Friday, December 28, 2007

Me, in Carpet


I saw an article about how some guy hooked carpets which were portraits of big CEO's and then sold them for 1,000's of dollars. My dad is a carpet-hooker and thought he'd try the scaled-down, little CEO version worth . . . what, ten bucks? Here I am, in carpet.
Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC
www.tkbtrading.com

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Korean/Japanese Household Items as Molds




I'm lucky to live a stone's throw from Oakland's Koreatown, and I always enjoy shopping there -- especially when on the hunt for soap molds. I found two possibilities in my last expedition I wanted to share with you.


This first one is called a "Kimchi Cutter". Kimchi is spicy, pickled cabbage eaten in Korean cuisine. But for soapmakers this cutter makes a smart little loaf mold. It measures about 11" long, 6" wide and 3" deep. It's especially nice because it comes with a lid and the cutting device stores flat inside the lid, making the whole thing very compact and perhaps a good way to transport loaf soaps to and from a craft show. At the store it cost me $9.99. Google Kimchi Cutter to find one of your own.


This next find looks like a kind of jello mold. Sorry I can't be specific about company brand or name of product, the entire package is in Japanese. For $4.99 I got three small loaf style molds: a half round, a square and a wavy bottom. All three have lids as well as some kind of a release lever to help get the jello out of the mold. The molds measure about 8" long and 2.5" deep and wide.


Another option to consider are sushi Molds. These come round and in triangles. Either way they make great bath bomb molds, as well as soap molds. I found these at buy4asianlife.com, but I image these are pretty easy to find online because sushi is so popular. In fact EKitron.com has flower-shaped sushi molds.
Well, hope you got some inspiration. I just got hungry!
Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pen Turning. Learn something new today.

Financier Warren Buffet says that he always tries to go to bed at night a little smarter than when he woke up earlier that day. If you are having a hard time accomplishing that goal today, let me help by introducing you to pen turning.

Did you know that there are people dedicated to the hobby of handmaking pens by turning them on a lathe? I didn't until I was contacted by a man named David who asked permission to link to my website so that other pen turners could purchase our colorants for their projects.

Here is David's educational link with photos: MasterdCrafts (p.s., note the TKB Trading liquid colors in use!)

Kaila

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Makeup for Women of Color / Marketing your Brand

Yesterday, I was contacted by the Toni Payne Element5 Mineral Makeup. She asked me to let you know about her company: that it exists, that it specializes in mineral makeup for women of color. Also, that she has an online shop called Tonipayneonline.com.

I am dutifully reporting said facts. I can't comment on Toni's products as I've never seen them (although I imagine they are wonderful, since she is clearly a creative and energetic business woman). Instead I'd like to comment on what strikes me about Toni's "body of work" as a businesswoman.

First, I applaud Toni for branding her own name. A little 'who is' searching shows Toni has several websites. A fashion site called hotntrendy.com was created in 2003 (reseller of a variety of fashion products), Element5 was created in 2005 (focus on makeup) and tonipayneonline was created in 2006 (kind of a blend of the two).

Not only did Toni establish her brand with tonipayneonline, she also uses her name as a subtitle to the other two sites (as in: Hot 'n Trendy by Toni Payne and Elements Mineral Makeup by Toni Payne). Branding your personal name allows you to fluidly move from product idea to product idea while maintaining some consistency in the mind of your customers.

Second, I want to draw your attention to the idea of splitting "best sellers" off your main site into a more focused site. I don't know why Toni created her Element5 makeup site as separate from her hontntrendy site, but if I were to extrapolate from my own business, my guess would be that the mineral makeup was a good seller for her and she wanted to focus her customers and her marketing efforts on that one product concept.

My business (tkbtrading.com), could take a hint from Toni on this one. For example, our bath salt colors are famous for being "the best" for stability and performance. While we sell them consistently every week, it is not uncommon for me to receive emails from new customers who can't find the products on my website. A quick and easy "bath salt" key at the home page might help, but how about if I created a website BathSaltDyes.com? Uh. Hey, wait a minute. That's a good idea . . . 'scuse me while I toddle over to purchase that URL. OK. Done.

Finally, atta-girls to Toni for actually contacting me and asking me to blog about her. Of course, she may not have expected this particular focus on my blog, but getting your name out there is always a plus. Toni is also good at getting her name in the fashion magazines. Go to the press section of tonipayneonline and you will see the results of her efforts to get her mineral makeup mentioned in the magazines.

