Show Me the Nerdy!

First Crude Taste of Business Management

I was 17 years old, a (relatively) young sophomore in a university who developed a fascination for cheap film cameras. Photos shot with toy cameras can give happy accidents–wild colors, vignettes, flares, or maybe a double exposure. Lomography, the label for taking “casual, snapshot photography.”

A couple of google searches later, I found LomoManila, Philippines’ very own community for lomographers. Despite the then plain interface, I was riveted. The forum was a rich source for everything lomography–from types of lomos, quick fixes, places to get film developed, to buying and selling of analog goodies! Filipinos in LomoManila were extremely helpful, which tempted me to join in the conversation.

Got Lucky? Photo by jillnotchill using Lucky film

Got Lucky? Photo by jillnotchill using Lucky film

Some months in the lomography phase, I stumbled upon a dealer of cheap Lucky film. At that time, Filipino lomographers were raving about how nice and cheap Lucky film was. Out of whim, I decided to sell some at LomoManila.

As the naïve new social media kid, I was fueled by the promise of extra pocket money. Online retail shops were booming then, virtually every Filipino on Multiply had a contact or two who sold clothes, make-up, or gadgets. Obviously, I joined the bandwagon.

With the simplistic sales strategy of “get these lomographers to notice and buy my cheap film,” Got Lucky? was born. I did the following things:

1. Filled Got Lucky with basic information:

  • I whipped up a Terms and Conditions page, so my buyers and I would have clear expectations about our business relationship.
  • I stated clearly how the shipping and payment of Lucky film purchases will work. I wanted to avoid meet-ups (for my safety, of course–I was 17 years old!), and odd perceptions that I’ll send film packages to my customer’s home without extra costs.
  • Also, I created an order form so I can keep track of orders better, in the happy event that customers will flood me with Lucky film orders.

2. Placed sample Lucky shots:
At the time, my idea of advertising then was to simply show the kinds of photos people can have with Lucky film. So I took some nice shots from the Flickr Lucky pool (with credit, of course!), and posted them as one advertisement album.

Some hours later, I figured I can take Lucky photos shot by Pinoy lomographers. When I asked permission from them, not only was I being a respectful person, but also a clever sales girl! I honestly thought I was clever; that the Pinoy lomographers were going to find out about my “business” without me having to tell them “Buy from me, please!”

3. Contacted possible buyers
Even if I was still a minor, I did know that I didn’t just want anybody to be my contact. I added up contacts who were interested in lomography. So I sifted through the entire member database of LomoManila, and added those people to Got Lucky. Also, I looked at a competitor’s contact database (hey, such information is easily available on Multiply if you’re contacts!), checked the people, and added those who seemed like they were in the Philippines, and are into lomography.

I admit, my secondary tactic of browsing my competitor’s contact database may be unethical–I swear to do no such thing when I enter the corporate world! :\ To be fair, the competitor wasn’t really a competitor since he wasn’t selling Lucky film, but other brands! But yes, it’s still the same “industry.” Boo.

4. Posted a feedback section
As an afterthought, I created a feedback page in Got Lucky. I was slightly worried people wouldn’t buy from me since my mechanism was pretty risky for buyers–send money in my bank account first, then I’ll send you your films. How much can anyone trust a seller who didn’t want to meet up? I probably wouldn’t have bought from such a seller!

5. Advertised in the LomoManila Buy and Sell forum
I redirect lomographers to Got Lucky, but I was easily contacted through my own “Lucky film for sale” thread in LomoManila. I knew that many lomographers would rather browse threads in LomoManila, than go to another web site.

The thread was pretty straightforward: place sample shots, price, shipping and payment details, and wait for buyers. Because of the thread, people were able to contact me easily, and I got instant feedback from satisfied buyers. Back then, LomoManila didn’t have a solid feedback rating system–people mostly relied on content from discussion threads to gauge the credibility of sellers.

So, after some simple tactics:

  • I wasn’t robbed of any money or film;
  • I had customers who wanted cheaper films;
  • I acquired recurring customers; and
  • I earned extra money!

The lomography interest died down some months after, and so did the film selling. I had no business expansion or improvement plans, no measures for success, and little interest in sustaining a whim.

While I did earn enough to make me temporarily happy, a little more Organizational Communication sensibility could have made my short-lived business better. I could have:

1. Customized Got Lucky
Sure, I added decent content (in words and pictures), but the web site used a basic template that didn’t even hint at the business’ being lucky!  I know a bit about creating designs, and putting a simple layout together, but I never tried with Got Lucky. Since my customers were mostly artsy Filipinos, I could have at least appealed to their need for beautiful visuals. Should I have customized Got Lucky, the overall impression of my business would be more enticing.

2. Engaged customers
Instead of just the generic term “feedback,” I could have actually asked my customers what they like about Lucky, swapped (or gave) tips on lomography, among other interesting conversations. I could have known my customers well enough to endear my business more to their hearts.

3. Optimized Got Lucky’s content
If I had done some search engine optimization (SEO), searching terms related to buying Lucky film would make Got Lucky appear somewhere in the front page. Saying it now makes it seem easy, but even if writing SEO content would take a bit of work, getting to the first search results page would really bring in the money. After all, people tend to click search results from the first page, and dismiss links that show in later pages.

Despite my shortcomings, I think I still got lucky. I had a good reputation built from virtually nothing. I wasn’t an active poster–in my LomoManila profile, I just had a link to my multiply site to prove I was a real person.

I don’t expect to be as lucky the next time I set up a (bigger, bolder, and better) business. To be prepared, I’m totally absorbing more organizational communication skills everyday.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I only have two things to point out.

1) Passion can really be transformed to profit
2) We have should haves, could haves, and would haves… it’s not really a good feeling but we learn from them

Kudos to this post. Quite inspiring for those who want to be plucked from obscurity via the Internet. 🙂

Comment by thisiscielo

I remember the days.. I didn’t really understand your ‘passion’ for cameras. Well, the fact that you closed your business meant that you were never that passionate about it to begin with! >:P

Comment by arvinrazon

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