Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Secret's Out

Well, I suppose I'm not keeping anyone in suspense with the whole "Branching Out" thing. Does anyone really read this blog anyway? Well, regardless, it's a good place for me to write down my thoughts, plans, ideas, hopes, whatever. So here goes.

I'm hoping to open a new Etsy shop that sells only Incense.
I know. Incense is so different from jewelry that they don't even connect at all. I know that. I do plan on keeping the Iron Dog name, though... more on that later.
I'm still not 100% sure of my reasons for doing this.
One reason is that I believe that incense will sell better than jewelry will. There are still quite a few incense makers on Etsy, but not nearly as many jewelry makers.
Another reason: Incense is something I enjoy myself. I love scents and fragrances. I've even purchased incense from a couple sellers on Etsy.
Also, I feel that any sales will help get money rolling in and motivate me to work harder at both my incense shop and my jewelry. Besides, who would turn down more money?
I also feel that, unlike my jewelry shop, I can easily brand myself to stand out from other incense sellers (more on that later, too).
I feel like there was at least another reason, but it has slipped my mind for now.

So, first things first... naming the new shop.
Right now, I've got logo, banner, and product labels all designed up already with the name Iron Dog Fragrance. I recently thought about changing it to Iron Dog Incense... kinda rolls off the tongue better, but as I will probably only be selling the incense online, it doesn't need to sound good, but look good.
For one, keeping it as Iron Dog Fragrance allows me to be able to branch out in the future to... I don't know... soaps, lotions, whatever. Though for now, I don't plan on doing that at all (more on that later).
Visually speaking, Iron Dog Fragrance looks better. Why? Well, for the banner, etc. I chose a flowy, scripty font that I thought worked well with the idea of incense and scents. It just so happens that the lower case g in "Dog" and the upper case F in "Fragrance" kind of flowed into each other to create this neat swirly smoke-like curl. I thought that was quite appropriate and if I were more spiritual, I'd consider it a sign that the name should definitely be Iron Dog Fragrance.

I've done lots of "research" into selling incense on Etsy. I've done daily searches for incense to see what comes up and who are the main sellers.
Most of them don't sell JUST incense. Some do soaps, lotions, or make-up. Some are more spiritual and sell them as spiritual tools for religious rituals or self-improvement.
I plan to stay away from all that and just sell incense. Sticks. Not cones (for now). The only other thing I hope to sell from this shop is hand made ceramic and glass incense burners.
I will not claim any spiritual characteristics. I will not claim my incense is blessed or has magical properties.
I will not sell colored incense sticks as incense is meant to be smelled, not seen.
I will not buy 500 different kinda of fragrances, dip my incense in them and label them with the same name that the fragrance oil has. I plan to be a little more creative and selective. I will test fragrances before releasing them to the public. I will make an effort to make my own blends rather than just going with a one-stop bottle that I bought off the shelf.
I will write my own descriptions, rather than cut and paste the ones the fragrance oil manufacturer gave to the fragrance oil.
I will ask for my customers opinion. This will not be a done-deal once the sale is made. I want feedback about the scent. I will compensate my customers for their opinions with discounts on future purchases. I want to make sure I'm not the only one who has a say in whether or not the fragrance works. Just because I like it, does not mean everyone else will.
I will offer sampler packs.
I will include free incense with the purchase of a burner.
I will offer reasonable package counts. Who needs 50 incense sticks of the same scent? I suppose if you really like the scent, but that's where the custom orders come in. Some sellers ONLY offered packs of 50. I plan on 20.

Heh, turned into a bit of a list of Incense Commandments. But that is how I plan to separate myself from other incense sellers. There are a few others that just sell incense and don't claim it to have any spiritual or magickal properties. But there's always been something about them that just makes it feel a little hokey. Some quirky backstory or claim that just sounded a little too forced, regardless of the reality. I plan to be a no bullshit seller. In fact, I briefly considered making that the shop name... No Bullshit Incense.

So I've ordered 12 or so scents already. I got them from a place that I thought had reasonable prices. They also have a discount system which is nice. I have found another place that is much cheaper. I plan to order a few samples from the second place to see how their fragrances compare.
Some of the scents I have tested are not going to work out at all. I got a Green Apple FO that, when burnt in incense smells more like apricots than apples of any kind. But I still wouldn't dare trying to label it as apricot scent.
A few other scents are definitely keepers.
And others are passable, but I wonder if there isn't something better.

I don't plan on doing cones. Mostly because the drying time (I've read) is much longer than sticks and it's going to be hard enough for me to keep up with the soaking and drying schedules of the sticks.
Besides, with cones, I'd have to get different bags to pack them in. They also use more fragrance oil than sticks so pricing would be tricky. I would love to poll my customers to ask them if they would prefer cones.
I suppose that could be another way to brand myself. I could be as customer-centered as possible. Letting them decide what they want. Do they like the 20 count packs or do they wish the packs would have more? ...or less? Would they want the option of cones?
Giving the customer options is good, but I think too many options would just make things too difficult for me to be worth it. I guess I'll just have to see how well things sell at first. Maybe I'll have a good enough response without options!

As far as specific scents go...
These are the keepers: Frangipani, Rain, Cinnamon Bun, Vanilla, Firewood.

Scents that I'll offer for now, but will look for better versions: Patchouli, Nag Champa, Lavender, Sage & Citrus.

Scents that have, but definitely need to find better versions: Sandalwood, Hazelnut Coffee.

Scents that are right out: Green Apple.

The only scent from my initial order that I haven't tried yet is Strawberry Daquiri. The sticks are dry, I just need to burn it. I have a feeling it'll be more strawberry and less daquiri. But I've learned that incense is a funny animal. It can smell one way in the bottle, another way on the dry stick and then a completely different way when burned (ie Green Apple).

Another big thing I need to consider and discuss, is the support from Rob. When we first started dating, he loved the incense I'd burn. I even gave him some as a gift which he seemed to like.
But now that he's living with me, he seems to get annoyed when I burn incense. Enough so that I feel the need to ask if he would mind if I burned some. I don't think he minds the scent so much as the smoke itself. It seems to float right into his face. I've moved the incense to a different location and that helps. He doesn't complain then. But, when I'm testing, I need to be able to really smell it so I can decide if it's good or not, so I need to close to me. Which almost always means it's close to him, too.
I'll have to talk with him about this. I don't want to embark on this venture if it's just going to annoy the shit out of him. He means more to me than $2.20 a pack.

I had a romantic idea of opening the shop on my birthday. But that is only a week away and I still don't have shipping supplies yet. I don't think the incense packs will fit in the mailers that I use for jewelry, so I'll need to get others. Probably going to go with ULINE.

So I guess that's a good summary of all the stuff up until now.

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