Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.

When we think of people who write books about business and economics, we do not think of quotes such as the one above. As I work on my business plan, I have been researching sustainable business practices and businesses with those practices in place that represent my market.

In this research I rediscovered Paul Hawken, an entrepreneur, environmentalist, author, an all together amazing person. The above quote is one of my favorite Hawken quotes.

A big buzz word lately is “sustainablity.” I use it all the time, in fact it’s in my mission statement (well my mission statement in progress) When I am asked to come up with the point of my business, that word comes to mind first and foremost.

So what is it? According to Paul Hawken, “The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces or at least not to defy them.” That might seem like hippy mumbo jumbo at first glance or maybe you think our commerce can’t possibly ever be “sustainable.” How ridiculous to think we would live in harmony with our planet (which is our home by the way and the only one we have and it would be perfectly content to be rid of us)

Really think about the word, “Sustainability” Quite simply, the ability to sustain. Now does that seem like hippy mumbo jumbo?

So what would I like to sustain? Human intelligence and our access to our base of collected knowledge (I would like to trade and sell used books) I would also like to sustain our natural ecosystems and beautiful landscapes, really who doesn’t? So I purchase from local small scale farming operations. Large scale farming is not practical and not necessary and if we really must have it, we can invest in our infrastructure and build vertical farms. Another really awesome person wrote about that, Dickson Despommier in “Vertical Farming”

I would like to sustain community development and creativity. So I started “Ripples Book Club” and I work at the public library. I also want to sustain my bottom line, but as Mr. Hawken says, “The bottom line is where it belongs, at the bottom”

So what can I do sustain and also grow my business? Better World Books has a fantastic business model that has 6 rules:

  • Customer Focus
  • People Matter
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Foster Innovation
  • Passion for Literacy
  • People, Planet, Profit (in other words, the Triple Bottom Line)

And what’s really important? Does my business venture sustain my happiness. The answer is absolutely yes. I find a lot of joy thinking, planning, and scheming was to make my business grow and sustain itself. When I get super excited thinking about what I’m going to make for Etsy next, I know I’m doing the right thing.

Links:

http://www.paulhawken.com/paulhawken_frameset.html
http://www.verticalfarm.com/
http://www.betterworldbooks.com/

P.S. Better World Books is absolutely fantastic. Please check them out. They are one of the outlets I sell through with Ellipsis and I am very proud to do so!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!!!!

Lately instead of vigorously being creative with every day objects, I have been figuring out if my business is ready to take to the next level.

On Alibris, I have 700 books for sale, sitting in piles and boxes all over the office floor are around 1,000 more to catalog! Now you might say, “Wow! That’s great!” Indeed it is. Now imagine cataloging all those books one at a time and then storing them in my tiny house until they sell and then tracking the book down, packing it professionally, and shipping it. And then doing all the accounting.

Then on top of that, I am running three Etsy shops, all of which are relatively successful. Of course I’m also trying to take classes. I want be certified in Advanced Web Design. I have a basic certification now and I’ve been working on the advanced certificate for quite some time . . . I have a three year old constantly at my feet (or climbing on my back. I was doing planks this morning during my workout with an extra 25 pounds on back!) and I have two part time jobs + a semi part time job. I am also working on the publishing end of Ellipsis. Then on top of all that I have to keep my house reasonably clean, cook meals, and take care of the garden.

All of this, from time to time, gets very old. I have to admit it. Trying to work up to self sufficiency is not easy, especially with massive student loan debt (that’s whole other gripe session.) So I’m searching for ways to do a bit less. One of the ideas I came up with was to open an actual brick and mortar store.

Whoa now, you are probably wondering, how on Earth would that be less work? Well let me explain, maybe by less work I really mean more organized. If we could get our office (my fiancee and I) out of our house, that would be all sorts of awesome. Our daughter could more into the office and have an actual bedroom! Then her tiny room could be a craft room. (!!!)

The plan would be to keep two of my jobs, the library and bookstore, and hire Matthew to work at the store three days a week, whereas I would work the rest. He would do all this graphic and CG work at the office/store. We would do publishing (print and online) and also keep all the online stores running. Our daughter could be there with us. Fortunately Galena has a pretty steady stream of tourists in peak season, unfortunately Galena is very slow between January and March (and I mean VERY slow), and rent is astronomical. So perhaps I could find an upstairs studio apartment or loft with a Main Street entrance? This would be completely acceptable.

