Education

What is your trail sign all about?

Did you know that essential oils can have a function outside of olfactory (aroma) sensation?  With each level of care in the Apothecary Muse product lines, the presence, source, amount and order of formulation is thoughtfully prepared to provide the least impact on the environment with performance for different kinds of skin or body chemistry.  It is recommended that you read the descriptions, ingredients and not shop by what you like to smell, alone – while lavender may suit your bathing experience, it may not be compatible with the type of chemistry your body is creating to be effective as a deodorant.  Not one product works for everyone and it would be misleading for anyone to suggest that.  Indeed, to have the multitude of ingredients to accommodate everyone in a single product would be environmentally and economically wasteful, ultimately serving NO ONE.

Gentle, Everyday and Advanced Care levels of Lip Balm

Our Gentle Care level uses little to no essential oils for the most sensitive skin and athletic lifestyles, the Everyday Care level includes an industry standard 2% dilution of essential oils to be effective for casual activity, and the Advanced Care level has added functionality with a combination of herbal extracts, essential oils and exfoliants or clays for occasion use to restore the body’s natural systems – not to be confused with medicine.  Our biodegradable paperboard tube and reusable tin products have our custom washi tape with the levels of care indicated, in addition to the familiar iconic trail sign levels of difficulty: Green Circle, Blue Square, Black Diamond.  And the soap bars have the icon on the side of the label.

soap box apothecary muse
soap box apothecary muse

Ethical Pricing is a Triple Bottom Line

Logic: we need to establish parameters for sustainable success for the environment, community and our businesses.  Pricing is complicated, and incoming and outgoing costs may vary, requiring constant research.  Cultural negligence is an opportunity loss for all of us. 

If after reading this, it also resonates with you, I want to know you exist.  If you have additional thoughts of your own after reading this, I would listen.

Many years before I started my business, I worked as a buyer for retail shops.  Later on, I would create a tool to measure the viability of square footage throughout a retail storefront, based on customer trends, seasons and goals for growth.  These things sound like something a recent college grad wouldn’t be interested in, especially an avid cyclist who had never owned a car, worked in the outdoor industry advocated for shared use access for youth and minorities.  Exclusion was prevalent in the industry and I struggled to feel safe in my work environment and most open space, but I needed them so I developed a knack for tolerating discomfort. I knew this wasn’t right and I saw my discomfort reflected in untapped markets and unspoken stakeholders in the environment.  I sought to give a voice to NEW customers and meet them where their needs lay was like permaculture, cultivating active and responsible users in the outdoors, while addressing existing barriers.  It would be inappropriate to push performance brands on folks not acquainted with the outdoor industry’s marketing tendencies, and when I consulted a local, multi-store chain to create unique merchandising plans for each store to accommodate each niche culture, and it was never more apparent to me that supporting diversity could bring success for everyone.  Marketing is advocacy.

Money is gross, smells weird and generations of people have been exploited for the benefit of the privileged few. Yet, we live in a culture that quantifies everything with it: products, equipment, labor, natural resources.  How do we reconcile ourselves with this historical loss?

We listen. We pay fair prices in order to charge fair prices. We reevaluate regularly.  For Apothecary Muse, this means accepting no labor that is unpaid, including friends.  Establishing a trend of unpaid labor is a privilege that not everyone has, undermines competitors, devalues the laborer’s time, and falsely inflates your profit margin.  Once you bite that apple, it is difficult to pay someone else and face the person you accepted free labor from.  You might lose friends, or if they are your family, lifelong trust.  Not to mention that there are actual labor laws preventing a business from accepting unpaid labor if it could be payable.

