Archives for April 2013

Enjoy The Silence

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Last night I uttered words to Nathan that I didn’t think even fit into my vocabulary:

I’m so glad tomorrow is Monday.

Who ever even thinks that unless Monday is your day off instead of Saturday and Sunday? Crazy people, that’s who. But I’ve been counting down to this day for months. The day when all would seem normal in the world again. The day when our big projects were done and I gained some of my sanity back. Today we’re shipping out our Urban Outfitter goods and two weeks ago we finished up our products for the Cannes Film Festival. Both of which consumed our past few months, making us wonder if we’d ever be able to keep up with the business or our personal lives again.

It’s crazy how much you can lose yourself in big projects or life events without even knowing it. I took it all on as the new normal and never once realized how different I thought, acted, or felt while we had so much on our plates. It never occurred to me that things would be so different when we were done with them. That I wouldn’t feel that overwhelmed, or that I would be able to make time for the books I’ve been wanting to read, or that we wouldn’t always feel like we’re behind on something when it came to the business.

Yet I’m only one day in and I already feel all of that stress slipping away.

I’m also only one day into the cleanse and I’m pretty stoked for it. I was so nervous about it last week that I almost talked myself out of it, justifying it by saying I was too busy. Ridiculous, right? Instead I decided to have cleanse friendly meals nearly all weekend and kind of fell in love with it to the point that I’m already planning for how my diet will change after the cleanse. The cleanse is basically a stricter version of a whole foods diet for two weeks and then easing back into certain foods that are common food allergies. It almost feels like I’m not trying. Like it’s too easy and I’m doing something wrong. Any change in my diet that feels like that is pretty much a winner in my book. Bonus points: We made fried rice over the weekend that was cleanse friendly and it is the only fried rice we have ever made that I’ve liked. SO good!

So this week I’m taking it easy on my body. Less stress, better food, and more down time. It’s long overdue so I’m excited.

How was your weekend? Any exciting plans this week?

The Conscious Cleanse: Part 1

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Monday marks the first day of my two week cleanse and I’m super excited, but also really nervous at the same time. I’ve been looking into doing a cleanse for months – I just never found one that really felt like it was the right one for me. Maybe I wasn’t ready, or maybe I truly didn’t find one that was the right fit – I’m not sure.

But when I came across the Conscious Cleanse, I kind of felt like I had that AHA! moment where everything clicked and it didn’t matter how nervous I was about it – I was going to make it happen.

I felt like the Conscious Cleanse was the first cleanse I’ve read about where everything made sense, didn’t feel like a crazy diet, and left me feeling more informed (and almost more in-tune with my body even after learning about the premise of the whole two weeks.) It basically revolves around eating clean, whole foods that are easy to digest and taking time to change how we think about food. It’s not about calorie counting or restricting the amount of food you can have – it’s more so about eating what you need for energy and not eating what you’re craving, when you’re bored, or when you’re stressed.

So pretty much everything I do now is something I won’t be doing for the next two weeks.

It’s somewhat nerve-wracking for me because food really is something more to me right now. Stressful day? Indulgence time. Celebrating tonight? Break out the cake. Long hours? Hello fast food. In a hurry? Most likely skipping a meal. I don’t treat food as energy or nourishment for my body – I treat it more like an outcome of my emotions or the type of day I’m having. And it’s lead to some extra pounds that are sitting on my waistline just waiting to disappear.

Luckily Nathan was sweet enough to do it with me so I’ll at least have him with me, helping when I just want to devour a piece of a chocolate.

Have you done a cleanse before? Any tips or recommendations?

How To {Successfully} Pitch To Small Businesses

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We get emails and conversations every single day from people wanting to review our Gnarly Whale products. It’s flattering and gives us a nice boost to our egos, knowing that people want to try out our products, but it’s also a bit disheartening as we read through the messages that have a generic flow to them.

