First Harvestcare Market

I did our first Harvestcare market this weekend with some help from friends. It was a tiny one with only 30 people allowed to go through at a time because of COVID.

First Harvestcare stall

Still, I said yes because I wanted the learning experience, and this was the first indoor market available since we started the brand back in April.

Overall it went pretty well, though I’m exhausted from also bottling and making products into the late hours each night. We only sold about 10% of it, but now I have inventory for the virtual Handmade Markets too which starts next weekend.

Lessons learned from our first Harvestcare market?

  • Know your demographics – everyone told me that we would do really well with a younger, more environmentally conscious buyer like at the Handmade Markets. This one was more of an older, suburban crowd.
  • Raise your prices for markets – Other stallholders said that our products looked so good that we really needed to charge more of a premium price especially if we were paying a stallholder fee at a market and the customer doesn’t have to pay for shipping as a result.
  • Samples work when they smell amazing – I was offering samples with a testing stick. Probably half the people that tried our Orange Hand Balm bought it, but we didn’t sell very many products in bottles because you can’t exactly trial the soap. This gives me the incentive to finish our product development of the normal body lotion.
  • Presentation matters – We had a lot of positive feedback on our presentation too, but I also know that we need to invest in something more if we do a physical Handmade Markets in the future.

Overall, we sold only about $800 in products which was way more than the stalls on either side of me. Still, it’s not enough to justify my time right now especially when I know the demographics are wrong. So, I’ve decline the offer to participate in another Christmas Market at the same location in December because I’m not convinced that we would do much better.

More to learn, but I’m glad that we finally have experience with our first Harvestcare market.

Introducing the ‘Plastics Revolution’ Podcast

For the last month, and on top of everything else I am trying to do for the business, I have been working on a new podcast called the ‘Plastics Revolution.’

This has been something on my mind for a while as I knew that this work that we are trying to do at The Refoundry was far bigger than just my company.

Plastics Revolution podcast cover with Tammy Ven Dange

A Plastics Manufacturer’s Change of Heart for Recycled Material

Why would an injection moulding plastics manufacturer suddenly decide to change his business strategy in favour of recycled and circular materials? After all, manufacturing with recycled materials is hard. There’s no guarantee for continuity of supply, the quality of feedstock can be inconsistent, processing degrades quality, and there’s always a risk that contamination can impact colour.

In fact, I have met or have been referred to so many amazing people since I started this journey that I felt compelled to share their stories as well. And so, I have embarked on project with no knowledge of equipment or process. Yet, on every step of the way it seems meant to be.

I had a volunteer producer come on board. Interviews have been completed and more are being booked regularly. I’ve also been taking an online course that was starting at the exact same time that I was considering this channel. So the pieces are all falling in place as though it was always a part of the plan.

At this stage, I have no plans to monitise the podcast. Instead, it’s acting as a networking vehicle that is also building my knowledge and credibility in this complex space. I’m not even talking about my own business that much.

Plastics Revolution is a business podcast with an environmental mission. As such, I spend most of the time chatting to innovators, change makers and fellow entrepreneurs who are leading the plastics revolution It’s been fun so far too!

Rather than creating one more website to manage, I decided to add it to my blog here. You can also find the full transcript of this episode there as well.

I hope you enjoy the show and learn a few things too.

Stray No More product line launching soon!

I’m very excited that I’ll finally be launching our first product line for the The Refoundry in October. We’ll be introducing our first product of the ‘Stray No More” line to be pre-sold via the crowdfunding campaign. These are essentially products created to prevent a pet from escaping a home or yard – an issue I knew well as the former CEO of RSPCA ACT.

Stray No More logo

Technically I could launch later in the year on a different date than all of the other social enterprises in this round, but I don’t see a point in pushing out the deadline as everyone just works to deadlines anyway.

However, we are still waiting for the prototype to arrive in Australia, and if it doesn’t get here next week, we’re really pushing the amount of time we have to film it in use. I know that my manufacturer would love more time to assemble and test it, but each time we push the date, the closer we get to Christmas.

Furthermore, I just submitted my package for another grant, and those were the milestones that I gave them. So, really I’m committed to the date at this stage.

Stay tuned for more info about our Stray No More product line launch soon!

The time consuming task of content creation

Lately I have been spending a huge amount of time preparing content while I’m waiting for my manufacturer to do their bits. The easy thing to do would be to share other news and articles from others which I have done a little bit. However, it’s more important right now to create original content too.

In my last job, I had a full-time person that basically did this for social media and some publicity. I supplemented that by writing position pieces and being the “talent” for media. Now, that I’m trying to do everything myself, I find that I’m spending on average from 6-8 hours a day on it.

Part of it is a personal branding exercise that I am working through at the same time. If you Google my name, it’s all associated with my last job. This makes it really, really hard to move into a new industry if people only know me for my past work. As such, I have been working on daily opinion pieces in various sources to try to move forward.

