The Indie Experience
October 12, 2009
A Publication of The Indie Business Network
ISSN 1530-9630 | Volume 10, Issue 24
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1. Notes and Highlights From dM, the Chief Executive
2. Meet Our New and Renewing IBN Members
3. Where's dM?: Seminars and Events With dM!
4. Today's Indie Business Radio Show: Shel Israel, author of "Twitterville"
5. Featured IBN Member: Marge Clark :: Nature's Gift :: Tennessee
6. Indie and Small Business Resources
7. About dM, the Chief Executive Indie
Being native Washingtonians, my husband and I are rabid Washington Reskins fans. I grew up sitting on my father's knee screaming out lungs out every Sunday afternoon. Win or lose my dad was always happy to see the Redskins play a football game. The muddier, dirtier and grimier, the better.
As you may know, my beloved 'Skins were completely humiliated on the field yesterday. After leading 17-2 at halftime, they came out of the locker room and ended up losing the game 20-17. What a bummer.
It reminds me of how business is sometimes. We come out of the blocks strong, and then something happens to make us lose our stride somehow. Maybe the product we launched turned out to be a dud. Maybe the website malfunctioned on opening day. Or maybe a competitor simply does a better job and we have to go back to square one.
Whatever the case, like the Redskins, Panthers and every other professional team in business, we can't let the lows get us down too low. Like the 'Skins are likely doing right now, we have to review the tapes, revise our strategy and prepare for the next competition.
If the 'Skins are somewhere moaning and groaning about how unfair the refs were, how tired they were from travel to an away game or how hard it is to play injured, they will lose their next game, regardless of who the opponent is.
The truth is that, in business, if you have a quality product or service and you are prepared to enter the game, the only thing that can stop you from being profitable and succeeding is yourself. Sometimes, we just don't want to work hard or long enough to win the game. Sometimes, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of something we love that's just too hard to make a living doing. Other times, we just decide to do something else.
Either way, it all starts in the mind of the Indie leading the charge. Research and plan well, manage your money well and use technology to get the word out and you are way more likely to win the game every time! I blogged a bit about the importance of research, money and technology in this blog post. Be sure to read the comments too -- they are great!
Valana Minerals | Valerie Reed | California
* Member Since October 2007. Valana Minerals creates all natural mineral and vegan makeup formulated for women of color. The color palate contains rich, deep colors that coordinate well with tan and brown skin. Our products contain beneficial ingredients, vegan lip colors and amazingly soft synthetic cosmetic brushes. Our philosophy mandates high quality products, education on safe cosmetic ingredients and application tutorials. Each of these aspects of Valana Minerals makes our company a unique addition to the cosmetic industry.
Home Apothecary | Christine Geraghty | Missouri
* Member Since September 2008. Boutique soy candles, diffusers, body scrubs and other fine quality products for the bath and the body.
The Shanti Project | Jessica Gulati |
* Member since October 2006. Bath and bodycare products.
Smell No Evil | Allison Kontour | Ohio
* Member Since October 2007. BathBodySupply.com provides a wide selection of supplies including sea salts, bulk skincare bases, fragrance & essential oils, exotic butters, vegetable oils, additives, chemicals, waxes, packaging, containers & accessories. We specialize in customizing our bulk bases from a wide selection of stock additives! Whether you require raw materials or want to save time by ordering a customized base, we have what you need to get the job done!
Kaja Naturals | Karolina Burtt | New Hampshire
* Kaja Naturals handcrafts natural and vegan body care products.
Simply Vanilla Scents | Marsha Travers
| North Carolina
* At Simply Vanilla Scents we make hand poured all natural soy candles, reed diffusers, potpourri, dead sea bath salts, dead sea body scrubs and cold press natural soaps.
Essential Stress Melts | Debbie Rude | Florida
* Essential Stress Melts for the Soul provides the highest quality products candles and melts to you at the most affordable prices. We only use pure premium soy wax and premium fragrances to the max to create a relaxing environment no matter where you are. Our environmentally friendly, dye-free and lead-free products create an Oh My Gosh moment every time you experience them. Clean, quality products for your most important asset - YOU!
Patti's Potions Natural Soaps, Ltd., | Patti Eder | Wisconsin
* Member Since April 2005. Patti's Potions is your reliable source for natural, handcrafted, environmentally friendly soaps, lotions, balms, and home fragrance products. This is a woman-owned and family-run business..