Hello,

My name is Jane Doe. I blog over at XYZ blog and regularly write product reviews. I would love to review your products if you’re interested in sending me some samples. I’d also love to do a giveaway for your products and offer a coupon code to my readers. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Jane

Sometimes the message comes with stats, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it doesn’t even include a link to the blog, most of the time it does. Sometimes people tell me why they can’t buy our products, sometimes they don’t. But in some way, shape, or form – 99% of our requests for reviews look like the one above.

I won’t lie – more often than not, we don’t even respond to these messages anymore. We’re too busy making products, communicating with current customers, marketing our brand, etc to respond to every request like this. But there’s a reason we choose not to make time for these conversations: they don’t show us that you care about our brand.

We want to work with people that know what our brand is about. People that understand that we’re small business owners which means we don’t have endless amounts of cash-flow to just send out goods to everyone in the world. People that fit in with our target market of vegan, eco-conscious, minimal-ingredient product lovers. People that have a product that they would really love and would be able to really promote to their audience because of their passion for it. People that have a true interest in our brand, and not just an interest in getting free products.

As a blogger, I get it. I understand the perk of getting free things because you have a blog. And I also understand that we’re busy people with lots to do so form emails seem easier. As someone with student loan debt, I get it. I understand that you can’t afford to pay for things outside of the necessities of life sometimes. And I understand that sometimes you just want to try products out before you buy them to save money if you absolutely hate it. And as a reviewer, I get it. I understand the joy of getting to try new things and being able to spread the word about products you love/would recommend to your close friends.

But as a business owner, none of that matters to me.

I have zero interest in how busy you are as a blogger, or how much you like reviewing products, or how many bills you have that prevent you from buying our products. What I do have an interest in is how we can form a natural partnership with you from the very beginning and work together for a common goal: spreading the word about our brand.

So show me that you are intentionally contacting me, not just every business you want free product from. Because even if you are only contacting me, but are using a pretty generic email that mentions nothing about our brand or products, I’m going to assume you are sending it to dozens of other companies and won’t be likely to respond.

Show me that you can offer our company something unique – not just views or followers. Show me why we should partner with you, how our brand meshes with your blog, and our products would be a good fit for you or your readers.

Show me that you’ve done your research and understand how our business functions, the type of products we make, our mission, and our goals with the business.

Business owners get the power to be choosy about who they work with, especially small business owners who don’t have as much money to throw around. Keep that in mind when you reach out to them. Find a way to make yourself irresistible to them by sharing your passion if it’s similar to their mission. By showing that you can offer them something mind-blowingly awesome for their brand. By showing them that you get what they’re making, love what they’re doing, and that you reached out to them because of all of that.

And if you’re really looking to wow them?

Purchase something from them. Going into these messages with first-hand experience about their products is such an easy way to get your foot in the door without really trying. It shows that you already support the brand without needing to get free things from them. That you already tried their product and obviously loved it enough to want to work with the brand even further. And that you respected the brand enough to spend your hard-earned money with them already. Current customers are key to a successful company so you’re proving just how valuable you are to them by going this route.

What are your tips for pitching to small businesses?

BIG Announcements for The Gnarly Whale

Remember a long, long time ago when we said we had BIG news to share with you about The Gnarly Whale? Ever since then, we had even more news to share with you but still couldn’t until the time was right. Luckily, the time is right for both of them now!

I’m a terrible secret keeper when it comes to my own news. Anyone else’s secrets are locked away and sealed forever, but for some reason, I absolutely loathe keeping things about me from people. So when we were given not one, but two opportunities for our business and I had to keep it on the down-low (does anyone even say that anymore?) – I kind of hated it. I had zero interest in being all mysterious about it, but the things were SO big that I had to say something because they literally changed the course of our entire business and forced me to completely reconsider and reorganize my priorities.

But enough of that nonsense. Here I am babbling away, wasting time, when I could just be sharing the news with you. So here goes!

