Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Friday, Folks...

Last Sunday I mustered up some courage, threw on way less clothing than I'm comfortable wearing in public, and made my way to the SUP Fest on Waterbury Reservoir.  As you well know if you pay any attention whatsoever to the words in my blog, I've been completely dying to try paddleboarding.  It did not disappoint.  SOOOOO much fun, I can't even begin to describe.  Unfortunately, after demo-ing about a billion boards, the one/s I liked the best had a price tag that rivaled that of a used car.  No worries though, because there are rentals available at the same location for a pretty reasonable cost.  So, just letting you know in advance, if you can't reach me for a while, I'm totally fine, and I'm out in the middle of a lake somewhere, pretending I'm on my own board out in some remote, island lagoon in the South Pacific.  I'll call you back when I'm back on land, and back to reality again...

And since it's Friday, here's some completely unrelated stuff to help usher in your weekend...
~An outfit I think I'd be happy wearing every single day for the rest of my life (IF I could keep the shirts clean)
~My "Someday" car
~Inspiration to turn the catch-all closet in our office into additional work space 
~So that I can keep making more of this, and not ruin our kitchen counter tops (anymore)

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Best resources for new parents...

When you're expecting, whether it be by birth or by adoption, everyone will have an opinion for you.  There are people that will tell you what to name your baby, what not to name your baby, that you should breastfeed, that you shouldn't, that your baby should share your room, or even your bed (my personal recommendation on this is NO), that you should let them "cry it out," or that you shouldn't do that because you can "never spoil a baby."  Holy crap, how do you know?!  You're going to peruse the book store and Amazon for the closest thing to a "manual" you can get on this terrifying new little bundle that's going to be entering your home and your lives.  Unfortunately there's no such thing.  Every family is different, and therefore there's no one resource that's going to be perfect for everyone.  But their are fantastic resources out there.      

baby ~ owner's manual
These are the places I turned for info when I was a brand-spankin'-new parent many years ago, and will absolutely go back to now that we're "expecting" again:
~Talk to your friends.  Most folks have at least one friend who has young kids.  If those kids look like they're not screwed up too badly yet, ask your friend for some advice on, say, how they got their 4-year-old to eat beets.  If their kids are holy frigging terrors, then still ask their advice on certain subjects... just maybe file their answers away in your what-not-to-do bank.
~Your new kiddo's pediatrician.  That's the guy/gal that's going to be able to say "your son looks like he's doing just fine," and have that be a meaningful statement.  They're also the ones that can say, "I think you should try a different formula/laundry detergent/lotion, because it appears that your son is having a mild allergic reaction to something.  We can also do some more testing to give you a firm answer on what it might be."  Don't Google this stuff.  Go to the doctor if you have questions about your child's well-being.  
~Books (if it's a medical issue, see above).  Find as general of one as possible, like What To Expect The First Year, or The Baby Owner's Manual (pictured above, and worth it just for the humor of the diagrams alone).  That way you're getting the info you need about the basics of feeding, bathing, milestones, etc., but you're cutting through the bullshit of someone else's opinion on how you should parent.  The best advice I can give any expecting parent about choosing a book about babies is, please preview the book before you buy it.  If you find it interesting, and it presents theories and methods you're totally on board with, then it's a great book for you to buy.  If you pick it up, get three pages into it, and think the author is a complete quack, then don't buy it.  Don't parent the way someone else thinks you should.  Every parent and every child is different.  Do what you think is right for your child.  Your gut is going to do most of the educating for you about being a new parent.  
~Your parents.  If you're lucky enough to still be on speaking terms with your parents, and you feel that you turned out pretty OK, then your own parents are fantastic people to ask for help (whether you thought so during your teenage years or not).  Your friend might not be so thrilled about being woken up at 2am when you need help with your inconsolable baby.  Your mom, on the other hand, will probably let it slide...
~The World Wide Web.  Stay as far away from Web MD as possible unless you want to be paranoid about every little bust bunny that wisps its way into your nursery.  But sites like are fantastic to see what other moms are talking about.  Stack the deck of "Mom" blogs in whatever form of bookmarking you choose.  A few of my favorites are NYC Taught Me, Rookie Moms, Strocel, and Modern Parents Messy Kids.   

Thanks for stopping by,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Manic Monday: lets start the week of with a huge announcement, shall we?

Well, hello there.  Long time no see.  I feel like I need to let you in on a little family secret that might put some of my "absent" days a little more in perspective.  Last Friday, for instance, was a day that I would have loved to be blogging, but I couldn't be, and I wasn't sure then if I could/should reveal why not.  I talked to Hubby about this, and even though this is super personal to us, I also want to share some of our journey through the process, because it's exactly the kind of writing I wish I could find right now from someone else.  So hopefully I'll be able to offer some support for families going down the same path...

Wouldn't it be nice to have a little
brother or sister to read to instead of the dog?
We're adopting.  The way I was leading up to that, you probably thought it was going to be something horrific, huh?  Sorry.  No, it's fantastic!  We're super excited about it!

