4 Year End Money Moves - For Work at Home Moms

If you make money as a work at home mom, now is the time to add “taxes” to your endless list of things to do. While you should always consult a qualified tax professional to guide you in your self-employed tax obligations, there are four critical money-moves you should make before year-end, to maximize your work at home mom tax benefits.

Invest in your golden years. When you are a stay at home working mom, retirement is one area where Uncle Sam is on your side, so use the benefit to your advantage. Self-employed individuals can establish either a simplified employee pension plan (called a SEP-IRA), to make retirement contributions up to 25% of self-employment net earnings, or a SIMPLE IRA Plan, which allows for contributions up to $11,500 of your 2011 self-employed net earnings. Research plans thoroughly to determine which will suit your needs best, but compared to a traditional IRA (which has a maximum contribution of $5,000 or $6,000 depending on your age), the tax benefits are worth the research. You should also confirm when you can contribute for the 2011 tax year; many IRA plans allow for contributions until April of 2012, while 401K and 403(b) plans usually require that eligible funds be invested by December 31st of this year.

Wholesale Pricing Is Laying Your Foundation

This is the first of a three-part series on how to determine pricing for your bath and body products. This first post will discuss wholesale pricing, while the second and third posts will discuss retail pricing and craft show pricing, respectively.

Correct wholesale pricing is essential when selling to stores. Retailers depend on wholesalers to know their margins and bottom line. Wholesale pricing really is like laying your foundation.

Debbie May's Update from DC

I am back from Washington DC and wanted to provide you with an update.

Anne-Marie Faiola and I met with many members of Congress. We took pictures of how our customers make products as well as product samples. People we met with were very impressed to see how easy it was to make soap. When we presented them with industry demographics there were surprised to hear that there over 70,000 artisans/people/businesses making handmade cosmetics and over 50 suppliers serving the industry.

One high level staff person said:

“I am so appreciative that you have taken the time to travel to DC to educate members of Congress about your industry. I had no idea you existed and it is important we hear from you before it is too late and your industry is unintentionally hurt by legislation aimed at totally different issues. I can tell you that no one wants to put your customers out of business. We want them to be able to keep doing what they are doing. They are employing real Americans and helping their own lives.  It is industries like this that are holding this country together. Your customers are living or trying to live the American Dream.  We don't want to hurt that.”

Conquering the Fear of Rejection

For many small business owners getting their products and services into the hands of future customers is a challenge. Oftentimes, the number one reason for their struggle is the fear of rejection, which keeps them from stepping out to market their wares. 

If you are representing a product you probably use it yourself and believe in it with all your heart. It’s difficult to understand why everyone wouldn’t feel the same way. And inventors have poured blood, sweat and tears into developing their products, not to mention their life savings!  In both cases it’s natural to embrace your business as an extension of your very being. But to realize your dream of success, a separation of self and product is necessary.  A simple shift in mindset will give you the courage and commitment to step boldly into the world of sales and marketing and move your product into the hands of the many customers who await your goods!

Updated Industry Survey & Debbie May's Trip to DC

There are updated Handmade Cosmetic Industry Survey Results.

Click Here to view updated results

Click Here to take the survey (if you haven't already)

To date over 1900 respondents have completed the survey!

While I suspect this is a significant sampling of the industry, I will continue to update the results weekly for any changes.

I am happy to announce that Debbie May and Anne-Marie Faiola are together spending a very busy three days in Washington, DC next week. The purpose of the trip is:
  1. To conduct face to face meetings with legislators. We want to hear what they have to say, where new cosmetic bills are going and explain the potential impact on our industry. From preliminary talks, it is clear that no legislator wants to hurt our industry….frankly many don’t know we exist and don’t understand what we do. They want to help us but do not understand how they can help. This is where we plan to help the industry.
  2. To meet with influential members of congress that can help communicate and influence our position with legislators seeking direction.
  3. To network with organizations that may be of help to our industry. 
I want to personally thank you for participating in the survey. It helps us tremendously in providing insight into our industry.

In addition to the survey, Anne-Marie and I have agreed to pool our unique customer and sales data to help provide those in DC with an indication of industry size and economic impact. As you are aware, it is unusual for two competitors to share confidential business information. I hope it shows you how committed we both are to this industry.

