Moving!

Okay, folks, I’m leaving this space. I’m moving on to http://www.yancylael.com/blog. I will keep this space open for now, but I will no longer be posting here. Yes, the blog on my site is a bit of a mess and not nearly as advanced as this one – but baby steps. It’ll be better!

Please join me over there and click here to join the newsletter!

Rolling with the punches

I haven’t been in a creative tornado like this for a long, long time. I’ve never put so much time into something with so little knowledge of how it would pan out. I’ve never worked on so many projects simultaneously (by necessity) and been able to keep everything straight in my head. I’ve never been so willing to roll with the punches. And I’ve never been so ruthless about following my intuition.

Here are some of the major changes that have been happening over here:

1. I am no longer pursuing an e-book for the debut of my skincare book. I’m going to self-publish via Amazon, then get it into the Kindle store in November or December.

2. Foxhazel who? Yeah, this was a big one. As I designed my new website, I could not seem to shake the gnawing feeling that something was wrong. My beautiful, forest-themed name for the business suddenly didn’t seem to fit the direction I was heading in. It works for my skincare products (which are no longer the focus of the business) and for the herbal projects I want to do, but in the long run, I see myself writing more books, venturing into the world of monthly publications and working more directly with people via coaching, courses and (gulp) public speaking. Some of this is in the far future, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I need to keep my eye on that horizon.

The truth is, I don’t know exactly where I’m headed. I have the next six months mapped out, but beyond that, it’s a little foggy. I see words: Help. Motivation. Passion. Inspiration. Guidance. Love. Change. Light. Brilliance. Achievement. I know I want (I need) to rocket to the next level in my own life, having hung out in Haven’t Met My Potential-ville on Lacked Belief in Myself Street for far, far too long. And I know I want to take everyone like me on the journey, right by my side.

Foxhazel seems more of a part of my business than the whole. And every potential name I think of has the same issue – another part of me or my business dreams. (What can I say, I have a lot of interests and goals!) As I reach the home stretch here and am trying to prevent having to re-brand myself yet again in the near future, I’m seriously considering just using my name: YancyLael.com. It seems crazy to me, for some reason (like naming a website after yourself is only possible after you have published dozens of books and/or been in business for ten years), but it’s who I am and I know that will never change. It might get a new look from time to time, but wouldn’t ever need a re-branding (well, mostly).

No regrets, right? No doubts, no sentimentality. I already bought the domain name and set up the Foxhazel emails. Oh well. Goodbye. I already spent weeks designing the logo and artwork. Oh well. Goodbye. Or not? I still don’t know. But…roll with the punches.

Some of the artwork I've created for the name that no longer seems to work!  Copyright: Yancy Lael

Some of the artwork I’ve created for the name that no longer seems to work!
Copyright: Yancy Lael

3. Goodbye deadlines. On August 31st, coming home from a nice, rare dinner out on the town, I suddenly realized the the next day was September 1st…and my deadlines for releasing the book, the coaching seminars and the website in thirty days were impossible to reach. It had seemed so logical in my head that it would all work just fine, but I had forgotten one important point: shipping. There was not enough time to create and ship some of the products that are available with certain coaching packages. I was distraught, as the only other window I had beyond October was all the way in January. (I remain certain that it wouldn’t be wise to launch a 30-day coaching seminar in November or December with the holiday madness going on.) What would happen? Would anyone care by then?

And two days later, I dusted myself off and realized that this was the best possible timeline. It would give me ample time to prepare and give my best to my clients. I still plan on releasing the book by October 1st (fingers crossed) and opening the website no later than that date, so there will be plenty to offer my customers and plenty of time to make some extra treats for you all (I’ll reveal that soon!).

4. Title 1. Title 2. Title 3. The name of my book has changed so many times, it’s almost ridiculous. I think my sister is going to stop answering my text messages asking if she likes this title or that title better. I think – maybe – I have the right title now. But then, I’ve thought that before and hated it a week later. However, I don’t have a week to spare anymore. This is IT. I’m giving myself a few hours and then it’s time to plunge ahead.

