Resolution Update: Labels

It's no secret that there are two things indie perfumers hate: labels and samples. Now, it's not that they're necessary evils or anything like that. It's just that they take much more time than anyone ever anticipates, and the bottom line ends up being at higher costs than we'd prefer (generally due to time and cost of materials).

I haven't checked in at all about my New Year's resolutions that I posted earlier this year. So far, I've been pretty good on the last three – stop wasting packing materials, keep regular retail hours, and travel less. I'll post about that progress a little later, but I wanted to focus first on my saga of moving the labels in house.

Shortly before I posted that entry, I bought a laser printer for the studio. It's an HP Color LaserJet for the interested, and it's pretty freaking great. It prints colors with nice saturation and black and white just as keen.

But, through no fault of the printer's, I won't be able to move absolutely all of my labels in house. When you make a liquid product, you've got to have a waterproof, UV coated label. No ifs, ands, or buts – if you want your labels to stay pristine over time anyway. If you feel like throwing caution to the wind, that's on you. But smudges don't fly here at Sweet Anthem and apparently finding a label stock that's actually oil proof as well as waterproof is impossible. Trust me, I've looked.

Solid perfumes, though, are a different story! There's no liquid involved! That's the whole point of making them, in fact!

Much to my delight Online Labels makes label stock in lip balm-ready sizes, and with the trusty label printer, they now look super profesh! The Instagram photo shows what we'll be moving toward once our current label stock runs out – it's so nice to keep that overhead as low as possible, not have to wait on a printer turnaround time, and still have a fully professional product. All good things that are for this product's price point.

 


We'll be making the switch to these labels over the next few months, though seasonal fragrances already feature them (because I never bought professional stock for them in the first place, so the change was easy and I don't have to feel guilty not using leftover labels).


Bonus: the new label design features the perfume ingredients on the backs of the labels. I hope you're as excited about that as I am!


February Recap: Instagram Diary

February is FINALLY over. it was a really intense month on my end – like having a second holiday season!

If you came into the studio, ordered something online, participated in the subscription program, or somehow got to my little business last month, Thank You. It was one of those record-breaking holidays that you never really expect to see coming. Here's just a few things that happened last month, in case you missed something.

I submitted a perfume to the IAO Awards. It's my first time to ever enter any awards/competition for perfumery, but look at that list of judges. Just look at it. Totally awesome industry people who could potentially smell my work if I make it into the final rounds. Wow.

I submitted a perfume to the IAO Awards. It's my first time to ever enter any awards/competition for perfumery, but look at that list of judges. Just look at it. Totally awesome industry people who could potentially smell my work if I make it into the final rounds. Wow.

I reorganized the studio ... a few times. And a few more times. To make it more retail-friendly again.

I reorganized the studio ... a few times. And a few more times. To make it more retail-friendly again.

I tested out some new vials that are ridiculously tiny and have nifty steel rollerballs inside. The only catch is that they're half the size of my current vials. Everybody seems OK with that switch, though.

I tested out some new vials that are ridiculously tiny and have nifty steel rollerballs inside. The only catch is that they're half the size of my current vials. Everybody seems OK with that switch, though.

I made so many solid perfumes. So, so many solid perfumes. 

I made so many solid perfumes. So, so many solid perfumes. 

I got the proofs for my new mailing tubes in! These will fit the bigger price point perfumes and keep them super snug during shipment. And also look killer on your vanity, and keep them protected from light.

I got the proofs for my new mailing tubes in! These will fit the bigger price point perfumes and keep them super snug during shipment. And also look killer on your vanity, and keep them protected from light.

I wrote a bunch of thank you notes. I still can't believe how many of you are repeat customers. It always makes my day to see your name on my invoice lists.

I wrote a bunch of thank you notes. I still can't believe how many of you are repeat customers. It always makes my day to see your name on my invoice lists.

I got shea butter *everywhere*. No really. It was crawling up my walls at one point. If, you know, shea butter crawled and stuff. Did I mention I made a lot of solid perfumes?

I got shea butter *everywhere*. No really. It was crawling up my walls at one point. If, you know, shea butter crawled and stuff. Did I mention I made a lot of solid perfumes?

