I am really delighted to have my natural handmade soap and sensitive skincare products available with The Leitrim Design House at the The Dock, Carrick on Shannon, in lovely Leitrim. It's been available there for over a year now & it always makes me feel, just a little bit, proud that they feel it is good enough.
I made the deicision this year not to wholesale my Natural Soap & Skincare products but to concentrate on my direct online shop. Selling products at a wholesale price makes it necessary to sell more to make the necessary financial return. This in turn means making more product. For me making & selling Handmade Soap is a lifestyle choice. I want to spend time with my small family without having constant deadlines adding to the pressure I sometimes feel. I still have deadlines and work commitments but they are mostly self dictated. When it gets too much or the children need me more, I can still choose to slow down. And I do.
So, back to The Leitrim Design House! This shop is the only exception to my wholesale rule. They are close to me in my home county of Leitrim & easy to pop into for a chat & restock. They fly the flag for a lot of local Leitrim makers that I respect. It helps to raise my profile but also it reassures me that my product is a high enough standard to be sold in a premium venue like this. Perhaps I shouldn't need this reassurance - but if we are honest I think we all do at times.
This is the little selection from Made in Lucy's Kitchen, Natural Soap & Skincare, that you will find on their shelves
At the end of October 2014 I received an email asking if I would be interested in stocking products within the Leitrim Design House, based in Carrick on Shannon. I am growing in appreciation for this opportunity that I currently have.
Yesterday I attended the 'Essence of Design' Seminar, held in the Design House, chaired by the straight talking creative mentor Eddie Shanahan. I presumed it wouldn't be beneficial for me personally. I am not college educated, not attending trade shows or aiming to wholesale trade internationally. I thought the series of small lectures by each of the speaker panel would be directed towards people with those 'design qualifications'. I was wrong. It was insightful, practical and I enjoyed it. Here are 7 'nuggets' of advice I gleaned from the panel today; Heidi Higgins, Fiona Mulholland, Rebecca Marsden, Eddie Shanahan, Naomi Draper, Blaithin Ennis and Una Burke.
1. Develop your business in achievable baby steps. There is no rush (only perhaps in your own head-this part is a Lucy-ism).
2.) One off statement pieces are all well and good but to maintain cashflow a more widely accesible 'diffusion collection', that doesn't detract from your satement collection, is key.
3.) Housekeeping & admin skills are the core part of your business. Without them you have no business.
4.) Get in your car and take your product to the retail outlets that you feel are a good 'fit' for you. Business never just 'happens'.
5.) Use good images that stylise a lifestyle, not a 'trend'. The age of 'trend' is gone.
6.) Train regularly to find support and update your skills to use new technology that will enable you to move your business forward.
7.) Always meet your customer direct and learn from their feedback how you can improve your product.
Its very heartening when creative businesses in all avenue's face similar challenges and have the same concerns& thoughts as you. Who knew, I'm not so different after all ;).
There will be more seminars and training to follow from the Leitrim Deisgn House during 2015 and if you have the opportuinity to go, take it- it will help!
Keeping good records is one of THE most important things in business. I can improve in so many areas BUT I do keep great records! I like at least one thing to be organised, it keeps my brain happy. Things are often chaotic at home (currently you actually risk not coming out again if you venture into my office) but, if I'm pretty much on top of my admin, I can cope with all of that because I feel I'm still in control. It means I know what is selling, more importantly, not selling and can adjust as necessary. One important thing that my Overview of 2014 has clearly shown me are my 5 Best Selling Products...Some were a surprise...................
In 5th Place...Loveheart Bath Melts Gift Box.....These are a little winner especially during the colder months. They are so nourishing for the skin and a great time saver as I don't know too many of us that have time to moisturise our bodies the way we should! Just pat yourself gently dry and hey-presto, silky smooth skin. These were mostly bought to be given as a gift but I know alot never made it.
In 4th place....Lavender & Eucalyptus Salt Soak......Despite concerns here in Ireland about water charges and spiralling water costs people are still soaking and easing those aches and pains. Through the year we have worked hard at 'tweaking' and perfecting these therapeutic blends. Lavender and Eucalyptus came out on top in the battle of the baths...
In 3rd place.....TLC Balm....Our TLC Balm is such a handy all in one tin. It's had great feedback from people that garden, have their hands in water all the time and have contact dermatitis. I havn't personally worn any makeup for almost all of 2014 (it just irritates my skin) and would use this on my face numerous times during the day. Yes, my skin probably glows permanently from the butters but I really don't care, my skin feels great!
