Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's been awhile

It's been awhile since my last post, I do apologize, it was not my intention to be away for so long.
I know there have been some concerns expressed as far as what is going on, did I jump ship, have I abandoned my shops, etc, so I wanted to take a moment to address those concerns to the best of my ability.

First let me say, that this last month or so has been very surreal to me. It has been hard to sit back and watch a company and brand that I worked so hard in the beginning to bring to fruition crash and burn. In many cases the negatives that I have received on Etsy could have been prevented had I done a better job (heck, had I even attempted to) communicate with my customers. I can't justify my lack of communication, and I am not saying it is OK by any means. On my end, I just shut down, completly. I shared my story last month about my battles with depression, at the time of my last posting I thought I was coming through the worst of it, but I was wrong. I'm not going to go into details, but let's just say I am not proud and it was not pretty lol.

My days consisted of me staying in my pajamas, sitting in the same spot on the couch all day, house a mess, food pantry empty, because all I could bring myself to do was play freaking bejewled on my phone (all day looong) or peruse facebook, or whatever other mind numbing task that did not require a whole lot of thought on my part. I knew I had emails to respond to, and if they happened to come in at the right moment then I would, but usually I would read them, sigh really big, and tell myself I would get to it shortly (only to keep putting it off). I know it sounds stupid, but the task, the simple task of responding to a simple email just seemed so daunting to me, at times it would make me feel phyically ill, like I wanted to throw up (even though most of the emails were not that bad or time intensive). It was just a mental thing on my end.

I knew I should be working on the last few remaining orders I had or working on new stock. Part of me really wanted to be working on these things, but then I would walk down to my studio stare around me at my supplies, suddenly I felt like a foriegner in a strange land. For the first time in a very long time, I had absolutly no desire to create, in fact the thought of pouring a candle or making a batch of soap physically repulsed me. So again, I would sigh, walk back upstairs and tell myself maybe tomorrow.

For almost a month this has been what my life has looked like. Don't get me wrong I would have some random good moments thrown in, heck maybe even a full day, but when they came I did not immediatly jump into email or the studio, because frankly it felt so good that I was afraid of suddenly losing that feeling (that sounds awful I know).

This entire experience has been frustrating for me, my husband, my family and friends and even more so my customers (who for the most part can't see me or talk to me and probably have no idea what is going on). All they know is what they percieve, and that is that I checked out, flew the coop and may never be back.

Yes my phone number (which is also my cell number) was changed, this was not malicious, simply the fact that we got new cell phones for Christmas and they required our service being switched to AT&T. Yes my website is currently down (I had it on auto bill with my hosting provider and simply forgot to change my credit card number to my new number last month). And yes I have rightly received negative feedback on Etsy - in 99% of the cases refunds have been issued or will be issued shortly.

And at some point I just stopped caring and instead decided to focus on my health. That may sound wrong to you, but for me it was what had to be done.

I am back now. Southern Alchemy may never be back at full scale like it once was, but I am back. I am aware I have several issues that need to be addressed and those will be first and foremost. I will continue to honor my committments to my wholesale accounts and existing orders (however at this time I will not be accepting new wholesale accounts) , I plan to participate in the markets this Spring/Summer when they start back up as my schedule permits . We may still offer products available online , however it may be a limited selection compared to what we once offered and may be only available at certain times.

What I have found is that while I usually love making candles & soaps, I enjoy it more so when I am able to do it at my own pace on more of a hobbyist level, so I will be scaling back to allow this.

It has been a strange, long and confusing path, but I feel like I am finally emerging with a better understanding of who I am , and what I am (and am not) capable of.

As always you extreme patience and understanding that you have shown to me is extremly appreciated.

In the interim (until my site is back up) the best way to reach me, should you need to do so, is:
or via Yahoo messenger : shopalchemy


Monday, January 4, 2010

I'm going to warn you in advance, for some people this post will make you uncomfortable, some will understand and others will walk away shaking their head thinking what's the big deal, just snap out of it.

I, myself, am not completly comfortable sharing this aspect of my life, but seeing at it has affected my business as well I feel it is only fair to share my story with you. I know sharing on this personal of a level is somewhat dangerous, I expect that some may ridicule what I have to say and for those that don't understand or have never experienced it they will feel I am just making excuses. It's ok, I understand, in fact if I myself had not had experience with this I wouldn't understand it either.