So, since pretty much only our close family and friends have been made aware of us choosing to do this, I have to catch you guys up on what's happened so far in our process.  I will try to keep posts about this topic shorter in the future, I promise.
A brief history of our process so far:
~We started our paperwork in April of 2011, and have been official waiters since June of 2011.
~We decided to adopt, not because we couldn't get pregnant the "normal" way, but because we probably shouldn't (mostly for the sake of our sanity).  I had some complications after the delivery of The Kid which resulted in some hesitation to try again.  Even if things went off without a hitch, and turned out perfectly, it would be 9 months of sheer terror.  To us, adoption sounded like a win-win... I wouldn't have to be pregnant again, and we'd still get a baby.  I had a tubal ligation in May.  No going back now.
~We were open to older children, up to The Kid's age, but have since put on-hold the process of finding an older child.  If you'd like to know more about that part of our decision, I'm happy to chat with you privately about it via email, but I don't think it needs to be plastered all over a public forum.  I'm throwing it out there as a discussion topic though, in case others of you have found yourself in a similar situation.
~When I was absent from the blog world on Friday, Hubby and I were taking a required class to teach us about some issues we might face down the road if we end up adopting a child of a different race than us.  Since we have no preference on gender or race, it's a quite real possibility that we'll have a family that looks like the Jolie-Pitts.  Totally makes me cringe to say that, (not because of what our kids might look like, but) because I want nothing less than to behave anything like Angelina Jolie.  I'm team Aniston all the way, baby.  Sorry, tangent happened there.  I'm back.  So anyway, to us, a baby is a baby.  We both grew up in households that taught us the Dr. Seuss way of thinking..."people are people."  We were both taught that everyone was to be treated equally, and that skin color didn't matter.  The class we took though was to open our eyes to the fact that, even though it doesn't matter to us, it matters to some other people, and sometimes people will say stupid stuff to our kids, or treat them differently because of the way they look.  Oh, how far we've come, right?

So that's where we're at right now... slightly more educated on how naive we are, and waiting for the phone to ring.  By the way, if you're a telemarketer, please don't take it personally when I'm a little more rude than usual to you.  But when you call me from a number that's not in my contacts list, and it's not to say that you have a baby for me, then I pretty much hate you a little bit, and don't want whatever else it is that you were going to try to sell me.

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer makeup trend I'm dying to try...

I'm not usually one for hopping on the trendy band wagon, but I might just have to give this one a shot.  I personally feel that the coral lip trend is about the greatest thing to hit the makeup world in a wicked long time.  I've yet to see a skin color that it doesn't look absolutely incredible on, and it super bright and fun without being heavy-looking.  Maybe I could ease into it with a stain or a gloss?  have you tried it?  Do you love it, hate it?
Coral lips Coral lips 
Coral lipsCoral Lips via Lela Rose

Thanks for stopping by,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Manic Monday: First full week of Summer vacation...

How was everyone's weekend?  Did all the Dads in your life get a proper thanks?  We had "The Dads," as we call them, over for diner last night for a combo happy-dad-day/happy-b-day-for hubby party.  The Husband and I both turned 30 this year and had about the most low-key 30th birthdays anyone could possibly have.  Therefore they were perfectly celebrated, according to us.  He got me a t-shirt, and I got him a coffee mug.  Done.  So in good low-key fashion, the Dad's portion of the celebration was pretty mellow also.  My dad brought over all the pictures he'd taken on his last couple Habitat for Humanity trips, and we all sat around our living room while he narrated his slideshow.  The pictures were awesome, the fact that he's traveled the globe to do really great work for an incredibly selfless cause is awesome, and sitting in my living room with 3 generations of my family watching the modern-day version of a slideshow together was so much more than awesome.  I know that parents are supposed to be proud of their kids, but I think it's pretty great when a kid can be proud of their parents.  The stories my Dad tells when he gets home from his trips are neat, but seeing the pictures of what he's doing to help people makes me hugely proud of him.

So after a good, satisfying, relaxing weekend of family fun, cake, and picture shows, I'm about to embark on a mega busy week.  So please forgive me if my posts happen to get sporadic this week.  It's going to be my first full week of Summer vacation as a stay-at-home mom.  Today we have the closing on our house (again.  this time for the refinance).  And thanks again to The Dads for all their help to make that possible.  Then Wednesday is my weekly farmer's market.  So I have to spend tomorrow making more product for it, as well as making a new door (as in, not a sheet of plywood) for my egg-bird run.  My mom-in-law rocks and got The Kid signed up for a week of swimming lessons, starting today.  So we'll be carting him back and forth to those all week.  Not a moment too soon either, because my Dad brought me over the loaner kayak last night so The Kid and I can go play with it this Summer (SOOOOO excited to get back out on the water again!!!).  And I'm exactly one month away from our yearly mini get-away to the beach (this is the first year that I haven't been a total chunker during our trip, so I'm pretty happy about that), and figured that I could amp up my workouts a tiny bit, and earn the rights to actually wear a bikini this year (it's already purchased, by the way.  Thanks Mom for hitting up the Old Navy sale for me the other day.  Now the pressure's on).  So those slightly longer toning sessions need to be squeezed into the schedule somewhere also.  Wish me luck on my first week of trying to pull off what every other stay-at-home Mom has been making look easy for decades...

Thanks for stopping by,

Bikini top and bottom from Old Navy.      

Friday, June 15, 2012

Paddle-board love...

