You can never have too much support

As an entrepreneur, support is vital from every direction,  every skill level, every demographic and every professional network out there within your industry.  Over and above all of those is family.  Family support can easily make or break a business.  When your siblings, your parents, your spouse, your children, (whatever applies to you presently) support what you do and make an effort to help get your business known, the brand is spoken of in public at the right time in the right place, it means more than your own life’s efforts to you personally and professionally.  The more supportive, the better.

With my own business, in a very competitive town with so many bath & body crafters already saturating our town, it’s nearly impossible to find a market that will allow you the opportunity to sell in their market.  If they already have a soap or bath & body product crafter, they aren’t interested in having a second one in their market, even if the two types of soaps or lotions are miles apart in looks or content.  Enough “No thank you” and “Sorry , no room left!” have been said to make me think twice about my career change.

I left a part-time position with no benefits, no decent pay rate, no paid vacation or sick leave for personal reasons.  Sticking with my bath & body business became more vital than ever at that point.  It’s long hours, 7 days a week, no paid vacations, no benefits, but it feeds a part of me that needs feeding.  It’s necessary for me to make something useful, something (hopefully) beneficial, something beautiful that brings others a smile.  Makes them happy inside and out.  Makes them feel better.  To feel better for your own sake is… well, nothing’s better than that!

As a bath & body crafter, that support is coming first from my wonderful, adorable husband.  It was his encouraging words that pushed me to step off into the deep end of the entrepreneurial pool again and go back into business for myself, making soap this time around.  In case you’re wondering, the first time around, I was a baker.   Breads, cakes, cookies, pies.  Desserts and treats.   I loved it.  Still do and miss it….occasionally. But now I’m running an online business selling bar soaps, liquid soaps, cream soaps, a hybrid of liquid and cream soaps with sugar for a creamy rich sugar scrub, lip balms, lotions, body creams, body whips, and plans for other lines running fast and furious through my overactive brain.  I love it and my brain never stops thinking of future possibilities!

Support came from other avenues as well.  My youngest son (28 years old now) has touted my business almost from day one and that boosted my self-esteem back up where it needed to be to march forward even when things were flagging.  My love of the work never wavered, but the need to rethink whether to close or keep trying faltered more times than I’ll confess to anyone.  This biz is not for the faint of heart!

 

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The latest addition to the growing support system, just added this week, is Indie Business Network.  Just from exploring the web site, reading blog posts, listening to past podcasts, I can tell I’ve made one of the best decisions of my professionally life in joining this network.  I won’t drop my membership to the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild membership because they too offer a lot of information and provide support in many areas I can use throughout the year along with insurance and certification that stays valid as long as I remain a member.  But the IBN is fulfilling a huge need with bits of vital information that I can glean from their site, their Facebook page, their blog, Podcasts, and other social media outlets on a DAILY basis.  I’m so glad that I’ve added them to the support system for my business and hope this will bring the results I’m hoping for at last.  Thank you, Indie Business Network for being there with all the expertise and encouragement you provide to your members, new and ongoing! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A world in a book

I love to read.  Always have.  It’s a little vacation that requires no luggage, no driving, no flying, no stressful packing and unpacking within certain weight limits.  It’s purely mental.  A trip inside your own mind, where all the world may lie at your feet in seconds, take you far beneath the sea, soar above the clouds, travel to distant places or even some that don’t exist.  Yet.

Even when we were little, Dr Seuss gave a tiny, early glimpse of what we could do if only we are open to the opportunity when he wrote “Oh the Places You Will Go!”  And we spent the rest of our lives finding the answer to that question.

Where did you end up?  Was it where you’d hoped to go or somewhere else that was a surprise, a shock, a disappointment?  Did you take that road less traveled or one well rutted by time and travelers before you?

So with World Book Day here, let’s think about the places you will go within the covers of a book or on the screen of an eReader device. A ‘thumping, good read’. One that’s transforming.  One that’s informative, one that excites you, intrigues you, makes you think.  Keeps you awake all night flipping the page to see what happens next.  Where do you want to go?  What type of reading do you like to do when the day is rainy, cool, and thoroughly a misery outside?

