Friday, January 29, 2010

Hockey Friday: My Winnepeg

old black & white photo of hockey playersNeither Susan nor I had ever heard of the film My Winnipeg until Ebert named it one of the best films of the decade. However, we both love that picture. And those hockey jerseys - both cute and scary at the same time! So we decided to bring it to you for this week's Hockey Friday.

Sweet Valentine: Outtakes

When we take pictures of the lollipops to use in our Etsy store, we might take dozens and dozens of photos using different backdrops, poses, and angles in our search for a picture that shows them at their most mouthwatering best. For the Sweet Valentine collection, there were a few finalists that we liked. Did we pick the best one?

The one we’re currently using has a picture of pale champagne roses in the background, and the lollipops are snuggled up together.

red and purple heart-shaped lollipops in front of roses

A different one used a piece of Valentine decoration paper with words as the background, some different lighting, and the lollipops were posed a little farther apart:

red and purple heart-shaped lollipops in front of valentine words

Still another approach had the lollipops being lit from behind, and used a background with swirly hearts and doodles:

backlit red and purple heart-shaped lollipops in front of red swirly hearts and doodles

What do you guys think of these pictures? Are we using the best of the three on Etsy? What do you like and dislike about them?

Photos by Kevin Keeker

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chanel as Inspiration

I got a copy of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel this last Christmas. It's a cute biography of Coco Chanel, packaged up as a style guide. (You can read exerpts of it at Deep Glamour - parts 1, 2, and 3.)

I'm not so sure about the style lessons, but I found it completely inspiring vis a vis running my own business. It's taken me forever to figure out why, but as I was re-reading it today it finally struck me: Her sheer determination and workaholism are inspiring. She came from less than nothing and was on her way to being a kept woman when she decided to open a hat shop (which grew and later became her fashion house). Chanel had a clear vision about what she should wear - slightly underdressed and easy to move in clothing with lots of accessories - and what, therefore, everyone else would like. She stuck to that style her whole life, worked incredibly hard, had a few lucky breaks, and was ultimately incredibly successful.

I can only strive to be so hardworking, determined, and lucky.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pretty Pictures

digital thermometer immersed in purple candy syrup and reading 304.3 degrees FHey there. If you've come over from the Candy Dish Blog to look at more pictures of lollipops, may we suggest that you check out our posts labeled Pretty Pictures? There are more in our Flickr photostream too.

Thanks for visiting!

Sweet Sorrow Feb 7 & Indie Banditas Feb 13

We’re excited to announce that Seattle-ites can once again get some charming candy in person from us in February. Why pay for and wait for shipping!

On Sunday February 7th we’ll be at Club Motor down on 1st Ave S. just below Safeco & Qwest fields. Mourning Market presents a Valentine’s themed show, “Sweet Sorrow” and it’ll be chock full of interesting crafts. And not that you need enticements, but the first 40 people through the door receive a swag bag!

MMValentinePink (3)

Map picture


The following Saturday, Feb 13th, you can find us at the Indie Banditas Bazaar on Bainbridge Island. Hop on a ferry and enjoy the island after you shop indie crafts! Admission is $1 or free if you donate a canned good. And again, not that enticements are needed, but there are giveaways every hour of the day. I don’t really know what they consist of but I’m sure they’ll be cool :-)


Map picture

Hope to see you at one or both of these shows!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Introducing Privateer Whackadoodle

Our recent photoshoots included some camera-time for what we call our “collection bags” – the bags of 6 lollipops from the Spice Rack, Fruit Basket, Love Triangle or the Sweet Valentine collections. These are, I think, a little harder to photograph nicely because they’re so much bigger than our usual subjects, i.e. individual pops.

Privateer Whackadoodle to the rescue! Privateer Whackadoodle is the silly nickname we’ve given to one of the chrome thingies that we use for displaying candy at craft fairs. He’s got some convenient little appendages for hanging the candy bags, as you can see:

one plastic bag of fruit-flavored lollipops hanging from a chome standtwo plastic bags of fruit-flavored lollipops hanging from a chome stand

The first time we tried him out, we just put one bag of candy on him and the background was kind of a neutral color. While we liked the shot on the left, we thought maybe there was too much of Privateer Whackadoodle showing, so the second time around, we tried hanging two bags and using a darker background.

Which one do you like better? What else might we try?

Photos by Kevin Keeker

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Running a Handcrafted Business in a Mass Market World

Craft MBA has an awesome post from earlier this week about running a business handcrafting items in a world where mass-produced, low-priced things are king. It's about Etsy in particular, but it brings up a lot of larger issues.

