Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's And My Take On It

Happy New Year to all

I just recently read a note on-line from a woman business owner on her take on the New Year. It seems she always got excited crossing borders or having one foot in one room and one in another. I can see how that could be exciting but for me it doesn't do it. Her analogy was for the coming New Year and the possibilities it presents.

But for me the New Year is like a blank notebook. I love notebooks and it's very hard to not buy them whenever I'm in a store. A blank notebook holds so many promises, it could be a best selling novel, or possible some artwork good enough to be in a museum, maybe it will be the journal book that my ramblings in finally let me get it. So you see I love notebooks for their potential and that's how I see the New Year.

2008 holds fresh beginnings, a new accounting year with bigger and better profits, a new year for new relationships of friends and lovers. A new year where that new book actually shows me the way. A new year with more love from and to my family.

Now I always respected the beginings of the year but never did much celebrating. In fact I can only remember going to one big New Year's Eve bash and I must of been 19 years old at the time. I'm a home body at heart and just love to stay there. I also don't stay up to the midnight hour cause sleep always is calling and I just succumb.

New Year's resolutions, I stopped those many years ago cause I realized that it wouldn't be a week before I'd fall off the wagon so to speak. But this year I promise myself to write each day in my journal, bear my sole open up and see, inspect, dissect what's inside. It should be an interesting journey.

So Happy New Year to all of you who read my posts. Thank you!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I'm A Wanna Be!

I'm a wanna be collage artist. I love this form of art. I became conscious of it about 2 years ago from a collage artist on line and I just knew I wanted to do it. This woman was holding classes to teach collage but the only problem was she was in California and I was in Florida. I wrote her and she just said to do a collage journal and just get started sort of teaching myself. Hmmmmm didn't work because I always want to go from here to perfect without anything in between. Yup that's a pretty good description of me. So my first project was a large canvas and it was suppose to be a self portrait. In it would be the depressing beginnings of my life onto my growth etc etc. You know it didn't work and the 1/3 finished piece is sitting in my closet as a reminder that perfection doesn't just happen.

So I kept looking at that piece wondering what is wrong with it and I came up with a few things that I could of done differently plus my son the art college graduate also helped me see what some of the problems were. So because of that piece and it's failure (my description) I became stuck and look for inspiration from all my collage books. I love the work of the artists in these books but I just didn't feel a personal connection to creating collage like them. So feeling this way I just thought I didn't have it. Hmmmm that was a bit upsetting. So because my first piece didn't come out right I went off in a direction that really wasn't what I'm inspired to do with collage. I learned that now.

So I looked on line at other collage artists and finally came across a woman who's art inspired me to just do my collage my way. I was so focused on doing it like the others that it didn't feel right. I want to do pieces that are totally obstract and that maybe someone would stand in front of it and want to try to understand what I'm saying.

Here's the link to the artist I found.

So I still don't want to do collage journal work I want to go right to canvas and I'll just play around with it till I get where I like what I've done.

Till next time


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's Finally Over!!

Hi Folks,
Christmas 2007 is behind us and we can start thinking of other things like Valentines Day.

I'm getting ready!! To redo my window of course for Valentine's Day. My goal is to create a fun funky place to shop. I want fun I want people to come into the store to love what they see and smile and be happy. Isn't it wonderful when someone says to you "you have such a great store, I love it" That really makes my day and it keeps me going to make it even better.

Because most of my Valentine soap products will revolve around chocolate I'm doing a brown and pink color scheme especially for the window. Brown and pink is popular right now and I think it will draw passer-by's eye. A visit to Joann Fabric yielded me the perfect fabric to do the back drop, brown. Which will hang from the ceiling. I haven't done this before for the window. It will block you being able to look into the store but I think that might be good, you know curiousity!! So as the brown not to look drab and depressing in front of that will be some type of curtain of hearts. (hearts on strings or ribbons) and have some great things but still I'm not sure.

So I have till January 2 (that's decorating day) to come up with my idea for Valentine's day decoration. Something a bit more than just hearts and flowers.

Mail just came in and with it my catalog. They aren't just a balloon company and they have some cute things I might use for my decorations.

Well till next time and would love to hear your ideas!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Location Location Location

Christmas is almost upon us and the holiday season will just be a thing of the past. I'm in a tourist section of Florida so we don't experience much Christmas shoppers.

I wrote before about my Christmas decorations and I finally got some pictures to show you.
This one has Santa in the tub surrounded in bubbles. The actual construction of lthe wreath was made with nylon scrubbies opened and threaded thru a wire wreath. So now I've decided that Valentine will be so much fun to decorate for. I'm not one for decorations for my home but for the store I think it's great fun. will have some of my money this month. They have many cute and inexpensive things for Valentines that will create that Valentine feeling in the store. Can you imagine the store all decorated and then CD's playing of all romantic songs. The mood is set and customers are entertained.

