Posted by OakCourt on Feb 17, 2010 in Miscellaneous News
As some of you may already know from reading the note on our home page, we experienced the sudden death of our main computer recently. It’s the one that held all of our accounting software, as well as many other important things like our web design program. Luckily, we’re sticklers for doing backups, and the system had a RAID 1 array that saved everything to TWO hard drives (so there’s always a good one with all of the data!).
Parts are hard to come by for computers once their warranty runs out, so we were advised to simply get a new one. The good hard drive from the old computer is being made into an external USB drive, so we can connect it and copy all of our data files and records to the new machine. We built a system to order with Dell yesterday, and it’s supposed to be here on or before March 1st. We’ve been so spoiled during its extended warranty period, because when any problems have happened, Dell is out the next business day to take care of it and we’re back in action within a day or so. This wait already feels like an eternity!
A person really doesn’t realize how much they rely on a computer until it isn’t working, I guess. I’m posting this from a laptop, normally only used to check e-mails when I travel, but now it’s trying valiantly to function as my main computer, which is a HUGE task. I must just have big fingers, because I keep hitting the wrong keys, and I’m usually a very accurate typist. The keyboard is smaller and the keys are closer together – and the backspace and delete keys are in a different place due to the space restrictions. What was automatic before, I now have to think about! And I realllllly miss my big 24″ flat panel monitor – I’m scrolling constantly on this little bitty screen.
We appreciate your patience in bearing with us while we wait eagerly for the new computer to be delivered….. if you call, it may take me longer to look up pricing/inventory for you, and e-mails are being answered via webmail now instead of downloading them to the computer and having the filters sort them for me and weed out the junk mail. We also can’t put invoice copies in outbound packages as usual – we’ll be including a printed copy of the order, and e-mailing the actual invoice once we’re back up and running. I figure it’ll be about a 2 to 3 day project just to get all of the software re-installed (not counting the time spent to locate all of the right discs and installation instructions!), then we’ll get all of the invoices input and e-mailed.
If your computer is working properly as you read this, be sure to thank it and let it know how much you appreciate that!
Posted by OakCourt on Feb 12, 2010 in Miscellaneous News
, New Products
Well, it looks like we’ll have a delay in getting the 99% Isopropyl Alcohol and Perfumer Base from Synergy. There was damage to the containers in shipment, and they were declared a total loss. Since Sheila doesn’t have any more, I’ll have to wait until I get sourcing info from her and order directly from her vendor.
I HAVE, however, located a LOCAL source for Cyclomethicone! It can also be used to make easy-peasy “dry oil”-type perfume misters. We’ll have to buy in drum quantity (about 500 lbs.), so I’m thinking we’ll probably be running a pre-buy on this in the not-too-distant future. (grin)
As some of you may know, once before, we tried using a local sheltered workshop for the disabled to do some of our packaging. Unfortunately, they wanted us to sign a contract for a steady amount of work on a weekly basis, and we simply couldn’t do that. The flow of product coming in and going out is definitely not a steady thing here! We didn’t give up on the idea, because we know that the concept works – we just needed to find the right group for us.
We’ve now found another workshop for the developmentally disabled that is eager and willing to take whatever work we can bring to them. They just got started recently, and we’re among their first customers. One of my friends has an adult son who is autistic, and Randy will be among the people working on our products. We had them do a “trial run” recently, to see how it would work, having them package air freshener samples for us to send out in orders and send to gatherings to be included in their goodie bags – and they did a very nice job. In exchange for very reasonable pricing per-piece on packaging and labeling, many of the items they’ll be packaging will now include an extra sticker (or an extra line on the regular label) showing that the item was packaged by InFocus Adult Day Services.
This is a real win-win situation for us … we get more time to spend on expanding the business instead of packaging product, and the workers there make some pocket money. For many of them, there is a great deal of comfort in the structure and routine of working there, and pride in completing their assigned tasks to the best of their abilities. Many care and education programs for the developmentally and physically challenged are facing serious budget cuts due to the state of the economy, and workshops like this help them bring in some much-needed revenue. This move will also allow us to keep our prices the same, even though many of our vendors raised THEIR prices in the past few months.
