Saturday, 28 January 2012

Featured Business: Natural Bathing Co

Today's interview features Carrie Freeman the owner of Natural Bathing Co, which can be found on Etsy and Ebay. Now to Carrie, to tell us more about her luxury handmade bath and beauty product business.

Tell us a bit about your products.

At Natural Bathing Co I sell my own handmade bath and body products, which I make in our kitchen at home! I like to make my products as natural as possible as I know how hard it is to find products suitable for sensitive skin, and I'm hoping that in 2012 we can expand our shop to include up to 50 different items.

What makes your products stand out from the crowd?

The things that make my products stand out from the crowd are the ingredients. All the ingredients are researched and are only put into the products if they will benefit the user in some way. I do my best to give great customer service and repeat customers have the opportunity to obtain discounts!
Sandalwood and Vanilla Soap

How did you start out?

I originally sold wholesale made bars of soap until I found out that these included artificial foaming agents which in fact dry out the skin. I looked into making my own soaps and haven't looked back since. Now I am running my business to set up a fund for my first home and to give me a little bit of extra income while doing the thing I love.

What has been the hardest part of running your business? How have you overcome it?

Personally I think the hardest part of running my business has been time management. As I am also a student at university I have a lot of reading and studying that I have to do at home, as well as making my products. I've tried to organise myself by setting aside designated time slots for doing studying and then using a lot of my spare time for my business.

What motivates you?

As previously mentioned, I have set up my business to provide a fund which will help me make a start in life. My dream is to expand my business to the point of it becoming my full time job, where I can work from home and be there for my children when I decide to start a family.

What is the best resource you would recommend to others?

The best resource for anyone looking to start out in soapmaking would be The Handmade Soap Book by Melinda Coss. It is a great book with lots of helpful information for troubleshooting and ideas. For anyone looking to start their own bath and body business I would recommend checking out the legislation in their country as often there are certificates that you have to have in order to sell your product. Other than that, research! Research and practice making your products is essential! You might also want to look at the current market and see if there is a niche, which you would be able to fill nicely.

How do you connect with your customers?

I like to connect with my customers through social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, but with Etsy, the community discussion boards are also a great way to keep in touch. I am a member of the CraftBritannia team on Etsy and often like to take part in team events, chatting with other people and helping to promote other people's items as well as my own. Etsy is so community focused that not only do I make friends with other users, I also get some sales through doing so. I'm ordering some new business cards as well which I will pack into each order with a coupon code for each return customer.
How do you make your customers feel valued?

I know that sometimes it can be hard to make each customer feel valued so I try my best to make sure I send them informative but friendly emails about their order status. You have to remember not to be overly friendly though as then you are at risk of losing your professionalism. As mentioned before, I also like to include a coupon code for customers so that if they come back to my shop and buy again, they can get a small discount.
Dragons Blood Soap

Tell us about your latest product range?

Coming in February 2012 will be several new products. I am adding a fruity strawberry smoothie scented soap which reminds me of strawberry milkshake, a lime, mandarin, and basil soap which is very citrusy and fresh, and a baby butter bee soap, which is similar to the fragrance of baby powder. I am making these soaps as my shop has been open for a couple of months now and I feel it is time to expand my range. I am also planning on making some more bath bombs in the same scents as my soaps, and I'll be looking into recipes for making wonderful flavoured lip balms for Spring 2012.

What ingredients do you use in your products?

The main ingredient for all my soaps is an organic base, to which I add shea or cocoa butter, followed by a fragrance or essential oil. I pour it into my silicone moulds and wait! I love the silicone moulds because not only do they provide me with a good chunky bar of soap, but it is really easy to unmould my soaps and they are super easy to clean.

My favourite ingredient is organic unrefined cocoa butter which I use in my chocolate truffle soap. It is a hard butter but is rich in the chocolatey smell which many people love as well as having all of its natural properties.

To find out more and stay up to date with the Natural Bathing Co please remember to stop by and visit Carrie on facebook and twitter.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Event Management

Planning your event should incorporate everything that needs to take place in advance, and on the day itself. There are lots of elements to running an event so it is very important to have a clear plan and great organisational skills!

Firstly decide the purpose of your event and what your goals are, for example, to make sales  or new contacts. You need to do this so that you can work out what actions your attendees need to undertake whilst at the event. This way they won’t turn up and leave with no positive outcome for your business. Maybe have a contact form so that when people turn up they can sign in and leave an email address. Or do you need to make sure there is a demonstration of your product at the event so people are more likely to buy? Do you expect them to take any further actions after the event? Say to visit your website, if so do you need to hand out a business card or a voucher for the site?

Now you know what needs to happen at the event and what elements you need to include. Decide on the event itself, where will it take place, will there be a theme? If so how is it relevant to what you are trying to achieve and how does it represent your brand? Depending on the type of event you decide upon do careful research on local legislation, are there any rules you should be aware of in terms of health and safety or if you plan to serve any alcohol?

