Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow in Boulder

Hi Folks,

I'm visiting Boulder for the first time, and what interests me about being here is all the businesses and "brands" that have originated from here. Most of these companies are significant in that they are forward thinking: eco-friendly, cutting-edge natural, healthy, good-for-you with savvy branding. Boulder seems to be a real launching platform for these kind of entrepreneurial ventures. (The town itself makes all those values a priority--bikes and bike paths everywhere, public transportation, a million kinds of trash receptacles for processing recyclables (and a broad recycling program), a local food movement, etc etc.) Exactly the kind of stuff I find inspiring. I am also impressed with the scale of these boulder-based, national brands--just sipping tea this morning in the window of a cafe (watching lots and lots of snow coming down), I could feel this entrepreneurial spirit--and I realized I have been thinking too small with Milk and Honey.

As with any growth or future plan, there can be feelings of fear--even some hidden deep within the desire to grow and move forward. I could feel the fear of a certain kind of growth--one in which I imagine my business becoming more impersonal, somehow, if it gets too big.

But here in Boulder, with all these successful companies, I started to envision that as I grow, my sense of community and connection will simply expand--to encompass more people, in more places. And my ability to reach more people in a positive way--whether that means inspiring them to do business differently, run out and get a few goats, or create meaningful jobs--will be bigger too.

Thanks Boulder!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sula the Goat Stuffie--Now Available!

Sula the Goat has arrived on my website--the perfect, cuddly gift from our farm to you! On each and every box of our new packaging, we feature Milk and Honey's "Employee of the Month"--one of our girls, of course! Our goats are our most valuable employees, and we've decided to honor them by offering this adorable Nanny Goat Stuffie who we've named after our goat Sula. With her white floppy Nubian ears down to the dark stripes on her nose, she is of course a charming gift for the children (and goat lovers) in your life. You can pair her with a soap and save 10%. She even says "BAAAHHH!" when you squeeze her!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reflections on “Local” . . . as I send soaps and lotions out to customers and stores across the country (and even the world!)

Steve Wall, of Buckin' Bee Honey, is my supplier of beeswax; I consider him a business partner, he is so integral to my business.

“Local” may not be relevant to you if you’re buying my product in Pennsylvania or Minnesota, but what it really means is “relationship-based business.”

We make sourcing our business needs locally—from our ingredients to our graphic designers—a core value of Milk and Honey, because we can form long, meaningful, productive and mutually beneficial relationships with the talented, hardworking folks who are also our friends and neighbors. We believe that business connections based on relationships will be stronger, more fruitful and more ethically responsible—beyond what any contract could cover.

As our products move out into the world beyond our local Northern New Mexico community, we hope these values inspire others to do the same.

Our business friends are listed on the “resources” page of our website—visit their websites, call them, learn about them, give them your business!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Where do the holes go? A paean to recycled art

This is art made from the numerous circles of cardboard that are by-products of my new packaging! These pieces were made by kids at my daughter's school, Fayette Street Academy, under the guidance of Carol Ware, a Santa Fe artist and jeweler. I am thrilled that these cut-outs can have a new creative life, and am excited by the possibilities of a "green business" meaning not just run-of-the-mill recycling, but actually recycling that spawns new life and beauty in the world, not to mention creative materials and inspiration for children!

And, this is an opportunity to rave about Santa Fe's famous annual Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival, which took place this weekend. (Mentioned in USA Today!) I bought a fabulous pair of earrings from Carol (from the "cut collection"--visit her site), got total goosebumps from the stunning sculpture of Bates Wilson, especially his piece "Totem for Troubled Times" which has a haunting presence in real life. You can see photos of his work, but of course, they pale in comparison to the real thing.

I also bonded with Levi Koenen, who makes license plate art signs, of all things, but he and I gabbed about business and gift shows, and is a comrade! I hope to visit his shop in Tuscon some day, or maybe I'll run into him at the LA Gift Show.