I’ll confess to you now, while I love to collect as many textbooks as I can on math & science, a day like today brings out the lazy brain side of me.  I like a cozy read, or book with a twist, one that’s by some author no one’s heard of yet.  I delved deeply into the listings in Amazon, scored a series, Wisteria Witches by Angela Pepper on this occasion.  The two primary characters are like a cross between Gilmore Girls and a Stephanie Plum adventure.

The humor is sharp, sarcastic, thoroughly enrapturing to read while the story line is fun, just enough adventure to keep you turning the page into the wee hours of the night/morning.  I’m currently on the third book in the series, Wisteria Wonders.  I started the series only about 4-5 days ago, which is indicative of how engrossed I’ve become in this series. (Ask the guys at the auto service department how many times they called my name before finally walking over and tapping me on the shoulder to tell me my car was finished!)  I’ve laughed out loud at many of the things said and thought of in each book and now with the fourth in the series coming out in July, the fun continues.

So tell me all the places you will go on World Book Day.  I’m happily residing in Wisteria where no one ever gains weight from a diet of doughnuts and cupcakes and wishing I could find this magical place.  Meanwhile, I’d love to know where you are in your reading adventures.

 

 

 

 

Change is good. Right?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you’ve probably noticed the theme changes. One of my many personality flaws is my need to change things up.  Frequently.  Well it’s been a lifelong thing with me.  I was one of those kids who rearranged my room practically on a weekly basis.  There’s no telling what condition the floors were in by the time I moved out!  But I had to.  I loved to change things up, breathe fresh air into a part of my world that heretofore had lain hidden, dark and gathering dust bunnies and forgotten or lost items.

My web site’s theme also suffers the same fate.  The theme has changed several times, only to evolve into a cleaner layout each time.  Like this blog.

I started out with homey, rustic or cozy looks, thinking it should make you want to put your bunny-slippered feet up, tuck your legs beneath you and read, read, read.  Then time passed and I realized I wanted something sweet, appealing to that feminine side in many of us that loves a good movie, good book or a creative past-time that yearns for exploration.  Shabby Chic lives in my heart, but it doesn’t always allow me to emote on every level.

Then I leaned towards clean lines, orderly layouts, easy-to-read fonts. This one has been the hardest to stick with.  I’m a font hoarder.  I’m sure there’s an intervention or 12-step program out there or perhaps there should be for people like me but I’d never attend.  I’m happy to wallow in my wealth of typographical largess. It’s my happy place.  Still, not everyone finds it easy to read some of them even if I can. So, here we are.  In a clean, orderly layout with a  basic font that’s easy to read.  And surprisingly enough, I like it!

This organized place, theme-wise and life-wise, is where I reside now.  It’s not always going to be cabbage roses and sun-bleached colours of shabby chic, but they still exist in my world, just not everywhere.  Only on those very special things I reach for when I need a lift. Being tidy with the ecommerce and literary world is a good thing as it’s about growth.

People are not static creatures.  They perpetually grow, change, evolve, morph into someone else until they finally land on their feet solidly with a confidence that will carry them through to their golden years, or at least they’ll attempt it with all they have to do so.  That is human nature.  Yours.  Mine. Everyone’s.  So growth is good and change makes it real. A palpable thing. A tangible image you can place a time and date stamp on for all to see.

Literary Inspiration

Being a former employee of a library, former homeschooling mom of four for 9 years and the crafter of cupcakes and designs for my daughter’s baby shower for her then-pending delivery of daughter Kenzie, children’s classics are familiar territory and a wealth of artistic inspiration for many things in various channels of my current life. I mentioned the baby shower specifically because the theme was Alice in Wonderland and the decorations and packaging for many things on the food table related to elements of the story.

These flags on the left for the cupcakes were printed onto a sheet of cardstock, a background of antiqued with aged edges printed on them and cut out to fold around a cut bamboo skewer using two-sided tape.  They rose to only about 1″ above the top of each cake from the bottom of the flag to the surface of the frosting.  The blue gradient was also printed onto cardstock using a background from PicMonkey, also cut out then punched with a hole punch, strung onto 1/8″ ribbon wrapped around the threads of an 8 oz Mason jar (no lid), and the tag would hang along the side of the jars tempting the guests to “Drink Me”.

