Posts Tagged ‘small business’

Celebrating entrepreneurship and small business together, through the series The Creative Entrepreneur.

I am thrilled to feature Annie Haven, owner of Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew.

Today’s market is very focused on natural, handmade, and local. Annie’s Haven Brand products are all of that, including local. But going beyond local, Annie helps to make our world a more green and beautiful place as she sells to customers around the world.

The Authentic Haven Natural Brew online store is located at www.manuretea.com. , where you will find Haven’s Natural Brew Tea for house plants, container plants, vegetable gardens, shrubs, and lawns.  Annie’s words from the FAQ’s page on her site, “The benefits of using manure tea for watering your plants are significant over using chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers are dangerous for your plant’s health, not to mention your family’s health. Begin growing green by learning about the benefits of using manure tea.”

Now, for the interview:

What encouraged you to start your business?
We have supplied large growers with the by-product of our grass fed livestock to nourish their soil naturally since 1924. As development moved into our area a new customer emerged, the environmentally conscious home gardener.
What has been the most rewarding thing about your business?
Meeting gardeners and growers in the plant industry and introducing manure tea as an all natural nutrient soil source and sharing the benefits that manure tea has to offer.
As a small business owner, no doubt you encounter stress, what is your number one stress relief tactic?
Spending time in my pastures with my livestock, there is just something soothing about it for me.
(Annie, I totally understand and appreciate this!)
What has been your greatest business achievement so far?
Using Social Media to meet, share and communicate with my customers both Retail and Wholesale.  Since Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew is harvested from only Haven raised livestock, it’s processed and packaged here at the ranch. I just can’t shut the gate and leave to attend industry related events. So Social Media has allowed me the ability to connect one on one with my customers as well as participate in Garden Shows, Trade Shows, etc… .
Is there any one thing you find difficult about operating a small business? If yes, how do you work around that difficulty?
It’s hard for all Independent Businesses to be heard over Commercial Advertising so it is important to be up front about your product and be creative.
What one piece of advice would you give to a person wanting to start a small business?
Understand your product or service demographic and build a goal oriented business plan.  Be prepared to be flexible!
What is the most important tip that you can give as a “key to success”?
Be accessible to your customers, stand behind your product or service, answer e-mail in a timely manner. Build a Social Media Network to connect and share your products or service.
(This is exactly where I found Annie years ago – social media! She sets a perfect example of social media sharing and connecting. She is very consistent in setting the tone for her brand and products.)
On both a short and long term basis, what do you foresee for your small business?
It is my goal to continue my family legacy of Farming and Ranching Naturally and to bring awareness to the benefits of feeding our 100% natural nutrients to the world of home gardening and to the commercial plant industry.
Do you have any additional tips or words of wisdom?
Know that all plans change.
Don’t give up or get discouraged if you run into a few closed doors.
Thank you, Annie!
Visit the Authentic Haven Brand site, and sign up for the Manure Tea, Green Approach newsletter (here). Join Annie on Twitter @GreenSoil, and Facebook (here).
If you own a small business – especially if you offer handmade products – and if you would like to be featured in The Creative Entrepreneur series, I would love to chat with you!
Don’t forget –  Share, Encourage and Grow!

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I am thrilled to open the doors to The Creative Entrepreneur series today. Let’s celebrate entrepreneurship together, and let’s Share, Encourage and Grow!

Her abundance is a mix of creativity, flair, and southern charm.  With that being said, I introduce to you Ginger Moore, founder and CEO of Neos Creations Skin Care.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of  the interview with Ginger, here’s the scoop on Neos Creations Skin Care – the business officially opened in April of 2009 – with a 5th birthday coming up in 2013.

The Neos Creations online store is is located at www.neoscreations.net, where you will find head to toe skin care (lotions, creams, scrubs, body sprays, body-massage oils, bath soaks, soaps, complete line of facial care, lip care). Ginger likes to pamper! Who doesn’t need a pampering day in their life?

