Saying Good-bye

Back in December, I vended my annual holiday event, Mom by my side.  As she looked at my greatly minimized display of wares, she asked, “Why aren’t you selling lotions anymore?”

I replied, “Because they just weren’t selling, and they aren’t shelf-stable from year to year.”  I went on to explain about the freedom I’d felt at no longer being slave to my products and how liberating it is to be able to cut products out of my line when they’re no longer performing as I’d like them to do.

When I rebranded to form Coastal Carolina Soap Co., I resolved to keep the product offerings limited.  Even taking a less-than-objective view towards my display and my site under Sara’s Soaps ‘n Such, I thought it looked cluttered, and from a buyer’s perspective, the plethora of choices was overwhelming; there were just too many soaps from which to choose.  So after ruthlessly purging my inventory, I vowed, “Never again would I have so many soaps!”  That means, when I add a soap, I would have to choose a soap to get rid of.

I’m introducing a lovely new soap called Green Hibiscus Peach, which is a delightfully sophisticated peach with floral notes.  I’m also excited to announce the return of Orange Blossom, a soap I’d planned to carry over to the Coastal Carolina Soap brand from the beginning.  These soaps will be ready early May, just in time for Spring Fest.

So, what’s going?  After assessing my database and past year’s sales, I decided to discontinue Magnolia in Bloom.  I have ten of these beauties left in stock, and they will only be around for another month or so.

Magnolia in Bloom soap
Magnolia in Bloom soap

While I’m selling those soaps, I’ll be showing off the two grand new soaps that are coming out across my social media channels, and I’ll be broadcasting my swirling magic in our Facebook group.  I hope you’ll join us!

It’s Here! And I’m so excited!

It happened yesterday, and this week is the big launch! I decided to do something new and different with my business, and doing something new, especially in business, is always a crazy combination of scary and exciting.  I started a community on Facebook that is geared especially to my customers and those who have been following my brand.

So how did I come to this decision?  Facebook’s algorithms severely limit how many of my page’s posts cross my customers’ newsfeeds (unless I pay a lot of advertising costs), which sort of makes it, What’s the point?  With this reduced page reach, I’ve been feeling like I’m talking to myself most of the time, and, frankly, I do plenty of that offline without doing it on social media.  At the same time, there’s no denying the power of video, and by and large, my posts that include pictures and videos get the most reach and the most engagement.

When I first started out in business, shows and markets were the sustaining backbone of my revenues.  While schlepping tables, canopy, and products around wasn’t fun, interacting and engaging with my customers was a joy!  Now that I’m largely private label and wholesale with but two events a year, I miss engaging with my customers.  This allows me to do so more, whether we live across town or across the country from each other.

This is going to be fun, I just feel it!  And I hope you’ll join in the fun and the conversation.  You can find our group at this link.


Pushing Through

I didn’t want to do it.  Despite knowing I must get some much-needed exercise today, it was a struggle getting out there.  My legs were still feeling remnants of the abuse from earlier in the week, it’s less-than-warm outside, and I have some business-related computer-based matters that need my attention in addition to planning tomorrow evening’s soccer practice.  Yeah, I put it off.  Even after my older daughter “helped” me out by grabbing my sneakers and workout clothes for me (without my asking her to), I still found another ten minutes’ worth of reasons not to strike out.

But finally, I could put it off no more.  Though the sun was out and the sky was a vibrant, cloudless blue, the wind stabbed through my top like knives and stung my cheeks.  The muscles in my legs were still a bit tight.  I was cold.  All I wanted was to be inside in my warm, fleecy bumwear in front of my computer with a mug of hot chocolate getting work done.  For about fifteen seconds, I gave serious consideration to turning around and going back home.  But sheer determination and nothing short of stubbornness kept me going.

I did it.  I did it for 47 minutes and almost 3 miles.  I did it despite the bitter wind and my desire to be warm inside.  I warmed up and kicked my heart rate up to my perfect target rate.  Best yet, I had that time for my brain to be free of distractions, which gave it room to plan my soccer practice, formulate a new direction in my business, and mentally draft this blog post.

Business requires us to push through sometimes, too.  I’m facing hours of website work this weekend, which is my absolute least favorite thing to do for my business.  It has to get done, though.  Other business owners may love that type of stuff but hate dealing with the public (my favorite).  Regardless of what your least favorite task is or how much you may not be feeling one of your more enjoyable ones, as business owners, we have to push through and get things done.