Stay tuned for more details about decorating for Valentine's Day, plus my Valentine Party info


Friday, December 7, 2007

What I Learned From This Season!

What I learned this season for retailing is the importance of a well dressed window.

I've done my windows before , well barely, but this season a very good friend of mine decided I need some help. So armed with ribbons, ornaments, snow blankets, train set and trees she came and conquered the window. After about 7 hours we had developed a Christmas window that would give Macy's a run for it's money. Oh what fun it was!

Previously the window decoration were just a little of this and a little of that. This Christmas the window is full and you get to look at so many things.

So now the Christmas window is done and it's bringing in customers, a very creative window is the invitation into the store. Customers think creative window, creative store!! I hadn't realized that before and I left the window for the last thing I thought about and it showed. Plus I always thought about spending unnecessary money. Well I didn't realize the money spent for that window already paid for itself with new customers drawn in by that window. I calculate that the cost for that great window was maybe $50.

So with the success of our Christmas window I'm looking forward to doing our next window VALENTINE'S DAY Oh the ideas I have for that one.

So if you are like me and think the window of the store doesn't matter, think again.

Friday, September 7, 2007

If You Can Beat Them Join Them!!

It's been awhile since I posted and I really don't know why cause I love doing this, maybe I'm just too busy?

Well my store is in a town that is very strict about sidewalk signs, they have to be a certain size and positioned only in front of your store by so many feet. Now this is okay if your store is on the main drag, but for those of us who are on the side streets, this can be a problem. We've tried our best to convince the town and it's police department why we need our signs up on the corner but they didn't think we had valid reasons (livelyhood isn't a good enough reason) so they took our signs away. Yup, the strong arm of the law did that. Anyway as I get older I find that getting angry is a waste of valuable energy and that energy could be better used to thinking outside the box.

So for Labor Day weekend I wanted to have a sale get customers into the store and spend zero dollars advertising it. (I'm cheap) Now I already knew I couldn't put up a sign on the sidewalk on the main drag and anyway I wasn't into causing trouble.

So the first thing I did was make up 2 big signs for my window advertising the event. Remember I'm on a side street and so the only ones that got to see it is the banking customers across the street. Next I put some ads in Craigs list and another local on-line classified ad and advertised my big sale event.

Now here is the if you can't beat them join them idea. I create two large posters using neon color poster boards. Created the wording on my computer taped it to the board. Got to my store real early and parked on the main drag on the corner and hooked those signs on to the front and back of my car. I'm pretty sure I wasn't breaking the law. The posters on my car were a bit unsightly compared to maybe a sign on the corner but hey........ So each morning I got to the store early to get the good parking spot and hooked my posters up on my car.

So what happened? Well I had a banner weekend in sales, the best I've ever done. People were coming in to the store and I would ask "how did you hear about the sale" it was always the car. I did get one customer who said they came from Craigslist and thaatwas disappointing.

Armed with my success I've now gotten the two other stores next to me to do a combined event for Columbus Day weekend. One of them is a restaurant that will have a lunch special for the weekend and my friend will hold a flea market and then myself where I'll have some closeout sale. This time we'll do a bit more and have our outside of our stores decorated with balloons and flowers. Cost to do this will be maybe $10 for each store.

The other important thing I did during this sale was get rid of stuff that was just sitting around my store for quite awhile. First off I hate seeing the same stuff day in day out. I would love to turn my products around every 90 days but I don't have that kind of traffic but I don't want the same stuff in my store for over a year. So I cleared out all this stuff at very reduced rates and I got money to buy different things. It's important for customers to see new things and that was my goal for having this big sale. It went so well I got rid of almost everything.

Take a look at your store and if you see items that have been in your store for over a year have a sale and get some of your investment back to put towards the items your customers really want. Don't become attached to it.

I'll keep you posted on how things are doing.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Spa Party At My Store

Well this past Thursday night I held a spa party at my store. This event was to announce the new venture of mine of marketing my products thru a home party events. I sort of did it at the store to give myself experience doing a spa event and also of course to generate sales.

To get people to know about the event I did 3 things. I mailed invites, I advertised in a local paper and did an e-mail and fax blitz thru my chamber.

I've been very lax in accumulating customers names and addresses but I did have a few so I mailed them out with an rsvp, The ad in the local paper cost me $57 (it was an 1/8 of a page) and then spent another $50 to have our chamber do an e-mail and fax blitz.

