525,600 Minutes (Times Three)

I can’t believe it’s been three years already. It also kinda feels like it was a lifetime ago. (If you aren’t sure what I am talking about start here, here, here, here, and here. Oh, and here and here.)

Today, I am celebrating my Brainiversary. That’s at least what I’ve decided to call it. Joel gives me weird looks when I say it and, quite frankly, I don’t care. So what am I doing today?

I’m filming my video interview/Q&A for Career Camp! It’s kinda funny that I am talking to Michelle today. If we want to go back to the very beginning. The very moment I started to get concerned that something wasn’t right, I was actually on a conference call with Michelle. I was participating in a continuation of one of her programs. Then, my legs started to tingle.

So I paced.

I didn’t want to end the call, it was just my legs were annoying me and I didn’t really know what to do. So I walked back and forth across our apartment while participating. I remember leaning on things. Pressing my forehead against the cold glass window while trying to stay apart of the conversation happening around me.

Three years and a titanium skull later, I’m finally letting my hair grow out and am mostly not fearful of something else happening. If you want to scare yourself you can read story after story of unsuccessful operations. But why?

Negativity breeds like rabbits. It is easy to go down that hole and never resurface. That can’t be me. That won’t be me. In my third year my goal is pretty simple: get back to running.

Running the half marathon less than a year after surgery was a tremendous feat. But I need to keep going. I need continue the tradition. I’m attempting to get back to running so I can really attempt to set a half marathon PR in late 2014 or early 2015. I’ve been looking at a few races, many of them just happen to be around my birthday!

Here is to a year filled with soap, spas and running shoes!

Trying to Avoid Soy Products? You Need to Know This.

Avoiding Soy?

I’ve been researching different oils as the prices of some rise. We love our recipes but aim to keep our soaps as affordable as we can for our customers. One thing we stove to do is to not use soy in our products. Many of our customers actively avoid soy.

Many new to soaping recipes suggest new soapers use vegetable shorting as a main oil. It’s usually on hand and cheap. we always knew it was a combination of oils but I didn’t know it contained soy!

I found this on a soap chart: Crisco consists of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, containing canola and/or soybean oil plus palm oil. The proportions of these constituent oils may vary according to market conditions, season and location around the country. 

What do you need to do?

Check the ingredients on any soap you purchase. Old Town Suds uses: Coconut, Olive, Sustainable Palm, Castor, Almond, Sunflower, Neem, and Avocado oils. Depending upon the recipe we might also add Coco or Mango Butters.

There you have it. Something simple that everyone who is watching out for soy products needs to do. Check to make sure it’s not in your soap!

3 Ways To Ease Into Green Cleaning

3 Ways Eco-friendly cleaning. Those words tend to sound kinda scary or, worse, fluffy to most people. What they don’t realize is that you can start making some simple changes to your everyday habits to make your environment healthier for you, your family, and the planet. I was first turned away from green cleaning because of the cost. All of the essential oils, the different ingredients, everyone had different opinions and it was just plain confusing. So, I started with what was simple and worked best for my family. Our goals were to be wallet friendly and to use less chemicals – keep it simple as the saying goes.

Now, my best friends are baking soda and white vinegar. Baking soda is a nice abrasive that isn’t too rough and white vinegar is antibacterial; together, they are even more powerful (remember science class and that volcano?). You can buy both at about any store from your neighborhood grocery to your corner pharmacy to the big bulk discount stores. Now, for some cleaning tips/recipes that I have discovered.

The Shower

My arch nemesis is our shower floor. It has a grip to it so you don’t slip and slide. I guess that is great for when you are showering and all, but afterwards, it grows this grime that bleach, magic erasers, ammonia and the list goes on would not remove. The trick? Baking soda and white vinegar. Sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda all over the tub. Fill a spray bottle full of white vinegar and start to spray. You want to spray enough that you hear the reaction starting to happen and so that, if you wanted, you could create a paste with the baking soda. You don’t want the baking soda to get wet enough that it runs down the drain. Let this sit for at least 5 minutes, preferably 10. Then, grab your scrub brush and give the tub a scrub. You shouldn’t have to work hard. If you find that you are, rinse and repeat the process. The chemical reaction actually loosens the grime and kills the bacteria making the tub sparkling clean for you! Don’t worry, the yucky vinegar smell will go away too.