Ok, gotta go. Too many new ideas thanks to Ms. Payne!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Natural Hair Dyes

A greying friend recently asked about this topic and I googled up a great article on the subject written by Laurie Berger of the Vegetarian Times in 1998. Here is the hyperlink -- which includes references -- my quick summary follows below: Hair color to dye for: the good, the bad and the ugly on natural cover-ups - natural hair dyes

  • Studies have linked hair coloring to cancer (! women who dye their hair have a 50% greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma).
  • Several "natural" hair dyes are now available off the shelf (! Natural hair dyes account for 10% of the annual $1.25 billion hair dye market).
  • Be forewarned: "natural" is a word without any legal meaning in this industry. A self-claimed natural dye can be just as toxic as your off-the-shelf chemical stuffed Clairol (made from coal tar dyes).
  • But natural dyes which are safer than the coal-tar-dyes are quite effective and a National Cancer Institute spokersperson says: "Based on what we now know, natural hair dyes are a safer choice. But avoid products with coal tar, which has been found to contain human carcinogens."
  • Henna is a the most natural (and well-known) plant based dye. Many claim it doesn't cover grey (like my friend), but there are ways to work with it to make it more effective and this article discusses them!

Personal Note. I will always cherish the memory of my mom dying my hair for me when I was 42. At some point during one of my too-rare visits, she delicately suggested that it was time I started coloring my hair. I gave her permission to dash off to the store and pick the product and hue and I allowed her to apply it while we sat kvetching in the kitchen. Because I moved away from home at a young age (17), I have few female bonding memories with my mother. So I guess there is one good thing to say about Clairol.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Book Review: Kabul Beauty School


Just finished reading this book and have already passed it along to my mother. Now I'm passing it along to you.

Title: Kabul Beauty School. An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil
Author: Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson
Publisher: Random House, April, 10, 2007
Available in: Hardcover, 288 pages, approximately $24.95 Also available as an
ebook for $17.95. Coming out in paperback in late December.

Deborah Rodriguez, a free-spirited Midwestern hair dresser travels to Afghanistan to "do good" and discovers her talent lies in teaching Afghan women to open their own beauty salons. The book is an easy, fast read. Be prepared experience two emotions: depression and inspiration.

You are likely to feel upset by the tales of life behind the veil. Deborah's stories aren't "theoretical" -- they are about students and friends she cares for deeply. And you will care about them too, as Deborah draws you into their stories of abuse and poverty, successes and joys. It's as though you are right there, plopped into a chair at the Oasis Salon in Kabul. Deborah is also not shy in sharing her own home-grown tales of abuse and divorce, reminding you that no woman can set herself above any other and stand in judgment.

You will also feel incredibly inspired by the importance of Deborah's work. Hers is an unfolding story: the spark of inspiration, the dream, the dare, the first stumbled step which is followed by the second, the unplanned-for setback, the giving up and then giving in . . . . It is the story of how great things are accomplished by average people through small, non-linear steps. Its the story of what you can do.

Finally, as someone interested in the beauty industry, the book reminds us of the importance of "beauty" to our well-being as a community. In Deborah's own words:

"I believe that beauty salons and beauty schools are sanctuaries for women everywhere in the world–in that sense, the Kabul Beauty School is no different. In every salon and school, the beauticians are there to take care of women. The customers let their hair down, quite literally! Lifelong friendships develop."

Are you starting a business, running a business, wondering if what you are doing is "important" . . . do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book.

Kaila Westerman
www.tkbtrading.com

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Welcome IndieBeauty Network

We happily welcome Indie Beauty Network members to our blog.

We think you will especially enjoy:
  • Our educational video snippets which instruct on how to make cosmetics;
  • Several interesting link-to's about other successful independent beauty businesses such as yours.
  • Even more interesting links for resources on growing your internet business.
Don't forget to visit our website, and consider clicking here to join our mailing list.

Welcome!

Kaila Westerman

p.s. You don't know what the Indie Beauty Network is???? Learn More here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Video Blog: Make Eyeshadow with TKB

The video snippet shows how easy it is to blend colors in a 3x4 zip lock bag,
and an easy way to fill an eyeshadow jar when you are finished.



Click Here You Idiot (dot com)

I know the URL name is obnoxious, but I have never forgotten this website. Not just because of the obnoxious name, but because I found the information at the site very useful.

Whether you intend to sell something online or you are a potential purchaser, this webpage opens your eyes to the psychology of the one-page sales pitch.

The site is a tongue-in-cheek example of how you get someone to "click here" and buy a product from you. Read and be educated!

The URL? www.clickhereyouidiot.com.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Video Blog: How to Use a Professional Lipstick Mold

The person making these lipsticks had never seen nor used a lipstick mold before in her life. With minimal instruction, she was able to make professional-looking lipstick!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Naked Cosmetics, Informercial as Marketing

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a vivacious young woman who was a producer for a TV show. She just loved my products and thought we were perfect for her show! How Thrilling!

Of course, after a bit of probing and confusion, I realized that she was selling me something. Her company would produce, edit and air an informercial on my products and in exchange I would pay them money and hopefully reap the rewards. I decided to pass, primarily because our company does not have a finished retail product (we sell bulk ingredients, not finished cosmetics). Another reason I passed was because I had heard stories, some good and some bad, about the value of such investments.

