What Facebook’s Changes Mean for Small Businesses

Facebook announced last week that they are changing – again – their algorithms.  This time, however, it’s in a way that I as a regular Facebook user like.  Facebook is going back to showing us posts from our friends and family members with fewer posts from companies, pages, and brands.  As a person on Facebook who uses social media to keep up with people I don’t get to see on a regular basis, this excites me.  I’m looking forward to not having to click on a friend’s profile to see what they’ve been up to.

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...
Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Français : Logo de Facebook Tiếng Việt: Logo Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a brand with a Facebook page, however, this means that even fewer people will see my page posts.  I’m not sweating it, though.  Why?  Because that’s not where I devote most of my promotional time and energy.  My Facebook page is a great place to post things on the run.  My branded Facebook group is where I spend the most time having fun and engaging with my customers.

Here are some of my thoughts on the changes and small business.

One, we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. If you invest your savings in stocks, you wouldn’t chunk the whole lot in IBM or Apple; you’d put it into a mutual fund. We shouldn’t invest all our business promotion time/energy/money in one source, either. We don’t have control over what the stock market does, and we have no control over 3rd party entities, like Twitter, FB, Instagram, etc.

Two, Facebook will still make money from this move. It’ll just cost more to get the good reach. We might start seeing more ads from huge companies and fewer from small businesses.  I’m not going to put my money there, personally, when I’d rather invest that money elsewhere, like new product development.

Three, while we can’t control what the social media/networking companies (yes, profit-making companies) do, we CAN control what we do. Social media companies do not have our best interests at heart.  Their devotion is to their shareholders, investors, and employees.  They started these great social networks and figured out a way to monetize them.  So what can we as business owners do?  We can blog and send those newsletters out. We can engage with our customers intimately. We can make and keep our customers happy and show them our love and appreciation.

I’m not going to change much about how I market, because FB posts to my page aren’t doing much for me already. I’ll just keep on doing what I have been doing. For me, that’s blogging, sending emails, engaging with my group, and making personal contacts with customers.

What do you think about Facebook’s coming changes?  If you’re a business owner, how will Facebook’s changes impact how you market your business?  

Warming it up with Slow Cooker Tomato Soup

Brrr! I woke up a couple of days ago to discover that someone had turned off the heat! We went from summer to fall in a blink! I’m not a cold-weather person, so while Autumn is perfectly lovely, it’s not my favorite season, because I know what’s coming. (Then again, I did use the phrase “when Summer returns in December…” last night.) Be that as it may, Autumn is the perfect time of year to cook up something warm and comforting for dinner with planned-overs for either another dinner or lunch. Usually, “comforting” equals high-calorie and high-fat, but we don’t want to give up healthy for satisfying.  I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do when it’s cold is to go outside to exercise.  In fact, so many of us come as close as possible to hibernating when it gets cold, and all those pounds we lost in the spring and summer find us – and they bring friends with them!  LOTS of friends!

Poking around on Facebook, I discovered this incredible slow-cooked tomato soup recipe.  I love some good tomato soup on a chilly day – or any day, really – and it’s not unusual for us to have some cans in the pantry, at the very least.  When I found out, though, that I could easily and quickly whip up some soup in the slow-cooker, I got happy and immediately decided to let my family be the guinea pigs for this experiment.  Again, this isn’t my recipe, but it’s definitely worth sharing.

(Tomato soup from Sara Nesbitt on Vimeo.)

I have to keep my people to just one serving per meal, especially my teen daughter after soccer practice or a soccer game.

Tomato soup in the slow cooker

She’s usually famished after being on the field for an hour-and-a-half or so.  Here’s the recipe, step-by-step…

Ingredients:

  • 56 ounces Diced Tomatoes, Canned
  • 2 cups Vegetable Broth/Stock
  • 1/2 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic Powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 whole Bay Leaf
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup half & half or whole milk

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients in slow cooker in the order listed.
  2. Turn on slow cooker to high and cook for 3-4 hours. If you are cooking on low cook 6-8 hours.
  3. Pour 1/2 of the slow cooker into a blender and blend until smooth, repeat with the remaining 1/2 of the soup. Pour all of the soup back into the slow cooker and serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve.
Cream of tomato soup
Delicious, hot cream of tomato soup

Using half-and-half, this recipe came up to 143 calories per serving, calculating 8 servings.  I prefer cooking this low and slow, turning the heat down to “warm” once the carrots are soft.  Pair it with grilled cheese on whole wheat, and you’ve got a wonderful, fairly healthy dinner*.  (My health app clocks this one at 400 calories, 55.7 g carbs, 22.5 g fat, and 19.7 g protein.)

Give this one a try, and drop a comment below letting me know what you think of it.