My favorite celeb working on that rockin' bod with some Stand Up Paddle-boarding (SUP).  Photo found here.
The most recent issue of our local weekly publication, Seven Days, had an article on the very thing I've been wicked wanting to try.  Apparently this Hawaiian-born sport has reached Vermont, and has more than just me a bit curious.  Local sporting goods stores are having trouble keeping Paddle boards in stock now, and (lucky for me) lots of places are now offering classes and demos.  So guess who's going to be finding herself a SUP class this Summer?!  This girl!

I'm fantastically excited about this.  It was all the rage on the west coast over the last few years (which means that by the time it's reached Vermont it's already not cool back in Cali).  But who cares.  It's new and exciting here, and it's supposedly one of the most awesome ab workouts you can find yourself, (and!) you get to be out on the water!  Holy crap!  does it get any better?!  Who is this Hawaiian genius that figured out how to make exercise fun?!  You are a true hero, whoever you are...

I'll let you know how it goes when I find myself a lesson group.  Hopefully I'll be back soon to tell you that I'm as in love with the sport itself as I am right now of just the idea of it.  And hopefully if I do fall in love with it, the prices of the boards drop significantly by the time I've finished my lessons...

PS:  If you're Santa (you rock for taking time out of your Summer Vacation to read my blog, and...) this is what I want for Christmas this year (or 4th of July, if you're finding yourself with some spare time in your off-season).

While we're on the subject of fun-in-the-sun, and since it's Friday, here's some other Summery goodness to get you revved up for the nice weekend we're in store for...
~Did you know that sunscreen is only good for about a year?  You should be buying more now, if you haven't already this season.
~I'll be getting myself this t-shirt if I make it through a class.
~The perfect beach braid (for 3 Summers from now when my hair's finally long enough).
~A good simple, and surprisingly flattering bikini option if you're on a budget.  The top and bottom are only $20.00 (Not each, but total!).  I know they're probably not the highest quality, but it'll sure make me feel less devastated if I happen to forget to pack it on the trip back home from the beach than I would if I were to lose, say, this one, which will run you abut $70.00 (on sale from over $90.00) for each piece, not the whole shebang.  So if you're off to a topless beach, then it might be affordable, but I'm sticking with the full set for way less money, and no guilt if it gets lost in the shuffle.     
~And to help get you into that teeny-tiny bikini, pick any one of these, and do lots of planks...Sorry

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend,

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So it's officially Summertime now. What to do with 60 days of no-school...


All of you other stay-at-home/work-from-home Moms out there have a serious head start on me on this subject.  You see, even though my Kid is 7, this is the first year that I've been able to be home with him all Summer.  I didn't do it the "normal" way and have The Kid and just not go back to work.  I had The Kid, went back to work for almost 7 years at a full-time and a part-time job, saved up as much dough as I could, then quit to work on growing my small business/see my kid again (I worked 12-hr shifts that whole time, sometimes days, sometimes nights, most weeks with overtime, and always at full-tilt stress load).  So the other day The Kid comes up to me and asks, "what do you want to do for our 60 days?"  60?!  Holy ol' long-block-of-no-me-time Batman!  Then I thought, wait a second, this was the whole point.  This is why I'm home and not chasing bad guys or teaching people to do CPR over the phone.  Oh, and also because that job totally sucks.  OK, not entirely true.  That job was amazing on it's good days.  It was damned cool the day I got to talk a guy through delivering his wife's baby.  But those days, unfortunately were few and far between and didn't make up for days when the other side of life happened, and I had a front-row seat through all of it.

Anyway, sorry about putting on the bummer parade there, but the point I'm trying to make is that I'm amazingly grateful to have this time to do 60 days worth of happy things with a happy person.  And if I can handle getting pepper-sprayed, tased, taking guys twice my size to jail, and talking on the phone to people who are having the worst day of their life, I should be able to handle Summer vacation...right?

So what do you guys do all Summer?  Today we're going for a hike, and I'm hoping to spend a wicked lot of time in a kayak over the next couple months.  That's about all I have planned right now.  I know there are women out there right now shaking their heads in disapproval, and waving their Summer flow charts at me.  But this is the first Summer in a very long time that I'll be able to wear flip-flops every day instead of combat boots, and I'm a tiny bit amped about that.  Does anyone have about a gallon of sunscreen they can send me for my glowing-pale, formerly cut-off-from-the-daylight legs?

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

*Series* The business of being Mama, Part 5: Networking and Marketing...

(Part 1:  Is it a good idea to turn your hobby into a business?...)
(Part 2:  How to sell your wares...)
(Part 3: Pricing your handmade items...)
(Part 4:  Legal mumbo-jumbo...)

It's not like Field Of Dreams.  Just because you build it, doesn't mean they're going to come.  You need to work your tail off to get your products out there, and make people want need them.    
Pinned Image
Here are some things I've found helpful, and some things I probably won't ever do again...