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A couple of months ago, we were lucky enough to apply and be accepted to a wonderful group called The Artisan Group. Because of this, we were able to participate in an opportunity to participate in their gifting suite at the Cannes Film Festival! We are SO excited about what this could mean for our business in terms of press and potential future business. We’ll be sharing much more on this over the next few weeks over on The Gnarly Whale blog so be sure to follow us there, too!

And the biggest news . . .

In the upcoming months, you’ll be able to find our goods at:

A couple of weeks before our trip to Florida in December, we were contacted by Urban Outfitters to see if we would be willing to send them some of our top-selling products. We sent over the products and then spent the next few weeks (and our trip) anxiously waiting to see what would come from it. A couple of weeks later, we had signed on to sell our products both online and in stores with them! We’ll be mailing out our items this week and aren’t exactly sure where our products will be, but we are SO excited for this chapter of our business. It came with a huge learning curve and a lot of trial and error, but it has taught us so much about what we want for the business and how much we love it. If you happen to go to Urban Outfitters and see our products, snap a picture for us! We don’t have any around us and aren’t sure that they’ll be in the store by the time we’re traveling so we’d love to know where they end up. :)

Our road-trip at the end of May is our way of celebrating these past couple of months and all of the hard work we’ve been putting in so I am truly counting down the days until we hit the road! It’s been such a busy year with so many exciting things that I’m honestly looking forward to the change of scenery and a bit of downtime. I’m also hoping that I’ll be able to get back to blogging, commenting, and spending more time on social media again as our major projects (like the two above) will be completed.

And a few reminders: We have a one day sale going on today to celebrate Earth Day! Head over to the shop and save 22% off your entire order with code EARTH22 :) And please keep voting for us – we’ve made it into the top 100 and would love to keep moving towards the top 50! We greatly appreciate all of your support!

Hope you had a great weekend and have an awesome Monday!

Finding Comfort in The Effortless

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Today I wanted to get real with you guys.
Like really real.

Like what I look like on an average work day real. And I work every day so this is how I look pretty much all the time. Except sometimes I skip the aprons and sometimes I even put on jeans.

For some (although I’m sure not most), that’s no different than the glossy-lip high-heeled photos they share on their blog every other day. But for me, and probably a lot of other beautiful women, it’s pretty much the opposite. No fancy undo, no make-up, and no fancy clothes being showcased here.

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This? This is Monday – Friday attire. A couple of weeks ago it would have been everything but the apron, but I realized that a day spent making products like this equaled a day spent smelling like every fragrance and essential oil under the sun. 

If you were to walk into my house on any given week day, you’d likely see me like this. Hair up, sans-makeup, and sporting some of the most comfortable clothes I own. I’ve tried for months now to get myself to be one of those people that work at home and still look just as fabulous as they did when they held a corporate job, but I’ve come to find it’s just not me.

I like the cozy clothes that don’t remind me I have a few pounds to lose yet. I like not trying to cover up the blemishes that have become a part of who I am. I like not trying to mask my imperfections. And I like that I feel like I could make a mess while I’m working without the fear of ruining something dear to me.

I feel like it allows me to accept who I am, flaws and all. I’ve grown comfortable in this skin, this look, and the way that I run the business – even if it’s not how you’re supposed to do it. Time and time again, I read that you’re not supposed to work in your pajamas and you’re supposed to stick to this rigid schedule that involves regular work attire – but it just never worked for me. It only consumed me with guilt because when I went back to where I felt the most comfortable in my skin, it was labeled as not trying.

So instead of beating myself up for not going with the flow, I’m embracing it. 

PennyApron

Nathan sees me in my “natural beauty” all the time and I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay with that. I’ve built my relationship with him on honesty since our first date and for me (and most women) there’s nothing more honest than the bare-skinned, comfortable in every aspect look that is generally shielded from the world. It’s a look that’s built on confidence and only a need for self-worth, not the acceptance of others. It’s a look that’s freeing, satisfying, and empowering. It’s a look that’s truly effortless to pull off, but requires every ounce of effort that can be utilized to embrace. So why not share that with everyone else instead of pretending it can’t be done?