Cleaning Up After Pets

Anyone who follows @oldtownsuds on twitter knows that we have two cats and two dogs. Sometimes, like last night, accidents happen. We only wash with our detergent but have a trick for when we are washing things that have pet stains on them: white vinegar. We discovered this searching pet forums many years ago when Mr Darcy (our male cat) was just a kitten and having some litter box issues. White vinegar neutralizes the waste, removes the smell, and we are all happy campers! Depending upon the accident size (and how frustrated the owner is) determines how much we’ll use. A small accident means a half a cup is added to the wash at the beginning of the wash cycle. A larger accident means more. It’s simple!

The Dishwasher

You can make your own dishwasher detergent with simple ingredients, but I’ve found that most people prefer the commercial tabs. An easy way to be more Eco-friendly is in the rinse agent. Can you guess what I am going to suggest? White vinegar. This trick is super simple. Instead of the chemically based commercial products, put the super inexpensive white vinegar in just as you would the rinse agent and set the dishwasher as normal. The white vinegar smell goes away as the dishes dry and there are no spots!

How do you plan on using these tips? Do you have any other green cleaning tips?

No Lady’s Maid? No problem!

OK ladies (or should I say Ladies?), can we talk about Downton Abbey just a little bit more? You’ll indulge me right? See that’s what I think of when I watch the show. Indulgence. I have to tell you that every time I see Lady Mary settled in bed with her breakfast tray, I’m jealous. Who wouldn’t want to live like Lady Mary or Lady Edith?

And really, shouldn’t all of the women in our lives, especially the new moms and dedicated wives be pampered like that? I think that’s why I love the idea of getting spa items as a gift. Think about it. A special woman in your life could have just a few minutes of that Lady Mary treatment. I feel like Lady Mary would approve, and she’d probably use a few of the Old Town Suds items if she could.

LAdy Mary Collage

 1 Vanilla Lip Balm 2 Dry Skin Buster 3 The Ladies of Downton Set 4 Milk & Honey 5 Best Face Wash Ever

And what about Edith? Poor, poor Edith. I won’t spoil you if you haven’t caught up (or if you’re just starting), but let’s just say that if anyone needs a nice day out at a spa, soaking in a big claw footed tub, it’s our girl Edith. When I think of her, she reminds me of all of my girl friends who work a day job and then come home and work for the household or in their communities. I’m betting you know a few women like that, am I right?

LAdy Edith Collage
1 Herbal Mint Lip Balm 2 Gentle Eye Balm 3 The Ladies of Downton Set 4 Best Face Wash Ever 5 The Green Fairy

And then there is Sybil. Sybil is definitely the young, go getter of the sisters. And of course, she’s the baby (with all that being the youngest entails). Being such an idealistic, active young woman just starting out takes a lot out of you. It’s hard standing on principle all the time. (Of course, so does making out with the hot chauffer for the family after hours…) I remember those days. I remember being tired. I don’t remember having the fabulous wardrobe though.

Lady Sybil collage

 1 Sweet RoseThe Ladies of Downton Set 3 King Street Stout

Sure we can’t all be a Lady and none of us will ever have a Lady’s maid (sigh), but we can take just a little time out for ourselves and maybe, just maybe, experience a little of the life they lead. Are you a Lady Mary? A career woman like Edith? A go getter like Sybil? Luckily we have soaps that can make you feel indulged, just like the Ladies of Downton.

Behind the Scenes of Old Town Suds – 2.5 Years in the Making

tranquility

Owning my own business isn’t something that I grew up wanting to do. In fact, it was quiet the opposite. Watching my parents (both entrepreneurs) was more than eye opening. I saw the rise and fall of businesses first hand. I saw the high growth potential of a local business and the pride that comes with it – all to be over taken by a corporate conglomerate. Granted, my father was able to retire before he hit 50, but I’ve also witnessed what happens when your life IS your work and to suddenly have it taken away.

That's not at all how I pictured it.

But, this big ol brain of mine had different ideas. Facing what could be your last meal changes you. I still don’t know if it is for the better – just shy of three years later, I can’t decide. This is what I do know after falling into owning my own small business the past 2.5 years.

Being the CEO rocks AND sucks at the same time

Making decisions, being in charge, finally having the final say is fantastic. Not having anyone to brainstorm with, bounce ideas off of and just have a friendship with stinks. There have been nights where I’ve asked the dog for an opinion. Learning to fully trust your gut is hard – especially when your gut is rather scared of a big leap.

Forget the Business Plan

When I set out to create Old Town Suds the plan was to dominate the green cleaning world. Now, I’ve slowly been transitioning away from my originally products. It isn’t because I don’t believe in them, it’s because that isn’t where the company is growing.