~If you don't get into a craft show or farmers market you've had your eye on, go anyway as a customer.  Talk to as many people as possible in similar fields as you.  True, they're your competition, but they can also be your allies (and helpful promoters).  This Spring I missed the boat for the show I wicked wanted to get into (and by missed it, I mean totally forgot about it until I checked their website to get an application, and the jury process was already closed.  So, yeah, by missed the boat, I mean I didn't even make it to the dock.  next year I'll have my shit together better...)  Anyway, so I went to the show as a buyer instead of a seller, and actually had a remarkably educational time.  While walking around I met the charming young fellow behind Squirrel Pirate Apothecary.  I noticed that he had lovely little tins of Healing Salve on his table, and I was instantly intrigued and jealous all at the same time.  You see, I had just come away from an incident of having an entire batch of Body Balm explode in my microwave.  So I shared my wildly embarrassing story with this kind man, and he suggested to me that I use a double-boiler instead of my microwave.  I knew that already actually, but I was, up until that very moment completely terrified of trying a double-boiler.  I had no idea what it was, and it sounded menacing.  But he assured me that it was nothing to be afraid of, and he was absolutely right.  I've had amazing success with my own double-boiler technique I'm using now, and I'll be forever grateful to him for convincing me to stop being such a wuss.  The bar of soap I bought from him in thanks doesn't seem like a great trade for that, but here I am on my blog singing his praises, and I hope that he drums up some business from it.  Which brings me to my next to-do...

~Be Nice!  There is such a thing as Craft Karma.  People like to talk, and you want them talking about you in a nice way.  For instance (yes, here I'm about to embark on another one of my stories), quite some time ago when I was first starting out on my small business adventures (with one that wasn't successful, mind you), I stumbled upon New Duds.  They are a fantastic little husband/wife-run company that does original and custom screen-printing, as well as making some totally to-die-for bags.  I came to them with a printing project, and it was my first ever business-to-business meeting, transaction, interaction, etc., and I had no idea what I was doing.  One of my huge pet peeves is when people in the know make me feel stupid for not knowing what they do, and make me feel like I'll never be part of the cool-kids club.  I have a bit of a George McFly complex at times (children of the 80's, you will hopefully understand that reference).  These guys were super helpful, never condescending, and made me feel right at home.  They were the NICEST people EVER.  So even though that business venture I originally went to them for is no longer operating, and I'm not currently using them for any other projects, I tell everyone about them.  Just the other day someone asked me if I knew anyone locally that does screen-printing, and I said, "of course!"  Whenever I want a new t-shirt I buy it from them, and last year I had a custom bag made by Tessa, one of the owners, and she knocked it out of the park.  By the way they also have a wicked great blog with lots of cool pictures of their shop.

~Start a facebook and/or Twitter Page for your business.  I haven't broken into Twitter yet (I know, I'm the last of my kind), but as far as facebook goes, don't start another personal profile.  Start a Page.  There's a difference.  A profile is for a person, and a page is for a business.  Post links to where people can buy your stuff, coupon codes you're offering, sales, etc.  Shamelessly invite all your "friends" and ask them to do the same for all of theirs.

~Start a blog.  Truthfully, the amount of views per day I get on my blog wouldn't be worth getting out of bed for if my paycheck depended on in, like one of my favs, Joanna Goddard.  She writes an awesome one called A Cup Of Jo.  But it's nice for your customers to see that you're a human, and to get a glimpse into your life.  So for that, my blog is helpful (and even if it wasn't, I like to do it, so I'd probably keep doing it anyway).

~On that blog you start, post links to things that interest you, and also to your own products.  You may have noticed that this particular post was quite "linky."  So far I've pointed you to Squirrel Pirate, one of his products I wicked like, New Duds, one of their designs I just bought, Joanna Goddard's blog, and even to one of my own products and 4 links at the top of this page to all the other posts from this series.  Now if any of these people are keeping track of their site traffic stats, they'll see that a few folks ended up at their sites via some crazy chick at a blog called Pretty Clucked Up.  If I'm lucky, they'll click back to my blog, read this post, and think that I'm pretty swell for saying nice things about them.  By the way, don't do this just because it gets you traffic, and gets people to view your products.  Do this only with people who really deserve it.  Remember back to that Karma thing?

Now for a few things I probably wouldn't recommend...
~This one I might actually do again, but not the way I did it the first time; Blog give-aways.  The first time I offered a give-away on a blog it was a pretty new blog and didn't have a huge reader following.  So I only made one sale off of the post, and it amounted to exactly the same as the give-away I offered.  But any sale is a good sale, and maybe that buyer will tell her friends that the stuff she bought from me totally rocked, and it'll be worth it in the end.  Anyway, pick your give-aways carefully.  The whole point of doing a give-away is to drum up buzz about your business, and if you're not doing your give-away on a blog with a big enough following, you're only giving, and not receiving.  The only time this is acceptable in the business world is when it's to charity.

~Newspaper ads.  I don't feel like this would bring enough return on investment for me.  Maybe it would for someone in a different field of work.  A hairdresser, for instance would probably get a good return on a newspaper ad, because she could offer a coupon, and she's offering a service in which she can absorb most of the cost of the ad with just a few customers, and the sales of some products in her shop.  My products aren't expensive enough for me to make back the cost of the ad from the number of customers it would generate.

~Showing up unannounced to solicit your products.  I haven't done this because I think it's rude.  Give the shop owner a call, or send them an email to schedule a time to meet with them.  Showing up and peddling your stuff when they're trying to wait on their customers is not going to leave a good first impression.  The one time I think this is acceptable is if you're hanging fliers up.  Then, please DO go in and ask the shop owner if it's OK to hang your flier.  Don't just go slapping things up on peoples' walls without asking.  If they ask you a little bit about your business, then you can chit chat with them about it.

Any questions?  Suggestions?  Comments?  Bring 'em on... It's part of networking...

