Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And a happy new year.

Mama will be taking a much needed respite starting tomorrow (Christmas Eve) at 2pm! We will be closed (both shop and online customer service) until Tuesday, January 5th. All orders placed between now and then will be made and shipped once we get back. I won't be checking messages, but I'm always available via email, so if you have any pressing questions/concerns between now and then, please email them to me:

I want to thank all of my wonderful customers from the bottom of my heart for giving me such an amazing first year in business. Even though Mama has been around for much longer, this is the first year I've really put it out there on this level, and the response has been overwhelmingly amazing. I'm am thankful beyond words and so excited to see what the coming year will bring.

I hope your holidays are very merry and we'll see you in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mama's Handmade Holiday Marketplace is this Saturday!

On Saturday, December 12th, Mama is opening up her doors to some of her favorite crafty friends for a fabulous Handmade Holiday Market! Lots of gifts to choose from, such as handcrafted jewelry and accessories, handmade belt buckles,silkscreened note cards and prints, handbags, great clothing for kids and adults,hand-blended teas, hip housewares, treats for your hounds, and of course, lots of bath and body products! Join us from 10 to 5 and shop some of Atlanta's best designers and artists - just in time to finish up your holiday shopping!

Mama Bath + Body
743 D East College Ave (behind the Cookie Studio)
Decatur, GA 30030

Participating Designers:

Colleen Keenan -
Felted Heart -
Fringe -
Jessica Gonacha Swift -
Just Add Honey -
Lancaster West -
Mama Bath + Body -
Princess and Butch -
Relic Boutique -
Taj Ma Hound -

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday online special at Mama!

SKIP THE MALL AND SPEND BLACK FRIDAY AT HOME! Get a jumpstart on your holiday shopping during the busiest shopping weekend of the year, without leaving your house! From Friday November 27th thru Monday November 30th, enjoy FREE SHIPPING on all purchases over $50 and an additional 15% off all purchases over $100, online at Mama Bath + Body. No codes necessary.

Our holiday items are finally up and are only going to be here through end of December, so head over to our site to cybersniff Sugar + Spice (clove and cinnamon) and O'Tannenbaum (fir needle and rosemary).

(Please note our brick and mortar shop will be closed over Thanksgiving weekend, Thursday thru Saturday. We will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, December 1st.)

Friday, November 20, 2009


And particularly that it's this Friday. It's the end of a long week which wraps up an even longer couple of months, and I finally found myself with a moment to sit down and blog. I'm feeling a little tired, but also really great. I just finished my sales tax (relief)and it's out the door. All of my articles are written and turned in. I don't have any festivals or markets for the next 2 weeks, and I'm actually taking Thanksgiving weekend OFF. And tomorrow is my birthday. I'm not turning a particularly interesting number, but I always love my birthday because it means the holidays are right around the corner. And today, I got a great birthday gift in the mail. A preview of the December Southern Living. And guess what's on page 21?

Yippee!! I celebrated with a red velvet cupcake from my favorite neighbor.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The class schedule is finally up!

And here's a sneak peek, because I haven't had time to link it to anything on my site yet!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Free tea blending workshop this Saturday with Brandi of Just Add Honey!

Join the tea lady, Brandi from Just Add Honey, at the shop this Saturday, November 14th for a tea blending workshop. You can show up anytime between 11 and 3. Brandi will have a stock of tea-licious ingredients on hand to teach you how to blend your own flavor! She will also have her full selection of custom blended teas and will be offering savory suggestions for the holidays.

In other news, we will be posting our candlemaking class schedule on the site this week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Beehive Co-op turns 5 on Saturday, and you are invited to the birthday party!

Sadly, I won't be able to make it because I'm doing a festival all day Saturday. I'm bummed! The Beehive was the original boutique in Atlanta to create a retail venue for small, local designers to show and sell their wares. I've been a vendor there since June of 2006. It has been a place where I've met and developed great relationships with other like-minded designers and small business owners. It provided my teeny tiny business with exposure to press and it helped me build my customer base, starting when I first moved to Atlanta and this was the only store I was in. So show your support for local design and stop by on Saturday! There are lots of great raffle prizes, including a fabulous Mama Zen gift set. Happy Birthday Beehive!

Thanks Buzz Entertainment Magazine!

I had a nice interview with a new, local, online magazine. Check it out!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Here's the official dish about the grand opening and the new shop!

Mama Bath + Body Grand Opening Event on October 3rd

Emilie Sennebogen, owner and "chef" of Decatur's new Mama Bath + Body, is set to open her flagship store on East College Ave in Decatur. She'll be hosting a grand opening event on October 3rd from 10 to 6. In addition to her own line of all-natural soy candles, body lotions, sugar scrubs and artisan soaps, she will be premiering new products and offering complimentary mar-tea-nis by local tea maker Just Add Honey and sweets from the neighboring The Cookie Studio. The first 25 customers will get swag bags loaded with Mama samples and goodies, or you can stop by and watch product-making demos throughout the day in the wide open workshop area.

After five years in business with her online operation, Sennebogen is excited to finally occupy her own brick and mortar location. With a desire to create a refreshingly new kind of shopping experience, she decided to bring her production out in the open. "People always ask 'how do you make lotion' or say 'I'd love to see how soap is made," says Sennebogen. And now they can. Take one part studio kitchen, one part retail space, one part classroom, pack it into a hip and cozy shop and you've got the right idea.

