Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why PDF is Best for Sharing Files

PDF stands for Portable Document Format, a file format that originated in print publishing as a tool for proofing print jobs before sending them to the printer. Today, it has become the standard for sharing print-ready documents via the Internet.

The format was developed by Adobe and was originally available only to owners of the company's Acrobat software. During the mid-90s, Adobe began distributing Acrobat Reader software, a free tool for viewing PDF files – making it a popular choice for authors, publishers, and designers who wanted to get around the formatting limitations of HTML. PDF is now accepted as an open standard, and is widely supported by other software vendors.

Several characteristics of PDF make it a great choice for sharing or publishing documents over the Internet.

  • Ability to retain formatting. PDF allows the original presentation and formatting of any document to remain exactly as its original author intended it to look, including images, fonts, and layout. This is a distinct advantage over other formats such as Microsoft Office documents or HTML, which can change the document’s appearance according to the software and fonts installed on the computer used to view the document.
    Security. With PDF documents, you have full control over users' ability to open, print, copy, modify, or share documents. You can selectively enable or disable these actions for each document according to your preferences.

  • Easy to create. Because PDF has become an open standard, many software vendors support the format. You don’t necessarily need Adobe's Acrobat software to create PDF documents. Many plug-ins for Microsoft Office, print drivers, or online conversion services are available free or for a fee and make it easy and convenient to publish or export to the format.

  • Compressible. PDF file sizes can be shrunk to suit the needs of target users. PDF documents can be packaged and compressed while retaining the original quality, or can be down-sampled and compressed to dramatically reduce file size, making it quick to download over the web.

  • Powerful and flexible. You can add interactive elements including form fields, hyperlinks, electronic signatures, and multimedia such as sounds and videos to your PDF documents. Although these features are also available with other formats, they are not as easy to package and share as PDF.

You may want to consider switching to PDF when you want to share or publish documents over the Internet. There are a number of free programs online that allow you to do this without the need of purchasing software. Loop PDF is one that I like and I have found it be one of the simplest PDF conversion tools out there. You have to create an account to use it, but after you do, the free tool lets you add PDFs from your computer or URLs, and combine them into a single document. You can also convert other file types into PDFs. Loop PDF easily converted files in just a few seconds for me.

Once you've converted your file, you can then download, save or publish. A quick, handy application for any growing business. Best of all, it's FREE.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Easy Eco-Wrap for Bars of Soap

Easy Eco Packaging for Bars of Soap
I'm always scouting out new eco-friendly packaging for bars of soap. I love the simplistic packaging of this Argan offered by To me, the packaging alone lends creditability to the eco-friendly soap beneath the wrapper. sells corrugated wrap and natural raffia along with printable handmade papers. Use this packaging idea as inspiration to create your own earth-friendly soap wraps. Just remember, if working with melt and pour soaps, you will need to wrap your soaps first to ensure that they remain free from glycerin dew and to keep them from shrinking due to water evaporating from the soaps over time. Shrink wrap or stretch plastic wrap is best for wrapping melt and pour soap.

Not sure how to wrap your MP soaps. Watch a short tutorial at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Don’t Short-Sell Yourself on Success

I recently attended a golf outing with my husband’s 1973 high school friends (OK, I’m dating myself). While having breakfast in the club house, I listened as my husband engaged in conversation with a young woman servicing our table. Listening to the interaction, I was reminded how so many individuals are moving outside their career paths and finding new ways to market their skills.

Our 30ish aged waitress, Jamie, was very attentive to our needs, Her communicative skills were well beyond the average wait person. I remarked to my husband that she seemed out of place in her surroundings. This was not to indicate she wasn’t doing a great job or providing great service. The comment was prompted because she demonstrated a mindset that definitely added a sense of value to our dining experience. Her demeanor and verbal skills alone made us believe that the product and services being received were well worth the cost. In a nutshell, she sold herself and never once devalued her service.

My interest was piqued and I casually asked about her background. Jamie shared that she had recently relocated to Northern Michigan (there is not much in Northern Michigan except golfing and skiing) about a year ago from West Bloomfield Hills (sidebar: this is a very exclusive suburb of Metro-Detroit) with a law degree. She had been a State Mediator and decided it was not for her. She opted to forego a steady and secure income and translated her mediator skills into the hospitality world.

What I love about Jamie is that she never sold herself short. She never undervalued her abilities, capabilities, potential, and worth based on a change in her career strategy. She identified reasons why she could succeed; then started taking the necessary steps to reach her goal. She refused to short-sell herself even in the midst of a major career change.

What ways could you be short-selling yourself?

1) Are you short-selling yourself by reducing rates for customers that say they can’t afford the product or services your offer?

2) Do you volunteer time and expertise when you can’t really afford to?

3) Do you let the market rates limit you?

4) Are you moving in the directions of your dreams?

5) Are you selling yourself short by coming up with reasons why you can’t do what you want?

6) Are you short-selling your business because you want a steady income?

7) Do short-sell yourself by pricing yourself or products considerably lower than your competitors?