It is always good for me to be exposed to incredible creativity, beauty, crafty entrepreneurs, and Holiday shoppers!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Mom is Off the Beaten Path

This weekend is the Off the Beaten Path studio tour in Smithville, TN just outside of Nashville. My mother Claudia Lee is a papermaker and book artist and is part of this tour. You can read about her master/apprentice project that she just completed on her apprentice Jess's blog, Paper Apprentice.
My mother is a big part of how I started my business-from a respect for handmade, traditional crafts, how to sell at market, to being an entrepreneur and living a country life (I grew up in upper East Tennessee). She was just visiting me in Santa Fe and will be back to sell at the Winter Holiday Market at the Farmers Market on December 18-21. Come visit her and see her stunning, handmade paper necklaces and earrings.

Friday, October 22, 2010

“Pioneering Spirit, Integrity, Passion, Accountability, Excellence”

Today, my lotion bars will be serving as my ambassadors at the dedication of Accion New Mexico’s new, beautiful building in Albuquerque.

Accion New Mexico is a non profit that encourages new businesses with loan funds and other forms of business support. They were the first ones to provide funding for Milk and Honey, enabling me to begin the process of creating my line of custom molds and the branding and package development that has just come to completion. This is a picture of their stunning building, with their entry archway that reads, “Pioneering Spirit, Integrity, Passion, Accountability, Excellence.” What an incredible standard to live by.

Congratulations Accion--and thank you for your support!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Farmers Market Dresses Up

Folks, I have to tell you about Saturday night.

I attended the Santa Fe Farmers Market Institute’s Annual Fall Fiesta fundraising gala, dolled up and accompanied by my (proud) mother, my friend Elyzabeth, and my aptly-named financial advisor, Rich. Not only were we clean and prettied-up, but our Farmers Market building was too--with colorful, festive lights strung from the ceiling, a live band playing gentle country music, and long formal dinner tables. There was a silent auction of goods ranging from handmade clay salad bowls, to organic 50lb sacks of goat feed, to gift baskets of soaps and lotions (of course)—with a mountain bike and dinners-for-two thrown into the mix as well.

We had a stunning dinner featuring local root veggies, lamb, polenta and over-the-top-rich mac & cheese, followed by local desserts—my favorite of which was a goat cheesecake. The food was prepared by a variety of local chefs.

Dinner was followed by a live auction that was so entertaining--dramatic and hilarious--I felt like I was at the theater. And let me just say right here that there was a lot of money flying around the room, and that our wonderful community truly loves and supports our market and its farmers. The live auction started with an auction of a dozen eggs--sold for $200!

The featured guests were Joe and Valerie Plame Wilson--read all about them if you can’t remember their incredible story. Somehow or other, they decided to relocate to our humble Southwest town, and now I was sitting just down the table from their gutsy-selves. Joe told a hysterical story about being attacked by a rooster when he was in Niger (you know, THAT Niger)—that laid him up for several days. He declared that farming was dangerous business, and he was grateful that we had such dedicated farmers to do this dangerous work on our behalf. The irony of this statement (his wife was an under-cover CIA operative, remember? And he took on the Bush administration single-handedly, to some serious consequences) was not lost on this audience. And Valerie is just as stunning in person as she was testifying before Congress.

Just after dessert was served (note: Rich did not try the goat cheesecake as he declared “I hate everything goat.” I’m sorry, what??? You’re fired!), the “heartfelt” part of the evening began, as Sarah Noss, Institute Director, hosted the Farmers Market All-Star Awards portion of the evening—our equivalent of the Oscars. Yours truly was the first award recipient, and I must say, I wasn’t prepared for the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the dedication—including a continuous slide show of images of me, my goats, my products, my farm, etc. Wow! It was truly an honor. I still feel like a newbie at the Market (and compared with two other award recipients I very much am). I was able to say a few words of thanks, and I let that crowd of donors and supporters know that my business wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the incredible entrepreneurial platform of the Santa Fe Farmers Market, one that encourages not only business growth in general, but a certain set of business values—local, fair, community-based, natural, real, connection with the land, with the seasons, with each other. These values provide a brilliant challenge for a business-one that pushes products to be better than what you find in the average market place. Thank you, Santa Fe Farmers Market.