This process has been super hard and super scary – and amazing. I find it a weird space in time. I have so many people in my life who are so excited about what I’m doing. And just as many, if not more, who don’t seem to give a rat’s patoot. I didn’t expect to encounter very many naysayers – and certainly none in my inner circle – and yet, there they are. Whatever fear I’m facing, it’s like these people know and they make comments that seem to directly feed that fear. People – sometimes people you love – will imply (or directly tell you) that you aren’t good enough, smart enough or worthy enough to succeed. That you can’t build a successful business. That you aren’t worth being paid decent wages. The temptation to believe them – since they’re just confirming you own fears, anyway – is so strong.

You could just say, “Walk away from that! Those people aren’t your friends or family!” And it’s true, that you should never put up with verbal abuse, and never let yourself succumb to the tearing claws of critics. But I see so much more to it. How do they know? How do they know exactly what to say to freak you out the most? It’s all about the mirrors. We recognize similarities in each other – we bond with our light and we attack with our darkness. People know. You can’t hide your fears from those who experience the same fears. Maybe it’s a good thing for them to provoke that fear beast within you. It gives you a chance to face it and overcome it. And if you’re lucky, you can recognize the same fear in the other person. You can recognize the suffering within them that made them pounce on your fear. A little perseverance in your path and a little prayer for the critic might go a long way in healing you both.

So this is it. The home stretch. A few more weeks (maybe less) and I’ll be up and running. It’s insanely scary. But also one of the most exciting things I’ve done in a long time. Thanks for sticking around to see it all happen! I wouldn’t be here without you all.

Take No Prisoners

It all started out as a seemingly innocuous decision to take myself more seriously. I began the process by making the decision to create an office space for myself that felt beautiful, comfortable, practical and “real” – not just a spare room with a bunch of crap in it that made me feel stressed, overwhelmed and a little bit like a poser. Redecorating this space was an awesome process that I enjoyed very much – and it made me surprisingly more committed to stick with my decision to take myself seriously in every part of my life.

That commitment started to manifest in ways I did not expect. I made it through the school year and had no distractions to keep me from facing the truth about my business: That is was not profitable. In the past, when met with realizations like this, I would fall into despair and feel like a failure. This time, I felt the opposite. I knew the problem and I knew I could fix it. The decision to stop focusing on manufacturing products arose quickly and triumphantly.

This was followed by the decision to pursue my e-book with 100% focus. I kept to a strict schedule (something I have to admit, I’ve almost never done as an entrepreneur) and there it was: The finished rough draft in less than a month (which is saying a lot, considering I started this book a year ago, and hardly touched it for most of that time). The feedback I’m getting about the book has been more than I could’ve hoped for and it feels like my business’s new direction is right on target.

My workspace as I write my e-book.

My workspace as I write my e-book.

And then I received my paycheck for the hours I worked at summer school and a previous realization revisited me, this time, demanding immediate attention. And ten days later, I resigned from my job. And I know, without a doubt, that it was the right thing to do. In short, I had put myself in a position to earn far, far less than I deserve and to be undervalued by the “brass.” (It is very easy to fall into this situation when you work in education – and I’ve found myself here no less than a dozen times.) While I didn’t necessarily want to leave (I love my students), I absolutely could not make it another year on those wages. I also felt, very deeply, that I had learned what I came to learn and that now I deserved more.

I look back on some of the goals I set for this year (like this one) and though it doesn’t feel like I made much progress, I realize now that I have. Things are changing right and left and my confidence is growing with each day. It’s not easy – in fact, it’s downright terrifying – but things are actually working. It’s all moving and changing and growing and things are coming together.

This whole “take yourself seriously” thing and the radical self-acceptance…they work. They actually work! (And that’s a major part of my e-book, coming out soon – so let me warn you now!)

So watch out, world! I’m taking no prisoners!

Moving On and Up

I had planned to unveil my new business ideas at least a month ago, but life often has other plans. Summer school came and went and then my roommate/best friend broke his foot, which has required me to be a caregiver in addition to working on my own projects.

