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VERY IMPORTANT info about shipping lead times – please read :)

Posted by OakCourt on Apr 17, 2012 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

If you’ve ordered from us recently, you may have noticed on our home page that we have been closed sporadically for short periods of time. We wanted to let you know why, as this will continue to be the case for at least the next few months.

My dad was diagnosed in late January with aggressive prostate cancer, and he had surgery for it in early March. His surgeon, Dr. Mani Menon, is one of the best in the country (if not the world!), and I’m happy to report that the surgery was a complete success – he is now prostate cancer free, thanks to Dr. Menon’s skill and expertise.

However, in the course of the testing done for my dad’s surgery, they discovered that he also has ANOTHER form of cancer – a type of lymphoma, which is a blood cancer. It’s even more aggressive than than the prostate cancer, and he is going to have to have chemo first, then radiation, over the course of the next six months or so. He saw a specialist at the same hospital in Detroit (about 6 hours from us here in IL) that did his prostate surgery – again, one of the best in the country for his particular type of cancer – and we will be going back later this week for them to devise his precise treatment plan, set up all the appointments, etc. If everything goes smoothly, his treatments should start next week, and it looks like we will be commuting to Detroit every few weeks for the near future. The good news is that the oncologist says this particular cancer responds very well to treatment!

We’re going to try to schedule his treatments on Fridays, to minimize the disruption to the business and to our family. However, since he is our shipping person, during the times that he is under the weather from the treatments, I will be taking care of not only my normal duties, but also packing and labeling boxes for shipment. Consequently, orders may take a day or two longer than usual to ship when we are especially busy. I will make sure to update the home page with the current lead times when they run longer than the normal 1-2 business days.

We didn’t want you all to think we were just being flaky or irresponsible, so we thought we would let you know what’s going on and why orders may be slower to process at times than usual. Please take that into account when you plan your orders, and accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. It’s only temporary, and we appreciate your understanding and compassion during this difficult time.

Brenda

 
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Now shipping all packages Carbon Neutral to help the environment!

Posted by OakCourt on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

As of today, we are pleased to announce that all outbound US packages will be shipped using UPS Carbon Neutral services. This means that UPS will purchase CO2 offsets to minimize the effect on the environment of the emissions generated by delivering packages. The offsets will support the work of projects such as reforestation and wastewater biogas-to-energy generation.

This UPS program is a good fit for our efforts to do business in more environmentally responsible ways. If you have any questions about their program, you can learn more about it at UPS’ website at www.ups.com (search “carbon neutral”).

 
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Blizzard threatening to affect business this week

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 31, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

As you may know, we’re located in the suburbs of Chicago…. and the entire Chicago area is now under a blizzard warning. Snow is to begin mid-day on Tuesday and continue through Wednesday afternoon. Accumulations of 18 to 24 inches are predicted, and at some points, snow is predicted to fall at the rate of three to four inches PER HOUR. Forecasters are warning that travel will be difficult or even impossible much of the rest of the week, so it’s very possible that UPS will be unable to pick up packages daily as they normally do. If the predictions are accurate, this storm will go down in the history books as one of the worst EVER in the Chicago area… it’s only going to take 16″ to make the top 5, and the record is 23″, set back in 1967.

We’re also facing the very real possibility of widespread power outages, since wind gusts are supposed to be up to 50 MPH, so please don’t panic if we are not able to be reached by phone or e-mail.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and rest assured that we will do everything possible to get back to business as usual as soon as possible. Orders placed this week will be shipped as soon as it’s humanly possible to do so. Please keep good thoughts for everyone in the Chicago area, and also for those in central Illinois and Indiana – they won’t get much snow, but they’re supposed to have a nasty ice storm instead.

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Exciting new column on soapmaking!

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 24, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

I am so pleased to announce that I’ve been chosen by Examiner.com, a well-known online news source, as their new national Handmade Soap columnist. I will be writing articles on various topics pertaining to soapmaking, at least twice a week and sometimes more frequently.

To read my column, you can do so by going directly to it at this link – Handmade Soap Examiner. Please feel free to leave comments for me, or you can e-mail me to suggest topics you’d like to see addressed in future columns by e-mailing me at HandcraftedSoapExaminer (at) Gmail.com (take out the spaces and substitute @ for (at)). If you enjoy the column, please subscribe to it by using the link at the top of the page – you’ll receive an e-mail each time a new article is published. Or, for those of you who prefer reading news via RSS feeds, you will see a link to sign up for my column’s feed.

