Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The economy ate my wholesale accounts

I've been seeing a slow but steady change over the last couple of years in my business. It started with just a few of my retailers ordering less. Then, a few stores actually closed shop. Over the summer I had a fairly large customer stop sending birthday gifts to his clients. That was a nice chunk of change that we relied on each month that vanished overnight. Two more stores closed. One large retailer stopped ordering all together...and now the first store to ever carry our products, the Anchor Room, has closed their doors too.

Honestly, except for the emotional attachment to Anchor Room, and the relationships built with employees, I haven't really minded the loss of the wholesale accounts. I am a busy mom, with lots on my plate. My day doesn't begin and end with DipSticks, so losing wholesale seemed manageable. After all, I work just as hard on those orders as I do for direct, retail orders, but I make half the money.

Then, the busiest season of the year rolled around and I held my breath. You just literally NEVER know what's around that crazy corner called Christmas Shopping season. As expected, I had very minimal wholesale orders, but I did increase my corporate and retail orders. I think all in all it evened out. I wasn't nearly as stressed this year, which came in handy, given the whole stress eating issue going around here. But, I'm certainly not knocking anyone off the Forbes list anytime soon either.

But, I'm okay with that. For now. I have many things to deal with that are more important than sales and profit loss reports. Kids for one thing. Health is up there pretty high too. Once both kids are in full day school (which will be this August!! Woot!) I will have lots of time, and if all goes as planned, my health will be back on track by then too. So, look out!

I know the economy had a lot to do with my sales decrease locally, but I've witnessed two other food businesses in LA and New York quite literally explode with sales this year. That tells me there's a lot out there in the big ol' interwebs that I have yet to tap. Very exciting and motivating....so now I'm making my list and checking it twice, to make sure I am ready for next years Christmas Shopping season. Many changes to come, but change can be good.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Emotional Eating can suck it!

The last few months have been such a roller coaster around here. Not just professionally with the business, but personally too. Do you feel it? It seems like the whole world is churning around and making changes and freaking everyone out. Something just seems to be going on. I've bought more motivational/self-help books in the last two months than Oprah has had on her show ever. I'm still looking for the one that actually helps.

I've considered new religious points of view, I've looked into Yoga, I've sought professional opinions, and I've baked. Boy have I baked. Baking is therapy for me though. As soon as I start chopping and sifting and stirring, it's like there are no troubles in the world. One caveat....if you eat said baked items, you will gain weight. Based on the amount of weight I've gained this year, I'd say I've had one whopper of a stressful year.

But, I can't keep gaining, so I'm slowing down on baking these days and thinking about other ways of dealing with my stress. First and foremost, I had my thyroid medication changed which seems to really have made the most difference. Second, I have found some websites where I can check in and share my thoughts with others. Having that support system does make a big difference. And I'm going to try to blog more. I tried writing in a journal, but I can type so much faster than I write, that it just makes sense to do it this way.

So, bare with me as I write my way to wellness...physically, spiritually, and mentally. And please share your thoughts on getting through tough times. I'd love to hear them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Announcements! Announcements!

So, we've been a little busy around here in pretzel land. I've been working on some more aggressive marketing this holiday. And by aggressive, I mean I'm actually trying for once. You see, I have these things called children that, in the past, have required lots of attention from me. Not that they still don't, but they are much more manageable and understanding than during previous holidays. I think it goes without saying, that I prefer my sanity over pretzel sales any day. I don't think all business owners share my beliefs on that one, but for our family, this is what works.

Having said all that, I feel a little safer in attempting to secure more orders for DipSticks. So, while my days aren't entirely kid free, or stress free, I am quite a bit more flexible with what my options can be.

The best part is most people approach us anyway, so we've done pretty good so far without spending money or going crazy on getting new business. Case in point, the Hilton in Indianapolis contacted us a few weeks ago to try some samples of our pretzels. They loved them and are now carrying them as turndown ammenities for their special guests. Very cool.

Also, Crazy Sisters Coffee, in Lutheran Hospital, has shown interest and will hopefully be selling our little pretzels for the holiday season soon. Webbs Hallmark in southern Indiana has also called several times to find out how to carry the pretzels. We're playing phone tag now, but I'm confident once the kinks are worked out, we'll be there in no time.

