Now on Etsy Too

One way I can grow my business is by trying to increase my customer base past the art and craft show venues that I sell at. I have noticed that over the past few years, my online orders have been growing faster than any other part of my business. So this year I decided to work on my online presence.

It is pretty tough to be seen and heard online. I started a Facebook page and have quickly grown to over 600 likes! But one thing I have learned, the people who subscribe to my newsletter, read my blog, like my Facebook page and follow my Twitter feed typically are already loyal customers or have at least seen or met me at a craft show before finding my online presence. It is very hard to just naturally grow your web site with people who have never heard of you before. I have also noticed, I think handcrafted soaps and toiletries can be a particularly tricky business to grow online, since there is no way for a prospective customer to smell or feel a product before trying it for the first time. This is actually one reason I try and keep my products at a reasonable price, people are more likely to try something if it just "costs a few bucks". If they love it then they are both happy with the product and the price too.; a combination that hopefully keeps people coming back again and again.

So to try and reach more customers and to help existing customers have more buying options, I have expanded into having an Etsy store. The store can be found at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ANaturalAlternative and has 30 of my best selling products. If you purchase on Etsy I really would appreciate it if you favorited my store and any of my products you love most.

I have also added a "Shop Now" button to my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ANASoaps). There are still a few glitches to work out on this page (right now you need to message me the scents you want if buying certain items, there is no drop down menu to choose). But I am hoping to get some of those quirks worked out this week. But in the end, the same top items available on Etsy will be available here.

Lastly I have a shopping cart through the Handcrafted Soaps and Cosmetics Guild (where I am a certified member). http://www.soapguildstores.com/anasoaps/Default.aspx .This is a great way for people who are looking for handcrafted soap to see my products and to order from me as well. 

So no matter how you order, one of the way's above, through the main web site at http://www.a-natural-alternative.com, my phone, or by mail, every order is appreciated. Thank you!!


Why no pickups?

Growing a business comes with a lot of growing pains. Allowing pick ups, or even meet ups, is becoming one of those things. This year C and I decided that there would no longer be any pick ups at the house. He travels for work and I am often home alone. Having some stranger just come over to where I sleep at night is pretty creepy.

When the business was small and this wasn't asked for very often it really wasn't a problem. Typically something could be scheduled while I wasn't alone, but this is no longer the case. I went through almost 10,000 fliers last year, and additional business cards, and additional labels on products If my home address was on them, that would be like handing out my address to that many people. Yikes!

I have been trying to make up for this by making deliveries or meeting up with customers. However, this is proving to be too difficult on most days. Right now I have been trying for 6 days to figure out a schedule with someone so I could get her order to her. It could have been shipped twice by now, and the 6 or so emails I have had to take time to write definitely has taken more time than just putting the package together for the post office. When this is happening with one person it isn't that bad, but when three or four people are trying to schedule a meet up or pick up at the same time, it is insane! Time I sit in front of the computer is time I could be in the workshop making inventory for future profit. Instead it is time in front of the computer, and my days get longer and longer, just to meet my inventory requirements. It's just me and dad, we haven't been visited by any soap elves yet to do our work while we sleep.

Most people are great about deliveries. I offer to drop it off my next time out their way, they just drop a check in the mail at their earliest convenience.That system works great. I use very little additional gas or time since I am already out making other deliveries, picking up supplies, or running personal errands. Every once in a while the process is tougher, trying to sync schedules so a meet up can take place instead of just a drop off.

So as a growing pain arises this year, I have resolved to nip it in the bud and try to take care of it right away.Therefore there is a new policy change (it will make it to the web site in in shipping options etc by the end of the week).

As of 4/15/2014:

There will be no pick ups at the house/workshop by "new customers". A few standing pick ups remain, but no new ones will be scheduled. The rule of thumb is: if you have picked up before, you can do so again, but no one new.

I will deliver orders if 1) I can do it at my leisure within a 5 day window from the time of your order 2) it can happen during regular business hours 3) you mail your payment (or leave your payment) so there is no need for a scheduled meeting 4) if you need me to make a delivery that doesn't fall within these parameters there will be a $5 delivery surcharge 5) I reserve the right to say no at any time due to my personal schedule being over booked

There will be no scheduled meet ups in public locations (other than at art/craft shows). I no longer can meet you at Starbucks, in the parking lot at your Doctor, or at your child's swim practice.

I cannot tell you what anxiety I have been going through coming to the conclusion that these rules needed to be more than just in my mind. I was hoping that just a personal enforcement rather than a public display was all I needed. Writing them down and publishing them is lifting a weight off my shoulders and mind. I feel physically lighter as I type this.

Thank you for understanding these growing pains and for growing with me. It is not a bad problem to have and I am grateful that you all are here supporting me!