Several of our customers have gone on to follow our example, locating workshops in their area and having them do some light duty jobs for them, like wicking and labeling candle jars, bagging and labeling wax tarts, and shrinkwrapping and labeling bars of soap. The idea was originally given to me by Casey Kellar (formerly of Rainshadow Labs), who many of you know from the Chicago-Area Soap and Candlemakers’ Conferences. For many years, Rainshadow has kept their local workshop in existence by providing them with a large volume of packaging and labeling work. I thought surely there would be some sort of national association for these workshops, or governmental umbrella that they all operated under, and had hoped to be able to provide a link to help customers find the workshop(s) in their area…. however, that does not seem to be the case. According to directors of several workshops in the Chicago area, you can check your local phone book, or contact your state or county’s social services agency to locate the workshops in your area.
So, don’t be surprised in the coming months to see more of our products sporting the label from the workshop! They’ll be doing things like weighing out and labeling bags of dry goods and filling sample jars with lip balm base at first, and eventually work up to pumping out fragrance oils and base oils into bottles and measuring and cutting 10-yard packs of elastic cording. If the label isn’t exactly straight, or your 10-yard packs of cord aren’t precisely spot-on, please bear in mind that these were packaged with pride by someone who faces many challenges every day, and that with your purchase, you’ve allowed someone to be gainfully employed who otherwise wouldn’t have a job.
Posted by OakCourt on Feb 6, 2010 in Miscellaneous News
, New Products
The bad news:
I found out recently that one of our fellow suppliers, Sheila Stewart from The Synergy, is closing down her supply business. Some of you may remember Sheila – she was a vendor at the Chicago-Area Soap and Candlemakers’ Conference in the past, and came all the way from Alabama to participate!
Good news part 1:
She’s closing because she is moving to Holland to live near her sister, and sounds very happy to be making the move.
Good news part 2:
She has been working on finding homes for all of her supplies, and was kind enough to e-mail to offer us some of them at closeout prices. She’s assured me that she will share the source for any products we take off her hands, so we can offer them on a regular basis – so we’ve already placed one order, and we may order more if she still has things left after we take stock of what orders we’ll need to place the rest of the month.
Some of the things we’re purchasing from her to add to our product line include:
Isopropyl Alcohol 99%
Perfumer’s Base (I’m really excited about this one!)
Green Tea Extract
Bath Bomb Molds (big ones – tennis ball sized!)
A selection of some of her yummy fragrance oils
Powdered Dead Sea Mud
We’re sad that she’s closing, but very happy to be able to provide you with some of the wonderful things she’s had in her product line. I’m hoping to get some of the items that don’t need pictures up on the website in the next few weeks, and will test all of the FO’s before adding them to the site so I can give you first-hand knowledge of how they work in CP soap. (Sheila says that they all work fine, but some do accelerate trace, so they need to be soaped cool and poured quickly). I already know that they are good and strong, and they are wonderful in toiletries and M&P, though – I’ve been the lucky recipient of a number of soaps and goodies made with her fragrances over the years, and have experienced several of them in products Sheila has made and demonstrated at gatherings.
Gatherings just aren’t going to be quite as much fun without Miss Sheila…….
Posted by OakCourt on Feb 6, 2010 in Miscellaneous News
After an extended absence due to a hosting change in a hurry, the blog is finally back.
Our old hosting company was sold to a foreign entity, and their service really went downhill. When our site security certificate was up for renewal, they informed me that I had to click a link in an e-mail that was sent to me… but I did not get the e-mail and they would not re-send it. They refused to renew the SSL certificate, which is necessary in order for us to collect payments securely online. Even though we had many months left on our hosting contract, we quickly researched available hosting options and moved the Oak Court Creations website to a new host, Server Intellect. Our shopping cart requires that we host the site on a Windows server, and even though they don’t support WordPress (which is usually hosted on a Linux server), we went with them for several reasons.
1) Their technical support is top-notch – all of their techs are Microsoft Certified Technicians!
2) They offered to move the site, including complex databases used by the shopping cart and special coding strings that needed to be modified, for no charge
3) They promised to have us back up and running within 24 hours, and actually got done faster than that!
We’ve now established a separate hosting account on a Linux server and are using one of our alternate domain names to publish this blog. Somehow, during the hasty move, the backup file from the old blog was corrupted, so we lost the old posts, so we’re starting again from scratch.
Thanks for bearing with us during the downtime… we’re glad to be back!