in the same area where my store is located. My time frame is one month because that's when rent is due so my goal is to maximize units sold within that time frame. I can't increase walk-ins magically because there's only so many people that exist in the area but what I can do is extend my area of influence.
Pack buyers aren't seasoned players because those people either buy boxes or singles. Casuals are pack buyers because they either have shallow pockets or don't undestand the industry to justify spending large amounts on shiny cardboard.

To try and capture more of this lucrative market where volume is king, we started running the following experiment in April: we give out products to small businesses on consignment (usually a box) that they are meant to sell as individual packs. Because the margin on packs is so big, we can give some of it to the business and pocket the rest. Even if we gave the entirety of the pack margin to the business we'd still score a box sale that we wouldn't have othewise made without them.
Thanks to this tactic we are looking to increase our foot traffic without paying extra rent and move more products in a shorter period of time, increasing our scale. In addition, we are turning our competitors into our allies. Any place that sells packs can snatch a customer from us, but if we are the ones supplying that place, the sale is still on us.
We are not big enough to compete with suppliers but we can do something that suppliers won't do: offer products in consignment. Products in consignment are so free because there's zero risk involved. If you sell them, you make money. If you don't, you send them back. The risk would be on us but as we learn to better gauge how much to order from suppliers we'll be able to manage it better and better.

We have an event coming up this month as well as another one where we'll attend as vendors. Best of luck to us!
 

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Very interesting to read your story here, goes to show how timeless certain principles are. Also shows how Fastlane can be achieved by virtually anyone, regardless of their nationality or place they start their business.
As long as you know what you're doing, learning from mistakes and repeating good practice, then success will come.

It's also a breath of fresh air in the sense that, you've actually built your business on something which you are passionate about. Usually, "follow your passion" or "do what you love" is bad advice, since you're just acting on what you want, not what others need.

But you've made me realize that the two can be actually be linked. Since you were passionate about card games, you were more in tune to the pain points of that niche, which could be used for your own advantage.

Thanks for posting @Jeix!
 

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Yeah, we are a hobby store so we deal in the big 3 tcgs (magic, pokemon and yugioh) and related products, on top of mangas and comic books.
We might expand into warhammer and D&D at some point in the future.
Amazing to see your story! Well done! Expand to D&D, Pathfinder, and Vampire ASAP. The community is huge and it is not unusual for a D&D fan to be a Magic the Gathering or Anime fan. So if you organize events at your shop for free you will have a lot of people at your store.
 
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Jeix

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Very interesting to read your story here, goes to show how timeless certain principles are. Also shows how Fastlane can be achieved by virtually anyone, regardless of their nationality or place they start their business.
As long as you know what you're doing, learning from mistakes and repeating good practice, then success will come.

It's also a breath of fresh air in the sense that, you've actually built your business on something which you are passionate about. Usually, "follow your passion" or "do what you love" is bad advice, since you're just acting on what you want, not what others need.

But you've made me realize that the two can be actually be linked. Since you were passionate about card games, you were more in tune to the pain points of that niche, which could be used for your own advantage.

Thanks for posting @Jeix!
Thank you!
From what I believe, we are the best people at understanding our own needs. Out there, there are other people who are similar to us and have similar needs to ours.
Therefore, if you provide a way to satisfy a need you have yourself, you will in the process satisfy those of others similar to you.
In addition, competence can stem from passion. I know a lot about the industry I work in because I've been the consumer in it for years. I'm turning those years of fun into experience that can help me jumpstart this venture, they weren't wasted.
Had I instead chosen a different path I knew nothing about things would be 100 times harder.
In my opinion, making the best out of your situation is often the path to victory, like in card games.
Following the latest trend (dropshipping, SMMA, copywriting etc.) when you know nothing about them and have never been interested in them before sounds like a losing battle.
I tried coding too in the past, I hated it. There was no way I was going to do it for a living.
There's people making money in a million different fields, we must not forget that the stuff that gets peddled as "smart" or "new age" isn't everything.
 

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Amazing to see your story! Well done! Expand to D&D, Pathfinder, and Vampire ASAP. The community is huge and it is not unusual for a D&D fan to be a Magic the Gathering or Anime fan. So if you organize events at your shop for free you will have a lot of people at your store.
The store is very small, it can only host 16 people for now. But I'm definitely into event management so I'll find a way to host them in other, bigger and better locations if possible!
 