La Vita Organics | Maurene Mongan | California
* La Vita Organics formulates highly active and extremely effective skin care products. We believe that the best quality skin care should not only produce great results but also be affordable. All the products in our line are organic or natural. They are made especially with you in mind. Our formulas are known for their healing and rejuvenating properties, and are essential in supporting your skins health - allowing your skin to be naturally healthy and radiant.
Little Spirit Products | Angelia Baldwin |
* Our hair & body products speak for themselves, in the silky skin and happy hair of our satisfied customers. Our goodies are designed with a focus not only on aesthetics and styling, but the nourishment and health of hair & skin.
Here are some other exciting things coming up!
Today's Indie Business Radio: My guest will be Shel Israel, author of "Twitterville" More about today's show, and how you can listen and chat live, here.
dM on "WAHM With Vonetta Booker-Brown": 10/15/09 at 8:00pm EST. I'll be sharing my most insightful experiences and tips for working at home while also managing a home and a family at home! Learn more and register at this link.
dM on "Online Marketing With RSS Ray". Ray will interview me on "The 7 Characteristics of Highly Effective Twitter Pages and the Importance of Twitter Follower Numbers" on 10/28/09 at 1:00pm EST.
< --- Featured photo: Shel Israel, author and today's radio show guest
Shel Israel, author of "Twitterville," joinst us to share how your business can thrive in the new global neighborhood.
Indie Business Radio airs live every Monday at 1:00pm EST. There are two ways to join the live show:
Listen Only: Click here at 1:00pm EST and follow the instructions to choose your audio player.
Listen and Chat: Once you activate your audio player (above), you can join us for the accompanying live chat on Savorchat at 1:00pm EST. Just click the link, sign in using your Twitter or FaceBook account, and you can join us live!
Visit the Indie Business Radio Show 2009 Archives to enjoy past shows. You can also subscribe to the show on iTunes by searching on Indie Business Radio.
dM: How did you start your business and what was the inspiration for it?
Marge: It rather started as a business by accident. The healing powers of my beloved essential oils, and online communications, had been my two passions for years. I had been creating blends and products for friends. They would want more. I'd need to charge them for the ingredients in order to order more. Eventually folks started saying "This is really good, you should be selling it!" and that's where my passion for online communication came in. Although I had been involved in various online communications formats for years, the WWW was totally new to me. I became enthralled with the concept of web pages, and determined to learn how to create my own. "I can do this!" A prolonged period of disability gave me the opportunity to grow and learn in both fields. When the two passions came together - Nature's Gift was born!
dM: What is your professional background or prior work experience help prepare you for entrepreneurship?
Not sure how it did...other than the fact that I did learn a lot of computer skills as an office manager, and they have, of course, helped in a 'behind the scenes' role. And I determined that I would never again have a long commute to work! ;)
dM: What are some of the things you did in advance of starting your business that have helped make it successful?
Marge: Again, the period of disability gave me time to learn. To read every book on Aromatherapy and the oils that was available in the early 90's. (Precious few, as I remember!) I was in contact with a group of experts who were so generous in sharing their knowledge with the newcomers.
dM: What's your niche?
Marge: My niche is Clinical Aromatherapy. Our target market is the health care professionals. Our oils are used in hospitals, pharmacies, hospices, even some of the VA hospitals. For me, it's about healing, on every level, physical, emotional, spiritual. I continue to be in awe of the healing power of the oils, and receive almost daily evidence that what we do can make a difference in people's lives. A goodly share of our retail business is made up of nurses, doctors, massage therapists, etc, and the bulk of our wholesale sales are to hospitals.
My customer base is primarily retail, I would guess about 85%, wholesale to pharmacies, hospitals, some health food stores, spas, etc. We have one doctor, for example, who will order 50 jars of our Baby Bottom Balm at a time, for her patients.
dM: Tell me a little about what is so wonderful about aromatherapy.