And that's all she wrote for February. March is a pretty packed month too, but I'm especially looking forward to getting a few new brands into the studio, finalizing our boxes, and heading to San Francisco for the Artisan Fragrance Salon - which is next week!

More on that soon! For now, it's back to shipping and blending.

10 Perfumery Accounts You Should Follow on Instagram

Not too long after the very first Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco, fellow Seattle perfumer Christi Meshell founded the Seattle Sniff group – which I like to think of as the more successful and focused iteration of my original Indie Perfumers Guild, which never quite gained traction due to my limited available time. Ah well. 

The Seattle Sniff group proved so successful not only because of the sheer number of perfumers working in Seattle and the PNW area, but also because many of us were finally online, able to connect via Facebook and other mediums.

If you really want to know what's going on inside the indie perfumery scene, you needn't look much further than a few of my favorite Instagram accounts. The best part of Instagram, to me, is seeing inside each other's day to day business, their studios, and the stories behind their products. It's like being an automatic Insider! I also included a couple of institutes and other perfume shops – because who doesn't love a good perfume picspam in their feed? This list includes both PNW and West Coast brands that I enjoy following – so go forth and get to know them! 


Art and Olfaction Institute (@artandolfaction)

Christi Meshell (@christimeshell)

Essential Apothecary (@essentialapothecary)

French Girl Organics (@frenchgirlorganics)

 

Roxana Illuminated Perfume (@illuminatedperfume)

Imaginary Authors (@imaginaryauthors)

L'Aromatica (@loremz)

Lucky Scent (@luckyscent)

Rebel & Mercury Perfumes (@rebelandmercury)

The Parlor Apothecary (@theparlorapothecary)

As a bonus, you can find me and mine @sweetanthem on Instagram, featuring lots of in-studio shots and the occasional gaming-related incidents. But, if you're looking to dive head first into the West Coast world of indie perfume, look no further than the above accounts. This is not a completely exhaustive list by any means, but worth your time to seek out and hit that "Follow" button for.

4 Tips For Smelling New Perfumes

Smell is one of the last great modern mysteries. The current theory is that smell molecules are shaped in certain ways so that they lock into your receptors in your brain. That means that there are plenty of pre-conceived notions to be had when it comes to scents. But, before you make that face – yes, you know the one – let's talk about how to smell perfume. 

Read More

December Events & Restock News

Holiday Season Home Stretch

Urban Craft Uprising at Seattle Center – December 7 & 8

Urban Craft Uprising at Seattle Center – December 7 & 8

I know I already posted about where to find me this holiday season, but I wanted to remind everyone that this weekend is Urban Craft Uprising, Seattle's largest indie craft experience, and something I look forward to (and fret over) all year! We had a lot of fun at EtsyRain last weekend and I'm looking forward to my last major show of the year! (You can still shop at our open studio sale next week or online, of course.)

It's going to be a smaller show for me than usual - the holiday weekend sale was so successful that I ran out of many things! Yay! - but I will still have 12 fragrances in 4 formats, The Familiars (my collab with La Ru), and Flower Plus Sugar (my collab with This Charming Candy). So, ok. Not that small, really. Also, if you arrive early, the first 15 shoppers to spend $15 at my booth will receive a little swag bag full of solid perfume twists and some LE samples! 

Speaking of Flower Plus Sugar, I am heading to San Francisco with the lovely Susan to help her with her booth and sling our co-developed flavor project at Renegade Craft Fair, December 21-22. I'll be adding this to the event section shortly. We'll have lip shimmers, perfume oils, lollipops, and gift sets in tow. I'm excited to see some of my Bay Area perfume friends at the show and around town! 

Restock News

I've decided that there will not be a formal restock in December. I am sure most of you are shopped and budgeted out. I know I am! I'm going to use this time to work on a few new things and start the restocking on January 16, which coincides with Art Walk (though there will be no open studio sale that night because we have Welcome to NIghtvale tickets). 

My plan for restocks and new scents in the future is to start with samples and work my way up, meaning some fresh scents may only be available in sample form during an incubator stage. This is part of a larger idea I'll talk about some other time, but I think that most of you like to buy samples first and then stock up once you know which ones you'll wear the most, and I totally get that. It's easier on me, too.