So I’m finding myself putting together a business plan. I always sort of had one, but never Grow Your Own Handmade Businessofficially. It’s been wonderful! I am getting thoughts together and organizing my ideas into valid concepts. Really helping me with this is the book, “Grow Your Own Handmade Business” by Kari Chapin. Click the picture for her blog. It is very easy to read and makes a lot of sense. I’ve tried more “traditional” business books, but they are just not in my language. Kari follows a logical sequence and although I will probably need a bit more information once I am finished working through the book, I will have a great foundation. It’s set up like a workbook and has exercises throughout to enforce what is being read. It’s also very real. I feel like she is just talking to me with practical advice and first person experience. I love that if she honestly is not sure of something she says that and then finds someone to interview that does know.

One of the exercises I really found helpful and think will be even more helpful in a “public” manner is to take stock of successes. So what have I accomplished since I opened for business?

  • Registered a real business with the country
  • Opened a book store on Alibris and reached 700 books for sale and sold 500
  • Opened an Etsy shop for used books, jams, jellies, and teas
  • Opened an Etsy shop for vintage items and another for handmade and upcycled items
  • In 2012 I made a significant profit!
  • Set up at my first craft show
  • Found a commercial kitchen for my use
  • Began to sell in a retail location
  • Regularly kept a blog!
  • Found local producers for all of my products!

See now that I remembered what I have already done, thinking about what I still have to do isn’t so bad. Now I can tackle things in a new light.

In my younger days, I was extremely goal oriented. I suppose I still am, personal success is very important to me. However, all the things we want to do can overwhelm us in their hugeness. After all, that is something we are very good at as humans. We think huge! Not all of us even realize what we are dreaming is huge, but what is not huge about trying to manage an entire life. Whoa, just thinking about it makes my head spin. What am I going to do with my average of 70 or so years to make it worth it? How do I live up to the awesome hugeness of the Universe? There are so many things I want to do, places I want to see. Then I have to worry about my health and safety and the health and safety of my daughter, whether or not I’m ever going to pay off my massive student loan debt, if I’m ever going to own my own property, what I’m going to wear at work tonight, and the list goes on and on.

So we have to consider how we are going to manage all this without losing our minds, or feeling completely defeated. What I have discovered in my relatively short time on Earth, is to take things one task at a time (even if it means have several projects going at once and dividing each project into small achievable talks) and then allowing myself to feel accomplished with completing small stages.

Today I’m feeling great! I’ve been off of work for the majority of the day and I’ve been completing projects I’ve had started for a long time.

Like this dress for example

Image

It’s not the greatest picture, but if you’ve ever tried to get a three year old to hold still for a photo, you will sympathize. The dress began it’s life as an unwanted wool sweater. I washed it (on purpose), cut and sewed it into the shape of a dress for a small girl, and needle felted some flowers onto it. Since it’s felted wool, it’s very soft and thick so it keeps her warm. I just love finding new purposes for things that otherwise would have been tossed. Since it was slightly tight at the bottom of the sweater where the pattern goes around, I ended up with a ruffle. The neckline had a bit of  turtleneck thing going on, knowing Elly wouldn’t like that, I cut it so the sleeves would fall slightly off the shoulders.

Image

This is a view from the back.

I have big plans for the sleeves of the sweater as well. Be on the lookout!

So I accomplished something! It is one thing out of a million other things I have on my mind, but for now I am estatic I finished this dress! It paves the way for more exciting crafting (and gardening, and web design, among other things) projects to work on and I just thought I would share my breakthrough and most recent upcycling project with you all!

Read the rest of this entry »

This is my third year of starting seeds indoors. There are a few things I have learned.

1. It’s pretty hit or miss. Germination is a funny thing. It only happens under the right circumstances and some seeds are going to be duds. Even with brand new seeds there are bound to be some duds. So I’ve stopped getting discouraged when there are some in my batch that don’t germinate. I just plant another seed.

2. There are stages to planting. Most seed packets will say to plant the seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeds before the last frost. Well what does that mean exactly? Since in Illinois the last frost is going to be sometime probably in April or even early May then that would mean the seeds should be started in March right? Well not exactly. There are crops like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and leeks that like cold weather. So in order to have them in the Spring and early Summer, they need to be started indoors in January or in late July-ish to have a Fall/Winter crop. I am getting ready to plant herbs and strawberries now so they will be ready by the early Summer for planting outdoors. Then once my early Sping seeds are germinated and sitting in the sun I plant the mid to late Summer seeds, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and ground cherries.Such crops take less time to grow big enough to be transplanted outside so I start them last in late February.

Seeds started for the Spring3. Lastly, I will admit I still haven’t quite figured out what needs water when and how often. To me this is the most difficult part of growing plants. I find that some seeds are find just coming up in mildly damp soil with no covering, but then other seeds even of the same plant type will need to be covered in a humid tent to come up. I’ve taken to planting all the seeds putting them in the window with a heat mat and seeing what will come up into the open air. Then after about a week and a half, I put all the germinated little seedlings in a really sunny spot and I wet down all the still not germinated seeds and cover them with a clear lid and then I get some more seedlings.

I guess some seeds just need more babying that others

Most of all: OBSERVE. There are patterns in nature and we are trying to cheat it by getting a headstart. If we pay close enough attention we can mimick those patterns which will lead to better gardens!

Ok, ok I am obsessed with TARDISes. I’ve made a couple of different versions with needle felting. These babies are 100% solid wool, sculpted with a barbed needle into TARDIS shapes.

Large TARDISWhimscal TARDISThe reason I love the TARDIS and find myself always coming up with a new way to make them is because to me it is a symbol of infinite possibility. You can push a button and go anywhere, anytime you like. Or you can put it on random and just let her take you where you need to go. It’s a beautiful thing.

That being said, this is my most recent TARDIS creation:

TARDIS PendantBehold a tiny portable vessel of infinite possibility! I am making them to order for your lovely open minded pleasure.

Carrot Cake for Breakfast

Since it’s almost time to make more. I opened up my last jar of Carrot Confit Jam. It is made with cardamom and lemon juice. On toast with cream cheese it tasted like carrot cake! Yum! In the Spring it will make it’s reappearance on Etsy.

Different YarnsI am fascinated by felting. There are so many ways the process can be used as well. Typically I make felted sculptures with raw wool. I have been intending to felt some knitted projects. I was unsure of the specifics of the process and how different fibers matte together so I knitted up some patches.

Swatches

The light gray is a hand spun 100% alpaca I found in a little herb shop here in Galena, The Great Galena Peddlery. The red is a 70% wool/30% mohair blend from Peace Fleece and the dark grey is actually a wool/acrylic blend that I did not expect would felt at all.

I threw them all in the washer with dish soap, a hot wash, and a cold rinse.  Then I put them in the dryer. I did the whole process twice and this is what happened.

Felted Swatches

The alpaca felted beautifully. It is now a luxuriously soft swatch. I’ll have to figure out what to do with it. The acrylic blend of course did nothing. When you read in books about felting that acrylic doesn’t felt it is true. The red Peace Fleece swatch hardly did anything and washed it an extra time.I think it would felt if I kept washing it down, but three is my limit for using all the water it takes to run it through the washer. I think the swatch would make a good pot holder.

I checked the Peace Fleece website to see if maybe the yarn was treated to be washable, but I couldn’t find anything. It seems to just be one of those yarns that takes a lot of coaxing. I could of course try to wash it down by hand or dry felt it with a felting needle.

I am doing more experimenting in felting . . . Coming soon: Re-purposing a Wool Sweater

A few months ago a coworker dropped a humungous jade tree off on my front porch, saying something about how it probably needed repotted. I scratched my head in puzzlement how I would accomplish such a feat. Honestly, this thing was HUGE. I should have taken pictures of it. It seemed to be fine in it’s current pot so after much deliberation I hauled the thing upstairs to keep it out of the direct sun.

A few months later the poor guy seems to be dying from the outside in. I thought, crap now I’m going to have to figure out how to repot this. I had a large pot on reserve for whatever needed it so I did some research and ordered a couple of bags of bonsai soil.

In the meantime the tree’s health rapidly declined. Half of it was dead. The inside of the branches was a slimy and brown instead of crisp and green. This was quickly becoming an emergency room situation. I found myself begging the tree to hold on just a few more days.

Then last night the soil arrived!

Bonsai Soil LabelBonsai Soil Texture

It has a very course texture made up of volcanic rock and tree barks so it has good drainage. I began repotting by pulling the dead side of the tree out of the pot. It broke right off at the root and the roots were all dried out. I know I watered this thing.

On the dead side, I found some living jade so I planted them in their own little pots.

Baby Jade Plants

The Babiest of the Jade Babies

Succulents like jade are awesome because you can break a piece off, put in some moist dirt, and it will root.

While I was digging around in the pot trying to get the good side of the jade out safely, I found all sorts of clumps of clay and other debris suggesting my coworker simply dug soil out of her garden to repot this tree. I’m not sure that was such a good idea. Succulents (and all potted plants) need good drainage. This garden soil was all compacted in the pot making it hard for the moisture to escape. I think this is what was happening and causing the roots to rot and then shrivel.

Anyway I pulled the good side out in tact and repotted it with the bonsai soil and a bit of potting soil to give it a nutrients boost. And here he is! I’m going to keep a close eye on him and all the babies for a long while.

Repotted Jade

Salvaged PieceThis is another salvaged piece of the dead side. t was still green and has tiny leaves growing from the top. I’m hoping I can coerce it into become a tree. It’s planted in the clay pot to my VitaClay slow cooker that cracked. An example of reusing something that most people might throw away.

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