Dan from Bellaire, Ohio writes:
I run a cool and very unique business, the ONLY LEGO based museum in the world.
But I have put it all on my credit cards and cashed in my 401k (which looks like a damn good idea due to the current state of the stock market!!!)
But I keep running out of cash due to my collection growing in leaps and bounds.
I want to keep investing the business, but it looks like I will be forced to begin selling assets unless I can get some kind of investment in the business.
NEED HELP...never done anything like this before, I am a damn good LEGO builder, and idea person, but very horrible at paperwork and business plans/investment!!!
RICH: You need to hire a part-time bookkeeper. Until you track your income and expenses you are still going to have a problem. And without a grasp on how the business is doing, who would want to invest? First goal, hire the bookkeeper.
You said that you invested over $150,000 in inventory. Was this to sell or build into models? And if you spent that much with LEGO, can't you become an authorized retailer of LEGO products? This would help your name association with LEGO. I know LEGO is protective of their trademark, but you should be able to use the phrase "Toy And Plastic Brick Museum featuring LEGO brand products exclusively."
As for your website/blog/store, get a local college student to help you, advertise in Craigslist.
Low cost marketing idea. Load up some of your more popular models and take them to malls, festivals and fairs in a 100 mile radius of your museum. Display your models and answer questions. Some malls will even pay you to exhibit to bring in more customers (they will also advertise your appearance). Print up coupons for $1 off museum admission and give to everyone you meet. Make sure you put the web address of your web store on the coupons.
Offer a birthday service where you go to a party with packs of LEGOs and each kid gets a pack. You show the kids how to build models and each kid goes home with a 'new' model and the LEGO pack.
Send out free press releases about your latest model. You made a giant Homer Simpson out of LEGOs? Send out a press release. Here is a list of free press release distributors (not all in US)
Since you don't have a lot of money, you will need to bootstrap. Use barter instead of cash and use free whenever possible.
Photo by danzo08.