Blog Hosting and the Modern Woman

Several months ago, WordPress.com changed the way their hosted blogs operate. The change has driven me crazy, particularly since I have a WordPress.org site that still operates the way this blog did. Essentially, they have changed the administrative tools, and I hate the “new” way these tools work. On the surface, there seems to be little, if any, change, but there are subtleties that are driving me bonkers. The idea of moving this blog to a self-hosted site both exhilarates  and terrifies me, if only because I’ve worked for several years to build the small but loyal following that I have. Still, I think it’s time to do it, even if it seems sort of half-baked and slightly scary.

I also want to create a slightly different direction with this new blog by adding some tutorials, more photos and a better schedule (OK, make that an actual schedule). I have had several people contact me asking for updates on my machines and how I like them, whether or not I’d purchase them again, and recommendations for tools for particular jobs. I’d like to include more of those things as well.

The new blog will be a continuation of this one, only more in depth, more about the things I actually do on a daily basis. And more about the things that people have written me about, and asked me. I’m looking forward to this new chapter, and I hope it’s a leap you’re willing to take with me. I am currently working on getting the new website set up, and I really hope that you will join me on my continued journey. 🙂

The State of My Union Update

I’m writing this post with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m ready to make a few changes in my life. On the other hand, I am not happy that those changes need to be made. And in any case, I’m frustrated and I feel like I’m bouncing from place to place, throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. As a result, I feel like my attention is split, my efforts are not focused, and my bank account is quickly being depleted.

A year ago, I started Old Fashion Soap Co., with the idea that I could take my tried and true soap making skills and turn them into a viable business. I had all these illusions of grandeur, of becoming The Next Big Thing in the cosmetic industry, and growing my business in to an empire of epic proportions. Of course, I didn’t expect this to happen overnight (or in a year’s time), but I did expect to be doing a little better than I am by this time. Still, we are building brand recognition, and our customers love our soaps. We’re getting that prized repeat customer, and that makes me very happy. Looking back, I realize it wasn’t very realistic of me to expect big things in a short period of time. I have never given up hope that one day, this little business can sustain our financial needs. But I have, on several occasions, lost my focus, mostly in an attempt to gain more sales in a short period of time.

In August of last year, I purchased an embroidery machine, primarily because my machine guy told me that people are “making six figures!” with their embroidery businesses. And that might be true, but this machine is not really conducive to that. A single head, single needle machine doesn’t turn out items fast enough for me to make six figures while also running a soap business. I started out by setting up the embroidery business independent of the soap business, but then combined them in a fit of frustration over paperwork and administrative tasks. That was a huge mistake, I know now. It has confused my customers, confused my potential customers, and, I think, diluted my target audience for each of the two lines. The biggest issue, however, is that the embroidery just doesn’t sell like I’d hoped it would. It really has become a financial drain on my business.

Last month, I purchased a heat press for a few reasons. One, I think that my target customer will like heat press items far more than they will embroidered goods. Two, I would like to be able to do more than just t-shirts and hoodies – I really would like to be able to offer some gift type items to my customers that are unique, customizable (I probably made that word up) and fun. And finally, I am tired of looking for things I want and not being able to find them. It’s annoying, and I want to create them myself since I can’t find a place to buy them. But you know … I really didn’t want to add yet another line to an already schizophrenic business. I know, you’re thinking, Let’s cut to the chase here, Jill. What are you trying to say? Well, here it is …

For the very last time, I’m making a change in my business structure. I’m separating Old Fashion Soap Co., out into its own company once again. There are caveats, however. I will be discontinuing the wax line once I’m sold out of what I currently have in stock. We will be offering soaps (bar and liquid), lotions, creams and lip balms. The product lines will be easy, simple and fluid, i.e., the scents may not always be the same, or everything may not always be available. There will be some “core” items that we will always try to have in stock, but there will be a bit of fluctuation, too. If you want an old favorite, we can and will make it for you, but it will take about a month for you to receive it (potentially longer if we have to order an ingredient in for it). But for the most part, the line up we have now will continue on, even if it’s not in stock every day.

I am setting up a new business for the t-shirts, gifts and other fun things. It’s called Heat Wave Designs, and I’m in the process of setting up a page on Facebook for it. There will be a website, and we will be at shows (even if it’s part of the OFSC booth). I also intend to set up an Etsy page for the company, even though I do believe that Etsy is over-saturated. To begin with, I will offer mugs, coaster sets, and t-shirts, and maybe a couple other things as I find them. I encourage you to follow the page on Facebook, even as I’m just getting started, because there could be some rockin’ deals on things that don’t work out exactly as I had planned. LOL But I think I’m on the right track; check out these items I’ve been doing lately …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will also be offering customized items so you can give gifts that are unique and fun, like photo mugs and coasters.

As for the embroidery, I haven’t quite figured that out, but at this point, I will still be offering embroidered monograms and a few items like the fishing cooler. One of the things I realized was that even though I was trying to give people more choices in the way I set up my current website, the reality is that people just found it confusing. So whatever it is I decide to do, I will definitely be addressing that issue by offering a particular t-shirt with a specific design. The only options will be color and size, and even the color selection might be reduced a bit.

These changes will start appearing soon. You can still use the same link to get to the website, but in the end, it will be more of a gateway to the two completely separate and different sites. Sometimes, I guess we have to learn by doing and failing, and this was a heck of a lesson. I really hope that you will check out both businesses, and that you will consider supporting small business by purchasing from one when it makes sense. And as a final plug for Old Fashion Soap, you should totally check out the website, because our May special is four bars of soap for $20. That’s just $5 a bar, and it’s a great value (most of my customers say their average bar lasts four to six months).

