I had a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit unproductive, weekend. Well, unproductive as far as house projects go – very productive in hurricane preparedness.
At the very last minute I coerced my handmade business friend Rachel into visiting my favorite vineyard, Linden. The winery and vineyards are at the eastern base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and it was just a perfectly gorgeous, if slightly gray, day. On the way out we remarked that it might be our last chance to enjoy the fall foliage before Hurricane Sandy ripped the leaves off the trees, and we were right.
The wind’s blowing so hard now that the leaves are sure to be gone by tomorrow.
At Linden, we did the regular tasting as well as the in-depth cellar tasting (which is amazing). I’ve written about my respect for the owner and the awesomeness of the cellar tastings here, here and here – so I won’t repeat myself. With a fellow blogger by my side instead of Ryan, there was no one to censor me from taking a hundred photos. Please sit back and enjoy the virtual visit.
They’ve turned what could be a cold and unwelcoming cellar into a beautiful and enchanting space.
Again, this photo doesn’t do it justice. I accidentally used flash. It’s more lit by candlelight in real life.
In the cellar they have vases filled with the three different types of soil from the three different vineyards. So cool to see the major differences and hear how the different rock formations affect the water content and minerality (I think?) for the grapes.
Outside the fields and hills were breathtaking. All the grape vines were ablaze in different colors.
Some turned a deep burgundy hue like below, and others were glowing a golden yellow.
I believe the harvest is done, but a few small grape clusters remained on the vines here and there. We may or may not have sampled them.
Rachel taught me that you can indeed march around the vineyard, taking photos with wine in hand . . .
. . . as long as you hold your wine between your thighs like this:
Sunday I headed west again, this time for a mouth-watering and local-food brunch at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in the US.
The view from there was stunning as well. Hills, trees, and the Potomac River.
The owner and chef had both agreed on a menu that was slightly laced with hurricane humor – a small detail that I loved. You can’t take yourselves too seriously in this world.
The lights are flickering here, and I keep hitting “save” on this post – so I won’t ramble on about the deliciousness of the food. My words can’t do it justice anyway.
World’s Best Bloody Mary. Period. Top left: Chesapeake Bay Crab Fritters. Not pictured: Seared Scallops over toasted quinoa, green beans for my entree. The three of us shared the Chestnut Souffle with mocha ice cream, toasted nuts, and cognac anglaise – and oh my word, it was magical.
When I returned home we continued our hurricane prep (and I tweeted. . . a lot . . . ), and then all day today (Monday) I teleworked. Word is that Sandy just made landfall, so I’m going to hurry up and hit “publish” before we lose power. If you’re in the path of the storm, stay safe!
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Preface: It’s a gray Sunday morning and I sat down to write about how Ryan prepares for storms. . . and ended up rambling a little bit. I guess I was just in a story-telling mood.
Here in the Washington, DC area we’re preparing for a massive storm expected to hit later tonight on through Tuesday. Always ones to come up with a dramatic and catchy name, the media has dubbed this one a “Frankenstorm.” This monster of a weather event is apparently the collision of a strong hurricane and a nor’easter. Well that’s a new one to me (and apparently to everyone else, too!)
The news first made it to my ears on Friday afternoon. I was swamped at work but took a moment to email Ryan. I hate to be that person who goes overboard and floods the grocery store before a storm, but after some of the Derecho this summer that left many in our area without power for 4-5 days, I decided that we might as well be calmly prepared.
The main item of preparation for me is water. Having lived in Richmond with 2 large dogs and 2 cats when Hurricane Isobel crippled the city, it really sucked to be unprepared. I didn’t store water, and while everyone I knew (we were early 20’s) was stocking up on beer, I made sure to stock the freezer with ice cream. Dumbest. Idea. Ever.
Unfortunately, when the aftermath of Isobel had us without power and water for days, and downed trees and power lines cut off the roads around my apartment, I had to walk a mile to the grocery store to buy water for a) the toilet and b) the animals to drink. In the draining August heat, the animals were thirsty.
