With the plants growing nicely and our 3 hives of bees doing well, it was time to move on to web design and product development. We were about to find out how many things we hadn't even thought of yet! Besides creating products from scratch and designing a new website, we needed to design a logo, create labels, figure out what kind of packaging would look great and be affordable, create spreadsheets for batch logs, inventory and costs, come up with test recipes, taking beautiful pictures, checking FDA guidelines for cosmetic products, and working with social media. I'm sure there are other things I'm forgetting here, but for awhile it honestly seemed like every time we would start a project we would realize there was something we had not thought of.
Jerry and I split up some of the work, but we did want to develop the products together so that we both had some input on the recipes. We made a list of 10 products to start with. We chose things we thought would be the most popular. The plan is to be active at several farmers markets next summer, and we will work on expanding our product list over the winter.
We started with creating a Facebook business page so we could start networking. Our game plan was to work on 3 products, get them to a point that we thought was good and then ask for volunteers on Facebook to try them out and fill out a questionnaire afterwards so we could make adjustments to the products if needed. This worked wonderfully for us. People got very excited about testing and were super supportive. Each time we posted for testers when we were ready to release 3 more products we got more and more volunteers. We got fantastic feedback, and moved forward.
I am in no way an expert with social media. I have used Facebook for years, and have an Instagram account that I scroll through occasionally and a Twitter account I rarely even look at. Clearly that needs to change. We created business pages on both Instagram and Twitter, and linked those to our Facebook page, and over the coming winter I will dedicate some time to becoming proficient with those forums. For now, working on the website and Facebook is about all we can manage!
While I was posting things online, Jerry was busy figuring out all the boring behind the scenes things. He researched the things we would need to do in order to comply with FDA regulations, developed a spreadsheet to keep track of our batches and a spreadsheet for inventory. I had designed a logo earlier in the summer that we both ended up loving after a lot of trial and error, and Jerry took that logo and designed labels. He also found out that you can't just get a page of labels and stick them in the printer. Turns out there are templates for each size and shape and to get everything to fit, especially on the small sample sized bottles, was quite a job!
We went through a lot of ups and downs to get our products exactly the way we wanted them. We thought for awhile we would never get the bath bombs hard enough, or the body wash thick enough, but in the long run we love each and every product. We had the most fun with the bar soap, and have plans to make several different scents and colors and patterns in the coming months.
Coming up for us, Jerry plans on developing a culinary line of rubs and other items. I would like to develop some herbal teas that utilize the lavender also. We are doing some research into pet products with lavender and also laundry products. Next summer we have tentative plans to have an open house at the farm for people to come out and see what we have going on, and what our future plans are. That future will include at least one festival each year, cut your own lavender, a gift shop and classroom on the property and anything else we can dream up!
Stay tuned for what comes next here at Sleepy Bees Lavender Farm. l will be blogging each week, sharing our progress and setbacks, and also some of our life here on the farm!