*Caveat… My health goals focus on overall health.  I don’t concentrate on reducing any one nutritional element in my endeavors, choosing instead to strive for balance. If you have health needs that require you to watch your carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol, or sodium, it is your responsibility to adjust the recipe to meet your unique needs.

 

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.

 

Nineteenth Century Chemical Peel

I greatly enjoy Jane Austen and have read most of her novels by this point.  (I’m trying to pace myself, since I know no new novels will be coming out.)  I am also greatly fascinated by the later history of cosmetics as various chemicals started coming into play.  When these two come together, this it’s downright delightful!

I was reading Persuasion not too long ago, and I came across a reference to Gowland’s Lotion.  As Austen so rarely makes direct references to products of her time, this stood out sharply, and you know I just had to start hunting down the reference.  Gowland’s Lotion was a simple (4 recorded ingredients) lotion guaranteed to remove “every kind of coarseness, eruption, and unpleasant appearance.”  In short, this lotion was all the mode for clearing up blackheads, pimples, freckles, and blotchiness  in order to give fashionable ladies of the court a smooth, translucent complexion.  Oooh la la!

Doesn’t that sound amazing!?  And historical sources tell us this stuff really worked!  You can even look at the ingredients and, with any knowledge of chemistry, see how it’d work.  The ingredients – bitter almonds (essential oil, maybe?), sugar, water, and mercury chloride [mercurous chloride, most likely] – would certainly take care of freckles, zits, and uneven complexion.  They’d take them right off, along with a good layer of skin!  Mercurous chloride is a fairly strong acid; it’s a corrosive that’d strip a layer of skin.  Combined with the exfoliation the sugar provides, the user certainly would be left with a blemish-free complexion and a “lovely” rosy glow.

By the time Austen wrote Persuasion, Gowland’s Lotion had already received some bad press.  However, it’s all about who you know, and John Gowland had already been appointed the Official Court Apothecary in the court of Frederick, Prince of Wales, heir to George II.  Therefore, all the fashionable young ladies of the court were using Gowland’s Lotion to achieve their enviable complexions, and this trend would have spread to the lower classes, provided they could afford a jar.  Not being able to afford a jar meant not only keeping your skin in-tact, but also avoiding the risk of mercury poisoning.  I think I’ll keep my freckles, thank you very much.

What cosmetic treatments have you heard of that would be considered “crazy” by today’s safety standards?

Three Reflections on My Rehab

Last Tuesday was a stupendous day!  I tossed the crutches to the side, lost the brace, and experienced leg freedom for the first time in six weeks.  I met my new orthopedist who was nice enough, but who I labeled the gatekeeper to hell after my first day of rehabilitative exercises.

My orthopedist likes to draw on people. I got a setting Mayan sun with muscle groups labeled. The vastus medialis (inside quad muscle) is the focus of our attention.
My orthopedist likes to draw on people. I got a setting Mayan sun with muscle groups labeled. The vastus medialis (inside quad muscle) is the focus of our attention.

It just feels great being able to move around more, sleep the way I like, and exercise those muscles more intentionally.  A sad event had me going home-home (my parents’ home – which in grad school was the place where the laundry was free and the food was cooked by someone else) and the rehab kicking it up a notch.  My dad’s a physical therapist, and I’m pretty sure that if I do what he says, my knee will feel 18 again by the beginning of spring (which they haven’t seen in over 20 years).  As I was lying down and counting off reps Thursday afternoon under his watchful eye, and then as I was standing against a wall doing therapeutic squats, a few realizations came to me.

  1.  I’m pretty sure The Complete Works of the Marquis de Sade are required reading for PT School and most doctoral programs in orthopedics.
  2. When writing about the circles of hell, Dante stopped too soon.  I found the tenth circle of hell; it’s called therapeutic squats.

    The handy blanket I got at a conference that doesn't squirt out from between my thighs like my daughter's soccer ball did.
    The handy blanket I got at a conference that doesn’t squirt out from between my thighs like my daughter’s soccer ball did.
  3. Walking step-over-step to go up or down stairs is a big deal.  As I was climbing the stairs at my parents’ house and was able to go up with the left foot, then the right, then the left – you know, like non-gimpy people do – I remembered an encounter I had with a lady at church one Sunday.  I was in grad school and had shown up for church.  My dad had some home health patients in that town, a few of whom went to my church.  This older lady was climbing the steps on the side of the church to go in and she said, “Sara, make sure you tell your Dad that Edna Smith (not her real name) walked up these steps by herself!”  I was happy her recovery had gone so well and she was strong enough to do this – in a nebulous sort of way; I didn’t really know her.  As I walked up and down the stairs almost normally and finally with more grace than Boris Karloff‘s portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster, I realized what a tremendously big deal that is.

