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!

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Sleep? What sleep?!

A few weeks ago, we bought a new mattress. Our old mattress cost us a small fortune, and just three years after we bought it, we started having problems with it. Unfortunately, the dealer who sold it to us went out of business, and we never got a response from the manufacturer, so we were a little leary of buying another expensive mattress. So instead, we bought a low priced yet very comfortable mattress, foregoing the box springs this time around. Our box springs are still in excellent condition, so we didn’t see a need to replace them. We waited for a week for the mattress to be delivered.

I wish I had my old mattress back.

This mattress has been terrible. The comfortable mattress we tried out in the store is not what we received when it was delivered two weeks ago. While the model is the same, the feel is vastly different. The day after the mattress was delivered, we went to the dealer and told them we wanted to exchange it because it was so uncomfortable. Our sales lady told us that normally, they want a customer to use the mattress for at least 30 days before exchanging it, but I told her that wasn’t going to happen; I’d gotten a grand total of about two hours’ sleep the night before because this mattress was a ROCK. We tried the mattress in the store again, and again, it was not comparable to what was delivered. They agreed to exchange it after we used it for a week. Last Thursday, we went back and picked out a new mattress, which is supposed to be delivered tomorrow. But the last two weeks have been excruciating. And we’re still not getting any sleep.

So that’s why I haven’t been really active lately. I’m just so far beyond tired, I’m not even sure what I’m doing anymore. The lack of sleep has cut the productivity levels for both of us, and I’m way behind on soap making. And making everything else as well. Over the weekend, I did actually order in some t-shirts for some Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter designs. I’m not even sure how many Valentine’s Day shirts I’m going to make this year, because we only have a couple of shows before the holiday. Instead, I might make myself one or two to wear to shows and then concentrate on the St. Patrick’s & Easter shirts. One thing I do know is that I seriously need to get more soap made, and fast!

I’m still working on re-organizing the studio/office and storage room. Today I finally got my Container Store order, and I began working on the storage room. It seems to be somewhat mindless work, which is what I need right now. It will take me a while to get it completely done, but it’s still being worked on, and eventually I’ll be finished.

The other thing I’m working on is a complete rebranding of my entire business venture. I’m combining the embroidery/fabric arts and soap/cosmetic businesses in to one entity, and I’m building an entirely new website, complete with new photos, a vintage/retro feel, and some new products. I am hoping to roll out the rebranded business the first of February, and I’m really very excited about it. I’m using WordPress for my website, so I’m learning a lot as I go along – this is the first website I’ve built that didn’t have some sort of pre-built “plug & play” template that guides me every step of the way. I did buy a skin for it, to give it the look I want, but I’m doing all the work myself. Fortunately, since I’ve used WordPress for my blog for years, using it for my website isn’t completely foreign to me. It feels a bit like a new pair of the comfy shoes you’ve had for years, but now need to get used to the new pair. Keep an ear to the ground to find out more about the relaunch/rebranding!

By the way, are you following me on Instagram? If you’re interested in finding out what I’m doing, head on over there and follow me. I post photos of fabric projects, soaps, embroidery … you know, whatever I happen to be doing that day. Maybe you’ll see me doing something you just can’t live without! 😉

And in closing, I would be totally remiss if I didn’t ask if you’ve signed up for the Soap of the Month Club yet. Each month, you’ll receive a new bar of themed soap. February’s soap has a Valentine’s theme, and I have to say, I can hardly wait for it! I already have March, April and May soaps planned out, and I assure you, they’re going to be super awesome. So don’t forget to sign up. Shipping fees are already included in the price, so if you buy the option that’s less than $50, just choose local pick up. Soaps will go out the first week of every month, and if you sign up now for the first shipment in February, you’ll receive a free gift with your first shipment! And don’t forget, shipping is free when you spend $50 or more in a single order.

Well, that’s pretty much it for now, but like I said, stay tuned; big things are in store for Old Fashion Soap Co., and Jill’s Fabric Arts!