If you have questions to comments, please feel free to email me at Debbie@WholesaleSuppliesPlus.com

Working Hard for Your Success!

Debbie May

Government Grants

What you need to know before applying for a grant

There’s a persistent myth that grants are available to pay for all sorts of things and that just about anybody can get one. That’s not surprising since the media are full of misleading ads promising nirvana once you get your “free money” from the government.

While it’s true that grants never have to be repaid, they are only approved for very specific purposes. They provide an efficient means for the government to invest in targeted areas of the economy.

While grants are a great deal if you can get one, the devil is in the details. They are rarely given to individuals, and most often they support an objective that benefits the general public. So, it’s not likely that you’ll receive a new grant to start or expand a private business. The most common grants are for development of public facilities, infrastructure, education improvements, and certain research projects.

Artisan Spotlight: Jacque Jones-Gross - face.body.feet

Like so many of our generation, I suppose, Jacque’s spark of inspiration came from Martha Stewart.

An exploration of the lifestyle diva’s bath tea recipe led her down the fragrant path and into the addictive world of handmade bath and body products. “I have always been an entrepreneur—never wanting to work for someone else—always wanting to have something that is mine. I've always had a thing for arts & crafts, but I never thought about it being something that I would actually start a business with.” Well, not until last spring.

Your Invited: New Cosmetic & Legislative Forum

Debbie May's Cosmetic & Legislative Forums

It is clear that once again things are going to heat up the first quarter of 2012.  I have several legislative trips to Washington DC set up  between now and the first of the year so that we can lay the groundwork for 2012. 

There is one bill I am trying to help improve and three draft bills I am hoping to influence so that our industry is not negatively impacted.

In an effort to put good information in your hands, I have started a dedicated forum for Cosmetic & Legislative topics.  This site will act as a clearing house for information on all state and federal cosmetic legislative topics.  It will store historical information that can be used in future dialogue.  It is my desire that the site is as transparent as possible and a place where you can find answers.

If you are interested in following legislative information for our industry, I hope you stop by and join the Cosmetic & Legislative Forum.  Consider posting questions and contributing to the content. 

You can view the new forum here:  http://cosmetic-legislation.debbiemay.com/

There is also a link at the top of the Debbie May.com website here.

Best Regards,

Debbie May

Artisan Spotlight: Katie Hart - Hart's Handmade Naturals

Katie Hart’s passion for soap and body scrub making grew out of her love for creative cooking. “I love to cook and love coming up with different recipes, and all the wonderful flavors that go well together. Soap-making is creativity at its finest: not only do I get to come up with wonderful exotic oil blends for the body butters and salves, but I get to figure out what essential oil blends evoke what mood.”
Although she’s kind of new on the scene she’s already learned a lot, not the least of which is “don’t put so much pressure on yourself; take each day as it comes.” She admits to being a bit ‘all over the board’ when she started. “I wanted to make too many different things—scrubs, bug spray, laundry detergents—and spent perhaps too much time and money on them. Now I know I need to narrow the focus.” She’s concentrating on sticking with core business and building those sales.

The Ins and Outs of Bankruptcy

The decision to file bankruptcy should not be taken lightly. Other options should be considered including debt settlement, debt consolidation, financial counseling, and additional income streams. Going bankrupt has many long-term consequences that can’t easily be undone.

If you’ve exhausted your options and can’t see a way out of your financial problems, consult with an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy. While bankruptcy is usually a measure of last resort, once undertaken it will shield you from creditors and may save your business.

There are three primary forms of bankruptcy which provide different approaches to resolving financial difficulties. Chapter 11 is not addressed in this article because it is used mostly by large corporations. Careful consideration should be given in deciding how you will file.

Artisan Spotlight: Diana Mueller - Bellaroma

The stars were certainly out in LA last weekend for the Emmy’s, and that includes in the gifting suite.
Diana Mueller is the owner and creator of Bellaroma –a natural skincare boutique (and Etsy shop) whose products were featured on display at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards Gift Lounge hosted by GBK and The Artisan Group. Her luxurious goods were included in 110 swag bags for the celebrities and members of the press. “Nasim Pedrad from SNL asked to take home my Grapeseed Banana Facial Scrub”, she beamed on her blog Monday morning. “I was also told that the Beverly Hills Hilton Spa loved my stuff and took one of my products too! I even got a Tweet from Niecy Nash!”

