I’ve been back from my vacation for a little over a week. While I was gone, I shut my business out of my mind, out of my devices, and totally off my radar. That’s what a vacation is for right? We hiked. We camped. We ate amazing Denver food. We flew to Montana and visited my cousin. It was a really incredible trip with this backdrop of snow-capped mountains and big, big sky that I’m not using to seeing in Buffalo. It was a great time to do a little soul searching, so search my soul I did.
The biggest takeaway was that I want to be more transparent with all of you about my business. I’m a very prideful person, I don’t like to fail, and I like to broadcast positive vibes only when it comes to my business. Part of it is because I don’t like to admit any failures on my part (even though failure is a daily part of being an entrepreneur), and part of it is because I don’t want any of you to shoulder any negative burdens or feelings about me or my products. However, I think this philosophy is silly, and it does more harm than good.
I want to be more transparent with you because I am a small business in Buffalo, and Buffalo is all about community spirit and supporting each other. I am a lot like Buffalo. I’ve made a lot of weird roundabout decisions to find that what I wanted to do was not something I would get from another person or another company, but what I wanted to do was something I was going to have to make from scratch. I’m doing my best, but my business has already seen a lot of rebrandings and restructurings, and it’s going to see several more before I totally nail this. For those of you familiar with Buffalo, this is going to sound a lot like the city’s history. Like Buffalo, you could say I’m in the midst of a Resurgence.
Okay, so this year has been really tough. It was my first year going full time with Rare, and while I saw a lot of really huge wins, I also put myself out there to suffer some really crappy losses too. Nothing devastating, nothing door closing, but enough to give me a reality check and force me to reconsider how I want to do 2017.
The first major change you’re going to see is (or not see) is my frequency at craft shows. Setting up at craft shows is a TON of work, and this year, I just didn’t see the level of enthusiasm that I normally see, and the overall return on my invested time and resources was low enough that I may not do craft shows at all next year. Craft shows are a physical drain, sure, but they become more of a mental drain if they aren’t as successful as I need/want them to be.
I’m not 100% decided on this yet, but be prepared to not see me at Canalside next summer.
The other part of this decision is that my products are available city-wide at local shops. I work really closely with Furnishings (on Main Street in downtown), and spend at least one day each week hanging out at Furnishings to talk to customers, work on promotions for the 500 Block, and donate my time to this shop however I can. I am also part of an artists co-op called Buffalo ShopCraft, located inside Thin Ice on Elmwood. I volunteer some of my time to manning the physical location of ShopCraft, but I’d like to volunteer a lot more of my time to working directly with customers at that location.
So, instead of waiting two weeks until the next craft show throughout the summer, you can shop with me personally year round at either of these truly fantastic Buffalo shops. Don’t fret about the craft shows. Get to know your city and be a part of the retail community that’s made Elmwood Village such a vibrant community, and be a part of the growing retail community that’s going to make Main Street sooooooo much cooler.
That’s the first major change you’re going to see for 2017.
The second major change you’re going to see is yet another rebranding. For those of you that have stuck with me for years – yup, stuff might look a little different. There’s a bit of a backstory to this. There has been a growing amount of confusion over whether or not my products are vegan. I want to be clear here: I am not, and have never claimed to be, a vegan business. My Oasis Collection is a natural, organic and vegan line of skin care products, and I can only assume that the launch of this collection is where the confusion has come in.
I recently had a very upset customer that purchased my products online, and immediately returned them because they were not vegan. I know she must have felt mislead and angry. I felt very confused. My products don’t have any vegan claims (with exception to the Oasis Collection). So how did this happen?
She’s not the first person to assume this about me, and until I do something, she’s not going to be the last. While I was confused at first, I know that I am responsible for my branding, and if there is confusion on my mission or what’s in my products, it stems from me and how I’m handling my brand.
This incident occurred right when I got back from vacation. I was still in my soul searching mode, so I sat down for several hours to really think about what had happened and what my next steps should be. I started thinking about my products, my brand, my vision for my company and what steps I’ve taken to get there. What’s important to me? Have my priorities changed since I started making my products?
Yes, my priorities have changed in a pretty major way; sustainability is way more important to me than it was 5 years ago. Zero waste, recycling, up cycling, less garbage, less waste. These principles have become really important to me over the last year, and they weren’t issues I thought about at all back in 2012 when I started my business. Therefore, there’s very little of these principles actually reflected in my products. The Oasis Collection was a first step toward making zero waste a reality for my business, but it’s caused more confusion for my customers.
When I thought about the vegan issue, I realized that I don’t make claims to be a vegan business, but I also don’t make claims to be an ANYTHING business. I steer clear of hard claims because I don’t want people to be disappointed, but a lack of clarity is way more likely to leave people disappointed, just like my recent customer who expected a vegan product.
So what does this revelation mean?
It means that for the first time since I started my business, I have a really clear story to tell. I am a sustainable bath and body company. I make products that don’t leave behind any waste. Or, at least, this is the company I will have when I’m done rebranding.
This change isn’t going to happen overnight, and for right now, the products that you love are still available. I will be tackling this one collection at a time. For now, the Oasis Collection is already zero waste and the other collections are made with completely recyclable packaging. In the coming months, you can expect to see changes to the recipes that lead to completely 100% natural and organic formulas, and you can expect to see changes to packaging that is recyclable nationwide.
It’s important to note that not all of the products I currently make can be transitioned to a natural and organic formula and stay exactly the same. But, you can expect the same level of care will be taken to develop amazing formulas that are awesome for you. And, now you can expect to be kept in the loop as those formulas come to life.