Stop in on any given day and you may catch Sennebogen in full swing -- music on, pouring her soy candles or mixing a batch of her custom "Decatur neighborhood soap." If you have a minute, she'll even explain what she's doing and how she's doing it. Or you can sign up for a soap or candle making class and learn how to make your own. And soon, you will even be able to buy supplies at her shop to make it at home.

In addition to a selection of pre-packaged gifts to grab on the go, Mama also creates custom gift baskets and plans to carry a well-edited selection of other gift items made by local artisans. For more information, visit

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall Beauty Bar event this Thursday at Paisley Umbrella

Fall Beauty Bar Event

Thursday, September 24th 6pm - 9pm
2971 N. Fulton Drive Altanta, GA 30306


Join Susan Sexton, master French custom parfumeur of Blend, Emilie Sennebogen of Mama bath and body products, Aarti Amin, henna painting artist and Carla Wallace, makeup artist from DeVine Beaute as they share tips on how to create an updated image for fall. Enjoy fragrance and make up modeling, savor light mediterranean bites by Chef Courtney, sip delicious pomegranate martinis courtesy of Ultimat Vodka and shop for all your fall beauty must-haves!

Get Married will help you register for your FREE issue of Get Married magazine, a chance to win an awesome honeymoon, and more! This is one event you simply don't want to miss. Mark your calendar for this intimate, personal and stylish evening.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My sign is mangled, but my spirit is not

I had this up for all of 2 days.

The Cookie Studio ladies warned me this would happen. There is just no good place to put a sign out by the road. They inevitably get run over. This was supposed to be temporary until I could figure out my best signage option for the street. Oh well, the chalkboard had seen better days anyways. Never to fear, it will not end up in a landfill. I will chop off the legs and make it a table top model. It wouldn't be the only thing in my shop given a new life by a roll of duct tape. I can feel my Grandpa beaming down on me.

So anyways, the store is open. But everyone who comes in the shop has said they couldn't tell, so I obviously I need to fix this stat. This is why I did a soft opening. Calling the sign guy tomorrow.

My fall music is starting to jump out at me during my itunes scrolls. Fleet Foxes. Radiohead. The Strokes first album. The transition from summer to fall is my very favorite time of year, and it breathes new life into me. Except for the ragweed. It's my personal version of Kryptonite.

Pics coming soon of the new shop. I'll be pimping my wares at the East Atlanta Strut this weekend. Looking forward to it, because it's my favorite festival in Atlanta. Oh, and this too:

New Mama products making their debut, complimentary mar-tea-nis from local tea maker Just Add Honey, yummy sweets from The Cookie Studio and swag bags full of goodies for the first 25 customers. Put it on your calendar and more details coming soon!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Come see us at the Grant Park Festival this weekend!

I figured since the Grant Park Summer Shade festival is tomorrow and Sunday, it still isn't too late to post that we have a booth there! We are in booth 35 on Savannah Circle. For more info visit the Summer Shade website.

Oh, and the new shop will be open next week! I decided to do a soft opening so I have a little time to figure out store operations before opening to the masses. The official grand opening is October 3rd, but in the meantime, here's where you can find me running around with my hair on fire:

Mama Bath + Body
743D East College Ave (behind the Cookie Studio)
Decatur, GA 30030

Shop summer hours: Wednesday thru Friday noon to 6 and Saturday 10 to 4.

Be there or be square.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Finally, the exciting news!

It occurred to me that I should probably follow up my "exciting news coming soon" post with the actual exciting news. So here ya go: Mama is moving into our very own store at the end of this month! And this time, it actually is our very own. My name is on the lease, and I'll be paying all the bills. Gulp. To say that I'm terribly excited is the understatement of the year. And as it gets closer, a little anxiety is creeping in here and there. I suppose that is to be expected.

The new digs are in Decatur on East College Ave.

I'll post pictures soon of the interior before and after once I finish with the after. The shop needed a little work, so right now I am up to my elbows in paint. We move in August 1st and I need a couple weeks to get set up. Our grand opening will be Saturday, August 22nd, so I have a lot to do! The weekend after the opening marks the beginning of fall festival season, so I'm mentally trying to gear up and get my head in the game.

I'll write more soon about how this came about, but right now I need to go paint!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thanks to Leah from the Daily Piglet

A very belated and heartfelt thanks to Leah at the Daily Piglet for her kind words about Mama.

At some point I will blog again. This is the first week where I have been able to sit down and take full breaths in and out, so I'm trying to (start to) get caught up. Which probably won't happen anytime this year, but at some point soon I will fill you in on all of the exciting new things that are going on behind the scenes. Just to keep you guessing: one of them involves a change in venue.

Exciting details coming soon!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Talulah B trunk show and Paisley Umbrella Save the Date

I'm heading out of town this weekend, but my wares will be at the fabulous Talulah B trunk show. The trunk show got a Daily Candy write up today, so hopefully the ladies will be out in droves! Click here for details

And if you're a bride to be or know of one, the Paisley Umbrella save the date event is tonight in Buckhead. I just signed up to be one of the vendors, and I will be offering unique gifts and custom favors, as well as a whole lot more.

