Thursday, June 30, 2011

Shift in thinking

So I know you have to have your venues spread out, have your name out there to be found in the search engines etc. I have however decided that I really want to spend my valuable time promoting my own site rather than in Artfire, Etsy, or even Meylah. I think that if you have other channels of getting your product out there, you should explore those as much as possible, so, to that end I am going to use the next few months really pushing my own site and getting more wholesale accounts, rather than concentrating so much on the other venues. You have to figure out what works for you and this is my new thinking. I'll keep you posted! What has been working well for you?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I love this

Part of what I love about making soap is that the possibilities are endless, the combinations of oils and scents you can put together. The latest one is for the Limited Edition and smells like heaven! It's a blend of apple, oatmeal, shea, cinnamon, gingerbread scent. It reminds me of those cookies they used to make (still make them?) that were applesauce/oatmeal with that white icing and they were hard as my head unless you dunked them. I know the folks that are fans of our seasonal "Honey Gingerbread" will love this one as much as I do. I'd post pictures but it's not much to look at, the scent is where it's at! Hopefully it's a big enough batch that I will have it at least all 4 Markets!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Playing catch up

It always amazes me the difference is the seasons, not so much the weather, although that is a big part of it, I mean being in Season for my Farmers Markets, the ones that are just basically Summer and a little Fall. I have 3 Markets I do year round and then another 1 -1/4 I do in the summer too (the 1/4 is Antioch Kaiser, I only go once a month). Anyhow, you get where you sort of easily hit your stride when it's just those few Markets, and it amazes me how much more production is required for just one more Market! It's a good thing, but I feel like I'm always playing catch up lately!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't put them all in one basket,,,,

You know, your eggs. When you have your own product that you market, what ever it is, it's wise to have more than one "distrubution channel" (how your product gets to your customers). There was a topic about this recently on an on-line forum I visit. Some people get most of their income from Markets/events they do (that's me at the moment) and others from on-line and yet others do their main thing from Wholesale, and that has it's advantages too. I do a mix of all of them but the bulk comes from my Farmers Markets. The only real down side to that is, in the rainy season, as vendors we attend, however, some folks have a thing about not going out in the rain and will wait for a sunny day, and if that's what you depend on for income, it can leave YOU all wet! That's when it's really time to diversify and spread those eggs out. Last year I put a lot of effort into the on-line side of it, Artfire, Meylah etc, this year the emphasis will be on getting my soap into more brick and mortar shops. The thing is figuring out what mixture will work for you. If you're just starting out, do give that some thought, it will make things easier for you in the long run.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Biz Plan

You know the old saying, if you don't know where you're going, how will you get there? A Business Plan is an essential ingredient in your success. Things you may not have thought about, as well as really mapping out how your company will become successful. There's a lot of information in your plan, and if you are ever serious about getting investors or other financing, it's required.
There are a few organizations that actually have programs to help you do this, I believe the Women's Initiative out of Oakland has a program, and the one that I graduated from was from The Small Business Development Center. Here's a link for you to get more information on that http://contracostasbdc.com/ (you'll have to copy/paste, I couldn't get it to click right) It's called New Venture Training and is an intensive 12 week program. Don't let the cost scare you off, they will consider a scholarship for you, that's what I did.
I have found the information provided to be very valuable and I still refer to my notes even now. If you're serious about your business, I heartily recommend your taking advantage of this informative program. (If you call, and speak to Jeff Hall, tell him Carla the SOAP LADY sent you)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Table Display

There are a few things to consider with your table set up. You want it to look interesting, have color and have an appealing feel to it. Your own style of course will go into this, depending on what your particular theme is. Here are a few things worth considering:
Ease of set up If you look at the picture from the last post, you will see clear bins, those are awesome, I don't have to take them from another container and then to these, they live in these and since they stack, I can use my vertical space and less of the table. They came from The Container Store, but I'm sure you can find something else like this if you look around. The wooden displays in the center are actually drawers! I love those, at the end of the day I just slide them closed and they are done. It really speeds up my set up/tear-down time.
Color You want something that will draw the eye in, that will get folks to come and check you out!
Differing heights This will add visual interest rather than having everything on just one level.
You can also look around on the Flickr site for inspiration for your table display. I'm all about easy, so do think about that, especially if you do a few events a week like I do! Feel free to leave your tips!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Table Arrangement

