Garden Fresh for Spring

I love spring bulbs.  Daffodils and hyacinths are my favorites.  Planting bulbs in October’s chill is hopeful.  We’re anticipating seeing those bright blooms after six months of cool (or cold), dark days.  And the smell!  Oh my goodness, there’s nothing like the subtle sunny smell of a bright yellow daffodil or the sweet aroma of a pastel rainbow of hyacinths.  When I was a child, we had daffodils lining our driveway and hidden among the natural areas in the yard; I still smile thinking of those yellow spots amongst the greens and browns.

Several years ago when we lived in our townhouse, we planted some bulbs.  There were so many!  We’d gotten a little bit crazy, and in the back in front of the raised bed were crocuses and tulips, and in pots, one on either side of the sidewalk leading to the front door, were hyacinths.  I was thrilled the first time I saw the first bud peeking up between the green leaves – thrilled, that is, until the snow buried the young blooms.  Obviously, they didn’t do well that year, and, frankly, I was a little disappointed when my mystery bulbs of promised “assorted colors” turned out just to be pink and lavender.  Don’t get me wrong; they were pretty before they got the deep freeze, and they did smell nice, but I’d hoped for more variety.

Then came the next spring.  I did not realize that these bulbs I’d planted so lovingly a year-and-a-half before were technically tubers and had multiplied.  Greatly.  And the colors I’d longed for had arrived.  Now, in addition to the pink and lavender, I had rich purple, white, dark pink, and yellow blooms, and each time I passed them, their sweet aroma with that hint of spice greeted me.  I was in love!

My bulbs didn’t survive the move and resettlement.  Trying to finish settling into a new home with a new baby and new routines just didn’t leave much energy for dealing with bulbs.  Other plants grace the yard, different blooms and colors, but I still look forward to the autumn when I can see the freshly mounded dirt under which my bulbs are buried and the excitement of the little green shoots giving way to riotous blooms of color come spring.

To sort of tide me over until that day comes, I found a lovely hyacinth fragrance that perfectly reminds me of those glorious flowers.  Some floral scents just don’t translate well into their fragrance oil counterparts, but this one is simply lovely.  Yearning for a bit of springtime?  Grab a bar of this gorgeous hyacinth soap to experience spring in your shower (especially for you folks that are having a white Easter).  If you like spring flowers, you’ll love this soap!

hyacinth soap
Lovely, true-to-scent hyacinth soap

My Lemony Love

It started with an angel.  Long story short…  Boy meets girl.  Girl needs angel for her Christmas tree.  Boy suggests this shop at the beach (not knowing that Girl LOVES this shop).  They go to the shop, buy an angel, start a flotilla tradition.  At one point, Girl sees people watching the flotilla from large balconies of an inn while sipping wine or hot chocolate – and not grappling for space on the boardwalk.  Girl thinks, That sure would be nice.  Over time, that becomes a reality, a part of the tradition.

That inn – an interesting hybrid between a bed & breakfast and a hotel – offers lovely, well-appointed rooms, great views, convenient location, and quite nice toiletries, one of which is lemon verbena soap.  We’re talking real soap like what we make, not mass-produced syndet bars that leave the skin dry and itchy.  One sniff, and I was hooked.  The scent was lightly sweet and sharply lemony at the same time with beautiful green notes and just a tinge herbaceous.

It took me forever to find a similar lemon verbena scent.  I found what was marketed as a lemon verbena essential oil, which was pretty nice, only to find out later it was a blend of synthetic and natural ingredients.  L’Occitane‘s Lemon Verbena is fabulous, but too strongly lemon for what I was seeking.  Imagine how excited I was when I found both a duplication of L’Occitane’s Lemon Verbena and another lemon verbena fragrance at one of my suppliers’ online stores!  The L’Occitane is still too lemony, and the other fragrance is a bit too floral.  But when I put them together in just a certain way…  Whoa!!!  It’s perfect!  Lemony, green, floral, herbaceous.

Lemon Verbena Soap - Sunshine in the Shower!
Lemon Verbena Soap – Sunshine in the Shower!

I found my lemony love in this Lemon Verbena soap.  it’s like sunshine in the shower, perfect for cold days, grey days…  Shoot!  It’s perfect for any day that you need your eyes opened.  Yes, I’ll admit, I did have to steal a bar for my shower, but there are still several bars of this dream soap left for you to fall in love with.


