Saturday, January 31, 2009

Breaking news!

Two big announcements on the legal front regarding my last post. The handmade toy and kid's stuff community has gotten some good news. The Commission voted for a "Stay of Enforcement of Certain Testing and Certification Requirements of CPSIA" — which means that they are proposing a 1 year suspension of the burden of lead testing and certification while they take more time to review the rules and plan enforcement.

Press Release

And the FDA Globalization Act is now in discussion with new draft language that has changed drastically for the better. In this current draft of the proposed legislation, testing and registration for micro businesses will be voluntary and not require fees. Which is a huge relief to all of us in the indie beauty business. It's all still in development and they are still working on it, but all the petitions, letters and lobbying by everyone really seemed to work. We have become visible as a small cog in the business and industry world at least, where before we were invisible and unknown. So that's encouraging.

Happy Super Bowl weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kid stuff crafters in peril

Remember way back last August, when all of us in the indie beauty business were panicking about the dreaded FDA Globalization act, which would effectively shut down all the small soap, bath and beauty businesses in America with the stroke of a pen? I wrote about it here. Luckily, that's in limbo for now.

BUT, the same thing has already happened to another bunch of businesses. It's the handmade toy industry - but this new law is so bad that it covers everything made for children, including clothes too. I just heard about it from a friend who makes darling little aprons and skirts for girls. I had no idea that it happened, and it goes into effect Feb 10. There will be no more handmade children's clothing, toys, or accessories of any kind. Loads of businesses are having to shutter their doors.

It's not that I'm lazy, but I can't possibly explain the situation better than the Handmade Toy Alliance, so I'm linking to their site, but including the text here so you get a gist of it. I recommend that if you are interested, you head over and read more.

Quote: A Proposal From the

In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public's trust. They were selling toys containing dangerously high lead content, unsafe small parts, and chemicals that made kids sick.

The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in children's products, mandates third party testing and certification, and requires manufacturers of all goods for children under the age of 12, to permanently label each item with a date and batch number.

All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational companies to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each item have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and updating their systems to include batch labels. Small businesses however, will likely be driven out of business by the costs of mandatory testing, to the tune of as much as $4,000 or more per item. And the few larger manufacturers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

Anyone who produces or sells any of the following new or used items will be required to comply with the law: toys, books, clothing, art, educational supplies, materials for the learning disabled, bicycles, and more. Any uncertified item intended for children under the age of 12 will be considered contraband after February 10, 2009. It will be illegal to sell or give these items away to charities, and the government will require their destruction or permanent disposal, resulting in millions of tons of unnecessary waste, and placing an enormous strain on our landfills.

There is a clear disconnect between the sweeping nature of this law, and the narrow range of products that were problematic in 2007. The CPSIA applies standards that were put in place in reaction to the sale of toys contaminated with lead paint and toxic plastics. Rather than focus on these materials, this law places a guilty until proven innocent mentality on all children's product producers by imposing mandatory testing and certification, and in the process will kill an entire industry.

Thriving small businesses are crucial to the financial health of our nation. Let's amend the CPSIA so that all businesses large and small are able to comply and survive!

And if you'd like to do one more thing to help save the livelihoods of a bazillion little home-based businesses in America, head over to this petition to sign the following:

Reformation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) HR4040

We, the undersigned, believe that HR4040 unfairly targets small businesses that manufacture or sell products for children by implementing regulations that require redundant testing. Such requirements are excessive and cost prohibitive, retroactively impacting billions of dollars of current inventory. The current Act has circumvented the public discourse necessary to truly ascertain the CPSIA’s impact on small business.

It's heartbreaking to know that so many of my fellow indie crafters are being shut down by this stupid new federal regulation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Brrrrr, it's been so cold outside. And this morning we have a sprinkling of snow. Everything feels colorless, black and white, hushed and empty.

My big Ebay sale went pretty well last week. I sold almost everything I put up. I did not make much money for all that effort though. The cost to ship some of them were more than the actual sale price. And the time spent after the sale was huge too - to send invoices to the winners, keep checking back for payment, boxing it all up according to cheapest shipping charges, printing postage and labels, leaving feedback, countless emails back and forth. Then the fees. So many fees. Insertion fees, commission fees, percentages to Paypal, percentages to Ebay, upgrading my account at Paypal, more fees. Ugh. Obviously, it's a lot tougher to make money at this than people think. And a whole lot of work.