Now, for the interview:

What encouraged you to start your business? 

My story is not unusual, however it is a bit detailed. I had always wanted to start or own a business of some sort. It was a deep desire of my heart and ingrained in me from my dad who was a business owner and my husband and his family, who were business owners. Nothing seemed to click with me until an idea for a gift business was born from a church fundraising event that I had coordinated and organized. The idea just wouldn’t go away and everywhere I turned, I was being exposed to information about the cottage industry and women owned  businesses.  Best of all, the business would fit right into my personal need to be creativity, share the love and bring joy to others.

After much research, praying and encouragement from my husband and a few close friends, I set the wheels in motion and started a ready to give gift company, that included offering my own private label brand of handcrafted bath & body care products. These skin care product lines had started out of my own personal necessity and worked so well, I just had to share them with the world. It soon became evident that the skin care was where I was supposed to be focusing. You can read more about that here (http://www.neoscreations.net/the_neos_story_79.html) .

In 2010, it came to my attention that a company in CA was infringing on my common law trademarked cosmetics brand name and had applied to a registered trademark of it. Rather than spend thousands of dollars and several years fighting them in court, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to re-structure my business and drop the ready to give gift part of it. In doing so, I renamed the company to reflect the new focus and re-invented the skin care branding. Vwallah!  Neos Creations Skin Care™ emerged, which continues to evolve and grow every single day.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of  your business?

Definitely my customers are the #1 reward, without question. I love serving and making others feel loved, appreciated, pampered and beautiful.  Next in line would be all the wonderful people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned along the way. I’ve met people from all walks of life and occupations, from customers to fellow business owners. And I’ve been forced to learn things that before seemed out of my arena, such as technology.

As a small business owner, no doubt you encounter stress, what is your number one stress relief tactic?

I try to have fun every single day. Laughter is a wonderful stress reliever. I also take regular time away from business to refresh and renew. A nice soaking bath, a lazy day of movie watching with my family, reading….these all help me de-stress.

What has been your greatest business achievement so far?

I don’t know if there is one.  Every business achievement seems great in my own thinking.  Even the smaller things that may seem insignificant to someone else are huge in my eyes. After all, it’s the small things that make up the big things, right?

Is there any one thing you find difficult about operating a small business? If yes, how do you work around that difficulty?

OH YES! Technology.  I’m what I affectionately call, “tech challenged”.  I know just enough to get me in trouble if I’m not careful. *smile* That’s very difficult when a large majority of your necessary business actions are computer and technology related. When you are in this type of situation, you find a way in through another doorway. For instance, I cannot write computer code, but had to build an ecommerce website myself because I couldn’t afford to pay the web designer/builder prices. So I found a way to do it with point and click styled site builders and a webhost that has excellent support.  I knew nothing about graphics and designing layouts, but had to be able to design product labels and promotional material. So I found software that was user friendly for me.  I do not speak techie nor do I understand it in many cases. If I run into anything that is “out of my realm of knowledge”, I ask questions and find someone who can guide me through it in plain English that I can understand.

What one piece of advice would you give to a person wanting to start a small business? Give one main point, and then a few additional tips (if you have any).

One piece of advice, huh?  Well, I don’t feel I’m qualified to give advice but I guess what I can say is, “If you really want it, then do it.” Do your research. Do your homework. Do your prep work. Learn what you should learn and do the hard work that no one ever recognizes to get your product or service to market and be successful with it. And then do it some more. These 4 things are never ending in small business. There is a big learning curve in business but there are basics that you have to learn and apply. You may have a great product or service but unless you do all of the above, putting in the time and attention on the hard stuff, then it’s just a great product or service that few are aware of.  Passion or product alone is not going to get you there and it will not happen overnight.

What is the most important tip that you have as a “key to success”?

Be honest with your customers and yourself, having a high standard of ethics and personal as well as professional integrity.

Today’s consumer is savvy and they appreciate truth in business. They may buy into a gimmick or lie at first, but they will get wise to it. If you are not conducting yourself and your business ethically and with integrity, it will come back to bite you.

