Pausing to Build Better Business Foundations October 27 2013, 0 Comments
About a year ago, I invited friends to follow along on my journey into making and selling handcrafted soap. Your response has been amazing and wonderfully supportive. You have bought soap, appreciated soap, and have even wanted to come help make soap! As a result, the past few months have been a whirlwind of activity, and I am grateful! But all of that activity has also necessitated a little bit of down time to clean things up and regroup a little bit.
I am discovering that there are many things to learn when starting a handcrafted soap business; making soap is just one piece of the puzzle! Over the past year, I have received an additional intensive crash-course hands-on learning experience in business planning, inventory, e-commerce, point-of-sale (POS) options, business accounting, wholesale, consignment, farmers markets, displays, the disconnectedness of it all, and more. Whew! I'm not very good at flying by the seat of my pants for very long, and I knew that I needed to get some better, and less-time-consuming business practices and processes in place. So, while it's been quiet in the soap kitchen, and on the Artisan Soap Facebook page and blog, there has still been MUCH activity. I'd like to unveil some of the outcome of that effort with you now.
One of the biggest accomplishments over the past few weeks has been the setup of a new inventory system. This isn't a very visible thing for all of you, but I have invested a lot of research, time and effort into this project; almost all of my raw goods and products have been entered. The result is that it helps me to keep good records, and to ensure that I am giving you a fair price for the products you buy from Artisan Soaps. For that reason, some prices have gone up, AND some prices are going down. The new prices are all listed on the new website.
The new website?! That's right! A second major project has involved a lot of research, time and effort to set up a new e-commerce website that has a lot of new features for both you and for myself. Here are just a few of the new features:
- On the "About Us" page, there is an excellent video about the Handcrafted Soap Industry; it is a really good window into what this endeavor is all about.
- I'm also excited to announce that if you are a local customer, you can now order and pay for your soap ahead of time online without incurring shipping costs; you have the option to choose local pickup or local delivery when you check out! I'm going to also post some holiday shop hours in a couple of weeks.
- The new website integrates a little bit better with Facebook.
- You can now leave reviews, give 1-5 stars for your favorite products, sign-up for the e-newsletter if you want to know about the latest new additions, and more.
- It will also help me to give discounts, spotlight seasonal products, and (if all goes well) do a better job of keeping track of inventory---online and on the road---in a more integrated and less time-consuming manner.
I hope you'll check it all out and let me know what you think!
Overall, there's still a bit of work to do---figuring out fair shipping costs is just plain confusing to me; I'm still working on getting everything to integrate properly, and I will continue to update photos and descriptions of new and existing products over the coming months. In general, though, I'm starting to feel a little bit better about the foundations that I have started to put into place for 2014. Look for more updates from the soap kitchen soon!