I'll do a bit more next month. I've got more stuff to get rid of. I'm taking a short break the first week of February, and there isn't time to do another auction between now and then. Especially because folks take their time to pay up, and then you're waiting around for days to ship them all off. This is not an instant gratification, cash in your pocket, endeavor. At least in my experience. I'm a total newbie, for sure, but I think I have a pretty good system already in place with all the mail order I do. Yet it still required endless time at the keyboard. Learning a new skill, I guess.

The spring mailing is going out February 9. It's about a week later than I usually do it. As I mentioned, I'm taking a short break, a few days off, and it doesn't make sense to send out a newsletter and then run. It's all really early anyway for spring flowers and thoughts of gardens coming back to life. It can certainly wait a week.

I've made a few changes to the website in the meantime. New header and new colors. A few of the latest updates to the calendar, though nothing shows up until April. It's going to be a slow start to the year as far as shows. But I've got plenty planned for this year. Lots of applications went out, and notifications won't arrive for a bit. There will as many of the usual as I can do, and a few new ones too.

eta: just some grammatical edits. i think i love the word "but" just a little too much. must watch that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In the mist

Or in the weeds. Or why I've been mostly AWOL.

Here's the scoop. I'm in the middle of a bunch of big projects, muddling around in a fog, in the midst of all this fog we've been having here, and not in any kind of mindset to chat cheerfully with my online gang. I apologize for the long breaks between posts, but it's probably going to continue for the next month or so.

The business - I'm trying so hard to get the spring stuff together, and it's not quite how I wanted it to go. I'm working on the newsletter, putting finishing touches on the new products and finalizing just one more soap scent.

But what is really messing things up, is that we decided to remodel the basement where my studio is located. I'm working on a refinance of the house, which is also running into obstacles as the market jumps around during this inauguration week. I'm trying to get contractor estimates and timing finished up, which is another headache. I'm also up to my armpits in clean up - a dozen years of just stuffing all the bits into little storage spots is now becoming overwhelming to empty out. All the leftover ribbons and containers and packaging pieces. And files and piles of ideas and experiments. I'm a visual person, so I like to have magazine pages and sketches and notes of ideas - some on the wall, some in folders, some in piles to go in folders or on the wall, or whatever. It's a long process of letting go of it all. And then there's Ebay.

I've bought plenty of things at Ebay over the years. But as much as I talked about selling my old stuff, I never got around to it. Now there's no choice - I just have to do it. So I thought I'd start small and do about 10 things for the first round. I gathered it all up. I took photos. Then took more photos because I didn't think they were good enough. Then I wrote a little introduction paragraph. Then I wrote little descriptions for each of them. Then I had to figure out the differences in all the forms for posting, work out the postage calculator wizard . . . which meant boxing it all up and then weighing each item. Then I started to do the actual posting. And realized that I needed to re-edit all the photos to a smaller size. And whoa. Suddenly, it's like two days later and I'm still glued to my chair and haven't showered. That Ebay thing is so time consuming, all for just a few bucks back, hopefully, if it sells and after they take out all the fees and commissions. It's not pretty.

A lot more stuff is going to just get pitched or sent off to Goodwill. The last couple of weeks have been a huge mess and I'm headed into a lot more. We're optimistically looking at February for the demolition and rebuild construction. By March I might have a space that actually functions that way it's supposed to, instead of a mouse in a maze running circles. That's the dream.

In between then, I'm taking a short vacation while the walls come down. And I'll be working out of the kitchen and the most awful packed-full dining room you've ever seen. I still need to re-locate my office into one tiny corner of my bedroom or something. It's going to be the biggest challenge ever. Especially because I'll be sending out my spring mailing in the middle of all that, and trying to do a flurry of orders while the place is demolished. And still be making a bunch of soap etc. Sounds like so much fun, eh? It just has to happen that way. I can't stop work - I need the money to be coming in now more than ever.

