Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I didn't get much soaping done last week -- I was busy teaching myself just enough Microsoft Excel to get by.

Here I am, learning me some Excel.

See, I did my taxes a couple of weeks ago and when it came time to file my first-ever Schedule C for my soaping business, I discovered that I was woefully unprepared.

Sure, I had kept a running tally of all of my expenses and revenue and thought I had done a bang-up job. Then my tax preparer starting asking me questions, stuff about spending categories and deductions-this and tax credits-that:

How much did I spend on soap molds? ... Hmm, can I borrow your calculator and a large chunk of your time?
What's my inventory worth? ... Oops, didn't think about that.
How much did my raw materials cost in relation to my retail products? ... Huh? I spent this many monies.

Needless to say, I was flustered. And when I get flustered, I curse myself for not having done a better job in the first place. And I also usually get a headache.

So, my husband, Ken, suggested we set me up with an Excel spreadsheet. He's an Excel ninja, compared to me.

Now, I have dabbled in Excel before, but found it to be perfectly flabbergasting. I was trying to help my husband input data once, and my finger was forever slipping and I was constantly accidentally changing or completely deleting formula lines and columns, or pasting things in odd places. I was sure that I was going to hit "enter" at the wrong moment and blow up a missile silo somewhere.

Last year, I kept a running list of my business figures on MS Word. It was big and clunky and had two categories: Expenses and Revenue. After our visit with the tax preparer (who is a very nice and lovely man, by the way), it was agreed that I needed a better way to keep track of things.

Ken set up two worksheets for me, one for Expenses and one for Revenue, with appropriate categories for each. The most important functions to remember, he told me, were the formula =SUM and Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V to copy and paste.

Of course, I eventually decided that I needed to make some changes to the sheets he had made me. I also decided that I needed a third worksheet. I was on my own, but I forged ahead, certain I could do it. All I needed to do was a little bit of reverse engineering. Easy-peasy for a liberal arts major.

First, I needed to make column headers (columns run up and down, right?). I typed my text in that tiny box, hoping it would be apparent how to make it bigger and more vertical. Hmm ... I had seen Ken click on "Merge & Center" in the toolbar a lot; maybe I should be clicking it a lot too. I selected my column boxes, clicked "Merge & Center," and EEEKK! it worked. After much poking around, I found the button with the "ab" and the arrow and made my words vertical.

This was a piece of cake.

Next came inputting my data. Just select the first blank box, hit Ctrl-C, select the rest of the column, select Ctrl-V, and there you go!

This is fine until you get to the point in your worksheet when you decide that you need to have a running total for each column, and that you need a column that keeps a running total of everything combined.

I looked at Ken's worksheet. He said to make friends with the "=SUM( )" formula. Now, there are all kinds of formulas on Excel. You can formulate the "prorated linear depreciation" of assets, or the "inverse hyperbolic cosine of a number." No, thanks. Maybe later (but probably not). For now, I'll just stick to good ol' 1+1=2.

I found a way to use =SUM for my every need. And even that wasn't easy. See, each data box has a row and column assignment. The box at the intersection of column B and row 5 is called, predictably, B5. Fine, I get that. But when it comes time to combine Column B with Column K for a running total column, it is necessary to hark back to your high school pre-calc algebra days and suffer any flashbacks that may incur. (I don't know about you, but high school left me a giant walking scar.)

Trying to set up columns with running totals took a while. I was afraid of messing everything up. But I told myself to just explore and click away. I could fix anything I did wrong. What's the worst that could happen? Heck, this ain't WarGames.

My first running total column looked like this:
=SUM(D8+D9+D10+D11+D12+D13+D14+ ... do I really have to do this all the way down to D150?)

The answer is no. Remember the old copy-and-paste trick? Good for you, because I didn't. Not right away anyway.

The best bang-your-face-into-your-keyboard moment, though, was when I decided that I wanted a running total of all of the Total columns. That is, I wanted a separate running total column for office supplies, fees, materials costs, and a dozen other things, but I also wanted a total of all of those things put together to show a running total of all of my expenses combined.

So that column looked like this:
=SUM(Y8+B9+C9+D9+E9+F9+G9+H9+I9+J9+K9+dear god somebody please help me I am in Exhell ...)