And speaking of samples, the $2.00 sample sale was a bit of a test drive - and seems like it was successful. I've been whittling away at my stash of 5/8 sample vials for sometime and this really helped clean me out of the last of them, which means in 2014 I can switch to tiny 1ml roller ball vials. Didn't I mention recently that I've always wanted these? They're just. so. Ugh. I can't.

Anyway, the smaller, more adorable size also means I don't have to charge as much, and I actually hear comments all the time that 5/8 is more than enough for sampling. So - win win? Hopefully this switch will happen with the first restock.

 

Where to find Sweet Anthem this Holiday Season

As December draws near, my time shrinks. It happens every year – Thanksgiving through Urban Craft Uprising are my busiest two weeks, even busier than Valentine's Day! And since my dance card for custom perfume appointments and restocking availability are nearing full capacity, I thought I'd share some ways you can shop with me this season.

Events

Please note that I will not be able to do custom perfumes at these events – these are for direct sales of my existing fragrances only. Custom perfumes still require appointments.

Sales

  • Black Friday - 30% off liquid perfumes, $10 sample sets, and spend $65 to get a $15 voucher good for any future purchase
  • Small Business Saturday - the sale continues
  • Cyber Monday - free worldwide shipping on all orders

Be sure to join my mailing list so you can get up to date on any sales! You can sign up at the bottom of any page on my shop.

Restocks

Restocks are planned for Anita, Margaret, Phoebe, Sheila, and, if time allows, Marianne and Marguerite. After 12/12, restocks will be limited until the first release of 2014, which will likely coincide with art walks from now on.

Studio Breaks

The studio will be closed December 24 - January 2. The website will be open for business and I will be shipping, but I will not be taking appointments to recuperate a bit from the busy holiday season.

Marketing Myths #1: E-Mail Is Free

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but there's no such thing as free marketing. Whether it's Permission Marketing or Interruption Marketing, via Twitter or e-mail, on Instagram or Facebook: getting your message out to your target market is going to cost you money. This blog? The one you're reading right now? Is $8/mo.

For some reason, Permission Marketers like to pretend that e-mail marketing is free. Granted, the solutions for e-mail marketing have changed in the last 15 years. But somehow the idea that e-mail marketing costs the company nothing has prevailed.

What E-Mail Marketing Costs You

As a marketer, whether it's of crafts or curios or mass-produced goods, your goal is to get your message to your target market often and in a concise manner. E-mail is perfect for this. But why do Permission Marketers think that sending e-mail is free? Why do they tout it so?

If you're sending e-mail to more than one person at a time, chances are you use a mass e-mail service such as MailChimp (my personal favorite). MailChimp is not a free service.

If you're a good Permission Marketer, you likely collect more information than allowed on the basic MailChimp form, which means you might use Wufoo (also a favorite) to collect said information and integrate it into your MailChimp list. Wufoo, also, is not a free service.

Even if you use homegrown techniques like the Excel macros of old and are running a stolen copy of Microsoft Outlook, you're still planning and composing an e-mail and your cost is time – as well as the Internet service provider you use to power your office or studio.

You may say: but Meredith, I compose everything on my iPhone and just send out blasts via Instagram. Instagram is a free service! You can apply these costs to any service you use to stay in constant contact with your audience – whether it's a square image, a 140 character tweet, or a tiny video. It all takes time, devices, and data.

What E-Mail Marketing Costs Your Customers 

Here's where Permission Marketers who talk about e-mail and direct blasts being free really lose me. While your signal is cutting through a lot of the noise, it's also adding to the pile. You're only on top of the pile for a few seconds before being opened, being discarded, or being replaced by the next thing on top of the pile.

At the bare minimum, your e-mail costs your customers attention. (Which reminds me of the old saying: I'm so poor I can't even pay attention!) You've managed to gain their attention for at least a minute, pulling them away from work or social time. It costs them time to click on a link or - heaven forbid - hit the discard button.

Your e-mail also costs them valuable data. While applications like GMail give almost unlimited storage, every time a customer reads an e-mail on their phone, tablet, or mobile device, you're costing them part of their monthly data plan. Downloading an image-heavy e-mail is basically a data killer.