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June update

Not a lot of news this time, the store is finally settling now that we have access to 6 months of data. Communities for the different games are forming and come regularly every week, sometimes even twice. We average €7k/month in revenue, break-even point is around €5k assuming a 20% margin but we often have a bigger margin than that, meaning we are saving up 2-3k every month.
We are falling into a routine and saving up money for future projects. If we can replicate this success on a bigger scale with more stores, we can definitely get somewhere.

We recently learned of a way to pay less tax on buying and selling used products (like single trading cards) that we didn't know before. This will prove useful starting next year, since we are also planning on changing company structure to something that suits our field better. When we started, we chose the most serious form of company we could choose thinking it wouldn't lack anything we might need. Unfortunately, that came with a lot of accounting expenses and safety features that a small store can do without. We'll always have time in the future to upgrade again but we'll save a lot of money in accounting expenses until then, along with lots of freedom when trading products for cards and such.

A few things we are considering going forward:
1) events are great. Like I said in my previous post, they are a great way to promote our store and make a lot of money all in one. We'll try to lean more on them.
2) the e-commerce side needs to be improved. The web store alone isn't going to cut it, it needs more products, more publicity that doesn't cost us money (like content) and better features than what basic shopify can offer.
3) we are not big enough to promote an affiliate marketing system yet. Out of the few people we were able to sign up, most of them just keep asking for free products and make no sales. The ones that do make sales often come with terrible margins because of fees and shipping. We don't have the volume to offset the small margins yet so we need to rethink this aspect until we do. I'm thinking on pausing the affiliate system until we get supplier status, then we can offer dropshipping supplier services.

My wife just got a new home computer for her work that I can use freely, I'm thinking of video editing to promote the store since I have lots of content ideas related to card games and more spare time now that my partner is picking up the weekday shifts.

Overall, I'm hopeful because the store is already exceeding expectations but our online presence could use some serious work so it's logical to think it will only improve once we start putting in that work.
Our long term goal is still to turn this into a franchising but it's nice to see that one location alone can generate such cash flow, it won't be long til we can start paying back the founders some of the money they put in and we are only at month 7.

On a personal note, I fell out with some people recently. One of them tried to pitch me a pyramid scheme and I felt really offended. Do I really look like a guy that needs that shit? After telling you everything that I've been doing these years you've spent washing dishes? Bah. Another one promised something, then went back on his word and tried to make it sound like he knew what was better for us. What an entitled son of a b. My aunt will never be satisfied with me until she sees her lifelong dream of having me become a cashier so she can gtfo of my life too. My dad's always been there but he could use with fewer comments about how this business isn't 100% mine. Yeah dad, I know. How did you think we were able to get such numbers? I would have burned out a million times by now for a quarter of the pay.

MJ says all the time to run the other way if someone tries to sell you the "retire rich" lifestyle but I don't see anyone like that where I live. It's all people shouting English buzzwords trying to hook as many fools as they can. Dropshipping, real estate, air bnb, financial freedom, AI, trading bot, day trading, the list goes on. All of them have little to no knowledge of what they are talking about and even if they are somewhat successful, it's because they are not doing what they're preaching but rather a normal job.

You want to rent out other people's properties from your laptop in your living room? You better be in your 20s trying to make a quick buck because you can't build anything on that. It's a shitty job you get in your teens or 20s to flex on your buddies but when you enter your 30s you realize that shit is just a job and just like other jobs it will get you nowhere. If you want more you have to get serious. Start by buying an apartment and renting the rooms. Use the cash flow to pay the mortgage. Advertise yourself as the go to brand for student rental rooms. Get credit for another apartment. Sell the old one if it's illiquid. Scale. It will take you 10 years but at least you'll retire at 40 rich instead of in your 70s with a shitty pension that you won't even get in this country because all the young people have fled. Countyr is getting old? Buy a retirement home, run it as a business. Supply and demand.

Alright, rant is over, I'm getting some ice cream.
See you in my next update.
 