A Lasting Impression: Good vs. Bad

You leave one type of lasting impression when working with people; either a good impression or a bad impression. You may think that leaving a good impression is always the best and most desired result possible; that doing excellent work and then getting those coveted testimonials is the end-all prize. The rewards for any business just can’t get any better! Surely, there are no negative effects to leaving a good impression for anyone! Well, let’s take a look.

Positive Effects of a Good Impression

Setting aside the size of your business and whether you provide a product or a service, the benefits of you and your business leaving a good impression are many:

Artisan Spotlight: Katiebug's Handmade Bath & Body

As the mother of an infant child with eczema, Danielle was extremely concerned with the ingredients in the products she was using at home and on her children’s skin. She’d had an interest in herbology since she was a child and dreamed of putting what she’d learned to use in creating products of her own, that she could feel really good about using and sharing with others.

She directed that focus into Katiebug’s Handmade Bath & Body Products—named for the daughter which inspired her efforts.

Thinking of Taking on a Business Partner? Read This First

Two heads are better than one, right?

In many cases taking on a partner can be the best thing you can do for your artisan business – after all, it brings a whole new realm of possibilities including fresh marketing and product ideas, networking connections and it can even lighten your work load.

But before you jump into establishing a business partnership you need to consider both the pros and cons.

Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)

If you are engaged in the sale of products, it’s important to understand the provisions of the UCC. Its purpose is to facilitate sales and commercial transactions through the adoption of uniform rules across all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

States that enact the UCC have the option of altering the language to meet local customs and circumstances. While these changes are usually minor, be aware of the local rules and laws.
The focus of this discussion is Article 2, which has not been enacted by Louisiana. It has chosen to use its civil law to govern the sale of goods.

Expanding Your Product Line Into Cosmetics

Before you start a business and offer a product, stop and really consider how well you know that product. It may seem like a silly and totally unnecessary issue to think about, but some people dive head-first into a business and find themselves unemployed in less than six months. One reason is because they never fully explore the multilevel nature of their product.
 Looking Beyond The Surface

To expand your thinking and transcend your comfort zone, consider the cosmetics industry. While it may be totally unrelated to your niche, there are lessons to be learned. So keep a pad and pen handy to create a list of new insights.

The Top 5 Popular M&P Designs in 2011

Melt and pour soap artisans and entrepreneurs are creating such a wide range of soap designs, with new ideas brought to market every day. It’s part of the ease and beauty of working with melt and pour soap. Anything from Ninja themed to Froot Loops soaps  - you can find it on online. But what about the most popular designs? The ones that are selling over and over again online, at craft shows and in retail stores?

Whether you’re looking to add new soaps to your existing product line or start a new soap line you might want to take a look at the top five mold and visual designs in melt and pour soaps.  Combing websites like Etsy, Artfire and hundreds of Google results gave a clear indication of which designs are winning the popularity contest.  This time around we’re thinking beyond basic shapes (round, rectangle, square and oval) and looking at 2-D and 3D theme shapes.

Update on State of Massachusetts Bills: H01513 and H02361

As many of you are aware, two legislative bills have been introduced to the State of Massachusetts legislature.  Both have the possibility of impacting our industry.
Last week, I traveled to Boston for the purpose of meeting face to face with bill authors, legislators, committee members, and soap makers in our industry.  I had four meetings and found each of them to be cooperative, positive and encouraging. 
Today I submitted written testimony for these bills on behalf of Wholesale Supplies Plus.  I have included links to that testimony for your review. 

Top Myths (and Realities) of Working from a Home Studio

While there is some truth to the romantic notion of having a home studio (yes, you are free to wear your fuzzy slippers; yes, you can work your pajamas; and yes, you can start work at noon if you want), there are also some realities that you need to consider before moving your business into your home.

Here are some of the top myths (and gentle reminders of the realities) of having a working studio in your home:

Myth: You will be more productive in a home-based studio.
Reality:  Remember that you might be distracted by every other home related thing going on in the house, says Luann Udell www.luannudell.com, a full time artist and writer who works out of a renovated antique barn attached to her Keene, NH home: “I’m constantly answering the phone, making arrangements to get together with friends, doing dishes, doing a load of laundry,” says Udell.  Phone calls are a constant distraction she adds.  “People may hesitate to call you at your (out-of-home) studio where you are ‘officially’ at work, but they’ll call you in a heartbeat when they know you are at home.”