When it comes to raw materials, packaging and equipment; this can be difficult unless everything is affordable and accessible.  I’m appalled at how much of my bottom line goes to shipping costs, incoming and outgoing – and the devastating environmental impact that has because of the shipping travel itself.  This is an area I am constantly trying to improve while meeting the needs of a growing economy that, like me, doesn’t have access to quality goods within travel distance.  When my business was tiny, just selling to a few folks and shops locally, I was purchasing at retail prices and selling for close to what it “cost” me to make it.  I wasn’t making a profit, but I was also working full time with a paycheck and healthcare elsewhere so it didn’t seem like a priority.  I started noticing lots of other shops offering free shipping yet a retailer even told me that they thought my products were overpriced.  I checked my privilege.  My job paid only enough to keep me fed, not enough to save money or take a loss with my sales from my tiny “business”.  I was so excited about all the things that I could make, that I tried to make everything that I could possibly make to replace household items I would purchase.  If I didn’t know it then, I know now that the quality of my products wasn’t great because I was caught up in the romance of creative expression, and perpetuated underserving the community.  

I lost my job.  I was suddenly forced to reevaluate my – everything.  Newfound free time spent outside helped me to problem-solve and on a weeklong backpacking trip I decided to take my business more expertly and intertwine it with my advocacy.  I brainstormed ways to improve, tackling better ingredient sourcing, sustainable packaging (including shipping materials), and more streamlined production methods for overall quality control.  I made some difficult decisions about which products to drop from my line (including some good ones) so I could focus on quality for a more reasonable few products, purchased raw materials in bulk, rebranded and relaunched my business with the support of a small, community-backed loan.  I picked up some part-time work as prep cook in a local restaurant to maintain some finances (not all), while the rebranding was underway.  Finding a way to valuate other household contributions became necessary, more than comfortable. My tolerance to discomfort has waned over the years and I’m aiming for something that doesn’t conflict with my ability to fulfill production demand, knowing much of the work is mine along the way.

Yet, I chose this path and many do not have this choice.  This drives my research in sourcing through sustainable suppliers, from permaculture practices to reduced carbon footprint on freight.  The community backed loan endowed me with this privilege – which I’d never had, and fear I could lose at any moment – and I am acutely aware that others do not have.  This affects my competitors, because having a little breathing room in my finances changed my perspective.  I haven’t forgotten where “I came from” though, I just unlocked some new level in the game of business where I had more opportunities and I was able to have conversations with new people about environmental issues. After being used to being ignored in a male biased industry, I was able to increase my availability to advocate for the environment, meet with legislators and mobilize administration to change a law.  My business had empowered me to envision success and it was a new flavor. I wanted my competitors to have some breathing room, too.  If all my competitors were able to have these conversations, sustainable advocacy could have such powerful momentum.

In summary, I am sharing my personal story because it is no simple thing to calculate the price of an item, because that is unique from the cost.  If you came to this website looking for advice, it would be a disservice for me to generalize your situation because it will be different from mine.  I can say that it won’t hurt you to start by looking at where you can pay fairly – according to the seller – for everything, It may take years of continuous research (I’m still going 6 years after initial launch), but you may find you appreciate your products, your time and your self more as well.  Others may see the value in these as well.  I am so grateful for these 6 years where I have had the opportunity to learn more about myself, the community and environment needs and it is my hope that I may be able to continue to learn and contribute in all these ways for many more years to come with a growing team. I hope there are other folks as interested in cooperative industry leadership as I am.

Artisan Code of Conduct

Safety:

ALWAYS Wear protective clothing when handling raw materials:

  • Pants, Long Sleeves, Gloves, apron, closed toe shoes, goggles (and mask when handling lye).
  • Hat or hair tie helps prevent touching face.

PREVENT contamination

  • Please notify the instructor upon registration if there are any allergies or sensitivities. 
    • Use dedicated tools for each raw material.
    • NO food or drink beyond the lobby desk.
    • Do NOT touch hair, face or clothing with contaminated gloves.
    • Exposure will be mitigated as best possible; however, cross contamination can not be guaranteed especially in the classroom setting.