Should you have been travelling our Bornacoola road this late summer during the wee small hours you will no doubt have seen some unusual 'going's on'. My husband, in his underwear, (it was very hot!) desperately pacing the road - baby attached in pouch, still screeching. You will have probably heard me banging on the bedroom window, whisper shouting "put your trousers on" and "come back it'll wake the neighbours". In the future it will be a funny tale to tell but when you are in the throws of it night after night let me tell you it is anything but funny.
And so begins my little tale of how excema affects our daily family life.
Emmy was 6 weeks old when the cradle cap on her scalp began to take over her neck and face. I had heard of baby excema but naively thought it would pass when her 'hormones regulated themselves'. I have an arsenal of oils in my M.I.L.K HQ (as you might imagine) and began using them systematically to see which was most effective at reducing the dryness, red spots, blotchiness and itching. Fast forward to now, 9 months old. The glands on the back of her head apparently associated with cradle cap and excema are always huge and swollen and she pulls at them alot. This is Emmy at 1.30 am during a 'flare up'.
It is impossible for her to sleep and is constantly itching her face and neck. During an especially bad flare up she is banging and scraping her torso and tops of her ankles and wrists off the bed. When it is like this the only thing for it, is to get up, say goodbye to my oh so comfortable bed and distract her. (Yes my name is Iggle Piggle, Iggle Iggle Iggle Piggle.....oh yes I'm singing too at this point) Aloe vera cut straight from the plant has been, by far, the most effective treatment. Mind the spiky bits. It's cooling and stops her scratching within 15-30 mins. Aloe Vera in pre-bought tubes I found were not effective. Anything petro-chemical based has so far increased the redness and symptoms.
24 hours after this peak it seems to begin to calm, the redness reduces and her skin forms crusts. I can now use avocado oil and my homemade 'Emmy's Balm' (based on my 'TLC Balm' but with a few adjustments). Even these annoy her skin during the middle of The Flare Up but do a very good job inbetween of keeping her skin moisturised.
We have had to increase bathing her since she loves tucking into her food and insists on smearing it all over herself (my heart sinks every time....) and I add some of my favourite avocado oil to the warm water. I use a teeny tiny touch of either my own 'Butter Me Up' or 'Bleating Lovely' Handmade Soap Bars. She gets smothered in the avocado oil whilst her skin is still a little damp. I have also started using soap nuts (they are really a berry) to wash our clothes and am trying it for home cleaning too.
Infants with excema and allergies are notoriously bad sleepers. During the particularly bad period I mentioned at the start I decided to unashamedly start co-sleeping. Emmy is awake every 2 hours without exception (during the good times I can settle her within about 10 minutes or so but during a bad time this waking will last up to 3 hours long- hence the desperate pacing) it has kept my family sane and mostly still smiling.
During this week she had bloods taken for allergy testing and we are awaiting an appointment with a dietician and dermatologist. I cannot wait to get the help. I have some new oils to try including an organic hemp oil (extra rich in ceramides), virgin organic olive oil and Aloe Butter (oh the dermatologist is just going to love me ;) ). Never has a young infant eaten vegetables so joyfully and this week she started taking her first steps so Miss Emelia is certainly developing ahead of her milestones and thriving despite this annoying itch.
Our little story will be continued and hopefully next time we might not be so 'sleepless in Bornacoola' .....Oh and don't be afraid to drive down our lane will you? It's much colder and any pacing is done in the kitchen (with the curtains drawn ;) )
Soap is a temperamental thing, something I am usually reminded of at the worst possible times - right in the thick of it! This batch was supposed be a summery yellow and cream swirl but in the end this is what I had...................Can you see the oily patches on top? Never a good sign.......
Some soapmakers throw their bad batches away but there is a lot of good stuff in there, ingredients and cost wise, even if it looks brown and oily at the moment. (Plus I hate waste of any kind, it actually makes me feel sad). So how can I make useable soap that people will happily exchange their money for?? The answer....REBATCHING. Basically it means melting it all down again so you can make needed adjustments. Most of the time you will be able to do this and save the batch. In my early soap days I rebatched ALOT.
This is my soap in a slow cooker. I find this the easiest way to rebatch. I have grated it all down so it melts quicker and more evenly. After 3 hours it looked like this...
I have mashed this until my skinny arms and wrists protested "no more I'm dropping off". Rebatched soap will always have a rustic look. It will loose the clean smooth appearance of a cold process soap and this was as good as I knew I could get it. After letting it cool a little I poured it into my mould. You can see how lumpy and 'rustic' it looks.
Meanwhile I had prepared a new batch of coconut milk soap that I could pour on top of this to give me a layered effect. Once the top layer was poured and stiffened enough I added some soap lovehearts that I had cut out of another batch.
