Fresh off the Press

Local Pickup Window

As a convenience to local customers, we are experimenting with allowing a modified local pickup option that still feels safe and sanitary to us, while following state mandates and CDC recommendations.

If you would like to pickup your order at our Production studio, please confirm these steps: 
1) PICK A DAY/TIME and place your order 24 hours in advance up to 10:30am the day of PICKUP time slot:
a. Tuesday 3-6pm OR 
b. Thursday 3-6pm 
c. no other appointments will be available due to production and sanitation demands. 

2) PLACE your pre-order online (https://www.apothecarymuse.com), so that it can be prepared for the next pickup at least by 10:30am. Once you input a local address, you will see the LOCAL PICKUP shipping option without additional shipping costs. 

3) COME to pickup your order at the next available pickup timeslot. Our window is on the side of the building and will have a sign on it, reminding you of the pickup hours. We will have your order ready for your pickup, and if you don’t come that day, we may cancel the order.  If you aren’t sure you will be able to pickup, do not use the coupon – we can always refund the shipping retroactively if you do pickup – but we will not ship orders that have not paid for shipping.

Do NOT come outside of these hours or without placing your pre-order online, as this disrupts production. You will not be able to shop inside our production studio and classes are cancelled indefinitely.

Why economic nexus is a diversity issue + Etsy Goes To Washington Recap

This is probably a good time to sit down with a cup of coffee, tea or beer.  There are changes coming at an increasing rate that will probably affect you.  While recent policy changes I’m learning about most greatly impact micro-businesses (fewer than 10 employees), it affects other businesses and consumers in the long run.  I am not a tax expert, but have been told by enough people that I have helped them find the resources to further their own research, so I’m sharing what I have compiled here with the help of Etsy. It is by no means comprehensive and any questions should go to a professional tax preparer.  TLDR: We live in a New Economy.  Retail has shifted to a greater percentage of online purchases and States are trying to recover sales tax that is not collected outside of the seller’s storefront.  Changes are happening fast, mostly uncoordinated with each other.

 

There are presently 9,998 sales tax jurisdictions in the United States of America.

Taxpayers were reluctant to report Use tax on their income tax forms with their state, even when estimates can be calculated.  IMO: Probably because it is super confusing?

in 2018, South Dakota (a state with historically low # residents, businesses) went to court against Wayfair to demand sales tax collection by online marketplaces with a threshold disclaimer.  They won, set the precedent for all online marketplaces with multiple shops (like ebay, amazon, wayfair and Etsy) to collect and remit sales tax to each state where the consumer had their purchase shipped.

Without a federal solution regarding sales tax collection, states have independently passed “economic nexus laws” and “marketplace provider laws” with varying thresholds (#quantity or $ amount of sales in state per year), that require sellers to calculate, collect and remit sales tax to each state.  Right now, there are 34 different policies.

Example: Since Pennsylvania (PA) is where my production studio is and operates from, I have had to apply for a sales tax permit for in person and online sales, download tax tables for calculating the tax rate for online purchases in each zip code, collect sales tax per transaction, and then remit it quarterly.  I’ve been consistent about this. I requested to reduce the frequency of administrative work created by reporting to twice a year, but it was denied, possibly because my business’ sales are relatively low as compared to corporations.  Nonetheless I persisted and just when I thought I had it figured out, I learned that marketplace facilitators, like Etsy, were going to calculate, collect and report sales tax for online sales to PA AND now Washington State (WA) in my Etsy shop.  My fellow PA Etsy shop owners freaked out, needless to say.  There were no clear answers for what we should do since we were already filing in the state, and would continue to have transactions for in-person sales and on our own websites.  I’ve concluded to temporarily categorize all Etsy transactions as non-taxable in order to continue reporting the gross sales, and calculate as taxable all non-Etsy sales from in-person sales or on my own website going to PA residents.

Yeah, it works, for now. But does your brain hurt yet?  Mine does.  What if I was just starting out?  What if I sell beyond a threshold in another state(s)?  Where am I going to find time for 9,998 tax tables?  Filling out their forms?  Filing potentially quarterly sales tax returns to ALL THOSE PLACES?