Marge: What is so wonderful? The power of the oils, pure and simple. Used appropriately and with respect for their power, they can have wonderful healing effects on the body, mind and spirit. I want to share one anecdote. You know we offer a suite of products laboratory tested to be effective against MRSA. This is an anecdote from perhaps a couple of years ago, shared by the registered nurse who helped develop the MERCY products. A young woman was several months pregnant; developed MRSA on her inner thighs and labia. The anti-MRSA meds were contra-indicated because they would harm to the baby. She was basically told that she would have to live with it until she delivered, and must have a C-Section to prevent infecting the baby. Our RN shared our Mercy BodyWash and Treatment gel with her. Four months later, the young woman gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby, by natural childbirth. Skin-scrapings showed the MRSA was gone, so she was allowed to deliver vaginally. THIS is the power of aromatherapy.
Okay...two anecdotes. Just this week I blogged an e-mail from a client who
used our Calophyllum inophyllum oil and ravensara to successfully remove the
lesions from Karposi's Sarcoma. Tell me that isn't wonderful? You can read
more about these anecdotal experiences
dM: What are some of your most popular products, and why do customers say they like them?
Marge: It varies,. Currently,
the anti-viral oils, and our anti-viral blends and products, Kleenhandz (an
aloe based hand gel containing anti-viral and anti-bacterial oils. Of course
we aren't allowed to call it a hand sanitizer ;), and FluFoil, again, a
blend of anti-virals for inhalation only. Year in and year out, I would say
our Helichrysum Essential oil, from Corsica, is always among our top five
sellers, despite its price. You may read comments about it on our
helichrysum healing page. http://www.naturesgift.com/HelichrysumHealing.htm.
For practical purposes, our SkeeterBeater is a year round strong seller. Having an African Safari Guide recommend it to all his clients has certainly helped. A client named Michelle, from Washington State recently wrote: "I just wanted to say how wonderful this product was while I was in East Africa. I used the gel and it repelled the tse tse flies and mosquitoes incredibly. The only bite I got was on the darn airplane on the flight back to Amsterdam--the one day I didn't apply the Skeeter Beater. Thanks for a wonderful product!"
For "luxury products" or self nurturing, our Cleopatra's Secret line, for mature skin, sells very strongly, as does our pampering and nurturing Rose Bliss Bath. Very much an "expensive, but I'm WORTH IT" sort of product.
dM: What's new and exciting with your business these days?
Marge: All sorts of ideas not yet come to fruition. Reformulating some products. Finally found the distiller of the Palo Santo essential oil that I experienced on my trip out west. (An amazing wood oil that gave me goose bumps it's so powerful!) Met a new distiller whose oils made me fell in love. He doesn't want to offer them in bulk so we may end up offering the products he creates with them on our site. I love them and think they need a much larger audience than he has. We feel as though something has tilted in the universe, and although the economic woes still keep things slow...that all sorts of amazing doors are about to open. An exciting time!
dM: What sort of social media do you use in your business and why?
Marge: I *love* Facebook, and that's after years of dragging my feet and digging in my heels and refusing to even look at it. I find it the best way to have immediate interaction and feedback from our clients and friends. Ask for input and get 1/2 dozen answers in a few minutes. What more could you ask? I'm less enthralled with Twitter; in honesty since I got involved with Facebook, I seldom remember to check it. I sometimes enjoy blogging; but when the creative juices aren't flowing, the blog can seem burdensome. When there's lots to say, on the other hand, it's fun!
dM: Who helps your business be successful?
Marge: A truly *wonderful* staff, loyal and supportive clients, great sources! The mentors who are still ready to answer questions after all this time. YOU (dM), with your constant encouragement ;) My three adult children are supportive of the business, but none are involved with it. My dream is for my daughter to give up the office manager position she holds in Northern Virginia and move back to Nashville, learn Aromatherapy and take over Nature's Gift. It is most emphatically not her dream though.
dM: What tips can you offer other small and independent business owners?
Marge: Unless you are absolutely CONSUMED with what you want to do, unless you can eat and breath it, dream about it... don't even try. I'm remembering the first three years, when we consistently lost money. Had I not loved what I was doing, there was no way I could have continued.
Trust your instincts. If the voice in your head says there's something quite not right here... listen to it. By the same token, don't let fear of the unknown let you refuse new challenges (that may contain huge growth opportunities!)
Don't be afraid to ask questions..how else are you going to learn. (Remember, my book was dedicated to the mentors who answered all my (dumb) questions in the early years, and helped me grow.
Don't EVER cut corners on quality. There are two areas where, whenever I made a decision based on price alone, that I ALWAYS regretted it. The first is the essential oils that are the lifeblood of Nature's Gift, the second is computer hardware. Invest what you need to to get the BEST raw materials for your products. Because if the raw materials are mediocre, how can the final product be stellar?