More on everything that's happening right now (and there's a lot) later, because I'm trying to make a plane.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Technology meltdown

I apparently have the ability to break electronics with my mind because my phone is down and my email has disappeared. If you sent me one of the 300+ emails in my inbox, I promise that I will write you back as soon as I figure out where it went! My phone should be back up and running on Friday, providing that there are iphones left when I show up at AT&T bright and early.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Work/life balance

The title is sort of a joke, because let's face it, anyone striking out on their own with a business doesn't have much balance of any kind. I'm writing this to postpone cleaning up my disaster of a house. I have boxes of supplies and soap stuff taking over 3 rooms that needs to be straightened and put away.

That's about the extent of the life part of my balance equation. Cleaning up the overflowing messes from my rapidly growing business. I've moved soap making operations into my house because it takes up so much room and I'm already tapped out of space at the shop.

I did, however, carve out a little me time this week and went to 2 shows. In one week. That is a rarity for me, especially since they were both on school nights. We went to the Decemberists on Wednesday, and I have been in a perpetual state of blown away-ness since. They are one of my very favorite bands, and their live shows never disappoint. I haven't seen them since their last incredible tour in 2007, and we got a two-fer this time around - they played their entire new album in song order for the first hour, and then came back out and did another hour of their older stuff. It was the best night out I've had in a long time, and the new album has been perpetually on repeat since.

And then last night we went to see Bon Iver. A very different show from the Decemberists, but equally impactful. His pitch-perfect falsetto and gorgeous harmonies were exactly what I needed to end the week. I love this video.

The other non-work item I have to report on is my vegetable garden. I planted it from seed and it has absolutely exploded, which excites me beyond words.

We are going to have cucumbers, beans, squash and hopefully peppers. Enough to feed a small country. Despite the repeated warnings I've read, I planted everything too close together. When you're planting teeny little seeds, it really is hard to comprehend how big the plants will get. The fence was put up to keep predators out and it isn't doing a very good job. Someone's been nibbling on the leaves. I believe this is the culprit:

Meet my dog Lucy. Part canine, part goat.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mea Culpa

In light of an upset comment about a recent post, I decided to take the post down. The offending post dealt with a small segment of the population that I run into periodically at festivals, people WHO ARE NOT representative of my customers. I grouped these people into intentionally generalized stereotypes and attempted to write humorous anecdotes. My intention was to write a funny, if not a bit irreverent post - think David Sedaris. My commenter obviously thought Ann Coulter, because she handed me my ass. The post wasn't intended to be mean-spirited. Snarky, yes. I was blowing off some steam. Humorous definitely. But mean-spirited, no. I struggled with whether or not to take it down. After all, it's my blog and I can snark if I want to. But this situation has really gotten me thinking about what I want to put out there, and what I'm trying to achieve with my blog. I want to connect with people who care to read what I have to say. Mission not accomplished. My fault.

I'm still finding my voice on this blog, and I announced to my husband a couple of weeks ago that I've decided it was important to "be myself". To be honest about what I was feeling, and really give people the real inside scoop on running a small business, the good, the bad and the ugly. Today, after I read him the comment, he said, "so how's that working out for ya?" Honestly, I wasn't even sure anyone read the damn thing, so I was terribly surprised to discover that my readers aren't necessarily my friends who know me and think my brand of humor is funny. Lesson #1: know your audience. Snarky and irreverent certainly has its well-worn place in the blogosphere, but if I'm alienating customers, I've obviously missed my mark. It would be one thing if I was trying to inspire controversy or even a spirited and intelligent debate. But I don't want that. I want to give people who are interested an honest look at the engine of a small business, from my perspective. That still means the good and the bad, but hopefully no more ugly.

This incident has gotten me thinking a lot about the Internet in general. I've never been the biggest fan of blog comments. The anonymity of communicating through cyberspace seems to give a lot of angry people a license to wound. I've read a lot of comments on other blogs that were intended to sear, and I always wonder how people are capable of such cruelty when they would never say it to someone's face. I'm not referring to my commenter - I obviously offended her and I feel really badly about that. I take full responsibility for the situation, and I replied in my comments with a genuine apology. But she said she wouldn't be back on my site, so I have no way of reaching her to give her my apology. She may not be willing to accept it, but at least I would be able to try. I'm also not referring to my post. I'm not anonymous - you know how to find me if you want to give me the what for in person. But the one-sided communication of commenting on the Internet really bothers me. I find myself longing for the days of telephone and good ole US Mail, where a return address is required.

So my new mission statement for my blog is to be provocative in a way that makes you want to know more, not in a way that puts you off. And if you stop reading my blog, I hope that it's because I bore you to tears with my verbosity and not because I've pissed you off. But hopefully you'll still want to patronize my business. Because I truly am so thankful for my customers and I value your business and your support more than words can say.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

ICE Re-cap

What a great great weekend. I’m writing this in a very relaxed, very grateful state of mind. It’s not very often you’ll find me like this at the end of a festival. The getting ready wears me out to the point that I usually enter the weekend exhausted, so I’m on the verge of collapse once the weekend is over. Something was different about this one, and though I haven’t quite been able to succinctly define why, I do have some thoughts about the matter.

I’ve been pretty frank about how I feel about doing festivals. But I’m starting to feel a shift in my attitude. Festivals have a lot of the same familiarity that film sets do. You can be in different cities with different crews, but you make fast friends. There’s a “we’re all in this together” comraderie that you don’t get very often in life. And I happen to have chosen two jobs that have brought that into my life. That can’t be an accident.

