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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Holiday discounts, yes or no?

Everyone knows about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Many an Indie crafter lives for these three days to make their numbers go into the black and sell out their fall and winter stock.  We love any reason to be able to make more soap.  Really.  We are obsessed and unashamedly so. Still, there comes a time when the shelves are groaning, there’s a small narrow path from bed, to bath, to kitchen, to front door and room for little else because of all the inventory we’ve feverishly crafted for the past three months so we’ll be ready when the clock chimes midnight on the night after Thanksgiving.  That’s when chaos rules.  But we love it.

So you’ve spent a lot of money on ingredients, the best that money can buy, little extras you hope will make others squeal with unabashed glee when they open their boxes, made things at a frenzied pace for weeks in early fall or late summer, all with Christmas or wintry themes.  Observers scratch their heads in confusion, glance at the calendar and walk away hoping you’ll come back to reality soon. But you know what you’re doing.  You’ve planned great things for this holiday shopping season.  Big plans and now the game is afoot.  The calendar has now flipped over into November.

The turkey’s gone, the dressing is drying out on the table.  Coffee mugs rest abandoned and cold.  Football plays on the television in a room nearby but the cheers are overlaid by the distinctive sounds of snoring.  You know what’s going on in there and it’s all about the tryptophan.  Ah well.  You’re ready to makes really right with your business world.

Time to set out the packing materials. Wait for midnight when you can begin lining up those emails from orders that begin pinging into your inbox.  You’ve prepared for this.  You made beautiful things that everyone loves and set up coupons for real deals on all those little lovelies that you hope they just have to have!

Let’s think about that for a bit.  You’ve worked hard, created those items, building them from a tiny kernel of an idea that you stewed over, losing sleep, making notes late into the night.  You’ve lost time with family, hubby, pooch, grandbabies too maybe (depending on your age) that you can never get back but you did so willingly because this is your career and you love your work.  It’s your purpose and feeds that deep-seated need in your soul to provide something to others that they cannot find or have been searching for before stumbling across your website/Facebook page/YouTube channel/whatever.  You bounce out of bed every morning to do this and yet you want to sell these things short?  You decide to use a coupon code and be a part of the shoppers rush even though you know your products are worth every bit of time, effort, stock, labour, blood sweat and tears at their original price.

Hm, what is missing here?  What am I not comprehending fully?  Yes, a sale is a good thing and at this time of year, it’s a way of life now. If you don’t have a sale price, well, you will lose business.  On Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday it’s all about the sales numbers.  It isn’t about the product anymore.  It’s about the price point.  Somehow, though you know that consumers love a good deal. With luck, if they come to you now and like what they get, they’ll come back again throughout the rest of the year.

We as business owners & crafters are keenly aware of how much consumers love a bargain and we do as much as we can to give them one because we love what we do.  This is the heart of our deal.  They buy from us, at a slightly lower price for this one weekend out of the month of November and we will be happier for knowing we gave them more for their hard-earned money and they still have a wonderful gift for their giftee for all that work on both ends.

Using coupons and sale prices was a tough call for me this year.  Frankly I can’t afford to offer coupons or reduced prices, but I also know there is a bit of room for compromise to be able to sell my products, still be compensated for all the superior quality ingredients I use in each of them, the time it took to craft them all from scratch and still be able to pay my electric bill at the end of the month. But some other deals had to fall by the wayside.  Ideas were toyed with then scrapped for lack of funds.  It’s been a long, hard, expensive drive to the end of this year and I still hope I can remain in this a good bit longer.  As the others, I love what I do.  I’m not ready to stop.  There are too many really great ideas and new things I want to offer yet it was becoming clear that things must change or it will be lights out for my business that’s struggled for so long.

Using coupons or running sales, offering give-aways are good things, but they don’t have to happen all the time. Free shipping will have to be applied only to larger orders that will qualify for it. Keeping the sales to the holidays, offering free shipping for larger orders will be the new rule for Neecy’s Necessities if I want to stay in business at all. It’s a painful reality, but a very realistic one from a business standpoint.  I know what my customers are getting when they order from me and I’m confident they’ll love it once they’ve discovered it, so my prices, while lower than some are still competitive, not too low, not too high and can withstand three days of sale price levels once a year.  It’s a compromise I do for my customers and perhaps in the future I’ll offer something else instead, perhaps loyalty points or a buy this many, get that free.We

We’ll see what the future holds for Neecy’s Necessities and in the meantime I wish for you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving.

To discount or not to discount?

