As I work to edit my Etsy shop to comply with their new policies regarding herbal products, I’ve been going through a lot of feelings. At first, I was devastated. I thought this would destroy my business. Then I went through varying feelings of elation (from all the support I’ve been getting from all of you) and wild frustration.
It’s been exhausting editing my listings – and I have had to edit some of them three or four different times. And I’ll be going back and doing ANOTHER edit this week. There’s just so much conflicting information out there – many of us are not sure quite what to do and how to change things without losing the heart of our businesses.
There have been some real jaw-droppers, too, as I’ve learned more about this policy – things that have disheartened me a lot, including the fact that we are no longer allowed to share the feedback our customers have given us if that feedback contains medical words. I have a TON of feedback from people who have said that my products have helped them with acne issues or eczema or other such things and I am so proud of those comments. I used to feature them on my product pages, but this is now forbidden, considered a second-hand medical claim.
We are also not allowed to talk about the properties of herbs, even if those properties are factual. For instance, I sell carminative seeds as a natural breath freshener. I can no longer say that they also soothe gassy stomachs, even though carminatives are a class of herbs that…soothe gassy stomachs! We are no longer allowed to say that lavender is calming to the nervous system even though it is classified as a nervine! Not to make too big a deal out of this, but it does feel a little like a witch hunt. Heaven forbid we allow citizens of the US the option to explore alternative healing (which wasn’t so “alternative” once upon a time ago).
However, I’m determined to stay positive, keep Five Seed alive, and find every nugget of goodness that can possibly come out of this. Here are just a couple of those positives:
1. Community. After a year of doing business in a somewhat isolated mode (as is easy to do when you’re an online business and have another day job outside the home), I’ve been reconnecting with my teammates over at EcoEtsy and participating in some fascinating discussions with other herbal sellers all over Etsy. The support I have found through them has been a huge relief and it helps me remember something at the cornerstone of herbalism – community. That is where the strength of herbal healing lies – sharing with and supporting everyone and anyone interested in the Old Wisdom.
I’m sorry to say that I think this aspect of herbalism has gotten lost in our capitalistic system. I never realized this until recently, but there’s a respectful and slightly suspicious distance that some of us keep from one another. In fact, of all the business owners I have connected with, almost none of them have been bath and body sellers. There is this subtle sense of competition – it’s like we’re so protective of our niche (and it’s hard to find any niche in b&b that hasn’t already been filled) that we don’t want to connect with others and potentially get lost in the massive sea of herbal businesses.
And unfortunately, there are some herbal sellers who aren’t very ethical, who search through our shops looking for information on products to create. I’ve seen many herbal sellers struggle with copycats. And finally, there are those who consider themselves the “watchdogs” and who search through shops and blogs to see what people are doing and who drop in with nasty comments and threats.
Now I’m seeing the value of pushing past all that capitalistic-, ego-driven, fear-based crap. None of this information is new. None of our products are new. There’s not much we can do to prevent ourselves from being targeted by copycats or watchdogs. So why cut ourselves off from the chance of connecting and sharing information? I think if we want to consider ourselves true keepers of plant wisdom (in whatever form we come), then we need to keep community at the top of our priority lists.
2. Integrity. It is always, always necessary to keep checking ourselves. After we’ve been in business for a while and have built a customer base, we tend to get into a rut about how we present our products. We assume we know who we’re talking to and that they know us, because, hey, we’ve been around for a couple of years. But this is a trap of sneaky complacency – sneaky in that we don’t often realize it is even happening.
This change in policy has got me thinking a lot about how I present my products. Obviously, I believe in integrity above all else as a business – integrity toward the environment and integrity with my customers. I was proud as I went through my product pages, because I felt I had been fair in how I presented them – very clear that these products are potentially helpful in the healing of certain health issues. I’m also always very clear about the fact that I created almost everything in the line for myself and used it with success – and that my successes made me want to share with others who might be dealing with the same health issues.
However…there were a handful of new products (my skincare line) that were written in a way that might have been too easily misinterpreted by others. First of all, I was super excited about these products – as I said, I’ve been using them for a while now with great success, and if you read my upcoming e-book on skincare, you’ll know why I feel so elated about finally finding a solution for my crazy skin! This elation definitely played a part – and pride. I was so very proud of myself for finding a system that worked for me and could not wait to share it with others.
But I realized that a person’s tone is hard to identify on the internet. How are new customers supposed to know who I am or what I stand for or even what I mean by certain words if they are visiting for the first time via a product page (as opposed to my About page or storefront). Suddenly, I realized that my words in some of these listings could be easily taken out of context. Long story short (or long story long), I realized I need to remember to see myself from the perspective of that first-time customer dropping in on a product page, having no idea who I am. I need to be very clear and careful with the words I use. I thought I was doing that, of course – but this was a great way to open my eyes to the holes in my system.
I have more to say about this, but alas, I’m too busy editing my shop to write for the blog! Actually, I have some other fun projects in store, too, from my upcoming e-book to a new line of truly unique lip balms. There is lots to do, so I’d best be on my way for now.
Once more, thank you all for your support – it has truly kept me afloat through this challenging time!