One of the aspects of my business that has always greatly appealed to me was being a part of my community, and now that I'm out and about in the festival circuit more regularly, I'm feeling that tenfold. It is the best feeling when people come into my booth saying, "Oh, I bought your products at (insert place) and I love them!" Or, "I've heard about your products and I've been wanting to try them." Mama felt invisible for a lot of years because I was so in and out of it. And now that I've put myself and my products out there, I'm loving all of the new connections that I've made with people in the community.

I want to give a big hats off to Christy and Shannon and all of the people that went into making ICE a success. Centennial Park was a fabulous back drop for this show, and it was hot hot hot, but that didn't keep people from coming out in droves. I was really impressed with the vendor line-up. There were a lot of talented crafters and artists who I had never seen, and the ICE crew did a great job of getting them there.

This marks the end of spring festival season for me, and will be my last until the fall. I just found out that I was accepted into Grant Park Summer Shade, which will kick off the fall festival season in August! In the meantime, you can find me at some farmer's markets around town, or you can stop by the store and shop in air conditioned comfort!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A turning point

Before I made Mama my full-time venture, it was more of an idea. It was something that I put out there sporadically and only when time allowed, so there was never any consistency or any real progress. At least not financially. I just did the math and realized that I am in my 7th year of business. Mama will be 5 in September, and I started out with a different product line before Mama. In that 7 years, I primarily focused on developing products and branding, but didn't really spend much time on sales. I get so excited by ideas, and I was constantly coming up with tens of hundreds of them. If time wasn't a factor, I would have a very diverse company. But you can't build a company solely on ideas, particularly if you're not getting them out to the masses. So when I decided to make a go of it full-time, I pared down to the essentials, focused on what I had and started selling. The response has been amazing and it's given me such pleasure on so many fronts. But my glamourous life as a small business owner consists of working 7 days a week, as many hours a day as I can keep my eyes open. Let me be clear - I am SO not complaining. I remember many times within the last 7 years when I was slaving away at a job I didn't particularly like, visions of Mama dancing in my head, when I heard about small business owners who were working round the clock and dared to complain of a lack of sleep because of their mad success. I would have given my right arm! So now I am figuratively armless, because I have joined those masses of sleepy entrepreneurs. And I am delighted to be one of them.

But I'm realizing that I can't keep going at the rate I have been for any sustained period of time. The hectic pace is largely dictated by the various facets of the business that are commanding my attention. I'm doing a little bit of everything - retail store, festivals and markets, wholesale, private label, internet sales, and the list goes on. I'm jumping at all of the opportunities and there have been many, which is the most incredible feeling. There were a few months of sleepless nights in the beginning of the year, and now I sleep like a baby. Mostly because I'm so tired, but I'll take that over insomnia any day. However, the multiple paths have begun to leave me feeling like a jack of all trades and the master of none. I'm a person who benefits from some focus, but I find myself running around like a crazy person all day responding to the various opportunities. It's a dream for a person who is relying on their business to grow, but it's also somewhat of a conundrum in the grand scheme of things. I want to keep everyone happy, but if I'm overcommitted, no one will be happy. You know what I'm talking about.

I know that I'm exactly where I should be, but it's making me take a hard look at where I'm going. "Work smarter, not harder" has been running through my head lately, but I'm not even sure where to start working smarter. Actually, that's not true. It's that the concept of working smarter involves spending more money, which is also hard. Either spending money on people to help me, or spending money on services that I currently perform. For example: I design, print, cut and apply all of my own labels. It takes longer than you can even imagine. Probably about as much time as making the actual products when all is said and done. I could either hire someone to help cut and apply the labels, or I could outsource the printing. And then I could still use someone to clean the containers and apply the labels, because it's a time-consuming job. It's a tough call, because both are additional expenses that come with their own risks. Label printers require large minimums per label, and without counting, I probably have at least 20 different labels for all of my different products. That's a pretty large investment out of the gate. Products and information evolve as I discover more about my business, so I tend to alter my labels at least once a year. I don't sell as many products per year as I would have to buy labels for, so I'm stuck with labels that I won't even use. So maybe I suck it up and use all of the labels, but that's unlikely. OK, so maybe I hire someone. There's the liability of putting someone in contact with the sharp blade of my paper cutter (though the worst I have ever done is slice a hole in my shirt, I'm sure worker's comp wouldn't see it that way), plus there's the need to find someone with the precision necessary to get the job done. It's not rocket science, but it does take a certain amount of skill to get the labels lined up and make clean, accurate cuts. I've been doing it for 7 years, so it's second nature. I need another me. This is just one example of the many things that I'm constantly assessing. The same considerations go for web design, bookkeeping, manufacturing, and selling, all of which I do myself. Granted the latter four don't risk losing a finger, but hopefully you get where I'm going with this. Growth requires people to help, and that terrifies me. It wouldn't terrify me if I had the right people, but finding the right people is either pure luck or a lot of trial and error. The latter part is what inspires fear. I learned to manage people in my former career, and I've been told that I'm a good person to work for. But I don't really have any skills in hiring people. Film work was job to job, so if a person wasn't right, I just toughed it out and didn't hire them again. Didn't have to have the tough conversation about why they weren't right. There was always the out that I had my "usual" people. Call me a chicken, but it's no fun to look someone in the eye and tell them they're not "a good fit for your company" (i.e. not good at their job), and you're letting them go. So growth is scary because it involves other people and all of the stuff that comes with.

