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How It All Began, Part II

In yesterday’s post, I reflected on the beginning–how I got started in skin care, and the birth of our first business Tehacha-Bee Farm. Today’s story is a little bit different. It’s about the spark of an idea becoming a fire in my heart, and the reasons behind that spark in the first place.

And hopefully by the time I’m done tomorrow, you’ll understand as clearly as we do why the merging of Tehacha-Bee Farm and Handcrafted Honey Bee not only makes sense from a practical standpoint, but will give the opportunity for both businesses to tap into a potential when combined that they could not have tapped into alone.

Today’s post talks about how we came up with the idea for Handcrafted Honey Bee–and why Tehacha-Bee Farm’s growth was so instrumental to our ability to test the idea of DIY kits.

GETTING THE HANG OF IT

When I left off yesterday, I had a three-year-old, a one-year-old, a weekly farmer’s market, a weekend show at least once a month, was teaching private soap classes, and was learning how to build an honest-to-goodness business.

My tables were looking great, our online business was good, and I even enrolled in a course to teach me how to wholesale my products successfully (SIDE NOTE: that wholesale class was a game changer for me and has influenced everything I know about business. If you’re interested at ALL in wholesaling your work–from soap to photography to handmade aprons–please, please check out Lucky Break Consulting and her Secrets to Wholesale Success Program. I am a different person–I am a businesswoman–because of Lucky Break and will always be grateful for the wisdom I gained there).

Soon, I had my Tehacha-Bee products in five different local locations: the original farm stand, a local bakery, a local clothing boutique, a local health store, and a small bistro. I would later add on another restaurant that had a gift area and a mama/baby boutique as well. We had our labels professionally printed and things we humming along at a good pace for a tired mama! And it wasn’t long before all of our shipping and packaging materials moved from our laundry room to a small enclosed room that joins our house to our garage. The raw materials stayed in the laundry room. We were growing!

I experimented with expanding my offerings. I tried liquid soap, for example–and loved making it! The end product was fantastic, but the process was way too labor-intensive for me to keep up with such little kiddos.

And although the days were long and exhausting, I’ll be the first to admit–we were having a lot of fun doing it. We began to realize that perhaps this had to potential to be more than a hobby after all.

LESSONS

I learned a lot throughout this period with Tehacha-Bee Farm. I learned how to create graphics for my business. I learned how to take product photography. I learned how to sell my products at fairs and farmer’s markets. I learned that some products were much easier to make than I could have thought…and others were much harder.

But most of all, I learned that I loved to teach.

I loved hearing people say, “Wow! I can’t believe I made this!” or “This was way easier than I imagined it would be.” I loved seeing the pride on my customers’ faces when they held their very first batch of lip balms or log of soap. And after being out of the classroom for over seven years (I was a teacher before moving to the country), I realized that guiding people through these learning experiences was tapping into one of my deepest, greatest joys.

It wasn’t just the act of teaching or watching someone learn something new. It was witnessing the transformation–of seeing someone really become proud of what she/he just did. Of watching my customers walk out with a big grin, walking a little taller. I could see that they thought of themselves differently when they realized they had just done something they never thought they’d do.

And the emails and phone calls helped, too. People told me stories about how they gave their soap to loved ones or made custom labels for their lip balms and gifted them as personalized stocking stuffers.

I fell in love with watching this happen over and over, wishing that there could be the local demand in our little town to teach these types of classes full time. I wondered: could there be a way to expand my reach? I explored alternatives. I could teach online classes, but there were lots of logistical problems with that solution. I could travel, but with two little ones that wasn’t really practical.

And then I came up with an idea.

THE PROTOTYPE AND TEST MARKET

I tested my idea at our next big show: the Labor Day show in Bishop, California. I made 8 prototypes of my idea…a DIY lip balm kit that could be sent anywhere in the country (or world!) and would walk the customer through the exact steps I would do with them if they were taking a class in person.

In fact, I assembled the kits with my lip balm classes in mind, pre-measuring all of the ingredients and including flavors that I thought customers would enjoy. I typed up a small instruction sheet in Microsoft Word, designed a rudimentary label, and came up with a cute name that complimented our Tehacha-Bee brand.

I set up our eight DIY kits in a prime spot in our booth, right at the end where people could look at them as soon as they approached the booth (see them there on the left?).

Our customers were intrigued and delighted. The lip balm kits were soon sold out, and I began to plan: I wanted to introduce two more types of kits by Christmas time. I knew I was onto something.

GROWTH & STRUGGLE

It was October of 2013, and business was booming. Our Tehacha-Bee deodorant had gained tremendous popularity, and we were making lots and lots of product every day. Preparing for the Christmas season starts early in skin care, and we ramped up our Tehacha-Bee production in anticipation of several local shows.

We also got some new equipment to help with the increased production load–such as this lip balm filling tray…

…and three of these quad soap molds, each which held 12 lbs of soap (or 60 bars) at a time.

Life was really good, even if it was moving at lightning pace. We were tracking well with our production, we were planning on having three different sets of DIY kits at Christmas, and we had even launched a brand new website that was independent of our Etsy shop. We also had to move all of our raw materials from the laundry room to a small studio that was adjacent to our house. The studio was about 20′ x 12′, so the additional room was a huge relief.

And on top of it all, we found out that we were pregnant with our third child! We were overjoyed to know that our family was going to grow, even if we weren’t sure how we were going to juggle it all. We knew having a business and having three children under three would be quite a challenge, but we were ready to face it together.

Sadly, we found out that we had lost our baby at the end of November. That Christmas show was one of the toughest shows I have ever done–both physically and emotionally. We debuted our new kits and experienced great success with both our Tehacha-Bee Farm products and Handcrafted Honey Bee products, but our hearts were broken.

I took a hiatus from production after our last Christmas show and gave myself a good month to recover physically. Emotionally, it would take much longer…but Handcrafted Honey Bee would be unexpectedly instrumental to helping my heart heal and gave our family direction as we moved forward.

Tomorrow, we’ll conclude our three-part story about how Tehacha-Bee Farm was the foundation for Handcrafted Honey Bee’s growth. Check it out here–2014 was an incredible whirlwind of a year, and it’s fun to recount it!

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