Thursday, November 6, 2008

Quick update

Haven't had much time for blogging because I have been filling orders, restocking stores, and making lots of product for the holiday festivals that I have coming up. As well as celebrating a very fine moment in American history.

My first show is this Saturday at Mary Lin elementary school in Candler Park. Click here for details. I will be stocked with all my new holiday scents (that I still haven't had time to put up on my website). Unfortunately, Studio 658 will be closed this coming Saturday, because Mary and I are both doing Mary Lin, and we couldn't find anyone to mind the shop. We have worked out our schedules for the rest of the year, and will be open every Saturday from 11 to 3 beginning 11/15.

As soon as I hit one deadline, I have another one looming right behind it, so catching up has become a fruitless effort. I've decided to just go with it. On my list for next week: updating my website with everything holiday and trying to prepare myself for the onslaught of upcoming shows. I will post info and pictures of all my goings-on very soon!

Of course, in typical Emilie fashion, while my hands are making everything for the next weeks, my brain has already moved onto next year. After 6 years of plugging along in some form or another, I finally feel like I have hit my stride, and Mama is ready for the masses. I have some great ideas, and can't wait to share them with you! All in due time...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Open Studio hours this Saturday at Studio 658

This Saturday marks the beginning of our Open Studio hours! We will be open every Saturday from 11am to 3pm, from now through Christmas. I will be manning the shop this Saturday, so please stop by and say hi! My new soaps are out and ready to be tested, and it's a great time to get some gift ideas for the holidays. Felted Heart also has all of her merchandise at the shop, and is now making great stuff for adults. So come check it out!

Studio 658
658 Angier Ave, unit C
Atlanta, GA 30307

We are located in the Old Fourth Ward, in a white warehouse building. We haven't gotten our signs yet, so when you get there, pull in the driveway all the way in the back, and park to the left.

Click here for directions.

Hope to see you Saturday!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Email Marketing and Product Updates - An informational rant

I've been working hard on getting my site updated for the past couple of weeks, so I could do a marketing email. I just looked at my Constant Contact account and saw that I haven't sent a marketing email since February of 2007. So THAT must be why people aren't coming to my site. Which means I spent all of that money for an email sign up box on my website that no one uses because they don't go to my website because I don't send any marketing emails reminding them that I exist. I mean, who can be bothered with marketing, right? I'm a creative person! Business lesson #4832. Remind customers you exist. Check.

A quick note about this. I have about 600+ people on my email list. Some of them are friends who I added to bulk up my list before I had any customers, but most of them are legitimate customers or people who expressed interest in becoming a customer. People who have bought my products and raved about Mama, only to never be heard from again. This goes to show, no matter how good your product or service is, you have to keep reminding people that you're around. There's a lot of competition and people are busy. I always wondered why Coke advertised, because everybody knows about them. But I suppose that could be because they're everywhere, so you can't forget. (especially if you live in Atlanta). Yes, this all seems like a no-brainer. But when you do everything in your company and you have X hours a day to do it, you tend to focus on the tasks that you like. Like the making products, creating new ones, designing packaging, coming up with new scents, etc. The fun stuff.

So it occurred to me, as I send my first marketing email in 19 months, Mama has evolved quite a bit since then, and it might be good to do a product line update for all of my (hopefully) returning customers, who I pledge not to lose touch with again!

1. The most notable change is that I've switched my lotion preservative to a non-paraben preservative called Optiphen, which just recently became available to companies of my size. Preservatives are a controversial subject that I have been researching for years, so at some point soon I will do a post with my research. Until then, just know that parabens are no longer desirable preservatives and we don't use them anymore. For more info about why we use preservatives in our lotion, go to the product info section on our site.

2. Speaking of lotions. My first couple of years in business were a little dicey with the lotion formula. The consistent feedback I got was that it was too hard to get out of the bottle. You were heard, valued customers, and I worked hard to come up with a new formulation that has received rave reviews. I also changed the bottles to one that is a little more squeezy, so if you're willing to go round 2 with the lotion, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

3. I've discontinued using Fragrance oils, which meant saying goodbye to Green Tea and Vanilla. When I started this company, I wrote in my mission that I wanted to offer the purest, safest, most effective products to my customers. So that means sticking with essential oils, which are plant based and 100% natural. I did decide to make one exception for the holidays - Cranberry was very popular last year, so I'm bringing it back as a limited edition holiday scent just for this holiday season. I'm working on coming up with an essential oil blend next year that will be a suitable replacement.