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Thanks for this these posts, I find them really useful as I see the thought process of someone who is doing great. Especially the part where you say about your aunt and your dad. I'm a big fan of Schwarzenegger and he always says to never listen to naysayers. His family tried to keep him in Austria in their village. Just imagine the contrast between this universe and the one where he lives in Thal as a pensioner and regretting what he should have done....
 

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I enjoyed reading about your experience starting an LGS store - former Magic player here :p

I'm by no means an expert in this area but I occasionally enjoy watching Youtube videos by Alpha Investments. You should check it out if you have time. He touches on LGSs once in a while. One point he made about the LGS business which caught my attention is that some of the old school independent LGS owners would keep a case or two from each release and not sell it. Over time they would build up a a large stash and the cases would have increased substantially in value. The one or two cases that they saved from each release essentially became their retirement plan when they were ready to retire. Something for you to consider.

I think he also mentioned in one of his videos that the money from hosting events for smaller LGSs was made in food and beverages sold during the event. I have no idea if this is true or not but thought I'd mention it.

Anyway, wishing you the best of luck with your LGS! I'm sure you're helping to create some really fond memories for some kids out there!
 

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If you get your store on a repeatable process, you could create a franchise! Awesome start man :). I’m a Magic The Gathering veteran myself. I’d totally come visit your store one day and play with fellow Fastlaners like yourself.

I know that Magic is still huge especially at the store close to home, they do the commander format every Friday and that brings them in a lot of people and I’m sure sales as well. I know Lord of The Rings pre-release is soon or has started.
 
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Nice! I'm happy for you that it's going well.
I don't live far (Torino), I also had a brick and mortar business, I opened a restaurant 4 months before the pandemic and unfortunately we had to close it last year, so I know it's not easy.

Let me know when you open one in Torino I will come for sure.
 

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I enjoyed reading about your experience starting an LGS store - former Magic player here :p

I'm by no means an expert in this area but I occasionally enjoy watching Youtube videos by Alpha Investments. You should check it out if you have time. He touches on LGSs once in a while. One point he made about the LGS business which caught my attention is that some of the old school independent LGS owners would keep a case or two from each release and not sell it. Over time they would build up a a large stash and the cases would have increased substantially in value. The one or two cases that they saved from each release essentially became their retirement plan when they were ready to retire. Something for you to consider.

I think he also mentioned in one of his videos that the money from hosting events for smaller LGSs was made in food and beverages sold during the event. I have no idea if this is true or not but thought I'd mention it.

Anyway, wishing you the best of luck with your LGS! I'm sure you're helping to create some really fond memories for some kids out there!
Yeah I know the guy but I'm not a huge fan. I think leftover boxes are just a natural consequence of the business you run, some of them can spike but others will just rot there for years. Our supplier used to be a store and now sells those leftovers wholesale for cheap (journey into nyx boxes for €54) because they are very hard to move and don't appreciate, the only good card in there is mana confluence and even that is basically only seen as a 1-of in commander.
The whole saving boxes for retirement is a very slowlane thing, you have no leverage over any of that, they literally sit there for 40 years. You can get more mileage from them by including the packs in some Christmas lottery you run or giving them out as tournament prizes so you covertly sell them for full price. Even better if you give them "included with registration" meaning you are guaranteed to get rid of them at full price and people can't choose store credit over them or other forms of exchange.

Tbh I do buy and hold on cards I think will spike for fun but calling it a retirement plan is a stretch at best. Bought 5 English CP07 Bestiari in 2021 for €33 each, now they are €150 each because of the rise of edison format. Waiting for them to reach CP02 magician of faith status (300+) before I think of selling them since I don't need the money and collector cards in yugioh have always held their value. Again, this is just a personal thing I do for fun, I don't think it's a sustainable job or retirement plan, even if you know what you're doing. You end up spending a lot of today's money on cards, there's never a good time to sell them because they keep going up but they'll never reach a life-changing amount of money unless you sit on them your whole life. And at that point what are you gonna use the money for?

If you get your store on a repeatable process, you could create a franchise! Awesome start man :). I’m a Magic The Gathering veteran myself. I’d totally come visit your store one day and play with fellow Fastlaners like yourself.