The past month has stymied my drive and creativity, and in the evolution of my business, especially over against changing technologies, I have to push through yet again with a new angle and a new way of connecting with my customers.  I love my customers, talking to them and hearing their stories, but that is one thing I really miss about not doing as many events – I just don’t get to connect with them like I used to.  Sure, blog posts and emails are great, but it all too often feels like a one-sided conversation.

To that end, I am going to be launching a brand new Facebook group just for Coastal Carolina Soap Company’s customers, whether you have bought from us or you just love our brand story and want to stay connected.  The link will be going out very soon, so be on the lookout for that.  Maybe my blog posts come right to your inbox, or perhaps you see them on Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media outlet.  You can find out about this incredible new group by subscribing to this blog or also by signing up to receive our emails (one of which handily contains links to each blog post for the month).

We hope you will join us, and we look forward to connecting with you in new and exciting ways beginning next week!

Getting Right Back On

I went out last Friday for a wonderful trike ride.  The weather was in the 70s – shorts and t-shirt warm – and being out pushing it felt awesome!  I was tearing through the neighborhood, coasting through the large puddle in the cul de sac behind our house, enjoying the day and saying “hi” to neighbors.  Friday was my day to push it, to nip that third mile.  I was in the far cul de sac, and it happened.  That cul de sac isn’t a constant-radius turn, and I lost control and began to tip.  In fighting to stay upright and regain control of my trike, the pedals beat the devil out of the backs of my legs.

pic of bruises
“Ouch ouch ouch! Shit shit shit!” Exactly what I was saying as this was happening.
Bruised leg
And the left leg. It only hurts when anything touches it.

My trike survived with nary a scratch or ding, and except for that cut (which looks worse than it is) and my legs’ 50 shades of purple, I fared well enough.  But now I had a choice.  I could walk my trike home, where my older daughter was waiting to ride it, or I could ride it home.  Walking was safe enough, though painful as all get-out as bruised and swollen as my legs were.

A little back-story…  I never learned how to ride a bike.  I tried, but I fell too many times, and one time, I got the wind knocked out of me.  That experience scared me as I heard my fourth grade teacher’s voice in my head talking about broken ribs and punctured lungs.  That was it for me.

So here I was a vast number of years later facing a choice – walk or ride; it was going to hurt either way.  After walking around twenty feet or so, I hopped on my trike and rode home, and not straight home; while I didn’t do the route I had planned, I did add a bit extra to the ride before reaching home and getting cozy with two ibuprofen and an ice pack.

Like many entrepreneurs, I’ve fallen in business, too.  I’ve been banged up and bruised, even shed a little O-positive.  There have been some failures that made me ultra-sensitive, not wanting anything to touch the disappointment, frustration, discouragement, and/or anger boiling inside me.  I wanted to give up, just walk the business back to its settled position, liquidate everything, and find something else to do.  The thing is, I visited with that idea.  I pulled it out, entertained it, and debated it.  I dug deep underneath why I was thinking about quitting, and the answer always came back to frustration or something going on outside of my business.

Regardless of how banged up I was or how bad the business bruises were, I hopped right back in the fray.  I didn’t quit nor did I give up.  I did give myself permission to whimper and whine, to grab the figurative ice pack and pain killer (usually my favorite cozy pajamas and dark chocolate).  After my little pout session – little being the operative word here – I reformed my plan and attacked my business from a different perspective.  Without the moments of failure, I would have maintained the status quo, keeping on doing business the same exact way.  Sometimes, in fact, those moments of failure are exactly what we need to keep us from taking our progress for granted and to shake us out of old mindsets.  Often after a major failure, I reframe my thinking in huge ways and my business experiences significant growth.

Saturday, my family and I went to the beach (you can check out that video on my Facebook page), and my youngest and I took a 2 1/2 mile walk on the beach, banged up legs and everything.  Today I was back on the trike for a glorious half-hour ride.  There are three cul de sacs in our neighborhood, two of them not having constant-radius curves.  I didn’t avoid them; I just slowed down and created a constant-radius response with my trike.  I learned how to do it different, just as I do in business.

In business, as in life, there are failures and falls.  The important thing is, “Never give up.  Never, ever give up” (Winston Churchill).

Rollin’ Along

In the business seminar my husband and I attended a couple of weeks ago, the presenter said that exercise is key to developing the right mindset for business success.  However, when you’re juggling home life, family life, and running a growing business, how in the world are you supposed to find time to exercise?  Are you one of those who joined a gym in January?  How many times have you made it?  Driving to the gym, working out, showering, then driving on to work or home equals a huge time commitment each day; and it’s so easy to subtract that from your busy schedule.