Know when to say "I made a mistake" and do the best you can to clean up the mess (or cut your losses). And be HONEST with your clients and your suppliers. Keep them informed. If an order is going to be delayed a week, TELL THEM. Give them options. Communicate. (Whew... I didn't know I had anything to say on that one!)
dM: How did you discover the Indie Business Network and what do you think of your membership?
Marge: DonnaMaria, that's a hard question to answer. I feel as though I've known you forever and a day...we first met at some conference, somewhere, prior to the founding of the Indie Business Network, and, I think, even prior to the Handmade Beauty Network... I remember you had a stunning Clary Sage, and it took me six months to track down your source so I could make it available to our clients. I remember raving about your book when it first came out (still one of the best selling of the books on our "Amazon recommended list" btw.) Do I enjoy it? Yes. I learn from your sense of adventure, and exploring. I wish I had more time, for example, to participate in your conference calls, etc. I think you offer wonderful advice on "growing" one's business. I often feel that some of the goals of many of the members are...contradictory? to our goals. We are truly more into healing than some of the other members. But it's a difference in focus. Some of the things I'm thinking of you may already offer. Help/advice with trademarking, and with trademark infringement. I'm thinking ... ways to navigate around the FDA limitations..which reminds me...the work you have done over the past two years re the FDA proposals has been *wonderful*!!! I think everyone in the aromatherapy "industries"...the cottage soap and cosmetics makers... a whole wide range of people owe you a tremendous thank you.
dM: What do you think are the best things about being Indie?
Marge: Being able to act on a decision (or a hunch) without having to go through 27 layers of corporate red tape. I posted one on the Indie site... our spur of the moment to donate AT items to the troops. 50 of this, 50 of that, 50 of something else. We just DID it... because we felt it was something we should. A blessing and a curse, being able to make decisions. There are a lot of times that I wish someone else would take the responsibility... but when the day comes that I have to give it up, I'll probably spend all my time second guessing them. OH..and there's much to be said to being able to place orders and answer clients' emailed questions, (or interview questions!) in your jammies! (big grin!)
dM: How has owning a business enhanced your life? Any regrets?
In more ways than I can name. It has rewarded me with, most of all, the
knowledge that what we do is worthwhile, that we make a difference in the
quality of life of so many people. It has given me the confidence that I
always lacked, the validation I never found in "prior incarnations"... I
never considered myself a "creative" person; I always envied those who could
make music, or write really meaningful poetry. But, the truth of the matter
is that I created Nature's Gift, I wrote the web pages, for better or
worse, it is a reflection of the best of me. Who, working in a 9 to 5 job, has that reward? I always wanted to be a healer, one of my childhood dreams was to be a nurse. That didn't happen, but today we've been privileged to take part in the healing journeys of thousands of people, over the years. The rewards have, mostly, been intangible, but very very real for all that. Financially, I am better off than when I was employed by others.
Regrets..that it came to me relatively late in life. And that the all consuming business causes a lot of hard choices between responsibility to those I love and the business. And that this summer was the first vacation I've taken in 18 years... and I spent about 4 hours a day on the laptop!... and that there truly isn't someone in line to take over all
that I do..no one trained to replace me so that I may retire and just be a consultant ;)
dM: What has been your biggest business challenge and how did you overcome it?
Marge: Selecting and finding and keeping the right employees is an on going challenge. "It's hard to find good help"... The state of the economy is a problem for EVERY business today; we can ride it out, but it makes forecasting difficult. In a way it's a blessing right now, because we would be tremendously understaffed if the business were at the level it was two or three years ago. OH, and, years ago, we thought the "succession" was insured. I had a young, bright assistant who seemed to love the business as much as I do. We had a buy/sell contract in place and I had planned that she would be, by now, running Nature's Gift. Things rather fell apart, and that didn't happen. That was very difficult on both a business and personal level. How did we overcome it? I've not retired ;) But I am able to ease off somewhat these days, some key staff members are really stepping up to the plate for me.
dM: How, if at, all is the current unusual economy affecting you and your business?