My fellow Oscar—I mean All-Star winners were Tony and Helen Zamora of Zamora's Produce, who have been with the Market for like, 30 years, and Gary and Natasya Gundersen of Mr. G's Organic Produce. Gary, said, quotably, that "All the farmers at the Santa Fe Farmers Market are all-stars."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Beloved Male Customers-Now on Facebook

Friends, the "My Beloved Male Customers" series has been a wild success. It is now moving to my Facebook page, where I will have an ongoing photo gallery of these dedicated XY customers! Join me there!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best idea ever--Goats Grazing on a Green Roof

Folks, I just heard on Living on Earth about a place in Wisconsin called Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant, whose remarkable feature is on their green roof, they graze their goats! They have goats on their roof! The goats do great up there, because they are natural climbers! I'm adding this to my list of fantasies for my future home--green roof (I've always loved this idea anyway) with access for the goats!

I wish I could find better pictures of the goats, (I guess they're working on it) but you can see a few at this page. In one of the pics, a little hard to make out, I can see that there is a goat just lying down on the peak of the roof. Wow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thank You President Obama--and USDA Rural Development

Today I was a guest at the USDA's Rural Development year-end press conference. The press conference focused on the powerful effect that NM's Rural Development programs had on New Mexicans this year. As Terry Brunner, Director, stated, "Much of the funding that was obligated in 2010 came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those funds, combined with our regular funding, increased economic opportunity and improved the quality of life throughout rural New Mexico, even in these different economic times."

I was invited to be one of the living, breathing examples of the increased economic opportunity that this funding has created. Now, I love to attend events like this. I love to talk about my business, I love to meet interesting people. But this event humbled me.

I sat at the table next to the governor of the Pueblo of Laguna, John Antonio, Sr., who told stories about the third world conditions his pueblo has been living with in terms of water and septic services--they've just received funding to upgrade their water system. (And before the conference started, he told me the amazing story of being one of 30 Native Americans who were flown to the site of the World Trade Towers, just after 9/11, to participate in a major ceremony there.)

Lt. Governor Mark Thompson from the Pueblo of Laguna thanked Rural Development for funding a community wellness center--that he hopes will some day lead to the closure of the Pueblo's new dialysis clinic.

A lovely couple got up and spoke about the home they were able to purchase with a special loan fund--they are one of 11,400 families that received this kind access to funds.

And there were fellow Value Added Producer Grant recipients, Lynn & Judy Payne, who run Payne's Nurseries here in Santa Fe, and Sunland Nursery in Las Cruces. They have a wonderful product they are currently marketing--fresh organic cooking herbs, live in small pots, and packaged to grab off the shelf and take right home.

Folks, all this is to say, right now there is a lot of press covering people who are shouting that the stimulus funds were a mistake--a career-killing one for some politicians, and that big government needs to be stopped. And/or they are saying this funding hasn't worked, hasn't helped. The few of us in that conference today were just a handful of the thousands in this state alone, through this one state agency, that have benefited in life-changing ways from this support. I am proud to be one of them.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

All-Star Milkmaid meets CIA Spy

I am excited to report that at the annual Farmers Market Institute Fall Fiesta Gala on October 16, I and three other farmers will be honored as Farmers Market All-Stars!

In addition to being thrilled to get this award, I will be very well fed with all the amazing chef-prepared local food, I'll be able to shop for holiday gifts at the silent auction, and I will be rubbing shoulders with undercover CIA agents and high-level diplomats.


Our very own local CIA agent, Valerie Plame Wilson and her diplomat husband, Joe Wilson will be guests of honor. When they are not suing the Bush Administration, they are supporting the Santa Fe Farmers Market.