What if, though, you found an exercise that takes less time but still has good benefits?  The presenter shared that he runs a mile almost every day.  It takes him about 10-15 minutes, but then he’s done.  (He also shared that, when he was in the Corps, he could run three miles in 18 minutes.)  Slow is okay; it’s far better to be slow than not to exercise at all, and the slow mover is still making more progress than the couch potato.

I spend 30-60 minutes a morning, five days a week, doing stretches, resistance work, and toning; there’s absolutely no shortcut to that.  Then I spent another 45 minutes 4 days a week walking almost three miles.  That was before last Thursday.  My trike showed up, all sleek bright yellow, 24″ wheels, six speeds, and a seat perfectly suited to my tushy.

Me on my new trike. The reflectors aren’t the only thing making this visible! It’s bright! Those jeans are getting baggy on me!

Now I can bike those three miles in 20 minutes (I’m still building up speed), getting the heart rate up there, pushing the legs to firm up and get stronger.  The calorie burn is roughly the same as walking, but it takes half the time.  Pretty sweet, huh?  On top of that, my knees have been feeling much more amazing, and on the weekends, I have time to add a walk onto that bike ride.  Another benefit is, I feel exhilarated for a substantial period afterwards, but then I start feeling really draggy around 9:00, which means I crash into sleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night.

This week’s business take-away is, get out and exercise, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.  It’ll help renew and recharge your mind and body, making it easier to give focus to your business life.  That time also allows ideas to fall out of the ether, which can spark some amazingly outside-the-box creative processes!  Make it happen!



Keeping the Right Business Mindset: QIQO

Last Thursday, my husband and I attended a business seminar for small business owners on the “Mindsets, Habits, and Actions of Successful Business Owners.”  There were a bunch of delicious nuggets I took out of the seminar – I had five pages full of notes! – and I’ll be sharing some of them with you in the weeks ahead.  These aren’t in any particular order.

The first thing that comes to mind as I reflect on this seminar is the idea of “quality in, quality out.”  If you’re a bit older, you might remember in the early days of computer programming the acronym GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.  Both concepts are similar – you will put out what you take in.  The seminar leader said he never listens to nor watches the news; he gets daily papers and can pick and choose what he reads.  He replaces the constant news flow with listening to podcasts about business.

This is something I have to think about every day with intention.  I don’t listen to the news nor do I watch it.  There is no news that will be important to my life in six months, so how much less important is it now.  There are other temptations on our time, though, aren’t there?  Social media is a big one!  That time on Facebook catching up with friends and trends is time that’s not going to my business.  On top of that, it can easily suck the joy out of a morning before my day has even had a chance to start.

So with what do I replace this time and brain drain?  I check email, which helps me begin to put together my agenda for the next day.  I cruise through a set of problems at and exercise my math and physics skills.  Also, I read business blogs and articles.  If I want to be successful in business, then I must make it a point to read what successful people do and emulate those disciplines for myself.

When I put quality input into my brain, then my day gets off to a jazzed up, high quality start.  Solving math problems gives me a sense of achievement to begin my day (especially considering math is far from my strongest subject), and reading business blogs inspires me, giving me food for thought as I take care of that day’s tasks.  By contrast, scrolling through Facebook first thing often leaves me feeling disgusted or inundated by negative energy – just too much fearmongering, intolerance, and hate.  It’s like having the choice between a filling, healthy breakfast or a doughnut.  The calorie count might be the same, but only one of those will leave me feeling good about what I took in and nourish my body well.

What’s it going to be for you today?  With what will you fill your mind as your day begins, as you get ready to roll up your sleeves and tackle the little-and-growing empire that is all yours?  Will you fill it with high quality things so that your output will reflect quality, or are you going for the junk?  Choose wisely, for we only get one “today.”

Measuring the Intangibles

In the days and weeks ahead, I am going to be sharing some incredible business insights I gained at a seminar last week, but first, I want to talk about measuring the intangibles.  “Huh?” you may be asking yourself, “How can you measure something you can’t see or touch?”  We can measure these by the reaction.

When I add x amount of lye mixture to y amount of oils, there is a noticeable reaction:  They emulsify and thicken, their temperature increases, and the chemical reaction produces soap and glycerin.  But what about those reactions we are unable to measure?

Today at church, an elderly lady who usually sings in the choir sat behind me.  While her voice is “wobbly” in her opinion, I thought she had the loveliest soprano voice, clear as a bell, and that tiny little bit of “wobble” it may have reminded me of my grandma when she sang.  After church, I shared with Carolyn what I thought of her singing.  She was pleased, but other than that, I have no way of knowing how my words affected her.

