Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Communication between Old and New

I was away last week visiting my parents, who are in their 80's and assisting an uncle who is in a nursing home. For one week, my fingertips fell away from the pulse of ecommerce onto the frailer, paler, pulse of elderly wrists.

When these people pass away, I will miss them; but this trip I was also struck by how much I will miss their modes of communication. For example, my dad loves to give me informative clippings. He gives them at the start of a visit, rifles through the manila folder for more at the end and mails them in thick packets in between, often with a handwritten note: "You probably already know this stuff. All's well here. Dad"

Compare this with the communication I received from a 20-something customer. She had bought our kit and had a question but didn't know how to get hold of me, so she posted a query on our You Tube account.

Repeat: This young woman had my kit and therefore also had my website URL and email address but she didn't know how to contact me. I've heard that to someone of her generation email = snail mail. But I hadn't really realized that my email is as useless to her as my twitter address is to my elderly uncle.

It reminded me of 12 years ago, when I started my business and would get 100 phone calls a day. Now I get about 20. Five years ago, I used to be flooded with emails, now not so much. This despite the fact that sales are up.

At that moment I finally GOT it. Social Networking IS the revolution, and I gotta get with the program. No point in resisting any longer.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Reading All Plaques Makes you Green

My father is the ultimate plaque reader. As a child, we marked road trips not by miles but by plaques read. Those "off road" historical markers? The ones that you saw beat-up, kid-smeared green station wagons turning out for? The ones that you happily disregarded ? Yeah. We read 'em.

No wonder then, that on Father's Day this year, I felt compelled to read a plaque. It was early evening outside the FM Smith Recreation Center in Oakland. I was the first to arrive for our Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council Meeting. Milling about the rec center was a handful of youth, in the distance the thump of a basketball and squeak of sneakers. Marijuana smoke wafted.

Five minutes passed but none in my group had arrived yet and the center was still locked. I scanned the park trying to find the source of the smoke then noticed in the distance four life- sized mules covered in graffiti. Next to them, an equally graffiti-decorated plaque. I reluctantly made the trek.

Turns out that the FM Smith Rec Center is named after Francis Marion Smith, known internationally as "Borax" Smith. Born in Wisconsin in 1846, went to Nevada at the age of 21 to make his fortunes. While there, he discovered and staked a claim for a borax mine. Built an empire on this natural mineral and marketed it as 20-Mule Team Borax because it took 20 mules to haul the mineral from the mines. Later, settled in Oakland with his wife and did wonderful things like build housing for orphaned girls and develop rail systems in the area. Died, donated this part of his estate to the City as a park.

20-Mule Team Borax is still made and sold, now by the Dial Corporation. It is a very popular ingredient in home-made, natural, biodegradable cleansers:
  • Automatic Diswasher Detergent: equal parts borax and baking soda, 2 tablespoons per load.
  • All-purpose Cleaner: 2 tbsp vinegar, 1 tsp borax, 2 cupts hot water, 1/4 cup liquid soap.
  • Natural Laundry Detergent: 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup borax, 1 bar soap, 3 gallons water. For a visual guide (including videos) on how to make this recipe as well as examples showing how well it cleans: Simple Dollar
It was early evening. The city about me hummed, squaked and squealed. As a person who moved to California from the midwest when I was 21, as a seller of minerals, a lover of natural cleansers, an Oakland resident involved in making my city a better place. I felt the rush of a connection to another time and place.

I used to think plaques were dorky. Now, I just wish I live long enough and do well enough in my life to have a plaque of my own. Graffiti covered or not.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Color Blending till the Cows Come Home

I've had a week of color blending. Swatching colors across my forearm and fingers so many times during the day that my skin is a little raw.

I just spent four hours "duping" a single color, and I am awed. That I get to have such a great job, that it took me so long, that I actually succeeded.

Here's what I've learned so far:
  • A single blend probably consists of no more than 5 elements.
  • Start with the pigment base. To that add the hilite. To that add the main hue. Finish with the complementary tweaking to neutralize the hue.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat.
  • Take breaks between attempts.
  • Keep notes and samples.
  • Ask other people for feedback.
  • Count Blessings.

Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Product:: Roll on Tube

This just in! We now have Roly Poly Bottles! (Also known as plastic bottles with a rolling ball applicator and a white cap).

For me, a Roly Poly is very retro. Reminds me of the 70's: summer, hanging out in the yard with a lemonade, a book, sunscreen and of course, roll-on watermelon flavored lipgloss.

But of course they can also work for other neat things such as glitter (our microfine glitter works great). You can fill the tube with straight glitter or you can suspend the glitter in some kind of base such as a lotion, a lip gloss, castor oil. You choose.

Hope you enjoy!

Kaila Westerman

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Lori Nova

Recently, Lori Nova celebrated her birthday. In honor of this, let me introduce her to you.

Lori runs The Nova Studio in Point Richmond, California. Her studio offers a variety of bath and body care classes, soap making intensives, and general art classes. Lots of friendly folks come to her classes over and over again.

I've taken several classes at Lori's studio: Liquid Soapmaking, Coloring with Confidence, Natural Perfumery, Hot Process Soapmaking, Artist Trading Cards, Advanced Melt and Pour, to name a few. Whenever I'm bored, I check out her website to see if there is something new to catch my eye.

Lori has won numerous awards for her decorative soaps, and has been a speaker at the Handcrafted Soap Guild annual gatherings more times than I can remember.

Lori is very active in the soap making and natural bath and body care DIY community and a valued resource. Yea Lori!

Monday, June 15, 2009

I want to be Linda Mason

This blog entry started out as a book review of a book I love, Eye Candy (Mason, Linda, New York, Watson-Guptill Publications, 2008, $14.95). The book is written by Linda Mason, a New York makeup artist for over 30 years. It is a collection of 55 eye shadow "looks" done up on regular clients, friends and family. Long story short: it's good.

I say that the entry started as a book review but as I was writing, I remembered that Linda had put together a fun little promo video on it, and so I went to her site to find the link.

And then I just got lost in her site. O-M-Double-G. I want to be Linda Mason. I think, if you are making your own cosmetics and are looking for inspiration, you might want to be her to.

Enough of what I think, go to her site: lindamason.com. Spend the rest of your time browsing it.
You will be inspired, I guarantee.

Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Making pressed powders

If you want to make your own pressed-powder makeup, using just a few ingredients, you can!

Pressed powders are less messy than loose ones, also their colors are more intense and they tend to have a little better staying power on the skin.

To make a pressed powder, you will need:
  • Some kind of powder to press (some blend that you have created for eye shadow, foundation or blush)
  • A binder of some kind (recipes below)
  • Something to press into (you can press into a small jar, or in to a compact or a cosmetic tin)
  • Something to press with (you can use your thumbs, a coin, or something more sophisticated which you make up.
Binder recipes can be very simple. Here are three:
  • 2 parts dimethicone, 2 parts fractionated coconut oil, 1 part jojoba oil
  • 1 part dimethicone, 1 part fractionated coconut oil
  • 1 part dimethicone, 1 part jojoba oil, 2 parts alcohol.
Simply shake the binder in a bottle and then either squeeze or spray it onto your loose powders. Then stir or mix together. I like to put everything in a plastic bag and mush it around.

You will use about 10-15% binder to 85-90% color. Said another way, 1/2 teaspoon binder to 1 tablespoon powder. You want the powder to be damp and pressable.

Once the ingredients are mixed together, spoon them into their container and press. I suggest you cover the surface of the powder with some plastic wrap and then press with something firm such as your fingers, or a coin wrapped in plastic. If you really get into it, you can come up with your own devices using c-clamps and other hardware.

Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC

Dimethicone, an introduction

Dimethicone is a kind of Silicone, which is made from petrochemicals. Dimethicone comes in different thicknesses. Our Dimethicone is a liquid, about the viscosity of canola oil. But it is not oily. It is odorless and has a silky feel as you rub it onto your skin.

Dimethicone is popular because it is a great emollient (an emollient soften, soothes and protects the skin by acting as a barrier layer on the skin/hair, keeping the natural water/moisture from drying out). For this reason, you will often see dimethicone used in formulas for lotions, as well as hair care products. Usually, it is not more than 1% - 5% of the formula.

