Yesterday, I met with a group of incredibly smart, motivated and value-driven entrepreneurs to tackle a question that all of us face at some point in our self-employment life – at what point do you quit? One of the questions we all discussed was:
Do you have specific metrics that you use to figure out when it’s time to stop charging forward and just hunker down?
At Bramble Berry, I don’t go by my gut very much any more without having specific, measurable numbers to back it up. We have a monthly management meeting (click here to see exactly what we cover) and at this meeting, we go through our budget line by line. Any number that is more than .05% off is color coded so we can see at a glance what needs improvement and discuss corrective action. I use my gut when it comes to hiring and firing decisions, new product lines and decisions about marketing strategy but it is only a tool. If the numbers don’t back me up, my gut won’t win the argument for long.
Another question we discussed was: Do your other responsibilities make you more conservative or less conservative?
This was an easy one for me to answer. I feel like my decision making gets more conservative the more employees Bramble Berry has. I feel a responsibility to make the ‘right’ decisions so that there is a job for future generations of Brambleberrians. The drawback to this is that it makes Bramble Berry less nimble and able to react to trends because I review decisions more carefully. For example, we didn’t ever add much in the way of diffuser ingredients because by the time our rigorous testing process was done … the trend had peaked and was not a growing market segment for us to pursue.
At what point is your business not fun? If you’re not fulfilling the dreams you had for the business when do you cut back/pull the plug?
This was the zinger of the questions for me because part of what I love about being self employed is the opportunity. I love being able to dream up my best future and then have the freedom to pursue those plans with delight and vigor. And, since I’ve done every job at Bramble Berry (pulling, packing, pouring, customer service, accounting, budgeting, marketing, you name it), I’m always game to jump in and help whenever I’m needed (and the sad truth is that the team at Bramble Berry can pack, pull and pour way better than I ever could so I’m really not much help). If my ‘dream’ isn’t being fulfilled, then it’s time to rework the vision and the dream.
Right now, we have a powerful motivation – our vision of changing lives, creating opportunities, delivery high value and encouraging creative expression through the five senses. Any time the going gets even a little tough, I just need to look at our overall vision to help sustain me through rough patches. (Wondering how you can make a vision? Here’s a starter post on how to write up a vision).
- Always back up gut decisions with numbers
- Being nimble is a market advantage. Fight to stay there.
- Define your vision. Make your roadmap and stick to the plan faithfully.
- Entrepreneurs are the eternal optimists. It’s hard to get us down!
"Thank you" to all of you who have offered your perspective on creativity and trends. I, too, have noticed the same things about trending and duplication. As a new soapmaker, I have found the tutorials invaluable, yet am eager to make the techniques unique to me. This conversation is both sobering and encouraging, both of which I need in my pursuit of my hobby-gone-business.
All very interesting thoughts. I look at the soap industry somewhat like the fashion industry – everything is a variant on one or two main ideas. Just as the fashion industry moves together (boot cut jeans, to skinny jeans, to boyfriend jeans), other industries will as well.
If you view the ideas I present (and other awesome soap minds who blog) as our industry's NYFashionWeek and plan and expect to see the same trends and variations of those trends, then as small businesses, your value comes in learning the techniques presented in the tutorials and adding your own flair. Just as with fashion, there are many different colors, textures and off-shoots that come off of one basic technique.
And, the good news is that your customers aren't all shopping at craft shows across the nation – they're in your backyard, at your booth. They don't care of the technique for jelly roll soap originated with you or the next soaper – they just care that it's cute, that you've shown them the value in the product and that they've made a connection with you through your personality, your packaging or your product.
You can make the cutest product in the world but the final step is always the sale.
Morgane et Romeo says
Hihihi Anne Marie you look soo petite between those two giants! hihi
I know my comment is not as profound as the ones above, but i guess i am not asking myself those questions…not yet! Hehehe
Kelly Taylor says
and i love the tutorials!
without them i could easily be lost.
Kelly Taylor says
that's what i was getting at and maybe didn't say it quite as well as Brigette.
i so agree!
it is contagious!
I can say that I have had some of the same thoughts at times. However, I don't think it is something we have to combat.
I do use some of the tutorials for soaps and do them exactly as posted in the tutorials here. I know a lot of other people do too. I am thankful to have the information as it helps me to keep putting out product even when I am not feeling creative or it gives me an idea I would not have thought of.
There will always be competition and even if you create a unique concept it is just a matter of time beforew someone tries to copy it. However, I think to be successful in business you have to do something different and make it your own. Create a special twist or use the idea as a foundation to take it to a new level and make it yours.
Infuse your personality and passion and your products will stand out.
Just my 2 cents.
Kelly Taylor says
I think we can all read between the lines and I know what you are saying, or at least I think I do.
Personally, I am a fan also. But I definitely do NOT want to be a clone. How perceptive of you to note this.
At some point, we all have to ask ourselves the hard questions.
Is it an art form and a true passion, or is it a real business or is it a hobby. If it is a real business, then that presents a whole different set of variables.
If it is an art form, then there is joy in self expression and all that means.
I really like what Anne=Marie is saying about vision.
It is so easy to get caught up in the trends and the competition. But the artists set themselves apart and the hobbyists set themselves apart, and those who want to truly work the business but also remain artists have a real fight to do that as well and still pay their bills.
It all comes down to vision, passion purpose and pursuit.
But then again, I am like you; a fan and a fledgling at that.
Sometimes I ask myself the hard questions and sometimes the hard questions shout back out at me.
Anyways, I just wanted to put my two small cents in there and say I think along those lines as well, and often.
This is probably not the best place to be posting this, but it seems to flow in, though maybe from the side. 🙂
I'm an avid follower. I would now probably call myself a soapmaker. I've been in business for a few years now. Successful when I have the time to dedicate, self-funding at least when I don't. Its perfect for me because I have a couple issues in life that are so huge there are times I must turn all focus from everything else.
As I said, I'm an avid follower, I'd call myself a fan. I refer to you in conversation with my husband as "she" as if I knew you! 🙂 Its all good.
My gut has been saying something about Brambleberry though. So I figured I'd pass it along. Much like you, I like to buy soap almost as much as I like to make it. I love to try out everyone else's stuff! A few craft shows I went to this summer, I found and bought soaps that had been made in the exact same molds I have. Molds from BB. Cute! Fun! Ok… Then I went to another state on vacation and the time share we stay at has some locally crafted products for sale. You guessed it the same soap. Packaged in the ideas you post. Hey, I use your ideas all the time, no big deal. Soaps that weren't in BB molds at the time share store? Your methods … the embeds, right out of one of your tutorials. Cute? Fun? Are we all out here making the same stuff? Hmmm, I began to think, but hey I was on vacation save the thinking for later.
I went to a Christmas craft fair a week ago. Guess what I saw (more different crafters) … BB soaps.
Now one of my former customers is DIY'ing her soap with BB stuff. Which is great, its fun watching her get started (she posts about it).
I don't even know how you begin to combat this or even if you try – but it went from being cute to being questionable to making me say right out loud "yikes!".
Happy we all love you so much – hope we all have the creativity to do this together.