Advice is Free

March 3, 2015

Turning my hobby into a full time business has been hard work–really hard work!  There are days I work 14-16 hours and I could work longer because there’s still plenty of work, but I unfortunately run out of steam.  It’s been a lot of trial and error.  There have been products that I was sure would be successful and don’t sell and ones I didn’t think would move and fly off the shelf.

The problem with introducing new products is it usually means a new expense.  Rarely do I have everything I need in stock to make the product.    That’s part of the business.  I’ve gotten much better at managing the new expenses and predicting costs I’ll need to invest.  I have a list of “products to try” a mile long. There’s so much I want to still learn to make and experiment with.  There’s only so much money and time to do that though on top of everything else I make.

On top of new products I’ve (along the way) dealt with creating a webpage, figuring out which markets/craft fairs were good/bad, actually attending and selling at those craft fairs, creating a wholesale line, growing my wholesale client base, creating (and maintaining) a newsletter, teaching and developing new soap classes, finding new/more venues to teaching my classes through, maintaining a blog, maintaining Facebook… Oh! And not on that list is just making all the products (over 75 different products) that sell that is the heart of my business.  You see the list goes on and on.  There are never enough hours in the day.  There is always something that doesn’t get done or gets pushed back a day, a week, a month…

This is enough to overwhelm anyone.  I’ve dealt with it though, and fairly well I think.  Along the way my parents (Dad especially), brother, even friends have offered their advice.  They do it to help me. I know that.  Most of the time they’d offer suggestions and they’d already be on my list of “to dos.”  I always got frustrated with them.  I would be like “there’s only one of me and I’m doing the best I can!”  It took me awhile to realize that their advice wasn’t criticism.  It was just that advice. They WANTED me to succeed.  They wanted to help me.  Their advice was their way of caring and trying to show their support for me.

Some of their advice I ignored because it was something that would create more work for me or force me outside my comfort zone.  I learned the hard way sometimes that I should have listened to their advice.  It might have been more work initially but it would have paid off later, whether through sales, increased visibility, attracting new customers, or making me stand out.  Some advice I’m now implementing.  It’s never too late.

That said some advice I don’t listen to.  Not because it’s not good or have merit, but I (just like you) know my business and I know somethings just aren’t a direction I want to go, or I would hate doing it (and that’s not the reason I started my own business!)

The lesson I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) though that I wanted to share is be open to advice.  It costs you nothing (but maybe some time) to listen to and think about someone else’s suggestions.  You don’t have to take the advice.  You can use it as inspiration for something else.  Or you can take it.  Just remember listen with an open mind.  It could be well worth it in the end.

kickstart15


St. Florian Medallion

February 5, 2015

My mom got me a medallion for Christmas. I opened it and looked at it and went ok…who’s St. Florian?She saw the medallion at a fundraiser auction my church was having.  She asked others and no one knew. Finally someone pulled out their phone to do a search (gotta love modern technology).  This is what they read:

Saint Florian is a Christian saint, and the patron saint of Linz, Austria; chimney sweeps; soapmakers, and firefighters.

My mom laughed and said I have to have it for my daughter.  Who knew there was a patron saint of soap makers! I love it.  I think about it and it seems a weight lifts off my shoulder.  It might be silly or seem superstitious, but the idea that there’s a saint of soap makers makes me smile and know that I’ll be ok.  I will succeed with my business and that just maybe there’s someone watching over me.

A search of Catholic Online produced this background on St. Florian:

The St. Florian commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on May 4th, was an officer of the Roman army, who occupied a high administrative post in Noricum, now part of Austria, and who suffered death for the Faith in the days of Diocletian. His legendary “Acts” state that he gave himself up at Lorch to the soldiers of Aquilinus, the governor, when they were rounding up the Christians, and after making a bold confession, he was twice scourged, half-flayed alive, set on fire, and finally thrown into the river Enns with a stone around his neck. His body, recovered and buried by a pious woman, was eventually removed to the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian, near Linz. It is said to have been at a later date translated to Rome, and Pope Lucius III, in 1138, gave some of the saint’s relics to King Casimir of Poland and to the Bishop of Cracow. Since that time, St. Florian has been regarded as a patron of Poland as well as of Linz, Upper Austria and of firemen. There has been popular devotion to St. Florian in many parts of central Europe, and the tradition as to his martyrdom, not far from the spot where the Enns flows into the Danube, is ancient and reliable. Many miracles of healing are attributed to his intercession and he is invoked as a powerful protector in danger from fire or water. His feast day is May 4th.

medal

Reading about him there’s much more on him being the Patron Saint of Firefighters (and why).  I’d love to learn more about where and how he became associated with soap makers.  It’s fitting anyway you look at it though.  My grandfather (who I never knew as he died when I was just three) was a firefighter.  There’s just something about all of it that makes me smile.


