As you know, the fall and early winter have been brisk times for us… running with activity, keeping production levels of our products high, restocking shops, doing trunk shows, and filling internet orders. We love the busy nature of the late fall, but now is when we can breathe.
Winter is the time for planning, preparing, and getting organized.
Planning – Planning starts with a review of 2012 :
- What shops were we in – and how did that go
- What pop up shops did we participate in and how did that work out?
- What fairs/festivals/markets did we set up at – and which were successful? Which were not? Why?
- Did we meet our goals for the business for the year?
One tip: Keep good records throughout the year…. That makes life easier when evaluating the year as a whole. We try to keep a spreadsheet for each event… the inventory before the event, and after… what we paid to participate, and any expenses incurred.
Planning is the most difficult part of the preparation for the year. While plans can be changed, we like to use our plans as a guidline, a map of where and what we will do for the year, so we like to try to be as accurate as possible. Here are some thoughts
- Pencil into the calander those events that we are firm on participating in. These would be events we have enjoyed, and done well at. After penciling them on the calander, look for the applications, and set aside the funds for entry.
- Dream plan – look for new venues, locations and events that might have potential for us. We are always on the look out for new galleries, and stores to pick up our products.
- Product lineup – what worked last year that we will keep? What did not work? What new items can we develop or explore? What are the customers asking for?
For product development and for new venues we turn to research. The library and the internet are our best friends here. I am amazed at how much is out on the internet about soap making… forums, professional organizations, educational information.
- What products do the customers ask for which we have not made? Some of our biggest successes have been following through and developing products based on customer request. So we do listen to the customers.
- Are the ingredients and supplies readily available, affordable and easily procured? One example of an idea that we are still working on sourcing ingredients is the Sola Babba, or African Black Soap. This has been a soap touted for its gentle nature and mild cleaning ability however it is made from the ash of cocoa pods … difficult ingredient to find in North America. So we have been on the hunt for an affordable and reliable source. We dont want to begin making a product only to find we cannot reproduce it.
We found the sources of supplies, have recipes… but it is not until we test make the first batch to see how the product develops that we will really know how this might work out.
Some recipes are instantly perfect, wonderful, and a success. But there are others, like our bar shampoo that continues to be in the development process. The bar turns out great, but the results with hair is another story. So we continue to research, and tweek the recipes on that product.
Preparing for the year
- Paying sales in use tax for second half 2012
- Filing taxes for the year
- Applying for specific shows
- Paying for shows
- Production of products
- Organizing the calendar
- Planning production throughout the year
- Planning storage of product
- Planning distribution of product
- Clean and organize the soap studio (half of our basement) means adequate work space, storage space, lighting
- Organizing the packaging supplies in a neat and consolidated space
- Organize the spare room, which is my studio.
- Updating print media, brochures, business cards – that is a whole different post to come.
So the beginning of the year is a busy time for us, getting life on track, and updating the business.