Both experiences (summer school and the broken foot) oddly made me realize something I think I’ve known since last summer: that Five Seed has taken its last breath in its current incarnation.

Ever since Etsy changed its policies and prevented us from talking about herbalism, my business has literally died down to nothing. And I let it. I was scared to move on, and depressed and discouraged by their actions. Not productive. Thankfully, I didn’t have too much time to dwell on it (usually) as I was busy with my teaching jobs.

However, as sales dived by tens and then hundreds of dollars…I stopped wanting to create these products. The competition was overwhelming to me, and the details…oh, the details! Keeping stock of hundreds of ingredients and supplies, creating products that would sell quickly so customers would be able to enjoy their long shelf life, designing dozens of labels, arranging the labels on the page one at a time in order to keep from wasting ink and paper, printing the labels, drying the labels, placing the labels on the products, placing the protective labels over the product labels, storing the products, keeping track of inventory, marketing, keeping up the blog, taking product photos, editing product photos, uploading product photos, writing product descriptions, updating product pages, keeping up with emails, keeping up with business teams, scouting for consignment opportunities… I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

The point is that, while working as a teacher during summer school, I put in 51 hours during the month of June and made almost twice what I make in my normal job as a reading teaching during the school year. Less time and more money. Why? Because for once, I was able to earn teacher wages instead of the just-above-minimum-wage hourly pay that I earn with my normal job.

There it was: the old “work smarter, not harder” saying staring me in the face. (Now if I could figure out HOW to do this with my teaching jobs, I’d be pretty happy. But I’m still working on that one.)

And it hit me – I wasn’t working smarter at Five Seed. On the contrary, I was working harder, putting in more hours and getting less and less in return. At one time, it was worth it. I didn’t have any other jobs when I first started. It was just me and the dream and it was glorious. But as time went on, it became financially necessary for me to take on more and more outside jobs, to the point where I was dropping commitments for Five Seed right and left. It’s no wonder things got bad – there was some serious neglect going on here.

etsy-farewellscreen

And in the end, I realized that I have to take my own advice. I can’t keep frittering away my time on brainstorming, labeling, hustling and trying-trying-trying when there’s nothing coming back in. I have to remember that I’m worth more than that, and that the quality of my life demands that I make a change here.

Further, I don’t belong on Etsy anymore. I’ve known that since the day they changed their policies and refused to give me clear instructions on what to do, all the while threatening to close down my shop. I was super proud of my shop back then – proud of my stats, of the customer love I had received and proud of the immense work that went into building that shop. And let’s face it, when it comes to third-party shopping venues, Etsy is the best of the best. Many have tried but none have come close to Etsy’s options, class and exposure.

Nonetheless, it’s not the place for me. I’ve felt dread and regret and bitterness every time I’ve logged in to my account – another big red flag I should’ve taken notice of 11 months ago! At the time, my fear was too great to leave, though, no matter how many people encouraged me to do so (and thank you, by the way, for all of that, readers!).

Now…I’m ready. I don’t even know why. I’m not sure exactly what all clicked into place to finally make this happen. But I’m ready to let go and move on.

I don’t fully know what that means yet, but I do know that manufacturing products will no longer be on my priority list. There will be some of that – but only here and there as supplements to my other projects. I know I want to focus on writing and educational projects at this time. So the blog will survive – in another form, however, and probably with another name. And I will probably have a store site that will feature little items I make here and there.

However…all the rest is leaving. Goodbye!

So head on over to the shop and grab what you want at 40% off – use the code FAREWELL40. And stay tuned for the rest of the changes as I work on them this summer!

Thank you all so much for all of the support you’ve given me these past 3 1/2 years. It was a wonderful ride and I will always be so grateful to you all!

Go Fund Yourself!

