Friday, February 29, 2008

Re-stocking my organic shelves

It's been a long time since my body has seen a piece of fruit, or a real vegetable. I've been hiding in self doubt and guilt mixed with depression and misery for about four months now, and boxes of processed foods and bags of fast food make the best hiding places.

But no longer! I have made a turn, and have begun my usual, more interesting process of eating whole/natural foods. I love to open my cabinets and refrigerator when I'm eating healthy. I often imagine those tv shows where they "ambush" someone's cabinets and pretty much throw out everything except the bottle of ketchup, all the while making snide remarks to the poor person standing there. Like "This could outlive you, honey! Throw it out!!" Or, "If you can't pronounce the first 10 ingredients, you spell it J-U-N-K."

Then, I wish they'd come here and stand there stunned at how unbelievably healthy I am. How smart I am to buy these all natural, organic products with no pesticides, no artificial sweeteners or colors, no High Fructose Corn Syrup, no hydrogenated oils. Yeah, that's me. I'm smart.

If it were only that simple! I've done this a million times. Out with the junky, in with the healthy.

Now, if I could only find will power in the supplement section at the health food store...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pocky is Yummy.

There are many bloggers out there who dedicate their posts to candy. I am not one of those.

However, I love candy, so it will inevitably be reviewed or mentioned here at some point.

For example, Pocky. I have never heard of it before, but it caught my eye in the asian isle at the grocery store, and I thought, why not?

This flavor of Pocky was strawberry and the box was pink with sticks that look like cookies with pink chocolate on them. (They reminded me of my favorite chocolate mint stick things that I get at Bandidos and try to steal from everyone else at the table without them looking.)

They are described as "Biscuits covered with strawberry cream" , but I'm pretty sure there's no actual cream in these (does whole milk powder count?) They actually taste more like a cookie than a biscuit too, kind of shortbready tasting. I think that's the official term...shortbready.

Regardless of the countless artificial things in these, they were fantastic! When I opened the package, a nice aroma that reminded me of Strawberry Nestle Quik wafted from them and took me back to my childhood. Does anyone else remember the pink powdered stuff you put in milk, or am I really that old now? The strawberry taste is mild, too. Just a nice hint of a berry, almost leaning more towards vanilla.

My kids however didn't agree. Joshua, my almost 5 year old dropped it on the floor like it was a vegetable, and my youngest, Jacob, started wacking the microwave with it. Of course he wacks everything with anything, so that may not mean much.

But, for those adventurous enough, I suggest trying these. The next time you're near the rice and soy sauce, look for Pocky. It will become a main staple in my shopping cart from now on...

Custom Pretzel Order in Stages

Yesterday I received a last minute custom pretzel order from my most consistent client, an upscale hotel in Indianapolis. Usually they order the Hoosier pretzel to either give to top guests, or sell in the rooms in "mini bar" fashion.

However, this order was unique, and kind of fun. They wanted a small order of pretzels that were the Hoosier flavor (which is dried cherry flavored cranberries and cornflakes, each picked for their unique traits related to Indiana). It's typically drenched in white chocolate and then drizzled with red and white chocolate stripes, but they wanted it drizzled with blue and gold.

I think it turned out really nice. They weren't very specific about actual colors, so I had to play around with colors until I got what I thought looked best together. In person it looks like a navy and goldish yellow.

The label was to be custom as well, and even less specific. They just wanted it to say Golden Eagle, utilizing the same colors. So, here is what I did with that information...

I used Photoshop to make a chunky navy blue font, and outlined it with a goldish yellow. I embossed the font and gave it a drop shadow for effect, and it really pops on the package.

However, we've been playing around with the idea of moving away from the actual label on top of the package. For many reasons, actually. First of all, it's a big pain in my rear to put two labels per package for every pretzel. Very time consuming. Time is money, for sure! (I learned that in a big way last Christmas when we did the kiosk at the mall.)