After church and after lunch had settled, I donned shorts and sneakers and set out for my Sunday afternoon walk.  The weather was decidedly spring-like, and no way was I staying in on such an unseasonably gorgeous day!  I fired up the fitness app on my phone to track my time, pace, and distance; tucked it in my back pocket; and started pounding pavement.  There was a rather brisk breeze that felt wonderful against that sun beating down, and as I started on the first leg of my walk, everything was great.  Then I rounded the cul de sac and went the other way and…  Holy crap!  That headwind was brutal!  I had to work to keep pace against it.  My fitness app has no way of measuring quantitatively the extra work my muscles did in battling that wind (twice), or the way my muscles had to work when that same wind was coming at me from the side.  While my fitness app won’t reflect the extra work my body did, my body knows what it did:  It knows how much energy it used in doing so, as well as the energy it’ll use in the coming hours to repair and rebuild the muscles following that extra workout.

When I send my customers a hand-written note of some sort, I never have any idea how it feels for them to receive it.  I hope it makes them feel good; I want them to have positive associations with my brand.  I just never know, though.  My note could arrive in the midst of a stressful day and their minds are so cluttered, it doesn’t actually register.  My note could also arrive when this person is feeling “blah,” so the extra warm touch enriches her day and brings a smile.  I still don’t know of a way to measure that quantitatively, and I’m not sure it’s necessary to do so.

These are three examples of actions with intangible results, yet they are not immeasurable.  Perhaps we can’t weigh them or quantify them in any way, but the results do still exist.  I encourage you this week, do something that yields intangible results, at least one thing that will brighten someone’s day.  When’s the last time you said, “Those are some awesome shoes!” or “Your nails are lovely!”  Spread some sunshine around.  Throw out some good vibes.  And, business owners, send some of that love to your customers as well.

Lazy Dieting Works!

Along this health and nutrition journey I’m on, I have discovered something very important about myself.  When it comes to dieting, I’m lazy!  As Dad would put it, I have a terrible case of Yzal Syndrome (that’s lazy spelled backwards).  The funny part is, this laziness works for me.  Let me explain.

When I started this journey back in October, the mess got real!  Not only did I start walking and doing more resistance training and toning, but I also began to use the food tracker in my phone’s health app.  It has an impressive amount of food already in it; it’s nothing to find a Trader Joe’s cinnamon raisin bagel or one of the half-dozen varieties of Canadian bacon we could have in the fridge and with which I’d make a breakfast sandwich (with a blend of egg whites and Egg Beaters, also in the app).  Basic foods, especially my typical breakfast choices, are pretty easy.

Then there are those dishes that reflect our family’s love for cooking.  Around Christmas especially, we made a variety of cookies and confections, plus we were given some homemade goodies, as well, and

English: Plateful of Christmas Cookies
English: Plateful of Christmas Cookies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

each and every one had to go into the app.  That means, I had to figure out all the nutrition information (I do that at Spark Recipes), putting every ingredient in the computer and seeing what I get.  Oh my gosh, who has time for all that?  Dinners and lunches are one thing, but it’s just not worth it for snack foods.  This is the point where I get lazy.

Let’s say I’m feeling peckish, and my choices are a couple of cookies whose recipes I’ll have to input, or a half-serving of cereal.  I will literally determine if I want to go through the trouble of dealing with the recipe, or if I want to take the cereal option before committing to the snack.  The cereal will have far less sugar than the cookies, less fat, and fewer calories, plus have a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals added.  Even better, if it’s one of my usual breakfast cereals, it’s already in my phone.  Being lazy like this has saved me a lot of empty calories over the past few months.

Do I eat cookies and sweets?  Yes, but only if my calorie allotment leaves room for them and I really, truly want them.  My health app gives me 2100 calories a day; I personally strive for close to 1600.  If I’m sitting at 1543 after dinner, then the sweets aren’t happening.  On the other hand, if I think I want sweets because I’m bored, I’ll pick up the knitting.  (So far since Christmas I’ve knitted a scarf and two hats, and am working on a prayer shawl.  I fight a lot of boredom munchies.)

Give yourself permission to be lazy in some areas as you’re striving to meet your goals for the year.  Unless your goal is to be more ambitious, in which case, this won’t work for you.  Be diligent in working towards your goals, but also know that you’re going to miss your mark some days.  There is grace for those days; shrug off the disappointment and tell yourself, “Tomorrow is another day and another chance to get it right.”  It’s better to start over anew each day than to quit completely because of one screw up.  You’ve got this!