On both a short and long term basis, what do you foresee for your small business (or for upcoming business owners)?

I honestly can’t say. With the current economy, things can be pretty uncertain all across the world of business.  But…. I dream pretty big.  Realistically, my hope and greatest desire is that NEOS will continue to grow, expand and become a profitable, self sustaining entity that supports my family in a greater way than it does today.  As a family business, my husband and young son are very involved with the business. Both are an intricate part of the inner workings. That will continue.  I would love to add positions and create jobs for others in the future. Of course, I would love for everyone to love and enjoy my products as much as I love them and enjoy making them. For Neos to be a household name would thrill me to no end. See!  I told you I dream big.  *smile*

Do you have any additional tips or words of wisdom to offer?

Don’t be resistant to change.  As times and needs change, you have to be willing and able to change with them.  When a curve is thrown at you, you don’t want to only duck, you want to be able to bob, weave and change the course if necessary. A business is no place to be set in your ways too much. Detours or entire changes in direction can be a good thing.  In fact, they can be a great thing.

Don’t ever think there is nothing left for you to learn on any given subject. Every day is an opportunity to learn something and grow. Embrace that. Let others sow into your garden. You will reap a harvest from it.

Thank you, Ginger!

I loved Ginger’s comment, “After all, it’s the small things that make up the big things, right?” It is the small things that do, indeed, make the world-go-round!

Please visit (Neos Creations Skin care) at www.neoscreations.net.

Just look at these, Neos, “Kiss My Grits!” (yep, I recognize those fun words after visiting the south!):

You can sign up for the Neos newsletters while you’re there so you can get the scoop on all things NEOS and get additional subscriber only offers.

Follow the Neos beauty and business blog here. What did I say about a pampering day? The Neos blog subtitle is, “A Decadent “Ahhh” Moment.”

Ginger loves talking to you directly and getting to know you.  Get connected with her on social at:

Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/#!/NeosCreationsSkinCare

Twitter – https://twitter.com/NeosCreations

If you own a small business – especially if you offer handmade products – and if you would like to be featured in The Creative Entrepreneur series, I would love to chat with you!

Small business rocks! And handmade double rocks!

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open fields www.penandinkspot.com


As you may know, I am shutting down Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps and venturing into (what I deem for myself as) uncharted waters.  If you missed my original announcement, and the newsletter announcement, my original blog post can be read here.

I am excited to announce that I’ve started a new site and business – Pen and Ink Spot.  One of my first blog posts at that site can be read here. Share, encourage, and grow is my motto. There is more substance to my mission, of course, but I am happily focused on my motto at this point!

So, I have recorded an audio message for you, which felt much more personal than writing a blog post. It is six minutes long (I do not script audio or video recordings), so you may want to listen to it when you have time to do so! It is located at this link:  Audio Memo.

If you do not have the technology resources to listen to the audio – in brief, my husband and I are embarking on an over the road business – with a newsletter, (five) books in the wings, and with plans to meet other small business people (including fellow Indie Beauty Network members!) and couples/people working over the road.  I am very excited at the prospect of seeing our country and writing about my experiences.

I am so enthused by the support that I have been receiving. I hope you continue to follow the journey with me! The possibilities are nearly endless.

See you there!



P.S. Yes, I plan to get my CDL (commercial driver’s license). Look for the big 18 wheeler with the 5′ tall woman at the helm. It should be interesting, don’t you think?

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business strategy

Many years ago I became interested in football.  The player that caught my attention was quarterback Joe Montana, with the San Francisco 49’ers.  This is what I saw: strategy, control, focus and amazing accuracy.

Moving on to Indianapolis, my home-town.  A city that received the Colts in the middle of a dark and rainy night, October 31, 1984.  The team came in on buses, from Baltimore, Maryland.  With that team came running back Eric Dickerson.  I will never forget how he could simply extend an arm out to stop a play.  He was focused.  He meant business.  My eyes were glued on Eric.