It’s speeding towards the holiday shopping season faster every year it seems and many B&B makers like myself are hustling their bustle like dervishes to get everything at a state of readiness for the big sales days ahead.  It’s usually their busiest time of the year so lots of stock has to be ready and waiting for the Go Shopping button to light up.

Shoppers also like a great deal, discount, sales, bargains from every direction.  Coupons can fall like confetti at a ticker tape parade.  It can get hairy, to say the least.  This time of year is stressful for both sides of the sales counter.  We worry about stock being plentiful enough; did we make the right things in sufficient quantity to cover every potential scenario?

Makers worry too that prices are not on point.  ‘Point’ being that level that will make it possible to continue to be a maker and sell an insured product to the buying public.  Taxes inevitably follow, but for now that worry is after the first of the year.  One issue at a time is about all this maker can take.  It’s more a focus of covering the shelves with a diverse selection that is affordable in today’s market environment.

I recently read something about discounts being a cut into your product’s value and how others see that value as well.  I cannot and will not undervalue my product.  I have worked too hard to make it something wonderfully beneficial, safe and available to all to undermine its value at this point.  With that in mind, for good or for bad, I removed the discount codes from my site.  All except for one.  Its only remaining code is for the 5% discount on the Pre-Order soaps (EARLYBIRD5) to encourage sales to lock in an order for those wanting a particular batch’s bar guaranteed to be there when it’s ready for shipping day.  It also serves as an indicator of scents that are customer favorites.

Time will tell if that was a good idea or not, but there it is for now.  Let’s see what happens.

Here’s a link to my site for you to browse through for your shopping this year….

Neecy’s Necessities

Unforeseen Circumstances

We all know what that means and it’s never good, is it?  Something bad has happened and it will no doubt impact us in in varying levels of pain from tiny twinges to abject misery.  Maybe it’s a slight bump in the road, but then again, it could be a gaping pothole that covers the entire roadway with sheer drops on both sides. Then there’s the happy in-between.  I suppose last night fell into that category.  At least looking back at it now, it’s somewhere in the middle. At 1:30 am, it felt more like the sheer rock face on the side of the road dropping away.

After all the technology glitches were squarely in my rearview, I began to relax a little and settle into a new rhythm, learning a little something new everyday with iMac computers.  I was enjoying learning this new skill set.  Still, production waits for no man – or soap maker- in this case, so it was time to stop tinkering around and make something that would carry our product line into Fall & Winter ’17/’18. Sounded simple enough, yes?

No.

A lovely Green Tea Nectarine batch was completely with no problems at any point except the supply of this particular custom blend needed replenishing, so that, too, was done with no fanfare. Score two for two on that day.  The batch was a bit on the soft side so it waited an extra day before being cut though in reality it could have waited another two or three and been all the better for it. Still, as most other soapers know, we can’t wait to see how the swirls turned out, so to the cutter it goes.

Fine.

Another day passes and I’m able to tidy it up without smearing it since it’s still on the softer side and it’s then picture taking time.  One of my favorite things to do besides making a batch is taking its picture.  I also like to tinker with the images using PicMonkey.  (If you haven’t tried this program and love taking pictures, you really need to check into it sometime.)

Loaf on the cutter

I get some lovely shots and tweak a few like the one above to make it a bit more on the thoughtful, nostalgic side with a soft, muted color saturation.  Way fun!

It’s rather late, about 11:30 on a Wednesday night when I finally go to the computer to upload the images onto the web site and ….nothing is there.

I’ve had this web site for years, all my product pics are there along with descriptions that wax poetic enough to tempt the shoppers, but all those images are…gone.  Nothing is on the page but divider lines, the page title, and a testimonial at the top just above the coupon codes.  It’s all text.  No photos!  What the what?

I fretted, jumped between outside website window and editing side window to see what was going on and nothing could explain what had happened to all my beautiful stuff.  My head ached, my chest hurt, my eyes were grainy from straining to find something to tell me what to do to fix this yet nothing came forward.  I finally had to take a sleep aid to knock me off my feet, but even that didn’t go far enough.  I still stumbled out of the bed at 5:30 thinking I heard something in the house that shouldn’t be there.  Fumbling around in the pre-dawn darkness, nothing out of the ordinary revealed itself, so I staggered back to bed and stepped onto something that had me hopping around all the way back to the bed.  After the adrenaline dissipated, I nodded back off to sleep only to pop back up, gritty-eyed again at 7:30.

Lousy night doesn’t even come close to describing that night’s non-sleep.

