How NOT to Invite Someone to Be a Vendor

Although I do not participate in many shows and events anymore, I still receive letters and applications to my post office box from event coordinators inviting me to participate in their particular events.  Occasionally, these come by email, but mostly, it’s snail mail.  Perhaps it is an event in which I participated in the past, or maybe it’s an event in a rural county in which I participated in another event.  (Sometimes the names are shared, which is fine.)  All of these events have some sort of credibility – long standing, well-visited Facebook page, a good reputation, whatever.

It is really rare that I get invited to do an event from out of the blue, and especially an event to which I have no connection whatsoever.  On Friday, it happened.  It appeared as a tri-folded piece of printer paper taped shut that showed up at my home.  Usually, the only business-related stuff that comes to my home are shipments and bank statements (before I went paperless); correspondence goes to my PO box, as that’s the address on my business cards, checks, website and all social media avenues.

The outside of the most unprofessional business mail I've ever received.
The outside of the most unprofessional business mail I’ve ever received.

Wow.  Can you believe that?  No stamp, no envelope, not even a return address.  If they can’t even take care to place the piece of paper in an envelope or slap a stamp on that bugger, then what kind of care do they give to vendors, advertising, and the plethora of other details in being a part of an event?

And... Here's the inside. It's rather confusing.
And… Here’s the inside. It’s rather confusing.

Out of curiosity, I open this letter up and find this.  Crossed-out date, no names, no websites, no email addresses, not even a Facebook page.  It’s colorful, but sorely lacking in helpful information I would want to have before even bothering with a phone call, let alone committing to participate (on one week’s notice, at that).  There is a phone number way down at the bottom of the page which I dialed with the intention of explaining how unprofessional I found their missive.  Three times – THREE!!! – the call was cancelled.  Finally I gave up and tossed the letter.  Later I did a Google search on the sender as it was disclosed on the flyer, and the closest I got was a company down in Georgia that does custom car decals.  That’s a far cry from a vendor coordinator offering me space at a huge annual seafood event.

Coming up soon…  Ways to entice me to spend my hard-earned money on booth fees at your event.

What’s the worst solicitation you’ve ever seen to participate in a selling event?


My First Cold Process!



I thought that I would change up my blog. I was thinking of one of my friends at the time I was writing this and decided that I would act as if I was talking to her and came up with questions she might ask. Hope this answers some of your questions!

Friend: What does the soap look like?

Me: The soap is pink with a fun amount of sparkles and a mango sorbet fragrance. With it being my first soap I would add a hint of blue to the pink color in the future. Mom says that I should start with one color, but I added sparkles to get close to the desired effect.

Friend: What good qualities does your soap have that will make people want it?

Me: It will be a small bar which will be easy for kids (and adults) to hold. Its fun fragrance will (ahem, should) make kids look forward to showering without bubblegum (take it from a young spurt, bubblegum can smell icky or get tiring). The soap has sparkles which gleam in the light some. It is very moisturizing, lather is a definite, and it is hard. I was rinsing off my cutting board after cutting it and I had a great lather. I love the soap (I kept a bar for myself).

Friend: If you were to sell it, what would you call it?

Me: Pink Paradise* or Pink Paradise Falls**. I’m leaning towards PPF, though if I do PP then I can do a series with Blue Paradise, Green, Orange, Purple, etc. I think that I’ll make another PP next year for sale, then every other month another color. I will be doing another soap (for sale) this year with the same recipe, and it will be Christmas-y. That will be sold online and at the Triangle area EPA show in November. I also do a show here called the Pender County Spring Fest.

Friend: How did you think the soap would turn out compared to how it turned out?

Me: I thought it would turn out sharper, more vivid, pinker. The top looks pretty and if the whole soap were that color, then the soap would look beautiful. The top is a powdery pink that, in my opinion, looks like pixie dust. The bottom is a sort of magenta, but not that dark, mixed with sparkles that add a welcoming touch. I really thought that the sparkles would come out more, that it would be darker or lighter.

Friend: What were some of your feelings as you made this soap?

Me, mixing up the lye.
Me, mixing up the lye.

Me: I was feeling exhilarated, happy, worried, slightly panicked, joyful, and free. I can make whatever I want (within reason) on any soap, swirl, etc. I was also very happy that Mom said I could. Truth be told, I don’t like Melt & Pour as much. They take up time freezing them and you have to monitor it.  You can make a CP and leave it alone.

Me stirring the lye mixture into the warm oils. Making magic happen!
Me stirring the lye mixture into the warm oils. Making magic happen!

Friend: Give us some brief how-to’s.

Me: First, gather your supplies. Since I’m doing small batches then everything can be done in a 4 Cup measuring cup. Bigger batches are done in buckets.

4 cup measuring cup (4 cupper)                                         Small container (yogurt container sort)

Spatula                                                                                    Wooden spoon

Big container (such as the containers you get when you order a quart of Chinese soup)

Oils, Lye, etc.

Stick blender

Goggles, Gloves, etc.