Thanks for stopping by (and thanks for taking the time to read my wildly long-winded series),

Monday, June 11, 2012

*Series* The business of being Mama, Part 4: Legal mumbo-jumbo...

(Part 1:  Is it a good idea to turn your hobby into a business?...)
(Part 2:  How to sell your wares...)
(Part 3: Pricing your handmade items...)

Do you remember back a few years ago when a lady sued Victoria's Secret because her bra snapped open and hit her in the eye, or when that person sued McDonalds because they got burnt on their (HOT!) coffee?  Unfortunately, along with all the good that comes from you having more cash flowing into your bank, something sucky happens too; people start to take advantage.  Once someone sees you as a corporation or business instead of just some chick selling a few cool things she made, then you need to start operating as one also for your own protection.  This is no joke, folks.  People will try to get money any way they can, except for earning it themselves.  So, for starters, please take some of the cash you've earned, hand it to a lawyer, and have them make you an official business entity.  You can do this on your own for way cheaper, but it's handy to have a lawyer make sure that everything is done properly.  Separating your business from yourself and making it its own entity protects you, your family, and your money.  Basically it means that if one of your products should injure someone, and they want to sue you for it, they can completely drain your business account, and that's going to totally suck, but they won't get your house, and that's pretty awesome.  Speaking of which... When your business is officially a business, you'll get a slip of paper either from your lawyer or in the mail with its Tax ID # on it.  You'll get one for Federal Taxes, and one for State.  As soon as you get that little piece of paper, put it in your hot little hand, march yourself down to the bank, and open a business account.  Then your personal dough is separate from your business's.  Use the business's money for business purchases, and the money in your personal account for personal purchases.  Sounds simple enough, but when you see the balance start to rise in your business account, it can be pretty tempting to go buy a new pair of shoes with it.  Don't! (Unless, of course, you can justify a pair of Jimmy Choo's somehow as a business write-off, and if so, let me know how you did it, because I want some.  Absolutely no idea where I'd wear them, but still...they'd feel stellar to cuddle with).  
Cut your taxes
The other official businesslike thing that's monumentally important is keeping good records.  Even if you don't become a big-girl corporation, or have an official LLC title behind your business name, you're still required to report your income (even from a hobby) on your taxes.  You should be keeping track of money out (supplies purchased, mileage to shows, fees incurred for the purpose of your business, etc.).  Just keep all your receipts, and an accountant can tell you whether the tab for a lunch meeting is applicable or not.  Maybe it's not, but if it is, and you don't have the receipt, then you don't get to claim it.  And you need to keep track of money in (that lovely cash you were handed for your wares, as well as any online sales that just floated into your bank account).  To make this easier on myself I do a couple things that I highly recommend:
~I have an inventory sheet of all my products.  I print one off before each market to keep track of how many of each item I started with, and then how many I have left at the end.  This helps me not only keep track of my earnings, but also how much I'm selling (or not selling) of certain products, and gives me something to compare my cash pile (over-exaggerating here a bit) after each market.
~I have a receipts folder in my file cabinet.  If you don't have a file cabinet, use a shoe box.  Just make sure they're all saved, and they're in relatively chronological order.  That way if you need to find one from January, it should theoretically be at one end of the pile or the other, but not in the middle.  If you make a lot of online purchases for your business, and you want to save paper, you can have a digital folder for those receipts.  Just make sure they're all in one organized, easy-to-locate "folder" in case you need to print them out come tax time.  Each time I make a purchase online for ingredients or packaging, I take the order-confirmation email, and throw it into my receipts folder in my Gmail.  Simple, organized, and effective.
~I made a cost-to-make sheet also.  This takes a ton of time, but once you get it done, it's pretty quick to edit from there on out.  Basically I have a list of all of my products and the ingredients (and amounts of each) and packaging required to make each one.  So I can easily tell what I should charge for each product, as well as having a visual reference of which ingredients I'm blowing through, and which ones are sticking around longer, so I can reorder stuff accordingly.  I did this mostly because the shipping charges on my ingredients are monumentally huge, and I don't like to have to reorder stuff often because of that.  If I have to place multiple orders for my ingredients, then I have to pay outrageous shipping charges multiple times, and therefore have to charge more for my products.  Customers don't understand poor-planning-up-charges, and don't like to pay them.  So I have to eat the cost when that happens, and that majorly bums me out.

For just a tiny bit more incentive to keep your checks and balances, well, in check, and balanced, you pay taxes on your profit.  If you spent a ton of money on start-up costs (and I don't know of many small businesses that didn't), and you made very little money to compensate for that (and I don't know very many small businesses that strike it rich in their first year), then you didn't make much profit.  You don't have to give to Uncle Sam what you didn't make (despite popular belief).  If you only keep track of your money in, and don't keep receipts for your money out, then you're screwing yourself every April.

Well, that was a good, long, dry topic, huh?  Just what everyone loves, right?  Tomorrow we'll pep it up a bit for some chat about marketing and networking.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Farm-Fresh Friday: pause in the Series, and some Friday free-for-all

Sorry for the pause in the Series.  Had a couple mega-busy days these last few days, and up until right now, haven't sat down at my computer once since Wednesday morning.  Yikes!  So I'll go ahead and finish up the rest of the Mama-Business series next week, and we'll have a bit of fun, 'cause it's Friday...