What I am talking about is something that effects millions of people, yet is still considered taboo to talk to about. Depression.

Depression is something that comes in many different forms, levels and the degree of severity can be different for each person. It is something that I have struggled with since my teens.

I can go weeks, months , sometimes even years without it rearing it's ugly head. Sometimes it is triggered by an event, but usually in my case it is not one big event but usually a set of small events - events that normally I could just shake off.

I did not see it coming this time. Around mid-December I started feeling extremly tired, yet I couldn't sleep at night, the holidays were nearing, yet I had no excitement (actually I felt dread), the slightest tasks seemed insurmountable, my body physcially hurt every day (just thought I was getting sick), my concentration was shot (thought it was because I had so much on my plate). I chalked it up to stress (business, finances, holidays) and told myself to suck it up. And I just wanted to cry constantly for no known reason.

The holidays came and went. I took off a few days from my shop to get re-energized. Only the exact opposite happened. I crashed on the couch for days at a time - literally staying in my pj's all day. I had no desire to do anything - didn't want to clean house, cook meals, play with my kids, work in my studio, nothing. My husband would ask me what my plans were for the day and I would burst into tears for no reason. Some days I would manage to get up and accomplish some small task (respond to an email, cook a meal, wash my hair) and for a while I would feel better. And then the veil would fall over me and I was back in that dark place again.

I tried to pretend like I was ok. That I was just tired and stressed, because no-one wants to feel like their old demons have come back to haunt them. I usually am a control freak - but with depression I have not control over it and it leaves me feeling useless and helpless- two feelings that I absolutley hate.

Physically I was hurting, emotionally I was hurting. And everything around me seemed to be falling apart. It got to the point where I just felt like I couldn't deal with anything- I am sad to say that not only did I neglect myself and my family - but also my business. My customer service (that I normally pride myself on) went down the tubes, simple request and inquiries fell to the way side or were met with extremely delayed lack-luster responses. My new line I was working on fell to the wayside. And I got to a point where I just gave up, I felt doomed and like I had ruined everything around me. Somewhere around Christmas the depression peaked and I just shut down.

I am not proud of this, I am not trying to make excuses, and as I said in the beginning I know it will be hard for some to understand this. All I can offer is an apology and an explanation to anyone this may have effected.

I wish I could say I am 100% back to normal as of this posting, but sadly that is not how depression works. I can say that I am on a treatment path and slowly starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

For those that have wondered where I am , what's going on with the shop, will I be back etc. The answer is yes, I will be back and so will the shop. Creating things is therapeutic for me and something I truly enjoy doing. I have been working the last few days on reorganizing my house and studio. The last couple of days I have been getting up early and actually working on tasks around the house (making myself get up and do something helps).

I have a few order errors from last month left to fix, a few lost or delayed packages still being tracked (or working on replacing) and a handful of emails to respond to. I need to make sure I get these things fixed first and then I will begin working on the new product line. I'm not going to give an exact date for reopening because at this point I am just going day by day.

I thank everyone for the support that was shown to me & my shop in 2009. I appreciate every customer and order we received. I hope that 2010 is a great year for all of us and hopefully we can renew your faith in us this new year.

I encourage anyone that has experienced similar symptons or knows someone suffering from depression to seek help. It can be a scary experience but one that usually can be treated when given the proper diagnosis.

XOXO- Marcee

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Mail & More

Greetings everyone! 11 days to Christmas and counting! I don't know about you but I am rushing around trying to get my Christmas shopping done (I just started). With that being said, I know the holidays can be a stressful time and the last thing you want to worry about is late deliveries, missing deliveries etc.

So I want to take a moment and share some information (both specific to Southern Alchemy orders and in general concerning USPS) - I will continue to answer convos and emails as well but since I will not be online as much this week I wanted to answer some general questions here :)

-The last of our holiday orders are shipping tomorrow (12/15)

-Unless prior arrangements were made we ship all domestic (US orders) via Priority Mail or in some cases where maybe a small item like 1 soap or salve was ordered then we will ship First Class. Neither of these options have guaranteed delivery times but in *most* cases Priority takes 2-3 days and First Class 2-7. We use Paypal's Mass shipping program and usually you will receive a email from Paypal with your shipping info. Please keep in mind that USPS does not really offer true tracking- it is more like delivery conformation- so many times you will not be able to see real time tracking and during the holidays the postal service tends to not scan the package until it reaches it's destination.