I intend to write on a good mix of topics, some of which will be geared towards hobbyists and potential new soapmakers. Others will be geared towards the business side of soapmaking. Melt and pour, cold process, hot process, and rebatching will be discussed, with the most emphasis on cold process and melt and pour because those are the areas in which I have the most experience and knowledge.

Examiner.com also permits their writers to review products and events, and I can post instructions for projects. If you have tried (or heard about) a neat tool or gadget handy for soapmaking, please contact the supplier or manufacturer and suggest they get in touch with me to arrange for me to review it. Even though I am a supplier, none of us can carry everything in our product lines, so I intend to showcase a wide variety of products from a variety of trustworthy sources.

If you enjoy the column, please share it with your soapmaking friends! You’re welcome to share the link anywhere you find it appropriate (but please don’t spam!)… Twitter, Facebook, forums you’re on, etc. The more people that read the column, the more space they’ll give us for discussion, and I get a bonus based on the number of readers – which I will promptly spend on more craft supplies to experiment with. I love to play with (oops… I mean “test”) neat stuff too! LOL

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Update to newsletter changes

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 24, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

Well, it hasn’t been an easy changeover, as we’d hoped it would be. (sigh) I tried to upload our existing list, which was last sent a newsletter in October, and AWeber rejected it. They said that too many of the e-mail addresses were no longer valid, and the list was “stale”.

As per their suggestion, I split the list into chunks of 50 or so addresses at a time, sorting the list based on the last purchase date and checking domain names to make sure they were still working. Each time I upload a chunk, I have to wait for them to approve it before I can upload another batch. I got back as far as customers from late 2008, then they decided that chunk had too many invalid e-mail addresses and stated that I should let the rest of the list go. I’m still working on sorting and testing addresses for some of you who haven’t actually purchased from us, but signed up for the newsletter.

So, if you have signed up in the past for our newsletter and have not yet received an e-mail asking you to confirm that you want to be added to the new list…. it’s because they won’t let me add you to the new list. Their only suggestion was for me to e-mail each of you directly and send you a link to sign up manually for the new list. I apologize for the inconvenience, but the reason they are so picky is that ISP’s like Yahoo and Hotmail put a black mark on AWeber’s reputation if they try to e-mail newsletters to too many “dead” e-mail addresses. They have a 99.3% delivery success record because they are so ruthless about pruning lists (even ones they haven’t mailed to yet like ours!). LOL

I am going to be sending those individual emails out, but since so many people tell me they didn’t receive the newsletters when we e-mailed them out directly, I’m guessing few people will actually get them. If you’re reading this and want to be on our mailing list – please use the box on the home page (about halfway down on the left, under the product category list) to sign up. All it takes is entering your e-mail address, and clicking the link in the confirmation e-mail that’s sent out automatically when you submit it.

Thanks for your patience – we have lots of exciting news that’s going to go out in the newsletter around the 1st of February! I can’t wait to share it with you!

 
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Newsletter Changes – VERY important!

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 7, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, Tips and Helpful Hints, Uncategorized

By far, the most common thing heard from customers I spoke with in 2010 (either by phone or e-mail) was that they don’t seem to be getting our e-mail newsletters.  I’m not totally surprised … my former “second job” relied on mass e-mailing thousands of people, and from tests we did, we quickly realized that some newsletter systems had MUCH better delivery rates than others.  Unfortunately, “in-house” systems like the one Oak Court Creations has been using (handled by our shopping cart system) seem to have the most delivery issues.  It’s a HUGE problem when sending e-mails to certain domain addresses – particularly AOL, Yahoo, Comcast and Hotmail – because they have filters in place that are hard to get through, unless the e-mails come from what they call “trusted senders” (i.e., paid e-mail list services).

So sometime later in January, we’ll be switching our newsletter delivery over to AWeber Communications, one of the leading e-mailing services.

THE BAD NEWS – When we import our old mailing list into AWeber’s system, everyone whose e-mail address is imported will be automatically sent an e-mail invitation that will require them to click a link to confirm that they actually do want to be on our mailing list.  AWeber requires this to prevents anyone from signing you up without your knowledge.  Anyone who doesn’t click the link in the confirmation e-mail won’t be added to the new mailing list.

THE GOOD NEWS – If you haven’t been receiving our newsletters in the past, when you confirm that you want to stay on the list (see above), you should actually start GETTING THEM!  (g) I’ve sent some test mailings to selected e-mail addresses, and they seem to be going through just fine, even to AOL and Yahoo addresses!