The next phase of my business in my mind has always been wholesale. This means selling my products to retailers who sell them at their stores. And it's the obvious next step for a business who wants to grow substantially. Which means cold calling retailers if you're a masochist, or a trade show if you want the easier, but more costly path to the masses. Trade shows are EXPENSIVE. And there's no guarantee that you will recoup your investment. Because it's not just the expense of the trade show itself, you're also selling your products for half of your retail price. The whole purpose is to sell volume. Volume mandates growth. Buying more stuff to make your products, hiring more people to make it. This traditionally is an action item in the business plan of a business like mine, so it's where my mind has been. Truth be told, it's not something I'm terribly excited about. I'd much rather have a retail store, which I do, but retail stores have their own financial risks. There is a lot involved to owning a successful retail store. "If you build it, they will come," is not a realistic marketing plan. Just so ya know.

The long and the short of this is, it's all a risk. You just have to decide which risk you want to take. And up to this point, I haven't been able to choose one. I go back and forth on a weekly basis, and have my finger in all of the possible pots, in the smallest of ways. But you get to a point where you need to stop trying things out and pick a direction. And so...

I had a meeting today about a new opportunity that has gotten me really excited, and in a curious way, has gotten me mentally on track. It won't necessarily lessen my workload, but will streamline my focus, and it offers growth without the hugest investment. It involves entering into a niche that comes with no guarantees, but makes a lot of sense when I take a hard look at my business and who my customers are. And it involves me putting my tradeshow/wholesale plan on hold, because I know I have to stop trying to do so many things at once. Which is a huge relief, to say the least. It's happening fast because I'm hopping on a train that is already moving, but it's made me think that I can grow my business for the time being while still staying small, which makes sense for my life where it is right now. It allows for other life things to happen, without the pressure of managing a business that is growing exponentially. It also allows for other ideas I've had in the past 7 years to come into play. Ideas that I loved at the time, but put on hold because I didn't have the means to move them forward at the time. I know I'm being vague, but I want to share the new direction once I have my head around it. I assure you, it doesn't change any of the work that I'm doing now. Rather, it complements it and allows me to grow at a pace and in a direction that I'm more comfortable with.

More exciting details coming soon!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kirkwood update

So I woke up this morning at 6am with the forecast looking the exact same as when I went to bed. I talked to my friend who was going to be in the booth next to me - she had done a risk vs reward assessment and decided not to go. I turned on the weather channel and mulled it over for about an hour. I called another friend who was already there and said there were a lot of vendors setting up. I decided that I would be uptight all day if I didn't go and at least give it a shot, so I got in my car and headed over. The morning was nice, albeit humid, so I was feeling hopeful. I was next to some friends who were keeping up with the forecast throughout the morning, and got the news that storms were rolling in around 1 and were supposed to last all afternoon. They started to break down around noon. Still uncertain, I took a few extraneous things to my car and kept up the mental debate. Around 1:30 the dark clouds rolled in, the skies opened up, and within 10 minutes I had a 3 foot wide river running through the back of my booth, which was jammed full of people trying to wait out the downpour. My gut said to cut my losses and go, so I started making very wet trips to my car. I got soaked, but my products did not, which was what was important to me. It had lightened up a bit as I took the last load, but was still drizzling when I got home. I again looked at the forecast, which had 80 to 100% chance of thunderstorms throughout the rest day. It stopped drizzling around 3 and... IT DIDN'T RAIN ANOTHER DROP ALL DAY. It actually cooled off, and the afternoon turned out to be a lovely one with the sun occasionally peeking out. I heard a lot of people showed up at the festival. I keep telling myself that I made the best decision I could with the information I had, but I'm still feeling a little remorseful. I actually had a pretty good morning sales-wise, even though there weren't that many people out. It was indicative that if it had been a nice day, I probably would have had a really good day. And if I had I stuck it out, it may have been a good day after all. Sigh.

I realize that I'm not a great candidate for festivals. I don't like the unpredictability, and the extreme weather wreaks havoc on my products. I didn't intend for festivals and markets to become the mainstay of my business plan, but they are the low hanging fruit so to speak, so I've crammed my calendar full of them for this year. I thought that I would be able to focus on promoting the retail store and making wholesale contacts in between, (as well as keeping my site updated and sending more marketing emails, blogging more, sending out press releases, etc etc.) but I am a one person shop and I've found that getting ready for festivals is taking up the majority of my long hours. That being said, I've noticed a considerable jump in foot traffic at the store since Inman Park, and I've made some wholesale contacts as well. Most of the festivals and markets I've participated in this year have been wonderfully profitable, but I have had a couple of bad weather days where I came home determined to about-face to a business model that mandates I conduct all of my business in a controlled climate. Immediately. But I made the decision to bootstrap my business for the time being, so I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing. Except for today.