Another exciting addition to the DipSticks family, although I'm not quite sure how it's going to play out in the long run, are my lovely and tasty cheesecakes. If you read this blog, you've seen them. They are fun to make and so delicious. And now, they can be purchased (well not now, but very soon!) at the Eagle Creek Farms Market in Winona Lake. Our pretzels will be there too in addition to ready to take home cheesecakes, and also by the slice served at lunch. I never imagined selling cheesecakes, but I'm not turning it down. My dream is to have a DipSticks Gourmet Coffee and Sweets shop someday and sell all my baked goods, pretzels, and great coffee. I can smell it already!

Overall, sales have been pretty good this year, despite the economy. But, the weird thing, is that while some stores like Hallmark and other smaller stores have really declined in sales, others have picked up, or we've added new ones. It all seems to balance out. I'm super thankful that I don't pay any overhead really at all, and no employees to worry about, and it's not our sole income, so that's a plus. It would be hard to run a brick and mortar business these days, and it's so sad to see some close up or lose hope. Maybe this holiday will turn things around. Things are looking up already!

Happy holiday shopping, and don't forget about our lovely gift boxes! (And the 4" pretzels are perfect for stockings and package tie-ons, too.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Trick and a Treat

Here is a cheesecake I did for Halloween. Not because I had a party to go to or anything, just because the idea came to me....and I HAD to make it. Not sure what that says about me, but either way, this cheesecake turned out amazingly!

I wanted to do a pumpkin cheesecake for the orange color, but also because of the fall flavors that are in season now. By pairing it with an oreo cookie crust, I achieved a great black and orange look too.

Once I made the pumpkin batter, I quickly realized I didn't know how to approach the web idea that I had envisioned in my head. If I drizzled chocolate on after it was baked, would it work, or just smear? I wasn't sure. But, I wasn't sure what would happen if I did it prior either. I ended up just creating the spider web with melted chocolate that I poured onto the pumpkin batter before baking and hoped for the best. It actually worked way better than I thought! The chocolate sort of dried out and cracked as it baked, and gave it an even more eerie feel than expected. I was very happy with the results.

Next step, after the cheesecake cooled, was to make the spiced vanilla mousse. All my cheesecakes (except the turtle one, because frankly, with all that caramel and chocolate and nuts on top, it has enough going on!) have a flavored mousse of some kind piped around the edges. Usually they are done with a fancy tip, but it just didn't feel right using a star tip for a scary spider cheesecake. So, I just used a round tip and winged it. The result is some kind of spooky castley/tombstoney looking things. Some people thought they were ghosts, which is fine too.

The funniest part of this, was that I thought I'd be able to just melt some chocolate and start piping some realistic looking spiders. However, the first few spiders I piped ended up looking more like retarded ants. After a quick trip to my favorite place, googleville, I found some photos to work from, and finally started getting better results.

A quick dusting of nutmeg all over the whole cake, and my masterpiece was complete. Not only did this one look amazing, but the taste was ridiculous. I can't believe how good it was. It was very much like pumpkin pie, but had a light and fluffy texture and wasn't too sweet.

I plan to make this for Thanksgiving using a ginger snap crust, or maybe a cinnamon almond cookie crust instead of oreos, and just using the star tip for the mousse...sans spiders of course too! Cheesecakes are fun, yo!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is there a doctor in the big house?

For Jacob's 4th birthday, we got him a doctor's kit toy. He loves it and plays doctor all the time. Well, all the time except for when he's playing PlayStation Lego games (like batman, indiana jones, and star wars) with his big brother. He has learned the difference between good guys and bad guys, or so it became apparent this morning.

We were loading up the car to get Joshua to school, and Jacob was toting along one of the pieces from his doctor kit. He said, "Mommy! I got my doctor toy!" "Oh great!" I said excitedly. "Are you going to be a doctor when you grow up?" "NO. I'm going to be a bad guy."

That figures....

