I've decided to make these updates a little more personal so that people can see what it's been like for us as a small business.
Around May 1, 2010, we began advertising products on Amazon and Craig's List to gauge appeal. Unfortunately, we had to list items which were not to be our premier product (20 Watt Solar Kit) because the manufacturer we ordered parts from in March, and to this day, have yet to deliver anything. The parts are by no means critical but we certainly couldn't sell merchandise haphazardly. So after waiting almost a month for one local company to deliver hardware they advertised as "in stock" but wasn't, we also ended up waiting on an international company for what will probably be two months for a few parts. I think that with so many manufacturers and suppliers of USB Adapters and other electronics, we're going to look for another company to supply those parts.
Now, back to Amazon and Craig's List. In the D.C. Metro area, ads only stay up for 7 days. Not bad and although we did not get any inquiries, it was okay. Amazon? The problem is that Amazon is saturated with similar products that are dissimilar to ours and customers may only look at cost when purchasing solar panels. Though, for novices, they purchase these solar panels, which are far less efficient than more expensive models (but look similar) and expect to connect them directly to batteries to use them. This is a primary misuse of solar panels and if it charges batteries, it is only by luck. If it destroys them or shortens a battery's life, it would be expected.
So, about a week later, we advertised in Craig's List San Diego. I've been wary of Craig's List for many reasons, particularly the amount of fraud that takes place. A day or so later, one of our advertisements was removed not by the List, but by a random user flagging it as inappropriate. For a Solar Charge Controller.
I decided to remove the other advertisement for our 17 Volt Solar Panels after reading through the forums and discovering very hostile, racist, demeaning comments from anonymous users. I doubt Craig's List will be used seriously in the near future since many of their forums are akin to a cesspool of trash. You can't really blame the service for unmoderated forums and it is necessary to choose wisely when determining who and what you want your business to be associated with.
So, I tried Kickstarter to pitch our plan to "save the world" using solar energy (really). Kickstarter promotes the idea of "crowdfundng" where strangers donate money to your organization to help move it along if they believe your idea is good. Our idea was deemed interesting but not interesting enough by the people who run the service since we got a rejection notice a few hours later. Funding someone's next CD or pastries is more interesting than designing solar kits to use when someone is left without electricity, apparently. Oh well, moving on.
In a strange turn of events, our Amazon listings may be taken off because although I've loved the service and company for the past decade, as a merchant, paying at least $40.00 a month in addition to fees for each item sold is not reasonable for us when we're trying to approach solar energy from a different perspective, to those who are unfamiliar with it. We will probably focus advertising locally from now on and our online store instead of advertising in multiple places.
Though, because we were not able to sell our 20 Watt Solar Kit by March, it allowed for many changes to be made, especially to documentation. At the time this was written, the new version of our product manuals will not have been uploaded. It's interesting trying to write to create a balance between those who understand solar, those who think they understand solar and those who know what it is capable of while ensuring not to alienate those who use it or are in the photovoltaic field regularly. I know that people say "you can't please everyone," but that doesn't mean we can't try.
I've set a deadline by the end of this year. Our goal is to significantly expand the use and understanding of solar and LED technology by the end of 2010. We hope to make it mainstream locally, nationally and eventually globally. Ideally, we will use solar technology very rapidly to renovate crappy looking-and-kept buildings and give people, homeless and not, a better life. The status quo must change and we want to give solar a final push to see if it can be taken seriously as a viable form of energy.
The G Man