Tuesday, November 11, 2008

OSC = Oh Shit Commerce

Visions of Dog Bones.
Lots And Lots Of Dog Bones!


After 15 months of contemplating opening a specialty doggie store, I helped pen a 50-page business plan that articulates every nook and cranny of what would set our concept apart from the pack. If you've never penned a business plan, a good one can take weeks to compile. This one would prove no different.

My one-minute "elevator speech" of what "Flying Doggies!" would become may need some polishing because after hearing it some remark - "Oh, a dog store!" I am quick to correct... "Not a dog store - a dog specialty store." It's then I find it a little hard to describe with precision why our store would be different from the others.

One skill I do have with precision is the ability to assume the role of "Crafty Patty," as some call me. Give me some tape and ribbon and I will build your dream. I was able to cleverly bind the business plan ensuring us of not just an approved loan but a teaser rate to boot - and off we went to CHASE to get our SBA loan. "Did you see that clever binder?," they'd say.

The process is quite tedious. There's the pitch. The jazz hands. The forms. The follow-up phone calls. The waiting. The unreturned phone calls yielding deafening silence accompanied by more waiting.

One day Joe received a call and the bank revealed we were "pre-approved for the loan." "Great news!," we thought until literally the same week we learned of something called a credit crunch and the loan - much faster that it took to be approved - was pulled away from us. "You're still approved... just check back with us in November or December."

What would we do? How would the store take shape with no funding?

In Walked "osCommerce"

After discussing the situation with friends - most of which who were small business owners or former owners, I learned I needed to think beyond a brick and mortar store. "The web!," they said. The web would be my silver bullet!

Despite being in the web-building business for eight years, I am not a programmer. I work with programmers, but I don't know how to do their job - I just manage them.

I heard of osCommerce before and quickly became more aware of what it had to offer:

Free? That's awesome! I have no money. Tell me more!

Fully Tested?
Wow - built by programmers? I'm sure they thought of lots of things I could only dream of. And it's free?!

Easy?
Sounds a little too easy, but I'm a blogger now so I can publish a site *and* highlight text. I think I'm qualified. Sign me up!

So there I was - at the fork in the road were credit crunch veered left and money rainbows veered right. I was the newest user of osCommerce and my doggie dreams were just a few clicks and an F5 page refresh away. Or so I thought.

Oh, Shit!

Soon after setting up the main modules of the store, I learned that osCommerce wasn't the next coming. "It's free," my friend Nann said. "You need to be patient. Don't expect too much!"

"In most cases, sex is also free," I thought. I expect lots of things with that, too. Plus, osCommerce had to transform me from middle-aged workaholic into middle-aged millionaire. While I didn't have a career goal - or even a retirement plan - I did have the goal to see money finally flow into my account. I'd soon have my own informercial selling rights to my concept all while me and my dogs took exotic trips, drank fancy wine ("Doghouse" is our favorite) and checked the monthly statement confirming our large automatic transfers from our business checking into our play account.

"osCommerce" is short for "Open Source Commerce," Nann said. "It means that it's free and you can't expect too much."

"I get it," I said. But I need to be able to feature specific products on my home page - not just the last one entered. I need to be able to show multiple products shots - not just one that's sized like all the rest. I need to be able to know what people ordered if they shut down the window on PayPal before returning to my site. I'm aware of the user forum where I can troll for fixes but it's written by developers for developers, which I am not. So while there may be a fix for certain things, the mother code isn't fully functional the way I expect it to be.

Is all that too much to ask for?

The answer hurts. "For free, it is."

In Search Of Good, Free .php Developer

I often look in the mirror and think back... surely me - the guy who builds websites for a living would have a connection or two. A developer who could help take my site to the next level. Make it an overnight eCommerce miracle.

Alas I am not that person.

I do have awesomely great connections yet they are cul-de-sacs when it comes time to whip out some tedious .php code.

So at the top of my list for Santa to bring me in 2009 is a bright, talented and free PhD of the .php. A person who has already accumulated the spiritual or financial wealth s|he needs to live a healthy, happy life.

And me? I'll be the next charity case expecting digital hand-outs. Fast. Free. And flawlessly functional.

I don't sound too demanding, do I?

DO I?!?!

How You Can Help: If you're not a lightening-fast .php Developer, than your choices are clear: Get our your credit cards, visit Flying Doggies! online and buy like the wind! If you don't have a dog, that's OK. Surely you know someone who has a dog... and that someone has a birthday coming up... or there's Christmas 2009 right around the corner! Plus you can tell everyone you know of the store and how hard I've been working to make it an online delight.

Thanks for your support! When I reach my first million, you'll undoubtedly be included in my acceptance speech I make at CHASE.

osCommerce: Please get better for those who need you so badly, like me and all the "Flying Doggies" to be. A little care and feeding will go a long, long way.