Many years ago, when my family was the only year round family on remote Gotts Island I actually did "Black Friday." Black Friday is literally going to a mall after Thanksgiving and buying stuff. I believe it came about because I listened to a talk radio station out of Boston. This is long before talk radio was so political, of course the station talked national and local politics but also covered many human interest stories, food, psychology. For me, it was background conversation while I worked alone in my log cabin. I'm sure I was influenced by all the ads for Black Friday- it seemed the thing to do.
So we headed ashore- no easy task- involving boats and our car. I have no idea what we bought. Probably broccoli and other fresh vegetables. It was crowded, we ate at a fast food joint and by the time we got home we were all cross and grumpy. That's my one and only Black Friday adventure.
This year, celebrate sustainably and slow down. There is no need to pile the family in the car, deal with hordes of people to buy cheap stuff made in China. There are so many other things to do.
#OptOutside was started by the outdoor gear company REI a few years ago. They are closed for business the Friday after Thanksgiving. REI's mission is to connect people with each other and nature instead of spending time shopping for bargains.
Another alternative to Black Friday is Buy Nothing Day. This began in Canada to highlight overconsumption. Instead of shopping the idea is to slow down and participate in a community event, get outside or even spend a bit of time doing what you love. It's a perfect day for some self care.
Both #OptOutside and Buy Nothing Day are movements and philosophies. We're a small business which depends on sales to survive. We understand how complex the world and economies are. We also knowing making choices about your purchases is a way to vote for the kind of economies and world you want.
9 Ideas for #OptOutside & Buy Nothing Day
1. Take a walk no matter what the weather is. Bundle up, put on rain boots or rub in the sunscreen- just get outside.
2. While outside pick up trash. There's nothing like picking up lots od single use plastic to help you make better buying choices.
3. Clean out a closet, cupboard or room and donate useable items to your local charity shop.
4. Write letters, postcards or call family and friends far away.
5. Make holiday cookies or gifts.
6. Read a book, play cards or do a puzzle.
7. Get some ART and visit a museum or gallery.
8. Dedicate some time to self care, give your self a facial, a hot soak in the tub or simply a bit of time doing whatever you love most.
9. No matter how you spend the day- do an activity that nourishes you and helps your community and environment.
We've joined the March Meet the Maker Movement created by English entrepreneur Joanne Hawker. It's a chance to tell our 2018 business story, make some connections, build some social media skills and have fun.
The challenge is very well designed and 2018 is the third year. She like many creative entrepreneurs was in the social media/creativity rut. A tough place to be! She started a month long challenge to show the different aspects of her business and asked others to join.
At Dulse & Rugosa we split the business jobs. Carly's is the actual maker. She starts by growing many of our botanicals and harvesting seaweed. She also makes by hand all our products. Then she wraps and packages everything.
Claire goes to markets, builds wholesale accounts, mails orders and is responsible for social media. At times social media feels like "speaking to the winds"-one of our favorite quotes by Gott Island author Ruth Moore. There are so many mornings when social media posting causes stress and makes me late.
Joanne has taken care of "posting stress" with a series of prompts. The prompts tell the story of your business.
Thank you Joanne and we can't wait to join others in building our creative community. Here's the link to Meet the Maker -
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?