My Product Journey #261

My Product Journey #261

My Product Journey

In Blog 260 I Talked about Favorite “Zalloween Moments”. In this blog I’m going down a whole different direction. I am going to talk about my product journey.


2022 was Quite the year


I must be honest it’s been a tough year for me. So many different emotions involved in my sudden “Semi-Retirement”. I call it “Semi” because I don’t feel I’m done yet. I still have a lot to offer and many years of knowledge to share. I decided I needed to move on from the old format. Let me repeat, I decided I needed to move on from the old format. Key word NEEDED. Plain and simple it wasn’t healthy for me. I’ve been down so many “rabbit holes” this year, Bugs Bunny has nothing on me. So, what do I do? After many months of soul searching (As opposed to “sole searching”) I found I’m passionate about product and figuring out what consumers love to purchase.


Shoe Dog


Of course, it’s not my only passion but we can dive into some of the other ones later. For this blog I want to talk about my product journey. It started with an idea. For years I’ve called myself a “Shoe Dog”. At Nordstrom I can still hear us in the back of the recognition meetings at Nordstrom “Barking” our woof woofs when the shoe division would be announced. And the regional commenting “there are the Shoe dogs barking in the back”. But there were never any t-shirts to go along with that. I thought having a t-shirt with the description from the dictionary would be cool. I invested in a subscription from Canva started working up some designs on my idea. I asked a bunch of people what being a shoe dog meant to them and if I asked a dozen people, I got a dozen different ideas. I even had some conversation on the shoe group in Facebook called “Shoe Dogs United” with the same responses.




So back in August after looking at different options, the easiest to start up was an EBAY store. I had sold and bought things before but nothing serious. I also paid a website developer back in May to make a Soleman Studios website with the idea of merging my blog site and the new retail site together. It was a disaster because of the incompetence of the company I picked. They later were bought by a larger company who is still trying to earn my business. So, I decided to keep the EBAY site with hopes of evolving this site one day. I signed up at Printify so I wouldn’t have to carry inventory as it is a print on demand site. There are a few of them out there but I liked this one the best for what my vision was.


Print on Demand


With a Print on Demand site, you make the designs, set up a website to sell them on like EBAY, ETSY or SHOPIFY and post them after the design is complete. Once a customer buys the item it is sent to the printer (Over a dozen to choose from with many different categories as well) and they ship to the customer. So, you don’t have to hold inventory. The only drawbacks are finding the right printers (Some are better than others) and you don’t have too many choices on the shipper you use. All in all, it’s been a great experience for me.


I have great Friends


I decided to start with EBAY. I designed several t-shirts with shoe themes, coffee mugs, pet items and a few other assorted things. My good friend Pam Tidmore bought the first item, a shoe mug and a few shoe dog tree ornaments for Christmas. She bought them from me so I could see in action how the process worked (It’s nice to have friends support you). I also put-up various items I had that I didn’t use, that I would ship direct to the consumer like shirts and shoes I didn’t wear anymore. After a few weeks I was selling a lot of the used items but hardly any print on demand stuff. Then I finally sold a Shoedog t-shirt. To my friend Eileen. I didn’t coerce this one, she did it on her own to show support. That meant a lot to me as well as what Pam and Jerry did. After the first month which I say really was September I sold 3 items using print on demand for $122 to Pam and Jerry, Eileen and my brother Dave and 11 items that were gently worn for $837. Not bad for my first month. You lose about a third in EBAY fees and shipping which isn’t too far off in running a retail operation, so I was good with that. The hidden costs would be the samples I was ordering which would show up in next month’s accounting bill.




Then I had this idea. I should look into ETSY as my print on demand store and use eBay as the resell store. I planned to keep some items on the EBAY site for print on demand but the focus would be used items going forward. I quickly put together the ETSY shop and made a pretty nice shopping experience. About mid-month I wanted to look into pet T-Shirts mainly because of my dog Teddy. I’ll go more into that in the next blog.


My focus was still shoe dog stuff. My mentor Rob Shields kept giving me a bad time about the description, so I made a second version of the Shoe Dog t-shirt without the description and sold one right away to an independent shoe retailer in Virginia. They were super nice people and a pleasure to work with. My first sale however was to my daughter Jen on a mom shirt. She loved it. For the first month I only sold 6 items and they broke down as the following 3-pint glasses, 2 t-shirts and a coffee mug. 2 items were shoe dog themed and the rest were around dog themes. I decided to take a deep dive in this…


Learning Curve


The first month was a big learning curve. learning about how to position the graphics on the item properly, learning about SEO through countless you tube videos from star seller ETSY shops and much more. This was going to be a slower learning curve than I had hoped but with each passing month I was doubling the previous month so it was all good in my mind. I also found a great graphic designer so I invested in some graphics to use from this artist which was definitely an upgrade. Now the real fun begins which I’ll explain in the next blog

…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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