BY LISA BIANK FASIG
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Ah, but to travel and turn a nickel on it. Tour guides in Turkey. Writing from Reno. Exports from Egypt.
To run a little shop filled with the wonders of the world.
It's lovely. Margaret McEwan warns, it's not that easy.
A well-traveled entrepreneur, just coming off her first year as a small retailer in Over-the-Rhine, Mr. McEwan has seen the ombudsman's side of travel-for-a-living. Broken shipments. Mounting Visa credit-card fees. The embarrassment of poor quality.
There have been mistakes, she said, but she's managed to keep her shop, the White Rabbit, stocked.
"I don't go to anywhere unless I know people in the area who can guide me in the right direction," said Ms. McEwan, whose 22 years in the United States has done little to soften her native Scottish accent. "What you think is a bargain might not be."
Ms. McEwan usually travels three times annually, last year visiting Europe, South Africa and Asia. She is in South Africa now, combining business with social work.
As part of the locally based Impact South Africa, she is helping at the War Memorial Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town and distributing medical and educational supplies, clothing and toys. But she'll also do some shopping, visiting the flats and tribal areas in search of unusual carved pieces and the like.
Having a friend guide her through jungle malls should ensure quality and authenticity. But, Ms. McEwan said, it won't guarantee that her purchases will survive the trip to Main Street, Cincinnati. "Make sure you have somebody good at packing," she said. And be sure you or that person follows the containers all the way to the docks, from where they are safely shipped.
Also, get a shipping agent. It's not hard. Look one up in the phone book under "shipping."
Such time-consuming details force Ms. McEwan to carry as much as she can in suitcases. But this leads to other issues involving customs.
She advises: Learn your products and what they're made from to quicken the process. Does the jewelry include precious gems? Are the wallets lined? (If they are, they become textiles subject to additional import fees.)
Ms. McEwan admits that her love of travel helped feed her business concept. But, she said, she had more than a decade of trekking underfoot. "I was a little bit ahead of the game in that respect."
USING YOUR BEAN: It isn't exactly bean-counter-in-a-box, but a Cincinnati company has begun offering a CPA service that can be used to just the degree you need.
North Star Navigators, a business and technology consulting group, has launched an outsourcing accounting service specifically for small businesses that can't afford a chief financial officer or CPA. Called ProfitScope Financial Services, it's kind of like an outsourcing payroll service but applies to accounting.
The year-old North Star outsources two other services -- marketing and technology management -- and handles custom software design and computer network development.
Lisa Biank Fasig covers small-business news for The Enquirer. Call her at 768-8498 or e-mail her at lfasigenquirer.com