But you need to go read it. And then read the comments. Go. I'll wait until you come back.

There's a lot to unpack there.
I think when many people look at a price, they only mentally factor in how much value there is in the materials (if they are even able to infer that). Most consumers lack the ability to factor in all the other costs associated with running a business – whether it’s a multinational corporation or a one-woman show – that effect a price.
I'd change "lack the ability" to "don't think about". I don't think they lack that ability, I just don't think it crosses their mind. You see a thing and you think only about what's to hand when you think about what goes into it. Not about running the structure behind it.

There's probably something to say in there about how a company is a group of people who working together can produce something more efficiently than they each could on their own. And so there should be price gains -- or some other kind of gain -- to be made from getting everyone to work together.
While there are sellers on Etsy who make a full-time living from their work (often using Etsy in conjunction with retail shows, wholesale and consignment, and other selling venues), there are many more who view Etsy as an extension of their hobby. They knit scarves in their spare time, and someone suggested that they sell them on Etsy. These sellers don’t consider labor, profit, or many of the other costs of running a business when setting their prices because they don’t have to. And because these low prices occur on Etsy, more and more buyers expect them. Which creates a vicious cycle where sellers feel they need to lower their prices in order to sell.
This is really interesting to me, particularly in light of the my above comments. I think the gains to be made from creating/selling full time (particularly when Etsy is just one place you sell) is that there is likely going to be a difference in quality. The more you do something, the better you get at it. Someone who makes things full time is likely going to have a higher-quality product than someone who sells as an extension of their hobby simply because they're typically spending more time on it. The business problem then becomes: how do you communicate the higher quality to the customer, particularly online where they can't inspect the goods side-by-side?

I think there are potential implications for who's going to be selling what on Etsy as a result of that -- if they don't provide the tools to show higher quality goods for professionals (or if the professionals end up leaving Etsy en masse for whatever reason) -- then Etsy will become a byword for poorly-made stuff. However, I have faith that The Powers That Be are thinking about that and working on it - they don't make as much money if there aren't any sales.
From the comments: "Etsy is not the only place where prices have been slashed in order to pull in buyers. People are broke and they want to spend less; art and adornment being commodities that are wants and not needs only further justifies the slippery slope of price reduction. Places like Wal-Mart are running small time manufacturers into the ground with their price gouging and relentless, market annihilating negotiation techniques. There’s just a really profoundly awful convergence of circumstances that prevent people from justifying a purchase that identifies them as an individual – especially when what they want is made by an individual who supports themselves with the profits. This is kind of the American dream crumbling in upon itself."
Honestly, this is what keeps me up at night. Having a kid makes the abundance of cheap plastic crap in our society just so blindingly obvious. One of the reasons I love working on This Charming Candy is because it helps me be more aware of what things cost, what they should cost, and where they come from (aside from having an awesome business partner and loving spread joy through a little bit of sugar).

Of course, I'm also extremely lucky in that I *can* think about where my stuff/food comes from. Low prices have allowed a whole lot of people to eat and have things that they wouldn't otherwise be able to - I don't want to overlook that.

This doesn't mean that Susan and I are going to be changing our selling strategy in the next week or so. But it definitely gives us something to think about, particularly as we continue to plan for the next year or two.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lollipop Wrappers Are Ready For Their Close-up, Mr. DeMille…

We’ve recently taken photos of our new lollipop packaging and have updated the Etsy listings to include those pictures – yay! We photograph the unwrapped lollies against a light background – here we’re trying a medium/dark background. I think it helps the label text to pop, but I’m no expert on this stuff :-)

Here are a few of the individual wrappers:

cinnamon-cherry lollipop in a red wrapper mango lollipop in a charcoal gray wrapper vanilla-cardamom lollipop in a charcoal gray wrapper

photos by Kevin Keeker

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chocolate for Choice, Jan 21

For the past couple of years I’ve been going to NARAL Pro-Choice Washington’s delicious fundraiser, Chocolate for Choice. It’s a fun time and I get shove as many chocolate samples as I can fit in a box, samples from tons of awesome bakers and chocolatiers. There’s a silent auction and a few different categories of judged chocolate competitions.

Chocolate for Choice logo 2010This year I’m more excited about the event than usual, because I actually know one of the competitors in the Visual competition. Starry Nights Catering & Events is where we rent workspace and storage for This Charming Candy, and one of their staffers is working on a truly awesome creation for the Visual competition. I was seriously blown away by the creativity, the flavor, and the playfulness of what I saw.

