Saturday, August 23, 2014

Success or Failure?

As I put together my portion of this year's homeschooling curriculum I look back on last year to evaluate my successes and failures. At first pass, my main contribution to homeschooling last year (other than driving her around to swimming, archery, film-making, and LEAD classes) which was a class on starting the soap business Finley Point Soap, looks to have been a failure. It was our first year of homeschooling, and I thought it would be good idea to do a class on creating and running a business. My goal was for Jessie to have a fully realized business that would provide her with on-going revenue and responsibility by the end of the year.

As yet, the webpage is still half-created and wholly unpublished, the Facebook page languishes, there is no Etsy shop, we aren't doing the Farmer's Market here in Montana, we haven't made soap in months, and Jessie is lethrgic when I bring up working on the project. I am frustrated as we still have a considerable materials inventory, and invested moderately in equipment and infrastructure. And yet...

Earlier this summer Jessie asked me to take her to a bead store so she could get some materials to make jewelry that she could sell on Etsy. She had watched me set up my Etsy store for Farm2Yarn and wanted to have her own store. I thought Finley Point Soap would make a fine Etsy store, but what do I know? So I took her to Mission Mountain Studio, the bead store here in Polson, and she bought a bunch of stuff. I did not buy it for her: She bought it out of her savings.

She made a couple of pieces, and then got her grandmother to take her to WalMart so she could get fabric to use as a backdrop for photographing the work, a velvet bust on which to display the necklaces, and a few more components to make more pieces. However, as is so often the case, she felt she needed still more findings and beads so I took her into Missoula to Michael's and the Garden of Beadin'. (It's all about the stash, baby.)

As we drove home, I stressed (gently) to her that in order to have a business, she really needed to track the costs of all of her inventory so she would be able to accurately determine the retail price. I then made her a deal that I would finance the day's purchases if she would not only calculate the cost of every single item she had chosen (from the first t-pin to the last spacer bead), but would continue to calculate the piece costs for all future purchases. She is a tight-fisted little thing so I was pretty confident she would go for the deal, and indeed she did. I'd like to say it was because the lecture was a review of material we'd already covered for Finley Point Soap that she took the deal, but I know better. What's important is that she spent the evening and much of the next day sorting beads, reviewing receipts, dividing the cost of a package by the number of items in it, and labeling containers with item prices. I admit to helping her a bit, as after several hours she was completely overwhelmed (but it was a good life lesson).Then, after she had her materials stowed away she treated herself to making a few pieces.

Since then she has alternated between making pieces, photographing them, and then putting them up on Etsy. Putting them on Etsy (or any sales site) is a tedious process. You have to come up with a name for the piece, write a description, put in materials tags, measure and record size information, and price it. And she just keeps going. She starts each day making, and ends each day either on Etsy or facebook.

So maybe Finley Point Soap wasn't the right venture for her, but it introduced her to the tools she needs to create the business she wants, and--after creating her initial product offering--she was able to take the business live and make her first sale in under two days. She knows how to choose materials based on both quality and probable return on investment. She understands the importance of branding and can create logos, banners, backgrounds, and the other graphical elements used in print and electronic media. She may not like writing marketing documentation, but she knows how to do it. She knows how to use Etsy, Facebook, and Weebly (web design). Her photography is first rate: She put together a set with good lighting and a variety of backgrounds, composed her shots, and took gorgeous photos of the finished work with her digital SLR--several images per piece. Before last year she couldn't have done any of it. Maybe this is a bit of post hoc ergo propter hoc on my part and she would've been in the same place now if she had continued in Waldorf, but I don't think so.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Nice product. Good education. And look who she's emulating...