Cupcakes on the stand

Drink Me all in a row

These decorations were so much fun to do that I decided to keep them stored in a file for future use with other events or for use as ideas or springboards for other projects.  I’m also a huge font hoarder and found a font that resembled Alice In Wonderland type of style used in other media outlets. That font is the one you see on the tags in the images above for the cupcakes and jars.It was done in bold to be easier to read.

With that design style in mind, this approach was pulled from the archives to use for labeling the samples of body lotion and liquid soaps done for the web sites.  I often send out several samples with each order but had no sample sized bottles until recently.  The liquid soap samples were done last night with a hang tag using the Alice in Wonderland-inspired packaging idea – each tag is tied it around the neck of a bottle.  The tags are hand-printed. One side reads “Wash with me!” and the other gives the scent name and weight in each bottle plus the “Body Wash” product name.  Inserts are printed out with the ingredients of samples in bottles or jars as they are very small, often oddly sized or shaped and hard to label. Sample tagsFinding inspiration is always possible, it just sometimes lies just beyond our line of sight.  Close your eyes and let your imagination take over when you hit the wall.  I’ve hit it so many times we’re now on a first name basis.  It happens all the time.  Push come to shove, hit Pinterest and live in there for a little while until you have enough great ideas to last a long while.  Just don’t do it too often.  It can suck you in and you’ll not come back out for days.

The Fifth Petal

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry wrapped me in a warm blanket of mysticism, mystery, intrigue, history, jealousy, love and a thousand other feelings for about a week as I devoured the story of four young women that are descendants of four girls hung as witches in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts.  The story stand on a firm foundation of historical fact as the original young women were quite real as was their dark fate.  Were they really witches or innocent young women with an enemy that had more power and held the right ear in the community?  This story takes that line of thought and gives it a turn or two along the way and in the end you find yourself feeling heartache for their loss regardless of your opinion of their leanings in faith.

Having never read the Lace Reader despite having my eyes drawn to it repeatedly shortly after its release, I now know I MUST read that one to gain more insight into these richly drawn, deeply flawed characters.  They are like family now which made leaving their circle all that much harder to do. Only a few of the characters from book one are carried forward into this book but that doesn’t make it any less captivating for the reader as these characters have a story of their own to tell.

The Fifth Petal can definitely be read along without the preliminary story from book one, but why would you want to when such fascinating people exist in both?  If you have read The Lace Reader then you really should read The Fifth Petal though how much closure it will bring is hazy at best.  Perhaps with a couple of the characters, it may bring some, but with others, well, let’s leave that open to debate.

Snow, Molds, Micas, and more

We’ve had the weathermen doing a slow, painful dance around the forecasts all week while they try to figure out this cold front headed our way that carried the promise of snow into the southern states starting this weekend only to get to Friday and watch them begin the backstep. We’re now into Saturday night and there’s no longer the threat of winter weather in North Carolina as much as there was around Thursday of last week, as the boundary has moved further south into South Carolina.  My sympathies to all of the Sandlappers out there.

Anyone who knows me well knows I despise winter weather.  This incompatibility has only grown over the years – my age has increased while counterbalanced against my decrease in tolerance. This has actually become a physical problem now, too.  Every cold morning brings migraines.  Not much productivity follow migraines as they don’t play well together. So it’s taught me to follow that adage that goes something like ‘make hay while the sun shines’.  And I do. I cram as much as possible into one day that’s good so that ‘bad day’ that is inevitable can be spent trying to move without nausea or pain.  I say this not to seek sympathy but rather to explain why there are many times when I go silent.  Those silences are either because I’m avoiding the brightly lit computer screen or I’m extremely busy taking care of business.  We all know I’d much rather be making something!

The need to create lively, new & fresh looks for my products is the goal for this year.  With that goal there was a need for some new colours, new molds and new fragrances.  I’ve finally ordered some tall skinny molds!  That was as exciting for me as the fragrances and colours!  I’m easy to please like that.  Still, the colours for this year are some new ones to extend the shades for colours we have already, some darker, some lighter hues of one now in stock.  The fragrances are new ones for us as well as we work with local suppliers for our boozy bar ingredients.