I'm not one for regret, so I'm trying to look at this as a learning experience. This whole thing has gotten me thinking about my process and business in general. I'm usually pretty decisive, and I usually make good decisions. So when I don't, I have the tendency to beat myself up. I need to work on this, because all we have is our intuition and our knowledge of past events, and there's no way to accurately predict the outcome of something. This is the ultimate truth for running a business in general. Most people who do festivals for a living have a "you win some, you lose some" mentality, and I can't say after 6 years of doing this that I've ever been able to get my head around that. And the more I've thought about it, I realized I don't really have that attitude in regards to my business in general either. Not to say making a wrong move should be taken casually, but I know small business owners who accept their mistakes or bad judgment calls with humility and without a lot of mental anguish, and they seem to have happier lives as small business owners. That being said, I have to remind myself that I'm transitioning out of an industry that wasn't very forgiving about bad judgment calls, so I made it a point not to make them. I am realizing now that this was an awfully rigid way to live and doesn't give you much of an opportunity for personal growth. So I'm having some growing pains, but at least I finally feel that I'm going in the right direction. I'm screwing up all over the place, and I'm weathering the storm.

Friday, May 15, 2009

To show or not to show?

That is the question, indeed. I've spent all week gearing up for the Kirkwood Festival, and the inaugural East Lake Farmer's Market, which are both happening tomorrow. This is what has for me:

Not pretty. So now comes the conundrum, do I go to the show? I've decided to definitely do the market because it's in the morning, when things look a little less sinister. The Kirkwood festival is open for set up at 7 and goes from 10 to 7pm. That is a long day of sitting in off and on thunderstorms. And honestly, who wants to be trapped in a 10 x 10 metal tent when there's the possibility of lightning? My in the know husband, Chuck, explained that the percentage of the chance of storms isn't really a prediction, and is actually based on the last 100 days that had comparable conditions. Right now the percentages are 30 to 50%. Not high enough to make the call tonight, but enough to keep me up worrying about it all night. The deal with festivals is once you're in, you're in, so there's no breaking down until the bitter end unless you want to carry everything out by hand. And that's usually frowned upon.

I really hate not honoring my commitments, so I've been stressing about this all day. But I also know that I have to do what is best for me and my business. I don't want a big sudsy lump of freshly made soap or soggy labels and ruined products. I slaved away this week, working long hours to make everything. I really don't like the thought of losing money, but I loathe the thought of wasting time and losing money. I have orders to fill and 100 other things to do (like update my website with all of my new stuff), and that will be hanging over my surly head while I'm sitting in my soggy booth. I told Chuck I feel like a farmer. I don't like having my finances so dependent on mother nature, and this has made it glaringly obvious that it's time to make the time to expand my business plan so I'm not so reliant on festivals for income.

In the meantime, I've decided to wait and see what the morning brings. I've packed up my car, but I pared down my booth from the usual mini-store that I set up for festivals to my single table farmer's market booth. That way if I have to bail out in a hurry, it won't be a 1 hour + breakdown. I wish I had a crystal ball.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Inman Park this weekend!

We are busy busy gearing up for the Inman Park festival this weekend. The weather is looking good, which is a big relief. This is my first time doing a big 2 day show, so I have no idea what to expect. I've been making soap for 2 weeks straight! As I mentioned in my previous post, we will be premiering a NEW COLLECTION OF SOAPS as well as a NEW PRODUCT! Plus we've got some serious SALES going on, so be sure to stop by!

Unfortunately I'm not sure exactly where my booth will be located, so if you don't stumble into me, feel free to call: 404.808.6900. Click here for more info about the festival, as well as upcoming markets and festivals that Mama is doing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mama update

In the effort to become a better blogger, I'm going to start trying to write some short and sweet posts vs the occasional verbose rant. There will be more of those too, just with some other stuff in between.

I'm currently busy busy getting ready for the Inman Park festival which is in 2 weeks!! Times-a-tickin'and I'm up to my elbows in olive oil, making batches and batches of soap. My mom is making the trek from Ohio in a week to help me get ready and then she will be doing the festival with me, which I'm really looking forward to! She has been an amazing source of support and inspiration in my journey with Mama, and I only wish she lived closer to share it with me more often.

I will be premiering a SPECIAL COLLECTION OF SOAPS at Inman that I've been working on for the past few months, as well as a BRAND NEW PRODUCT! You'll have to stop by my booth to find out what it is. In addition to making the goods, I'm working on a plan to freshen up my booth a bit. I have only done the occasional festival for the past couple of years and this year I'll be doing most of the ones who will accept my application, so I decided it was time to funk it up. I just hope I have time to do everything that I want!

I have also have a new scent in the line called Fresh - it's a delightful blend of pink grapefruit, tangerine & lavender, and has been selling like hotcakes at the markets I've been doing.

I will get Fresh online after Inman. The plan was to do it before, but I'm trying to get better about pacing myself and prioritizing.

Also coming up on May 16th, I will be at the Kirkwood Festival. Hope to see you out and about enjoying our hard earned spring! I'm crossing my fingers for great weather...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mama has a new retail store!

Mama has some exciting news, which has been brewing for the last couple of weeks. We have moved into our very own retail store! Well, not exactly our very own. We are sharing space with the fab folks at Taj Ma Hound Dog Bakery. I met Krista, the owner and proprietess of Taj Ma Hound, through a very good mutual friend of ours. She has a big old shop and I have been jonesing for a retail space for a while now, so it was serendipitous that we join forces.

You may think, body products and dog biscuits? We thought that at first too. But upon discussing our businesses and our customers, we realized that we have a lot of crossover. Also, she bakes in the back and sells in the front, and I needed a retail space where I could do the same. So it really is such a great fit. We may just be the new business model for weathering this economic downturn! I will miss my spacious studio, and my wonderful studio-mate Mary, but there are so many pluses to my new store. Not only is it less than a mile from my house (I can finally ride my bike to work!) but it also gives me the much desired opportunity to meet and interact with my customers.