Days later, after I semi-figured all of this out, I had to go back and fill in the columns to color-coordinate them, and I wanted borders around my header boxes, blah, blah, blah.

It is done now. And I probably could not tell you how to build a worksheet in Excel even after all of this. I would just try different things that seem vaguely familiar until something works.

Now that I have it set up just like I like it, though, I love it. It makes tracking things a cinch. I just hope it will always work for me as is, and that I'll never need to change a thing. I hope I can just delete this year's figures and use the same sheets for next year.

Is it too much to ask that some things never change?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Favorite Crafting Business Books!

Hi, all! A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about my favorite soaping books. I know many of you Wonder Turtle Soaps blog readers are soapers, and some of you are in the business of selling soap, or you're thinking about selling it. I thought I'd share some books that helped me along the way when I was starting out. I still read as many of these kinds of books as I can, and I try to learn something new everyday.

I already touched on Maria Given Nerius's Soapmaking for Fun and Profit in the above post. The "For Fun and Profit" Series Editor Barbara Brabec writes her own books about crafting businesses, and one that I found to be extremely helpful is The Crafts Business Answer Book: Starting, Marketing, and Managing a Homebased Art, Crafts, or Design Business. This book was updated in 2006, and nearly 300 topics are laid out in an dictionary-style A-to-Z format. This book starts at Accounting and ends with Zoning Laws. Read the book straight through for a business primer, or easily look up a topic of interest.

If you're interested in starting an Indie business, check out Kari Chapin's The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online and Grace Dobush's Crafty Superstar. Both books have a fun, hip, conversational tone, and although both cover similar ground, they are each worth a read on their own. Chapin begins by helping the crafter get to know herself and her craft so she can set goals, brand her business, and establish basic business practices. In Part 2, she covers marketing, online crafting communities, blogging, and advertising. Next comes the actual selling -- mainly at craft fairs, online stores, and wholesaling or consigning in brick-and-mortar stores.

Dobush also introduces the handmade "Indie" business and helps the reader with basic business topics like pricing, simple bookkeeping, and keeping a business legal. She also suggests venues for selling -- craft shows, a web site (including Etsy), and brick-and-mortar stores. Marketing and advertising are also discussed. Dobush also devotes a chapter to "finding balance"; that is, balancing work with a personal life (the lines between the two can often blur when you run a crafting business from home). There is also a bunch of appendices in the back covering everything from forms and templates, online craft communities, and small business resources.

Another good book to read is Meg Mateo Ilasco's Craft Inc.: Turn Your Creative Hobby Into a Business. This is also a hip little book with tons of info on business planning, setting up your company, pricing and production, marketing and publicity, how to make and manage sales, and what to do when it's time to grow (or scale back) your business.

And I must admit that I do love the "Dummies" books. A good "Dummies" book has demystified many a newfangled thing for me. If you're thinking about setting up an online shop and using PayPal as your payment source, you might want to give PayPal for Dummies a perusal. This book was published in 2005, so PayPal may have undergone some small changes since then, but the info is still highly relevant. I also got a lot out of Facebook Marketing for Dummies when I decided to set up a Fan Page. This book mainly covers Fan Pages -- how to make them, promote them, and expand your business with them -- although there is a short section on Facebook in general if you're unfamiliar with it. And, yes, I read Google Blogger for Dummies, too. (How am I doing?)

Wally the Wonder Turtle and I would love to hear about some of your favorite crafty business books! Do you have some dog-eared business books that you go to again and again? Tell us all about 'em!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Buy three, get the fourth free sale!

Happy spring, Wonder Turtle friends! There's a crazy-good sale going on at Wonder Turtle Soaps right now to celebrate the new season.

Now through Sunday, March 21, buy any three bars of soap and get a fourth bar free! Simply purchase three soaps and tell me in the notes/message to seller section at checkout which fourth item you would like free! (Please ensure that the fourth bar is of equal or lesser value. Offer good on in-stock items. U.S. shipping only.)

So please stop by my shop and pick up some fun soaps! And while you're there, check out our two new soaps:

Rosemary Mint Olive Oil soap:

Rosemary Mint is a gorgeous blend of peppermint, spearmint, and rosemary with a hint of creamy vanilla. Men and women both will adore this minty and refreshing scent.

This soap is made with a luxurious olive oil base containing 20% kosher extra virgin olive oil. You'll love its creamy lather!