When we get everyone moved to the new list, there will also be a brand-new newsletter signup box on the front page of the website. If you want to receive our newsletters, but don’t receive the invitation e-mail for the new list, just re-subscribe by using that box.  We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but this is the only way to take care of most of the problems with non-delivery of the newsletters.

Our goal for 2011 is to be sending newsletters at least once a month, perhaps twice if things like new products warrant it.  We’ll also be offering subscriber-only coupons and specials occasionally – you won’t want to miss out on those, so if you get the invitation, be sure to click the link to confirm your subscription. Thanks in advance for your understanding!

PLEASE CLICK ON THE ACORN above if you would like to leave a comment.

 
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Happy New Year! Exciting new products here and more coming!

Posted by OakCourt on Jan 3, 2011 in Miscellaneous News, New Products, Uncategorized

Hi everyone!  Happy New Year!

2011 is already shaping up to be a VERY exciting one for us here at Oak Court Creations.  We have some new items already in the cart for your shopping pleasure , a few more that will be coming in shortly (in the next week or two), and more planned for the 1st Quarter that have already been budgeted for and ordered.

    What’s already here:

1) Restocking of all of the varieties of SFIC Melt-and-Pour Soap Base, and the addition of two more varieties – regular clear and regular white.  This has proven to be a great product line for us, and the word is getting around that we now have ALL of the varieties SFIC offers – there are SEVENTEEN!  One of our goals for 2011 is to bring in at least one or two custom kinds of base – they’ll make anything we want, but we have to buy 1000 lbs., so it’s definitely not something we can order on a whim.  LOL  If you have any ideas as to what kinds of custom soap base you’d be interested in, please e-mail them to us at suggestions(at)oakcourtcreations.com (take out the (at) and replace it with the @ sign).

2) Even MORE new Air Freshener Shapes!  Click on the pictures to go to the shopping cart, where you can zoom in on the images and purchase them.  The first five are available immediately – the fire hydrant will be here in mid-January (see below).












3) In response to requests, we updated the variety pack of air freshener shapes to reflect the new shapes – we now have *** 72 *** of them!  Wow… it seems like just yesterday that we introduced the first six shapes. You can now get one of each of the 72 shapes for one low price, so you can see, feel and touch them to help you decide which ones you want more of.

    What’s coming soon:

1) One more new air freshener shape – the fire hydrant.  It was supposed to be here with the other five shown above, but a minor problem with the die delayed the cutting process, and they should be here mid-January.  These adorable little hydrants will be perfect for both dog-related customers AND firemen!   I can easily see using these for fundraising activities, and the simple shape allows for lots of room to personalize them if desired.

2) Neem Oil – after a number of requests, we’ve found a reliable and reasonably priced source for Neem.  This oil is wonderful when used in soaps and lotions, and many swear by it for relief of skin conditions (although advertising the soap or lotion as being for that purpose isn’t allowed by the FDA).  The only drawback is that it’s rather…. well….. “fragrant” (some would come right out and say it’s stinky!).   But the scent CAN be overcome by using a strong fragrance oil or essential oil blend – we know, as we’ve done it! 🙂

 

CLICK ON THE ACORN at the top of this post if you’d like to leave us a comment – we love to hear from you!

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Changes to our checkout

Posted by OakCourt on Oct 27, 2010 in Miscellaneous News, Uncategorized

*** If you don’t see a comment box at the end of this post, CLICK ON THE ACORN at the top of this post to leave us a comment ***

We are implementing some improvements to our payment processing, and wanted to make you aware of it, so you’re not surprised when you get to the payment section of the checkout page! (vbg)

We’re changing over from running credit cards manually through a terminal in our office, with printed charge receipts, to a payment gateway that will pass the credit card info directly to our bank for processing. This will NOT automatically charge your card – we are setting it up to only hold the funds from your available credit, and we will actually approve charges to be made at the time your order is ready to ship.

Changes you’ll see will include:

1) No more thermal printed charge receipts to attach to orders, or that will fade over time. This saves labor on our end, and allows us to keep our prices low. It also saves paper, making it more environmentally responsible. The invoice in your box will be for your records, but will not mention the credit card payment. Rest assured that if you receive your order, your card has been charged. (g)

2) Credit cards that are declined will not submit a completed order to our cart, so if you accidentally type in the card number incorrectly, it will bounce it back to you and say that the charge could not be approved. It will ask you to check that your billing address and zip code are correct, and that you’ve typed in the three-digit card verification code from the back of your card correctly – it will not approve your transaction if these are not correct. This is a security measure designed to prevent against fraud. Therefore, it’s EXTREMELY important that you check your billing and shipping addresses at checkout, to make sure that they are correct and that your billing address is the one where you receive your credit card statements. If those are not correct, it’s possible that your credit card payment will not be approved.

