We want to have a sustainable business.
A few years ago, we rethought our packaging. We replaced our cheap plastic jars and tubs with glass. This was an expensive process for us. The wholesale price for containers made out of plastic vs. glass or metal is considerable. The price difference is something that you can't pass on to consumers. There is also the price of mailing heavier containers. Plus companies like Amazon who offer free or reasonable shipping. I don't like to make purchases where the shipping cost more than the product. We also made a switch to more eco-friendly shipping materials. It shouldn't be a surprise that mailers made from recycled paper cost more than plastic ones. My point here is that our cost are greater for eco-friendly products but the price for our products has remained pretty much the same.
We are so thankful for the folks who support us. We make products that last a long time. That's part of our philosophy- purchase products that last. This is not the traditional "grow your business" path. Carly and I frequently have conversations about how to grow our business especially wholesale. One of our goals right now is to get our Seaweed Shampoo Bars into natural food shops and coops. She points out that because our bars last so long there isn't really a lot of turn over and that is something stores don't like. Even if it is a store with a Zero Waste philosophy they need customers to support them and the products they stock.
My point here is- it's complicated. We got an email the other day from a customer who was upset with us. She pointed out that we had a Zero Waste philosophy but we had sent them a postcard advertisement. I believe she was referring to a postcard I sent in Dec. I'll admit it was probably my most "ad-centered" and not personal postcard. It was a message to support small, local or indie business during the holiday season. Of course, we were thrilled if someone decided to support us but the general message was shop small. I made it a bit more "slick" because I had decided to send a card in Jan with a more personal message. When I'm addressing or stamping or decorating our "snail mail" I like to capture a bit of author Alice Hoffman's magic. Her characters infuse ordinary things with magical intentions. I'm not saying my postcards are magical but they do have good intentions.
I still like "real mail". It's partly my ties to Gotts Island. Mail is a big deal there and the little mail house helps build and connect community. When I lived overseas I had "postcard" buddies. Postcards where what I'd buy in airports. I just mailed a card of cheer to the mom of one of my grade school friends- she needs a bit of love. I also realize how complicated every action we take is and how there are always consequences.
We've tried so many different avenues to introduce people to our company. I know it's easy for people to say "just use social media". Social media is incredibly complicated and it's very hard for small businesses to make a dent when they compete against large companies with big budgets.
The social media sites are also businesses. In general, an average post is shown to about 2% of the people who like your page. If people "like" or comment on the post the reach does increase. You can also try to increase your reach by paying the social media company money to promote your post. FaceBook just changed it's rules again making it even harder for little companies like Dulse & Rugosa.
Another option is to join and participate in groups. I joined some Zero Waste FaceBook groups. I felt like I was a good group member. I "liked" and made relevant comments on posts and whenever someone asked about shampoo bars I would post a link to our website. One evening I got a message asking me "to not self-promote". They explained -
We just wanted to reach out to you to let you know that the group's rules around business posts have changed. Unfortunately, none of the Journey groups allows members to do any sort of promotion around their businesses, blogs associated with businesses or that have affiliate links etc etc etc.
I totally understood where they were coming from but the next day in the site's thread were posts about products from three big companies including posts about the wonders of Burt's Bees. This company actually started in Maine and is always the example used in entrepreneur classes. "Do you want to be another Burt's Bees?" We always answer "NO". I was so frustrated by this- Burt's Bees is a giant company owned by the multinational company Clorax. My take away from this is it's OK for big business to continue to get their products posted because they themselves are not actually doing the posting. It's coming from someone else- what's wrong is "self-promoting". Even thought it's social media- you have no idea who is actually doing the posting or how much money and influence is being spent encouraging and influencing folks.
I'm frustrated today- how can I grow a business that isn't perfect but also tries?