New twist

Time marches on, things change, kids grow up, our homes evolve, family scatters, but sometimes we can feel like we’re standing still while the world marches past, moving inexorably forward.  Shouting down the marchers does no good.

That was more or less how I felt for a while. Clicking along, merrily, perhaps a bit cocky and overly confident in the day-to-day workings I’d churn out online in formulations, label production, graphic design, blog posts, Instagram & Twitter moments then Bam! It all came to a screeching halt.

Windows 10 ran an update,(cue ominous music) which did not play well with others.  My computer lost sight of several things – first, our network settings, so trying to get that back caused us to lose our sound card codec settings.  Trying to get those back, we then lost the ability to save custom settings for region, date and time of day.

The forced updates Windows began doing with its roll-out of 10 was a complete disaster to the desktop.  The laptop fared far better and still clicks along just fine.  I suppose in part because it’s newer.  It began life here on 8, which we could hardly wait to leave in the dust to upgrade to 10.

10 worked fine for a while on the desktop that began life here on 7, but then suddenly we could not get any wi-fi signal, so YouTube buffered constantly before dropping out completely. Being a huge fan of Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and streaming online at various channels’ websites, that’s like being denied air.  Unsustainable.

The fixes to all of those issues did nothing to repair the situation.  There was no going back as another of the casualties was the ability to set aside a custom portion of our drive to rollback dates.  It wouldn’t go back beyond the date of the fatal update so all hope and hardware was lost.

The time had come.  My desktop was going to have to be retired from full time operations.  It’s still a great computer, but the internet connectivity is unreliable.  Still a lot of my files are on there and I need them daily.  So, it will still be used for offline work mostly, though it does still connect to some ghostlike form of someone’s network.  Don’t know whose network it’s latched onto since none are listed.  My 20 year era of faithful dedication to PCs had ended.

Welcome to the wonderful world of iMac!  It’s a brave new world and so far I’m loving this and wondering now why I waited so darn long.  Yes, a couple of my programs aren’t Mac compatible, but the PC still can serve that purpose.  I’m fine with that.  Now to learn how to find everything I typically use all the time and quit scrolling on a wheel mouse in the wrong direction. My iMac is an older model, but new to me.  Has plenty of power, lots of memory, runs on Sierra, updated to the latest iTunes so this chick is a happy camper.  Everything seamlessly syncs if you want it to.  It never fails to ask first and I like that!  So here’s to another long & happy relationship with Apple computers and the bright, shiny world of iMac!

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I’ve been away a while now.  It’s not been easy to simply stop making soaps, lotions, scrubs, and all the other things that comprise my inventory but it has been necessary.

My husband’s health took priority over all else and when it faltered, there was no question but that I had to be there for him while he struggled to recover, slowly, one step at a time.

He’s well on down that road now and I’m relieved to see him doing so well and hopeful his life ahead will be as grace-filled and wondrous as it has always been.

Many of members of my family have stepped up to help us out when other things fell through and that has filled me with a deep gratitude for my family that reaches far beyond words.  Those who’ve been unable to be there physically for us have been there spiritually, lifting our spirits with little shimmers of sunshine that lit up our hearts, faces and our world.  Our latest grandchild was born during this time and that did so much for our spirits.  Our smiles have not stopped since welcoming little Cashwell into our hearts! Thank you to my daughter for allowing us to share in his birth at a distance.

My sons have offered a great deal of help in so many ways and for that I cannot every adequately thank them or repay them though they know we’ll certainly do our level best to try. When things are at their darkest, my children have always brought the light back into my world in a lasting and very personal way.  Thank you all for the gifts you’ve given me by being in my life and being supportive of both of us when we’ve needed you. It’s means so very much.

I will be able to get back to work very soon on what I love to do best and that is making all those wonderful things that help create a mood, an atmosphere of serenity, botanical bliss beyond compare and hope you’ll join me when I do.  In the meantime, we are loading up on new ideas, dreaming up wondrous things and looking forward to creative days to ahead.  We’ve got YouTube channel videos to film, too!

The challenge of crafting cold processed soap with alcoholic beverages, Pt 1

Not a new topic for anyone around and definitely not a new one for me.  It’s become increasingly a favorite for me and given the numerous successful microbreweries in my neck of the woods, there’s certainly plenty of brewed beverages around from which to choose.  I’ve named several in past posts so I won’t repeat them here for this post.  The one I want to talk about now was the one type I’d yet to make a soap with…until now……moonshine.

