Saturday, July 29, 2017

Small Business Spotlight: Cheap Toilet Tank Lids

Today's Small Business Spotlight features one of the most unique & interesting small businesses I have come across so far: Cheap Toilet Tank Lids.

The company is the brainchild of Tom Herbert, who has been running the company since its inception eight years ago. One question I have wondered since hearing about his company was how in the world he came up with such a unique idea.

Tom tells me:

I was working a sales job for a company during the recession. We sold nurse call systems to assisted living facilities, and during this time everyone cut their budget and I had nothing to do, so the owner of the company put me in charge of finding a replacement toilet tank lid when someone broke one in our office. I looked online, found one for $175, and asked him for the credit card to get it ordered. He said that was a ridiculous price and directed me to a local salvage yard where he had seen a bunch of toilets from the street. I went there, found a tank lid that was close enough for $10, and thought everything was done.

Then I sat at my desk and realized maybe there could be an opportunity to make some extra money selling at a lower price online. I built a website, but didn't own any tank lids. All of the companies I saw online listed the item brand and part number, color, and dimensions. I just simply wrote 'Our inventory is constantly changing, so if you need a tank lid please tell us which one, and if we have it, it is yours for $50'. Someone actually contacted me and needed a Briggs 7421, which I didn't know at the time was the most common tank lid. I bought it from the salvage yard for $10, sold it for $50, and instantly had a profitable business on the first sale.

Necessity, meets inventiveness, meets profit.

Tom's background provided all the knowledge he needed for this new endeavour. Everything, that is, except actual knowledge of toilets. He has a degree in engineering, previous web design experience, and recent experience in the sales industry. Now he just needed to teach himself about toilets. And so he did.

For several months Tom continued the way he began, selling tank lids one at a time as requests came in. And then... an unexpected offer. One day a plumber who was preparing to retire contacted Tom and offered him 1,000 tank lids. Tom borrowed some money from his parents, purchased all 1,000 lids and rented a storage unit. He slowly started learning about these products that he now owned. The more he sold, the more he was able to invest back into his business in the form of advertising. The more he advertised, the more people found Cheap Toilet Tank Lids, and the more he sold.

But who exactly is buying toilet tank lids? A large portion of Tom's customers are renters coming to the end of their lease, and needing to replace a broken toilet tank lid in order to assure the receive their security deposit back at the end of the term. They also see significant sales to restaurants, preschools, and gas stations.

But why do they choose Cheap Toilet Tank Lids? With literally thousands of different tank lids & color options out there, they have most of the possible options on hand, and can manufacture others, making them one of the few vendors able to supply almost every possible need their customers might have. Tom has also become quite the expert on toilets and toilet tank lids, and can usually identify the lid a customer needs just by looking at a picture they send to him. That kind of mastery and customer service sets Cheap Toilet Tank Lids apart from the competition.

Speaking of customer service, Tom wants to pass out this helpful tip for anyone living in an older home and considering a toilet replacement:

A lot of people don't realize if their house is 20 or more years old, the plumbing wasn't designed for the new low flow toilets. A house designed for a 3.5 gallon or more per flush toilet has its pipes angled at less pitch than newer ones. If you are convinced that changing to a low flow toilet is going to save you money and save the environment, consider two things. The new toilet took a lot of resources to be manufactured and transported from Mexico or China or Venezuela to get to you. Using the low flow toilet will cost you money every year when your pipes back up. Sludge will build up in your pipes and the flow will be blocked to the street. You'll need to have a rooter company come and clear the pipes out regularly. It is much more economical and better for the environment to keep an old toilet working as long as possible than to put in a new one. 

The growth of his company has allowed Tom to go from just him, getting toilet tank lids from salvage yards and rummaging thru trash bins after hours to find boxes & bubble wrap for shipping, to having three additional employees, over 8,000 tank lids & 400 tanks on their shelves, and even manufacturing their own when needed to meet their customers' needs. In fact, the porcelain-looking wooden tank lids they manufacture for custom requests has given them additional ideas for growing the company even further.

Growth is often an instigator for change, and so it was with Cheap Toilet Tank Lids. They started with one 10'20' storage unit in Largo, FL, then expanded to two unit. An influx of 3,000 lids all at once instigated the move to a 2,000 sq ft warehouse, and then Tom really felt like it was a real businesses. They remained at the warehouse in Florida for several years before taking the plunge and moving to the mountains of North Carolina.

The move across several states also proved to be the largest challenge they've faced to date. Just for logistics alone, the move took four 53' semi-trailer loads of product, plus countless hours tearing down, packing, unpacking, and setting up their inventory.

While most entrepreneurs will tell you that the flexibility it provides is one of their favorite things about owning their own business, Tom also credits that flexibility for his success. Especially with an internet-based company like Cheap Toilet Tank Lids, the ability to set his own schedule allows Tom to be more productive, and also gives him time to pursue his other interests, like travel, hiking, cooking, etc.