Now I’m home with two adjustable 5-pound ankle weights, some exercise bands, a bolster, and notes on my exercise sheets indicating the purpose of each exercise and when I can start some of them.  Ibuprofen is my new friend – that and ice.  It’s frustrating that I still have to stop to rest, to apply ice packs.  As I laid on my bed after church, bolster under my knees and 1/2 pound of iron strapped to my ankle, I could hear Dad pushing me to “straighten that leg, give it that last little bit of oomph,” followed by a “There ya go!  That’s it.”  I’m proud to say I didn’t scream at him, cuss at him (all’s fair in rehab and therapy), or accuse him of killing me.  From being his patient previously, I know the pain is well worth the results, and I can get through even the torturous squats if I focus on having stronger legs with no pain.

The Turkey Salad Sandwich that Made Me Cry

It’s a turkey salad sandwich, which isn’t unusual for the weekend after Thanksgiving.  It’s pretty unassuming, actually – homemade turkey salad on whole wheat.  Peter whipped this up, and when he asked about pickles, I said, “Just dice up some bread & butter pickles; that’s what Grandma did when she’d make it.”  I remember standing beside her in her kitchen, cutting board resting on her blue-and-white tile counter, watching her dicing those pickles by hand, ones she’d put up herself.

Peter brought the bowl into me and gave me a taste.  I held the bite of turkey salad in my mouth, parsing out the different flavors – savory turkey, the bite of mustard, the sweet-sour pickles.  In a moment I was back in my grandma’s kitchen.  She was alive and well and making her turkey salad with leftover turkey and home-canned pickles.  Tears welled up in my eyes, one escaping down my cheek.  I smiled and said, “It’s perfect” as I wiped the tears away.

The sandwich was perfect, the most fabulous turkey sandwich I’ve had in over 30 years.

Turkey Salad Sandwich that made me cry
Turkey Salad Sandwich that made me cry

To most people, it’s just a mixture of turkey, pickles, mayo, and mustard, something anyone could throw together. There’s one ingredient that’s absolutely essential to the perfect turkey salad sandwich, and that is love.

The Week From… Well, You Know

If I were to be honest, I’ve had worse weeks.  Way worse weeks.  Weeks when I was sick, a child was sick, a cat was sick (which usually translates to icky messes all over the house), and my car died while orders were stacking up on me.  Coming back from Christmas break and sailing into the New Year should really be a LOT smoother, wouldn’t you think?  This week is either the worst week of the year, and I’m thankfully getting it out of the way early, or this week was a warm up for the rest of the year, in which case, my cracker jack problem-solving skills will get a great deal of exercise in the next 51 weeks.  I’m hoping for the former.  After all, I’m a mom, so I use problem-solving skills every day.

It started last Friday.  Even though I was technically “off” for Christmas break, I still kept up with my emails.  I had an email from Paypal, which handles my credit card processing, informing me that they’d put “limitations” on my account.  In plain English, that means they’d put my account in jail.  I had visitation rights, and that was about it.  Nothing could flow in or out of my account until they had certain documentation from me.  So started the back-and-forth.  I didn’t have one of those pieces, so would they accept this equally legal document from the State?  No, of course not.  I went ahead and scanned in two of the items they required and called the State Department of Revenue to make arrangements to get a copy of the third item – which will go into the safe when I get it.  I uploaded the two items I had, thinking, Myeh, at least that’ll be done, they can get started on their end, and I won’t have to worry about these later.  Well, imagine my very happy surprise when I received an email yesterday evening to inform me that they’d lifted the limitations!  Unfortunately, it still meant losing a few days of business, but I was expecting another week or two of being in Paypal jail, so I’m glad such wasn’t the case.

Now that year-end inventory is done – woohoo!!! – and colorants and awesome additives are on the way, it’s time to kick the production back up.  I decided to start with some wicked cool heart soaps that are heading to Pass-a-Grille, Florida for Valentine’s Day.  These will take a bit of time, and I figured I could get the first part started.  Mixed my lye, melted my oils, and went to the rack to grab my heart column mould.  Um, where the heck is my heart column mould?!?!  I searched high and low for that mould.  I looked on my secondary rack.  I looked in my stash of moulds and found every other column mould I own – holly leaf, pig, apple, Davidic star, fish.  Everything but my heart.  OK, OK, so on to plan B.  I go after my silicone guest soap mould, thinking I could line a bunch of small soaps up very close in the mould.  It was right here a few days ago…  UGH!!!  Where the crap is THAT mould???  What’s going on?  Did some evil little imp steal my heart moulds for shits and giggles?  Or was it a certain little five-year old princess?

