Thursday, July 14, 2011

Renegade SF Recap and Renegade LA

Renegade San Francisco was this past weekend at Fort Mason. The show was great, I sold a bunch of soaps, met some lovely folks (Amy from Lemon Bird and Paula from Paulova Ceramics) and started a few chats about resources, learning opportunities and potential collaborations. These shows are always fun but definitely exhausting. If you've never done a show, or something similar, just imagine getting up early after a late night packing (and/or creating), hauling your stuff somewhere (in my case down one flight of very steep very narrow stairs), unpacking, setting up, then standing for 8+ hours on your feet, chatting, smiling and being the most friendly version of yourself possible – it's extremely tiring and definitely requires at least one post show martini (photo here), if not two. Luckily, I had a great booth mate (Ms. Molly Della who also happens to be my best friend) and we kept the energy alive by dancing to the music during slow times. I finally recovered fully from SF Renegade Tuesday, just in time to prep and get amped up for Renegade LA this weekend (if you are asking yourself – is she crazy? two big shows back to back? the answer is yes, I'm totally nuts). I will be heading out early tomorrow morning to grab dry ice for the show (the show is outdoors and potentially HOT so I have to protect my product) before I pack the car, pick up my fabulous booth mate Kendra (check her stuff out), and drive the 5+ hours to LA. Whew!

So, if you happen to be in the LA area, please brave the 405 closure aka 'Carmaggedon' and come check out the Renegade Craft Show from 11 – 7 Saturday and Sunday at the Los Angeles Historic State Park. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Renegade San Francisco Here I Come!

I'll be at the Renegade Craft Show this weekend at Fort Mason. Come by to say hi and to check out my friend Molly's sweet baby bibs!

Oh yeah, I got a little mention in the SF Chronicle blog in relation to the show – press mentions always make me giddy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

HSMG Conference Miami

view from our hotel

Wow! May was a blur (clearly since its now almost the middle of June). I had a busy month with the annual soap conference, fun times in Miami, wedding plans and a big birthday. The main event was the 2011 Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild Conference in Miami - which then turned into a pre-pre wedding celebration. The soap conference was a blast (as always), I shared a room with the fabulous Jen Hardaway from Klean Spa (she has shops in Santa Monica and Burbank). I met great people, got the chance to talk soap to my hearts content and I learned a lot of great things from the speakers. To make sure that I dont write a 3 page blog post, I've condensed down a few things from the conference.

Swirl Class with Kat from Otion
Here are my top 5 take-aways:
  1. soap cannot be 100 % certified organic according to new FDA regulations
  2. preception creates reality (a key point from speaker Barbara Cocoran)
  3. customers are the single most important person in my biz (I already knew that)
  4. knowing when to say enough when swirling
  5. there is no perfect size company so I have to choose what works best for me

Thursday, April 28, 2011

INDIE Book Club: Delivering Happiness

Last Tuesday was the second installment of the Indie Biz Book Club (a group of fantastic women entrepreneurs - read about meeting number one here). We are reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. First before I discuss the meeting, I just want to say that this book is an easy ready and totally inspiring. I was sucked into the story of Tony’s life and the beginning of Zappos. He started his first business at the age of 8!! When I was 8, all I cared about were Barbies and My Little Ponies, the last thing on my mind was starting a business.

The second installment of the book club meeting started with each of us sharing our favorite passage from part two of the book. I shared the following section from page 163
"We must all learn not only to fear change, but to embrace it enthusiastically and, perhaps even more important, encourage and drive it. We must always plan for and be prepared for constant change."
- this particular passage struck me because it is so true and also happens to be something I am currently working on accepting both in my life and in my business.

Part two of Delivering Happiness was incredibly interesting, Tony shares the evolution of the Culture Book, 10 Core Values and staying committed to the unique culture that has developed (which became the Zappos brand). We discussed delegating non-core tasks, knowing when to hire people, hiring good employees, working with interns, making sure you are looking at the big picture and the small picture. I am looking forward to the next section of our Biz Book Meeting: Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Dish cloths by RebeccaJayStudios

It finally feels like spring here in San Francisco, the perfect time to open windows and get cracking on some serious cleaning. This is a great opportunity to assess your cleaning products and move toward an ‘eco-friendly’ cleaning regime. Take stock of all your cleaning products - most conventional cleaning products filled with a variety of harsh and potentially toxic chemicals. Now is the time to get rid of those nasty cleanser - you will need to dispose of them properly (no, you can't just dump in down the drain or toss the bottle in the garbage) so check out info for your local Hazardous Waste Facility. Most have certain days or drop off locations for residential hazardous waste materials. Now you can re-stock your cleaning supplies with environmentally friendly effective cleansers. Most of the ingredients are things you can find in your cabinets like baking soda, white vinegar and natural dish soap (I like Ecover and Earth Friendly Products). These are great “double duty” ingredients plus you will save money by making your own cleaning products.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite natural DIY cleaning recipes below:

All Purpose Cleanser 1

  • 1 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup distilled water (or tap)
  • 1/2 tsp natural dishwashing liquid/liquid castile soap
  • 20 drops essential oil*

Measure and mix ingredients. Pour into a spray bottle. Label!!

All Purpose Cleaner 2

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 6 cups distilled water (or tap)
  • 50-60 drops essential oils*

Measure ingredients, mix before pouring into spray bottle (the vinegar and baking soda will bubble and expand - make sure to use a large enough container to handle any overflow). Pour into a spray bottle. Label!! Shake before use.