Germany 2014

January 28, 2015

I have to say I was one lucky girl this past Christmas.  My parents brought my sister and I to Germany.  We lived there for seven years (at different times) when I was growing up. (We also lived in France for three years).  The upside of being an Army Brat.  I’m also half German and just love Germany.  It was an amazing trip (despite the hiccup at the beginning of our trip…missed a connecting flight in Iceland and got to spend a day there.)

I thought I’d share with you some of the photos from my trip.

Regensburg, Germany

Regensburg1

Regensburg2

Munich, Germany

Munich has my absolute favorite Christkindlemarket.  It is, in my opinion, the best one in Germany (heck, all of Europe).  And I feel I can say this as I’ve been to at least a dozen Christmas markets over the years.

Munich1

Munich2

Munich4

Prague, Czech Republic

I’ve been to Prague many times (this was my fourth time, but who’s counting)!  I visited when I lived in Europe. Got to spend a month in the city when I was in college for a summer program.  An absolutely amazing experience!  It was cold in Prague.  I was bundled up!  I love the beauty of this city.  Untouched by the wars, it’s truly a gorgeous city.

prague2

prague4

prague5

prague6

prague7

prague8

Dresden, Germany

dresden2

Dresden was FREEZING. I took very few pictures.  Mostly cause my sister and Dad were taking a bunch and I figured I could just get theirs ha!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

One of my favorite places on this earth! And no I’m not exaggerating! It snowed the entire three days we were here.  It was cold cold cold!  We climbed up the slick stone steps to walk the wall of the town.  Not maybe the smartest idea, but it was fun!

Rothenburg 6

Rothenburg 1

Rothenburg 2

Rothenburg 3

Rothenburg 5

Rothenburg 4

And lastly one of my favorite German dishes: Jagerschnitzel with spaetzle! Yum!

Munich5


2015: A Look Forward

January 15, 2015

I met many of my goals in 2014.  So, now it’s time to make those 2015 goals.

  1. Double my profit.  This might be asking too much, who knows, but I’d rather challenge myself than just be content to do what I did last year.
  2. Work on my “attraction appeal.”  I know that seems a bit big and vague.  What do I mean?  Work on pulling new customers.  Work on standing out.  Work on making some new products that will draw in new customers.  Goal #2 goes hand in hand goal #1.  I’ve already begun working on goal #2.
  3. Maybe (finally) finalize my display set up?  I know that will never happen.  I think part of a changing display makes for something “new” for repeat clients, but I’m hoping to before the season really starts get my new display all pulled together to work with all my new products (and all fit in the car)!  I’m currently banging my head against walls as I continue to play around with options.
  4. Introduce a few new products.  I want to develop a body scrub/polish line, bubble bath, lip scrubs, shower tabs, and under eye butter.
  5. Make some improvements to my webpage (most which will be behind the scenes changes).
  6. Grow my online sales.
  7. Grow my wholesale sales.
  8. Expand where I teach classes and the variety.  I started this last year, and want to continue on the path this year.
  9. Save a percentage of every sale for a really BIG (potential) goal that is (potentially) years away.

That’s a fairly big list.  I’m sure there will be other things that come up and will get added to it, but these are my goals for 2015.

kicksart21

Half the battle is having a positive attitude! The other half working hard–something I’m very good at. I will not give up (but I might complain along the way :) …this is what best friends are for though.  They’re good at listening to your frustrations and just being there for you as you realize no matter how hard or rough something might seem that You CAN and you WILL!)

 


2014: A Look Back

January 12, 2015

What did I accomplish in 2014?  A fair amount!

