Saturday, December 29, 2007

Letting Cats Outside Safely

I just have to plug this thing for a moment. . .

I wish we'd discovered it years ago. We have two cats with litter box issues. Bob - who has a broken spine, so he can't really help his problem, but it still causes messes for us to deal with, and Sheeba - who has some misfiring brain wires or something. She doesn't act like any other cat I've met, and she likes to pee all over the house.

We've arranged our lives around the problems of these cats. Litter boxes everywhere that are cleaned out all the time. We don't have a sofa or soft chairs anyplace because Bob would ruin them. All bedroom doors stay shut at all times to prevent furry intruders doing their thing on our beds.

We've seen cat behaviorists, we keep the laboratories in business with how often we send in urine samples, an acupuncturist (for Bob) etc. But I don't believe an elimination issue should equal a death sentence, and so we have lived with it (and cleaned up after it) - for years.

Our other problem was that we don't live in a safe area for the cats to go outside. We live in a townhouse with a parking lot out front, and another one behind it. These cats have been indoor cats their whole lives, I don't think they'd stand a chance out there. I know the neighborhood cats pretty well (better than I know our neighbors, my husband would say) and few of them stay around for long. It just isn't a cat-friendly environment.

After we lost Magic, we also kinda lost the heart to keep dealing with these other two troublemakers. I'm sad to admit it, but we loved Magic, and tolerated the others. Well, I love Bob too - and my husband tolerates him for my sake.

So we made the decision to start letting them outside, and I was torn up about it. I couldn't emotionally handle them anymore either, but was frightened for them. So I began to research if there were any safe ways to teach older cats some street smarts, with the goal of making a safer transition to being outdoor cats.

I found the Cat Fence-In System.



I've worked with animals for about 13 years now, longer if you count my earlier SPCA volunteer time, and I'd never heard of such a thing. It's great!! It's a netting system that goes around the top of your fence, and keeps the cats from being able to climb out. They stay safely in the yard. They still have the elements to deal with (but for now we're only putting them out on nice days) but no cars, no dogs, no cat-hating people who mean them harm. They get to sleep in the grass, chase bugs, and lay in the sun without dying.

It also keeps other cats out of the yard too - for anyone who has a problem with that. We've had our system up for about a month now, and it really works.

I have my house back.

Bob loves playing outside during the day. Sheeba doesn't love it, but, like I said before, I'm sure she has mental problems. No matter what she thinks, it's better than being locked in the bathroom the rest of her life, and that's her other option at this point.

I just had to share, because I would have loved to have known about this earlier.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pricing

This is a topic that comes up whenever two or more professional artists/crafters get together. What's a good pricing formula?
I'll admit upfront that I don't have all (or maybe any) of the answers to the pricing dilemmas, but thought I'd point you toward some resources that I've found useful.
In the Etsy Storque, there are many pricing related articles, I think the older ones are the most helpful:
Etsy Storque Pricing Articles

Also, an Etsy seller, chrisparry, developed a very detailed spreadsheet that they are offering for free that helps calculate selling price:
chrisparry blog

I have a few issues with this formula, at least for my personal situation. I'm sure it works great for some types of items. I think the spreadsheet recommends taking equipment into consideration. That part is good advice, but it says, for example, that I'd need a new sewing machine every 5 years. Don't think so. The machine I have now was my mom's, and I believe she had it since before I was born, so it's well over 30 years old, and works just dandy (thank you very much). I understand that someday it's inevitable that I'll need new equipment, and I need rotary blade, etc. rather more frequently, and all that needs to be accounted for.
I also have a bit of a philosophical problem with the "decide how much money you want to make then divide that buy how much stuff you make" philosophy. I've seen this advice in many places, and it never sits well with me. Just because I'd need to sell my I-spy blankets for $80.00 each to replace my job and live my dream of working at home does not make them 'worth' $80.00, no matter how much love I pour into them. Don't get me wrong, I love my blankets. If I could make only one thing, that's what I'd pick. My daughter still plays with hers all the time after 4 years. But, come on.
Sure, maybe someplace there is some celebrity super-high-end market for an $80.00 I spy blanket, but I have zero interest in finding, developing, or catering to such a market if one exists. It isn't me. And I don't want to change who I am for this.

Now these types of decisions are very personal. I don't presume to tell anyone how they should run their business. Pricing is complicated, and I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all formula, even for businesses that sell similar items or services.

What I've learned, for my own business, from my pricing research is that, no matter what formula I use, I will NEVER be able to give up my job to come home and sew.
I wanted to be a professional, but I'm a hobbyist. I was upset at this realization for about 30 min. Now I'm okay with it. The upside of these epiphanies is that now that I know that sewing isn't the most efficient use of my time in my quest to work from home, I'm free to move on to other endeavors. Now I can sew for fun, for family, and to sell with out all the pressure. I can make things when I want, for whom I want, and if they sell - wonderful! If not, it'll make a nice gift at the next baby shower I'm invited to. But my garbage bill won't depend on it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reviewing and Redirecting

I have so many business topics swimming around in my head that I want to discuss it's hard to know where to begin. Maybe it's an end of the year thing. A time to look back on how this year has gone, and to begin thinking about where I want to go in the future. Making changes is uncomfortable for me (and I don't think I'm alone here.) It's so much easier to just keep doing what I'm used to doing. But I'm old enough now to realise that when things aren't going the way I want them to after a time and my best effort, it's time to make changes. One of my greatest mistakes in the past, I believe, is that I tend to lose sight of the goal and get caught up or distracted by the path. I'm a creature of habit, and change has to be a thought out effort for me.
It's strange, actually. This year has gone well for me. My Etsy business has donebetter than I ever originally hoped for. My children are thriving. We're moving forward, if slowly, tword our goals. And yet, there are problems that can't be overlooked. Years ago, I never would have made changes to what I thought was a sucessful year. This is where I've grown. Now I see that while, by many standards, I'm having some successes, even this won't bring me to my ultimate goals, and that's what matters. Maybe the little successes has given me the courage to make changes where I need them. It has become easier to keep the big picture in sight.

I'm working on a business plan, and will write more details about that as I go. I think it's a good tool for any business. I probably should have made one from the beginning, but I had more of a hobbist attitude when I began. If you're wanting to get more serious with your business, and don't know how to start - a business plan is a must. It isn't a little project - it's huge, and it's hard, but it's also important. I'll provide some better information on how to write one in a comming entry.