Another advantage to entrepreneurship is that running your own business creates a built-in drive to keep trying new things. Tom admits that he's had his share of failures along the way, but even those missteps keep him working toward a more successful enterprise.

His advice to other small business owners is to not fear spending money on advertising. He recommends 10-20% of revenue as a good target for advertising spend. But don't forget to keep an eye on your advertising dollars to check for areas where advertising in that area isn't driving sales. By cutting spending in those areas you free up money to try different, potentially more successful marketing efforts.

The future for Cheap Toilet Tank Lids is definitely bright. With a simple goal of increasing revenue each year, they have succeeded in doing just that every year thus far, and see themselves continuing that trajectory for years to come.


All photos provided by Cheap Toilet Tank Lids and used with permission

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Top 10 Items We Use with a Three Year Old

Every time I go on Pinterest I see all these "must have" lists for bringing home a new baby. You know what I don't see? Hardly anything about anything for older kids. So let's do something about that.

This is a list of items that are used on a regular basis by us or Jillian, our 3 year old.

1. Pull-Ups.
No, Jillian is not potty trained yet. Yes, we are working on it. But in the meantime, pull ups it is. Definitely something we use on a daily basis. Multiple times.

2. Wipes.
Yep, if we're still using pull ups, we're still using wipes. I've come to love the Huggies Cucumber & Tea scented, but that's just me.

3. Baby Shampoo

Yep. She's 3 years old and we still use baby shampoo. Actually, with Jena's sensitive skin (8 years old) she still uses it as well. Over the past 8 years we've definitely bought plenty of baby shampoo, and I don't see that stopping any time soon.

4. Sippy Cups

Can she drink from a regular cup? Yes. Does she also do thinks like put food in her cup, dump it on the table on purpose, and put her hand in it just because she wants to? Yep. So we still use a sippy for most drinking throughout the day. Regular cups pretty much just for dinner time when we can try to keep a closer eye on her.

5. Pacifier

Yeah, this one is as much for me as it is for her. She only uses it when she's tired or really upset, and then not usually for long. My oldest never took a paci, so this is new territory for us, and quite frankly I'm not ready for her to give it up.

6. Play Doh

This is definitely one of our favorite play items right now. Luckily for us it's pretty cheap. We picked up a Melissa & Doug play dough play set at the homeschool convention back in April, and it's been a big hit. Keeps both the girls playing quietly just about every day of the week.

7. Books

Right now Jillian loves to have someone read to her. When we're done reading a book she'll usually take the same book and go "read" to one of the pets or her dolls. It's fun for her and I know we're setting her up for success in reading later. The Llama Llama books are some of our favorites.

8. Band-Aids

Our little Jillian is our little monkey, which means like a lot of 3 year olds she gets lots of owies. Lately we've been going thru a box of bandaids just about every week. And that's just for legitimate owies. Her latest injury is a fingernail that fell off. She hurt the end of the same finger 4 times in a row, and unsurprisingly a couple of weeks later the nail started to fall off. I anticipate us continuing to use lots of bandaids until the new nail finishes growing in.

9. Baby Dolls

Our little Jillian is also a little momma. She has loved dolls since she was old enough to let us know her preference. Three years later she still loves playing babies. Baby Alive dolls are one of our favorites for both of our girls.

10. Bubbles

One of Jillian's favorite activities is blowing bubbles. It's nice now in the summer because I can send her outside with a big bottle of bubbles and I know she'll have a great time just blowing bubbles and popping them.

Well, I think that's our Top Ten for Jillian. Anything you'd add?

Check back soon for a list of the Top Ten Items We Use with an Eight Year Old.

As always, thanks for checking in!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dreams and Schemes and Marriage

Recently one of my acquaintances was lamenting what she saw as a completely unrealistic plan her husband had for their family. She kept trying to explain to him why it wouldn't work, he kept getting mad at her for not considering it.

The discussion we had led me to think back through our relationship.

I'm reminded of some of the crazy schemes Jason & I have come up with thru the years. Some of them are pretty out there. The craziest one, in my eyes anyway, was when he told me he wanted to move to Haiti to run a farm. Seriously. Haiti. Look up the disease & crime rates on that one and think about moving there with your toddler. That was absolutely ridiculous to me. But I looked into it and thought about it, and discussed it with him anyway.

Haiti never came to fruition. In fact, 99% of our dreams & schemes don't pan out, whether they're his, mine, or ours. But you know what? Dreaming together can be so much fun. We've gone to look at land somewhere so many times I've lost count. We've gotten on the computer and looked at property on the other side of the country and talked about what would happen if we bought it sight unseen. I've googled the rates of disease in various foreign countries he wanted to move to. Jason & I have discussed how we would go about selling all of our worldly possessions. We've gone to open houses for homes we'd likely never buy.