Here we are a couple of months later and I just saw an informercial for mineral makeup which I believe was produced by the very same company I said "no" to. I think the video is interesting, the product being promoted (Naked Cosmetics) intriguing and I think it will probably prove to have been a good investment for the ladies behind the makeup. If you are in the business of making a retail cosmetic and are thinking about ways in which you can market yourselves, I strongly suggest that you take some time to study what the ladies at Naked Cosmetics are up to.

First the hyperlinks:

The Naked Minerals Infomercial.
This is really interesting to me because of what she says, hows she differentiates her product from others, and the fact that she (Marlene) is not a "movie star" type, just an average lady who seems very much like many of my customers.

The Naked Minerals Website.
You can also see the video at this site, and also learn more about the company.

ITV -- this is the organization which produced the videos. To learn more about what they offer specifically, watch the video on the Unique Business Opportunity with Donald Barret.

Let me close by saying that to my knowledge, TKB has no affiliation with any of these companies. I just happened to be watching TV on a Sunday afternoon and caught the tail end of the video. I immediately wanted to pass it on to you, because I thought you would find it interesting. I don't necessarily agree with anything the people are saying, I have no idea if ITV is a good outfit or not, I've never touched the Naked Cosmetics product, etc. etc.

Just lettin' ya know about it. Enjoy!

Kaila Westerman

If you are interested in starting your own mineral makeup company, consider visiting our website at www.tkbtrading.com for your supplies!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Safe Handling Practices For Loose Powder

We here at TKB are handling loose powders all the time and I want to take a moment to remind everyone that constantly inhaling powders is not good for your health. If you have suddenly found yourself in the business of making cosmetics, please take a moment to remind yourself of the following:

  • There are people in this world who are particularly sensitive to dust or who have lung disorders which limit lung capacity. It is therefore a good idea to remind your customers that loose powder cosmetics are an inhalation irritant.
  • Become serious about what you are doing to protect your health, and the health of those around you. Most of the powders we sell are not particularly hazardous, however any regular exposure to loose powder is simply a bad idea. Please:
    • Wear a respirator. We offer "casual" dust masks for casual use, but you need something more industrial grade if you are handling powder on a regular basis.
    • Wear latex or rubber gloves. This serves the dual purpose of keeping your hands from contaminating the powder and keeping the powder from contaminating your hands, where it can then be transferred to your mouth and other areas of your body.
    • Wash your work clothes regularly. The loose powder that clings to them can be a skin irritant.
    • Wipe down all work surfaces and utensils regularly. We wipe down with a damp cloth and then follow up with a spritzer of alcohol and paper towel.
    • Consider wearing eye protection. The loose powder can irritate your eyes.
  • Always handle bulk powders in an environment which is designed to remove the "dust" from the air. For casual use, simply working in a well-ventilated room may be adequate, but if you are handling powders regularly, we recommend an air purifier at a minimum. We strongly suggest you also use an air venting system. A simple, affordable and effective choice is a stove vent of the type that is above your stove.

Thank you for taking time to review your safe handling practices.

If you have any questions or would like to add a comment, let me know!

Kaila Westerman

Thursday, June 21, 2007

OnLine SEO Classes -- For Free!

OK, I am going to "Pay It Forward" and tell you about one of the neatest free online tools I've ever run across.

If you are working on your website yourself, and you are on a budget, I highly recommend the free Website Development Training Center founded by J. Walker. She offers online courses in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), as well as other things such as marking, website development, digital photography . . .

She'll put you through your paces and you'll need to make a time commitment to get through it, but you'll learn stuff for sure.

It is absolutely 100% free, and there are no "catches" whatsoever. I took a couple of the classes and I was never inundated with anything but useful information. No sales pitches, no junk mail, no nothing. She really is the real deal.

Like me!

Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC

If you enjoyed this post and you also have need for pigments, cosmetic and craft supplies, visit our company online at www.tkbtrading.com.

Pay Per Click Advertising -- Can it Work for You?

If you have an online business, you may be considering what is called "Pay Per Click" (PPC) advertising. All the big search engines offer them: Google, Yahoo, Ask . . .

A couple of years ago, I signed up tkbtrading.com for a pay-per-click program with Google. I gave it a monthly budget that I felt was reasonable, set up my keywords, and . . . several years and several thousand dollars later . . .

Does it work? Does it not work? Like many, many other harried small business owners: I really only have a vague idea. I know that it could work, but I'm not sure if it is paying for itself or not.

I recently read two articles written by Ilana DeBare in the San Francisco Chronicle which made me sit up and take notice. The one that most caught my eye is hyperlinked here. The companion article is here .