So first to the advertising dollars spent. Almost all that came, came from the chamber e-mail and fax. No one mentioned the flyer or no one rsvp'd from the mailed invites. The $50 for the chamber was well spent and I'd do it again in a heart beat. I never did that type of advertising before with the chamber. Most of those who came from the chamber probably thought this would be another place to network which is okay they also got to see my store and see what I do.

Even though I don't think anyone came from my mailing I will still collect names, addresses and e-mail addresses. But doing it just seems to get tucked away somewhere in the back of my brain, and it surfaces after the fact. Which means I didn't collect names of those who attended. I'll have to do some investigating to find out who was who and send off some thank you cards and to remind them of my new direction.

I'm Italian and I was brought up with the importance of food and when we entertain we always worry that we don't have enough food. We could have enough food to feed a small army and only expect to entertain 10 we'd still worry. It's just a given that is what we do. I'm sure other nationalities have the same issue. So I knew the day of the event we were going to have alot of people and my worries starting surfacing. We don't have enough food, we won't have enough punch, oh my!! So I worried alone and then brought my daughter into it and then she worried too. So we figured we'd double the recipe for the punch and then we bought some chips and salsa and prayed that all would be okay.

Not once did I worry about my presentation, demonstration, not once, just worried about the food. So time came and the people poured in and we dished out food and drinks and then I was confused and stumped about what to do. So I jumped right into doing hand spa treatments and I had most of their attention. My focus was on them having a good time, they did but I didn't sell product. I just wanted them to have a good time. Half way into the hand spa treatments I realized that I wasn't doing any sellling so I started telling them prices. That was a half hearted attempt to correct a situation I created.

So the place started to clear out, my daughter had been doing the register and I asked her okay how'd we do. "Not good" she said. "What????" I said How could that be since the party at my home with far less people had generated such good sales.

Nothing should be a mistake that you go home and beat yourself up over. It should just be a learning process. I made a major mistake for this show but my friends who were still at my store discussed what went wrong.

What went wrong was I never discussed our products sitting so pretty on the shelves and tables. They were sitting there waiting for me to describe all their glorious details. So how were people to know that these were things that they probably shouldn't live without if I didn't tell them. That was my biggest mistake of the night. Plus there were other smaller details that I need to correct.

At the beginning I did have their undivided attention but I didn't have a script, I didn't know where I was going. I knew I had to feed them and I worried about that. I knew I had to offer them drinks and I worried about that, but the real purpose to sell them on my store and products I didn't do anything about that. I should of set up a structured detailed outline of what to do. I now know that I should of approached this with a goal in mind and feeding and offering drinks wasn't it. So when you know the end result you can kind of work backwards and set up a program to achieve your goal. This is how it will go next time. Stop back again I'll keep you posted on how upcoming events are going.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Retail Sales And How to Increase Them

You know prior to getting into soapmaking I would make attempts to start a business and then would just give up when I felt it wasn't successful. Of course I'm talking about a very small business adventure on the scale of a lemonade stand but done by an adult (me) Each venture was started with such enthusiam, like the time I made Angel dolls out of muslin. This was a sewing project that I loved to do and at the time I was charging $20 for each angel doll. My first craft show I was so hopeful standing there looking at the potential customers hoping they would love my angels. Some did and some bought but then I thought I was spenting way too much time making those angels and not enough money was made to conpensate for that time. Now I realize I didn't give myself the opportunity to learn, grow and build that craft. I let this happen to me repeatedly. I had the wrong idea about being in a business for myself. Years later I would label myself as a quitter, you know when the going gets rough I QUIT. So back in "99" when I started my soapmaking business I vowed (of course I was 50 at the time and somewhat wiser) that I wouldn't be a quitter in this business. Well it's 8 years later and I'm still at it and there were many times that quitting would of been an easy option but I stuck to my guns. Now I tried different things to market my soapmaking the first being craft shows. That's a lot of work. Then I went to wholesaling which is also a very hard nut to crack.

Then I moved to Florida and I thought I'd take my business into the retail arena with a store. I had very little experience in retail but hey how hard could it be? Well retail is hard and especially in todays economic climate. I also made the mistake of renting a store just a bit off the beaten path. The bit off is enough to limit the amount of customers I get. So between the economy, the problems that Florida is facing now and my location my thinking of quitting is surfacing again. You know that old saying when the going gets rough the tough keep going. Plus I have a new saying that for every problem there is a solution and it isn't quitting. Time to think outside the box.