Unfortunately, my Go Fund Me campaign for my e-book did not quite make it to the goal and the money that was raised will not be collected. (I keep joking with myself that Go Fund Me told me to go fund myself. LOL!) I could’ve done better with the whole thing, but I think I let the fears that have been surrounding this whole process sabotage me. I didn’t do a very good job in promoting it and…I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t even work on the book during the campaign. I can see how the universe would not want to support my bad behavior! {wink, wink}

Yesterday, when I realized I wasn’t going to make my goal, I decided to stop waffling and worrying about my lack of appropriate tools for making this book. All I need to do now is focus on the writing. It doesn’t matter if my computer crashes a million times while I’m working – I’m learning to diligently press the Save button and regularly back up the file on my jump drive. When the time comes that I need more supplies, more money, or whatever…they will come. Until then, I have to get to work and be productive!

skincare25

I do want to take a moment to thank the contributors to my campaign. It’s funny – I love crowd-funding because it’s so wonderful to feel like you are helping a stranger realize their dream. I’ve contributed to a few projects now and it was a thrill, each time. My hope was to find other like-minded strangers who would like to help me with my dream project. Instead, I ended up getting contributions from friends and customers. It was very humbling and I am very grateful for all of their support. That includes EcoGrrl, Rachael of Sellwood Soap, Callah, K.P., K.S. and the lovely Marcia of Marci Ann Designs. Many, many thanks to all of you. I can’t sufficiently express my gratitude, but I can at least say that your contributions have helped me keep the fires of this dream burning! Bless you, all!

So onward and upward! Now that summer school is coming to a close, I’m making a writing schedule for the summer. This book is my priority right now, above all the other business projects nagging at me. I am going to finish this! You may hear a little less from me on the blog, but I’ll make up for it with this amazing book, when it comes out!

Enlisting My Peeps

I did something a little crazy just now. Something far outside my comfort zone. I asked for help. In a big, big way.

As many of you know, I’ve been working on an e-book about skincare since last summer. There were a lot of ups and downs, including other commitments (jobs and classes) taking up my writing time. But more than anything, I’ve been waylaid by technical issues.

The sweet, old computer, on its last leg.

The sweet, old computer, on its last leg.

Two years ago, as I was writing on my laptop, the screen went black. After many consultations with computer experts, I found out the screen had burned out. Due to financial constraints, I opted to leave it be and my friend allowed me to use his external monitor as long as I needed it.

Unfortunately, I was to find that this would be the first of many – many – problems. I’m at the point now where I never know when my computer will work or not. It won’t let me move files or delete them. It crashes every few hours – sometimes every few minutes. It won’t open most of my software. Etc., etc., etc. I am often forced to use my friend’s computer in order to get anything done.

I have spent three weeks pondering what to do about this. Several computer techs that I’ve talked to have told me that it would cost far more to fix all these problems than to replace the whole thing. And since this computer is VERY old, I’m ready to turn it in for parts and upgrade with very little eco-guilt involved. [wink]

However, shelling out that kind of money is not possible for me right now. I’m still working three jobs (outside this business) and make assistant wages even though I have a Master’s Degree. It’s all good and fine – I know new opportunities are opening up for me as the school year (and my three jobs) come to an end. But in the meantime, I’m itching to get back to writing my book.

After weeks of prayer and journaling, I decided to go out on a limb and just ask for help. I believe so passionately in this project and am so anxious to get it finished. And you know what? This is such an abundant universe – if it is meant to be, the money will be provided. If not, I will be led to another opportunity.

So if you feel so moved, pleased visit my GoFundMe page and spread the word! I have 60 days to reach my goal – if I don’t, your donation will be refunded.

(Incidentally, I started off at Kickstarter, which is a great website – but like many companies these days, they do not allow any mention of or products related to herbalism, beauty, beauty products or beauty and/or health advice. So I went someplace that has fewer limitations. Thank you, Universe!)

Thank you all for your continued support! I truly appreciate it!

Recognizing When a Product Has Gone Bad

You’ve received your Flower Balm in the mail and you love it! Maybe you keep it in your medicine cabinet and use it twice a day, or maybe you are savoring every delicious scoop and are cautiously storing it in drawer in your cool, dry, dark closet. You’ve followed all the tips to keep it fresh for as long as possible. But how do you tell when it’s gone bad?