I know that Magic is still huge especially at the store close to home, they do the commander format every Friday and that brings them in a lot of people and I’m sure sales as well. I know Lord of The Rings pre-release is soon or has started.
Magic started out slow but now it's roaring, we had to add another opening night just for that (Wednesday night, we used to be closed).
We had some shipping issues with suppliers and missed the LOTR prerelease, I'm still mad about it, the stuff gets here on Tuesday :(
The store can only house 16 players so there's definitely a limit here. We are thinking of extra rooms just for tables or an improved online presence. My issue with online is that margins are a lot lower and I think we're better off franchising so we can sell more products at high margin. It obviously takes more effort to franchise than to pay for google ads but the potential payoff is a lot bigger.
 
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Jeix

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July update

The store has grown quite a bit! We have a full house for one of our TCGs now, sometimes as often as 3 times a week. The other two TCGs are still growing, we expect them to pick up pace starting in September; the competitive season is ending now and stops for August. We got permission from the manufacturers to host official tournaments so we are looking to make use of that as soon as the season reopens.
The store has made €7k consistently since it opened. The big change now is that we are achieving those numbers through normal day to day activities, whereas before we would need to rely on a big event or a big release. Those just add to the pile now.

I personally think the location we have has a €~10k monthly cap simply due to the limited number of people we can host. Our monthly overheads are around €1.2k but we can lower them to less than 1k by choosing a different company structure and tax position next year, which I'm not sure we'll do because we've been thinking about franchising and our current structure would be better suited for that.

I'm basically putting together everything I've learned over the years into this. I was thinking of copying the number one bookstore chain in the country and figure out some sort of program that allows my affiliates to receive goods in consignment, giving me an edge on competing chains (there aren't a lot of them anyway).
We'll need software for that but I've got a friend of mine who's covering it. He's a developer for a living and was looking for ways to escape the rat race. We thought about joining forces. He can develop the software for me and sell it to me as a SaaS, making passive income with only a little bit of maintenance work needed. In exchange, I'll push the software to everyone who joins my chain. He gets a scaleable opportunity and I get the software I need to scale my store at very little cost (much cheaper than if I had to buy it and maintain/update it myself). On top of that, he already made a management software in the past as a fun project to test himself that he can easily recycle and code on top of, in a way "recycling" those working hours into what I need.

A strong software is a key selling point for a chain in my opinion. People pay for convenience, just like when you choose to eat out rather than cook yourself. The goal is to be able to manage complex logistics with ease, always keeping the customer's convenience in mind. To cover the costs, we could, for example, charge affiliates an annual fee for the software to pay my friend and keep the difference. Food for thought.

On a personal note, I'm still making around €2k/mo on the side thanks to the content hustle I started 5 years ago. It's extremely passive, I only post once a month at this point. I believe I can make even more if I put a bit of effort in advertising, like schedule a bunch of stuff I've made in the past on social media. I'm using this money to fund my lifestyle, pay the bills and save in case my family or the store needs it.

I figured I should accompany each update with a card I like, just for fun. Today's card is Dark Confidant. Its flavor text reads: "Greatness, at any cost."

05cf51d8-9f91-42ff-99e9-4397f2251c20.jpg
 

Andy Black

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I only just discovered this thread. It's so different from anything I do that it's fascinating, and you write well too.

I started collecting interesting quotes from your posts as I went:

Thanks to my experience with these events, I found ways to improve them by implementing digital shortcuts for registrations, pairings and decklist submissions. It was a success, everything went very smoothly and players liked it.
Sounds like events might be what your business is about?

1) events are great. Like I said in my previous post, they are a great way to promote our store and make a lot of money all in one. We'll try to lean more on them.
Could you host them online somehow, or maybe stream the games for others to watch? Could you grow a YouTube channel of event gameplay and commentary?

I'm thinking of video editing to promote the store
Aha. See previous comment. Create short videos out of the longer videos and post to all the short form platforms?

I'm by no means an expert in this area but I occasionally enjoy watching Youtube videos
Interesting unprompted market feedback already.

I'm still making around €2k/mo on the side thanks to the content hustle I started 5 years ago. It's extremely passive, I only post once a month at this point. I believe I can make even more if I put a bit of effort in advertising, like schedule a bunch of stuff I've made in the past on social media. I'm using this money to fund my lifestyle, pay the bills and save in case my family or the store needs it.
Oh wow. So you already know about content marketing? Can you apply that to the events and your online and offline store?
 