You can support too--buy a ticket, don your finest and come hungry!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whole Foods--WOW!

Folks, be the first to hear the news:

I sent a package of samples to Whole Foods in Boulder, and this was their response:

"I am delighted with the new items and the time spent on packaging. There really is a Wow Factor to the line!"


They will be starting my products at the Santa Fe store in January--then, the world!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Honey Harvest

Here's about half of the honey (and beeswax) we harvested yesterday. We? Steve Wall, beekeeper of Buckin' Bee Honey , and supplier of the beeswax for my lotion bars, came over and mercifully helped me harvest and clean up my hive.

I'm considering trying out a Langstroth hive for next season, instead of the top bar style hive. I realized watching Steve, just how much I still need to learn about beekeeping. For example, I have a pretty big fear of getting stung. That kind of makes it hard to beekeep calmly and frequently. Sure enough, I got a TINY sting on my finger yesterday, and it was swollen this morning. But the honey is just miraculous. There is nothing like honey still warm from the hive. As a product, it is absolutely perfect and complete, courtesy of the bees--no processing or changing necessary, like an apple just picked from a tree or an egg plucked out from under a chicken.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Soaps are on the Shelves . . .

My new packaging is getting around. . .
These pics are from a lovely store here in Santa Fe called Beauty Naturally in the DeVargas Mall.
Some other sites:
La Montanita Coop, Santa Fe

Herbs, etc, Santa Fe

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another Beloved Male Customer

This is Grif, and last Saturday he brought a friend to my booth at the Farmers Market to tell them how wonderful my products were, and to buy himself another lavender-rosemary soap. Thank you Grif!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bees Knees--how cool is this?

Electron microscopic photos of bees!

Lotion Bar helps Girl with Eczema

Pictured here with her brother and sister, this little customer (center) came with her mother to purchase a lotion bar and a soap--the lotion bar has helped her eczema dramatically. I elected not to take a picture of her healing skin, but it was impressive. The lotion bar was first purchased by her nanny; and then they came back to buy some themselves. I am thrilled that it has helped her (she used to be up at night with itchy skin), but my favorite part is a comment her mother made, "she likes to put it on herself."

I don't formulate my products for a particular condition or cure; as I say in my disclaimer on my website, "lotion bars are intended to make your skin feel good." But my ingredients are pure and simple, and I have great respect for the power of natural beeswax (no pesticides, antibiotics or bleaches) and organic calendula. I love to hear how my customers experience my products, and a story like this one is especially wonderful. I'll mention here that a recent customer from West Hollywood told me she could swear her brown spots were fading.

Try it yourself and let me know what happens!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Santa Fe Gift Market

My first wholesale trade show! This is New Mexico's Own 17th Santa Fe Gift Market, and the timing couldn't be perfect for debuting my new packaging and getting to meet retailers from all over the place. Pictured on the round table is my recommended first order. An order this size (about $150 wholesale) would have a nice presence on a store shelf in a market or a gift store.
As Taza smiles down on us, we hope to have lots of success!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Packaging Arrives!

The boxes have arrived--and here is Roan assembling the boxes for me--we have 10,000 pieces . . . we won't be assembling them all at once, that's for sure. Hurray--they're beautiful!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

". . . every one is surprised and then falls in love!"

A lovely email from Alexandra's (see blog post 8/23/10) mother, who writes, "If my mother were alive I know she would have written you a note too!"

"I am the woman from Carouge in Switzerland whose son lives in Santa Fe and whose daughter was visiting from Washington, D.C. You are a special person and someone none of us will forget. I have begun giving lotion bars to my friends and every one is surprised and then falls in love!

"For the moment, the fragrance lingering on my feet and hands, when I go to bed, vividly brings back this recent trip and all the memories made with my kids. My carry on luggage smells fabulous.

"I hope the bees keep buzzing, the goats keep producing and your kitchen does not become too small for a business that will continue to grow.