Not one to give up without a fight, I went back to the web site and realized the pages that had no products listed were a standard page and would need to be made into a category page in order for products to show up since two other pages had images still on them and those pages were category pages.  So……..all the pages were switched to category pages by mid-day today as my mind went to the why of this change in the way my site was being handled.  Why now?  I’ve had this site for many years and the products have always shown up just fine as standard pages with single listings.  Now, all of a sudden the page requirements have changed?  Where was the notification of these changes in page requirements? Was there a notification?

For those of you that work at home, you know this pain.  You know the anxiety at 1;30 or 3:30 in the morning when things have imploded on your site and it’s all on you to put things right again because you’re a solo-preneur.  It isn’t always smooth days, making stuff, selling stuff, hauling deliveries to the post office and checking our bank balances.  Some days we have to wear many hats, running on very little sleep and hope nothings else fails us as a result.

It’s much like having a very active toddler around – all the time.  They never grow up, they’re always demanding our time and attention, they’re exhausting, yet we love it and we carry on.  (I’ve had four of those two, two were twins, so I know this feeling well.)

The site is updated, cluttered cleared away and tonight I can sleep the sleep of the content knowing nothing else has failed.  I hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Well, here it is again…

….the end of yet another summer and I have to say I’m rather disappointed in this one.  Too much cloud cover, too many rainy days, not enough sunshine for my thin blooded self, but i’m sure the green things love it.

With the end of summer and school about to begin again, we start thinking about cooler temps, leaves changing colors & falling away and all those fun (and expensive) holidays looming just over the horizon.  I start thinking about having oatmeal in the mornings with my caffeine jump-start of choice – Pepsi.  I’ve never learned to like coffee, sorry java lovers!  So with those thoughts rumbling through my brain the products to come are now coming to the forefront on my mental To Do List.

Here are a few returning scents I plan to make this year:

Cafe Mocha

Snow Witch

Ultimate Christmas – maybe.

I say maybe to that last one because it was not a huge seller last year but the scent takes you home for the holidays in such a memorable way that it’s hard not to use it in something.  I might just stick with making wax melts of the spicy scents that can discolor or seize and use the others that don’t produce gremlins in bar soaps.  Hand and body wash is also a possibility for the naughty scents since they won’t make an already made soap seize.

I would love to hear from you on what scents you know of that would be ideal for this fall/winter season of 17/18.  Comment below or email me at neecysnecessities@live.com.

Who we are….

….can be found not in face to face introductions but in looking around our space.  Our home space.

What little things do we like to surround ourselves with daily?  Little things that others might not think twice about or even ignore when they seem them but when we see them a smile begins.  A seashell that’s chipped, worn down, or oddly shaped, but we love it because of what it represents in our memories.  A honeymoon trip, a birthday party that will live in infamy.  Something only we know but it matters.

It doesn’t have to all be indoor things either.  Maybe there’s a tree in the backyard, planted years ago to celebrate the birth of your first child or in memory of your favorite pet.  Now it’s taller than that child, or you or even the house.  Now it shades you in a comforting way that brings the thought of that pet sheltering you, watching over you now.

Here at my business, there is a rose bush outside just beyond the flower beds.  It’s nearly five feet tall now, though this is after I’ve cut it back a bit to fill out nicely. It was just a tiny little shoot above the dirt in a 4 inch pot in 2012 when my son gave it to me at the rehearsal dinner for his upcoming wedding.  Now it’s blooming with wild abandon in the yard with brilliant red roses almost the entire year ’round!  I see that bush and remember my son as a rose trying to look for that opportunity to take hold and thrive in a place he can call his own.  Settle in, raise a family like the blooms that multiply over the years.  With this I smile.

Moonflowers crawl across our front porch roof line and shine like beacons in the night every summer, drawing moths with a siren song only they know the words to.  It’s beautiful to see those tightly wrapped blooms unfurl themselves every evening to dance on soft summer night breezes.  Saucer sized blossoms pop up until as late as November if the season is mild and we’ve had a few of those since I came here in 2009.  2015-08-10 19.47.47My husband had these pale beauties growing from a large bucket in the front of the porch to trail up the trellis when I first moved here and they’re still here, every year, shining brightly late into the night to remind us of our rediscovery of one another after 42 years apart.  They are the light we leave on at night for one another, like a lighthouse to guide us home.

Keep the small things around you, remember those things that only you know about because in your home, your own space, that’s the memory that matters most.  No one else really needs to know why this thingamabob is there, but it brings you joy, so it needs to be there.