Marge: Of course it's affecting us. After almost
uninterrupted growth for 15 years, our gross sales are running about even
with 2005. Even more significant, the 'average order size' is back to the
year 2000...which means we are filling a lot more small orders. To me that
indicates that no one has any money to spend. We have the resources to ride
it out, but it makes forecasting and ordering difficult. So many of our
"key" products must be ordered once a year. Do you order based on more
needs, or do you cut back to conserve funds? I guess I'm an optimist; I will NOT run out of our most important products, so I ordered what we *might* need. I refuse to be driven by fear, or held back by it. If we were really busy today, we would be tremendously short staffed; but the current staff is enough to handle the reduced work load. Re starting, or expanding... I think that all those who understand economics and the economy (that excludes me!) would probably say it's not a good time. But if the opportunity comes to expand...if the door is open... I think we have to step through it. Because it may be the only opportunity.
dM: What are you doing when you're not working in your business?
Marge: Hobbies? Not working? these
are foreign to my nature and my vocabulary!
I love to read... normally late at night in bed... fantasy... I am
addicted to FarmTown, on Facebook, and some other really mindless computer games. I like to spend time with folks I care about. I used to love to cook, but today I seldom do. (what's wrong with THAT picture?) And I've just discovered I love to travel..I had forgotten that. Hoping to carve out more time to, in the future!
dM: What are your annual sales like?
Marge: The last few years we were running between $650,00 to $720,000. This year...we won't be (unless that all important Fourth Quarter contains some miracles.) enough? But...you don't want to look at cost of goods and payroll, and all the fixed expenses. None of us are getting rich. But it's not bad, considering that 12 to 15 years ago it was "a hole the money ran down"... I am so very very proud and grateful of what Nature's Gift has become!
How to connect with Marge:
<-- That's me last week, after a new cut, style and color
A few days ago, I did something fun and exhilarating. I cut and colored my hair! It's been a long time coming. I have fought curly hair all my life because I have never been able to find anyone who knew how to handle it. Some hair stylists wanted to give me a perm to straighten it out. I was not interested in that. At the other end of the spectrum, some stylists wanted to blow dry, style and curl it to death. I'm too busy for that.
So, for years, I just muddled through. But a few months ago, Lisa Rodgers of Cactus and Ivy (who also has very curly hair), told me about Ouidad. I went there Friday and emerged with my hair styled to complement my natural curls. While I was there, I colored it and enjoyed a deep conditioning.
I feel totally reinvented! Of course, that's nothing new for me as I do reinvent myself regularly. As small business owners, we have to reinvent ourselves regularly in order to keep things interesting. If you belong to a group of women who could use some encouragement and inspiration to reinvent yourselves and expand your horizons, I would love to come and share with you!
How can I help your women's group or conference attendees reinvent themselves?!!
Donna Maria Coles Johnson, the Chief Executive Indie, helps small and independent businesses owners, mostly women, combine smart sales and marketing strategies with branded digital media tools to create relationships and expand their sphere of influence. Through her blog and weekly radio show, dM delivers helpful and entertaining content that inspires, encourages and informs small business owners worldwide. Known for her innovative yet friendly style, dM's expertise has been showcased in Entrepreneur, Global Cosmetics Industry, Working Mother, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, ABC World News This Morning, WUSA-TV9 (CBS Washington, DC affiliate), Ebony and a host of other regional and national media outlets.
Whether the topic is integrating career and family, leadership, small business ownership or new technologies, dM has a life-changing presentation for you and your audience. Contact dM today at donnamaria @ indiebeautynetwork.com to discover how she can contribute to your unforgettable conference or gathering event.
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See you next week! In the meantime,
Enjoy your life, build your business and have your way!
Editor, The Indie Experience
IBN Social Network | www.indiebeauty.com
Copyright (c) 2000 - 2009 by IBN and Donna Maria. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized distribution or reproduction is prohibited. IBN does not necessarily endorse any product, event or ideology featured in this newsletter or on IBN's website. All information is provided on an "as is" basis and no express or implied warranties are given. Any use of the information contained in this newsletter or on IBN's web site, including recipes, is solely at your own risk. IBN and Donna Maria disclaim any liability in connection with the use of all recipes, products reviewed and other information. Except for sponsorships, this newsletter refuses compensation from companies to feature or mention their names or products. Opinions expressed in any Product Review are personally those of the reviewer and do not represent the views of IBN, Donna Maria (unless she is the reviewer) or any other person or company.