Take care,

Monday, August 23, 2010

". . . the fresh Mint scent is a great way to start the day, and the Citrus in the lotion bar is delightfully soft"

These lovely comments just came to me from Alexandra V., from Washington D.C.

"Just wanted to send a quick note to let you know how much I'm enjoying your products! I was at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market two weeks ago with my mom - she lives in Switzerland, I live in Washington - and we bought a number of your products.

"I use the Mint soap in the shower every day and use the lotion bar in the evenings. I'm sure I'll need to stock up on both to get me through winter in Washington. I love the products - the fresh Mint scent is a great way to start the day, and the Citrus in the lotion bar is delightfully soft. And I particularly like knowing that the products are all natural and made by hand!

"Thanks for the care and energy that goes into the products - it makes a difference. And, congratulations on all the exciting recent developments for your business!"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Palette

I'm preparing for Milk and Honey's debut at the 17th Santa Fe Gift Market at the end of the month--this is a wholesale show that features NM made products, and I am in the midst of that great creative process of designing my booth--small though it may be.

I have been needing to update my market booth look to match my new logo for some time, and now it is just falling into place! I love to use quilting fabrics to communicate different aspects of my business, like the scents of different soaps and lotion bars, and I love the depth and graphic quality, as well as the subtle shades of quilting fabrics available these days. It is also incredibly cost effective, and gives me an opportunity to get out my sewing machine.

I had great fun finding the colors you see in the picture above--At first I thought I would have to choose between berry-colored fabrics (the darker, vs the lighter, retro-print), but quickly realized I could use both! I used Spoonflower to print a sample of 1 yard of fabric with my logo, which I am now using to create a prayer-flag style patchwork banner for my table.

I will post pictures when my booth design is complete!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thank you from Terry Brunner

I just received this warm thank you from Terry Brunner, NM State Director of the USDA, and just wanted to share it:

Dear Ms. Lee:

Thank you for hosting me and Senator Tom Udall at the recent Obligation of Funds Ceremony we held at your Milk & Honey place of business and for your wonderful hospitality. Please let Simon know that Senator Udall and I greatly appreciated the tour of the farm and the beehives.

Your farm was a perfect location to showcase how our federal dollars can be spent to develop and promote local business and products and we are especially pleased that a small business like yours can benefit from these grant funds. We wish you great success in the promotion of your product line.

Terry Brunner
State Director

Thank you Terry!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Infusing Olive Oil with Calendula

A fresh crop of glorious dried calendula flowers was delivered to me by Heather Harrell on Saturday--and they went right into a pot of olive oil. They will turn the olive oil a beautiful golden color, imparting their healing resin--calendula is a powerful skin healing herb that soothes dry skin, rashes, sunburn, cuts, bugbites--you get the idea. Some folks with eczema find it helpful, too.
Although I can't claim this on my new packaging, you better believe these flowers are grown organically. One of the beauties of working with small farmers is you know they are growing clean--but it's just not worth it for them to become certified organic. So while I can't use the "organic" label, I can tell you their wonderful story--which makes for a much richer understanding of my product and our values.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Herd of Goats in Eldorado!

For those of you who don't live here, Eldorado is like a "suburb" of Santa Fe--just outside of town, and pretty much all residential with a pretty serious set of covenants. This week, 213 goats arrived to clear their greenbelts of weeds, as well as be available for hire by residents at $50/hour. We had to go out and see them--they were just outside the soccer field--and WOW what a site. Quite honestly, I have never seen that many goats in one place. Watching them move like schools of fish--suddenly changing direction and shifting, was awesome. They are a mix of breeds, and very beautiful. The other noticeable feature was the sound of MUNCHING, which was constant! And seeing the effect the goats had on the residents--cars were slowing down, pulling over, kids and adults were in amongst the goats, kids finding a stray goat kid or two to pick up and carry around. Folks were just delighted, and it was indeed magical.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An Exciting Celebration with Senator Udall

(From left: daughter Roan, Senator Udall, son Simon, myself and Terry Brunner)

Our event this morning (see blog post July 23) was so lovely and exciting. The rain held off, while personal friends, friends of my business, folks from the USDA and even customers from the Farmers Market came to help me celebrate my new packaging and the receipt of my grant funds from the USDA.