Soap rag (old baby diapers, washcloths)

Not all of your oils are going to be liquid. Put on your goggles, gloves, etc. and get the smaller container. Measure out your lye. In the big container, measure out your water (or ice). With the wooden spoon stir lye and water together but be sure to hold your breath; otherwise the fumes can hurt your throat. Once dissolved, set aside. You can take the protective gear off. Now measure out your solid oils. Mine were coconut, palm, and cocoa butter. Melt them in the microwave until liquid. Now you add your liquid oils. Mine were olive and avocado. Mix all your oils together and set them aside. Take another small container and scoop some of the oil mixture into it. Add your color to it and stir until smooth. Set your color aside. Measure out your fragrance and set aside.

Put your protective gear back on. Dump lye mixture into the oils. Take the stick blender and bring the mixture to a trace. It will be mixed together but thick. If you’re making tomato soup and it’s just out of the can, that’s about how thick it should be. Add the fragrance. Now you have one of two options. The soap will be a creamy white. You can add the color mixture now and stir the fragrance and color in, OR, you can stir in fragrance then add color. If you do option #2 then you have the option of not stirring the color in all the way and getting a swirl. Either way, when you get done, put it in a silicone mould, scrape it out (this is where the spatula comes in), and cover it with a box lined with cling wrap. Insulate your soap by covering it with towels and let rest for at least 24 hours before unmoulding. Take the soap rag and wipe your equipment before rinsing under warm water. “Make” it in a soap program and it should tell you how many days it has to cure (you can use it after it cures, usually about a month).

My first CP soap freshly poured
My first CP soap freshly poured



Time for a Little Caretaking

As most of you know, not only am I an entrepreneur and CEO of a growing bath + body business, but I’m also a mom and a home educator.  My days are often busy, but I don’t declare that to make myself look superior; it just is what it is, and most days, what may look like busy work to some people is productive hobby time for me.  With all these responsibilities and duties, there must be time to completely unplug, relax, and unwind away from it all.  A little over a week ago, Mary, Vice President of Product Development and COO of Girly Arts Made by ME, and I struck off to the beach for the weekend.

This was exactly what we needed.  You may have caught my write-up last week about the impressive guest care skills of Garison at The Winds Resort at Ocean Isle Beach.  That whole weekend was exactly what these Corporate Divas needed.  Just picture white powder beaches with warm water, lush tropical landscaping, and restful moments reading in a hammock under waving palm trees.  Yeah, it was that good.  There were cold beverages, good eats, and restful nights’ sleep accented by a friendly, accommodating staff.

That picture-perfect postcard that mocks you with, "It's beautiful.  Wish you were here."
That picture-perfect postcard that mocks you with, “It’s beautiful. Wish you were here.”
A peek at some of that luscious tropical landscaping The Winds is known for.
A peek at some of that luscious tropical landscaping The Winds is known for.

We enjoyed our time immensely and returned home feeling loose and mellow.  I truly haven’t experienced that much calm time in forever, and it was amazing!

It’s important, now that we’re home, to maintain that peaceful feeling, to take moments to do things that help promote a calm spirit.  Knitting is my mini-vacation of choice these days.  Studies have actually shown that knitting helps lower blood pressure.  I find having a cat lying beside me also helps me feel incredibly relaxed.  Between the two of these things, most nights it’s a serious struggle getting upstairs to bed, because I’m half asleep with my knitting needles in my hand.  My current project is a lace shawl.  This is it in process:

Sneak peek of the black and sequin lace shawl I'm knitting to go with a red dress.  And jeans.  And...
Sneak peek of the black and sequin lace shawl I’m knitting to go with a red dress. And jeans. And…

This is our secret for chilling out and relaxing, and in the process, we returned home with grand ideas and fresh energy for taking care of orders going into the busy holiday season.  How do you recharge your battery?

Customer Service Excellence

Part of being a business owner and home educator is giving myself permission to take breaks, like escaping to the beach on occasion.  There is, of course, great value to this, as I come back well-rested and refreshed, sometimes with new ideas for ways to serve my customers better.  When I can experience the epitome of excellent customer service in the search for a much-needed break, all the better.

I first encountered Garison online.  No, it wasn’t at any place sordid – no Ashley Madison dot com or match dot com-type places.  I first became aware of Garison through Trip Advisor.  Garison is the Customer Service Manager for The Winds Resort at Ocean Isle Beach, where Mary and I enjoyed a very relaxing weekend away this past weekend.