There Is No Such Thing As Free Marketing

Your Facebook updates, your Twitter feed - although they take little effort to compose - that is still time out of your day that you could use to make something. E-mail blasts can take even more time, depending on your chosen tool and how proficient you are. Often, for indie entrepreneurs - and I am so guilty of this - these status updates are ways to block our own productivity. We're scared - for whatever reason - to sit down and get to the heart of why we do what we do and commit to our schedule and goals.

Before you send any blast, ask yourself: what do I want my customers to do? Why am I sending this? Knowing your end goal will help foster a better ROi (return on investment). It can allow you to target your list to meet the goal's needs. This can help you decide whether now is truly the right time for a blast. 

Three Things To Ask Yourself Before You Blast

1. Am I bored? Boredom is never a reason to update.

2. Do I have other things to do? Procrastination is never a reason to update.

3. What's my goal? Aimless updates never generate results.

Three Good Reasons For A Blast

1. A new product launch. Most people join e-mail lists to stay up to date with your brand.

2. Educating about your process. If you have a trademark process, illuminating this to customers can help foster trust - which will allow you to send more frequent messages.

3. Behind the scenes information. This can include discounts, photos, or event schedules.

We'll talk more some other time about targeted marketing and the kinds of goals you can set for better messaging to your audience, but I had to get this little rant off my chest. Marketing isn't free - as we've seen, it takes time, data, and services cost money. If you have found a 100% free marketing tool, I'd love to know about it - but in my 10+ years of marketing experience, this is what I've learned. Hopefully I've been able to shed some light on this marketing myth for you. 

 

 

 

 

4 Myths About Being an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs and itty biz coaches will try to warn you of the challenges that you'll face if you decide to choose the path of an entrepreneur, but many focus on things like venture capital and when to fire your employees and things of that nature. This is a short and sweet list, but it focuses on personal challenges that I've faced, and things that turned out a bit differently than I thought they would. But regardless, I feel they are important myths to debunk about being an entrepreneur. Here we go. 

Sheet music flowers by Merriment Events

Sheet music flowers by Merriment Events

1. I will have more flexibility. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. Before I quit my day job, I worked 40-45 hours a week. Often, I stayed late at work by choice (because it was much nicer than my office at home). For a time, I even had a second job by choice (because it was at a little radio station that I loved). When Sweet Anthem began to grow, I began to see 60 hour and even 80 hour weeks. Now that I am solely working at Sweet Anthem, I still find myself with 80 hour weeks, but no time for that cover band side project or even volunteering at that little radio station that could. It doesn't really end – some seasons are insanely busy, and I rarely have a social life. Working holiday retail events means you inevitably are working the weekends when everybody plans their Christmas parties. Having retail hours and being the sole employee of a company means that shirking them is nigh impossible because that provides terrible customer service. Own your schedule, and don't feel guilty about doing what's most important to you. You'll get through each day, and each season, and you better believe you will make every ounce of free time you get count.

2. I will get to focus on my passion. While I spend 80% of my day on production (restocking existing fragrances), I rarely get a chance to make new fragrances or design new products, which is why I got into this. The remaining 20% of every day goes to checking email, voicemail, paying bills, cleaning, scheduling appointments, shipping orders, working on the website, and tending to social media. Once your business is out of the incubator stage, if you are still the sole member of your company, you will have a lot to do – even if you find good business partners to do things like your bookkeeping and update your website. And while I don't regret my decision to let my employees go, it means that I have to be extremely cautious about my daydreaming on new items and fragrances, lest I get far behind on the actual business at hand. It does, however, create good work ethic in a hurry.

3. I will no longer have annoying coworkers! Probably the biggest myth I thought was that I would no longer have to work with annoying people. Or anybody, really. I'm a bit of an introvert (INTJ reporting!) and I have to manage my interactions with other humans very carefully, or the J really starts to rub people the wrong way. But in any given day, I have to talk to a slew of vendors and collaboration partners – my NEW coworkers. Even though they aren't on the Sweet Anthem payroll, they are still people I rely on heavily to make my life run smoothly and to get products shipped in time. Knowing how to interact with people from all kinds of businesses and learning how to work with them to meet their needs will help you in the long run, and being empathetic to your business partners will help you foster relationships that can make or break your success. 