Senator Udall was such a pleasure to visit with; so interested in my business, curious, supportive and engaging. It was a thrill to have him there, and I consider this entire event to be a blessing on my business!

I got to speak after Terry Brunner, director of the NM USDA, and Senator Udall spoke, and it was my opportunity to emphasize a core value of Milk and Honey: relationships. I just want to take a little space here to mention some of them. Present at this event were of course the folks from USDA who helped me with my grant, particularly Jesse Bopp;
Steve Wall and his family, who supply me with beeswax but who also helped me get accepted into the Farmers Market five years ago;
Miranda Gray, who painted the gorgeous portrait of my goat Sula (we are currently doing a trade for soap and goat cheese in exchange for the original painting!);
Stephanie Huerta, my sculptor;
Friend and currently Thursday market saleswoman, Elyzabeth, who showed me the matchbox she uses for her sewing notions, which led to a major turning point in my packaging design;
Friend Lorelei Kellogg, who housed my goats for me when I was transitioning out of Glorieta into Santa Fe;
Michelle Moser, my designer and marketer . . .
I can go on and on. You get the idea.

I finished my little speech about how exemplary our community is for working together and keeping it local by reading Milk and Honey's mission statement, which will be printed on our new boxes:

"Milk and Honey is founded on our love of goats and Mother Nature, and appreciation for things natural, handmade, sensual and beautiful; and the passion to create a meaningful life that will inspire others to do the same."

As I told my friends gathered today, these relationships are what make a life meaningful, and I hope through the growth of my business, to inspire others to do the same.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nobby Organics Offering Our Mother & Baby Soap

Our soaps will be shipping out tomorrow to Nobby Organics--a charming new online organic baby store. Daria, the owner and "mother" of the site, will be carrying our Mother and Baby soaps in Lavender and Unscented. Visit their site and shop for your favorite baby!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Senator Udall Honors Milk and Honey's CEO and Milkmaid

Udall to meet Goats;
Milk and Honey to Celebrate Grant Award and New Packaging Launch

Monday morning, July 26, Senator Tom Udall will present me with a “certificate of obligation” for the USDA Value Added Producer Planning Grant. The ceremony will take place at the Arcos Iris Institute, the in-town farm and permaculture garden of Louisa Putnam, where my goats live. I have been awarded this $12,500 grant to create a strategic growth plan and feasibility study that will map out an exciting plan for Milk and Honey’s growth. This event will also celebrate the completion and launch of our new branding and ready-for-retail packaging.

Friends and Supporters: You are invited to come join us at this beautiful farm, meet the goats, munch on local food and rub shoulders with our Senator and other luminaries of the NM agricultural community. Feel free to extend this invitation to friends and family.

Contact me if you'd like to come and I'll send you directions!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

For the Love of Bees

Just want to put in a plug for my friend Heather Harrell's website--and her beautiful skin care products. She is a farmer and beekeeper (and one-time Milkmaid herself), and she grows the stunningly beautiful calendula flowers that I use to infuse the oils in my products. Her partner Les Crowder is the "Johnny Appleseed" of top-bar hive beekeeping in our community--thanks to him, there has been an incredible growth in back yard beekeepers--very good for the environment, and for the bees themselves. He teaches great classes--that is how I got started with beekeeping as well. Visit their site!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Daughter, Resident Milk and Honey Editor

With all these exciting new changes in my business, I have been working on a press release to send to some local publications. I'm tooting my own horn about my new packaging, receiving a grant from the USDA, and wanting to attract micro investments to support Milk and Honey's next growth steps.

I just had to tell you that I asked my daughter to proof it for me, and she made a genius editing suggestion: she changed "stunning new matchbox-style packaging " to "charming new matchbox-style packaging ."

