When Monica and I started selling at markets, we watched what other people were doing with regard to their business. We got a lot of inspiration for our booth display and product presentation. We also saw all of the cool products they had for sale and we said to ourselves “We can do that too!”.
So we did. We added new wood products from me and new skin care products from her. The number of products that we started to produce grew quickly. So did our gross sales! We had a wide variety of products to sell and it seemed that everybody that came into our booth bought something.
Over time, difficulties started to show. We would run low of one item and would have to go make it while at the same time, we ran out of another item. Of course, with all these items, we had to consider packaging and labeling. This meant that we had to have all the packaging available to us along with all the labels. We also had to have the inventory on hand to make all these items. We were constantly buying a new container type to put product in along with the new type of label that went with that container.
Even worse, all the work started to wear on both of us. We love to create, but there were things that we just did not enjoy making even though we offered them for sale. Our creativeness became more of a burden than a joy. We became easily frustrated with each other because of the pressures.
Markets became more of a chore too. We would go to the same markets and show people the new stuff that we had that week. Of course, somebody would “just love it” and it would become a permanent part of our offering. This resulted in running out of room in the truck to shuttle our products to and from markets and our booth looking like a rummage sale.
About a year ago, close to the end of 2017, we had heart-to-heart conversation about just quitting all this. It was too much and we were never home. We spent a lot of time with each other, but it wasn’t quality time.
What made it worse is that we evaluated the numbers. Yes, our gross revenues went up, but our profits fell dramatically. We had to tie up our capital in all the supplies that went with this explosive growth of the permutation of products we offered.
We realized that we had to focus. We had to tie our individual talents together into a cohesive product set. This is when we came up with MC Shave Gear. MC Shave Gear is our brand of products for men. It combines my talent for turning to make razors along with Monica’s talent for skin care to bring solutions specifically for men. Our business transitioned from a “I do this” and “she does this” to a “WE do this” type of business.
I still watch other vendors and what they are doing. Some business, such as Twisted Arrow Goods here in Houston, do add new products on a regular basis. The difference is that they are things they want to make and when they are gone, they are gone. They still have a core set of products, such as hand-made wood bowls, that they will always carry, but the ancillary items will be out of stock until they feel like making them again. This scarcity also has the side effect that they can charge a premium for this “limited run”. I like that.
Other vendors are racing to add things to their inventory. For example, a candle maker is adding soaps and lotions from other vendors in order to fill out her product offering. Other vendors are constantly adding entirely new products to their inventory because “they can do that too”.
As of today, our product line is much more concise and our gross sales are down from last year. However, with this intense focus on the MC Shave Gear line, we do not spend as much on supplies and packaging, our display is far more professional and we are getting accepted into more exclusive shows in and around Houston and profits are increasing. Our enjoyment in doing these shows has increased and our time with each other is much higher quality. In fact, we are headed to our first show in Austin very soon.
Today, my shop is full of lumber scraps from stuff that I used to make. I will use it for something, but it will be because I want to instead of have to. In my office, I am surrounded by stacks of labels that will go unused for packaging that we no longer need. All because we could do that too.