I cover my containers and start the search.  The girls helped.  It was the end of the day, and I was just about to give up, when my eldest moved one thing and voila!  There it was!  Whew!  That mould is now sitting under a larger wooden mould, 9 of its cavities filled with rosemary lavender, bright pink soap.  Those will be embedded in a surround of lavender, and I can’t wait to slice the loaf and see what I get!  With my usual luck, the column mould will magically appear as I’m wrapping the very last soap.

In the midst of all this, we’re trying to get back into the swing of our school schedule after enjoying that break.  I also had to get a large order shipped, and the hassles of the week put me behind there.  My eldest daughter really came through to help me there!  She did such great work, and I didn’t even have to ask!  It takes teamwork to make a business succeed.

How is your New Year starting off?

Brunswick Stew – My Weekend Creation

For a while, I’ve been wanting to make some homemade Brunswick stew.  I love this stuff, and when I was growing up, I would get it every time we went to O.T.’s, this awesome barbeque joint.  It was sooo good!  That restaurant has long since gone out of business, and OT died several years ago, so imagine my total happiness when one of his sons brought a big ol’ pot of Brunswick stew to homecoming at my home church one year!  I’ve found some really good Brunswick stew at a restaurant down here, but at over half an hour away, acquiring it for myself requires some forethought, determination, and money.  At any given time, I’m lacking one of those.

So, it was time to try making it for myself.  I didn’t want to freeze a bunch, so I decided it’d be a great time to experiment with pressure canning again.  First, I found a recipe to try and opted for this one.  (I have a couple more recipes I want to try.)  Then I found out how to can this.  I knew I’d have to pressure can it, but I had to figure out the time and pressure.

Pressure canner
My pressure canner

I made up a big, tasty batch of Brunswick stew in my stock pot (and dried some apple slices at the same time).  Oh, my gosh, did our house smell amazing!!!  Then came time to pour the stew into jars and start the canning process.  These are the jars after they’d finished processing and resting for a little while.  Check out these closed systems of delicious awesomeness!  It was so fascinating watching the vegetables and broth simmering and moving about in the jars!

 

After the jars had cooled down, it was time to label them.  I’d created this label design a few years ago when I first started canning salsa.  I guess I’m just used to labeling everything I make.

Jars of Brunswick stew
The jars of Brunswick stew labeled and ready for storing, sharing, and eating

Our youngest daughter asked if we could have chicken salad sandwiches for dinner.  Our oldest asked if we could have Brunswick stew, so we broke open a jar.  Some of our jars had more broth than “stuff” – meat, veggies – so I had decided we’d use those so I could pump them up with extra chicken and vegetables.  I opted to add extra lima beans and potato, as well as a handful of peas.  Doesn’t that look totally delish?

Brunswick stew in the bowl
Tonight’s Brunswick stew ready to eat. Yum!

I’m all hyped about canning some great foods this fall – pie fillings, spaghetti sauce, chili, applesauce, and apple butter.  I think every weekend will see one new batch of something going through the cooker; this will enable me to dedicate the kitchen to different things at different times, because I’ve got a BUNCH of soap to make, too.  There is so much joy in making something by hand that I can share!  You see, I make soaps to use and sell, but canning stuff is for us and others.  I can use it to barter for local farm goods, as gifts, and for us.

Have you ever done any home canning?  What’s your favorite thing to put up?

Flippin’ for Flops

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been telling you about some adorable flip flop soaps, mostly because, well, they’re pretty fun to make.  Because it’s summer, beach season, flip flop season, and I’m a soapmaker who LIVES in flip flops until it’s simply unbearably cold to do so, we wanted to make some soaps with a special goal in mind.  You see, our closest city neighbor, about half an hour down the road, sees a LOT of human trafficking, and this problem is on the rise.

Did you know…

  • North Carolina is one of the TOP 10 states in the country for human trafficking prevalence?
  • Wilmington, NC is one of the top cities in the state for trafficking, due in part to its ports, interstates, and highways?
  • There are more slaves in the United States today than there were at the height of the transatlantic slave trade predating the Civil War?
  • Slaves can be boys and girls as young as 8 or 9 years old?
  • Not all slaves are foreigners?  Many are American citizens who are kidnapped or recruited, and there’s no discrimination by race, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.
  • Modern day slaves can work in the commercial sex industry, but can also be field, house, or factory slaves?

Law enforcement officials are working hard and breaking up these human trafficking rings, but the survivors need help afterwards.  Centre of Redemption is one such organization helping survivors here in the Cape Fear area, providing temporary housing and other basic needs for those who want them.  This is good, important work, and I want to give them a little boost.  From now til the end of June, proceeds from the sale of flip flop soaps will go to benefit this worthwhile organization.

Steampunk Flip Flops
These adorable Steampunk-inspired Flip Flop Soaps are just one style available

Be sure to pick up a pair of these today!  They make the cutest addition to a guest bath, beach house or powder room.