I am eternally grateful for the labor that Etsy provides (which come at the expense of fees), but it doesn’t apply on other platforms, including independent websites. But, if Etsy is worried that the current system isn’t manageable with their staff of 800 people, I am pulling out my hair being a staff of 1.05 (a friend helps 3 hours a week).  While I’m over here juggling tasks from selling wholesale to 40 stores around the country, attending trade shows, local pop-up markets, fulfilling orders on my own website – in addition to my Etsy shop, I can barely keep up with PA sales tax.  It appears as though this policy change favors states sales tax collection at the time of transaction – and whatever whim that jurisdiction has – at the expense of micro-businesses.

 

It was an honor to join 20 Etsy sellers and staff from around the country in lobbying to create a simple, clear federal solution that is fair for all.  We split up into 3 groups and our North Eastern group visited with the Office of Representative Nydia Velasquez (D-NY),  Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD),  Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator John Thune (R-SD), Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Christina Sevilla, Deputy Assistant to the United States Trade Representative. Years ago, I’d met directly with the PA representatives before, on behalf of the rights of people who ride bikes on and off the road and I found it interesting to be received entirely by staffers this time around.  They were mostly receptive and understanding of our position as constituents, while there were a couple folks that refused to discuss the tax issue or spent the conversation tuning out by looking at their phone, which I took as an indication of a biased agenda.  Hearing other sellers’ stories, it was more pronounced how health care, student debt and living low income have additional impacts on one’s ability to sustain a business, let alone make a trip to Washington.  For many, not having the foresight and language to ask the right questions presents an unfair business advantage in favor of large corporations. I am unaware of notices being sent out to micro-businesses regarding these policy changes, risks and penalties.  Clearly, this was important to us and we didn’t want to be silenced.

Nonetheless, I have been trying to figure out why they felt it was not important to their office.  With the stats Etsy provided:$2.3 trillion is online retail (25% increase from 2016), 2.1 million Etsy Sellers worldwide, 87% of which were women and more than half ship internationally.  On the smaller scale, micro-businesses have fewer than 10 employees, work more than 40 hours a week and frequently invest their savings in their business in order to fill a need for creative innovation that is not already supported by large corporations. Surely, those numbers and altruistic goals make us significant – but could they also make us an easy target because of the implicit diversity comprising small business owners?  Is it possible that those who oppose a simplified federal sales tax solution WANT to make it even more difficult for the over-worked demographic to share success without a penalty across state lines?  The idea of that makes me angry.  And that’s why I won’t let micro-businesses become obsolete.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

In addition to trying to make sense of it all, you can build awareness in your community, write to your representatives in Congress (use the links above), talk with your local legislators so that they understand how this affects the future of business in their territory and fill out this form: https://action.etsy.com/USzxeDP*

 

*Please note that this form does not presently include Mx. (non-binary prefix in place of gender), but requires selection from limited prefixes in order for the petition company handling the data to send your contact information to the corresponding office.  I am also advocating to remove this qualification on petitions in order to maximize vocal representation.  Prefixes are universally required on petitions, so this means a huge portion of constituents are not able to sign petitions on issues that directly affect them. In an era where votes and input is claimed to be equal, gender should not be relevant.  Let’s commit to this and repeal gender classification on petitions!

Planting your soap labels!