Our color-cosmetic customers like to use Dimethicone for several projects:
  • to make a makeup primer
  • to turn their loose powder makeup into a "pressed powder" (see other blog post)
  • to improve the slip, shine and feel of a lipstick or lip gloss
Dimethicone does not dissolve in water and doesn't really like to dissolve in castor or jojoba oil, either! It can be added to a formula which uses some kind of emulsyfing agent, however. Dimethicone will dissolve into such things as essential oils.

Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

What happened to our old space?

For 10 years, TKB Trading operated out of the first floor of a triplex in downtown Oakland (356 24th Street). Although we had a storefront, we never used it. So we are really happy to see our old space blossom into something new and different: SMITHS, a storefront project by crafter/artisan/artists Allison Smith.

She has converted the studio into an intimate public space for "makers". Tonight's event is an a craft-action dye happening "Indigo Girls" which Brooklyn-based artis Travis Boyer has been performing since 12/08. Participants are invited to come and dye whatever they like in a natural fermentation indigo dye vat. According to the artist, "the process of dying marks the dyers; it stains our hands and customes but also facilitates profound illumination."

It's happening tonight, and yes, I am "so there".

Monday, June 08, 2009


You may (or may not) have heard of Frankenlippies. The idea behind them is to make your own unique color of lipstick by slicing off bits of commercial lipstick you have on hand, melting them together and refashioning them into one brand new lipstick.

We actually did a Frankenlippie contest back in 2008 using our products. You can view the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MadSj9ReZg8. It's kind of a long video, so if you get bored, my feelings won't be hurt.

Recently I was contacted by a woman who does Frankenpolishes. Here is here blog spot:
http://drfrankenpolish.wordpress.com. Now this a fun link. It's fun to see all the colors she can create. So check her out for fun!

Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC

Friday, June 05, 2009

Van is a graduate

TKB's key employee is Van Nguyen. She is the shipping and packing supervisor for our company. Van grew up in Vietnam and dropped out of high school to support her family by selling fresh fruits on the streets of downtown Saigon. In her early 30's she emigrated to the USA to make a better life for herself.

Because Van is distantly related by marriage to my husband, I hired her as soon as she arrived. She didn't speak a word of English but she was a hard worker.

Over the years, we have celebrated many milestones as every semester she plugged away at the local community college, determined to be the first in her family to get a college degree.

Today, eight years later, she has achieved her goal. We are proud of Van and lucky to have such a great role model in our lives.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

What happened to my Blogging!

In February, 2008, the date of my last post, my company was housed in the same 1500 square foot basement where we had been for the last 8 years. We were packed to the gills! Every day I was straddling inventory while answering phone calls and meanwhile tucking in my buttocks enough to let others squeeze by.

I knew where I wanted to move and what the building would look like. I knew the neighborhood, the price, the size, the architecture. But of course I was much too busy to actually look for this new space, plus forget about all the paperwork required to apply for a real estate loan. But a girl could dream. And I did, over and over, it was my daily refrain.

Then, one day completely out of the blue, two men knocked at our door. No one ever knocked at our door except the UPS driver and the Mail Carrier, so we opened it to these two angels with great suspicion. Apparently angels sometimes have a brokers licenses, because they took one look at my space, listened to my dream and handed me a flyer. "You need to buy THIS building". When I went to see it, I touched its concrete block walls and knew immediately I had found my new home.

Long story short, after months of negotiation, the price came down to a place where I could act, and we moved into our new warehouse on July 5th, 2008.

Since that time, it has been a whirlwind of growth at TKB Trading. All along I had thought I wanted more space so that I wouldn't have to tighten my buttocks. Turns out that was the least of my concerns, because with more space comes growth, with growth comes responsibility. More employees, more paperwork, more inventory, more stress.

Here we are almost a year later. Although my buttocks are a little less exercised, my "Risk Muscle" is greatly strengthened. I've gotten past of shock of the move, and I've gotten more comfortable with the current level of pressure and responsibility that my small business demands of me. One year later, I am relaxed enough to begin enjoying the creative aspects of my business, including regular blogging.

I'm happy to be here, and I look forward to sharing with you as 2009 unfolds. This is an exciting time to discover dreams, and we are so fortunate for every opportunity we have to do so.

Kaila Westerman
TKB Trading, LLC