Maintaining Business Integrity

Whether you run a business locally or on a global scale, how you present your products and services to the business community at large says a lot about your personal integrity and the integrity of your business.

To “put yourself out there” means that, more than likely, you will be judged by everyone who views your ads or inquires about your product or service. Even if someone never does business with you, the fact that you advertise, have a client base, and ask those clients for referrals sends a message that you're open for business. And if there’s one element you want nailed down about how you approach business, it’s found in your integrity principles and how you apply them.

Artisan Spotlight: Mariann Smith - Just Bubbly

An artist and a seasoned crafts person with 24 years of wholesale and retail selling experience, Mariann Smith was an entrepreneur at an early age, opening her own dance studio at the age of 13. She always had a natural and artistic ability at every type crafting. Already established in the wholesale marketplace, soaping got under her skin when she added rubber duck-themed soaps as a consumable complement to her line of high-end baby gifts, goods, and furnishings. It wasn’t long until she jumped in with both feet, in 1994, when sales of the soaps overtook her other line. She had already developed her B to B network, and knew the ins and outs of the trade show circuit, so was already positioned for success as Just Bubbly was born.

8 Tips for Managing Your Time

Perhaps the most important asset of a business is your time, especially if you are a sole proprietor. How efficiently and effectively you use each workday will determine your success.

Here are some tips for making the most of your working hours. Many are obvious, but may require a conscious effort to make them a permanent part of your daily routine.

1. Review your “as is” condition – Take a look at the way you are currently doing things such as buying supplies, keeping the books, making products, and shipping to customers. This is your baseline of how you are using your time. Then ask yourself how you can improve the processes. For example, would a $25 financial software package reduce your accounting time by 50%? Can you save money by having your shipments picked up rather than delivering them to the shipper? While the cost of the shipper may go up, that may be more than offset by the time saved and applied to more productive tasks.

Artisan Spotlight: Kara Knox - Moka Chic

“Formulating recipes and mixing different butters and oils takes me to my uber happy place”, posts Kara Knox, of Moka Chic.

Keeping up a presence on Facebook is an important aspect of her business plan. “You have to update, but not inundate”, she says, about the need to stay in touch with her customers and fans. “It’s great to see when people share your link, or bookmark to your site. You know when you are doing something right.”

Doing it right is very important to Kara, who engaged in a lot of research and spent a lot of time in forums—talking to other Soapers—while developing her recipes and creating new products for her ever-expanding line. When she first began, she was surprised to learn that many of the ingredients contained in commercial products that consumers were buying to improve their skin could actually be detrimental. So, she set out to take control of the situation – starting with the products her own family used. She admits to staying up all night, mixing and testing—to get her formulations just right—and enlisting countless friends and family as testers. It was a recipe for success.

Candle Making Enthusiasts

Congratulations if you are a candle making enthusiast who has turned your favorite hobby into a successful business, but how much do you know about making candles? Do you know the history of your craft? Are you using only your natural talents in your business? Have you written articles or a book about it that you can offer to consumers at craft shows, through your mail order business, or via the Internet?

Brief History


The earliest known candles (221–206 B.C.) were made from whale fat by the Chinese. Candle making remained unknown until the early Middle Ages and became a guild craft in England and France by the 13th century. With their popularity, tallow (fat from cows or sheep) became the standard material used in European candles. During the colonial era, women used tallow, beeswax, and/or bayberry wax. The growth of the whaling industry in the late 18th century produced oil from sperm whales, desired because it was harder than tallow or beeswax and would not soften or bend in summer heat. Per historians, the first "standard candles" were made from spermaceti wax.

Tips for Creating Professional-Quality Web Videos

A YouTube video is not only a powerful and easily searchable way to market your products but it can show aspects of your work that can’t be revealed in still images, such as how your products are designed and made and even testimonials from satisfied customers.

While videos demonstrating your craft can be helpful to your business, you may not always have funds to hire a professional to create a video. However, the last thing you want to do is to make a video that make viewers cringe – or worse yet, click away – because of poor sound, lighting or camera techniques.