Spring is a good time to plant the Apothecary Muse soap wrappers you’ve been saving. You might have noticed the note: “WRAPPED IN PLANTABLE PAPER” shown on the side of your favorite bars of soap. Hopefully, you saved the wrappers so you might plant them and get a second round of sensory enjoyment! The labels are printed with eco-friendly, wax-based ink (think: crayons), on paper embedded with a blend of North American wildflower seeds. Upon flowering, your wildflowers may help attract pollinators like butterflies which also help our local farms to have a sustainable crop. I store trimmings from the holiday show season and either germinate them in a bag during colder months or put the paper in some damp soil and then covering it with a piece of lexan glass like a winter cold frame. But that’s mostly what works for my space and region. Read on to learn more ideas that might work for you:

Germination may begin as quickly as one week or may take up to six weeks depending on your regional growing zone and planting depth. We recommend just 1/4 inch of soil coverage. The full Step by Step journey: How do we ensure a successful planting? It can be tough to nurse the live seeds through germination into fully grown plants and because of these common challenges, we do not offer a guarantee that every customer will be successful in this process. There are too many factors that come into play and too much that can go wrong for us to take the responsibility of elements that we cannot control, like soil temperature and acidity, watering, sunlight and planting depth. We have very rigid testing and handling protocol to ensure that every batch of paper made here contains enough viable seeds for each item that we sell to have the potential for growth. For your own piece of mind we recommend that you do the following; take a small piece (quarter size or bigger) of our made in the USA paper (larger is recommended for made in Nepal stock), place it into an airtight zip lock plastic sandwich bag, place a table spoon of water (or enough to fully saturate the paper) in the bag and then seal the bag and trap a bit of air inside it so it forms a bubble to keep both sides of the bag from touching. If you do this in a room that is has an ambient temperature of at least 72 degrees and allow the bag to be touched by sunlight for a few hours each day. You will see evidence of the seeds growth within 10 days time. Once you see the sprouts roots searching for soil, transfer the paper from the bag into a pot (or garden) with a light covering of soil and continue nursing the seedlings along by daily watering.

Thanks to Of The Earth for their Step by Step instructions!

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.

Fresh & Fair Trail Magic

As a one-woman show, balancing production with administrative work can be a challenge – especially through the holidays.  After that storm has passed, I get to turn my energy back inwards and revisit some of my reasons for consolidating my longtime hobby with my professional career in the outdoor industry (coaching and retail) as a full time business.  Everything is strategic.  I usually plan the itinerary for my backpacking trips based on calorie expenditure per thousand feet of elevation, and relative warmth. Knowing the frequency of potable water sources also helps many hikers plan their route and packlist. Similarly, I try to isolate a gap in skincare routines that I might solve with more sustainable ingredients, packaging or even my special branding navigation system.  I am pursuing this labor of love as an artisan with an entrepreneur’s spirit; and that’s where the Triple Bottom Line fits in.

These 3 metrics of sustainability include People, Planet and Profit – and they must balance, prioritized equally.  If there is no environmental problem to solve or one is created (example: single-use plastic); I move along despite the capacity to increase profit.  If a raw material is sourced without fair pay, permissions, or in excess of crop tolerance; I find a substitute distributor, grow my own or find an equivalent material.  Although it is a huge struggle for small businesses, I try to order in bulk to keep my materials costs low and calculate my retail prices to be accessible for the people.  In the spirit of removing barriers, I sponsor ambassadors and various programs that support inclusion and diversity in the outdoors, donate a portion of my product to folks who contribution time to public trails with maintenance, education and leadership.  Lastly, I personally volunteer 5-10 hours each week to repair drainage, restore trail corridors, assist with trail planning/land manager relations, remove invasive plants, plant native ones and provide some training opportunities to stewardship. As some elements of my professional training have past, others have just begun.

 

Here’s my short list of Trail Magic resources.

Coming soon to a trade show near you?

Well, at least there’s one and it’s new to me.  It’s a start, though!  With a growing foundation partnering with regional brick and mortar retail locations to sell my product, I wanted to reach to the fringe of my network.  Although I’ve worked in the outdoor and wellness retail world and attended trade shows on behalf of other businesses, I am honored to represent my own brand at one finally!  It is my intention to stay within the athletic and outdoor adventure world, Philadelphia is far enough mileage-wise that I expect to see some new faces.  As a new exhibitor showcasing a unique – and relevant – style of product outside their typical bikes and bike parts lineup, they interviewed me on their website, to introduce my business to their attendees.  Those were some good questions!

 

Hughes Muse

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