8) Are you promoting your product or service in such a way that customers are convinced what you provide is “worth” what they are paying for it?

When asking Jamie for a defining “ah-ha” moment between managing a restaurant and banquet facilities versus her law degree, she stated,

"As a State Mediator, I had to negotiate terms for some pretty difficult situations and deal with irate individuals. The restaurant business is no different. A meal or drink order, unruly guests, or event scheduling can go awry at any time and people get angry. It’s my job to negotiate a deal that works for all parties. "

You can sell yourself short and come up with reasons why you can’t do what you want. Or, you can identify reasons you can succeed. Then start today taking the necessary steps to reach your goal. Either way, you will meet your expectations. Don’t sell yourself short!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Don’t Try and Reinvent the Wheel, Reinvent Yourself

As an online soap making supplier, I meet all kinds of people, from all walks of life, from all parts of the world. With all the diversity, there is still one common thread that links everyone: Survival. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes to mind when I consider the worldwide economic woes that are threatening our security, resources and employment. The inability to pay bills, provide shelter, and put food on the table puts us in survival mode. Sadly, masses of hard working individuals are no longer able to provide these basic needs and have been forced into this survival mode.

In the US, we are faced with one of the highest unemployment rates in our history. These economic woes are making us much more pennywise as we look for ways to save and look for new ways to make money. For those in the soaping community, competition is becoming fierce and staying afloat and turning a profit is harder than it was a few years ago. This is especially true for smaller businesses just starting out who aren’t yet able to purchase supplies in volume to help reduce production costs. Shipping and packaging costs are up, raw materials continue to rise, and the average consumer is spending less. So what does this mean to you, the small business owner? And, how do you keep yourself afloat in these times of uncertainty?

“You reinvent yourself.”

1) “Reinvention leaves no stone unturned. You must be willing to be self-reflective and examine all those things that might hamper self-discovery. Self-discovery fosters creativity and new ideas.

2) Be willing to jump outside the fish bowl. You must have a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. When I started in this business, I came from a corporate finance background. It was definitely stepping outside my comfort zone to start a soap making business.

3) Set unrealistic goals to achieve and accomplish things beyond your wildest dreams.

4) Everything changes. When faced with change, embrace it as an opportunity. I am a perfectionist and this has probably been the hardest lesson learned. I don’t like change. I want to wake up each day with an agenda that is documented right down to the minute. Then the phone rings with a customer issue, or an email is received about a missing item, or a supply order is delayed, or production is rescheduled… the list goes on and on. You can’t control changes. What you can control, is how you manage and work through those changes.

5) Learn from your mistakes. Keep going until you find the right solution, strategy, or answer. If that first batch of soap didn’t turn out oh well… move on. Try again. Do it until you get it right.

6) Focus on activities you enjoy and what you are drawn to. You will never succeed if you don’t like what you are doing. In my early soaping years I took on some product activities that brought a sense of dread. Custom soap embeds was one such activity. When an order was received, I cringed and dreaded the time it would take to make these custom products. I dropped these items a number of years ago and have never looked back (even though many customers complained).

7) Reinvent yourself around your key strengths and unique talents; then, offer those services to others. Don’t believe that every soaping project is some big secret. If you post it online, you can be assured it is going to be duplicated and resold by others. Take advantage of whatever unique design you’ve created and market it. Do this via an instructional or some kind of kit.

8) Be ready to meet the changing needs and desires of your market. Don’t get locked into 1 or 2 soap designs. Branch out into new designs and unknown soaping territories.

9) Don’t allow messages from your past to control your future. So your mother said you weren’t creative. Doesn’t make it true. Growing up, my daughter never thought she was as creative as me. She shied away from decorating and doing crafty projects thinking it was never going to be as good as moms. WRONG! She has proven to be incredibly creative and I now take pointers from her.

10) Avoid measuring your inside thoughts and feelings against another person’s outer appearance or success. Don’t allow yourself to feel “less than”. There will always be those individuals that have a better success story. So be it. This doesn’t lessen or diminish your own business worth. Don’t allow your self-esteem to be based on someone else’s success.

11) If what you’ve been doing isn’t working… change it! YES, YES, YES! I can’t emphasize this enough. If you know you can’t draw blood from a turnip, then why would you continue to try? If a particular product, design or kit isn't selling... change it and focus on what is selling.

12) Live by this rule: You’re never going to please everyone NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! You’ll never find success when trying to please the “unpleaseables”. If you’re running a business this is Rule #1. Don’t expend energy on those customers that are “hell-bent” on making your life miserable.

13) Create an emotional arena for success. A) Don’t measure yourself against others, B) focus on the things you do right, C) refuse to behave or perform to some ideal standard. Instead, reinvent your own standard.

14) Surround yourself with individuals that believe in you and that want to see you succeed. Join organizations, groups, and message boards that support what you do.

15) Remember, you can only fail forward. If you never try, you’ll live life with regrets.

How are you reinventing yourself? We would love to hear your story.
Email us at