Saturday, June 8, 2013

Count Your Beans: Successful Autistic Owned Company

This blog post represents the first of a series of profiles of successful autistic-owned companies.  The purpose of the series to give hope, inspiration, and practical tips to current and aspiring autistic entrepreneurs.  In addition, the goal is to help autistic entrepreneurs find the kind of business ideas that play to our intellectual strengths and make allowances for our social weaknesses.

Count Your Beans is an example of a successful on-line business owned and run by an autistic entrepreneur.  The founder and co-owner, Karen Krejcha, was diagnosed with autism after her son was found to be autistic.  Ms. Krejcha runs the company along with her husband Chris.  This company sells collectible dolls and bears online with a focus on the Marie Osmond doll line.

I think the company is successful for a number of reasons:

1.  They focus on a specific and well-defined niche.  Thus, rather than trying to sell every type of collectible doll available, they specialize primarily in the Marie Osmond doll line.  This niche focus allows them to maintain relationships with the sales people for Marie Osmond, minimize the size of their inventory, and gain traction among their customers who identify them with a particular well-known brand.

2.  The on-line format allows them to interact with customers via phone and email, thus avoiding the confusion caused by inability to read non-verbal social cues in face to face interaction.

3. They provide constantly updated product news for the Marie Osmond doll line.

4.  Their payment, customer service, shipping and return policies are spelled out very clearly and explicitly in order to avoid any confusion in this area.   Problems in this areas are a common source of customer dissatisfaction, and so they must be addressed properly to avoid problems where possible and to solve them quickly when they do arise.  

5.  Their information section for each product is extremely clear and detailed.  The product name is included  along with a detailed item description, picture, size, price, discounts, the release date, and the item number. Thus, the customer knows exactly what she is ordering when she places an order.

6. The copy for each item is cleverly written, interesting, and designed to keep customer interest.  For instance, the Adora Belle Cowardly Lion from Marie Osmond's new The Wizard of Oz collection #040110153 "will be a great addition to your home. This porcelain cutie is dressed in a Cowardly Lion outfit complete with a badge of courage, furry lion body, mane and tail. Includes The Wizard of Oz Story Book Box."  The copy explains what customer problem the item is designed to solve: providing decoration and art to the home.  In addition, the product's physical attributes product are described in detail.  

7.  Their web page is properly designed to be easy on the eyes.  Thus, each page contains only a small number of items and is not cluttered with too many items.

8.  The inventory is kept constantly updated so that customers know when an item is out of stock or has reached a low level.   This information allows customers to make more informed purchase decisions and avoids the frustration that can arise when a customer orders an item and it is found to be unavailable.

9.  They sell a small portion of their inventory on eBay and Amazon, thus allowing them to reach more retail channels for their products.

10.  They try to entice more customer spending through a customer loyalty program called Bonus Beans.  And normally Bonus Beans expire one year after they have been obtained, thus requiring the customer to spend them withing one year.

11. They have always donated a portion of their earnings to charity, and now they have founded their own non-profit organization called Autism Empowerment.

Thus, the keys to success for an autistic-owned on-line business include serving a well-defined niche, providing clear customer service policies, offering detailed product descriptions, and maintaining constant inventory updates.  The on-line business format plays to the autistic entreprenuer's strengths because it allows to memorize our inventory and eliminates the confusion caused by misread social cues in face to face interactions.  

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