This is me putting that effort to good use and not using it to scrutinize my flaws.

This is me celebrating my own skin and how effortless it can be to be comfortable in it.

This is me saying that I don’t need to stick to social norms (and neither do you) to be beautiful.

And this is me after a debate about how you would properly hold a knife when modeling this apron:

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And if you’re looking to match my style, check out Cafepress. The team over at Cafepress was nice enough to send over a Dexter apron and a Big Bang Theory apron for me to review and I’m pretty much in love with them both. I do have to give a slight edge to the Dexter one just because of the last photo though. They both have roomy pockets, are adjustable so they can fit various sizes, and are long enough to protect my pants when I’m working on The Gnarly Whale. Pretty much a total win in my book. If you’re looking for other geeky, tv-themed items – they’ve got you covered! Or maybe you want something for Earth Day or Mother’s Day? They’ve got that, too. They have a TON of other types of funny apronsfun t shirtscustom shirtssweatshirts, and so much more. If somehow you find that they don’t have something you want, you can always design your own item.

Happy Friday everyone!

Be sure to stop by on Monday to hear our exciting news about The Gnarly Whale. And please keep voting – we made it to the top 100 and would love to keep moving towards the top 75 or even 50!

The two aprons were given to me by Cafepress to review, but all opinions and ideas are 100% my own. I pinky promise.

 

Letting Go

Letting Go

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Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I set my mind to something – my life responds by putting on the blinders and leaving me to follow the path even if it no longer suits me. I forget to smell the roses and never stop to think “What if I’ve changed? What if this journey isn’t the right one for me anymore?”

Sometimes it is the right journey for me and I’m none the wiser. I don’t have to think about what I did to get there because it just feels right so it was worth it. And yet sometimes it isn’t the right journey for me and I’m left asking “Is this it?”

Florida weighed heavy on me.

Heavy on our family.

Heavy on our business.

The cost. The time. The requirements. It tugged at me every day, saying “this isn’t what it was supposed to be.” I wasn’t supposed to be stressed out. I wasn’t supposed to be crying to my husband and we weren’t supposed to be fighting over this. I wasn’t supposed to be trying to weigh the outcome of closing the business versus moving across the country.

But Florida was the end goal for years now. I was running my longest marathon, thinking I could see the finish line every so often but it was just another corner to turn. But I was so focused on that destination that I was blind to every mile marker and alternative routes along the way. I just knew I had to get there, no matter what obstacle I overcame.

Even if that obstacle was my own internal self, stepping out into oncoming traffic and screaming for me to put on the breaks – even if temporarily.

I finally broke a few weeks ago.

I remember telling him I wasn’t ready as I cried ugly tears, hoping he wasn’t going to be disappointed. That moving wasn’t worth it if it was going to cause me to feel like this. That I hated the wedge it had already driven between us, and our lifestyle, and our business. That I’d give everything up to go back to how things used to be where we had conversations about every day things and time off and weren’t always trying to weight everything against an unknown move date.

He understood long before the words came out because he felt it too. And he agreed, knowing that no matter where this finish line was, we weren’t ready to get there just yet.

This isn’t me giving up. This isn’t the end of that dream. This is us realizing that we’re not ready for that dream to come true.

And that’s okay.

We may be ready in three months. Or maybe six months. Or maybe a year. Or maybe five years. Or maybe that dream will transform into something else entirely by the time we’re ready to make it happen and it will just be a part of the journey, but not the final destination.

I have no idea when we’ll be ready to jump back into it and I’m okay with that. Because that means I get to enjoy the now. I get to be present. I get to live intentionally in this very moment.

And that sounds like it’s a pretty good life to me.

On Positivity

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I think Mondays could always use a bit of a pick me up.

