Friday, August 20, 2010

Commerce and Cause: Found in Sioux Falls

I returned last night from a 24-hour whirl to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sioux Falls is the kind of America's heartland I had never much expected to find myself, but when your nephew marries the daughter of a windmill farmer it's also pretty much where you end up when you attend his wedding.

Exactly one week earlier I had been in Los Angeles, at the IMATS (international Makeup Artists Trade Show) and I had been feeling the conflict of commerce versus cause (see prior blog post). At that show, I rode the rapids of thousands of young Californian women clamouring for discounted color cosmetics and their accouterments.

Here in South Dakota, on my way to the early morning farmer's market to grab a coffee before the wedding, I was standing near the natural water rapids which give Sioux Falls its name. A dynamic water way which has been running in this same location for more than 10,000 years, before their was an American heartland, before the Lakota camped at its shores, when it was just nature and nature, cascading over shiny stone.

My whole family swarmed the small farmer's market, buying up fair trade coffee and sampling organic radishes with sea salt. Of course, there was a local soap maker as well, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that she had expanded into mineral makeup and was a customer of mine. Meet Rebecca of Pearl Creek Goat Milk Soap (

I overheard Rebecca talking to my sister-in-law about her Breast Cancer Awareness lip gloss which was part of her mineral makeup line and of course I made a beeline to her booth to hear more!

Rebecca told me about her husband's grandmother, Barbara Turner, who had given to worthy causes all her life and in particular had supported the organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Barbara Turner had passed away after battling breast cancer not too long ago, and when she did, she made Rebecca promise that there would always be something in her product line which would be dedicated to raising money for worthy causes. "Even if it isn't a lot of money, it's something", Rebecca explained.

The wedding was lovely, the champagne flowed.

I returned to California the next morning, with a precious Barbara Turner lip gloss tucked in my pocket. It was July 4th, America's day of independence. Each time I reached for a boarding pass or a check of the clock, I touched my lip gloss. Each time I took a moment to be proud that I was so truly American: buttons, banners, ribbons and all.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Unclenching the Jaw

This year has been my tipping point. It is the year that I have gone from sleeping well at night to tossing and turning. The year that my jaw began to clench. I have my eye on a couple culprits:
  • My iPhone. I can pick it up at 2:00 a.m. and do a quick check of the emails or read up on the forum or check a twitter feed. I no longer come home at night and shut the door on the day's activities.
  • Social media. Social media is a game changer when it comes to running a small business, and the changes are largely positive. But it also keeps me awake at night as I try to unravel the consequences of social behaviors that I was never very good at to begin with. In my private universe, social media is confirmation that the cool kids and the cheerleaders won the nerd war. I no longer feel confident in my relationships with my customers.
  • The warehouse. Not only does paying rent on a physical space "up the ante" with regard to responsibilities, it also becomes space that needs filling, which means more products and more diverse creative projects. I no longer "know everything" about everything I sell.
  • The employees. Not them particularly, just the fact that they exist. That someone has to rise to the occasion on every occasion. I no longer get to hide in my work.
Recently, I moved my desk to a different part of the warehouse and brought my files with me. In cleaning out the cabinets I stumbled across a pile of old "to do" lists. I had to smile when I saw the exact same things on a five-year-old "to do" as were on last Monday's list. Poor little Kaila, plugging away week after week and still not able to cross that one off!

Next to the list was an old business plan and it was interesting to see how much of that plan I had actually realized and also how outdated it was when considering our current situation. A recent Wall Street Journal article on small business suggests that the first defense against stress is to develop a long-range vision and business plan and then to simply work the plan.

With that flicker of insight lighting the way ahead, I set the old business plan on the top of the pile on my desk, and began to write this blog post.

The beginnings, I hope, towards unclenching the jaw.