4. Scrubs - I've replaced my salt scrubs with sugar scrubs. They have become my best sellers, and I don't think any former salt scrub lovers will be the least bit disappointed. Sugar is a very effective and more gentle exfoliant than salt. And the coconut, almond oil, and shea butter base stays nicely emulsified and leaves your skin soft without the heavy oil feeling that the salt scrubs left.

5. New sizes - I've added more sizes to the products I carry. Body lotions come in 4 and 8 oz bottles, sugar scrubs in 10 and 20 oz jars.

6. Gifts - my vendor discontinued my snap trays! Such a bummer. I started using chinese takeout containers while I was trying to find a suitable replacement, and these have been so popular, I decided to stick with them! So that's that.

7. Soap! Mama finally has soap! Most body product companies usually start with soap. I tend to do things backwards. My husband Chuck decided to come on board as my soap maker, and his soap is great! Richly scented with a nice creamy lather. I highly recommend!

And there ya go! Head over to our site and check it out!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

East Atlanta Strut

I did the East Atlanta Strut today. All I have to say is: Best. Festival. Ever. I have sat at so many festivals wishing something would fall out of sky and hit me on the head, so I would have to go home. This was not one of those festivals. It was a beautiful day. I met some great people. My husband hung out with me all day and we drank beer. Friends stopped by. And I sold more than I ever have at any other festival. Even more than the Strut in 2006, which prior to this one, was my best festival ever.

Chuck and I got so amped up that we were ready to sign a lease on an empty East Atlanta store front.

That was the beer talking - it is something that I've been considering for a while, but now is not the time. However, I did come to the realization that these are my people, and it's great to find your people. I did a festival in Marietta a couple years ago where I sat in the baking sun for 2 days and I don't even think I made my booth fee back. Those were not my people.

Any entrepreneur will tell you that there are many days where you wonder what you're doing and where you're going. This is not one of those days. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It's the little things...

I got another mixer! I am so excited! Judi, the designer of Studio 658 and also Mary's sister, traded me her old Kitchen Aid mixer for some Mama products. It is the perfect mate to my other Kitchen Aid hand-me-down-mixer from my mother-in-law. I have been desperately needing a second mixer, but it's on the long list of things that all have to happen NOW, so it hadn't happened yet. This could not have been better timing because I have a big lotion order to make and the East Atlanta strut is coming up. There is gonna be some mixing going on!

Heating the oil and water phases:

2 Batches of lotion at once! So exciting.

We pour each and every lotion by hand.

Ready to go!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Studio 658 Grand Opening

Our grand opening was a great success. I am absolutely exhausted and totally elated. As busy as I have been, now it feels like the real work is starting. I have so many plans for the studio. I want to use it as a retail store for Mama (with limited hours - kind of a starter retail store) and I'm also planning to put together a schedule of DIY classes in candlemaking, soapmaking, scrubmaking, etc. Since we moved in, Mary and I haven't had a moment to sit down and meet about all of our plans, so we still have a lot to figure out. I had planned to take a few days off once I reached this mile marker, but there is too much to do. Onward and upward!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Busy Crazy Happy

And not necessarily in that order.

First of all, on August 1st, I moved into a new store in historic Roswell called Gifted! They don't have a website, but the address and info is on my site under stores.

I still need to make more goodies to stock my booth, but I didn't have time to get everything made before the soft opening on August 1st. The grand opening is September 1st, so I have a little time.

I also sent some products to a new store that is opening in Leonia, NJ called The Craft Lounge. The owners are friends of a friend, and were interested in carrying my stuff, which is always great. Hopefully the Jersey girls dig Mama!

And (drumroll please) on August 3rd, Mama made the monumental move out of my house and into our new studio!! Ladies, and Gentlemen, Studio 658:

There will be more pics once I get a little more set up. The renovation took a little longer than expected, but the place looks fantastic. And it gave me time to get completely packed and organized, so the move was relatively breezy. And now I'm gearing up for a crazy August. My studio mate Mary and I are planning a grand opening for August 22nd and 23rd. So not only do I have to make EVERYTHING in my product line to have fresh product to stock up the studio, I also have a commercial shoot (my other job), and a long weekend trip to see my family in Ohio happening between now and then. Which means I'm going to be working 24/7.

I have to be honest - I don't relish these overbooked weeks-upon-months. I tend to muddle through them all frustrated and cranky. I'm always better when I'm busy, but right now it's more like a 'wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-in-an-oh-hell-i-forgot-to-do-that' panic. So I am more than surprised to find that my general attitude has been great! Probably because I'm so excited about all of the new developments.