I have a few different configurations of how I set my table up at Market, some places, like Concord, there's a granite table within my booth, so I really have one way to go, straigh across. This arrangement has it's advantages, mainly in that people can see everything you have, it's not hiding around a corner, and they can smell the fragrant soap as they walk by, thats always a good thing. The picture was taken today (with my phone) at the Pleasanton Farmers Market and you can see what that arrangement looks like.
Another set up I use is the "L", where folks do need to come more under the tent, and while most folks don't mind and find it cozy, some folks seem to feel a little trapped, although, it seems like those are the same ones that you say "Good morning" to and they don't answer you, they fear you will grab them by the ankles and force them to by soap! We hardly EVER do that! :-) If you know me you know I am about as low pressure as it gets! Just saying hello, nothing more sinister than that! But most people don't mind that set up, it will usually allow you more table space too, the straight across one will only allow you as wide as your tent is, ten feet in my case.
The ways you can configure the tables is only limited by your imagination, but of course the object is to create an environment where yous customers will feel comfortable and come to see you often!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Supporting Local

You know, it's so important to keep local dollars in the local community as much as possible, and even more than that, when you're self employed, you realize how much your purchases truly support other businesses. I am SO thankful for the customers that have supported US over the years. I feel like that old Bartles and Jaymes commercial,.....remember that? "We thank you for your support" But it's true! I think you really want to do your part to support those companies that have done a great job in product or service for you. That's just talking about for the business, not even mentioning the impact shopping locally has on the environment, so it's a good thing all the way around. One of our wholesale customers, Diablo Foods in Lafayette, actually has a little sign on the shelf to let folks know they are purchasing a local product.
Support those businesses that you like, and please tell a friend, a little word of mouth goes a long way!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Market Managers

As a customer at he Farmers Market, you may not even be aware that there IS a manager unless there's some sort of problem, lost keys, can't find a certain vendor, things like that. But I have to tell you I have a great deal of respect for the job they do. In addition to having to know all the rules about "ag" (agriculture, things grown) and "non-ag" (hot food/soap/bread etc, things consumed/used up) they have to enforce all the rules, which isn't always easy. It never ceases to amaze me that even though there are signs posted, we STILL get folks bringing in their dogs, it's a health code violation, but I've seen the people with the critters get nasty with the managers who are just trying to follow the rules. Without the managers, it would be anarchy! They also have to deal with the city/sponsors, there's a lot of things like that done for the benefit of the Market that we don't even see. I think the hardest part, must be, having to deal with all the personalities of the vendors/producers. For the most part, we are good little monkeys, but now and then you 'll get someone that's just a prima donna and very difficult to work with.
I have worked with (and still do!) some really great managers, just top notch (you know who you are) and in addition to keeping the order are just fantastic people too. This doesn't even scratch the surface of all the things required by their jobs, believe me, it's a lot of responibility and they take it very seriously.
So, when you see a Market Manager, thank them for all their hard work, the Markets wouldn't be the same without them. And as for me, I love you guys!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blogging

Something really interesting. You sometimes write a blog post and feel as though you're just talking to yourself, I tend to do that anyhow! But, I have this blog linked to Google Analytics and guess what? It DOES get some attention!
I think the hardest part about blogging is trying to find something interesting to write about on a regular basis, but the important thing is to keep it up. It's a fun way to connect with folks, especially customers, they get a unique peek at what your up to and the person that you are.
It's also a fun way of marketing, as you can see by the sidebar there are a few things I do to promote the Blog, Entracard and Project Wonderful now and then. If you do write a blog, I encourage you to look into those, it's a good way to share the love!
What are your thoughts about blogging?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dad's Day

So the little muslin bags have been a pretty big hit, and the thing I love is that the tags can be focused on any event/holiday/occassion and of course the bags can be used endlessly and then can be composted when they are eventually finished. I have some really cute tags I'll be using for Father's day, here are a couple of them.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What it's all about

So I had this customer today in Concord that had moved away for a few years. It was a wonderful surprise to see her and when we saw each other we exchanged a big hug and did a short catch up session. I asked about her daughter and she asked how my husband was doing. Even though I hadn't seen her in a long while, the reconnection was instant, because there was a connection to begin with. And what I was thinking about after she left was, it really IS all about connections, be it with friends, family, customers, customers that become friends. I just don't take it for granted, each relationship we have is SO precious. Remember to always tell the folks in your life how precious they are to you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sneak Peak

These will be debuting at my Kaiser Antioch Market tomorrow. I love the idea, the muslin bags are reusable and compostable too. Each one has a full sized soap in it, and the little vintage looking tags are blank on the back so you can write your own message if it's for a gift! The funny thing is they started out as something completely different! It will be fun to see how they are received tomorrow!