Monday, August 31, 2009

The playboy perfume pretzel, and other short stories

Well this is an odd one, even for me. When I was in college, a friend of mine worked in a department store in the mall. She gave me a small sample of a trendy perfume named "Child." I held onto it forever. Like, a whole 10 years! I finally started wearing it and was all "Woah. This stuff is awesome!" So, after that tiny vial was almost empty, about a month later, I looked it up online. And surprise surprise, it's not sold anywhere except online now. I ordered some from beautyhabit.com, and waited anxiously for it to arrive. How does this have anything do to with pretzels? Wait for it...

So, when my order came, I immediately dabbed a bit on, and it didn't smell like I had remembered it. I waited a few weeks, and just never felt like it smelled the same. Like the genius that I am, I waited a good year before I thought, Oh hey, maybe I should email the company to see what is wrong with it.

I googled Child Perfume, found the link to the main company's website, and found the only email address on the contact page. After a short, but sweet email to a person named susan, explaining what had happened, I hit the send button expecting an auto reply saying thanks and hang on we'll get to you in a minute, right after we've taken care of the other 256 nut jobs ahead of you. So, when my iPhone beeped alerting me of a new email, I checked it and found quite a lovely surprise. Not only did Susan reply to my email, but Susan just so happens to be the ass kicking FOUNDER of the cult perfume. The founder! Replying to little old me! Personally! Within hours. I'm easily impressed apparently, but I know how hard it can be to keep up with emails, even just with a business my size. So, yeah, that was impressive.

As we chatted back and forth about the perfume, she noticed my signature that goes on every email that I send. The DipSticks company name and url are on there, and she had checked it out and said it looked incredible. After all the help she was to me with the perfume (oh, you still want to know what happened with the perfume? who cares! this is the exciting part!) I offered to send her a box of pretzels as a thank you. Then, she challenged me with a very unique request: To make a pretzel look like the Child bottle.

That seemed easy enough. At least the bottle wasn't shaped like a giant hat or something. It is a very simple, elegant roll on, with a black matte cap, and a frosty clear body, revealing the yellowish tinted perfumey goodness inside.

The biggest hurdle this task would have is what to roll the pretzel in. I roll all of my pretzels in something...even if it's just more pretzels. I do this for a few reasons. One being that they don't stick to the waxed paper that way, and another because it gives my pretzels the larger size I want.

But, since this bottle is so sleek, that wasn't really an option. I tried rolling it in multi-colored non-pareils and jimmies, to go with that childish vibe, but it looked lumpy and weird. So, I just went with straight caramel.

The yellow chocolate was easy enough to match, and the black wasn't as hard as I initially thought it would be either. I used dark chocolate and added black food coloring. Overall, it was a fun distraction, and Susan loved it. The next hurdle is to figure out if we can get a Child logo directly on the pretzel itself, just like the bottle has. Stay tuned.

As for the perfume dilemma and the playboy connection? Well, I've determined that somehow my body chemistry has changed. Because, I found my vial of the sample that I so dearly loved, and mysteriously it smells the same as the new bottle does. That means the common denominator is me. It use to smell good, now it doesn't, so my theory is that I am eating something, or something has changed, that is altering my biochemistry, hence altering the smell of this perfume. (But, that's for another, more scientific post.) With the whole sugar cleanse thing, I have a feeling I'll notice a difference. Oh don't you worry, I'll be posting about THAT in detail too.

Now for the part you've been waiting for. Susan was a former playboy playmate and partied it up with my rock gods, Motley Crüe and Poison. How amazeballs is that?! Yeah I hate that word too, but you come up with a better one! She's since moved on and is the nicest person I've ever not met. Even if this experience results in no sales, it was worth it to be able to say I know someone who partied with guys I have on a shirt somewhere in my closet...next to a jean jacket with pins of those other guys she partied with. And Ratt.

Vicarious living......sometimes it's good enough.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Have some wine with that cheese.

I found this very interesting. My site stats show me how people find my blog. I did a keyword analysis and here are the top five searches people use that result in landing on one of my blog pages:

13.33% dairy withdrawal

5.49% dairy withdrawal symptoms

4.71% moscato wine brands

3.92% moscato brands

3.14% brands of moscato wine

So basically I'm only good for dairy and wine. Good to know.