Hot Colors & Additives in the Melt and Pour Soap Market

Artisans and small businesses are offering some interesting melt and pour soaps this summer. As we know, glycerin soapmaking is an ever changing artform. That’s one of the reasons why there are new designs brought to market every day. It’s the beauty of melt and pour – the fact that it is so extremely versatile.  I’ve taken a spin on the internet, visiting Etsy, Artfire and small business websites to see what’s hot in melt and pour colors and additives.
Bright colors are taking the stage this summer in clear melt and pour, with lots of blues, greens, oranges, pinks and reds in both bar soaps and novelty shapes.  Whereas some of these are one-tone bars poured in single cavity molds, many designers are continuing to layer colors both horizontally as well as in vertical and angled layers in loaf molds and selling the sliced bars.

Forms of Business Ownership

Starting a new business is a daunting task, requiring a variety of important decisions. One of the most critical is determining what type of legal entity you should adopt. The various forms of business organization are established by the states, but there is substantial similarity among them. This article focuses on the six options that determine your federal tax liability under the Internal Revenue Code:
  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Corporation
  • S-Corporation
  • Trust
  • Nonprofit Organization
Another option, the Limited Liability Company (LLC), is a state designation that is normally taxed as a partnership at the federal level. It provides a blend of the limited liability of a corporation with the pass-through income of a partnership.

Why You Should Promote Your Online Business – Offline

Why You Should Promote Your Online Business – Offline

If you run an online artisan business, or conduct sales of art or crafts through the Internet, you may forget there’s a whole marketing world you are missing. While you may be search engine savvy, you’ll miss many “real world” marketing opportunities if you fail to use off-line strategies to promote your online presence.  

There are many offline marketing techniques that may seem “old school” – such as print, radio and television advertising – but they work. If you don’t have the budget for this kind of advertising, there is a lot more you can do to get your name out in the “real world” inexpensively.  Here are a few creative ideas:

Artisan Spotlight: Mary Kroll - Wild Heaven Farm

For Mary Kroll of Wild Heaven Farm, building her business has truly been a team effort. Her team? A herd of seven goats!

She’d grown up on a goat and chicken homestead, so to keep goats on her own farm was an easy decision. The plan was to make and sell bottled milk and cheese but, after learning about dairy industry requirements, she decided to teach herself how to make soap.

Exporting Your Products

The potential for international sales and profits is very attractive if you are looking to expand. Before making this leap, take a hard look at what you are currently doing and validate that this is something you can undertake without hurting your ongoing business.

Your existing products may not be eligible for sale in some countries based on local laws, customs, or trade barriers. Step one should be to determine where you can export and if your products need to be modified or adapted for the markets you select.

Keep It R A D When Stress Hits

The answer to keeping it light when stress hits your business, or any part of your life, is RAD: Release And Deflect. If you've been in business for any length of time, and certainly if you are new to the business scene, you've probably had your share of stress in the form of anxiety or tension, aches or pains, eating problems or sleepless nights. You can consider yourself a seasoned business owner if you've experienced all of these dubious benefits.

“The News” Is Just Too Depressing!

Taking a break and watching the news these days is definitely not relaxing or refreshing to most people’s mind or spirit. When your schedule is so busy that you're grabbing for snippets of peace wherever, whenever and however you can grab them, one of the last things you want to suddenly face is anything that puts you in a tailspin toward more stress.

What's Your Online Reputation?

If you don’t think your small artisan business has an online “reputation” – note that all the tweets, postings, links, and so on, that you’ve been accumulating online over the years have been painting an informational picture of your business.

Here’s a question for you: Is it a positive picture?

A recent study showed that 24 percent of online consumers were turned off after reading just two negative reviews. (http://www.bizreport.com/2011/04/27-of-consumers-turned-off-by-just-two-negative-online-revie.html). According to research commissioned by Microsoft http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/reputation.aspx, 79 percent of the U.S. hiring managers and job recruiters review online reputation information when considering job applicants; 70 percent of the managers in this study have rejected candidates based on inappropriate photos, videos, comments, and a questionable lifestyle.

Checklist For Going Into Business

Starting a new business is an exciting challenge, but can be risky if you aren’t fully prepared. Success starts with the entrepreneur and your willingness to work hard and persevere. The right attitude can make or break a business.

It also helps to understand your strengths and weaknesses relative to the business you are creating. Your odds are better if you choose a business that fits your experience, skills and educational background, and it’s something you really enjoy.