-If however it has been 1 week ( 7 days) since you received shipping notification and you still have not recived your order please let us know and we will gladly look into it.

***We want you to rest assured in knowing that we never hold customers responsible for lost packages- we know mistakes can happen in the mail and we take full responsibility for any lost/damaged packages either in the form of: sending a new package, offering a refund or store credit. ***

-International orders: ship either USPS Priority or First Class depending on the size of order - in most cases even if we only charged you the First Class shipping rates we upgraded you to Priority to try and make sure that all orders would be received before Christmas. Please keep in mind that unless you purchase registered mail or Express Mail USPS does not offer true tracking on international orders (verified this in person with my postal clerk)- sometimes the number on the customs form may be used - but this does not always work. Typically USPS quotes 6-10 days delivery for International Orders however that is tranist time frame and does not include any possible delays in customs. In reality International orders can take anywhere from 6 days-6 weeks - you just never know! If however, after a reasonable amount of time you have not received your order , please let us know.

Please remember that I am human, and bound to make mistakes sometimes (and with the amount of orders we have shipped the last month I am sure I have made some). But rest assured we always stand by our customers and fix whatever mistakes may have been made, so if you have any questions or concerns with your order please do not hesitate to contact me.

After we finish the rest of our holiday shipping tomorrow I have some projects I have to help out with at my kid's school , then we have our last 2 shows this weekend beginning on Friday (one is a 1 day show and the other is a 3 day show) , so even though our shop is in vacation mode , it will still be a busy week for us! I will not be in front of my pc as much this week but I will try my best to answer any emails/convos within 24 hours.

Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

This month seems to be flying by so fast! I finally got our tree up yesterday and hopefully will be able to start my Christmas shopping the latter part of this week!

I know I seemed a *bit* stressed these last 2 weeks and I apologize to anyone that picked up on that energy. To explain a little...I guess the economy has made this a strange year for all of us (and therefore an unpredicatable one as well). My online sales were slower than normal over the summer - then wham! I got slammed in October- which kind of took me by surprise lol, then November came and started off real slow and then by mid month wham! I got slammed again, this time the business was coming in from all sides (etsy, my site, wholesale customers and the plethora of events and markets we had committed to). Now don't get me wrong I feel blessed and am extremly grateful for the business, but I was not prepared for it. Because we offer so many scents and attend weekly markets it made it kind of hard to make sure we always had everything in stock (what might be in stock one day may be gone the next, and then add to that the fact that many of my suppliers are dealing with their own dealys in getting supply orders out). Anyhow, the week of Thanksgiving was difficult because I had several wholesale orders that had just been placed that were wanted in time for Black Friday, I had a shortened week due to the USPS closing early Weds & Friday and being closed Thanksgiving, I had kids home from school, family in town, a huge event that Friday & Saturday and a black friday sale I was running online (in hindsight probably not the best of planning on my end lol).

By the time last Monday came I realized I had close to 500 candles (and other bath/body products to make) and yes , I freaked out a bit. I decided to shut down the shop temporarily so I could get caught up. For many that have wondered or asked, I do not have an assistant or any permanent help. Just me ! My husband helps when & where he can (labels and wicking etc), but he also has his own business to run. I need to hire help, I know, but I need to have a level of consistency in sales before I can commit to that financially.

I am very happy & excited that as of todays shipments I am caught up on all Etsy orders (yay!) , I have a few that have came thru from local clients on my website that I still need to complete but other than that I am up to date! This makes me feel very good as it really bothers me anytime I have to extend past my typical 3-4 days ship time. My customers have shown great patience and understanding and I can not tell you how much I appreciate it!

Now, for the news. I have come to the realization that as my business is growing I will have to make some changes this year in order to keep up with it. Some of these changes will take place at the first of the year, others will be implemented throughout the year. New packaging, scaled back products and scents, new products replacing some of our existing ones. I am excited by these changes and I hope that as I share them with you over the next couple of weeks you will be too!