A view of the beach through the lush tropical landscaping around the resort
A view of the beach through the lush tropical landscaping around the resort
Mary and me in front of one of the cool, kitschy, totally necessary signs directing you places
Mary and me in front of one of the cool, kitschy, totally necessary signs directing you places

So, what made this guy stand out?  Simply put, it was how he handled all reviews, both positive and negative.  While Garison hasn’t been at The Winds very long (18 months or so), he made an effort to address reviews that predate the start of his tenure at the resort.  Dealing with complaints from what a predecessor did takes some integrity, and I admire integrity.  To reviews that end with, “I’m never coming back!” he replies with a smooth, “Even if you don’t stay with us, we hope you’ll come back to Ocean Isle Beach for your next vacation.”  A 5-star review got a response of, “Navigating The Winds’ many pathways can indeed be challenging. (There’s a reason we hand out maps! <g> ).”  There are winding paths around the property, so the maps are quite helpful.  To another 5-star review, there was this comment, which I found amusing, given that it was overcast and lightly raining until the morning we had to leave:  “I do apologize, however, that we failed to maintain sufficient control of the weather for you. I will speak with our staff about that and see if we can’t do better for your next visit.”  Garison did more than just blow off the reviews with a “Thanks for staying with us and we look forward to seeing you again soon”; he took the time to read each and every review, and he went so far as to accept responsibility on behalf of the resort for things that truly were their fault or failing and using well-placed humor on issues that weren’t.

My daughter and I were already looking forward to the trip, but looking at the online reviews (interesting to note that there’s only been one bad review in the past year) and reading what people were saying, as well as Garison’s responses, just heightened our anticipation and made me want to meet this guy.  As a business owner and one who wants to make sure every customer is happy (not just satisfied), I respect and admire that same quality in others in the customer service sector.  Garison helped at check-in, and he was willing to let me get a picture with him.  On top of that, he was extremely patient with Mary’s efforts to get a clear picture, even though it was time for him to go home for the rest of the weekend.

Garison and me (Photo credit: Mary Nesbitt)
Garison and me (Photo credit: Mary Nesbitt)

I have great respect and admiration for all that Garison has done as Customer Service Manager at The Winds – guest services, managing the staff (and giving them their due for good work), and also taking the time to deal with online comments.  The pleasure Mary and I had as we enjoyed our mom/daughter weekend led us both to declare, “We’re definitely coming back here!”  Garison and his top-notch staff sealed the deal on that.

When’s the last time you took a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily life?  What did you do?




When’s a Chemical not a Chemical?

Chemicals surround us.  They’re in the food we eat, the drinks we drink, and the air we breathe.  Our entire bodies are nothing but chemical processes.

A couple of weeks ago, the girls and I were in a shop where there was a sign that read, “SoapsChemical free!”  Mary, my older daughter, quipped, “So they left out the lye?”  I returned, “And the water, the oils, and the fragrance.”  While the “chemical free” sign may entice unwary consumers, it really felt like the creator of the sign is , at best, ignorant of what, exactly, soapmaking is, and at worst, willfully practicing deceptive business practices (given that artificially scented soaps are labeled “all natural” and have “essential oil” on the label, I lean towards the latter).

Unit cell, spacefill model of sodium hydroxide
Unit cell, spacefill model of sodium hydroxide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Soapmaking is chemistry.  The very idea of this amuses me greatly, given how hard I struggled in high school and college chemistry.  Sodium hydroxide (lye) mixes with water (usually), and that mixture, in turn, is added to oils in liquid form; they are then emulsified together, either by stirring or blending, before having additives added to the raw soap and being poured into a mould.  The magic happens here as the mixture creates heat internally which causes the whole thing to gel.  This is a super-cool exothermic reaction wherein the beautifully swirled and designed raw soap changes color, smells funky, and looks like really runny, chunky petroleum jelly.  It looks like the soap is a ruined mess at this point, but as the hours pass, the soap cools down, revealing the amazing colors and patterns once more.  That process is called saponification.  Actually, the gel phase is the heart of saponification, a chemical reaction that starts where the lye mixture meets the oils and ends formally at the end of the curing time.  While gel phase only lasts 12-36 hours, saponification can last weeks.

Chemicals coming together to create a chemical reaction and cause a chemical change.  Sodium hydroxide is a chemical – NaOH.  So is water – H2O.  And oils are as well – the formula for olive oil is C52H96O6.  You can separate sodium hydroxide from water, allowing water to evaporate and lye crystals to form (9th grade science fair project).  However, once that lye mixture combines with the oils, there’s no going back.  The change is permanent and irrevocable.  This is the hallmark of chemical change – a chemical reaction produces a change that cannot be reversed.  Ahhh chemistry.

Well, you may argue, the creator of the “chemical free” sign means no harmful chemicals.  What makes a chemical harmful?  How natural it is?  Cyanide is a naturally occurring chemical element, but I think we can agree it’s very harmful.  Sodium hydroxide is a chemical that can be produced from natural processes (pouring water through ashes), and it doesn’t take much – relatively speaking – to dissolve a 300-pound body.  Yet, it sometimes appears in cosmetics and pickles.  Dihydrogen monoxide!  There’s a “safe” chemical.  In fact, I add it to every soap, lotion, and cream that I make.  Yet, more people die of exposure to DHMO each year than from exposure to all other chemicals combined!  Obviously, what makes a chemical “safe” or not is how it’s used and how much is used.  A little NaOH or a little salt isn’t harmful, but an abundance of either can cause sickness, death, or complete disintegration.

Bottom line, there is no “chemical-free” soap, because all components of soap are chemicals, and the resulting product is soap and glycerin.  Artisan made soaps are proof that there is better living through chemicals.