I rarely look forward to them and they usually involve some of my crabbiest moods and unproductive days. It’s crazy to think I’d ever really love Mondays until I’m a millionaire and days don’t matter (fingers crossed that actually happens) – but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for to not loathe them. Is it? Maybe.

But today I’m trying to put my best foot forward because the last two and a half weeks of April are going to be insane. A good kind of insane because when it’s all over and we get all of our orders out by the end of the month, I have two crazy exciting things that I finally get to share with you guys about The Gnarly Whale. And I’m pretty much bursting at the seems to shout the good news from the rooftops. And if you haven’t voted for us yet, please do! And please keep voting every day and share the link with your friends. We’d really appreciate it!

And in case you didn’t see it over the weekend, this launched:

Here’s what they had to say about what they’re doing: With so much negativity online and offline, why not have a space to celebrate each other? “Bloggers Anonymous” is meant for exactly that. A place to build each other up against the critics that want to bring us down.

Sweet, right? I don’t know who they are, but I love their message and it instantly put me in a better mood when I saw it. Not only do I love the idea, but I think it’s a great way to find new blogs to read. Head on over there and submit your compliments – you’re pretty much guaranteed to make someone’s day by doing so.

Happy Monday everyone!
I hope today is filled with lots of love and happiness or something equally as good :)

Help Us Make Our Dream Come True

Cross-posted on The Gnarly Whale blog a few days ago. I attempted to created a brand new post about the same thing, but quickly realized what I wanted to share with you was the exact same thing. Below is our story about what we’re wishing to do with our business – and our dreams – and how you can help make it happen with just a few clicks.

Gnarly Whale Wish

 

Today we have a favor to ask of you. One that will only take a couple of seconds and one click at minimum. Maybe a couple more seconds and a few more clicks if you’re willing to do a little more.

I know we always tell you we have big things in store for Gnarly Whale and it’s true – we do. We have big, amazing, mind-blowing things set for this company and one by one, I know we will achieve our goals. But the biggest things holding us back are money and time. We’ve completely funded ourselves and our business so far which is something I’m incredibly proud of. However, we don’t have an endless amount of cash to put into the business so we’ve had to make certain goals a priority while others wait until we have the money to accomplish them.

Along with that, I run the Gnarly Whale full-time while Nathan has a full-time job and works on the Gnarly Whale part-time. With Nathan being at another job for 40+ hours a week, our nights and weekends are generally filled with product making, packaging, marketing, shipping, website maintenance, customer correspondence, etc. There’s only so many hours in the day so until we’re able to financially support our entire family from The Gnarly Whale and Nathan is running this full-time with me, we pick and choose what needs to get done until we have some extra time to work on our other goals for the business.

I say all of this to give you an idea of who’s behind the brand. Who you’d be voting to help out. Who you’d be supporting. And why we’d love to be given this opportunity. We want to invest more of ourselves in the business – both time and money – and we can do that with your help. Here is our wish:

 

We’re a husband and wife duo with a wish to be able take our business to the next level. In the 6 months we’ve been open, we’ve already partnered with an international company to carry our bath and body products in their stores and will be featured in gifting suites for the Cannes Film Festival and Primetime Emmys. We’d like to expand our product line, get better equipment to speed up our manufacturing process, and get closer to moving to FL to set up a retail shop on or near the beach to sell our products.

To help make it come true, click here and vote for our business once a day for the rest of April and even a bit into May. To help support us even further, click one or two (or more!) of the share buttons to pass it along to your friends and family. To help support us beyond that, we’re asking for people to help promote our brand with a guest post of sorts. If you’re interested, send us an email and we can send you the details.

Thank you in advance for anything you do. Whether you vote, RT our tweets, share this post, allow us to guest post on your blog, or even if you just read this post and know our brand a little bit better – thank you. And if you’ve supported us in other ways by buying our products, sharing our sales, recommending our products to others, etc – thank you. This dream couldn’t be a reality without your help so know that anything you do is appreciated and we’ll do our best to show you how grateful we are every single day.