  • I made over 3000 bars of soap (less than 2013, but I was much smarter with my soap making in 2014)
  • I experimented with some new products AND added a number of them to my line: bath bombs, foot fizzies, muscle salve/balm, and a green cleaning line.
  • A realized that some of my products needed to become seasonal products for the winter as they just didn’t sell well enough during the year.  The biggest of those are my cupcakes soaps.
  • I did less markets, but was smarter about it.  I worked less to make more money.  I learned that a few more needed to get cut out in 2015.
  • Online Sales: I was on par with what I did in 2013.  I wasn’t happy about that.  I really wanted to grow my online sales, so that’s definitely a goal for this year.
  • Wholesale saw a small increase in new clients, but a definite increase in repeat orders.
  • Made some major updates to the webpage.  I’m much happier about them.  I do however have some more updates in mind for 2015.
  • I attended my second Soap Conference.  I learned some new things and got to visit my Aunt as well.
  • I received my Advance Certification for CP soap making.
  • I got certified by the Soap Guild as an Advance Teacher.

Quite the year!  I have many goals for 2015, but that’s for another post!


The ever chaning booth set up…

September 13, 2014

I’m always searching for the PERFECT display set up.  I think I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I might not find the PERFECT set up, but I can make a pretty darn attractive set up for just about any space size I’m given.

The hard part was the every changing booth size!  In the summer when I’m outside and in my tent I’m always in a 10×10 space, but I have to deal with the sun. Depending on each market depends on which way the sun would come into my tent.  I used to do my set up in an “L,” but was never really happy with that.  I just felt it cut people off and didn’t necessarily encourage them to come into my booth.

L-setup

After a lot of playing around with different table sizes and displays I found a 9′ long table combination that works pretty well. (Still a few things to fix up in this display, table skirts mostly, but it’s to the point where I’m happy with it.)  Before I ventured into the big changes I actually had to sketch out many different alternatives…playing around in my head what would/wouldn’t work. (I know this could be considered a little obsessive :D.)

sketch

straigh setup

You’ll notice this picture is still missing one last layer I added.  I moved the soaps forward and added a shelf to display the soaps.  I Like it so much more!

final levels

Another problem I found was too flat of a display.  This problem I’ve worked on for YEARS!  This season I think I finally stumbled onto a solution that really helps my display move up!  And seem like it’s full and be inviting.

levels

levels2

Lastly, I added the layers and then my sign in the back kind of disappeared.  I wanted it to be obvious I was selling soap.  I wanted to grab peoples attention.  Which lead me to my little “SOAP” in wood letters, painted design.  Works great.  Stands out!  Is bold!  And people know: Oh it’s soap!

signage

There’s still stuff I’m not 100% happy with.  I know it’ll see changes.  And this whole set up goes through a whole new morph once I move inside (where my space rarely is 10×10).  However I’m not going to think about that until October gets here.  I actually have a really nice wood shelf my dad build that is awesome (heavy and a little hard sometimes to get in and out of places, but I’ve got a dolly that really helps).  That post is for a different time though.


Updating the Webpage

August 7, 2014

It’s been on my list for a while now to update my webpage.  I needed to update the version of the shopping cart I was using.  I wanted to do away with the initial homepage I had and make the shopping cart homepage my homepage (which meant I had to really work on updating that page)…there was so much that I needed to refine and fix (behind the scenes stuff).  I also wanted to set up and use the rewards point system my cart offers.  For about 4 intensive days my aunt and I sat down and just worked on getting it updated.

I am so happy with the results.  It’s just an overall more pleasing page now. The first thing I had to do was tackle the homepage redesign.  This screenshot gives you a little glimpse.  I think it’s clean, simple, and appealing.  http://www.jennifersoap.com

homepage

I spent a lot of time updating photos.  I created banners, collages, you name it…It was worth it though.  I think it grabs peoples attention.  Keeping with photos, I created new banners for the Soap and Bath and Beauty pages.  I think it helps.  One of my biggest complaints was there just seemed to be too much text on pages.

Soaps

Bath

I was also able to institute a rewards point system.  Every order now earns reward points.  And (almost) every item allows you to buy that item with “x” number of reward points.  It’s my way of saying thank you to all my repeat customer. I really do appreciate your business!

reward points

If you’ve bought and loved a product of mine I’d love for you to review it!  I’m trying to build the reviews on the site so buyers can see what others think about the different products.  I know sometimes my descriptions aren’t enough to sway a person!  So, if you loved a product and want to write a review all you have to do is sign into your account and go to the review button and then just fill it out. Thank you!

reviews


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 202 other followers