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Narrowing the Focus

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The last few years have been one heck of a ride. Filled with hairpin turns, rapid drops and even faster climbs. To put it simply, it has been rollercoaster of a time. Everyone has been affected by this in many facets of our lives. It has also had an major impact on J&L. The ride has brought us to where we are today and here I will go into what may be next.

The “Factory Store” Is Still in the Works

It has been quiet on this front but that does not mean we are not still planning on this. Although my hope was to be able to have something closer to reality by today, it will not happen this year. Capital is a huge hurdle for us and until I feel that more aspects of the business are stable and tuned correctly I will not be seeking outside capital at this time.

It has to be the right place and the right time for this to come together. I cannot pinpoint what either of those things are to be honest. It may be one of those things that I will know it when I feel it. The place is important, and it has to be a good fit for what we want to do within the space. The absolute most important function of the place is the need to facilitate increased production capacity and adequate storage of goods. The public retail component is lower on the priority scale, but must be a part of the overall plan. Having a place for you to shop may be limited by total square footage and how it can be divided. At minimum, we may have a space for retail that is close to what you see at our festival appearances. Ideally, we want something closer to 500 square feet for retail.

The space must function for operations and administration duties as a priority. There must be room for having goods in various stages of the making process along with climate appropriate storage for all ingredient stock and finished goods. Then there must be an area for processing internet orders and general business operations. Depending on the location and amount of space, retail hours of operation may be limited to specific days and times.

A major factor we must be able to handle is payroll. At this time, there is not enough revenue to support paying a staff. Until we see the sales increases once we open a space, there will only be 1 staff member – myself.

Being Lean

Until we reach the point where we can open our doors on a space, I need to focus on the bigger revenue drivers along with any signature products that are able to maintain well in lower stock levels. Many items will be placed into a moratorium status until a later date. I do not feel that their absence from our assortment for the short term will have a lasting effect on our overall sales as many of these mainly only sell at our pop ups and not reliably through our website.

This will give us the capacity to ensure that the bigger sellers are always in stock. With having limited production space means I can only make smaller batches for now. The more something sells, the more often I need to make those smaller batches. The only way I can increase production is by having more storage space and right now that is not available.

As we make this transition you may find an increasing number of items being Out of Stock, or missing from the website. Don’t be surprised and certainly don’t think we are going out of business. For now, J&L must focus on what are the biggest sellers and money makers until we have a larger space.

Yet, There Is Room For Something New

There are a couple items I have been considering introducing for quite some time. Way back when, I presented a survey around what customers would like to see from us through presenting ideas of what I was thinking about making. This small group of products I am strongly considering scored well on that survey. They will be a small package as well as have a long shelf life. And, unlike anything else we have offered.

I am in the early conceptual stage of development of these items. I have an idea of what I want to do and now looking to the costs of making them and the regulations associated with them as they are not personal care items or candle related. These items will be more in the area of my culinary interests.

For years, I have made some of my own spice/seasoning blends. Garam Marsala, Crab Boil Seasoning (my own version of Old Bay Seasoning), Chili Powder, Lebanese 7 Spice, and a general purpose herbal “steak” seasoning. For these blends I have been very respectful of following traditional recipes and follow very authentic processes. I wish to use organic herbs and spices with no filler ingredients and be free of salt (excluding the herbal steak seasoning). And about that herbal steak seasoning. For me, it is a peppery herbal seasoning that is great to add to many dishes. It was initially created by adding a blend of herbs to Montreal Steak Seasoning. Unlike most Seasoning Salts, it will not have cayenne or paprika.

I think that having these become a part of the assortment will be a great addition to all our scented products as well as fit the need to be more shelf stable as we work towards our previously stated goal. If these go well, I will start to look into another culinary passion of mine; infused and seasoned oils and vinegar. I have also created a few hot sauce recipes for my own use that could be added to the assortment when the time is right. To expand this category beyond seasonings, we will need to have that bigger space.

This is not set into stone and there is no certainty it will happen. Knowing what goes into making these for myself is that a large batch can be made quickly and packed into jars that will not take up much space.

This Is the Big Picture

To grow, I need room to grow. I also need money to do it right. There is also a need to avoid creating a large debt. A small business loan is possible, but it needs to be a very manageable size with a plan to be able to pay it off if we don’t succeed at our mission. The costs of rent and related expenses of having a space is a substantial debt of its own. My plan is to have enough cash on hand to pay 6 months rent and utilities when I sign a lease. This should give me the room to grow to where I can generate enough revenue to purchase the tools I need to increase production and then to hire help.

I also need to push my marketing more to add new customers to our base. With some dedicated time spent on improving Search Engine Optimization and Google Search Ads I can slowly gain more exposure and then more customers. The small amount of energy I spent years ago establishing these things has paid off. Now I need to improve it, update it and throw more money at it. Along with that, it is also essential that I put more energy into our YouTube videos and social media. I get buried under the weight of everything else I do that it becomes too easy to put these matters off. Honestly, this takes more energy than making a 1,000 candles; making it hard to schedule time to work on this when there is always other work to be done. I am also still dealing with being in a noisy place where it is hard to shoot a video without ambient noise making it a challenge.

As J&L heads into 2024 we will continue refining the assortment, increasing on-hands of popular goods while we retire less popular items. We have two outings on the radar where we hope to drive our brand more aggressively as we streamline our presence. Expect our booth to look more lean as we focus on those heavy hitters. We also hope to further drive our online marketplace to our local customers by improving our Local Pick Up option to hot items – with shorter lead times and possible same day pick ups.

I thank you all for your support. Your feedback is always welcomed and if you have ideas or suggestions, please send them in to me.

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