3) The page asking you to verify that your information is correct, and asking you to submit the transaction for approval, will have our logo at the top. It is NOT, however, hosted on our servers. This is an additional security measure to protect your data even more than we already had been protecting it. (Our website and office network have been scanned by McAfee Secure, and passed with flying colors. We’re just waiting to get our actual PCI Compliance certificate.) It’s absolutely safe to submit your information through our gateway, which is called PayFlow Pro.

4) This new system will also allow us to run pre-sales and fast buys more easily. We can have you place your order, pulling the product from the inventory count of the items that were ordered and holding them for you. We’ll know immediately that your card is good for the amount that will be due, and you’ll know that you will not actually be charged until we ship the merchandise. That allows us to follow our bank’s requirements for processing – that we don’t actually charge you until within a day or two of the shipment date, and still be able to take orders ahead of receiving the product in-house.

5) Please be sure to click “Continue Shopping” when you get the confirmation screen showing that the payment transaction is approved. If you close the window, instead of clicking that button, the payment is sent, but our shopping cart may not be notified that the order has been completed. The order may go into “incomplete” status, and will still be processed, but the processing can be delayed by anywhere from several hours to a day. When we receive confirmation of the payment receipt, we will locate the incomplete order and change its status to “completed”.

Right now, we’re running final tests to make sure everything is working properly before we set it to go “live” to handle customer transactions. We’re anticipating on having it live no later than Friday, October 29th. In the meantime, there will be a form of payment in the list at checkout labeled “TEST – PLEASE DO NOT USE”. Please don’t use it. LOL If you do, it will not actually submit your order to us because it can’t authorize your credit card. Once we go live, that will be replaced by a single option for credit card payment, instead of the individual links for the different card types that we had been using.

There may be some kinks to iron out at the beginning, but we firmly believe that we’re investing our time, frustration getting the setup done, and money in this because it’s a big improvement over our current credit card processing method. We really appreciate your patience with us while we change over to the new system.

If you have any questions or problems using the new credit card payment gateway, please call me at 877-OAK-COURT (toll-free) or e-mail me at info@oakcourtcreations.com. Thanks!

Brenda

 
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Lots of new air freshener shapes!

Posted by OakCourt on Oct 5, 2010 in New Products, Uncategorized

Over the past few weeks, we’ve added LOTS of new air freshener shapes to the shopping cart. All of these are available for immediate shipment!

We have several more that will be coming soon – they’re in the production stage now. These include the dress, ladybug, fire hydrant, lighthouse, scalloped-edge square, and scalloped-edge circle. We’ll let you know via this blog as soon as they are available.

Here are some image links to the shapes added recently – click for a better look:






























CLICK ON THE ACORN at the top of this post if you'd like to leave us a comment! Thanks.

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Laboring on the Labor Day weekend…

Posted by OakCourt on Sep 5, 2010 in New Products, Uncategorized

Happy Labor Day! There’s no resting around here… LOL Even though it’s a holiday weekend, I can’t resist trying to get caught up with some things that need doing around here.

The new air freshener shapes are hitting the shopping cart slowly but surely….. the first ones up are the seasonal ones for fall, since it’s almost here! I added the Candy Corn, Football Helmet and Acorn shapes this afternoon, and will be adding more over the next few days.

My scanner died not long ago, and I splurged on a fancy one. Now, of course, I had to figure out all of the settings and tweaks again, and it took me all afternoon to create a pre-set to scan the new air freshener shapes properly, with the right contrast, brighness, color balancing, and so forth. I couldn’t get them to look like the scans we’ve had in the cart over the past few years! So I decided that the new shapes would have a different color background, and I would do what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time – clean up the pics, make all the thumbnails the same size and shape, and generally make the new scans even better than the old ones.

Naturally, though, it’s made me want to re-scan all of our existing shapes to make the pictures uniform. Nothing like creating myself extra work on what’s supposed to be a holiday weekend off! (vbg) Then I’ll need to change the variety pack that has one of every shape in it, and add products for the new shapes in “slightly imperfects”, and…. well, you get the idea!

Anyway, I hope you’ll check out the new shapes and watch over the next few days as I add even more of them. You can access them in the “new arrivals” or “what’s new” links on the home page of our site. The images below link to the shopping cart, where you can see a larger picture!


 

 

 

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