Bath Tub Scrub

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup borax (should be able to get this at hardware store/grocery store - this can be harsh on the skin so make sure to wear gloves)
  • 2 tbsp liquid soap (like dr bronners)
  • 40-60 drops essential oil

Measure and mix ingredients in glass or ceramic bowl or dish (preferably one you dont eat out of) store in glass jar (I like to re-use condiment/pickles jars for this product) or heavy duty plastic container. When ready to use, sprinkle around damp tub and start scrubbing! ***Do Not use on metal fixtures

Bath Tub Cleaner 2 (the ULTRA basic formula)

I just toss some baking soda all around the tub and then spritz with some white vinegar - the fizzy action helps with the cleaning process. I let that sit for about 5 minutes and then start scrubbing!

Super Simple Room & Linen Spray:

  • ½ cup vodka
  • 15-20 drops essential oils/blend

Pour ingredients into a glass bottle with spray nozzle. When ready to use, shake and spritz!

Simple Furniture Polish

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 15-20 drops lemon or orange essential oil

Measure ingredients and pour in to bottle with a spray nozzle. When ready to use, shake vigorously and spray directly onto wood furniture or onto rag. Polish away!

*essential oil recommendations: lemon, lime, tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, thyme (use caution with this oil as it is a skin irritant), sage. These essential oils are great for cleansing because of their anti-bacterial/anti-fungal properties and because they smell great!

Make sure to label each bottle carefully and keep out of reach of small children and pets.

You can also green your cleaning by cutting up old t-shirts, towels or sheets to create cleaning rags rather than using sponges or paper towels. Or, choose one of the gorgeous wash cloths above.

Do you have a DIY cleaning recipe you like?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Interview: Funlayo Alabi, Shea Queen

Funlayo Alabi is the co-owner of Shea Radiance (with her husband, so impressive) a fabulous company based in Baltimore, that works with communities in West Africa to import traditionally harvested shea butter (an Etta + Billie favorite). Not only do they sell this fabulous shea butter they also make luscious shea butter skin treats. Luckily, Funlayo was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the business of shea butter:

How did you start your business?

My business started more out out of a need for richer more emollient products. We had dry skin and the kids had eczema and we couldn't find any good products on the market.

We started using raw shea butter and saw a remarkable difference in our skin. We knew that there had to be a market for people who shared our need for a natural effective solution to dry skin, because our friends and family were raving about the samples we gave them.

What have been some of your biggest challenges with your business?

Finances. When you are involved in the shea butter supply chain at the level we are, there are a lot of upfront expenses. Working directly with shea producers in the early stages involves pre paying for the the nuts, providing storage facilities, bagging and boxing product and getting the product from the 'Farmgate' (point of production which is usually in the 'interior' country (village) where the shea trees grow and the butter is extracted) to the port.

We also do all our product manufacturing here in the states, so the expense of running a small scale manufacturing facility does require expense.

What have you been most proud of with your business?

I am most proud of the fact that we are positioned to be a company that will have a positive impact on the lives of women in Africa and in the US. The personal care business is a womans business on any levels. Our key ingredient, shea butter, is produced by women and 90% of the customers who buy our product are women.

What is your favorite product to create with shea butter?

The chocolate whipped butters. They look and smell so yummy. Like dessert for the skin. (these sound fantastic!)

What should consumers look for when sourcing fair trade shea butter from vendors?

The main thing I look for is a connection with local producers. Many of us who work directly with the women do not necessarily have all the finances to obtain 'Fair Trade' and/or Organic Certification. These are all very expensive for small businesses to obtain in addition to the fact tat they are taking on a lot of financial risk working on a grass roots level. What I look for is intent and progress and the mission of the vendor.

Check out a description of the processing with photos here.

Why should consumers choose fair trade?

Fairly Traded means that there is financial and social benefit to the local producers.

Do you have a favorite product that you don’t make yourself?

I love the rich organic soap bars produced by Botanical Skin Works. A local business here in Baltimore.

Thank you again Funlayo for sharing your story! Hopefully I can come along on a shea trip next year!

Friday, March 18, 2011

2011 Biz Goals

I've been meaning to post these for a while and finally (the story of my blogging life) have them postable.
  • Create a real business budget: I am a little embarrassed to admit this but I have never created a budget for my business. That is not to say that I didn't track my sales or purchases or my COGs (cost of goods sold). But I have never had an actual budget as a guide. Part of the reason was I was scared, how much would I actually need to make to move to part time work? or quit my day job all together? I also kept putting it off for other “more important” tasks. This year I’ve vowed to create a real budget for myself so I can track my progress, create goals and make changes when necessary. As of last week, I have finally created a real budget for my business. There are some scary numbers there but at least I have a real idea of what I need to make to move my business forward.
  • Add three new products to my line. I would like to add lip balm, candles, and whipped scrubs to my line this year. I hope you are all as excited about these new products as I am!
  • Add a soap of the month club. Done, you can check it out here.
  • Add 2-3 new wholesale accounts each quarter. This is a big goal. After completely my budget I see the necessity of adding additional accounts if I want to move to part time work by the end of the year. This is also a part of the business that is a bit hard for me. It is really scary to put your business out there, especially when it is such a part of you. However, its something I have to get over if I want my business to succeed, so I need to suck it up and get it done.
  • Create a production schedule. I’ve created a long term production schedule and am working on breaking the larger goals into smaller pieces. I feel so much better. :)
  • Create a marketing plan. Marketing is on of my biggest business struggles. I’ve read books, gone to seminars and I still don't seem to have a full grasp of everything, especially a plan that I will consistently follow and refer to. So, I started seeing on of the free business counselors at the San Francisco Chapter of the Small Business Development Center. I should have a “real” plan in the next few months.
  • Start blogging 1-3 times a week. Obviously this has been going ok, but could be better. I need someone to get tough with me - any volunteers?