From Midwest to East Coast: We’re Going on a Road Trip!


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Remember this post? That was the pretty, non-tear filled version of what’s been happening lately. Basically a summarization of my overwhelming reality that I’m not entirely sure that all of my dreams (IE: moving to Florida, self-employment, etc) are all I thought they were cracked up to be. And instead of continuing our pattern of long discussions that end with no real solution, we decided it was time to do something drastic:

Take a road trip to the East coast and see a ton of things we thought we’d never see
or never see again for some locations.

We can’t up and travel the world, or the country, for months, but we can cram a ridiculous amount of places into a week and a half before Memorial Day. And that’s exactly what we plan to do. The Arch, the National Mall, Times Square, FAO Schwarz, Grand Central Station, Niagara Falls, and whatever else pops up along the way. If we have time, we’d LOVE to stop by Charm City Cakes and Carlo’s Bakery because that’s what TV junkies that are hardcore foodies do, right?

To say I’m excited about this is such an understatement. This was one of the first things Nathan and I ever talked about doing together when we first met and it just never happened. Not to mention, we’re HUGE planners when it comes to trips. Like 6+ months out type of planners. So for us to have 6 weeks to start and finish our plans is nuts! But also exhilarating and liberating.

If you live in any of the areas and want to meet up, let me know! Or if you want to get your hands on some Gnarly Whale products and skip the shipping cost, we’ll be bringing along some of our goodies, too. Or if you have some recommendations for things to do, places to stay, places to eat – please share! We’re trying hard not to plan out too much and just have fun, but we don’t want to miss anything awesome.

Have you ever gone on a big road trip like this? Any tips or things to avoid?

Small Business 101: How To Get White Backgrounds for Product Photos

Something that always baffled me as a business owner was the crisp white background of photos. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how many light boxes or natural lighting I tried, and no matter how much editing I did – I just could not get it to work. It was always a bit dull, or yellowish, or a whole lot of other things that made me less than satisfied with the photos and in turn, made it hard to be a proud business owner. Since my business has always been online with offline only being a small portion of it, I knew photos said a thousand words and I felt like my thousand words were less than stellar when they spoke about my products. Simply because I knew that when browsing for a item online, the picture could make or break the sale for me in seconds.

So I set out to figure it out. A whole lot of trial and error did nothing unfortunately, other than teach me different tools and functions from Photoshop and a whole lot of things that didn’t do squat for my needs. It was just not in my blood to be able to create that elusive white background. And it still a foreign concept to me because I’m pretty sure the solution I found is some sort of magic. But it works so I wanted to pass it on to everyone else that finds this to be an impossible task.

In my quest to find out how to do it, I instead found a link for a site called FotoFuzeAnd just to clarify ahead of time, this isn’t a sponsored post at all. I feel like the post is totally salesy but it’s because I love it so dang much. FotoFuze is pretty much your photography savior if you A) have a not so fancy camera B) have poor editing skills like me C) just want to click, crop, prettify and post D) all of the above. I have a nice DSLR but I’ll fully admit that I don’t know how to use all of the fancy features. I wish I did, but I don’t. And I’m not sure when I will. Not only that, but it’s FREE. Or really cheap if you want some extra perks.

Here’s a peek at what it did for me:

BEFORE:

DET8 - Cococnut Lime Verbena RS

AFTER:

Gnarly Whale Hair Detangler

All I did to the original photo (before it became what you see up there) is crop it, resize it, and brighten it up a little bit to get what you see in the first image. Then I took the magic highlighter from FotoFuze, selected everything I wanted in the image (the bottle, limes, and coconut) and let it do it’s thing. Super. Freakin. Easy. Bonus? If you link your Etsy account, you can edit the photos you already have uploaded AND upload your new photos to Etsy right from their site. Otherwise you can just upload, edit, and download your photos.

Happy Monday!