At the same time, I’m trying to build content for the Refoundry while still learning about the recycled industry myself. It took me two hours to finally make a 2 minute video because 1) my thoughts were not clear enough; and 2) I couldn’t find a good place in my home to shoot the video.

I need to find ways to speed up my process for content creation. I’m sure some of it will get easier as I become more knowledgeable, but right now it is very time consuming.

I’m heading overseas in the morning to spend some time with family. My blog posts will likely slow down a bit during that time, but I hope to also get a lot of work done on the plane.

DILO 19-7-19

I spoke to the plastics manufacturer designer who will be working on my first product prototype. He noted some issues with the original drawings, and especially about the weight of the product.

If you have been following this blog, you’ll know that this has come up many times before with other manufacturers too. The good thing is that now that I have hired this manufacturer, I can say for hopefully the last time:

“I’m only concerned about the functionality and aesthetics of the product. Otherwise, I’m happy for you, as the expert, to recommend the best technical specs.”

The rest of the day, I looked mostly at search engine issues with my websites. The unfortunate thing about picking the name “The Refoundry” for the company is that there are others in the US using the same name. I didn’t think it would be an issue since we’re in Australia. However, it will continue to be invisible until I can get the search engines to see my site.

Rather than spending anymore time trying to fix this, I eventually put in a service order to the company that’s helped with my other website issues.

This is the challenge with being an entrepreneur, I end up wasting a lot of time trying to do things myself sometimes. However, when you have more time than money, it’s what you have to do.

But I don’t want to do any marketing, I just want to make my product

I’m again at a writing conference today. There are some incredibly, talented people here – many that put me in complete awe with their imaginations and writing skills. However, the repeated thought that I hear over and over is that they don’t want to do any marketing. They just want to write their books.

It’s such a strange industry for that reason. I mean – how many people would create a product or service without considering the need to sell it at some point?

The publishers are “betting” on new and emerging authors much like venture capitalists bet on start-ups. Most of their investments will not pay off, but they’ll continue to add new talent to their portfolio as old ones die off in hopes of that one unicorn or new best-seller will pay the bills.

If authors want to increase the chances of their book being that best seller, they’d do themselves and their publishers a huge favour by accepting the fact that marketing is as much a part of the job as writing the book.

Milestone: Product #1 Design Complete

We continued to finalise Product #1 today. Between emails though, I spent most the day rereading the advertising classic “Ogilvy on Advertising.” It was written in 1983, in the days when television advertising was king. Nevertheless, many of the truths about advertising remain especially copyrighting.

While my To Do list is long, I think that it’s really important that I take some time out weekly (if not daily) to download new ideas and information. Fortunately, this is one good habit I enjoy.

DIY website

Today, I procrastinated on writing tender documents by working on one of my new websites instead. The software to make them has come a long way since I first used Microsoft FrontPage about 20 years ago. Even so, for a non-store site, I prefer WordPress over the easier ones because of the ability to really customise the functionality and fields. However it does come with a price. Today, I had to reach out to their help desk twice to fix the layouts further. I’m sure it won’t be my last time given my lack of programming skills.

Sales and Marketing

I attended a networking event last week where entrepreneurs can pitch to a good size audience for whatever they need. It was interesting to see how many businesses were looking for sales and marketing help, though I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising.

Most of the companies requesting this support or to hire these types of employees had software businesses. The founders were coders – not business people. And all they wanted to do was code, not sell their own product.

At the same event, I heard a social enterprise accelerator saying that they too needed sales and marketing mentors.

It’s funny how people sometimes question my ability to get into the manufacturing business when truthfully, just about anyone can make a product. From my experience and the examples above, the hard part is selling it once it’s made. And it’s the lack of sales that can make a business insolvent.

Sales and marketing is the one thing that I do know how to do.

So, I offered that accelerator my skills in exchange for getting to know some of their investors. They liked this “out of the box” idea and offered to also pay me a fee for presenting at a workshop.

This is great since my company isn’t going to generate any income until closer to Christmas, and who knows when it can really pay me. Maybe I can supplement my income by helping others this way? It would be far more fun than taking a part-time job (if I can get one).

Simplifying my brand strategy

I decided to simplify my branding strategy. Rather than promoting each product’s brand individually, I will only promote the brand line itself. Otherwise I think it might get too confusing for the customer. Good thing I made this decision before all the design work was done on the products. I’m sure that I’ll find some other good use out of the logos I’ve already had designed.

Told Manufacturer #1 that I would be back in touch when I have all three draft designs done so that they can give me a proper quote on all three. Once contracts are signed, they need between 5-10 days to update/test the designs (apparently called the DFM process) and to produce a 3D print prototype. I need at least one prototype ready for a grant that I’ll apply for next month. It would be great to have all three.