As for me? I didn’t even get to eat my ice cream. I kept the freezer shut hoping it would stay cold. That’s what my parents told me growing up. Unfortunately that only works for a short period of time. A week later, when I peeked at the freezer, I found that all the ice cream had melted, soaked through the containers, and spread out in an even layer all. over. the. freezer. What a mess.
With that experience in mind, I sent Ryan a note Friday suggesting that we prepare. My ideas: jugs of water, a plug for the bathtub so we could fill it with water, batteries, more prescription food for the cat.
His response? Probably a bit more thorough, and 10x more amusing:
I was shocked to see that Mow the Lawn was such a high priority to him, but apparently it was also a priority for every one of our neighbors, who were outside doing it on Saturday. They also apparently had to cross Blow the Leaves off their honey-do lists, so there are now massive piles of leaves on the curbs. Not sure how that’s going to help when the storm hits – in fact it may clog the drains just that much more.
So now it’s Sunday. Ryan’s mowed the lawn (not once, but twice) and discovered that when all the regular grocery stores, pharmacies, and Targets are sold out of bottled water on a Friday night, the Asian grocery stores are still fully stocked.In the mean time, I filled household containers with water and put them in the fridge. I also filled bowls with ice from our ice maker and put them in the freezer, because supposedly that will help things stay cold if we do lose power. We’ve stocked the pantry with some canned goods and extra dog treats, and Ryan put our hammock and outdoor lights and furniture away. All that’s left is for me to stock up on coffee. Thanks to my nifty little drip maker, I can make coffee when the power goes out.
If’ you’re in the area and you’d like useful advice on how to prepare for a hurricane / Frankenstorm, check out Christina’s post. Now if we’re done here, I must go call my parents.
They’re in Delaware, right where the latest forecasts show the hurricane making landfall. On Friday night they didn’t seem to think they needed to prepare. But with them both in their 70’s, I think a little preparation is called for. It’s funny how once you grow up you have to start parenting your parents.
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Today I’m thrilled to introduce a new blog series here at The Borrowed Abode, Handmade Business 101. Although I launched this site 3.5 years ago as a rental decorating blog, it’s come to represent a blend of decor, DIY, and small business, as 2 years ago I launched a part-time handmade business from my rented home.
In the time since my shop first launched (when it had a totally different name and mostly different product lineup) I’ve learned so much – and realized how many things I wish I’d known before I started! Now, two years later, I feel as though I’ve finally found my rhythm between Janery (my shop), this blog, my day job, and my social life.
8 Steps to Take Before Launching an Etsy Shop
These are the top things I figured out over time, the hard way – via trial and error. Lots of error. While that’s one way to grow as an entrepreneur, it would have been more efficient if I’d done, or at least considered, all of these items first!
1. Test Your Product
I’d hope this goes without saying, but my OCD tendencies forced me to include it on the list.
You do not want to sell new customers a product that is poorly designed, hard to use, or falls apart after one washing. This is the one thing I did well before launching my handmade business. Research and development is key to creating quality, dependable products. Its handmade nature doesn’t give you an excuse to skimp on quality!
Consider This: If you’ve got some products in mind, try giving them to friends and family to test out and provide feedback on. Ask them to be kind but honest. Oh, and if you do that? Make sure you’re gracious in receiving the positive or negative feedback!
2. Figure Out a Schedule
There’s more to running your business than just making that special product you feel so passionate about. Some, if not all, of the following activities will take more time than you ever imagined: Photographing your products, editing your photos, packaging & shipping, answering customer questions , and writing your product listings.
When Janery made its debut online, I thought I could get all my products photographed, edited, and listed in the shop in one day. Well, after spending a whole Sunday (‘til way past midnight, actually), I realized that I should have allowed at least an entire weekend, if not a week, for setting up the shop and listing everything.
Consider This: Try setting a schedule that balances the actual product creation time with the other activities mentioned above. If you work days, how about doing production one night, photo editing another, shipping another, and so on?
3. Create a Shipping System
When I first launched, shipping was my biggest weakness. I tried to use recycled and secondhand boxes that I had on hand, but quickly found that made weights and dimensions vary, which meant that I never knew how much it would cost to ship an item.