I insulated the mould for 24 hours with a blanket (although if I was to repeat this procedure again I wouldn't insulate this soap). Steven took the mould sides off for me, it needed to harden a little more but 24 hours later was the moment of truth............the exciting bit- the first cut.....................and here we are..........This is "Tropical Love" with Mango (although it has lost alot of its original mango smell in the rebatching) Coconut Milk and Lime. I love the look of it especially knowing what I had orignally.
In my soap kitchen there is never any waste and I love that. Somtimes I have grated my 'unsaleables' to make laundry soap. I always save and rebatch the soap shavings which add up to lots and lots of mis-shapen flowers over the year that get distributed amongst family and friends.
So that my friends is a soap lesson I have learned over time. If it goes wrong don't panic. There is very little that can't be fixed even if it means you keep youself in soap for the next few years :) xx
Thursday mornings have recently seen me racing to 'The Hive' in Carrick on Shannon to enjoy the 'Social Media Marketing' course facilitated by Leitrim Local Enterprise Office. Last week I arrived (only) 10 mins late carrying a peppa pig plate with my breakfast of bread & jam. After making my way to the back and sitting at a desk, I looked down to see the right leg of my jeans was in fact rolled hafway to my knee. Realising there was no chance now of being taken seriously as a local business woman, I sighed, pulled out my fine tipped pencil and started taking notes. For all of you who won't get chance to attend such a course (I highly recommend it) I have whittled down the blogging info to give you some handy tips I plan to put into practice myself.
1. Start your blog
Johnny Beirne (instructing the course and C.E.O of Digital Business Institute) gave a great illustration. A website is like having a 'high street' shop. If footfall in the high street is down you need to take a 'pop up' shop to where the footfall is & give people a reason to go back to the main shop. Social media and in particular a blog is the pop up shop- its where people are and can help increase the numbers to your website. Schedule time each week to do it. Keep a notebook handy to write down subjects when you think about them. (music to my ears- i lurve notebooks).
2. Keep it regular
Blogs are so effective as they are very google search friendly. But google loves fresh information so keep your blog regular, weekly if possible.
3. A key blog title
Google will pick up the blog title. Look at mine for this post. I could have called it many things ("Tell me why I don't like mornings...?" "Exactly how did my jeans end up like that?") but when anyone googles blogging (and many people are setting up blogs) my chances of google picking up this post and therefore directing people to my website are increased. Use key search words for your blog title
4. Be Local
Every so often mention local things in your blog title. Then when people do a search for anything in your area up you'll pop up to give them a little wave and a "Hello, I'm here".
5. Link Love
Johnny talks about 'Link Love'. Your blog set up will give you the ability to create a link that people can click on and be directed to someone/something you are talking about. Google loves this and again you will whizz up the search results. If they give you link love back well then everyone is very happy and loved up. I will now attempt some link love to Johnny Beirne (some very handy tutorials here).
So 5 things I found very useful to know as a complete new girl to this, hope you find it useful too!
Love Lucy x
p.s I really have no idea how I didn't notice my jeans were like that........worrying isn't it ................
Well before launching into all things blog I thought it would be a good idea to start at the beginning and let you know a little about me...........so here goes.
My name is Lucinda but most people call me Lucy, they seem to find it easier to say and remember. I am hurtling far too quickly towards 36. My father's family are from Northern Ireland but I was born in England. I have never lost my accent which wasn't for want of trying - especially during my last school years in Enniskillen! I settled here in rural Leitrim after marrying Steven 6 and a bit years ago. We have a little girl of 4 and an even littler girl of 5 months. I love where we live on our half acre. Through circumstances I have moved around ALOT in the past and I DON'T want to move anymore. Feet firmly planted in my boggy (currently slightly overgrown but very productive) veg patch. I find I need a calmer, quieter life and by choice try to live as sustainably as possible. I'm not perfect in this but I do think about my choices and try to get the balance. I enjoy making my soap and this is expanding slowly into other things - usually dependant on what I or my family needs next (yup-anti wrinkle eye serum already in progress.....) I don't ever plan world domination with my products. Is that ok to admit?? I want it to be a sustainable and viable business but I want it to stay something that enhances my life and doesn't take over or take me away from the more important things.
I have a huge amount of things I would love to blog and muse about- hopefully making it interesting and a little bit funny (possibly dependant on if I've had wine or not) along the way. My beautiful 'creative ideas' notebook is being scribbled in furiously at the moment. If there is anything you especially want to ask me or see here leave me a comment and I'll do my best....