Speaking of…..I was competely thrilled to find out there is a meadery in town here!  Had no idea! The name, Honeygirl Meadery, offers several delish sounding meads and they sell at the Farmer’s Market all year round.  You KNOW I’ll be visiting their booth in a couple of weeks!  I’m all shopped out for right now but will definitely stop by to pick up the flavours I mentioned in a private message in Facebook.  Pop into their page in Facebook and read about them to see if there’s something there for you.  They do ship, so if you aren’t local, you can order online if your state allows ordering across state lines & online. Spoiler alert – I have my eye on their Lavender Mead and the Hibiscus Lemonthyme.  What’s about you?  Take and look at their listing and tell me if you like what you see.  Which ones speak to you?  Look for those two in future batches this year.

We’ve picked out some amazing scents from Nurture Soaps and Nature’s Garden that we are very excited to get our greedy little fingers around soon.  Some of them are really interesting  names, so we’ll see what they’re like.  They’re intriguing to say the least. We’ve ordered some new flavours for our lip balms so there will be a longer list of selections to choose from very soon.  The new fragrances are also going to be used in our cream soap and sugar scrubs that use our cream soap as a portion of the base.  The other portion is our mad-from-scratch liquid soap.  We do NOT use premade bases.  Like my grandmother used to say – “You don’t know where it’s been!” , so using my own as the base keeps control and provenance in my hands. The cream soap is a long process to complete, taking months to be finished and properly done, so a new batch is needed sooner rather than later and I’ve considered using some of our new meads in that, too.  It’s been on my mind since the last batch, frankly, so we’ll see what is used.

We currently have a Black Raspberry Nectar Mead and a Watermelon Nectar Mead from Redstone Meadery which is in Colorado.  (I bought these before I knew about Honeygirl.) Doesn’t that Watermelon Mead sound delicious?  I’ve actually tried a taste test of it and yes indeed it IS delish!  We have Redstone’s Sunshine Mead on order which is an Apricot Mead for a future batch as well and some Angry Orchard Hard Cider for an apple soap, too.

So you can see that our Boozy Bars selection is really growing by leaps this year and we hope everyone will find one they are dying to try because they’re really fantastic in the lather department and the new fragrances are ones we are very excited to offer!  Keep following for the production of these new batches and products.  Thanks for following and reading along!

Getting back on the horse

Where do you go to find your mojo?  How do you get around writers’ block without pulling out all your hair?  What inspires you to step out of that creative desert and back into the refreshing shower of ideas? Do you go with a really good program on television, something smart and snappy, something “Catch”-y maybe? I loved that show last year and watched the entire season in one go while ironing one afternoon then pulled it back up again today just to try to get moving again after several days of no motivation, no inspiration, frustration that when a fleeting second of motivating ideas hit there was something else demanding my attention elsewhere.  We all have been in this dark place from time to time and while we all hope it’s temporary, it seems endless while we are wallowing in its depths.

I’ve stuck my head in the sand for several weeks, waiting for the chance to sit and work on something real, using my hands, my mind and my heart, but it hasn’t been possible to get all three in the same place at the same time lately.  Thank goodness for Hulu, Netflix and YouTube.  Without them I’m lost.  Apparently I was a bit more silent than usual as a friend checked on me in Facebook.  It made me realize that perhaps someone does notice when I’m not participating, posting, cheering others on from the sidelines, creating, stirring things up a bit now and then.  The numbers tell the tale as well when they dive below triple digits in the reach.

Honestly though I often feel Facebook is taking more away from my creative time than feeding it or serving its purpose.  If it isn’t helping my business, why be there? It draws you in like a black hole, stealing away your time, and it’s certainly stolen mine.  Things were stolen from me in 2010 that can never be replaced despite being mainly of value in sentiment only, they were precious to me.  They are gone now.  That was not my choice. The loss of time from Facebook is of my own doing.  My choice.  And clearly not the best one.  It has its purpose and should remain a device only, to be used as a tool for networking, marketing, advertising, promoting, no more than these.

Perhaps this is where my mojo goes.  Into the abyss behind the screen of Facebook and for that reason it is now time to step back from it and be less of a cheerleader for others and more of a cheerleader for myself and build onto what I started in 2011. My business needs me more than others need me.  It needs nurturing.  I’ve loved it all along but it wasn’t enough.  It need more attention from me so now it will have it.  Blogs will continue, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, even Google+ and yes, Facebook too, but much less of it.  Mainly for the what’s new in the business page, less of the roaming around to see what everyone else is doing and how they are all doing.