At first, it was difficult to accept this. How could I let go of the products that I became known for? Items that I use every day and that people love? BUT our fans love certain products more. I had to accept that. What is going to cause us to double our revenue again in 2014 isn’t by sticking with our cleaning line. I’ve learned how to sunset projects and investing gains in new product development.

My business plan? It’s a few words. It’s based on numbers. It’s based on where I can see Old Town Suds excelling.

Finding the Right People

Lately I’ve been talking about my Small Business Group. I <3 them, seriously. I couldn’t do what I do without them. This past year, more so than in year 1, I’ve learned how much from them and myself. It’s amazing how much you already know, sometimes you just need to talk it out.

If I could go back and do this all over again, the first thing I would do is get a group of smart entrepreneurs together to talk to. I would also try to find a few that fit my ideal customer, it makes getting some entry feedback easier.

Remember to Relax

Not working is super hard for me at times. I’m even writing this post somewhere between DCA and Indianapolis, IN. I’m flying home for the weekend, but I hate to waste the 1.45 hours I have before I need to sleep. That being said, this is all I am doing for the weekend. I’ll be enjoying time with my family back home. It’s important to have fun, play, remember your friends, and just let your brain relax. Even when you aren’t thinking directly about your business, your subconscious is. I bet you’ll find your best ideas come when you aren’t even trying. (don’t forget to keep something handy to write them down!)

What are your questions about starting your own business ? Are there things you wish you had known when you started?

Laser Launch blog party (part deux) is a collection of behind the scenes stories of other online business owners. Check out the other links here.

How to get your own Downton Abbey props

One of the most striking things about watching Downton isn’t necessarily the drama (but it does have a lot of that) but the things that make it feel so real. The props department does a fantastic job. I’d kill for Lady Mary’s dressing table and all of the little accessories she uses to get ready in the morning (or for dinner…or for just sitting around looking fabulous). Even the face powder back then looked amazing! Check out this red box.

Ploughs Face Powder 1920s

(Source)

I just want the box. Seriously.

And can we get personal for a minute? Let’s think about rising hemlines and what that meant for personal hygiene. I don’t know about you but when it’s winter…well ladies I know you know what I’m saying. Don’t worry, even Lady Edith had a product for that.

veet20hair20removal20cream20toiletries20advert20illustration

(Source)

Ah and let’s remember that everyone wanted that youthful look, even back then. I feel like Lady Grantham would have been just as worried about lines and wrinkles as I am. I can picture her Lady’s Maid gently suggesting something like this:

1922-armand-powder

(Source)

Sure, I can’t go back in time to live at Downton (it’s real to me, OK?) but at least I can still attempt to bring a little of that into my master bathroom with my Downton Abbey soap set – gorgeous packaging, amazing scents and just a little taste of the three sisters that I can’t wait to follow (and then follow along again as I rewatch).

Now, if Joel would just get me one of those amazing dressing tables…

 

 

 

#sbww14 pt 2

If you missed part 1, catch up here.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every small business owner is in search of great wine. – SH

Joel, my mom and pretty much the other half of every person I’ve brought to the small business meetings thinks we get together to enjoy some fine wine. I’m not going to say that is wrong, it is just concealing the full truth. Our meeting do being with opening a bottle or two or three and an obscene amount of cheese; but it’s the conversation that follows that matters.

The conversation is energizing. It’s motivating. It encourages each of us to push our comfort zones.  It helps each one of us look at our business with a different lens. Through our conversations several of us have questioned why we do what we do, decided to go full-time with our business and have started working on plans to take our plans to the next level.

SBWW14 covered many of these favorite topics. But instead of just hearing our own voices, we had guest speakers, coaches and new faces that were added to the group. We talked about the hardships of working for yourself. The difficulties that we will face or are facing. How do you stay relevant? How do you recognize plateaus and when you need fresh ideas? Then we moved onto marketing.

Oh, marketing. The deadly M word. I work in the marketing field in my day job, but marketing your own business is a touchy subject. You are attached. You are full of emotions. You see things completely differently than your customers. So how do you move behind these hurtles? Each of us came up with a different strategy with action times that we are going to act on in the very near future.

I’m not sure what I would do without my business group. I love hearing about how the other ladies in the group are doing. I love seeing how their businesses grow, stumble and exceed all expectations. We cheer each other on and are a fantastic support system.

SBWW14 was a fantastic event for me. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next year and where our next retreat takes us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you are spending the day with someone you love. Today, I’ll be spending some extra time with my puppies…and Joel too! We don’t put a lot into Valentines day since our anniversary is a few days away. Do you do anything special? Do you have any traditions for valentine’s day?