I tend to work so fast and furiously trying to keep up, that I forget to savor the good moments. So as I dove in to my new kitchen to make the first batch of lotion, I remembered to stop and enjoy what was happening. It was the best 30 seconds of my year;)

Hope to see you at our Grand Opening!

Monday, June 30, 2008

If I Rent It, Will They Come?

I saw what is to become my new workshop today for the first time, and it got me really excited! The biggest draw of the space for me is that it has a full kitchen, which I will be spending a lot of time in. Of course I forgot to take pictures, but that's OK because it is currently under construction, and I would rather post pics of the finished space. Mama isn't exactly in a financial place where taking on another monthly bill is the best idea, so this is a big leap of faith. Which is more than a little scary in our unsteady economy. However, I really do feel that having a space where customers can come see me work and interact with me is a big part of the sales process for an independent designer. One of the hardest parts about working at home is that I feel completely disconnected from the people who use my products. I'd like my customers to understand the work that goes into making everything. A $15 lotion isn't cheap, and people should understand what they're paying for. Plus, having their feedback about what is working and what isn't, is invaluable for making my line the best it can be. Mary has been kind enough to let me get started with a 6 month lease, and since we're approaching the holiday season, which is the busiest time for Mama, I'm hopeful that I can at least cover my investment. Of course I'm striving to go way beyond that.

I have a multi-prong plan to try to get Mama out to more of the masses, and when I look at all there is to do to make this happen, I kind of want to crawl into bed and put the covers over my head. I'm pretty good at big picture planning and making tons of lists with action items, but I have a terribly hard time prioritizing these lists, and I tend to get overwhelmed and anxious about how much there is to do, which can be paralyzing. I've been looking for ways to combat this unproductive behavior, and I recently read something helpful about how athletes approach a race. When running a marathon, you don't start off thinking about making it to the finish line. You set a smaller milestone for yourself, and focus on achieving that, and then do it again and again until you reach your goal. It seems like a no-brainer, but I've been creating anxiety inducing lists for years, so it's going to require some undoing of these unhelpful habits. And like many creative people, I have a considerable amount of ADD that I'm constantly trying to keep in check. Another technique I've been trying out lately is visualization. My mom sent me a great article that was written for people in her field, but can easily be applied to anyone trying to achieve a goal. It talked about visualization being a key component of achieving success, and that simply setting a goal wasn't enough. So whenever I get overwhelmed, or start to succumb to the inner demon of self-doubt, I close my eyes and picture myself in my new workspace, with 5 mixers going at once, and hundreds of empty bottles lined up on the counter waiting to fill a throng of orders.

I move into my space July 15th, so I have a lot to do to get ready! One thing at a time...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Time to start a blog

After a long period of contemplation, I’ve decided it’s time to hop on the blog bandwagon and start one for Mama. Mama has been plugging along at a turtle’s pace for the last 4 years, largely due to a lack of time on my part. It has been a labor of love and an exercise in patience, which I liken to watching my garden grow. Small victories here and there, but ultimately it moves at the indeterminate pace dictated by nature. In this case, the nature of my life. Like many determined women, my efforts to HAVE IT ALL are constantly doing battle with Father Time. I have a demanding full-time job and a DIY house renovation forever in progress, along with a husband, 4 pets, and the many other things of life. So Mama has taken a backseat for some time. This has been a frequent source of frustration, because it’s one of my very favorite things. I recently watched an Iconoclasts episode with Madeleine Albright, a woman I admire greatly, and she made a comment that really stuck with me: “I believe women can have everything, just not all at once.”

As these words have rolled around in my head, I’ve summed it up as, it comes down to priorities at different stages in life. Where my life is right now, the job is a necessity. And given the state of the economy, I’m very happy to have it. Our house is great, and I’m very happy to have it too. And the people and the places and the things in life are all important as well. So it all comes down to: where does Mama fit in? It hasn’t. So I’m fitting it in. Mama is becoming a top priority, because it’s really important to me, and I’m really REALLY ready to move it to the next level. Whatever that may be.

One of the exciting developments of my “Make Way for Mama” phase is that I am signing a lease on a workshop space. Throughout my residence at the Beehive Co-op, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of other designers with whom I share a lot in common. One of my Beehive cohorts, Mary from Felted Heart, just bought a building and Mama is going to rent some space from her. Mary, who is a designer of beautiful childrens’ clothes, has been a huge supporter and one of my best customers, and I’m so excited to be joining forces with her. I’m hoping to move in sometime in July. More on this as it progresses.

Since the handmade aspect is a big part of the appeal of my products, it has become evident that sharing the behind the scenes could be beneficial to its success. As well as fun and therapeutic for me. Which means it’s time to make time for a blog. And this brings me full circle.