4. Sucess is determined by your income. Speaking of success, there is no rule that says your success is completely correlated with your income level. Success is a journey – not a dollar sign. Simply looking at your YTD earnings in Outright and whether or not that number is in the red or the green is not the only way to quantify the achievements of your product line. While, sure, that's how the IRS will determine if you're a triumph, feeling like a failure because of monetary value doesn't help anybody. Did you get good reviews on one of your favorite blogs? That's your version of success! Did somebody send you an email telling you how happy they were with their recent purchase? That can be your success, too! Learn what your true goals are before you simply groan about the dollars and cents, and I promise you'll have a better peace of mind. Celebrate the little things that life throws your way and work toward big picture goals over time.


Hopefully those of you interested in starting a creative business will find some of these words of encouragement useful. Please feel free to comment if you've encountered other myths in your own business life! 

Boosting Your Confidence With Goals

Since my last update, things have improved a bit.  I have finally reigned in my business expenses and, for the first time since this summer's employment woes, extended travel, and packaging upgrades, I am back with my head above water. It's done wonders for my motivation, meeting this little goal.

 

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This has been a bleak period in my life as a small business owner – and learning first-hand that everything is not always sunny in Seattle (or Philadelphia or New York or Lubbock) has been a confidence drainer. You can't have roses without the thorns, but sometimes the thorns can get you down.

The easiest thing to do when my confidence plummets (aside from hiding under the covers for a week) is to set some new and realistic goals.  

My goal this past month was to meet a modest sales goal and, most importantly, ending out of the black. I almost made the sales goals, but came ahead on expenses at the last minute, thanks to some wholesale restocks and this past weekend's sale. 

The little boost of confidence (read: energy) from the accounting made for a better attitude going into November – an important outlook to have when the busiest month of the year is involved.

Sometimes, that's all it takes. Sometimes, you'll still fail. But, we dust ourselves off and – if we're meant to do something – we just keep doin' it. Not to sound all Nike on you or anything. 

So, try it sometime. Set a little goal for yourself and see what you can accomplish. You might be surprised at how you see yourself afterward, however the cards may fall. 

When To Hand In Your Membership

 So you probably know about the changes happening on my end – I lowered my prices recently and have decided to discontinue some of my services and wholesale options. It's been a really tough year, not just for sales, but for everything going on behind the scenes. Letting both my employees early in the summer go was a HUGE deal, bigger than I expected it to be. And it all happened right before summer show season began, and that had a pretty intense snowball effect.

After everything that happened this summer, including traveling to Chicago and back, cutting my retail hours to appointment only because of time constraints, and generally feeling like a failure of a business owner, and least of all, my heart surgery, I had a massive nervous break down because I wasn't happy with how I was running my business. I felt stuck.

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When this happens, I've found there are two or three things that really help: lots of ice cream, a few crying phone calls to your parents, and simply stepping away from all the stressful things. Identifying the stress factors and deciding if they are worth having in my life became my focus. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.

There is no rule that small businesses have to have retail hours, wholesale accounts, or go to out of town shows. I tend to be a joiner – but being an introvert means I have problems managing my energy for all the things I tend to join. I finally just threw my hands up in the air and decided to cross off some things from my membership list.

I'm no longer a member of Team Out of Town Shows, for instance. Unless it's in my hometown where I have help from family and friends, I don't have to go. There was life before Renegade Craft Fair – though I have loved most of my tours there. 

I'm no longer a member of Team Wholesale, which means I can lower my prices, keep more fragrances around, and have more customer interactions. (I'll still be servicing existing accounts for awhile, but no new accounts.)

I'm no longer a member of Team Retail Hours, which means the studio is purely for production and a tiny bit of a show room for any local will call orders.  

So, now that I have handed in my membership cards to these clubs I unwittingly joined, I get to focus on and participate more in the things that I truly love and have the energy for. This has been a huge step in repairing my self esteem and my outlook on running my own business. Sometimes you have to realize that nobody is forcing you at knife point to do any of these things, and stepping back is completely ok.

This blog will probably be a lot of entrepreneur therapy like this. A lot of admissions of guilt. And a way for me to get things off my chest. If you like, you can commiserate in the comments, and that's nice of you. More soon.