I’m sworn to secrecy, of course, so if you’re in the Seattle area and are free this Thursday evening, come to Safeco Field and check out their entry and this terrific event. Tickets start at $40 but I say spring for at least the $75 ticket if you can, so you can take home some yummies while supporting our state chapter of NARAL.

Monday, January 18, 2010

XTREME Lollipop Closeup

Kevin, the official photographer of This Charming Candy, recently borrowed a camera lens from a friend that lets us take incredibly closeup pictures.

Here’s a picture taken with the usual lens:

electric yellow lollipop

And here’s a picture of the same lollipop, with the camera at the same distance from the lollipop, but taken with the borrowed lens of amazingness:

tight closeup of electric yellow lollipop

This picture wasn’t cropped. It really looks like the lollipop is as big as your head!

photos by Kevin Keeker

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hockey Friday: Mental Toughness

If you don't follow the San Jose Sharks, you may not know that they have a tendency to be fabulous during the regular season (last season, they won the President's Trophy for best overall record) and then fall to pieces in the playoffs (losing in the first round last season despite having the best regular season record). The sports media tend to talk about "mental toughness" a lot when they talk about the Sharks' playoff performance.

But what is mental toughness?

The best definition I found comes from Penn State. "Mental toughness is ... to be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, resilient, and in control under pressure." To, say, not fall apart when the opposing team scores a big goal.

Honestly, I've yet to watch a team in any sport that's more mentally tough than the Red Wings. I once saw them fall behind early in the game 0-7 against the Atlanta Thrashers, but they didn't get flustered or overwhelmed. Instead, they worked their way back - they still lost, but it was 7-6. They didn't get those six goals at once; they just slowly chipped away at the Thrashers' lead. If they'd had about 3 more minutes, they'd probably have tied it. There's a reason the Wings have won all those Stanley Cups.

The Sharks have been going through a rough patch of late - losing games that they shouldn't have, falling behind 6-0 to the Kings (the Kings!) because of a couple of mental lapses and then being unable to overcome that setback. (They eventually lost 6-2.) They've been playing better, and they certainly look like they care -- which hasn't always been the case.

You can imagine how this might apply not only to hockey, but also to running your own business for the first time. Learning how to stay focused and doing what we can so we don't spend money faster than y'all order lollipops - and to not stress out when that doesn't happen. Instead to figure out how to spend less money and bring in more sales. It's not always easy, but we're learning.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sweet Valentine Lollipops

red and purple heart-shaped lollipops in front of rosesPurple Sweetheart Lollipops pair fragrant jasmine with sweet honey to captivate you. Red Hot Love Lollipops’ combination of cherry and spicy cinnamon will leave you breathless. Their heart shapes make them perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Buy some in our Etsy store today!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Notes From the Test Kitchen

Kate and I firmly believe that our candy should not only taste amazing, it should be gorgeous. With that in mind, I recently made several test batches to select the best color for the debut of Pistachio-Marshmallow this spring.

Batch #1:

avocado green lollipop

Batch #2:

avocado green & pearl shimmer lollipop

Batch #3:

pearl shimmer lollipop

Batch #4:

shimmery light green lollipop

Which is your favorite? Ours is #4. We’re crazy excited about this lollipop and we hope you’ll be too!

photos by Kevin Keeker

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010 Flavor Preview

We've got all kinds of yummy things planned for 2010! Here's a short flavor preview for the year.

Pistachio-Marshmallow - When these two flavors get together, something magical happens. We can’t explain it. All we know is it makes a yummy lollipop! Coming March 2010

Sweetened Grapefruit- Remember that awesome breakfast that sent you off to school, ready to tackle the day? Among other things, Mom would cut a grapefruit in half and sprinkle sugar on top to balance its natural tartness. Sweetened Grapefruit lollipops hark to that biting citric flavor. Coming August 2010

Teaberry - Teaberry is a regional name for the plant also known as American Wintergreen. While the tongue-tingling Teaberry was quite well liked at our tasting party, it was a controversial flavor among our college friends. We dare you to try it! Coming March 2010

Root Beer Float - Our recipe for Root Beer Float incorporates nutty vanilla, which makes the taste richer than Root Beer flavored candy on its own. We sprinkle a little powdered sugar on them, as if they were flecked with bits of vanilla ice cream. Coming April 2010

Try these and more in 2010!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

George Washington Lollipops

Neil pointed us to this wonderful post about George Washington and happiness in the New York Times. I love seeing stories and pictures of lollipops in the media, not to mention that whole post is incredibly charming for reasons I can't quite put my finger on.