Studio Shed bills its design as "a turnkey studio for your backyard," with standard features such as corrugated steel roof, clerestory windows, glass door, lighting and denim-insulated walls finished in your choice of painted drywall or birch paneling. The 10-by-12-foot Lifestyle model pictured here, installed in Northern California, starts at $10,750, plus shipping (starts at $750) and installation (starts at $1,200 for a certified pro).
Someday it would be pretty fantastic to have a little spot like this in my back yard to call my "office."
Some more eye-candy for you from around the web...
~This lady makes beautiful hand-painted wares.  I'm particularly obsessed with this coffee mug
~The perfect vacation sandal.
~A totally wonderful apron that's on my "wicked-want" list.
~And something that only "Friends" fans will get, but if you are one, you'll laugh out loud when you see this scene replaying in your head...
It's Joey!
Neither do I, Joey...Neither do I...

Have a great weekend and thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

*Series* The business of being Mama, Part 3: Pricing your handmade items...

(Part 1:  Is it a good idea to turn your hobby into a business?...)
(Part 2:  How to sell your wares...)
Wicked basic pricing formulas for selling handmade products:
~Cost to make product x 2 = Wholesale price
~Wholesale price x 2 = Retail price

So, what are the costs of making a product?
~Listing fees, if selling online
~Entry and/or membership fees if selling at craft shows or farmers markets
~Wages.  Please pay yourself.  It takes time to make products, take photos and write descriptions for online listings, drive to shows, and meet with prospective buyers.  If all you factor into your cost is your materials, then you're shorting yourself your entire paycheck, and only covering your operating costs.  Basically you'd just be covering the costs of buying more materials, to sell more stuff, so your business would keep rolling along, but the bacon wouldn't ever come home.  Folks, you are an equal opportunity employer for yourself.  Please compensate yourself fairly...

Now, I'm going to make a hypothetical batch of a hypothetical product (Product X), and show you an example of how it (hypothetically) all comes together...
~I used $4.37 in ingredients/materials for the batch.  The batch made 10 jars of Product X.  $4.50 / 10 jars =  $0.45 in materials per jar.
~Each jar that I package my Product X in cost $0.67 per jar.
~It's going to cost me $0.20 to list my product on Etsy (also just FYI, they charge a 3.5% transaction fee when one of your items sells.  So you should factor that into your cost as well).
~It takes me 20 minutes to whip up a quick batch of Product X, and another 40 minutes to take some photos, of it, edit them, and write up a listing to sell it online, for a total of 1 hour.  Let's say I want to earn $20.00 an hour.  Since it took me 1 hour to get 10 jars made, I'll divide my $20.00 by the 10 jars, and get $2.00 in wages per jar.

~$0.45 in materials + $0.67 per jar + $0.20 to list my product + $2.00 in wages per jar = $3.32 per jar.

So if I were going to wholesale this newly created wonder product, I'd multiply my cost-per-jar x2, and sell it to a shop for $6.64, and if I were going to sell it retail, I'd multiply that wholesale price x2, and charge $13.28 per jar of Product X.

Tomorrow we'll chat about the legal mumbo-jumbo of being a small business owner.

Thanks for stopping by,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

*Series* The business of being Mama, Part 2: How to sell your wares...

(Part 1:  Is it a good idea to turn your hobby into a business?...)

So, you've made something really cool, and your friends and family all agree that "you should sell this stuff!" OK, but where?  How?  To who?.  This is the part that I found really daunting in the beginning, and truth be told, still do a little now.  So, I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I think it's unfair to short-change you guys on some of the info I wish I'd had in the beginning.  Now would be a good time to top off your coffee cup...

Today, we'll cover the 2 basic options (trust me, it's plenty for now); Wholesale and Retail. Wholesale is when you sell your product to a store, an employee of the store puts it on a shelf, and a customer comes in and buys it.  Retail is when you sell your product directly to the customer.  So let's chat about what I like and dislike about either of these options, and how to make each one happen:
the handmade marketplace
This book was insanely helpful to me

Wholesale likes:
~Great exposure for your products.
~Trust in your product.  Customers want proof that a product is worth having before they fork over the money for it, and that can be hard for a new business owner to develop.  Having your product on the shelves of a store that customers already trust, makes you an extension of that store, and therefore a trustworthy source.
~Support for local businesses.  By selling your product, that shop is turning a profit also.
~Networking.  Not everyone is going to want to buy your stuff, but they might know someone else who would (more on networking on Friday).

Wholesale dislikes:
~Less money for me.  I'll talk more about pricing tomorrow, but basically you sell to the store for less than retail price so that they can mark it up and make a profit.  You're still making money, just not as much.
~I have to put myself out there in person and peddle my products.  I'm not fantastic at taking, or giving myself compliments.  So it's a pretty awful experience for me to walk up to a total stranger and ask them to like me (and to give me money, display my products on their shelves, and spend some time learning about what I'm terrible at talking about).  This is where you just have to suck it up, and do it.  You're not wasting their time.  If they don't have products to sell in their store, they won't make any money either.  And if they make you feel like you're wasting their time, then that store probably isn't a good fit for you anyway.