Oh, and I'm figuring out the whole show calendar for the year, prettying up my jury photos, filling out applications, and planning out the whole year ahead too. There are less spring shows this year than ever before. Not because I'm not doing them, but because the organizers aren't doing them - they just aren't happening at all. So it looks like April before I'll be back out on the road again. I'll need mail orders to survive. Oh, I hope this crazy plan works out. It's scary and hard work. I'll try to keep you up-to-date on the happenings - but not the play-by-play and the whining. I'll do all the whimpering and crying under the covers over here alone, kay? Send cookies.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Sale Items

January means big clean up at the studio.

This year, I'm going a little deeper. I'm planning ahead for a remodel of the basement area where my office and work space is located. It's a ways off. But I'm thinking ahead. And just starting to add items to the clearance sale page on the web site. There are a number of new sprays there. I'm adding the rest of the winter holiday soaps there too.

And all the big jars of bath salts are on sale too this month. The bath salts aren't really a clearance item. Don't worry, I'm not dumping the bath salts, and they will continue. I'm just putting them on a discount price this month for the heck of it. To boost sales and because it is sooooo the long, hot, soaking season. If there was ever a time to just relax in a tub of hot water, it's now, when the skies are gray and the winds are cold. So they are on the usual bath goods page of the site still. They are 25% off the usual price all month. And maybe longer. We'll see.

Check back often on that sale page. I'll hopefully be adding more soon. And I'll post a note here when I do. Have a great holiday weekend.

Friday, January 09, 2009

One dry day

It's quiet here. Well, actually I guess it's not really that quiet in the noise kind of way. It's quiet in the work kind of way. Just a few little orders dribbling in, and much of the end-of-year paperwork finished.

There is however, quite a bit of banging and shuffling and grunting going on. Major cleaning out. The rains have stopped, for a day. And we didn't need to be evacuated due to flooding here. Living on a big hill does have some benefits, even if it's hell during snow storms. But the basement leaks. Each time a bit more it seems. New little creeks and rivers showed up this week and meandered around to corners and under boxes. So I spent time moving stuff around, making little platforms for piles and eventually decided that I just had too much stuff stored down there.

I began small, starting with some boxes of old supplies and packaging that I haven't used in years. Ebay! I've never sold anything on Ebay, but it must be easy if millions of other people do it every day. I'll finally do it, I think. I'll spend days figuring out how to photograph it, write fabulous little blurbs that will be irresistable, and then post it up. After a week, when I don't get a nibble, or a single bid, I'll cry. But hope floats and maybe I'll make back a buck or two on the stuff that cost me quite a lot more at the time.

Then I started finding stuff I really needed to just pitch out - soap biz odds and ends that were so grime covered or out of date that they could never be used. So I started stuffing the trash can.

Then I started finding even more stuff - props and decorations that I once used but have moved on. Some will be donated, some sold at another show, all of it shuffled and moved around.

Then I moved on to the bedroom. I figured that if I was making a trip to Goodwill, I might as well toss in some old trousers.

Then this morning I decided to clean out my car. Major cleaning. Which is big, because it means that I can finally put the back 2 car seats in that were stacked in the corner of the study. Should have happened a month ago.

So that was just the first pass. No matter what kind of flooding we get next, I'm not going to get anything wet down there. But I do need to do another round of organizing. And if that Ebay thing works out, maybe I can sell off a bit more. Not only does hope float, but styrofoam peanuts do too.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy 2009!

It's back-to-work day. The parties are over, the gifts unwrapped, the decorations boxed up, the horns tooted. And now it's back to the everyday humdrum.

The beginning of January is always so drab, gray and boring. Just like any good vacation, I'm not coming back energized and revitalized. I had a bit more fun away from work than I am having today back in the office.

But I am well rested. I do have a bunch of new ideas for things I want to play with this year. I've got a list of new goals and am ready to get started. It's just that today is inventory day, wherein I tear apart the entire studio and count everything. It's necessary for taxes and just general keeping track. And it gives me a chance to see where I am and get clear on what needs to happen next. Priorities are good. The effort will help me clean up a bit around here too. It's just not that fun, yanno?

Then there will be the cleaning of the files, starting new records with a clean slate. And more soap making in earnest for the spring newsletter which is due out at the end of the month. Valentine's Day is so close.

Hope you all had a nice holiday break. The snow was really something, wasn't it? We won't be forgetting our "white Christmas" for a long, long time.