I hear many people say that it’s easy, because you’ll notice mold on the product. Wrong-o! I have heard people who make homemade balms complain about mold, but something is wrong if that has happened. There should be no mold in an oil-based balm, unless they were made with water (not recommended). If you find mold in an oil-based balm that you bought from someone else, be aware that you have likely contaminated it with water (usually by dipping in with wet hands).

Can you guess which one is starting to go rancid?

Can you guess which one is starting to go rancid?

The truth is, oil rancidity is incredibly common and usually goes unnoticed by consumers. The good news is that most oils take a year or two to become fully rancid. The bad news is that by the time it gets into your hands, it’s already a couple months old – at least. When it comes to rancidity, oils from grocery stores are the worst offenders. I’ve read that olive oils in grocery stores are typically 1-2 years old already. (And think of all the light and heat they have been exposed to while on the shelves.) Thankfully, my supplier of oils is top-notch and sells incredibly fresh oils. However, all bath and body sellers have to gently heat their oils in order to create our amazing products, which oxidizes the oils a bit more, and once a bunch of oils and butters and waxes are mixed together, the aging process has sped up just a tad.

So how do you know when a product has gone rancid? I did some experiments with Flower Balm and Knitter’s Balm. I exposed them both to heat and direct sunlight, day after day. The Knitter’s Balm started looking and smelling a little rancid within eight months. The Flower Balm went down faster, going totally rancid in less than six months. The reason for this is that I experimented with Flower Balm in a jar, not a tin – the packaging lets in more light than a tin, obviously, and therefore, did not last as long! Meanwhile, the two (one of each product) that I kept in the dry, dark, cool closet were still in fabulous shape after 9 months. Most natural balms and oils have a shelf-life of 9-12 months if they are kept well.

Look at the difference in these two products! It is obvious that the one on the left has gone totally rancid. (The flecks are not mold - just bits of SJW.)

Look at the difference in these two products! It is obvious that the one on the left has gone totally rancid. (The flecks are not mold – just bits of SJW.)

There are two telltale signs of rancidity. First of all, the color of the product will have faded significantly. The balm will usually be a white-yellow, instead of a deeper yellow or gold. (Though, admittedly, it is much harder to notice the color change in a liquid body oil.) Secondly, the balm or oil will smell different. Rancid oil smells very bland – some say it has a metallic scent, while others say it smells a bit nutty (though not in an appetizing way). I’ve heard some compare it to the smell of crayons, which is exactly what it smells like to me!

If your products are exhibiting these two symptoms, it is O-V-E-R. They’re gone. There is some debate out there about whether or not it’s safe it use rancid oils, but being as rancid oils contain free radicals, I say it’s just safer to dump the products and replace them!

That said, when using natural products, you shouldn’t worry about rancidity. As long as you keep your products well and use them up in a reasonable amount of time, you will have no problems. But hopefully, these tips will help you recognize rancidity in products that have been forgotten in the back of your medicine cabinets when it’s time to spring clean!

Preserving the Freshness of Your Natural Products

If you love natural, preservative-free products as much as I do, then you’re doing your skin, your body and the environment a huge favor. However, I often hear concern from people who are worried about keeping their natural products as fresh as possible, and who feel unsure about identifying when a product has gone bad. So get ready to be schooled!

Preserving a natural product is pretty simple. First, realize that no matter what, time will affect the product. An egg will go rotten eventually, even if you refrigerate it. Milk will curdle. Apples will rot. This is a normal part of the natural world. It’s what doesn’t go bad that you should be worried about!

Keep it fresh, baby!

Keep it fresh, baby!

In order to keep your products in prime condition, keep them someplace cool, dry and dark, as much as possible. By doing this, you are slowing down the process of oxidation. Everything submits to oxidation – even humans. The cooler and dryer you can keep your products, the better. And protect them from the light as much as possible. (That’s why we use amber or frosted glass jars instead of clear glass.)

This can be a challenge, I realize, especially if you live in, say, Miami! I happen to be lucky – I live in a cold, dry part of the country. But if you don’t, there are a few tricks you can try!