Code of Conduct

Diversity and Inclusion

By proceeding with programs in this studio, you agree to support efforts to make this classroom and other spaces safe for all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, livelihood, culture, race, religion, or ethnicity.

Cooperation and Kindness

We’re all in this together to create a welcoming, educational environment. Keep all comments on-topic and respectful. Dialogue is encouraged, but unsolicited advice should be avoided. When in doubt, report safety concerns to the teacher.

No Promotions or Poaching

Give more than you take in this shared educational experience. Curriculum is designed by and property of Apothecary Muse to provide basic crafting skills for hobby-level makers. Self-promotion or outside referrals must be pre-approved by teacher. Spam, multi-level marketing or poaching student or other proprietary information is prohibited and will be grounds for dismissal without refund.

Respect Everyone’s Privacy

Being present in this classroom means open minds and mutual trust. Authentic, expressive discussions make groups great, but may also be sensitive and private. What’s shared in the group should stay in the group.

March Adventure Challenge

JOIN IN!

What are we doing? 

Using people power, we are working together to share outdoor experiences with others, improve photography skills, enhance environmental awareness and grow our community along the way.

Kinds of images

Use the DAILY THEMES below for inspiration when you are outside and share on Instagram. Your images can be anything outdoors, sports, nature or travel related, taken at ANY point by YOU in March 2018.  Try to tell a story with your image, not just words. Bonus: avoid post-editing, cropping or filtering

Are there rules?

Nah, how about suggestions instead? Have fun! There are no prizes other than enjoying the fresh air, making new friends and learning some new skills. One request: please do not use branding or sales information for the sake of hashtag integrity. Don’t forget! Use hashtag #marchadventurechallenge for your INSTAGRAM posts. Follow @apothecarymuse for tips, ideas and to see what other folks are posting.

Download INSTAGRAM here: follow @apothecarymuse

You can click here or the image below for a printable calendar which you can take with you on your adventures or post on your wall.  It includes lunar cycles and some important dates for quick reference.  You can click here for just the list or the second image below:

Download MarchAdventureChallenge_Calendar2018

Download MarchAdventureChallenge_LIST_2018

#MarchAdventureChallenge – 2018

List:

1 Horizon

2 Miniature or Micro Landscape

3 Lifecycle: Plant, Trees, and/or Fungi

4 Reference scale (temp. installation)

5 Diversity in Outdoors (people)

6 Distant Landscape or Lookout

7 Favorite Tool for Outdoors

8 Climate Extremes

9 Natural Frame

10 Action Shot (still or Boomerang)

11 Sunrise (Daylight Savings)

12 Parts of a plant (arrange a collage)

13 Secret or Hidden location

14 Color

15 Wild edible (unharvested)

16 Water or reflection

17 Wildlife

18 Sunshine

19 Stewardship

20 Something new learned today (Spring Begins)

21 Goals

22 First time

23 Favorite Sport or Activity

24 Your “3rd Place” (outside work and home)

25 Bringing the inside, outside (books, knitting, etc.)

26 Old, abandoned  or historical

27 Shadows

28 Picnic

29 Next generation

30 Weather

31 Dusk/Sunset Silhouette

 

6 Reasons Why "Handmade" is Worth It

First off, this is my opinion based on my own experience. I believe buying locally crafted goods supports the economy tremendously and transparency in communication facilitates informed shopping choices.  I think ongoing awareness is especially important to consider when the item is something one puts on or in their body on a daily basis, as it can affect overall health.  I encourage everyone to make the opportunity to talk to a person who grew or made the products that provide their sustenance.