Here are a few tips to help prepare for that giant step into opening your new business:

Put Your Best Business Foot Forward

Putting your best business foot forward can be difficult, especially when you're just starting out. But if you follow the right processes through research, by comparing and contrasting your product or service with your competition, and in your ability to deliver your very best efforts in every respect, then chances are you are on your way to success as a business owner. The journey can be overwhelming and, in reality, is never as easy as you plan or expect it to be.

Get a Grip!

The first rule of thumb to remember is – Don’t Panic! Woven throughout your enthusiasm, self-confidence, determination and excellent preparations, panic does exist. You can tell yourself, “I have everything under control…well, as much as I can,” but having total control over your business is something of a myth. Why? Because in business you rely on others for your success. It doesn’t matter if you are a one-person show or have a staff of fifty. If you fail to deliver the goods, you are destined to remain an unknown in business.

Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make

I love to read and learn.  From time to time I come across articles on the Internet that make me pause and say "this author is so right!"

Today I read this article so I wanted to send our readers a link.  The article is quick, concise and right on the money.  It is great for any small business owner.  Here is the link:

Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make
Authored By Tammy Livingston

This article was written by Debbie May.  Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Negotiating for Success

The ability to negotiate may be one of the most important skills needed to run a successful business. Everything you buy or sell should be considered negotiable, including your rent, office supplies, products, maintenance costs, and employee salaries and benefits.

Many people are reluctant to negotiate because they fear that they will be viewed as being cheap or uncooperative. Some just don’t like confrontation and would prefer to take the path of least resistance. If you want to maximize your profit, put those thoughts out of your mind.

Repeal of the Form 1099 Reporting Requirement

Businesses large and small have been concerned about the language in the new Federal Healthcare Reform Legislation requiring businesses to file paperwork reporting for each customer making purchases of $600 or more in 2012.
I am pleased to report that there has been a successful effort to repeal the form 1099 reporting requirement.  Here is a summary of the effort:

Is Email Robbing You of Time (and Money)?

Obsessively checking email may seem harmless. You may say even say it is beneficial in helping you “keep in touch” with clients and customers.  But is it really? Can excessive email-checking be making your artisan business unproductive?

Many experts say that if you are checking your email several times an hour, reading every message that pops into your inbox, responding instantly to every email message or text, or use email instead of phone, it could be that email is taking over your business life. And it could be silently robbing you of time – and money.

How to Avoid the E-Rabbit Hole

Tim Ferris, author of the book, “The 4-Hour Workweek” says that email is “…the greatest single interruption in the modern world.”  He recommends scaling down obsessive e-mail checking to once a day (he’s weaned himself off of email to the point of only having to check once a week).

Artisan Spotlight: Merryn Oliveira - Body by M

Like so many artisan crafters, Merryn Oliveira is very much in tune with the idea of “buying local”, and supporting one’s local economy. And she likes to give some of it back.

“My husband and I both went to public schools, so when the budget crisis created school funding issues, we wanted to be able to help.” Body by M has partnered with the Alameda Education Foundation to help raise funds to maintain programs in the arts, athletics, and other enrichments at her area school(s). 30% of selected items on her website benefit the project.

Internet Marketing and Communication

The internet opened up a whole new world, especially for small business entrepreneurs. Businesses have sprung up that would not have been possible before the internet came on the scene. It has also allowed businesses to mount advertising campaigns in a virtual world in which you control where and when the ads will appear and how much you are willing to pay for them.

This article explores some of the avenues that you might consider to promote your business online. The mention of specific services by brand name does not constitute an endorsement by the author or publisher of this article.

Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild, Inc. Lives the American Dream

On May 18-20, 2011, the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild, Inc. will assemble in Miami to celebrate its 14th Annual Conference as attendees continue to live the American dream of owning their own business. Approximately 300 members and non-members will convene to attend hands-on craft classes, demonstrations and workshops in soapmaking and other craft specialties and to hear expert speakers in their respective fields.

Artisan Spotlight: Liana Spiegel - Marmalade Hills

“Nurture your skin with nature”

As a new mom, Liana Spiegel was very concerned with creating a healthy environment and diet for her family, by incorporating better quality foods and products into their lifestyle. It was 2006 and her father's recent passing from skin cancer brought it all into even sharper focus.

