Thursday, 23 April 2009

Civic Duty?

Barony 4 Bar Gift Boxes

Dave has been busy over the last few days making 12 of our handmade wooden gift boxes. These are to be used as gifts for dignitaries visiting Perth & Kinross Council. I'm not sure where they will all go to but the first one was needed today for a visitor from France. I'm quite chuffed they chose Barony as it is recognition that my products are good enough to represent Perthshire around the world (wow, little ol' me?). I love all the bows lined up, don't they look so pretty?

This is the second time we have done this type of thing. Back in January we supplied VisitScotland with some of my Scottish themed bars to go into press packs for journalists attending Homecoming presentations throughout Europe. I still can't quite get my head around my soap is being used to give journalists a flavour (or scent) of Scotland to encourage them to publicise Scotland and attract visitors here. I'm not so great at self promotion and I'm still a very small company so when I get order like the ones above I still pinch myself and then spent a few minutes daydreaming about which country my products will end up in. My soap is definitely wider travelled than me!

VisitScotland - Homecoming branded soap

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

You're fired!

Just watched The Apprentice which this week had the two teams making soap and was absolutely facinating from the perspective of a soapmaker.

Everything they had to do was instantly recognisable as we've been through every single one many times over. It was also interesting that a lot of essential parts of the process were missed out, but I suppose that's TV and back up from a huge manufacturer, e.g. there was no sign of product certification being carried out.

I must admit that I was encouraged by the many disasters which befell the teams, it gave a bit of perspective to the difficulties we have to go through to get everything to come together.

I won't relive the whole programme but the best bits from the perspective of a soapmaker were.

*One team marketing their soap as 'in touch with nature' but stamping on crabs while collecting seaweed to put in it.
*The other team thinking a lump of honeycomb with the honey dripping out makes a nice addition to a bar of soap.
*Costing products without including the cost of your employees, large factory etc.
*Agressive selling is as ugly on TV as it is in the real world, - and that's why we don't do it.
*Essential oils are expensive, some are very expensive! You need to know that before you add them to your product.

The choices the teams made for their products was also interesting as they were similar to some we make at Barony, although ours are far superior even if I do say so myself.

Our Soothing Honey and Oatmeal bar has the honey thoroughly mixed in so that it doesn't drip on the floor and is soothing on the skin. Although we don't collect our own honey we do get it from a local beekeeper.

Our Soothing Honey & Oatmeal Soap

We also have a bar containing seaweed (All Along The Foreshore) which has lots of minerals which are good for the skin.

Our All Along The Foreshore - Seaweed Soap

Our Sandalwood Soap contains a sandalwood fragrance rather than essential oil. One reason is the cost as highlighted in the show. The other is that good quality sandalwood essential oil is extracted from trees that are at least 50 - 80 years old and concerns have been raised that over extraction to meet demand is badly damaging a lot of trees. Why would anyone want to contribute to damaging these trees when you can choose a cosmetic copy and get the same scent?

I won't be seeking any business advice from the apprentices any time soon, but I am considering applying for next years show ;)

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Information Soaper Highway

(Hello World)

We have just made a huge technological step forward at Barony Crafts.

We've had a wireless network for a while now so that I can use my laptop anywhere in the house which is great. However I've never been able to use it in my workshop as it is too far from the house - the signal was too weak.

Dave has now laid a network cable between the house and the workshop so I can finally access everything in the workshop too. This is great as it mean no more running back 'n' forth from the workshop to the house every time I need access to a file or order supplies on the internet AND... no more swapping of memory sticks (it's a nightmare trying to remember which one has the most up to date version of everything). This should improve productivity hugely, or so Dave tells me anyway! But the absolute best bit is being able to access my huge iTunes library while working, perhaps not quite so good for productivity!

Soundtrack to work at the moment: Alabama 3, White Lies, Muse & Carter Burwell's Twilight Score. Also really like Zero by Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and In For The Kill by La Roux.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

My Newt

Last night while getting ready for todays Crieff Market (despite having no shows for weeks we still needed to work til midnight to be ready) I found this outside the workshop door.

It was a bit of a shock as I have never seen anything like it before. We both stopped and spent a few minutes watching and photographing it and trying to guess what it might be.

Our options were

1. A Komodo Dragon
2. A dinosaur
3. An extra from Primeval

Some research on the internet today has helped narrow down the field a bit.
Komodo Dragons only live in Indonesia so that was ruled out.
It appears that dinosaurs are extinct, so not that.
No sparkly anomalies nearby so not Primeval either.

A bit more reasearch has revealed that it is most probably a smooth newt. It is very rare to see one in your garden never mind on your doorstep, but probably more likely than finding any of our original options.

We have now registered our sighting on a website which records where amphibians are spotted to help identify populations and habitats.

Good Crieff

Had our first monthly Crieff Market of the year today. We hadn't been looking forward to it as the weather forcast was not looking good. The forecast did improve as time went on and we were a bit more optimistic and spent the last two days with our fingers crossed.

This must have worked as this morning we woke up to a nice sunny day which thankfully continued for the whole day although it was a bit breezy at times.

The good weather and the easter holidays meant it was a really busy day with one of the most successful Crieff markets we have ever had. As usual Crieff Cranachan and Lemongrass and Lime were the best sellers but our one off Easter Bunny went well too.

Also selling well were our new range of Hand and Body Lotions which proved very popular. These will be on the website as soon as I take some photos.

So all in all a good day, and my fingers are now crossed that all of this years shows will go as well. After all it worked with the weather this week!