I will admit, I did not watch much football this year.  Peyton Manning suffered from an injury, the Indianapolis Colts didn’t succeed well without him on the field.  But someone close to Payton did, that would be his brother Eli.

Yesterday I watched a recording of Eli Manning on the Tonight Show with David Letterman.

I did not see a football player sitting in Dave’s armchair.  I saw Eli Manning a manager.

Eli Manning with a move of a foot directs his team members to do what Eli sees fit on the field.

Eli gauges the temperature of his competitors, he gauges the placement of his players, he looks at the clock, he knows who is on the field, he knows the boundaries, he knows what has to be done, and he strategizes.

Eli Manning also knows to accommodate and make changes as needed.  He is determined.  He sticks with who he is, and what he is.

Eli may be a football player, but I see him as a leader.  He has a team.  He has a focus.  His job is very much like small business.  He knows the product that he needs to produce, and he produces it well.  When the work is done, he shakes the hands of his opponents and he stands strong to his will.

Who does not want to win the Super Bowl? The super bowl in life, that is, knowing that we have done the best that we can do.  We may not wear several MVP rings, and we may not want (nor earn) millions of dollars.  But we can move forward with focus and strategy, meeting and exceeding our life goals, but also not letting others down as we plunge through the end zone.

I want to do that.  Don’t you?

Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps – Smell and Feel the Goodness

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Recently I have looked deeper into where I spend our money.  Yes, this decision is due to our (seemingly) shaky economy.  But it isn’t a matter of running to the cheapest place I can find to save some dollars.

My outlook is that small business is vital to the economic state of our country.

So, I have been making a very diligent effort to make my purchases at businesses that are as small as possible.  Yes, it means I spend a few more dollars.  But, think of about, if everyone stopped putting money in the hands of the big-big boys, and instead put their money in the hands of the individuals that own small businesses, what does that do for the economy, or even the local area? I see business owners (your neighbors and local folks) that could afford to buy fuel, food, Christmas gifts, repair their homes, and the list goes on.  If I were to make all of my purchases at the big-name department stores who am I helping? How does that help the individual? I am not sure that it does.

In the wake of Small Business Saturday (one day a year), I would like to see Small Business Saturday every week.  Or every day.

How can we go about doing this? We start small, of course.  Baby steps.  I pledge to begin #smallbizeveryday! Can we start a wave? Or, has the wave already started, and can we make it larger?

I pledge!

Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps – Smell and Feel the Goodness!

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We have barely scratched the surface.

A few days ago I was standing in a music store talking “shop” (small business) with the co-owner.  As she began to tell me about natural-based products that a very large company sells I told her about our soaps and lotions.  I saw the look come into her eyes.  We (my husband and I) are accustomed to seeing THE LOOK.  We decipher THE LOOK as:  “I am not sure what she is talking about.  How can soap be made from milk? And does she really make it herself? I just don’t know…”.  We then explain what we do, where our products come from, and that our products are made-from-scratch, handmade.   The look doesn’t go away.  We bring out the business cards, the samples, and nudge people to give our products a try.

You know, the surface has not even been scratched.

If you are in support of small business, local business, farmers, and if you support the continued availability of natural, and nearly natural, products to each and every consumer, then we would appreciate your goat milk soap shout-outs!

Don’t forget to tell us about it here too!

Thank you for your support…we have some awesome customers!


P.S.  If you haven’t noticed, we support quite a few small businesses, organizations, and local entities on our business Facebook page.  This is why:  now is the time to make waves, stand up for what is the backbone of America!

Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps – Smell and Feel the Goodness!

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Fairly often I find people to be inspirational, like I did here, the business-owner who genuinely cares about her customers, and here, the elderly person that said wisely “to never quit.”

Yesterday, after being invited into his office to use a fax machine, I realized just how inspirational a particular real estate agent (unamed on purpose in this post) is as a business owner and as a person.

