How Obstacles from the Beginning Helped me Become a Better Handmade Business Owner

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

I quickly realized that my initial fear of getting my business legally set up during a pandemic was going to be the least of my problems!

After spending days and every free hour researching I decided to take the plunge and give this handmade business a try since I felt fairly confident once I set everything up it would be an easy process. After all, I had my product cost analysis completed, materials saved to my online wishlists and pinned on Pinterest, and a draft website with an online store. What could go wrong besides a countrywide shutdown?

The answer was... quite a bit! Thankfully these were all obstacles that helped me learn how to adapt and quickly reassess in order to save existing sales, and begin to expand.

Stinky Shea Butter

When I was looking into the ingredients used for my handmade body butters I decided that unrefined shea butter was going to be perfect. I did read that unrefined shea butter has a fairly strong smell, but it didn't seem like it was too much of a problem and I thought I would take those reviewers opinions with a grain of salt. I took the plunge and ordered 5 pounds of unrefined African shea butter! When the package arrived I could smell it as I was unwrapping it and I instantly thought that I may have made a mistake! The nutty aroma overpowered all the fragrance oils and essential oils and it seemed like no matter how much I put, the shea butter scent burst through and now I had 5 pounds to use up! Thankfully I had a massive order in my future, which ended up leading to another hurdle to jump!

Supply Chain Breakdown

The supply chain breakdown and huge volume of online orders that companies were receiving left me scrambling for materials. I would go to order an ingredient or form of packaging only to realize at check out it would take weeks to arrive. There were times when the items would suddenly go out of stock and show no sign of ever becoming available in the future.

This was a major problem for me as I had just received an order from a local veterinary office for 31 Essential Employee Lavender Care Packages! I was so excited until I realized that I needed 62 jars and I was quite short. Upon checking online, the jars that I used for most of the order that fit perfectly two to a box were out of stock and wouldn't be in for another 2-3 weeks! I was unwilling to delay their order so after managing to find jars that previous customers didn't need and needing to use up gobs of body butter myself from a different scent collection (I ended up with very soft skin), I was able to fill almost all of their order. After lots of internet searching I realized that my best option was to take the last remaining gift boxes and use mason jars.

This situation caused me to quickly pivot and find the best substitute possible to make such wonderful employees feel appreciated! I was also able to use up the stinky shea!

Farmer's Market Sunburn

As everyone was gearing up for summer, by chance I came across the Newtown Local Market right by our house. To my delight I found out they had a space available and it was free to set up! I let the coordinator know I would be there and then realized I knew nothing about setting up at a market.

I frantically began preparing and trying to find the most cost effective way of setting up. Thankfully I already had a little table, but that was about all in my market arsenal. I was able to order a cheap tablecloth, apron for change, and my sister got to work on my sign. At the last minute I realized I didn't have enough time to get change and of course all the banks were still closed so I had to send my husband running all over to try and get a convenience store that could break bills for change.

The big day came and I got my little table set up and then noticed everyone else had tents. Three hours and only one sale later I found myself roasted and learned a valuable lesson to always bring a tent!

Looking Ahead

All of these situations helped me to not suffer from analysis paralysis and to do whatever it takes to try and get the job completed to everyone's satisfaction. Now that the world has seemingly calmed down a bit, I have been able to focus on establishing my permanent packaging, labeling, image, and website. This is allowing me to focus on my Mount Everest size obstacle: learning marketing techniques and reaching my sales goals!


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