Looking for a New Niche? Specialty Tea Craze Is Heating Up

There is a gourmet tea craze creating quite a stir in the U.S. these days. Specialty tea sales are soaring in retail and specialty stores as well as food service outlets. Americans are sipping these premium varieties – and willing to pay a premium price - in both hot and cold fashion. Consumers are drinking tea for health benefits as well as for its trendiness. But it looks like this trend is here to stay.

“If anyone believes that the United States Tea Industry is not undergoing a dramatic period of change, they should take a quick tour of their local supermarket and observe what is happening. Even within this single distribution channel, change is pervasive and immediately apparent,” says Joseph P. Simrany, President of the Tea Association of the U.S. (http://www.teausa.com/).

Expand Your Business: Become the “Author” of Your Talent

Congratulations! After spending numerous hours, months and years thinking about who you are and what you're all about, you’ve finally discovered your passion, perfected your talents, and turned your hobby into a business. You've done your homework and effectively overcome many new business rough spots, and you've committed to a schedule of trade shows for awhile now. Yet, despite the sense of accomplishment and the success you've gained so far, there’s a gnawing feeling of “What’s next?” Now may be the perfect time to become an author!

Artisan Spotlight: Laura Winward - Waves of Creation

Research is Key

“I was like a dog on a pork chop”, says Laura Winward in describing her zeal for finding out everything she could about what goes into creating your own line of bath and body products.

She’d been creating since she was a child. Along the way, she started making candles and it was at shows that she was inspired by the quality of the personal care products being offered by her fellow crafters. With a day job as a research biologist it was in her nature to dig deep and learn all she could about how to make her own, wishing to add items to her product line to include in gift baskets. From there, it wasn’t long until she grew into a 700 square-foot work space, and – three years ago – opened her own store.

Genuine Networking That Works

Do networking events feel phony, and eerily predatory? Do you feel that everyone is out to promote themselves or move the conversation to a sales pitch? Do you have to do the same to “fit in”?

While business networking events can sometimes feel awkward to artisans, you don’t have to jump on the hard-sell bandwagon to make networking work for you. In fact, you will reap greater benefits – and bring a breath of fresh air to those you interact with -- by being a “genuine networker,” that is, someone more interested in building connections and relationships than racking up a stack of business cards.

Gourmet Butters Offer An Added Profit to Products

Gourmet Blended Butters Offer Extra Value and Mark Up to Creams, Butters, Scrubs and More

New gourmet blended butters for bath and body products have hit the market at a time when consumer demand continues to rise for fresh, nature-inspired ingredients. The names sound good enough to eat: lemon, lime, coffee, blueberry, cranberry butters and more. They are easy to incorporate into a wide range of products: lotions, body butters, balms, soaps and scrubs. In addition, these butters can add value to products, and as a result, a potential for increased profits.

What do these new butters offer? Many of them contain healing extracts and herbs, and naturally include powerful antioxidants. Cranberry Butter, for example, touts the high antioxidant properties of the popular little berry. In addition, it is said to help reduce inflammation and effective in the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. A quick online search result shows that bath and body companies of all sizes are including these cranberry butters body butters and scrubs.

Money Management & Cash Flow

Your business is up and running and money is starting to come in. You are paying your bills and placing new orders for supplies. Things are looking pretty good, but are you really making any money? Are you actually turning a profit?

The size of your business has a lot to do with how you track your finances. But even if you are a one-person operation, a disciplined approach to money management is critical to your success. Once you adopt such an approach, it’s a fairly simple task to keep things up-to-date.

February - How Does Your Business Rate in Heart Health Month?

February is heart health month, a great time to review what you know about heart attacks and heart health risks, but it’s also a good time to review your business to rate its health. Even though you may have revamped your business somewhat at the beginning of the year, it’s always wise to keep your finger on the pulse of things and do unscheduled as well as scheduled reviews to make sure you're headed in the direction you want your business to go.   

Let’s review our knowledge of heart attacks and how we evaluate them, and then apply a similar approach to rate business. These impromptu business reviews can be used anytime throughout the year.

Small Business Jobs Act of 2010

An important piece of legislation affecting small businesses was signed into law on September 27, 2010. The Small Business Jobs Act contains a variety of provisions designed to help small businesses to invest, expand, and add jobs.

This article provides a summary of the highlights of this new law: