Year One PROFIT!

Last night, I sent in my tax returns for the first year of the business.  Whew!  What a long process … so much terminology to learn!  Still, I have a much better sense of how to organize my records for next year (for advice on that, see my Spreadsheets for Small Business series).  But you know what’s even better than getting the taxes done?

SHOWING A PROFIT!  After everything was calculated and done, Baltimore Bumble Crafts showed a profit of $15 in its first year.  HOORAY!  HUZZAH!  CHEERS!  This is a BIG deal.  At some point in the first three years, every business had to show a profit in order to prevent being forever and always relegated to “hobby” status.  This means that if you don’t show a profit in the first three years, you cannot write off any of your expenses and everything you make shows up as income, even if you actually lost money that year doing it all.  This is the worst-case scenario for any business.  And now, I. Am. Safe. Forever.

woot.

 

Reflection on the First Year

It’s been over a year since I began this business in earnest.  When I began, I honestly had no idea what I was doing or how to go about anything.  I’ve never taken business classes, and in the beginning, it showed.  After a year, I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I can see the improvement already.

I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals:

  • My products are in retail locations.
  • I have repeat, loyal, fabulous customers. (THANKS)
  • My products lines are continuously expanding.
  • I’ve established a proper home office, with work stations and streamlined storage.
  • I donated over $75 to environmental charities.

Still, it’s good to set goals for year two, so here goes.  By the end of 2013, I want to:

  • Donate at least $200 to charities
  • Sell products in at least two retail locations
  • Cut my business debt down to no more than $2,000
  • Trade-in for a more fuel-efficient business vehicle
  • Streamline my branding, logos, and naming conventions

Some of these goals are bit of a stretch, but any small business owner knows that it’s all about dreaming big!  If it wasn’t, none of us would make it past year one!  To my fellow vendors: onward and upward!  To my customers: I can’t do it without you either!  A sincere THANK YOU to everyone who helped me get this far!

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Bulk Blunders

Budgeting can be tough as a small business starting out.  To save and still provide high-quality organic products, I need to buy bulk as much as possible.  I’ve also started selling wholesale (more on that to come, wink!) so every penny counts these days.  Sometimes, however, this gets out of hand ….

Normally, I order organic carrier oils by the gallon, in jugs that have handles.  I was creating a lot of recycling, and since I work out of my home and we already recycle, the recycling bins (yes, plural meaning three full-sized stand-up bins) were overflowing each week.  Baltimore County co-mingles, so we take advantage and recycle everything that can’t be composted.  I needed to find a better solution or the waste management people were going to start yelling at me.

When I realized that I could save packaging and money by ordering the carrier oils by the pail instead of the gallon, I thought it would be perfect.  Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t even think about what those pails would look like or how heavy they would be.  Foolish.  So foolish.

Here is the pail of organic soybean oil, next to a gallon of organic olive oil in the normal-sized jug:

Clearly, there is no way I can lift that pail by myself.  I guess maybe I thought it would come with a removable lid and then I could scoop it out with a pitcher ….?  Either way, I didn’t think it through.  So last night, like the hero that he is, my boyfriend used his “man-strength” to pour while I tried to catch the soybean oil in my measuring pitcher.  Even as strong as he is (and he is significantly stronger than I am), he had trouble with that beast of a pail!  I mean, I lift and carry a 50-pound tent on the weekends and haul 160 lbs. of tent weights around craft fairs by myself and this thing scares me!

Even more absurd, the bulk organic coconut oil didn’t even come in a pail at all!  It came in a bag.  Like a boxed wine.

What if I had punctured the bag while opening the box?  What happens when the temperature in my house drops below 76 degrees F (realistically 80 degrees F)?  How the heck is this supposed to work?  Even boxed wine comes with a spout!

In all honesty, I should acknowledge that the website where I purchase my carrier oils does mention in the fine print that this is a “bag-in-a-box,” but I never envisioned this!  I suppose I pictured it as a solid, but then again, it is summer.

Lesson learned, I humbly submit myself to the mockery and shame of the blogosphere.  Judge me if you will, but learn from my mistakes.  Tiny Business Owners: bulk is NOT your friend!

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Fitted Tablecloths

Up until now, I’ve been using safety pins to keep my tablecloths from blowing in the wind and tripping any customers.  It wasn’t a beautiful or perfect solution, but it got the job done for now.  Still, I always knew I wanted to upgrade to fitted tablecloths as soon as possible.

One snag: buying fitted tablecloths is expensive and there aren’t very many attractive choices!  I really like my grey-blue linen tablecloths from Target; they are the perfect shade and they have an amazing texture.  Besides, I’ve gotten used to them and it seems disloyal to abandon them.  SO, I decided to sew them into fitted tablecloths myself.

It was a bit tricky, especially given that I hate hate hate pinning.  Rather than wrestle with the pinning and the sewing machine, I chose to hand sew them.  To be my usual lazy self, I taped the sides to the table top and then pinned the top part of the tablecloth to the taped-down sides.  Then, I used a variation of an appliqué stitch to join them.  I think the finished product looks even nicer than it would have if I’d machine sewn!  It took longer than I thought, almost 3 hours for the first one.  Still, it should get faster now that I know what I’m doing.

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Fenton Street Market (May 2012)

Location: Silver Spring, MD

Day of the Week: Saturday

Weather: Sunny with a gentle breeze

Organization: Excellent! Lots of information before the event, porters available for hire during the event, and event staff throughout the market to answer questions.

Crowd Size: Decent crowd.  Not large, but steady.

Crowd Make-Up: A good mix of families with children and adults with dogs. Not as many elderly.

Booth Fee: $50 for a 10′ x 10′ space

Today at the Fenton Street Market, I sold more product than ever before!  It might have been due to the fact that there were only two soap makers there (a lovely lady from BEST, in fact), but I’m chalking it up to good organization, extensive advertising, and great weather!  I almost sold out of a couple of things!  I had steady business for the entire 6 hours and had nice conversations with plenty of browsers.

I showed up early because I wasn’t sure about the drive, but the event staff were already ready to go and helped me get set up quickly.  There was free parking for the truck (hallelujah!) and a nice porter named Jeremy to help me set up the tent.  It was in a nice part of town and we were surrounded by businesses.  I’ve never been in such a busy part of town.  Even in Annapolis, the streets were so blocked off for the festival that we didn’t get much random business traffic there. In contrast, today I met people who saw us out of their windows and on their way to do their normal shopping.

Once again, one of the vendors who was supposed to be my neighbor didn’t show so I was left with a beautifully set up booth and customers wandering around the side where they weren’t supposed to be.  It is so frustrating!  I always look at the map beforehand and try to figure out how I should set up the booth; and I always have to set up before I know whether or not my neighbors will all be there.  Inevitably, the customers don’t come in the front like they should, but go around the side.  I’m usually tempted to just turn the products around to face the outside, but then I lose a whole table’s worth of display space!

I added a few more items to the displays this time around.  I made soap balls out of the leftover Miel Citron bars and called them Lemon Drops.  They looked pretty adorable wrapped up in tulle and terry cloth.  I also finally put up a fragrance free sign.  Not everyone looked at it, but it did save some people the embarrassment of trying to smell the scentless soaps.  My corner display unit finally arrived and it was the perfect place to show off the sea salt scrubs.  Every time, my booth looks snazzier and snazzier!

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All in all, a great day!