The store is located in the heart of Oakhurst Village in Decatur. If you want to come check out the new digs, stop by the Oakhurst Wine crawl this weekend! Click here for address and directions.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Old Friends and New Beginnings

My friend Jim directed a commercial shoot for REI yesterday, and asked me to bring some Mama products and set up my festival booth for the shoot. The commercial is about sustainable living and shopping locally - Mama fit in perfectly, and I was happy to participate. Especially because I got to set up in front of Sevenanda, a local grocery co-op. They've been on my list to contact about carrying my products.

My calltime got incrementally pushed three hours because the lead actor had fallen off of his bike and had to go get stitches. By the time they got to me, they were rushing to make their day because they still had several more locations to shoot and they were running out of daylight. Also by that time, the health and beauty buyer had gone for the day, so I didn't get to meet her but I got her card. This is the first shoot I've been on where I haven't been working, and I found myself more than happy to sit back and do my little part while everyone else rushed around with their hair on fire.

I had the opportunity to catch up with some old film friends I hadn't seen in a while. Everyone was super congratulatory about "getting out" – of the film industry that is. It made me feel like an anomaly (in a good way). People don’t get out of the film industry very often. Partially because it's good money and partially because most of us have resumes that don't translate well into other industries. Which is funny, because film people are some of the most hard-working, intelligent, clever and capable people I've ever met. And they are used to getting more done in a day than most people even think about getting done in a week.

When I sat down to write this post it was going to be about putting yourself out there and things coming back. That's been happening lately with Mama on many small levels, and I'm paying attention. But as I was writing, reflections on my film career and where I am now kept rushing through my head. So I think I need to have a little therapy and write about that.

Film work is made up of planning, anticipating, reacting when your plans go awry, and then pulling a solution out of your ass, all in a very compacted amount of time. It's high stakes, and especially stressful if you're the one responsible for the money part. When I started producing, I did music videos, which are the worst of the worst. On the way home from a shoot, I would get a natural high – almost giddy, because we actually achieved the impossible and got the video in the can. I guess I thrived on the intense ups and downs. And I know that I largely defined myself by my job. There was never a shortage of drama, and it was fun for a while, but the process and the drama stressed me out so badly that I got sick after almost every job. Commercials were better and I got into a comfortable pattern working with the same director. But nonsense is still nonsense, and I found myself getting less tolerant of it all as the years went on.

I was miserable toward the end, and pretty much left while flipping a mental middle finger. I thought it would be a huge relief, and it has been to a large degree. But most of my reflection has been about all of the bad habits I developed – necessary protective measures, but things that went against what I believe in and want for myself. And frustration that it took me as long to break away as it did.

Someone recently asked what I had learned from it. I completely surprised myself, because I couldn't think of an answer. I'm someone who is constantly thinking about things, and thought that I was someone who learned my lesson. But it usually happens once a situation is behind me. This led me to realize that my film career isn't behind me yet. I've been so hyper-focused on moving forward that I haven't tied up the loose ends that I left behind. I haven't honored the transition that I'm making right now. Or rather I haven't honored my years in the film industry, and part of that is seeing the good in those 14 years. Once I started thinking about it, it wasn't too hard to find.

I developed numerous skills throughout my film career. I learned budgeting, scheduling, time management, organizational and people management skills as well as how to work with clients - and that's just the short list. All of these are essential skills to have when running your own business, and most of them are things I never knew that I would or could do when I graduated from college. I got to go places that most people would never be allowed to see (ever been inside a morgue?). I got to meet and mingle with many exciting and well-known people. I got to travel. I made good money and had time between jobs to start my own business. And I met so many great people. Film work is very gypsy-like, and film sets become insular little worlds where friendships develop quickly. For many years I thought I had the best job in the world. I need to remember that.

Change was inevitable, and the prospect of change was and is very exciting to me. But now that I'm going through it, it's been harder than I anticipated. This is going to be an interesting year - I have a lot to learn, and a lot to unlearn. As of my 2nd month out, I haven't had an easy time of it. My worst-case scenario producer planning can be debilitating, as far as knowing what steps to take with Mama and what to wait on. I am a company of one, and I miss having a team to bounce ideas off of, and to help execute the plan. But I am slowly becoming part of a network of other small business owners who are filling that gap. After years of crazy hard work with downtime in between, I'm having to learn to pace myself. Not quite there yet – I still collapse with exhaustion at the end of every week. I'm pretty single-minded, and tend to do best when I can focus on one task and marathon through it to completion. So I’m having to learn compartmentalization - this is a concept that still feels completely out of my reach. Most of all, I’m trying to learn to get out of reactionary mode, which for me has become synonymous with crisis mode. Film work has a "drop everything you're doing and do this" mentality, and if I could pick the single thing that drove me completely insane about my job, that would be it. It made running a small side business very difficult because I couldn't plan in advance, and it was a source of endless frustration. And even though those calls aren't coming anymore, I still find myself anxiously waiting for something or someone to come along and screw up my plans. This makes little upsets become big upsets, and generally isn't very productive. So I have my work cut out for me, but I'm starting to see little flashes of what will be. Little breaks from the chains that bind me, which are mostly in my head. Slow and steady wins the race. And maybe someday I'll believe that.

