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 -
Carly and her Maine Man are getting married!
Planning any celebratory event means compromises, and weddings are no exception. It can be especially challenging if you want your event to be zero or low waste.
Our general advice is to do the best you can, don't be too hard on yourself for mistakes and remember every action- no matter how small is better than nothing.
When thinking about a special occasion outfit it's important to think long term. Whatever you decide to wear you should feel beautiful and comfortable. Look for a style that is timeless and has room for body changes. You know a year or two later- you might have gained or lost a few pounds. You want that outfit to still look and feel good.
I have a dress I bought years ago. I wore it often to fancy work events. I could change the look with jewelry. And I don't think it's necessary to always have a new outfit. The dress is lovely but the design is quite simple. I also use it for Halloween as it made a great "Evil Queen" when I was a primary teacher. Now with a few quick changes I can rock a mermaid at my October markets. It's comfortable enough to set up and sell and that's important because you want to get milage out of an outfit.
For Carly's wedding because we both like to sew we originally thought of making a dress. We spent hours looking a fabric and patterns but honestly I was a bit worried about the actual sewing. I love to sew but my skills are a bit random. Last June, we were at the Old Port Festival in downtown Portland, ME and around the corner was an Anthropologie. This brought back some sweet memories.
Many years ago, Carly was a science teacher in Texas and I worked overseas. I was visiting her and she told me she found the "perfect wedding dress" at Anthropologie. It was such a beautiful dress and it was on sale. We actually debated whether she should buy it. At the time she was single without a significant other and wondering what to do with her life. We decided it was a bit premature.
During the market we joked about going in and seeing if this shop had her wedding dress- and they did. She wanted something simple that was easy to embellish. Another important factor was the dress needed to be useful after the wedding. Neither one of us wanted to spend money on a single occasion dress.
Her dress has a bit of Marilyn Monroe flare which is perfect for her figure. She is busy embroidery a circle that she can attach to the dress. The only problem is- it's white. That's the traditional color for wedding dresses but so easy to stain. I figure she has two choices, she can dye it after the wedding to make it a soft neutral but not white color. Or every time it gets a stain add a bit of pizzaz with a piece of embroidery.
Some tips for a sustainable special occasion outfit-
Buy something that makes you look and feel beautiful
Look for a style that allows for body changes, gaining or loosing weight.
Shop thrift, resell or vintage either locally or online.
Support an indie business and hire someone to make a one of a kind outfit.
Make your own.
What are your tips for finding the perfect wannabe wasteless outfit?
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?