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I went back to the start of the thread and then read this:

At one point I was banned from youtube and lost the over 10,000 subscribers I had struggled so hard to build.

Blimey. Good work on the 10,000+ YouTube subscribers.

Could you stack your experience with your current business on top of your YouTube skills and build your high ground?
 
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Jeix

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Sounds like events might be what your business is about?
Could you host them online somehow, or maybe stream the games for others to watch? Could you grow a YouTube channel of event gameplay and commentary?
Aha. See previous comment. Create short videos out of the longer videos and post to all the short form platforms?
Thank you for the kind words!
Events are definitely a big way to promote the store and make a lot of money in a single day.
However, the IP of the games isn't ours and if we want to be official stores there's policies to follow. Unfortunately at this time tournaments can't be played online using official platforms and we can't promote unofficial ones. Fortunately, we don't need to because it's better publicity for us to host everything IRL, since it's also a great way to move products. The captive market also helps profits.

IRL tournament video reports, on the other hand, is something that I'd very much like to do.
In general, everything you said can be done, my only issue currently is being spread too thinly across a lot of stuff to do. Me and one of my partners are working full time on this, the other two are just helpers who pitch in once or twice a week or do chores like cleaning the store. All the important decisions are up to the two of us. We are trying a new setup starting in September where I work in the morning and do the entire administrative side, anything that requires a computer and concentration. In the afternoon, my partner opens the store to the customers. He's better than me at customer relations and both aspects are needed. I tried doing the former with the store open but there's a lot of distractions, I think it will work better if it's done this way, so we are testing it.

I've made a few videos for the store already, so far the ones that have performed the best are informative ones like information on upcoming releases, reviewing products, "how to" videos or storytelling on the lore of the games and of each release. I'd love to do comedy as well but it's too much right now, I'm always keeping it in my ideas folder though, same goes for short form, it's a lot of editing work but I know we'll have to do it eventually.
Oh wow. So you already know about content marketing? Can you apply that to the events and your online and offline store?
I can't call myself an expert in content marketing because the two fields are light years apart but there's definitely lessons I've learned that I was able to reapply.
For example, an important lesson is the one on early adopters. When you start anything, it's unlikely you'll find people who want to use what you've made until there's already others doing it. People would ask if we had players for a card game and we tried to have them join our whatsapp group to reach critical mass needed to get events going. Most would decline because they wanted there to already be a community. We had to look for early adopters, people who didn't mind joining and waiting, being part of the building process. Over time, the number of early adopters would turn into social proof needed to get the others to join, and that's basically how everything works, from businesses to fame to cults to communities and so on.
This knowledge is important because it reminds you that if you want to start something important (like a franchise), you'll have to take into account that going from 0 to 1 adopter will be the hardest task. Your offer being good or bad is always subjective but the number of people who already joined isn't, and that's often all you need to convince others: social proof. I know terrible franchises with tens of franchisees because they enjoy their status as an established business and their social proof.
 

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Hey all, how are you?
I skipped some months because there wasn't much to talk about, just everyday business.
We celebrated our first 12 months on Nov 19th, having made sales for about €80,000. That's a lot more than we were expecting! We've been investing most of that throughout the year so no significant profit just yet, I'd say we have the same money in the bank as we had at the start but a lot more products in stock, so total net worth is up.

The first year felt like acting on trial and error as we couldn't base our decisions on data and were mostly just trying things out.

Here's what we learned:
- most of your business comes from repeat in-person store customers;
- selling online is good but it takes a lot of man hours and you always have to watch your margins after taking advertising into account;

Here's our next steps:
- hire our first employee part-time to help with our online sales, as we branched out into individual cards and while very profitable it takes a long time to stuff 10+ envelopes every day (and it will only get busier);
- with their help, boost our online store for sealed products & dedicate more time in sourcing better/cheaper suppliers;
- build a stronger community for both MtG and Pokemon TCG. Yugioh is booming and it's always a full house already;
- make a small renovation job to the store to increase our seating from 16 to 24 people;
- (late 2024) have my friend develop the software we'll need for franchising, as we set up the logistics needed to make use of it throughout the year.