Set up a small shipping station in your home, even if it’s a box you slide under your bed when not in use. If your product weights will vary, purchase a small postal scale so you don’t have to run to the post office every time you need to estimate shipping for a product. If you have a set group of products whose weights don’t vary, package one of each and get a shipping cost estimate at the post office. This way you’ll know exactly what you need to charge your customers.
I have a spreadsheet that lists the weights and worst-case US shipping costs. That allowed me to set up accurate shipping profiles in Etsy. As for international shipping, you need to decide if you want to offer it. I only ship to Canada.
Consider This: If you aren’t armed with accurate shipping cost information for your products, you run the risk of undercharging and you can quickly lose a lot of profit!
4. Set Fair Prices
Speaking of shipping costs, you also need to calculate and set fair prices. Fair to you, I mean! Price your items high enough that you actually are able to make a profit. Don’t forget to take hidden costs into account, such as Etsy fees, PayPal fees, packaging costs, etc.
There are a lot of Etsy sellers who are underpricing their items in order to make more sales more quickly and – I guess – to try and be more competitive. I see this because they use some of the same fabrics I’ve bought through my wholesale account, so I know what the materials actually cost.
This is a topic that I’m going to discuss in depth in a future Handmade Business 101 post.
Consider This: When you set unreasonably low prices, you both devalue handmade products and your time! If you want to make minimum wage, you might as well do so while working for a corporation that offers health insurance and a 401-k!
5. Brand Yourself
Before you launch, take the time to make a high-resolution banner and avatar for your shop. A customer’s first impression goes a long way! Make sure it’s a good one.
Your shop banner and avatar don’t have to be fancy – but they must be clean and clear. Frankly, Etsy offers some free banner options and I think they’re perfectly fine. Much better, in fact, than having a grainy, poorly laid out homemade banner.
Consider this: You can make a banner using a colored background and two fonts: one for your shop name, and one for your tagline. That’s pretty much what I did for my first banner. If DIYing it is too daunting and you want to be unique, there are plenty of Etsy shops offering affordable graphics.
6. Register Your Business & Know the Tax Laws
Please, before you launch, arm yourself with information and register your small business. Not only is it advantageous for you – getting a tax ID number, or EIN, will help you set up wholesale accounts with suppliers – but also, it’s the legal way to go. It’s a heck of a lot easier to start your business legally than to try and fix it later on when the IRS hunts you down.
This is another topic where I could go on and on, but I’m going to keep it short and sweet.
Not sure where to start? Visit the Small Business Administration (SBA) website and you’ll find all sorts of beginner’s resources at your fingertips. They also have local resources in each state (District Offices) if you need more location-specific help.
7. Set Up a Bookkeeping System
Ah, finances and bookkeeping. It’s only slightly more interesting than small business tax law, I know. I recommend setting up a business checking account – it doesn’t take much to open one – so that you can keep your business finances separate from your personal finances. Trust me, it will make tax time so much easier!
Save all your receiptsfrom purchases of supplies, purchases of furniture, computers, or storage equipment for your business. Blog conference fees. Web hosting fees. Save receipts for Everything! Preferably in an organized manner. And did you know? The mileage you drive to and from any business function is tax-deductible. This includes emergency trips to the local craft store. So keep a log book in your car to record mileage.
Consider this: You have to have a tax ID number / EIN in order to open a business checking account, so see above.
8. Consider Custom Orders
Finally, think long and hard about whether or not you want to offer custom orders. If you do decide to accept them, figure out what your limitations and fees are. It’s totally fair to charge an additional fee for “custom”, because it takes more time away from your production schedule – primarily because of the increased amount of customer communication required.
In the beginning it’s easy to jump at the chance to do custom, because you need to “make money.” However, that time may be better spent on marketing or product creation.
Consider this: Which are you more excited about – creating products that you’ve designed, or working one-on-one with customers to create a unique, specific item for them? Neither answer is right or wrong – just different.
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Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! If you have any questions, or think I’ve left anything off the list, please comment and share your thoughts. I love hearing from you!!