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.