You better believe I took that advice. And then watched her swell with well-earned pride!

More on seeking micro investors soon!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Something to Think About . . .

Stumbled upon this in a design magazine-- very provocative.

"Burt’s Bees Canada, creator of distinctive natural personal care products, unveiled a series of provocative installations that demonstrate how products that are put on the body are absorbed into the body. . . "

"Research has shown that the body absorbs a significant amount of personal care products such as cosmetics, lotions and soaps, which can be particularly alarming for those using synthetic formulas. Larger-than-life displays were constructed to help consumers visualize the potential impact."

“The ‘natural’ claim has become a bit confusing to many consumers, as some products pose as natural, but do not actually meet the criteria associated with ‘truly natural’ – at least 95% all natural ingredients with minimal processing . . . We want women to think twice about what they are putting on their skin."

Read more and see the other exhibits . . .

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creativity and Running a Business--and a Business Tip

{My dad Jack Lee and daughter Roan drawing together}

I come from a family of artists and creative people. Both my parents are artists; my mother has been a craftsperson since I was a child, first as a fiber artist (spinning, dyeing, weaving), now as a papermaker and bookbinder. My father is a fine artist as well as a commerical illustrator--and of course I was surrounded by their creative friends growing up. Being an artist sounds infinitely more romantic than being a business person or an entrepreneur (at least to me)--it sounds more poetic, more heartbreaking, more sensitive, more human, somehow. But I am discovering that the entrepreurial impulse is just as human, just as primal--as Muhammed Yunis (founder of the Grameen Bank and pioneer of microfinance economics) has said, people are inherently entrepreneurial--and I think this impulse is another manifestation of the drive to create.

I have been surprised at how much I love running a business. Obviously, I love my goats, and I like making my product, but I am finding the business-running part to be the most exciting and fulfilling--because I find it so creative.

In other words, running a business is not just accounting, working on the computer, figuring out how to make a product efficiently and earn a profit, etc. In a dynamic and juicy process we entrepreneurs pull all the pieces together into a whole vision, we breathe life into it--making it more than just a product or a service. Our customers encounter our business (or our product) as an experience, as an entity that they can relate to personally and emotionally. This is not shallowness--trying to sell a product through emotional manipulation--but when done from a place of authenticity and passion, is actually real, meaningful and fulfilling--for both the entrepreneur and the customer.

So! Here's my tip of the day (full disclosure: as first recommended by my friend Barbara) for running a business: take an afternoon off and go to the bookstore and just browse. My latest favorite thing is browsing through business magazines, or design journals. Today I discovered HOW Magazine, which had a great article called "The Creative Process Illustrated." The article focused on three (all male) ad designers and how they come up with ideas--how they allow the creative process to flow. Great stuff. One of them said repeatedly "don't think." Also, to reiterate my own tip, another designer pointed to how much he seeks other influences of all kinds: listening to NPR, seeing movies, visiting galleries, reading, etc etc. It's all grist for the creative, business mill. I have found this to be true in my own life and business, but thought I was letting myself get distracted at worst, or at best that those activities were merely "personal"--when in fact it feeds my business!

Other great tips from these creative thinkers:
Think with your body
Muzzle the critic
Don't think
Go see a movie in the middle of the day
Allow your mind to work on the idea as you sleep--and be prepared to get up in the middle of the night and take notes for yourself
Listen to the feelings

etc etc

Your ideas?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Your Lotion Bar is My Best Friend"

Getting an email like this always makes me feel so good!

"...Just sending you a message to let you know how much I love and am impressed with your lotion bar I received as a gift from my best girlfriend who lives in Santa Fe. She just came to Austin, where I live, for a visit and brought me the lotion bar. I thought the lotion bar was the most unique thing! I truly adore it. Makes those elbows, feet and cuticles soft soft soft! She gave me the petroglyph spiral citrus.
I am so impressed with your web site and products...natural ingredients, earth friendly and your generous spirit of giving back.
Continued success with your business. So glad my girlfriend turned me on to your lotion bar which has become my best friend!!!!!" ---Sheree

Another customer recently said to me, "Last summer, I had a love affair with one of your lotion bars."