On top of the money/time issue though, is that you can't see the pretzel once the label is on the cellophane bag. I've been noticing that people have to pick the package up, turn it sideways, and then actually peer inside to see it. That's not such a big deal when you already know what you've bought, but if they're sitting in a basket at the local Hallmark store, I need to get people's attention without them having to think.

So, with a little playing around, I did a new hang tag, and used the Golden Eagle as an example of how great they could be for marketing purposes as well. Corporations could use these as mini business cards. The tags can be kept in a billfold very easily for future reference. Imagine the possibilities!

Here's the photo of the new hang tag idea, what do you think?

It's not 100% finished. I'm not sure I like the type of paper I used, and I still need to play around with design, but I think we're onto something. As long as it doesn't take even longer to do these, it should save quite a bit of money, but also increase sales with a better finished product. Seems like we're always evolving....but that's better than the alternative, right?!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Big Boys 1 : Little ol' Me 0

4 1/2 weeks ago I was in a car accident. Plain and simply, the other guy ran the yield sign. He is an insurance agent with State Farm. He couldn't have been nicer. My car was undriveable, and I had to climb out of the passenger's side door.

The roads were snowy, but he was going way too fast. I had my two boys with me and my side air bag went off. Seemed like an easy, peasy kind of thing. His fault, not mine. He pays, not me.

I called my insurance company. They said, "Would you like us to turn this in with your policy?" I said (like duh!) "No, because it was his fault."

The other guys insurance company isn't State Farm for some super odd reason. It's Ameriprise Insurance. They called, took my info, as well as a recorded statement (NOTE TO SELF: DO NOT EVER EVER FREAKING EVER GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT TO ANYONE WITHOUT CONSULTING A LAWYER)

A week later they call to tell me they will take the blame and pay 80%. Okay, I said, I'll let you know. I called my insurance agent, they were mad that they weren't taking 100% blame. Phone calls ensued. A lawyer was hired. Guess what? Ameriprise is rear ending me in a different, even more unpleasant way by still not paying the other 20%.

The other guy is at fault, so why am I losing out on this deal?

The interesting part is that the other insurance company would've totalled my car, saying the damages were $8,700. However, my insurance company said it was nicely repairable at just over $7,000. Nice indeed. I get either 80% of the value of my car, plus 80% of the car seats that apparently can only handle one car crash, car rental for 4 days, medical expenses blah blah blah, or I get 100% of a broken car. Not loving my options.

But, at this point, I'm done with the hassle. Done. You win, Big Fancy Insurance Company. You get to keep your lousy $2000 (which is seriously the difference it would've made), and I get to keep my nicely repairable, but probably never sellable car.

Thanks. Hope you enjoy the new gold flooring in the lobby.

Holding my nose and jumping...

So, I was watching my favorite TV show last night, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, and Jeff Foxworthy was on. He said, "You have to have moments in your life when you hold your nose and jump in" and it really rang true for me.

I started DipSticks Gourmet Pretzels the Christmas after Joshua was born. I was a breastfeeding, baby wearing, attachment parenting newbie, and never let my kids "cry it out". What does that have to do with anything? Well, I made my first HUGE order of 300 pretzels while he was just 9 months old and needed my attention every 2 hours at the very least. Sometimes I would have him in his baby bjorn while I dipped and dolloped. Other times, I just crashed on the couch for a nap with him.

It took me over a week to make all of those (I can make that in a day now!) and thought I never wanted to make another pretzel again in my life.

Fortunately for me I had a great mentor who reminded me that I wouldn't always be the one making the pretzels, and that someday I'd be able to focus on the more creative/anal retentive aspects of the business that I'm more suited for. So, I forged ahead.

Today, 4 1/2 years and one more son later, I now regularly take orders of 700 or more with no qualms. However, I have done it the safe way for far too long!

I believe it's time for me to hold my nose and jump in. I'm not exactly sure what that will mean, but this blog post is my first step. I hope to chronicle here, not only my adventures in business, but also in life.

Certainly we must make plunges in life as well. What is living if it's not to feel alive? So, with that I will say tata, until I blog again, and let the universe take it from here....