Freshly Squeezed Flash: a micro-company

I'd like to share something with you I find both commonplace and entirely amazing. My sister has just launched her own online store and she's already made 200$ in just a few days. Her site is Freshly Squeezed, where she sells all manner of custom flash drives enclosed in rubber ducky keychains, hot wheels cars, and even your favorite PEZ dispenser. She is also doing custom designs on commission. And in classic Maker fashion she has tutorials on how to build your own.

It amazes me that my baby sister (okay, so she's 26 and married, but she'll always be my baby sister :) is an actress and history student, but she has pulled her entire company together by herself with only minimal help from the techno-geeks in her life. She has a website, accepts payments, fulfills both stock and custom orders, and also sells t-shirts. A complete micro-company staffed and assembled entirely by her. And she did it all with less than 100$ of startup capital.

What truly amazes me, though, is that she couldn't have done any of this fifteen years ago but we take this sort of stuff for granted today. The net really is changing the world. 15 years ago you couldn't have done any of the following with a micro-company's micro-budget:

  • A storefront: 15 years ago you had to set up a costly catalog or an even more costly physical storefront. Today websites are effectively free, requiring only the labor to set it up.
  • Accept payments: credit cards are costly to deal with and cash and checks are pretty much unusable for electronic commerce. With PayPal or Etsy you only need a couple of links from your website to get starting accepting payments.
  • Design Marketing Material: Graphic design and printing used to be very expensive. Today she can hire a graphic designer to do a quick logo in an hour for 50$. Then she can build a site using cheap and novice friendly tools like RapidWeaver. (though we could still use a novice friendly tool for basic image manipulation like tasks). She can also print up tshirts and other marketing material on Cafe Press without any setup costs.
  • Advertising: In the age of blogs and AdSense it's easier than ever to get the word out. On the day she launched her site she emailed some of the major gadget blogs. Within a day she was up on Gizmodo, Shiny Shiny, and Digg. It's even been linked by the Austrian (German?) tech site
  • Packaging and Shipping: This was possible 15 years ago but the rise of eBay has made small order shipping a much nicer experience. Rachel can buy special boxes from office depot or the container store, print out labels, then take it straight to USPS where she pays with a credit card and drops it in a box. The entire shipping ecosystem has become very optimized in the age of internet commerce.

I spend my life immersed in technology so it takes a lot to surprise me. I'm used to the idea of online commerce, huge databases in the sky, and shipping a tiny box halfway around the world seems rather commonplace to me. But when I see it out in the general world I'm still shocked. The idea that our geeky technology will have a genuine effect on the lives of the general populace is amazing to me.

The future is wired (and wireless increasingly) and this is when it starts to get interesting. I guess the future of my childhood really is here. (Though I'm still waiting for my flying car and rocketpack!)

Do you have any favorite micro-companies to share?

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Posted May 10th, 2006