Thank you, dear customers!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Goats on NPR!

Yes, Weekend Edition Saturday has a great story on goats! Favorite quote:

"In a steep hillside city park on Bunker Hill, right next to the world’s shortest railway, 120 goats are about to be deployed. "Oh my gosh, they're so cute," Nate Giddings says as he makes his way to work in a nearby skyscraper. "

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sula is recovering

It's been a tough week at the barn. My beautiful goat Sula contracted a severe eye infection--one which seemed like it might leave her blind. It completely infected one eye, and was starting in the other. I called my beloved vet from Pecos who set us on an aggressive antibiotic regime, in combination with keeping her completely indoors out of the sun and wind. On Friday there was a serious question as to whether or not she would pull through. She was in pain, squinting her eyes, with tears running down her cheeks. Heartbreaking.

We went into full crisis-care gear--I say we because I had so many people supporting and helping me care for Sula. Louisa, Carrie Jo and Elizabeth, all of Louisa's farm, as well as her house guest Susan, were apprised of Sula's condition and asked to check on her, and of course, pray for her. Carrie Jo recommended apple cider vinegar, which I deployed right away. I called my beau, who, with my son Simon, quickly built an elegant and efficient gate/latch to secure the goat barn door closed to keep the goats inside. My friend Janeen, who milks the goats two days a week and has become a partner with me, gave me over the phone advice and checked in regularly--she is a family practice physician, and her brother is a vet, so she was very calm, and also understood all the medical stuff happening with her. And the other two goats were kept in with her, as they are herd animals and need each other, and I really felt that they were very aware of her illness and were supportive as well.

As of last night, and again this morning, her energy was back, she had both eyes open (although the one eye still looks bad--but it seems some of the swelling has come down), she was eating again, and she was her usual talkative self. What a relief! I fear that she may be permanently blind in one eye, but if she can fully recover from this, I will be so grateful. She is about to make her debut as "employee of the month" on my new soap boxes . . . and we love her so.

A sick goat is so distressing, but it is so rewarding to see them respond to care and regain their health and spunk. Thank you to my sweet circle for all their healing support. We still need to pray for her continued recovery.

The painting of Sula (at the top) was painted by the artist and my friend, Miranda Gray.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

At the Printers!

Today was a very exciting day for me and my business! Michelle, my designer/marketer and I drove down to Albuquerque Printing to do a "press check" of the sleeves for my lotion bar and soap packages. This was a great learning experience for me. As you can make out a bit, we were in a giant warehouse room with huge machines. Don, who has been the manager for my job, has been amazing to work with--making numerous mockups of the boxes, and just being so friendly and easy to work with. Joe was my printer, running this incredible machine, on which he was able to make small color corrections for Michelle (and theoretically, me) to inspect for accuracy. This was tricky, because it got to the point that I couldn't really tell any difference between an earlier color proof on glossy paper, and the printing on my cardstock. There were certain variations that made it difficult for me to compare the two: the paper proof was high gloss; the cardstock has a satin finish. Also when a color was adjusted say, for the soap labels, the lotion labels were affected too, as they are all on one sheet.

Ultimately, it was an incredibly quick and painless process, due in large part to the expertise of Michelle, and the professionalism and skill of Joe and Don. Let me just say here that I feel completely bonded with Don and Joe. To me, this is another local relationship that I have cultivated (thank you, Michelle), and that has been so nurturing for my business. I feel so lucky not to have send my work out to another state, or, god forbid, China. This is a local business, and although I am small potatoes, compared to many of their other clients, I felt like royalty, today, and their excitement about this first step with me, was a great gift.

I should have brought a bottle of champagne. I did bring soap and lotion bars (not enough!) and I got to go home with several sheets of my labels--a thrilling souvenir for me!