Archive for June, 2011

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

I have often  heard it said that the difference between a fool and a wise man is that a wise man learns from his mistakes. While that is true as far as it goes I think a truly wise man learns from other people’s mistakes. With that in mind let me tell you about two of the mistakes I made very early on in our online selling experience so that others may avoid doing something like it.

Our first official sale on one of our Etsy.com sites was an old Fischer Price record player.

Ria and Teeny listening to a record

At the time I had our sites set up to list shipping costs to the U.S., Canada and Mexico. As it happened that first sale was to someone in Canada. I quickly learned that my assumption that shipping to Canada or Mexico wouldn’t be too much more than shipping within the U.S. was very wrong. As it turns out shipping to Canada from the U.S. is about three times more expensive. In my belated research I discovered that it can actually cost more to ship something within Canada than to ship that same item from Canada to the U.S. Go figure. Make no assumptions; do your research first and be thorough.

The next thing I discovered was that our Paypal account was not set up to receive payments. Getting that straightened out turned into a huge hassle and took more than a month. I will not go into the details as it would take too long to explain and the details wouldn’t help much since  our situation is somewhat unique. Suffice it to say, again; make no assumptions; do your research first and be thorough.

By the time we finally got everything working right the customer had been waiting over a month (and been very understanding of our ignorance). And, because of my screw-up with the shipping costs, we were actually going to lose money on the deal. Taking these things into account as well as the fact that the customer had given birth to her first child during this time (learned through our correspondence with her) we decided to make the record player a gift to her in honor of the new baby, take the loss and chalk it up to lessons learned,  good will and PR.

So at present we have decided that shipping outside the U.S. is more than we can handle. If things go well we may reconsider that at some future date; after much more research, with no assumptions. I’m sure there are other assumptions we have made. Our only hope is to discover them before we get bitten again.

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Why Sorta Green?

Shoovey Hugging a Tree in My Favorite Skort Outfit

Twenty years ago I might have called myself VERY green.  I was a bit of a tree hugger and quite obsessed with saving mother earth.  I felt quite guilty for using resources of any sort.  It killed me to throw away anything that might be of use within the next 100 years and I thought everyone should take cold showers and walk or bike wherever they went.  While in college I studied environmental engineering in hopes of making a meaningful contribution to the whole environmental movement.  Also, while in college I got saved, yes the real come-to-Jesus, surrender-my-life sort of “saved”.  I no longer worshiped the earth but the one true God.  In doing so I eventually became more balanced in my approach to the environment.  While I did learn that God wanted us to be good stewards of the world that He blessed us with, I also learned that we were made in God’s image and that He’d made it for us to use and enjoy.  People are ultimately more important than the planet.

The name Sorta Green came to me when pondering the fact that our products have a “green” eco-friendly aspect to them, but ultimately our goal is not to save mother earth but to glorify God.  Todd’s buttons are much more natural than those  found in stores but he does use electricity when he fires the ceramics and when he drills holes in the rocks or shells.  When making my skort outfits I start with second-hand shirts and shorts.  Because I choose those in the best condition, I’m not likely saving them from a landfill, but by buying second-hand I’m not adding to the demand for new factory made items either.

Our lifestyle is  “sorta green” as well.  While we are not “off grid”, we live in a fairly small house which minimizes energy waste, we burn wood to heat, have a small organic garden, and bike when possible for transportation.  We support local merchants with weekly purchases and only make bigger shopping trips to bigger merchants every three  months or so.  We use cloth diapers, we compost food scraps,  and burn paper waste in order to minimize trips to the dump.  At the same time we enjoy life and enjoy the bounty that the Lord has blessed us with without guilt.

Another final twist to the Sorta Green name that I only thought of recently is the fact that we are “sorta green” (very green is probably more appropriate at this time) when it comes to trying to establish a small home business.  Prior to this we’d never set up a shop online and we’d never created a blog.  We’re having fun as we continue to climb the steep learning curve in this realm but hopefully one day we won’t be quite so green at least in this sense.

The Birth of Sorta Green Buttons

In November of 2010 Todd fell off a roof while on a construction job.  The fall (actually the landing 🙂 ) broke his left wrist and fractured two vertebrae in his lower back.  We praise the Lord that there was no damage to his spinal cord. His parents invited us to stay with them in Florida while he recovered.  During this time, once he was able to get around better, he began making ceramic buttons.  He’d been wanting to try something like this ever since we saw some in a yarn shop in Wisconsin on one of our trips north to visit my family. 

When he was growing up his mother and grandmother took up ceramics as a hobby so he revisited some of the skills that he learned back then.  After his father retired from the Air Force his parents  ran a ceramic shop for several years and his parents still have one of the kilns from the shop and several shelves of molds.  His mother of course helped to refresh his memory regarding the ins and outs of the process.

Ria "helping" Daddy make buttons

While he started out using molds that his mom already had, he branched out into using jello cutters found at a yard sale, plastic toys from the children’s stash, and other objects that could be turned into molds or cutters. The kids really enjoyed trying to find things for daddy to cut the clay with and even made buttons with their play-doe.

Tevya using a large plastic button to make play-doe buttons

He also began drilling holes in pretty shell fragments and rocks that he found on the beach.  His favorite is made from a large piece of brain coral.

Teeny, Tevya and Ria "helping daddy sort shells

Once we returned to Tennessee he set up a shop on Etsy on March 28, 2011.

The banner for Todd's Etsy shop

He has high hopes that this venture will prove profitable as he finds the process quite enjoyable and rewarding and he is always trying to find new things to turn into buttons. All of his buttons have much more personality than your average store-bought button as well as a lot more heart and effort behind them.  We encourage you to check them out.

Welcome

This is the Sorta Green Team (Paula, Todd, Teshuvah, Tiveria, Tikvah, and Tevya)

Welcome to our blog.  Sorta Green is the name that we have given our small home business that we began while my husband recovered from  falling off a roof.  Thus far it consists of three different shops on Etsy.  They are Sorta Green Buttons (sortagreenbuttons.etsy.com), Sorta Green Kids (sortagreenkids.etsy.com), and Sorta Green Stuff (sortagreenstuff.etsy.com).  We’ll talk more about each one of these in future blogs.

We thought it would be fun to journal about our experiences throughout our small business journey and so was born this blog.  My goal is to journal weekly (preferably on Fridays) about the progress of our business, lessons learned, and more.  We think it will be interesting  simply as family history, but it may also provide help to those down the road who undertake similar endeavors and start out as “green” as we are.  We hope you enjoy.