Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teeter teeter.


The past 24 or so hours have gone a little something like this:

I met a friend to chat about investing and how to be successful with managing a stock portfolio. It was really interesting and I think will be a very good use of my time to learn and practice.

Then, I went out to Langley to a free concert with some members of my youth group. I felt pretty guilty about taking a night away from Zimt, and attempted to justify this in claiming it was a sacrifice of my time to be spending an evening listening to Jesus music and not going around in circles trying to figure out how to format labels. Anyway, by the time I was ready to work again, it was about 2 am. I tried my best, writing some incomprehensible, desperate e-mails to a friend who had agreed to help me with the aforementioned labels and even managed to successfully upload the nutrition facts tables to (check it out! now you can know exactly how many calories you are consuming, making actually eating the chocolate substantially less enjoyable. But it is a requirement of the CFIA to list it, so there you have it.)

I woke up almost 5 hours later and wrote some slightly more understandable e-mails to this friend, but still just as desperate. I can't believe how this packaging thing is dragging on. It has, without a doubt, been one of the most frustrating aspects of the whole process.  Sourcing suppliers, cost structures, nutrition fact calculation, materials and equipment- a learning process, but do-able, the website, well, finally figured that out (simple is sometimes best.)... but the packaging. Wow. I don't even know where to begin. These past few months have been way too full of my begging friends with any photoshop, illustrator, any design program- know-how for help.

There are a couple of problems with this:

1. working with friends can be tricky- what about payment? Most of the time, I have found that friends do not want to accept any sort of financial compensation. There's a problem with this, though, too. Without a formal work agreement, well, things just don't get done. I will be the first to admit that I am hopeless in this packaging business- I have no clue where to begin. Had I known, I would have just found the right professional and gotten it done. But my friends are nice- many offered to help. And as much as I appreciate this offer, it sometimes does not materialize into actual... results.  Which leads to...

2. people have their own lives. My friends know me, I know my friends, we go way back, etc etc. I am not a big, scary boss any of them want to impress. I am not a key (at least it seems for now) reference that they would want to put on their resume. Basically, what would helping me out with this label stuff benefit them? It sounds harsh, but it is totally understandable- Zimt is not their company, it is mine. If I'm not able to provide them with what they need or want, and there are more fun ways they can spend their time, then there really isn't a huge incentive to helping me out. Aside from just... helping me out. (Karma anyone????)

3. I (again) have no clue what is going on. One minute, somebody is thrilled to help me. They want to do this- just send over the files and, bam, they'll be done before you know it, Emma.  Several months later, "Oh yeah... that....". I don't know how to coordinate people properly yet so as to frustrate them as little as possible. When someone does not get something done soon and I don't hear from them on a consistent enough basis, I go and find someone else (or at least try). What do I even ask them to do, precisely? When do I need this done by? Is that unreasonable? If I don't get it done by then, the date I will be able to sell retail will be pushed way back. What about the barcodes- should I ask them for help before I find the right program to generate the codes? How can I bug these kind people as little as possible? Were I to be more familiar with the process of packaging and label design, this would be a lot less stressful. I know my friends get frustrated with me (lack of clarity, and "Ummm... this is what the printing company said- what were they really talking about? Is the format I sent to you okay for that?"), but I can almost bet that it is just as bad for me as for them! I feel terrible for taking up so much of their time. But I'm kind of hanging on a thread here. And I only get by with a lot of help from my friends.

This whole packaging problem would pretty much disappear, by-the-way, if there were a home printer that used eco-friendly ink. I could just print from home, the labels are so simple. I've even got some really nice paper made from left over banana tree plant, post harvest, that I like to print on. But the ink... not so eco-friendly. And so, it's off to find a printing company that can provide not only 100% post consumer paper, but also vegetable-based inks (not whatever chemicals my own printer uses... sigh).

So that's what I tried to work on today. The packaging. It was a rather draining process and, to be quite honest, did not go so well so far. It was basically another day of my staring at my computer screen, attempting to teach myself how to use this editing program I accidentally downloaded in German and cannot change the language settings for , then resorting back to good old Paint, then even Word (... that's embarrassing), and living off of left-over chocolate fillings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, because I really didn't want to take time to cook. There was confusing formatting to be done.

Anyway, as wonderful as it was to have a work party with Genie today, I ended up just feeling super drained and incredibly confused about this whole labeling thing. It is particularly frustrating because I know it would be so quick for a pro to do. And so I've contacted a few.

I did end up going to karate with my mom, because there's only so much cabin-fever + seemingly-impossible- tech-stuff I can take and I was going completely nuts. Plus getting nowhere.

So here's the moral of the story (or morals...):

1. try to figure out as best as possible what you want/need for your product before asking around for help- your friends will likely hate you a lot less if you take this route as opposed to giving them vague ideas or "Well, I was thinking maybe of this, but I really have no clue- what do you think?" Answer: They don't think. It's your company, figure it out yourself. Delegate. If they want to give their opinion, be open to it, but honestly, it is highly likely that they do not care nearly as much as you do.

2. find the right people to ask for help. Just because your friend can make pretty designs in photoshop does not mean that he or she knows how to format labels properly for printing. Ask people if they know of a professional who could help you with your project. Once you find that professional... get some references and check out their portfolio.

3. Do not attempt to live on less than 5 hours of sleep and excessive amounts of ganache. It's really unhealthy, both physically and mentally, and you will likely feel very sick if you go take a karate class after even one day of living such a lifestyle.

Tomorrow's a new day. This post was way too long (again. Apparently I just like ranting.). I'm going to get more than 5 hours of sleep, get my day in order, get out of the house for a decent amount of time, and not live off of recipe tester left-overs.

I trust you will do the same =)


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