On a personal note, in 2024 I'm looking to work a bit more actively on my content so that I can always rely on the money it brings in, as well as shift my job at the store to a more manager-like position, dealing with the B2B side of things and the online, only serving customers 2 days a week. My wife's job is going great too so we have good money to take care of the house.

Today's card is Tireless Tracker, one of my all-time favorites!
SmartSelect_20231208-062021_Chrome.jpg
 
G

Guest050x2

Guest
Hey all, how are you?
I skipped some months because there wasn't much to talk about, just everyday business.
We celebrated our first 12 months on Nov 19th, having made sales for about €80,000. That's a lot more than we were expecting! We've been investing most of that throughout the year so no significant profit just yet, I'd say we have the same money in the bank as we had at the start but a lot more products in stock, so total net worth is up.

The first year felt like acting on trial and error as we couldn't base our decisions on data and were mostly just trying things out.

Here's what we learned:
- most of your business comes from repeat in-person store customers;
- selling online is good but it takes a lot of man hours and you always have to watch your margins after taking advertising into account;

Here's our next steps:
- hire our first employee part-time to help with our online sales, as we branched out into individual cards and while very profitable it takes a long time to stuff 10+ envelopes every day (and it will only get busier);
- with their help, boost our online store for sealed products & dedicate more time in sourcing better/cheaper suppliers;
- build a stronger community for both MtG and Pokemon TCG. Yugioh is booming and it's always a full house already;
- make a small renovation job to the store to increase our seating from 16 to 24 people;
- (late 2024) have my friend develop the software we'll need for franchising, as we set up the logistics needed to make use of it throughout the year.

On a personal note, in 2024 I'm looking to work a bit more actively on my content so that I can always rely on the money it brings in, as well as shift my job at the store to a more manager-like position, dealing with the B2B side of things and the online, only serving customers 2 days a week. My wife's job is going great too so we have good money to take care of the house.

Today's card is Tireless Tracker, one of my all-time favorites!
View attachment 52854
Great to see you're doing well, and kudos on the success so far. Keep it up.

I may have to have you start hoarding some of the cards I still collect. I'm up to 40k copies of Nantuko Shade, and about 100k copies of Alakazam.

Cheers.
 
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Jeix

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Howdy! It's been a while!
We've been smashing it the last couple of months, our revenues hit €10k in February, €12k in March, €14k in April and around €15k in May.
While I'd like to think we are absolute geniuses, the answer is more nuanced. It's true we've been working smarter & harder by optimizing our day-by-day, the way we handle the most common scenarios, our online sales, preorders and inventory but we cannot understate the fact that a lot of brands we deal are releasing great products around the same time, resulting in higher sales for us, providing we were diligent with our preorders and presales.

Here's a few lessons learned:
1) The big brands we deal (such as Mtg or Pokemon) are billion dollar businesses that research and employ strategies much more efficiently than what we ever could devise on our own. Working with these brands means balancing how much of each product you are going to stock by predicting what products the brands themselves want to push the hardest. This is fairly easy to do since they all work the same way every year. While it's true they release product almost every month, they actually only do that to stay relevant in the news and maintain player retention. They don't expect every single product to be a hit because they understand there's a finite amount of money their customers can spend each month or year and that it's a waste for every release to be a banger because their users will be broke following the previous banger release. In truth, they only make one banger release each year. Then they make a few interesting releases here and there, usually around Christmas or in the spring and everything else in between is kind of forgettable in comparison (not useless, mind you, we still sell it well enough, just not as much as the banger release and therefore it must be bought in different quantities). This is a common misconception in the industry: players want banger product ALL the time but they don't understand that they won't be able to afford it if it were to actually be made. The brands understand because they employ hundreds of talented people for market research. In our industry, shitty products need to exist to keep the brand relevant and to allow customers to save up more money in preparation for the next banger release. It would be a waste to release something when your customers' pockets are empty, no matter how good that something is, and it would also be a waste not to release anything if there's some value to be captured.
Understanding these trends allows us to know ahead of time which product to heavily invest on and which to avoid. The metagame also drives sales, if a card(s) is required to play tournaments, the set in which it comes out is significantly more valuable (though this depends on the brand we are talking about and other factors that would take too long to explain).