How to sell wholesale:
~Make a list of local or online shops whose "vibe" matches the "vibe" of your product/s.
~Hop online and do a little bit of research about each place.
~Make notes.
~Pick up the phone and start calling the places on your list.  You made those notes while doing your research so that you can say things like, "Hi Susan, I'm so-and-so, from such-and-such-a-company.  I saw on facebook that you're having a promotion on your new line of flibity-widgets, and I think the floppety-widgets that I make will really compliment the flibity-widgets that you're currently promoting.  Would it be possible to set up a time for me to come in and show you my floppety-widgets and see if they're something you'd be interested in carrying in your amazing shop?"
~If/when you get some meetings scheduled, go with your (nice) game face on.  You're a professional, but a friendly one.  Have a list of products/pricing available, some samples they can try out, and dress like you respect the time they're taking out of their busy day to meet with you.  Be polite, even if they're not.

Retail likes:
~Mo' Money.  Like I said, I'll chat more about pricing tomorrow, but basically I get to charge more when I sell retail as opposed to wholesale, because I don't have to save room for anyone else's mark-ups.
~If selling retail in person (like at a craft show or Farmers' Market), then people can touch, sample, and see your products.  Even though a picture is worth a wicked lot of words, it's not as helpful as when someone gets to experience it right there in front of them.
~If selling retail online (like on Etsy), then I feel like I'm more outgoing, and do a better job describing my products.  It's way less intimidating for me to hide behind my computer screen, in whatever unimpressive clothing I choose to throw on that day, and edit what I want to say about a product before the description reaches the customer.

Retail dislikes:
~Shipping charges (when selling online).  Paying to have an item shipped can be the quick difference between affordable, and too-expensive for many customers.
~(when selling online) The time I spend taking and editing photos of products, and writing descriptions that (hopefully) portrays how amazing a particular lotion smells.  Huge blocks of time have to be carved out for that sort of stuff.
~(when selling in-person, and also when meeting with prospective wholesale buyers) It's a personality trait of mine that I'm working on improving, but I often come off as a rude bitch.  It's not a good trait for someone trying to win over customers.  But I'm totally out of my comfort zone when having face-to-face pleasant chatter with people I don't know, and my lack of smiling out-going-ness is sometimes a major turn-off for buyers.  I'm aware of my Eeyore complex, and am working to improve my cheeriness.  If you're someone who is naturally a bit more like Tigger, then you'll probably be right in your element at shows. 

How to sell retail (Online):
~Get on Etsy.  Setting up an online shop is idiot-proof, and you instantly have exposure to buyers world-wide.  I also like Big Cartel, but find I get a lot more "traffic" through Etsy.  Big Cartel has no listing fees though, which is pretty nice, and you can list up to 5 items for free.  Big Cartel would be a great option if you also did shows, and could hand out business cards with the web address on them to get some dirrect traffic, but otherwise, I found that my customers couldn't find me as easily on there, and switched back to primarily using Etsy.
~Take great pictures of your products.  You can make the most amazing product of it's kind in the whole, big, wide, world, but if your photo sucks, no one's going to click on it, and therefore no one will buy your awesome stuff.  Bummer, huh?  Etsy is enormous now, and it's easy to get lost in the masses if you don't have photos that really grab people attention.  You don't need to be a professional photographer (or hire one), or have a gazillion dollar camera to take decent product photos.  Read the forums and blogs on Etsy about products photo do's and don'ts.  Take some time to look through the products that other people have listed that are similar to yours.  Make notes about what you liked about the "clickable" photos, and what you didn't like about the "ugly" photos.  Use natural light.
~Write descriptions that capture what your product is all about, and what it will do to enhance the customer's life.  Spell-check.
How to sell retail (In Person):
~Spend some quality time Googling, reading local papers, and on the phone with Town Clerk's offices in your area finding out about up-coming craft shows, and farmers' markets.  Start early, because many of these events start (and stop) taking applications months before the event is scheduled to start.  If you miss the deadline, ask if you can be considered to "sub" for a vendor that can't make a show, or find out when registration starts for the next one, and have yours in the mix for the next go-'round.  I tell you all this so that you're not stuck doing what I'm doing this week.  I'm starting a new farmers' market tomorrow.  Sweet, huh?!  Well, yes, BUT, I made it in by the skin of my teeth (when I realized that my Summer income was rapidly becoming a figment of my imagination if I didn't get into a market soon, found one that was still accepting applications, was graciously accepted, on SATURDAY, and have been working my tail off for the last 3 days trying to make enough product to fill a table before tomorrow).  Folks, DON'T do that.  There's a saying that goes something like this, "piss-poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."  I was very lucky to get into this market so last minute.  Don't expect others to bend over backwards to accommodate you if you don't have your act together.
~Make samples for people to play with.  That way you have some that are OK for people to get their grubby little hands all over, and you're not ruining good stock every time someone picks something up to look at it.
~Make enough product so that your table looks full and inviting (try to make sure you have more than 3 days set aside to do this...ugh)
~Smile.  People aren't always going to have nice things to say about your stuff.  Smile anyway.
~Dress appropriately.  This means appropriate for the venue.  If it's a Farmers' Market, then it's probably OK to wear jeans and a t-shirt (clean, and properly fitting ones, please), and if it's a show, especially a holiday one, then it's appropriate to be a bit more dressed up.
~Stop at the bank before you get to the market/show and get change
~Look into getting an app for your phone that allows you to take credit cards (this is a note for myself also)
~Be on time (read, be early)
~Have business cards available for people to take.  Some people might be interested, but maybe aren't ready to buy just yet.  Make sure they can get a hold of you when they want to give you their money.
~Have clear and easy-to-locate pricing.  Whether it's tags on each item, or one big sign for all products, you need to make it easy for your customer to figure out what to pay you.  It sucks having to ask "how much is this?"  Don't make them do it.
Craft Show checklist from Polka Dots and Rose Buds

Whether you choose to sell, online, in person, through wholesale, or a combination of each, it's important to keep it fun.  You're creating something with your own two hands, and people like it well enough to give you their hard-earned cash for it.  That's incredibly fun, right?!  So keep thinking about that if you start feeling bogged down.  