I am also looking for a job at this point, so if you know someone who needs a great all-round person, or a good cost manager, let me know.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for sticking with me through the last year. When I got laid off last year, I think I said that it was going to be a new adventure, and it has certainly been that. Your support has meant a lot to me, and I am grateful for all the kind words, the emails and messages that I’ve received. Thanks for everything, y’all!

A Junkie’s Confession

I have a problem, and it’s time I come clean. I live for the thrill of the next high, the rush of adrenaline when I find the next drug. It’s a hard, hard life, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop myself from seeking out the next thrill.

I am a craft junkie.

I started out when I was just a child, with embroidery. My mom would let me buy those iron on Aunt Martha design envelopes and some embroidery floss and a little tea towel and off I’d go. It was a gateway craft, though – enough to get me hooked on making things, but not enough to satisfy my desire, no, my NEED, to be creative. I did some latch hook kits, then I did a little sewing of things like kids’ shorts, slacks for myself … I progressed in to making fabric covered photo albums when my kids were small. Then I found quilting, which led to more sewing. And soap and candle making. And now I have found my next big thing – vinyl.

I bought a Brother ScanNCut when they first came on the market a few years ago. I used it a few times, but honestly, it scared me so much I was almost afraid to touch it. It just seemed so complicated to use, and I was afraid I would do something to really screw it up. But one of my New Year’s (Non-) Resolutions for this year was to learn how to use this machine. And I can say with some pride that I’ve at least conquered my fear of this machine, and I’m using it to make t-shirts and other items. And I’m having a BLAST with it!

So that I could get the full effect of the vinyl, I also bought a heat press, and the combination is exciting and fun. Aaaaaaaaand … it’s led to a new business line for me (oh come on, you HAD to see THAT coming!). It started with this t-shirt I made for my daughter …

She saw a similar design at a show we were at earlier this month, and she really wanted it. The shirt she saw was a tank top, and the cost was more than $40! I didn’t have a tank top, but I did have a tee, and so we tried it out. Not only did she love the way it turned out, so did many of her friends.

 

These are shirts I’ve made for her friends, who wanted their home state instead of a heart inside the Texas. I’ve started calling it the “Transplanted Texan” shirt. LOL

I also bought a few transfers and tried those out as well …

But my plan is to do more of my own designs and fewer purchased designs.

You can look for these on the website in the near future; I’m just want to get some better photos first. 🙂

 

It Took Over My Entire Life

In my last post, I revealed plans to move to primarily an online presence around mid-year, after the spring shows are done, and I talked about cutting back the product line I keep on hand. Neither of those were easy decisions to make. I have come to really enjoy getting out and meeting people at the shows, talking to them about my soaps, and being able to offer a wide product line. However, as my hope to make this a viable business started to wane, I began to resent certain aspects of running it. Between resentment and disappointment, the joy began to seep out of the entire process, and that’s where the depression started.

I am no stranger to depression; I’ve dealt with it off and on for a good portion of my life. And really, I think everyone deals with depression at some point in their lives, some of us becoming clinically depressed, and some of us dealing with just plain old depression. But regardless of how it’s classified, I almost always realize that I’m depressed when I lose interest in doing things. The one that usually gets my attention is when I have the desire to sew or quilt, but not the ability. I realized last week that I had a problem when I thought about making a quilt but then decided it was too much work to clean up the studio. It’s not really that bad to begin with; there are some things on the cutting table that I need to put away but it’s not like I’m walking hip deep in crap or anything. I thought at first that maybe I was tired, but it happened again. And again. And then yesterday, before I made the decisions about the business, I thought that sewing would be a great way to take my mind off of my troubles, but I realized that the business has sort of sucked the joy out of sewing, too. As I sat here thinking about it, I realized that what I really need to do is create boundaries with my business. Even a smaller scale operation will get out of hand if I let it – and I think that’s where my primary issue is in the first place. I try to do more than I can, and that stresses me out, which then begins to wear on me, and after a while I find myself where I am now – depressed and irritated and wishing I’d never started a business in the first place.

Chris and I were talking about this yesterday, and we agreed that it’s out of hand. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, my work space when I started this business was my office. My desk was in there, and I cut and stored the soap there, too. When I started with the embroidery business, I needed a place to store the blank products, so I installed three large plastic shelves (think garage storage) in our bedroom. Somewhere around September, I realized that there wasn’t really enough space in the office for everything, so I started to store some of my soap in the hallway between my studio and the garage, which leads to my studio. By the end of the year, I’d moved my “office” space to the studio, and started to turn the former office in to a storage room. But that wasn’t enough space, either, so now a good chunk of stuff is in my studio, and under the bar in our dining area, not to mention the wagon I have that holds my big pails of oil. Every time I turn around, I’m out of space, and the business has taken over half of the downstairs area, and moving up the stairs in to our bedroom. There is not a place anywhere in this house that I can get away from it, because everywhere I go, every place I look, there’s some bit of my business.

And because I require the use of a stove and sink (and sometimes the oven), my kitchen is always in use, either by my business, or to prepare meals. I don’t do both at the same time – one is done before the other begins – but it creates a LOT of dishes to be done, and sometimes I feel like I am NEVER done with cleaning the kitchen. There have been days when I have done dishes six times and still couldn’t keep up completely.

I want – I NEED – to claw back space that shouldn’t be used for business, and to create areas of my home where it’s just not acceptable to store business related items. I was so gung ho for a while there, I lost sight of the need to maintain a work-free zone for myself and my family. It’s going to take time to get to the point where I’ve “de-businessed” areas, because I’m not going to just throw that stuff away or donate it. But my current goal is to not add to the mess by buying more things I need to store. I will be doing some embroidery work on some t-shirts in the hopes that I can sell some of them at upcoming shows, in my Etsy shop and on my website, so keep your eyes open for them.