Last, will we reopen before Christmas? The only reason I closed is I did not feel it was fair to continue accepting new orders until I had shipped the ones I had already received. I did not want to end up in a situation where I took on more than I could handle. After today I want to take a few days off for myself and my family, but by weeks end I will be reopening shop. However I will only be listing items & quantities of what we currently have made and ready to ship. This means that I will not be accepting custom orders or wholesale orders until Jan. 1, also it means that our shop stock will probably fluctuate on a daily basis. The shop may look a bit bare compared to usual but this is the only way I feel comfortable reopening for the holidays, so hopefully everyone understands!

We love our customers & fans and appreciate the business! Please know that any changes we made are only in anticipation of being able to better serve you!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Updates

Greetings! Just wanted to take a moment and give a quik up date. As it is for most retailers/etsy sellers, this time of year is our busiest time, we appreciate everyones patience and understanding as we have dealt with hectic holiday schedules, an increase in online orders and more festivals and shows than normal lately. We know that the success we have seen this past year is due to you (our fans, customers and supporters) and we want to say a big THANK YOU!!!

I also know that the holidays can be a stressful time (shopping, cooking, events, oh my!) and so I wanted to give a quick post as to what to expect from Southern Alchemy over the next couple weeks.

- Our holiday (black friday/cyber monday) sale ends tomorrow at Midnight (11/30)
-Due to an increase in orders our current turn around time is at 7-10 days, smaller orders of 1-2 items may (and probably will) ship quicker than this but we have several large/multi item orders that we have to fill and those tend to take a bit longer. My goal right now is to have all orders placed thru today shipped out by the latter part of this week. Which would mean US orders should be delivered no later than 12/7 - 12/8. If you have already placed an order and need it sooner than that please let me know and I will do my best to accomodate you =)
-Shop will be closed for holiday sales on December 6th, I want you to have a stress free shopping experience with us and I want to be able to sleep at night and not worry about orders not arriving in time for Christmas lol. So I have decided to move the cut-off date up by one week. If you would like to order personal items or restocks (not necessarily needed for Christmas gifts) after Dec. 6th , I am more than happy to accomodate you just let me know via convo or email :). We will still be around after Dec. 6th to answer any emails, inquiries and handle any customer service issues. We will reopen for normal business on 12/28.

Thanks so much! Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Friday Shopping Extravaganza!

Happy Holidays! To kick off the holiday shopping season we will be offering the following Black Friday sales specials starting tomorrow (11/25) thru Monday 12/01

40% off entire order total (not including shipping)
FREE US Shipping on orders over $100
FREE surpise added to every order (may be a lip balm or soap or salve)
- If shopping on Etsy all prices will be changed tonight to reflect discount (shipping overages will still need to be manually adjusted)
- If shopping on our website please enter " blackfriday " in the discount code box at checkout.
- Offer is valid for everyone
-Offer may not be combined with any other discount
- This is already our busiest time of year, please remember that all items are handmade and some may have to be made at the time of order - depending on the amount of orders we receive order processing *may* take 7-10 days depending on the size of order (all US orders are guaranteed for Christmas delivery). If your order is time sensitive (needed before the 7-10 day turn around please let us know or check with us prior to placing order)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Half Off Gift Certificates!

So our new promotion rolls out tomorrow (Tuesday November 17th), and we're going to try something new!

At 8 am 40 gift certficates will be available for half off! We will list 20 on Etsy and 20 on our website. Once they're gone, they're gone!

How it works:

Gift Certificates will be made available in amounts of $20, but you get to purchase them for $10
(this allows you to purchase $20 worth of product for $10 or to give that special someone a $20 gift certificate for only $10)

Limit 4 gift certficates per person.

Gift certificates may be redeemed immediatly (if you wish to apply to an immediate purchase just let us know!) or are good for 1 year.

You will receive a gift certificate code via email or in cases where these will be used for gifts we will mail actual certificates (to either you or the gift recipient).

This is great to use for gifts, stocking stuffers etc. Also good for existing customers that simply want to find additional savings and perfect for those that have been wanting to try our product (what better time than when you can try it at 50% off).

Help us spread the word! If this promo goes over well then this is something we will look at offering once a month.