Whew!  That was a long one, huh?!  Is everyone OK?  Hopefully you'll be back again tomorrow to learn about how to price your products.

Thanks for stopping by,

Monday, June 4, 2012

*Series* The business of being Mama, Part 1: Is it a good idea to turn your hobby into a business?...

A good read on The Stay-At-Home Mom. I did it for 7 years and resent when people say it's a mindless. I loved being able to raise the kids like that and work now that they are in school full time. I don't think it's healthy when women don't support each other.

Being a stay-at-home-Mom certainly has it's ups and downs.  The most obvious Down is that when you stop showing up for work at the office, the office stops printing your paycheck (those jerks, right?!).  But moms are the absolute rock stars of the world at multitasking.  Therefore working from home is a pretty great option for a lot of you, and since you're reading this post, you think so too.  The unfortunate thing is that between the bazillion other tasks you have to accomplish in a day, figuring out how to open the next Fortune 500 company from your living room seems a tad daunting.  So, I'm not going to be using this series to talk about any get-mega-rich-mega-quick schemes.  Sorry.  Stop here, if that's what you were hoping for... What I'll be chatting about this week is how to supplement your household income enough to poke your head back out of the debt pool for a little air.  I don't make mega-millions with my work-from-home business (I don't even make mega-thousands), but I do make enough that I can now have a bit of my own petty cash, and take myself to get a massage once in a great while without having to ask Hubby for the dough.  Sounds, fun, right?  So let's get started...

First things first; Please, for the love of God, don't kill the joy you find in your hobby.

There are huge advantages and disadvantages of turning your hobby into a business.  Let's start with the one really big disadvantage:
~You're turning pleasure into business (in the totally legal way here.  Folks, please get your minds out of the gutter).  A hobby is something that's usually done because it's a fun, creative outlet to relieve stress, and it's something that gives you pleasure.  There's a very fine line you walk when you take that sacred thing and attach a price tag to it.  If the orders start pouring in and you're now doing your hobby on someone else's terms, because you have to, will it still be fun, or will you have just ruined your happy place?  This is a monumentally important question to ask yourself before you get started.  You don't want to get 3 years down the road, and be loathing the thing you used to love.  Although, if you made it through all those ex-boyfriends, you can probably get through this just fine too.

Now that I've totally bummed you out, let's go back to a sunshiny place, and talk about what good can come of this:
~Money!  Your very own big-girl paycheck again!  AND, it's money that you earned by creating a product with your own two hands that people liked enough to hand you cash for.
~Pride.  See above.
~An identity other than "Mom."  Mom is the very best thing I've ever been called.  It's a privilege like none other I've had.  But it does have it's days when I feel a bit cut-off.  I usually find that a trip to the Post Office to mail out a few orders is a really welcome interaction with other (adult) humans.
~You're the boss.  You decide what your hours, wages, and days off are going to be.  You don't have to put in for any vacation requests or see H.R. for approval on getting a new coffee maker.  It's all you, Baby.                                         

 And, just in case you were wondering, here's what I did to avoid ruining my hobby, and still make some coin;  I didn't pick my very favorite thing in the world, and try to turn it into a business.  I picked my second favorite thing.  That way, I'm still totally enjoying the "work," and my happy hobby place is still intact.

Tomorrow we'll be learning about where to go next.  So you've made cool stuff, huh?  Now how do you get people to buy it?  Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, June 1, 2012

The rest of the chickens are outside! A preview of next week's series! And some Friday free-for-all...

My little egglettes are outside!!!  
 This is Rosie at 1 week, and now at 4 weeks old, giving me the same skeptical, disapproving look.

And because it's Friday, and because it's my blog, and I can do what I want, here's a complete change of subject mid-post...
I made this!  It Rocks!  And it's currently for sale here!
Most of my close family and friends know that I have been working for the better part of 2 years now trying to come up with the latest and greatest work-from-home scheme. I've had some pretty awesome luck, some awfully bad luck,  some great ideas, some very terrible ones, and I've learned a wicked lot along the way.  So next week, I'll be starting a series about how to (and how NOT to) supplement your petty cash by making and selling your own wares.  Things we'll chat about:
~Pricing your goods
~Legal mumbo-jumbo
~Avenues to get your stuff seen
~If it's OK to turn a hobby into a job
~and more.

Stay tuned!

And because it's still Friday, and it's still my blog, and I can still do whatever I want on here, here's another complete change of subject, and some fun stuff to bring on the weekend...
~Nice, simple nursery with a wicked cool little chandelier.  Their whole house is pretty great, actually.
~Classier chickens than mine
~And a Friday Funny for you...

Thanks for stopping by,