First of all, only buy what you will use in a 3-6 month period. If you use your products within 3 months, like I do, you can generally keep them in your bathroom’s medicine cabinet without worry. (Yes, even with the humidity and temperature changes a bathroom experiences.)

If you live in an especially hot, humid climate, try keeping your products in the fridge, if you don’t use them up quickly. It’s a bit moist in there, but cold, dark humidity is better than hot, bright humidity!

If you don’t want to use your fridge, try a closet or rarely-used drawer in a cool area of your house. This works like a charm for me. I keep the products that I don’t use up quickly in a closet, with the door shut at all times. This keeps the temperature consistent, blocks out the light and it’s dry as a bone, thanks to our high desert climate.

It is also very important to avoid contaminating your product with water. Any product that uses water is harder to preserve and if you buy products with water in them, you need to make sure they include a preservative, or be VERY careful in how you store them. (Keep it in the fridge and use it up fast.) I do not sell anything that contains water because products like that, sans preservatives, have a very short shelf-life. Balms, oils and soaps, however, do not need preservatives (so long as they are used in a reasonable amount of time) because bacteria don’t (yes, it’s “don’t” – bacteria is plural) find these products very hospitable. So don’t go and introduce bacteria into your products by dipping into your Flower Balm with wet hands! Keep your hands dry when you dip in and this will help keep your product fresh and safe.

Now the big question: How do you know when a product has gone bad? And what does that even mean? Stay tuned, next Friday, and I’ll answer your question!

Shop News

There’s a lot of change going on here. Usually, when I say that, I mean change that I’m planning and instigating. This time, I’m talking about change that’s happening around me and that is shaping my goals for Five Seed. The truth is, at this point, I have no idea if Five Seed will be operating in January. But I’m not interested in making any decisions right now. I’m just trying to figure what to do as things change around me. And hopefully, that will lead me to a place where I can keep on going! So what’s going on?

The Storefront

I’m feeling pretty over Etsy. I’ve been watching and communicating with my competitiors (people I respect greatly) and have learned that many of them who deleted items that did not fit Etsy’s new guidelines have since relisted them and are using words like “antispasmodic,” “colds and flus” and other such terms that I was told I could not use. I was pretty upset and emailed Etsy to ask why these sellers were allowed to use these terms when I am not. You won’t be surprised that I have not heard back from them, after three weeks. My sales on Etsy also continue to be dismal – slower than when I first opened my shop in 2010. I do plan on moving to a different internet storefront, but admittedly, I’m still intimidated by the process and am moving pretty slowly in that area. Having two other jobs is not helping, either – I don’t have much time to devote to finding a new place for the shop. But…I figure things will work out when the time is right.

Out With the Old

Say goodbye (forever) to Bee Balm. This product will no longer be available after December 10th. I will not be bringing Herbwyfe’s Balm back this spring, either. Black Walnut Salve in 2 oz. jars will also be discontinued once it has sold out.

Further, I’m considering discontinuing the perfumes and the sample sizes. I’m thinking of what I want to do with this business and how I want to expand and maybe it’s time to trim down the inventory and expand into things beyond bath and body. I have no idea what that will lead to, but it’s just something I’m feeling right now. I still have TONS of perfume bottles and vials left, though, so I will continue to carry them until they sell out and I may even add a few more to the line.

Too Much

Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I now have a plethora of inventory that I need to MOVE OUT. That’s where you come in. I’m offering the biggest discount I have ever given to Five Seed shoppers – thirty-five percent off! It’s perfect for your holiday shopping! Just use the code OVERSTOCK35. (This code expires at midnight PST on November 26th.)

Price Change

I will be changing the prices of some items over the next month (after this sale). I have more to say about this, but for now, I’ll just say that organic, fair trade ingredients are very expensive. But you get what you pay for, and these ingredients are top-notch. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Prices have risen again, and in order to stay in business, I will have to raise some of my prices, too. But I know people will understand and be willing to support businesses like mine, who strive to offer sustainable, high-quality products.

Sending love to all you! Enjoy the sale!