prohi era soap

  1. A lot of crafters begin their pursuit out of sheer fascination with their materials; it is a hobby.  They purchase their beloved materials when and where they first see them – and they probably aren’t thinking about starting a business right off the bat.  They buy only a small amount at first and in their learning process, identify the features that give it its quality and made it stand out to them in the first place.  At this scale, often the smallest amount of materials that is not cost-prohibitive from engaging in the hobby will be enough to fulfill the curiosity.  Of course, as the hobbyist’s expertise in their chosen materials increase, often demand follows.  If the hobbyist chooses to share their craft, they become accountable to other people’s demands.  They may still be purchasing their high-quality materials at consumer prices, while they are creating a business persona.  There’s even more expense if they are cultivating their materials from scratch, but this makes it all the more lovely, in my opinion.
  2. Even as the budding crafter looks for suppliers with reduced cost for their materials, often the timeline and quantity of the demand will dictate how much room they have to negotiate price.  They are often not paying themselves a salary or equating their administrative time in their end product, so other priorities (job, kids, school, etc.) will compete.  They will often have to be satisfied with finding the right amount of product available in the right geographic location that is within their out of pocket budget.
  3. As the aspiring small business entrepreneur begins to note the cost of their product, shipping and packaging materials along with the time spent making it; they will factor in the cost of the “privilege to do business”.  Even if you put all your profits back into the business, it is wise to include an hourly rate for your time to accurately project sustainability.  Collecting and reporting sales tax, product liability insurance, fees for retail space and maybe even memberships in promotional networks become new expenses challenging the bottom line.  It’s not just a hobby anymore – and the expense does not just account for the cost of the materials, either. If the crafter chooses to continue to offer to the public, the product inspired by their creative hobby, they must include all these costs into their product.  More about pricing craft products in the Etsy Seller’s Handbook.
  4. The craft-based business will also need to create a short and long-term task list (which lends itself to a business plan), so that they can maintain a work-life balance without using money designated for personal expenses, for the business.  It’s one thing to make a bunch of gifts for friends and family at one’s own expense – that’s thoughtful.  But it’s another to conduct a transaction with total strangers, not collect or report sales tax, while potentially entering into a saturated market.  Not to mention, you might actually be giving away your time, which is not so good for the work-life balance.
  5. While some large companies often have expensive advertisement campaigns that drum up awareness in people to buy their product; this doesn’t necessarily mean more quality went into the product materials.  The more a company buys, the lower the cost in materials, and often the supplier needs to cut corners on quality to ensure shelf life and marketability on their scale.  For both the supplier and manufacturer, this puts more money towards staff, marketing expenses, etc. which helps consumers find their product.  Which appears cheaper to the consumer, when in fact, they’re getting less of the quality to begin with.  Think of it as a factory farm versus your own vegetable garden in the backyard. Here’s more about “True Cost“, from the sustainability perspective.
  6. Handmade is not necessarily a Hipster marketing trend. A lot of the time it isn’t trendy at all, because it isn’t getting the same kind of media attention as those corporations that split their expenses with big marketing campaigns. If an informed consumer recognizes the time and money put into something made in small quantity and by hand, they may make an effort to tell their friends and family about it because it means something to them.  It is quite the opposite of “hipster”.  The product continues on a meaningful path, beyond its intended – and practical – function.  And personally, I am grateful to be surrounded by people who are able to look at a product and see all the layers of work that went into its creation, and are willing to support the underdog.

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to leave any comments here or on my social media pages where you may have found this link.  And share if you like.

The Muse – Always Learning

As of late, I’ve been REALLY enjoying my time in the woods, visiting 2-3 times a day in some cases.  In addition to my regular trips mountain biking and performing trail maintenance, I’ve also been detailing my hikes by foraging for mushrooms with new friends from the West PA Mushroom Club and advancing my herbal identification skills with Rosemary Gladstar’s Science and Art of Herbalism class paired with a local herbalist for hands-on identification in our native region.  I can’t recommend looking outside yourself for new perspective, enough!

On a recent trip with my partner in crime to California (which you might remember from photos posted to my facebook or instagram pages), I found this lovely little herbal book at Bart’s books in Ojai, CA. One of the things it helped me to appreciate is how different each herbalist takes their relationship with the plants around us – myself included.

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