What I see is an older gentlemen that hops on his scooter, in his sharp business suit, donning a helmet (like a Harley rider might…giving the hired help a giggle-of-their life), riding in and out of construction sites with no fear, and visiting college dorms to ensure the maintenance calls are being met.

So, what is so striking about all of that?

He gives.  While I was in his office he ensured I had a pen, and an umbrella (for the upcoming rain), and a comfortable seat.  As he handed a soda to me, he said it might be “less than ice-cold.”  Trust me, it was cold!

He ensures politeness emits from his lips.  He ensures the humans around him are comfortable.  Yet, he gets on his scooter, fearlessly, taking care of business, making sure each job is completed, not caring what anyone thinks.  He does not fit into anyone’s mirror image.  He is focused.  He is precise.  And I can see how he has done as well as he has in life.  What an image.

I hope I can leave a smidget of such a good impression on people.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could do one-on-one business with many more individuals on such a human playing field?

Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps – Smell and Feel the Goodness

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Our soapy journey in life has lead us through a myriad of paths, all good, all fun! Some of the paths have been challenging, with much learning and wisdom absorbed along the way (with more to come, no doubt).  Some of the paths have more closely resembled a roller coaster track with ups, downs, and even loops that have tried to throw us off.  The passion for handcrafting soap has stuck like good glue, never leaving our side.

My personal interest in soap is a life-long one, shared via a September 2009 blog post, how my interest in soap began.

8 years ago we began our hands-on handcrafted soap experience.

We started with an idea for a soap mold, and a simple soap recipe, that included 3 main ingredients, palm, coconut and olive oils, evenly fractioned into thirds.  Distilled water was our liquid (no goat milk at that point).

There we stood, in our newly created soap-making space in our formerly empty basement, concocting our first batch of soap.  I was nervous, he admittedly was not.

The next day we had soap! Our glorious soap stuck to the mold badly and it was “ashy” around the corners.  Onwards we went, experimenting and seeking results.

We went through many soap mold designs, my husband created each one on his own, and we dived into several changes to our basic soap recipe, to eventually include shea butter, before we presented our soap to customers for resale.

Through the 8 year journey we began raising goats, and eventually dairy goats, with the reality finally hitting us that we should include our own milk in our soap.  It was a major turning point! By the way, farming is not easy.  It can be a dirty job, one that is completed 7 days a week, on a set schedule, 365 days a year.  Our love for animals has kept us stead-fast in that arena.

What have we learned through our soapy journey?

  • Nothing is constant, expect change.
  • A good idea can be a great one, but there is always room for change.  Always know when to let go, and always know when (and what) to pick up.
  • Good soap does not occur without challenges.  I remember the day I called several suppliers to “ask the expert” about sloppy soaping results that we were experiencing.  The answer ended up being a simple one.  But, guess what? We were 7 years into our journey and still needed to ask! We always will, at some point or another!
  • I am careful with the soap advise that I dispense.  Why? the learning curve makes your own product unique.  When you dig for ideas when creating your own special product for 8 months (or a year…), and then experience the end result, it is yours, and yours alone! You’ve paid well for it, with your own time, while learning as you go.  It is worth the effort!
  • Select mentors, more than one.  Follow.  Watch.  Listen.  Listen well!
  • Do not make numerous business or product changes that will lead to an inventory that you may be stuck with.  Creative is one thing – but it needs to be kept under a seat belt.  Baby steps, one product at a time, leads to success.
  • Never say never.  If a well-versed business leader in your industry says, “This is what works…this is what does not work,” do not write their advice off.  What they say may not exactly fit into your business scheme, but I will guarantee you it will eventually fit in, even at a small level.
  • Follow your own path.  Write your own words.  If you are not creative today, it will come later when you are feeling passionate about your work.  I remember thinking our soaps were ugly, plain, and not so colorful.  So! There is our brand, farm-fresh, simple, yet one luxurious item in the bath!

We like it.

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Today, as I sat across the desk from a small business owner, my heart and eyes were opened to a new level.  It was truly an inspirational meeting.