Here's the summary: Ilana compares two owners of gourmet chocolate businesses. Both sign up for PPC advertising with completely different results. One company spent $3,000 over a three month period on PPC ads but only sold 5 boxes of chocolate as a result. A total bust!

The other company started out small, but currenty spends about $25,000 each three month quarter. I roughly calculated their resulting sales at $450,000 for the same period. Bottom line, one makes the PPC work, and the other doesn't.

Why the difference? The company with lackluster sales didn't do much to understand PPC and didn't really try to make it work. The other company had an inquisitive employee who threw himself into learning the ins and outs.

Read the articles if you are interested in the details. My personal takeaways that I'd like to pass on to you are:

1) I suspect PPC's work best for niche products that people are actively looking for (like gift chocolates). I think that most of my customers are making a consumable that would fit this description.

2) While you may be overwhelmed by all that you have to do as a small business owner, I believe that it your time is best spent doing a few smart things rather than many distracting things. It may be that carving out a couple of hours a week to educate yourself on PPC will be far more valuable than spending those same hours fussing over a label design or a new recipe.

3) If you really can't wrap your head around the ins and outs of PPC, don't beat yourself up. It is the kind of thing/activity/body of knowledge that is not going to appeal to everyone -- like accounting or inventory control. Consider finding someone who is willing to develop a program for you.

Now, if you don't have the money for such a program, look for my next post on SEO (Search Engine Optimization). After you read that, you really will have no more excuses. ; )

Kaila Westerman
President, TKB Trading, LLC

If you enjoyed this post and have needs for pigments, cosmetic and craft supplies, please be sure to visit our website http://www.tkbtrading.com/!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

We're b-a-c-k! A short synopsis of TKB's business growth

TKB Trading has been in business for long enough to go through different cycles of growth and change.

I started in 1994 in my basement with a couple of old back-to-the-land articles from dusty magazines from the 1970's (I was trying to learn soapmaking) and permission from my family to start a business of my own.

Up through 2001, my company experienced amazing growth. This growth was directly tied to the internet revolution (dot-com explosion). We eventually took on about 4,000 square feet of space and I had several people working for me.

Because the internet was still somewhat in its infancy, my customers tended to call on the phone a lot. We commonly received 100 phone calls a day, and we were shipping like crazy. On the face of it, my business could have been written up in one of those entrepreneur magazines because our sales growth was mind-blowing and we were doing lots of creative and interesting things (books, tv shows, trade shows, etc).

But there was a problem: I wasn't making any money! I really didn't know the first thing about running a business and my growth was so crazy I barely had time to figure it out what I was doing wrong or right!

I was working 12-15 hours a day, seven days a week and I was exhausted, my family was neglected and -- did I mention? -- I was not even making any money!

December, 2001, I sat down at the end of another long day and suddenly realized that the business model I had created was unsustainable. Since I didn't know how to fix the model, I dismantled it instead. I peeled off the retail side of my business (about half our sales) and gave it to a key employee at the same time I terminated her employment. It was her 'golden parachute'. I also terminated all but one other employee.

I leased back half my space and discontinued selling quite a number of our products. At the time, we sold all kinds of soapmaking supplies such as oils, and waxes, molds, perfumes and colors. I decided that I would focus on just colors.

Then I sat down with a beer and a cigarette (quitting smoking came about three months later), and I talked to my business like I was talking to a grown up child. I said: "I birthed you, I fed you, I raised you . . . and I'm tired." I told my business that it would have to take care of me until I had fixed all that I had broken. And if it couldn't do that, I was going to let it die.

I was actually surprised to discover that my business could take care of me without much effort. For the next four years, I had a nice, simple life where I could yawn up at 9 am, get a hour in at the gym, work, catch the tail end of Oprah, cook dinner, go for a walk on the beach, enjoy hobbies, snug my family. In other words, have a life. Thanks to the foundation I had laid earlier, the power of the internet and the loyalty of my customers, my business maintained a nice, even pace all those years.

But a "nice, even pace" never lasts forever. More importantly, it doesn't serve the real needs of our customers. Most of our customers are entrepreneurs. Even if they haven't started a business yet, they want to. And TKB's primary purpose is the be an affordable, dependable resource for those dreams.

Since 2005, I have begun rebuilding my business and structuring TKB for long term, sustainable and energetic growth. My biggest mental hurdle was always a fear of hiring staff to help with the increase in sales. So much of my mistakes in the early years revolved around staffing decisions that I had become fearful of acting and could not bring myself to hire the help which we so sorely needed.

2007 is shaping up to be a great year to overcome old fears such as these and move forward into a new, revitalized incarnation of TKB. I am really looking forward to having more time to serve the unique needs of my customers -- sourcing interesting new products, developing new recipes and communicating on a personal level with you about the nuts and bolts of growing a business.

I am really refreshed, really renewed and really excited to be a part of your adventure.