Begin to decide on the time frame involved. Decide on a suitable date for your event to take place and begin to create a schedule for all the elements you need to organise.  When will you have to book a venue? Send invites or place an advertisement? Do you need to plan any entertainment or activities?

Remember if it starts to become too complex break it back down to the goal you decided on at the beginning, you really don’t need a lot of bells or whistles! Is it a one off business launch or a little monthly catch up?  Plan the scale of the event accordingly! Make sure you stick to a budget otherwise costs can spiral. Remember sometimes the events that are free to set up are the most fun! As you have to think a little bit more creatively about venues and activities.

It can be a bit daunting arranging an event by yourself, so can you round up any helpers? Do you need any greeters or speakers at your event? Could you get them to carry out some market research for you while they mingle with your guests? Or could you combine your event with some other local businesses?

As for the day itself, plan how long your event will last, will it go on all day and people can come and go as they please or will it only last an hour and guests should be there for the duration? Plan what activities will take place and when. Don’t try to cram too much in, as schedules always slip a little and you don’t want to bombard people!

Most importantly make sure your event will be something to remember. As not only may you gain new custom from attendees. If your event is exciting, interesting and well planned it could increase exposure for your business through word of mouth promotion and this really is the best kind!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Your Business Event Will Create A Buzz

Your first question is probably why host an event? Well there are plenty of reasons! It is great for making sales or getting your business noticed, whether this is launching your business or just a new product. An event is a great promotional activity and way to network with customers, suppliers or even your competitors. An event will make a fabulous PR opportunity and can broaden or create a whole new audience for you.

It can also be a great way to share information whether this is by you giving a talk to your customers or hosting a seminar for businesses that operate within your market. Treat the event as a learning experience, this is a great opportunity to talk first hand to your customers and to see what they do and don’t like. This makes an event the perfect place to not only market your products but conduct valuable market research.
Create a new product range like I have here!

If you are not sure you have a reason to host an event make one! Maybe it’s time your product range was injected with a little bit of excitement. Make sure your event has a specific purpose and that the way you portray your business fits with the message you are conveying to your customers.

Your event should fit well with your company, and attract the correct target audience. For example if you sell cakes, think about hosting a family orientated event, a tea party or traditional village fair for example. You can put a creative twist on it but make sure it is relevant, for example why not make it themed, the mad hatter’s tea party perhaps? If however your business is more about designing couture jewellery, how about an evening event with canap├ęs and your products displayed decoratively or even hire some models (or friends)!

Hosting an event will get your business noticed, give you credibility within your market and help give your company some more history, could this become an annual event for example? It will help consumers identify with your brand and give you more presence especially if you currently operate online.

Plan your event carefully as you want an event that runs smoothly and has a polished and professional feel. Remember the event will reflect on your business and customers want to buy from companies that are reliable and can deliver especially on quality.

Remember to take plenty of photographs at your event and get some customer reviews, these will be great for future promotional material!

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to update the blog with plenty more advice on hosting your own event. So that you can create an event that maximises the potential benefits that have been outlined and creates a real buzz about your business!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Positive = Proactive


Running your own business requires a lot of positive thinking, but don’t confuse this with dreaming or wishing! Which will not get you very far at all and will most likely result in a number of wasted hours. Remaining positive can be hard work in itself, but in the end will reap huge benefits. You need to keep going when progress is slow, overcome set backs, cope with rejections and learn from criticism rather than taking it to heart.
Remember customers will react much differently to someone who is positive, upbeat and has obvious enthusiasm for what they are doing, rather than a business owner who seems desperate for a sale or even worse like they don’t really care.
How to stay positive when things don’t seem to be going your way?

Firstly start writing down your goal for this month, just doing this will help focus you. A month is long enough to sink your teeth in and make real progress, but short enough to give it some momentum. Now everyday write down what you have done or what has happened to help you achieve this. By keeping a record like this it will remind you of everything positive you have done, how you are moving yourself and your business forward and what you are successfully achieving. Repeat every month!

Another way is to reaffirm one good thing every day, it could be about yourself or your business. It may be an improvement you have made, something new you have tried or a goal you have met. Every day wake up and think of what your successful moment of yesterday was. This will help you start your day in a good mood and with more confidence.

Seek out feedback from your customers and your peers. You can display the positive feedback you receive on your marketing materials or on a page on your website, helping build your businesses positive reputation and increasing consumer confidence.
Whilst this may not seem quite so positive if you receive customer complaints especially if you feel they are unjustified, it can be turned in to a positive action by yourself, by recognizing this as a learning opportunity. Take the criticism and make it constructive. It will help you to improve your businesses processes for example returns or deliveries, how are they organized, or how the customer is kept informed etc. Therefore improving your customer service and the likelihood of future sales.

Finally remember to believe in yourself! Have enthusiasm for what you do and continue to explore what works well for you. If you come face to face with a problem remember to keep the focus on finding a solution, this will help keep your business ahead of the game!