Moonshine has a long, storied past along the Appalachian mountains and when it comes to the methods, it’s a family tradition, one passed down for generation after generation, mostly by word of mouth and observation.

One moonshiner, in particular, has gone legal and is now being sold in area ABC stores. Tim Smith created one called Climax and this is the one I used in a cold processed batch recently.  The bottle I had was not full as it was gifted to me from my son who said he can no longer drink it, so I put it to good use making it into a batch of moonshine soap.  Only in North Carolina can we take corn liquor and turn it into a batch of soap! Well, maybe not, but I’ve so far not heard of anyone else trying it.

The main issue at hand about Moonshine is the proof/ percentage of alcohol by volume.  Climax Moonshine is not as high as one might think.  It’s certainly not as high as Everclear, which is typically used for creating a translucent soap, which is sold in North Carolina at 151 proof (75.5% abv).  Climax is 90 proof or about 45% abv. The higher the proof the greater the risk of having a volcano from your soap running over the top of your mixing bowl. That is the one thing none of us wants to happen!  In part two I’ll cover the way I’ve managed to bypass that particular gremlin.

‘Shine On!

Moonshine with label & moon

Moonshine is here and I’m ready to try it out in a batch but want all those ducks in a row first, though, being a bit tipsy, they may wander off, stagger around, get lost or fall asleep somewhere before I can knock this one out.  I need just the right fragrance, just the right colours for this one.  I’ve waited about a year to get a moonshine soap made but if just the right fragrance and colours aren’t there, it isn’t good enough.  I already know the colours for it, though in what predominance is yet to be determined.  That may have to wait until the fragrance is chosen.  If it discolours, that will factor heavily into the colour choices and design.  I’d love to hear from you on this one.  What fragrance would be the perfect one for this potent brew in a bar soap?  Visit me at Neecy’s Facebook page to post your suggestion, in Twitter here or in Instagram here.

Stripe vs Square

Last summer I had to change out my online payment gateway from Stripe after they deemed it unacceptable to sell products made with what they felt were controversial ingredients such as Hyaluronic Acid which is in many of those high-priced face creams found in Nordtroms and others of their ilk. Why Stripe felt they knew more than we do about ingredients we use or don’t use in our products is something I’ll never quite grasp fully yet there it was as a new reality for online sales and card reader purchases at face-to-face events.

As a bath & body products crafter, I’ve done my homework, determined the truths from the myths, weighed the benefits of use against the negatives and always err on the side of caution, yet that final decision was taken from me as the business owner by a financial gateway provider?  I. Don’t. Think. So.

I checked out others, tried one and it didn’t work well for me so I tested out Square, a very popular option for other crafters in our industry.  They did not try to tell me what I may or may not sell.  They simply do their job and allow me to do mine.  I respect that.  Immensely!

With Square I’ve gotten so much more than just a payment gateway.  I’ve gotten a financial advisor and informative guide to what’s working as opposed to what isn’t.  As of this morning’s report I now know so much more about my business since sales going through Square than I ever did in years prior to the switch.

The Year-End report for 2017 includes all of the following

  • Sales by month
  • Best day for sales in the week
  • Total net sales for the year
  • Total transactions for the year
  • Sales by the month
  • Best month, their average, the improvement on the average based on the best sales month
  • Average daily sales
  • Average transactions per day & time of day
  • Record sales with date and amount
  • Best selling Items
  • My top customer in visits & sales

That last one give you a clear reason to offer loyalty points or bonuses of some sort when they return often buying certain items repeatedly.  There’s always a good reason to apply those patterns to your business to make that customer come back and tell their friends about you, too.  Word of mouth is a powerful advertising tool that’s completely in the hands of the customer so make that customer happy and keep them there!

If you’re not already there, here’s the link to Square so you can get the informed payment gateway choice.