I'm not a big fan of advertising in the newspaper. I don't believe it's effective. at least for my type of store. I did put an ad in a local tourist type of magazine and even that I'm not sure if it's getting me any attention. I know I have a very cute store. People love my soap products so with those things going for me I had to come up with another way to get people to my store and also generate sales. Well this past week I held a spa party at my home. I invited about 30 people thinking that maybe half would show up. Some of those were my good friends who I knew I could count on to come. Had a postcard printed at VistaPrint for practically nothing and gave them out. 11 woman showed up for the party. I had a large amount of my products displayed on my table. I served a tropical punch that was to die for (I'll gladly share the recipe) along with chicken wings, cheese and crackers. The last guests left at 11:30 and all couldn't stop telling me how much fun they had. My friends were so supportive of my venture and all in all it was a wonderful time. Plus I sold more product at my home then I did all month at the store. Days after these woman would come up to me (most of those who came were from my complex) and rave about my products. These woman will be customers of mine for a long time.

So I'm on to doing my second home party at my store where I'll advertise the Home Spa Event in a local small publication called the Flyer (it's sort of like a Pennysaver from up north)

Sometimes we just can't lay down and play dead, we have to rethink things and stop spending money on advertising that isn't working and putting those dollars to use somewhere else. Ebay is another area that I'll be exploring for both my retail and wholesale business. I've done a few auctions in the past, didn't really get anything out of it and again I quit. I realize that I was approaching Ebay with the wrong attitude ( my younger years philosophy of giving up)

So I encourage all you store owners to brain storm and come up with something new and different to seperate you from the rest. It can be done and only quitters say it can't.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

What Creativity Created

I belong to a wonderful woman's group called S.H.E. Support Her Endeavors and at one of those meetings a fellow member spoke of wanting a life size mermaid for her store. My friend who's also a member. after doing some decoupage work and finding she loved it said "I can do that" She had no real experience in sculpturing with chicken wire and doing any kind of paper mache work but felt that she could create a life size mermaid. I was skeptical!!

Well each day as she progressed in creating this life size mermaid she would call me over to show me her progress. I knew she was going to be able to do it after I saw how she sculptured the face, it was amazing. Then the project seemed to take on a life of it's own. Solutions to questions on the creativity of this mermaid were always answered in some unconventional way. It was exciting to watch it just happen.

Being creative is a gift and each and everyone of us has it in us. You see you never know what you can do unless you are willing to try it. It took my friend several weeks to complete this masterpiece. I am extremely proud of her.

This mermaid is now in it's new home at a store in Tarpon Springs standing at 7' long .

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's New

Well I'm convinced that blogging is here to stay so I might as well join the club. Hopefully this will serve as a spot to journal my experience in both the retail and wholesale business of soap selling.

I have a retail store in Tarpon Springs Florida that I love. I love retail and the best part for me is doing up displays. Recently we had to cut our store down to half it's size due to needing more production for our handcrafted soaps. It was a challenge to put all of our merchandise in less space but I think the store looks so cute now.

One thing I love about displaying is getting the store to look like a fun place to visit. A place that will make you smile. So I do chairs on the walls and furniture painted in fun colors, use louver doors for shelving and hollow doors as room dividers.

You can see from the picture below that I've taken doors and made a divider out of them that blocks off the productions area. I also hung some sheer fabric in a yellow gold color that isn't visable from the picture. This color yellow gold matches our yellow ceiling. The doors acts as another display area that I've hung some cute sea shell wreaths. I also used some old louver shutter closet doors as a shelving unit. These were so much fun to do and so inexpensive. Because they were used they already had a white paint on them and that saved the step of painting them (louver doors are one of the worst paint jobs) I just wasn't 100% happy with a stark white look so I washed them with some yellow paint thined with water, that took me no time. One set of doors cost me $15 and the shelving unit in the picture has 2 sets of doors plus 1/2 set for the back.

I love to go to thrift stores, salvage yards and garage sales looking for something different to use as a display piece. Chairs have become my new favorite thing to buy. Right now I have 4 chairs as display pieces set up very high in the store. So this one in the picture has some loofahs in a metal tin bucket and because the merchandise on these chairs isn't reachable for the customer I make sure I have more of that merchandise on the selling floor. Customers never fail to comment on the chairs and they think it's neat. I think it's important to do something different in a store that a customer would enjoy seeing. Because I love old chairs I'm trying to incorporate more of them in my design of my store. I have some made up as planters that sit outside my store and then I'll do some more shelving looks with some others that I have waiting to be done up.

One thing I've noticed about picture taking is that it tells the truth. Seems to me after viewing this picture that I need more chairs on the walls. LOL I'll be happy about doing up more of them.