2) Market prices are everything. Have you heard of MSRP? Well, forget it. In our industry, the free market absolutely RULES. The manufacturer might suggest a price for you but the actual price will be found online on various niche marketplaces that vendors and customers in our industry use. If you stray from that price, you won't sell. If you stick to it, you'll sell a ton. I wasted a whole year trying to copy the prices of one of biggest Italian stores only to sell jack. Then I found the open market, copied the prices, accepted a lower profit margin and started selling like crazy. The amount I sell now offsets the lower margin, granting me more profit (overall), more reviews (which turns into more consumer confidence), more sales and so on. However, it's not always that easy because the free market has a tendency to backfire. We recently dealt some DragonBall TCG product that went from €160 a box to €65 in literally less than a month. We paid ~€61 for each so we couldn't afford to sell them for €65. Luckily we were fast (preordered all the way back in February) and managed to go sold out when the price was still around €110, selling the last few for ~€85-90. Everyone and their mom who jumped in hoping to sell for 160 something they could buy for 60 who wasn't fast enough got the short end of the stick. Their only hope now is to wait and see if it goes up again years after it's out of print, a gamble that a store like ours that needs to pay rent every month absolutely doesn't want to take. Best to go sold out when demand is high and move on to the next product, letting the scalpers fight over scraps than to hold on to a bunch of stuff that you don't know if it will get reprinted and crash in value.

3) Sell the cardboard! Every individual card is a piece of intellectual property held by the brand that made it. A card that's sought after rises in price. When the card is reprinted, the set sells because customers want the card. After that, the demand is sated and the card price goes dormant for a while until too long passes since the last reprint and the card picks up in price again (unless it's no longer sought after by players, in which case it stays trash forever). Each card is like a bank for the brand that made it. It accrues interest the longer it goes without a reprint, then they break the piggy bank by reprinting it once it's time to harvest that value, then wait for it to pick up again. It would be a waste to include only banger reprints in your set because only a select few are needed to ensure the set meets their sale quota, everything else should be set aside as bait to sell the next product. Sounds evil? It's unfortunately just common sense. Unless you are really passionate about a game piece, you need to understand that it will always tend to go down in value over time and that it's therefore best sold while the price is high. There's so few exceptions to this rule that it's not worth the risk hoping the one you are holding is the one, just sell it and move on. Keep it only if you really need it. If you are store, sell everything. Same principle applies as my previous point, the best price ensures the fastest sale, which is why we buy cards at a discount from customers, usually a fraction of the lowest available offer online, since we are looking to list ours as the lowest offer and sell it the fastest. Got rent to pay.

3) How do you gain a competitive advantage? Because the product we sell isn't ours, we have no way of improving it. Anybody can sell the same product to be at the same level as us. How do we gain an advantage from that? A better service helps but unless you are offering free shipping (which is not sustainable if you want to stick to market prices) there isn't much more you can do. Cheaper suppliers are a better solution since it's unlikely some rando online will have access to prices you only get after being loyal to a supplier for years. Other options are more unconvential. For example, there's a lot of stores in our area that sell school and office supplies and such and often carry pokemon product. I've spoken to a few of them and they'd be open to have us source the product for them if they could sell it in consignment, meaning they pay only after it's been sold. If we combine this with our market knowledge, we'll be able to supply them with the right product each time and avoid the bad. An ideal candidate for this would be product we would have bought a lot of anyway and so sought after it only goes up in price once its print run is over (this kind of product usually happens once a year). Supplying stores across a whole town and then expanding to other towns sounds like a competitive advantage worth having and one that would make you stand out from the pack.

The business has different facets and each has different customers. Our store customers can be charged a bit higher and want a space to play and have fun. Our online customers want a fast, efficient service, the best prices on the market and a large selection. People that buy singles want largely the same, minus the stock. If we move into supplying stores, it will be another balancing act in knowing how much to source or what. Ideally, in the future we could even supply dropshippers or other businesses not limited to our area. We'll see.

It's been a blast. We are renting extra warehouse space because our basement got flooded and we need room to stock products if we want to grow. Whenever you start something, you need to give it at least 2 years before it starts to bear fruit. My goal is to give it 5 years and see that it's big enough to outsource work to employees or to sell it, we'll see, plenty more to learn.

Today's card is actually just a picture of my cats! Until next time!

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