Cucumber Melon soap:

Cucumber Melon is a light, refreshing scent that is perfect for summer! Cool cucumber and fresh honeydew melon mingle with red apple, juicy watermelon, and bright green notes. Wally the Wonder Turtle says that this fragrance reminds him of sitting on a picnic blanket on a patch of freshly-cut grass, happily eating a summer fruit salad.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New at Wonder Turtle Soaps!

Wally the Wonder Turtle and I have added two more new soaps to our shop at Wonder Turtle Soaps!

Lemon Sugar has a zesty, fresh lemon scent with a touch of sweetness that's perfect for spring and summer! A creamy goat's milk base gives this soap a luxurious lather:

Clean Cotton smells like fresh linen hung out to dry on a sunny, breezy day. This fragrance is super-clean and fresh, and both men and women will love it!

With the warmer weather approaching, our thoughts are turning to more bright, sunny fragrances. Wally and I are excited about these two new soaps, and we're gradually adding more fragrances to our inventory.

What kind of fragrances would you like to see at Wonder Turtle Soaps? Do you most like the fresh and clean variety, or floral and fruity? Maybe something deep and earthy, or a yummy soap that smells like something you'd want for dessert? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!

Wally the Wonder Turtle is becoming quite the little traveler! Last weekend, he came to New Orleans with me and my husband, Ken, for the Rock 'n Roll Mardi Gras half-marathon. The race was on Sunday, so we walked around the city on Saturday, taking in the sights. Wally wanted me to share some pictures with everyone, and I thought that was a fine idea.

We walked over to Jackson Square, a fun place with sidewalk artists and performers as well as great little shops and restaurants. (Check out the The Louisiana Pizza Kitchen if you're over that way -- good stuff!) Here is the famous St. Louis Cathedral, named after King Louis IX of France, and its statue of Andrew Jackson.

The French Market along the Mississippi River is a fun place to visit. For over 200 years, merchants have been bringing their wares and produce to this lively marketplace.

I found some soap at the French Market and, of course, had to buy some! I absolutely love trying other people's soaps! I bought this big beautiful bar of cold-process eucalyptus soap from a delightful man named Roger. He told me this bar would make me think of a spa, and he was right! The soap has a wonderful herbal, almost minty smell to it, and the lather is creamy and luxurious.

Sunday was half-marathon day! What gorgeous weather we had! Friday was rainy, Saturday was cold and windy, but Sunday was sunny, cool, and calm. The temperature at the starting line was 41 degrees, but it was a warm 41 with there being little breeze. Things warmed up quickly on the course, and I was so grateful that I didn't have to fight the wind for 13.1 miles.

The half-marathon (and even the full marathon) is so much fun in New Orleans because there are throngs of spectators lining the streets all along the way, cheering everyone on. There's a great energy on the course, which keeps your spirits up and your energy high. And this year, with the race being a Rock 'n Roll event, there were live bands spread throught the course. I have run a marathon route where there were few spectators and low energy, and, man, what a grind. I so appreciate the wonderful people who turn out to support this race!

I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 3 minutes, uninjured and happy.

Action shot! Here I am, moments before crossing the finish line. (My husband took this picture -- he's faster than me and finished his half-marathon in plenty of time to take some photos of me.)

I shared my medal with Wally. My victory is his victory, too -- I couldn't have done it without him.

Any of you Wonder Turtle fans runners out there? Anybody do a fun race this season? Wally and I love to swap running stories almost as much as we love swapping soaping stories! We'd love to hear yours!

Many thanks to the New Orleans Police Department, the Sheriff's Department, all of the race volunteers, and the city of New Orleans (and anyone else I may have inadvertently left out!)  for making this year's event safe and fun!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New at Wonder Turtle Soaps -- Grapefruit Splash Soap!

Spring and summer are coming! I know it's still cold out there now, but, trust me, warmer weather will be here soon. And after a hot day on the beach or a warm, lazy night on the patio, this Grapefruit Splash soap is a perfect pick-me-up:
Grapefruit Splash is an invigorating blend of fresh grapefruit, Italian lemon, and a hint of juniper. It is a crisp, refreshing scent that is perfect for spring and summer.

Pretty layers of pink and gold will remind you of freshly sliced grapefruit.

Head on over to Wonder Turtle Soaps and check it out!