Why Exercise is So Important to Me

No mystery here, I’m a control freak.  I can’t control the weather or my customers’ responses to my products or my husband’s business, but I can control me.

Sara, owner & CEO
My New Year‘s Day walk. Cute new headband and proof that I do actually wear makeup occasionally. What a great way to begin the year!

I began my fitness program three-and-a-half months ago with specific goals in mine, the first being to lose fifty pounds in a year.  I’m going to have to rethink that one, lest I get discouraged.  Why?  Because the combination of toning, weight training and cardio is resulting in the increase of some lovely muscle mass while I’m getting rid of some less-than-lovely fat.  That’s a yea, right!  Muscle takes up less space than fat (imagine the difference in volume between a pound of feathers and a pound of brick), though it weighs the same ounce-for-ounce.  So, while I’m shrinking, the scales aren’t looking like it.  Myeh, who needs them, anyway?

My goal is to hit the pavement at least 3-4 times per week, with a goal of walking briskly for at least 75 minutes each week.  I usually get that in the first two days, so the rest is calorie-burning icing (mmmmm… icing!).  To keep that muscle-building, fat-reducing thing going on, though, the toning and resistance work is vital.  Yet, I need the walks (and soon rides; I’m getting a new trike!), because I get so much more out of them.

  • Walking gives me private time.  When I walk through the neighborhood, I’m generally free of all kids, which gives me time to think, reflect, pray, and, sometimes, listen to downloads or podcasts without distractions.
  • At the same time, walking is also social for me.  Being the social bug that I am, I’ll also wave and say hi to neighbors, maybe even exchange a few pleasantries.  Being outside breaks the ice with people I may never usually see.
  • Pavement pounding keeps the stress down.  Doing arm curls and crunches is one thing, but feeling the vibration of asphalt singing through my trainers up into my legs connects me with the earth and helps relieve tension.
  • Nature helps the body.  Fresh coastal air revitalizes the mind.  Sunshine helps my body metabolize vitamin D, which is good for the bones.  Both the fresh air and the sunshine help improve mood; my annual “I hate winter” doldrums have dissipated in the face of the chemical changes in my body that exercise produces.  (The atypical temperatures and greater amount of sunlight don’t hurt.)
  • Exercise helps alleviate other ailments.  Trouble sleeping.  Knee stiffness.  Menstrual aches and moodiness.  The strength training and walking alleviate all these, though walking is the most effective.  Those who know and love me certainly appreciate the benefits!

This far in with miles to go, and I’ve discovered I’m a happier me from all this exercise.  I’m also a more comfortable me – comfortable physically, psychologically, and emotionally.  Exercising is making me a better me.

As I say in my videos on my Facebook page, keep it going!  Whatever your goals are for the year, keep at ’em and create the life you want.


Why I LOVE #FreeShippingDay

It’s almost here!  Soooo exciting!  What’s the big deal?  WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL!?!?!  Free shipping day!  That’s the big deal!

I’m not just talking this up for promotional purposes (though we are participating again).  This truly is my favorite online shopping day of the year from a retailer’s standpoint.

So what makes Free Shipping Day such a highlight for me?  Because I get to ship smiles.  I’ve been participating in this one-day-a-year event for the past few years, and of all the orders I receive, most are going to other people, which means we’re shipping Christmas presents.  The recipients open their packages, bust open the package, read the name on the tag, and they know someone was thinking of them.  Then they open the wrapped goodies inside and get to experience our amazing products (if I do say so myself).

A little personal story…  I was in graduate school the first time around back in the days when the internet was infantile and online shopping wasn’t really a thing.  I certainly didn’t have internet or email myself.  I’d get mail order catalogs and thumb through them at night while I was unwinding, choosing gifts for people that I thought they’d love, mailing my check and order form, and waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting some more.  Finally I’d get the little salmon slip in my mailbox announcing a package had arrived for me, and I’d schlep it back to my apartment, barely heeding the envious looks of other students (“Package!  I like packages!”  I felt the same way when someone else got one.).  Once back in my apartment, I ripped into the box, rifled through all the packing material, and pulled out my order, oohing and ahhing over the items, imagining how much this person or that person would (hopefully) love this gift.  Then, I’d wrap the gift and place it under the tree, delightedly expectant of the joy of giving it and watching the recipient unwrap it.

I feel that same sense of expectant joy when I’m wrapping these packages to ship on Free Shipping Day.  While I don’t get to see the recipients’ faces, it still excites me knowing that I have some small part in the love they might feel in this holiday season.