The business owner relies solely upon sales of used manufactured homes to make a living. 

Many years ago, when she decided to begin her business, she was blessed with a banker that took her down-payment, yet had enough faith in her to give the money back so she could purchase homes in which to start.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye she refurbished several homes and was making sales.  She also was able to hire a man who had hit rock bottom, who needed work in the worst sort of way.  He became her right arm, very dedicated and loyal.

As our conversation carried forward, she began to tell me about her customers.  She said each one comes in with a different story.  Many of the customers are on a bumpy road.  Some have recently lost loved ones, some are ill, and some have had financial difficulties due to the economy.  My heart went out as she recited a hand-full of hard luck stories.  I could see the passion in her eyes. 

She then told me about her revelation, after being in business for several years, “It is my ministry!”  Her statement touched me to the extent that I jumped up and grabbed a tissue out of the box on her desk.  As I quickly pulled the tissue from the box the last one came flying out into the empty chair across from me.  I sobbed and laughed at the same time, as I stuffed the last tissue back into the box (realizing mine was probably not the first heart that she had touched.)  I smiled as I dabbed my eyes,  “You are going to have to buy more tissues!” She replied, ” Oh, don’t you worry, I have a LOT of them in the closet.”  I bet she does.

She went on to further explain her “ministry.”  She listens.  She helps people find a home, their home, the one that suits their needs.  She also helps others by providing jobs. 

She finds it very satisfying. 

It isn’t about sales.  And a lot of it is squarely rooted in faith.  She is so subtle about it.  I am in awe, and I did not hesitate to tell her so!

“Build it and they will come,” really does ring a bell here.  It isn’t about hoards of people knocking at your store door, wanting to spend their money on your product.  It isn’t about how many times you have appeared on Twitter, or Facebook, in the local newspaper, or whether there have been rave reviews of your product.  Yes, those things are important, to one degree…in another light.  The true reflection, however, is your inner-self.  The solid structure that you have “built” reflects your design in life, who you work for-who you serve, and what you serve.  It really is that simple. 

I am inspired!

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White board...in the barn too!

A question that I am frequently asked is, how do you juggle everything that you do (business, personal and farm)?

I don’t. Yet, I do. Working from home, with two businesses operating from the same office, and with a farm to boot, means some tasks simply wait or are delegated.

Here are my basic rules of thumb:

Schedule, plan, and think ahead.

Allow yourself time to find a pattern that allows a frequent task to flow efficiently. In most cases, when beginning something new, hours of practice and patience are required until the procedure becomes smooth as glass.

Determine when your productive hours are. For example: soap making works best for me before noon. I make sure I have time between feeding and milking goats, before lunch, for soap making. I am less tired and feel more creative during those hours.

Focus on your business during the hours you schedule for business. During that time do not fret about dirty dishes or a pile of laundry. Remember that your thoughts and attitude determine your future. I frequently give myself a “you are grateful” speech, put my best foot forward, and continue to put 110% into whatever really is most important.

A home based business requires adjustments from friends and loved ones as well. I learned to call my business hours “work time.” When I go to work I announce, “I am going to work.”  And I announce my work schedule to others if needed.  A growing business comes with growing pains. Until you can afford help, you wear all of the hats, you steer the engine, and you pull up the caboose. If you take your business seriously, others will too.

Remember, seeking help is not a sign of failure. Personally, I have reached a point in my life where it is obvious that deep cleaning the house is extremely difficult, if not impossible. So, ask yourself, can I afford help? Perhaps you cannot delegate accounting work at this point, or soap making, but can you hire a person twice a month to help you with domestic work? Or, perhaps there is someone you can barter with (help in exchange for help)?

To wrap this up, owning and operating your own business comes with independence that truly can be embraced, yet, it comes with a lot of sacrifice. The key is exactly that, how driven are you to sacrifice?

Finally, never forget, you need down time. Seek and find balance between your personal and business life. You cannot be there for yourself and others without your own happy and healthy mind.

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