We're actually in the midst of dreaming thru a crazy scheme right now. This one's been going on for months. We've both read articles & blogs, watched YouTube videos, even gone window-shopping for some things we'd need. I've done the math on our finances to see how feasible it is, did some more math to see what else we could do to increase the feasibility. It's a pretty big one. Possibly our craziest one yet. And we are both totally on board.

Not going public with our idea yet, although if it does eventually work out we will totally be inviting ya'll on our journey. But not yet. I did mention it in passing to my parents. They thought I was joking. Literally thought I was making a joke, so I let the subject pass. For now.

Jason & I have talked and dreamed together, window-shopped for our lives together, and we've had so much fun doing it. And I believe our marriage is stronger for it.

So the next time your spouse comes to you with an idea that seems a little "out there", give it a chance. Maybe it'll happen, maybe it won't, but I don't think you'll regret giving them the benefit of a doubt and dreaming together for a little while. Who knows? You may even come to love the idea.

As always, thanks for checking in!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Small Business Spotlight: Kentucky Olive, LLC

Today's Small Business Spotlight features a brand new business in Northern Kentucky, Kentucky Olive, LLC.

Kentucky Olive opened as part of The Friendly Market in Florence, KY on Memorial Day weekend 2017. After having being a customer of several Friendly Market businesses for quite some time, owners of Kentucky Olive, Tom & Tonia Spille, realized there was a need for a good olive oil & balsamic provider in the same location to complement the other fresh food establishments. After many discussions with the owner of Afishionados, a seafood shop in the Friendly Market where the Spilles had also taken cooking classes, and with additional discussions with a provider of olive oil & balsamic, the couple decided to take the plunge and begin this new adventure together.

As with starting any new business, the Spilles have overcome several challenges already. First of all, neither Tom nor Tonia had a strong background in food provision or retail sales. Finding time to launch and run a business has probably been their biggest struggle so far, as both of them work full time jobs as well. They manage this challenge by tackling tasks based on priority, and keeping their eyes on the positive: starting Kentucky Olive has been something the couple can do together. They chose their location at The Friendly Market for the existing customer base there, the support they get from the other businesses there, as well as their ability to support those businesses themselves. The unique atmosphere there really allows all parties the ability to feed each other (pun intended). Their customer base varies widely in age and income, but they all have one thing in common: they care about what they put into their bodies. Customers of Kentucky Olive are striving to be more health conscious, to know their food & what goes into it.

Tom & Tonia currently run the Kentucky Olive store themselves with the help of family members, but they hope to hire full time help as sales continue to grow, and grow they certainly will. The early success of this small business has been impressive. Several local food establishments have already begun using their oils when preparing their food productions, and they are in discussions with other chefs in the area to use their products as well. Their customer base is growing rapidly and they have already received orders from multiple states across the country. It's no surprise that they expect to grow their customer base substantially throughout the next year, and hope to open additional locations in the next 5-10 years.

So how do the Spilles explain their success thus far? For starters, their unique location in The Friendly Market draws a customer base looking for unique, quality food. The time & effort they put into finding a supplier of premium olive oils & balsamic vinegars has paid off as their customers have fallen in love with the quality product they find there. Yet with all the work they have put into launching their new business, Tom & Tonia truly enjoy what they do. They have a passion for quality food and sharing ideas with their customers. Working at the store feels less like work and more like relaxation and fun.

And for anyone looking to start their own business, the couple wants you to know that they see personal satisfaction as the primary advantage of being your own boss. Making your own decisions, looking back on what you did and knowing that you did it, the ability to see something you've created become successful - these are all things that made entrepreneurship the right path for the Spilles.

Interested in trying their products? Stop by and see Tom & Tonia to try their many flavors of extra virgin olive oil, fused & infused olive oil, black truffle oil, balsamic vinegars, specialty vinegars, whole olives, and much, much more. For more information, find them online at or email them at

All photos provided by Kentucky Olive and used with permission.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Expertise

So recently I read something that said you should identify at least one thing that you could consider yourself an "expert" at. Honestly (and a little sadly) I was at a loss. So I asked my family.

Jason (husband):


Jena (8 years old):

- being a mom and loving us

Jillian (3 years old):

- playing on your phone

My Dad:

- debating

My Mom:

- researching

Stephanie (one of my besties):

- engaging others in intelligent conversation without being condescending or dogmatic

I'm noticing a theme among the adults. Well, the adults I don't sleep with anyway, LOL.

Debate. Research. Engaging in conversation. Maybe that degree in history did pay off, huh?

So what about you? What are you an expert at?

As always, thanks for checking in.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...