Earlier this week, I wrote about my concerns – for myself, my business, my general state of affairs over all. I’m doing a lot of soul searching, because I think I need to know what’s truly bugging me. I keep coming back to one thought – I’m just not happy. We all go through it – at some point, we realize that we’re just not happy. We’re not happy with where we are, what we’re doing, and sometimes we’re not happy with our mate. Fortunately for me, my unhappiness has nothing to do with my husband. It has everything to do with my business. Everything that is bothering me is a result of my business. And so, I’ve made a decision, one that isn’t what I hoped to be considering after a year in business, but one I think is best for me and my family.
After the spring shows are over in May, Suds & Stitches will become primarily an online business. I will do the occasional show, but for the most part, it will be online. I will also be cutting back on the number of soaps I keep stocked – perhaps six to eight “regular” scents/bars that I keep on hand at all times, and a few rotational/seasonal type fragrances, for not more than 15 variations available, with the exception of the Soap of the Month Club offerings. Soap of the Month will still continue on, of course, and I will still offer lotions, night cream and lip balms. I will also continue to offer monogramming and the occasional embroidered items. And I will continue to pursue some wholesale opportunities, so if you know anyone with a small business who might be a good fit, let me know.
This is not where I wanted to be at this point in my business, but the reality is, we’re just not making money. The booth fees are high (often $100+ for each show; we have one coming up that I paid almost $300 to be in), and for items that sell for, on average, $5 each, we have to sell a LOT of soap just to break even. My hope was always that we’d eventually be able to stop doing the shows and just move to an online store (and maybe eventually, a brick & mortar), but I thought I’d have more repeat business before that happened. We do sell quite a bit of soap at our shows, but after taking in to account the cost of gasoline, booth fees, food, the occasional motel, and the cost of making product, we’re usually lucky to break even.
For the most part, our customer base has been fabulous, but we’ve missed some sales I thought we’d make. People who encouraged me to do this, to expand into making more wax items, more soaps, more lotions, embroidery, and who swore they couldn’t wait until we did it so they could buy the things they requested. I understand that things come up, and no sale should be counted on before it happens, but I’ve had so many people who claimed they “couldn’t wait” who then never placed an order or came to a show to see what we have to offer. I’ve offered discounts and coupons that no one ever took advantage of, and made sure that not only was I competitive with my prices, but that I offered more than others – more variety for shirts, bigger bars of soap, show special discounts, and other things. Things that no one took advantage of, and things that no one showed any interest in at all. It’s depressing. People at shows who “just love” this t-shirt or that, but wanted it in a different size/color/style. People who swore they were going home to place their order on the website, then never visited it at all. People who would PM me on Facebook wanting special discounts, shipping offers, etc., who then wouldn’t buy whether I gave in to their requests or not. Friends who wanted me to make this fragrance or that and they would DEFINITELY buy it, but when I made it, they were no where to be found. I’m not bringing all this up to make people feel bad; it’s just part of the process I’ve gone through to make the decisions that I’ve made.
I’m looking for another job. I have hope that I can find something soon so that we’ll still have money in our bank account that we can use to pay off some bills, and maybe take a little vacation. I’m not looking in just Houston, because let’s face it; no matter what people tell you, this is still an oil town, and without the oil, there aren’t many jobs. I want to stay in Texas at least, but if I can’t … well, things happen that are sometimes out of our control and we have to roll with the punches. It’s what I’m best at doing, after all.
One area where owning my own business has impacted my decision making, however, is in trying to shop local and small as often as I can. It’s not always possible, because sometimes local places don’t have what you’re looking for, and small doesn’t always have the variety. But it’s taught me to try the local places first, because when I can purchase from one of them, maybe I’m helping to keep their doors open. And there is little that is more depressing than having to close your business.
All in all, owning my own business has been an interesting experience, and I’ve learned a lot from it. I wouldn’t trade the last year for anything. But perhaps now it’s time to move on and find something else to do.