How to be an Overnight Business Success

Are you ready?  Got pen and paper?  Here it is…

Buy a kit, make the stuff, price it exactly as recommended by the wholesaler from whom you bought it, rent booth space, sell it (along with at least a half dozen other people who had the same idea as you), and voila!  You’ll be a success overnight.  Or maybe that’s just for overnight.

My dear artisan friend Denise and I joke, “It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to become an overnight success.”  Newbie crafters/hobbyists see what we’ve achieved over years of owning our businesses and want what we have, only without the hard work, trial-and-error, discipline, learning, or experience.  It really does take a significant amount of time and unique experiences to achieve success in business, and I’m happy to show those off in my blog, newsletters, website, and social media outlets.  Today, though, I thought I’d share with you some of my flubs that have led me to where I am now.

“Do a show!”  I was brand new in my business, and the ink on my business license was barely dry when a lady recommended I participate in a huge selling event.  It cost me $325 to rent a booth for the 4-day weekend, and I made probably around 1000 bars of soap for it.  Imagine my joy – how thrilled I was! – to see this line of people at my booth.  Only, they weren’t at my booth; they were in front of it, in line for the gourmet candy apples next door.

Surround yourself by people who want you to succeed.  Or something.  It was a year later, now 2003, and the memories of that awful event were still plaguing me.  It was my first time doing the EPA show with Mom as my sponsor and right-hand woman.  We were two hours from the end, and business had been quite good, when Mom started offering discounts without consulting me.  I was like, “What are you doing?”  She said, “I thought since you weren’t making a profit, yet, that you’d want to liquidate.”  It takes 3-5 years to turn a profit in business, and she’s been a super-tremendous help since.

Then there was the grand mal soap seizure that turned the beautiful funnel swirl of my plans into “murdered Mardi Gras clown soap.”

Over the course of a few years, that first EPA show led me to markets and monthly artisan events, which, in turn, began to lead to other opportunities.  An artisan potter was opening up an incubator co-op and invited me to join for $100 a month.  I was spending $20 a month to sell for 4 hours, and this way, my wares would already be set up, and I wouldn’t have to worry about doing the selling.  It seemed like a good idea.  It’d be nothing to sell $100 of products a month, or so I thought.  I discussed it with my husband – I was so excited!  He didn’t really think it was the best idea.  I persisted.  It was fun doing the Art Walk, chatting up customers, and just being in that atmosphere.  I made $100 one month of the six I was there, and I pulled out after six months.  That was the only year my net profits went down since my first year in business.

I’m pretty sure at this time I may have still had a few soaps from that first event left over.  I’d systematically melted most of the soaps down to cats, because I quickly discovered that cat soaps sell very well.

So many scents!  So many soaps to make!  And bath salts and bubble bath and bath bombs!  And no one in that area really takes tub baths.  Plus there was a drought in the state that effected us for a couple of years.  So.  Much.  Inventory leftover!  I still have some of those bath salts and bath bombs, because I don’t often get time to take tub baths, either.  It’s so important not to get carried away with making stuff.  I have over a hundred fragrances still, and I’m selling them or using them in very limited edition soaps – or simply in soap for us.

Event A, Event B, and Event C, all carrying high costs to do.  While there is a formula to determine if a show has been poor, fair, good, or excellent, there comes a point where I had to say, “Nope.  No more.”  Because it’s not just the expense of the booth fees, gas, food, and possibly lodging to take into account, but it’s also the intangibles – child care, labor of workers, and just the pure pain-in-the-butt it is to schlep tables, canopy, and products, set it up, work all day, and tear it down.  Given all this “invisible” expenses, it just stopped being cost-effective.  The day before the first of these events I gave up, I waltzed around town with the same dopey smile on my face my mom had her first day of retirement.

Selling on consignment is another one of those flubs.  The seller doesn’t pay me for my products until they sell them, so they have no personal investment in my wares.  I lost inventory to shop-wear, sun fading, and age.  It’s so much better financially and for my stress to sell the products myself retail through my website or via one of the two events I do each year, or to one of my stockists and be done with it.

It’s now been almost fourteen years since I officially started my business.  I have an online soap boutique, three private label accounts, and I’ve had a number of wholesale accounts as well.  My net profits go up every year, which is good; it means I’m selling more products, but also managing to buy smarter.  I have faithful, loyal customers.  Judging by these factors, you could say I have gained a measure of business success.  It hasn’t all been easy, though, and I certainly have made a slew of mistakes, er, “learning opportunities,” along the way,

If you’re in business, what, um, “learning opportunities” have you encountered that have led to your success?