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The Youth Cartel

Running an Online Store: A Family Business

The Fiscal Cliff Sale

We’ve got a little sale going at The Youth Cartel store, having fun with this fiscal cliff silliness in the news. If you’ve seen stuff that we’re doing and wanted to check it out, this is a great time to do that while saving a little money. Discounts start when you buy $20 in stuff. And the discounts get better with the more you spend. Pretty simple and fun. 

Running an Online Store

I started the Cartel store a little over a year ago and it’s steadily grown. At first we had spurts of orders, like when a new product released or something like that. We’d have 20 in one day and then none for several days. Now we get 5-15 orders per day during the week and 1-2 on weekends. It’s not a lot but it is a part of every day. With our publishing line growing in 2013 I expect we’ll see that double again.

Literally, when you place an order, the McLane family takes it from there. (It doesn’t go to some third-party company to get packed up by people in a warehouse. We’re a family business.)

I print the order, one of the kids goes to the hallway closet, finds the books, and packs the order. They bring it back, I weigh it, and print out the postage label. Each day I either schedule a USPS pick-up or I drive the days orders over to the post office. Sometimes I make a morning and afternoon run to the post office.

On top of that, we keep the books on the store, manage the inventory, purchase shipping supplies, and we’ve develop relationships with our various suppliers.

The Kids are Learning

My goal is always that the kids will eventually fully run the store. It’s well within their capabilities to pack and ship orders. (And at $.50 per box it’s a nice steady stream of income.)

This week, I added to Megan’s duties as she’s now in charge of keeping inventory, updating a Google Docs spreadsheet, and alerting me of things which are low so I can re-order them. She gets it. Supply & demand. She pointed out that we need this sale to work well because we have too much of some books.

Next, they will learn how to weigh packages and print shipping labels. And after that I will teach them how to re-order shipping stuff themselves.

Here’s the thing: They do a great job. I consistently get good feedback on our orders. And people love getting the little toys/treats Megan and Paul stuff in the boxes. And they really like contributing to the family business. It’s fun for them.

It cracks me up a little when people quip about child labor laws and all that stuff. (We’re totally legal, by the way.) To me? It’s the other kids that are missing out. We’re having a blast with it and I love seeing the business grow with their capabilities. Heck, I’m looking forward to one of them coming up with our next great idea!

Categories
family

We laughed when you were born

In the book of Genesis there are a lot of footnotes about people’s names. Some names refer to a character attribute while others refer to a physical attribute.

If we were to name Paul by such an attribute, one name might be: We laughed when you were born.

9 years ago today, Kristen checked into a hospital in Mt. Clemens (MI) to give birth to our second child. Since Megan was a big baby and her pregnancy with Paul had tracked pretty large all the way along Paul’s delivery was scheduled for induction on his due date. As the day progressed everyone kept bringing up the fact that Paul was a big baby.

When I think back to my son being born I just remember the joy in the room. Obviously, Kristen was very uncomfortable. But thanks to the drugs her pain didn’t sour her mood. Kristen and I were excited to meet Paul and the nurses and doctor picked up on our sense of humor/willingness to laugh. As labor progressed there were a lot of jokes told and laughing. Just like on a middle school camping trip… the mood had become slap happy! At a key time, just moments before Paul was born, a tiny heart monitor slipped off of his scalp and whacked the doctor right between the eyes! It was so gross, weird, and unexpected that it just sent us all over the edge. The room echoed with laughter as we all giggled at what happened.

And then Paul was born. We smiled, we wiped tears from our eyes, and we all just stared at this beautiful baby. And at 9 pounds 2 ounces— a big baby, too!

Paul turns 9 today. I’m positive he doesn’t want me to dwell on the moment he was born. (“Um, that’s weird dad! And kind of gross if you think about it.“) Yet, that sense of joy and fun that brought Paul into the world continues. Paul loves to have fun. He loves to giggle. He loves to tell jokes. In every way his birth was a precursor to his personality.

The past year has been one of tremendous growth for Paul. He’s overcome a lot of fears and dealt with a lot of things holding him back. I know it’s the right thing to say… “I’m excited for Paul for the next year.” But I really mean it. The past year was one of such tremendous growth and he’s in such a healthy place… his 9th year is set up to be truly fantastic.

So, I can’t wait to celebrate with him this week. On Saturday, we’re hosting a bunch of his friends for an afternoon of Laser Tag and lunch at In-N-Out. Dang, I want to be 9 again!

Categories
family Photo Travel

Back From the Brink

I just turned on my computer for the first time in 7 days. 

It still feels a bit funky. My fingers are stretching to familiar places but typing feels totally odd. Yesterday, I woke up to cuddle a freezing Jackson back to sleep. Today, he woke up in his crib to a warm bowl of oatmeal and a morning full of Curious George & Elmo.

The McLane Family is 500 miles from our little June Lake camp site, 8,600 feet above sea level and a million miles from yesterday.

I spent a week intentionally disconnected from my day-to-day life. I turned off my email, signed out of Facebook, never opened Wunderlist or even had the thought, “I should write that down.” For the first time I can remember I even let the blog go fallow for a week.

It felt good to rest.

When I wrote my last post I was on the brink. I was past tired. I was exhausted. I don’t know what comes after exhaustion but I was pretty much there. It’s not so much that the exhaustion was hurting my work as it was that it was hurting to work. Day-by-day the grind was like a bruise that kept getting punched. Even embracing a more regular Sabbath wasn’t helping. I needed real rest.

After a week of hiking, exploring, playing, laughing, star-gazing, and fishing… I feel better and found rest for the first time in a long time.

It had been a few years since I really shut it down for 6 consecutive days. I don’t know if it’s my insecurity, the desperate feeling we had to turn it around at my old gig, or what… but I do know shutting it down was the right thing and something I need to do more often. (I have 3 weeks of vacation planned for the remainder of 2012.)

Rush-free Play

As we drove home yesterday, Kristen and I kept joking about the fact that we all still liked one another. Camping brought us closer together. As we left June Lake we were all a bit sad it had ended. I think all of us had embraced a little fantasy that it didn’t have to end… that we could just head to the grocery store and restock for another week. (And hit the showers to clean up!)

I think that’s a sign of a good vacation, that you leave wanting a little bit more and having fully entertained the option of never going home.

Each day was filled with a slowventure where we made breakfast together, cleaned up camp, and went somewhere to explore. We had a simple lunch of PB&J or fruit, cheese, and crackers. Somehow we managed to make it home in time to make dinner and have a camp fire before bed. (Did you know marshmallows are a food group while camping? I think each of the kids ate their weight in marshmallow!)

Together, we saw some of Earth’s greatest treasures. Yosemite denies description. Photos cannot capture awe. The giant sequoias, the Valley, the Tunnel View, the Merced River, Tuolumne Meadows, the Tioga Road, even The Mobile… all are happy places.

We spent 2 days not catching a single fish but smiling the whole time. We went up and down mountains. And we played in lots and lots of streams.

I loved watching Megan and Paul get lost in ancient forms of play. They made bow & arrows and pretended to hunt chipmunks. They wandered in the woods collecting stuff. They stared deeply into the starry abyss. They played with fire.

And they were rarely bored.

It’ll probably take me a few weeks to really unpack my vacation. But all I know is that I need more of that more often!