Monday, January 26, 2009

How this horrible economic crisis could actually benefit my business

Let me start by saying I am NOT a Pollyanna. The original title of this post was "Trying to stay positive and focused when the world is falling apart." These are scary times. I am doing my best to stay positive. It doesn't really help when this is the front page of CNN:

I've spent the majority of January catching up from December, getting really really organized, and having a lot of talks with myself. I made the long overdue decision in December to quit my job and focus on Mama full-time. I have no regrets, but I have had some reservations. Granted, I am not like the majority of these unfortunate people who are getting laid off left and right. But I am now completely responsible for my financial situation. Freedom has a price, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

I do have some background in an economic crisis of my own personal kind. When I started out a little over 6 years ago, I did the credit card thing (different time, different place, different product line) and I messed up royally. It cost me thousands of dollars in credit card interest and took me three years and a good deal of ingenuity, but I made it out without defaulting on a single credit card or declaring bankruptcy. If you're thinking "she only did what a responsible person should so she should quit congratulating herself," you're absolutely right, but look at the mess around us due to people that have bailed on their debts. So I guess what I should say is that I'm proud that I didn't contribute to the problem. I choose to look at it as having earned my masters in business from the School of Life. I learned a lot, and I'm ready to go round 2. It's pretty scary, but I feel so much more prepared, and ready to face the challenges. And I feel like my excitement and passion will go a long way in helping me get there.

My business is such a microcosm right now, that I have nowhere to go but up. And I'm optimistically thinking that I will be able to grow my business, even in these uncertain times. Maybe not as fast as I would like, but upwards nonetheless. The guy from Clif Bar started his business during a recession. Granted it wasn't this recession, and he lived in a garage and rode his bike to work. Or something like that. Actually, maybe it was Method. Whatever.

My point is, what this financial crisis has done is forced me to look at how I grow my business, which could really do me a favor in the long run. Because there aren't funds readily available to borrow, I will be forced to sell products before I can buy new ingredients, and I will have to use existing capital to grow. This will take longer, but I'm in it for the long haul, which I have to keep reminding myself. This will also help me weed out what is working and what isn't as I go, versus becoming heavily invested in some idea or product that turns out to be a big flop. My conclusion about using credit cards to run your business is this: racking up credit card debt might be an option if you're the type of business that stands to attract a big investor, or better yet, stands to be bought straight out for a huge sum of money. Then that 6 digit credit card balance might worth the risk - I didn't owe that much, but I've read about people who have. But I want to keep my business small and privately owned. I have no desire for human resources or overseas outsourcing to be items in my business plan. I know it takes money to make money, but unless Kiehl's comes knocking (which I'm not counting on), it's really not a good idea for me, or businesses comparable to mine, to borrow big. Like I said, I learned that the hard way.

So rather than writing a 5 year business plan, because frankly I have no idea what this year will bring, I'm writing a 1 year action plan. My goal is to take this year to figure out what is working and what is not, on a very small scale. I probably won't get to half of the things on my list, but I hope to be able to prioritize the ones that keep me moving forward and upward. In regards to borrowing, I am looking at applying for microloans as a means to help cover myself if I were to have the opportunity grow more quickly than I could afford. For example if I got a big order that I had to fill, and needed some capital to buy the ingredients or get a bigger piece of equipment, etc. But I fully plan to let the means dictate the end. Or is it the ends that dictate the means? I guess it's whichever one that doesn't involve using my credit cards. And it's going to mean working my ass off.

Another thing our stressed economy has done is helped me really start to pay attention to how I spend my money. On the rare occasion that I treat myself to a latte, I now make a point to steer clear of The Corporate Giant and head over to my neighborhood coffee shop. I'm not particularly impressed with how a lot of big business are running their businesses these days, and while I know they make a bigger impact on our economy and create a lot of jobs, I feel like it's my responsibility to help support the little guys. Because they're also creating jobs and paying taxes, just on a much smaller scale. And because I'm the littlest of little guys. I also buy as much local food as possible. Not only does it taste better and fresher, but I have done a ton of reading on farming and food distribution, and have learned that a big part of the world food crisis is a result of huge corporate farms who grow single crops - using pesticides which ruin the land and have other major consequences. Their existence has put many community farmers out of business, whereas increasing the number of community farms, who grow multiple and varied crops and serve smaller communities, could actually solve the food crisis. This is greatly simplifying a complex topic and I don't want to stray too far from my original point. Which is that as a result, I make it a point to spend as many of my grocery dollars as possible at local farmers markets. As well as avidly supporting other local food makers, crafters and artisans.

So, to sum up my long winded post, perhaps some good will come out of this big mess. Maybe it will create a new generation of more responsible consumers, small business owners and (gasp) corporations. My hope is that those of us who are trying to make a go of it on our own will be able to weather the storm and keep moving forward. And of course I really hope that jobs will be created for the staggering number of people who have lost theirs. And if not, maybe they'll join the growing ranks of small business owners and start one of their own. Yes we can.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Big Big Mama sales this weekend!

The Beehive Co-op (in Buckhead) and Gifted (in Roswell) are having BIG SALES this weekend, and I have marked a bunch of Mama goodies down 50 to 75% off. So get out there and stimulate the economy!

I'm playing big time catch up right now, so I'm getting somewhat of a slow start on my blogging this year. Lots of stuff going on behind the scenes, so there will be much more to come soon.

Happy New Year!