Lessons from the post-computer apocalypse

Lesson #1 – and this is a big one so remember it well.  Back Up Your Data! Get an external hard-drive, the bigger the better because if your computer has a lot of images, pictures, family photos, videos for YouTube, etc like mine does, it will take a huge bite (byte?) out of the available space.  Get at least a 1T hard drive.  Lord of the Rings was stored in terabytes to give you an idea of size. 5792404_sd.jpg;max;max

When my PC decided it had had enough of my shenanigans and stopped booting, that hit me hard.  Many of the things I used every day for my bath & body biz were on there. Some were specific to Windows and incompatible with Mac, so I was reluctant to going Apple for the next computer.  Harder still, it had been a long time since I’d backed up the data. Why?  It took too long and my time is quickly chewed away by things beyond my control here at home so, long story short I didn’t bother to back everything up as often as I should have.

Now  we have a Mac for reaching the internet, doing my daily tasks as needed, but my soap making records were all in SoapMaker 3 and during the PC’s crash, that entire program was lost.  By extension, so were all my recipes, settings, molds & supplies.

I discovered too, that the recipes I had stored in there were not necessarily printed out in my hard copy records which are kept in 3-Ring binders in my work room. Some were, some weren’t.  That lack of information was brought into keen focus when I recently had a run of bad luck with lotion-making.  They were not turning out as they once had and I couldn’t figure out what was happening to cause these fails until I went all the way back to the beginning to my resources, studied proportions & percentages and found one item in particular was way off base.  Once corrected, the problem smoothed out – literally.  But this too is a clear & relevant reason for backing up your data.

So here’s Lesson #2 – make a hard copy immediately for all items you want backed up digitally.  Because – again – you never know what tomorrow’s going to do to you.

If you have not recently, do so now.  You never know what tomorrow is going to throw at you.  External hard drives are far less expensive than they were even a few years ago, so get one and use it often.  You’ll thank yourself many times for taking the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping it going

After the busy-ness of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday with the expiration of the sale coupon deadline looming as a Facebook notification reminded me, it hit me that many shoppers are still struggling to finish off their shopping lists, still searching high and low for bargains since the Black Friday weekend was over and stocks were. depleted completely in many places.  Where would these good people go for savings on quality hand crafted bath & body goods and find a great bargain as well?

I’ve often stated in my hashtags “I ❤ My Customers” or in the text lines of a post, tweet or Instagram message and it’s true.  My customers satisfaction means the world to me.  I love to make people smile, to make them happy, give them their money’s worth.  They know it through customer service how much I truly care regardless of the issue they’re having, good or bad.  I try to make a positive difference in their day because they deserve it when things are throwing challenges their way.  They know I care and with that sentiment, I decided to extend the sale coupon to December 20th.

Through December 20th at 11:59 pm the coupon code SHOPSMALL2017 will continue to give you 25% off your entire order throughout our online store.  This is the ONLY location for our products at this time so you won’t find us in your nearby favorite brick & mortar haunts.  We’re only to be found at https://www.neecysnecessities.com though we can be seen in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ & YouTube.  Click our links below to follow us or subscribe to the channel and Facebook Group.

Neecy’s Necessities in Facebook (My biz page)

Neecy’s Facebook Group. (My Group Page)

Neecy’s Instagram. (business Instagram page)

Neecy’s Twitter

YouTube channel under our business name

Our newest channel in YouTube

YouTube channel 3

Neecy’s web site

 

Crazy Sales Days (Daze?)

Others in our industry are also having banner sales receipts and they are to be congratulated for their successes.  In my own small way I’m having a good year as well.  Sales so far have cleared the shelves of 4 fragrances, two of which are best sellers, the other two are special limited edition items that are still debatable as repeaters.  They’re nice, yes, but are they outstanding?  Jury’s still out on that one.

I’m happy with the sales so far so I’m not going to look any gift horses in their mouths.  It could be far slower than it is and for the business I’ve gotten so far, I’m eternally grateful.  I just hope that I can say the same thing next year.  We all think this way during this time of year when we’re rushed off our feet.  I find myself wishing I was busier than I currently am, but then I stop and remember that it could be as silent as a tomb so I back it up and send a moment of gratitude to all who’ve made my business their destination for their bath & body supplies.

So with much gratitude and many wishes for a safe, healthy & prosperous holiday for all who shop with my online store, Neecy’s Necessities, I thank you with all my heart.  You’ve made my life meaningful, productive, creative and beautiful.  Happy holidays from my family to yours!

(PSSST – our sale ends Monday night at 11:59 pm, so stock up while there’s still time!) 

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