Setting Flags on Fire Denouncing the Tunisian Government
A Muslim gentlemen teaching non-violence and tolerance to a protester
Islam preaches many things - it seems to me that Love is one of their guiding principles. Yet, in Tunisia, activist Amina Tyler, has been issued a “death by stoning” sentence for baring her breast as a stand against the oppression that women face daily in Muslim societies across the world.
Yesterday there was a day of protests put on by Femen, a Ukrainian Communist group ( or something like that) - and they mobilized women to protest all across Europe and to form a Topless Jihad to show their support for 19 year old Amina.
This is not the first, nor the last time that I will provide commentary on religion. But come on people, its 2013 and people are still being stoned to death for showing their boobs? Its hard for me to reconcile the fact that so many people are “faith-based” and that billions of people in the world think this is justified punishment. And when I say billions, I am accounting for Muslims, Christian, Jews and any other set of ruling religions that set legal precedent and procedure based on their dated religious notions of self-right.
We can have electric cars, flying planes, women’s suffrage ( in most of the world), yet we cannot have freedom of expression. Its a sad time and space right now.
A new dog house design
Before I can get to the point where a product is ready to ship out to a consumer I must take raw materials and saw, mitre, shave, sand, and rework each piece of reclaimed wood. This creates a certain amount of waste.
Unfortunately, I have not found a better solution yet for discarding my cut-offs. These pesky after-pieces take up precious space around the Yard. Each week we fill between 4-6 large garbage cans with odds-and-ends from the cutting of the wood. These pieces can be skinny, long, shattered or might have giant knots, brittleness, dry rot or have splintered over time. But the end result is the same - what do we do with all this detritus?
Enter Craigslist to the rescue.
Once or sometimes twice a week we will advertise Free Firewood on a first come, first serve basis. This is pretty awesome for us and the people in our community. We have people that respond to our ads for art projects, miscellaneous wood ideas or just plain old fire wood.
This reduces our costs ( less wood going to the dumps) and gives the wood a final resting place. We like to think of it as the retirement home for our goodbye soldiers.
Today our coops showed up on the eco-friendly, design and sustainability website - Inhabitat.com
People seem to like the DIY chicken-coop in a bike box idea.
Check out the article here.
This Friday night is the opening night for the first ever Food and Farm Film Festival. A documentary, short film based festival focused exclusively on food, its production, and the food chain.
I will be volunteering during the opening night and hope to catch the movie Garlic on Saturday night.
There are still some tickets left, but many of the features have sold out.
Spring is pervasive at Hansen Mini-Farm. We are preparing the backyard now in haste for the impending season of growth.
Tonight I attended an introductory meeting held by Marin Master Gardeners (my Dad is a Master Gardener) which went over a new course they are offering which centers around gardens that are not only beautiful, but edible. Instead of a hedge, you can have a row of blueberries. As you begin to explore the options it becomes apparent that all the energy placed into landscaping is better spent producing healthy edible spaces.
The course will take place on Mondays from 7-8:30 PM at the Corte Madera Community Center. Its only $15 to attend all four lectures!
What I like most about the format is that each week you will learn something important and applicable to your backyard aspirations. This course is not esoteric or theoretical, but extremely practical.
From Garden Design to Plant Selection and Plant Well Being, I think this course will offer beginning and introductory gardeners great insight into making a better, healthier living yard.
After the class tonight, I hopped onto Amazon and bought a few of the recommended books.
Square Foot Gardening
Mini-Farm Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre
Western Garden Book of Edibles
Although I have a good idea about what and how to plant for my San Francisco mini-farm, I am always looking to do better. I love the concept of perpetual learning and with gardening you never have a dull moment. Your plants will always be changing, weather and site location change (well I move often, so I am never really a master of just one backyard) and the usage of a space will ebb and flow with time.
We are always trying to figure out what is the best “next step” for our company. There is no “one” road to profitability in my opinion.
What is fascinating for me is to explore the different ways that I can put my chicken coops into people’s backyards. There are a few ways we are doing this at Laughing Chickens right now.
1. Craigslist - Direct to Consumer (sort of e-commerce) See Ad Here.
2. Online Webstore (e-commerce)
3. Williams-Sonoma (brick and mortar/ e-commerce)
The most fascinating aspect through all of these channels is how can we do them better and have higher margins?
How can we do better? What opportunities are we missing?
In addition to the the aforementioned sales, we want to expand our sales to include an Outside Sales Rep who will deal with contractors across the West Coast, specialty garden supply shops ( think of Sloat Gardens), permaculture groups and any groups who might benefit from our products. If you or any of your friends is a great Outside Sales Rep, please shoot me a message kristian at laughingchickens dot com!
We are also looking seriously into other online sales platforms. I have set up Amazon and Etsy accounts to sell more of our wares online.
The big issues are always, where do we sell, who gives us the best margin, where are the most headaches, what works best?
And all of this must be done by my co-founder and myself, while we manage construction, client relations, hiring, packaging, accounting, etc. Although, I am NOT complaining about this in the least, it is a reality that small business owners face on a daily basis. Its what keeps me going. The hustle and uncertainty of a start-up keep me up late at night and glued to my vendor portals, client emails and constant communication with my co-founder.
To take a closer look at the margins dilemma I will speak to each current sales avenue and its potential profit margin.
Craigslist sales are the best, fastest and most painless method for us to make a sale. Posting on CL is free, fast and efficient. Most importantly, it is targeted to a specific geographical area. And the consumers on this site are specifically searching for our product “chicken coop” and our ad shows up.
Pro is higher margin and free advertising. We also get money instantly upon conclusion of a sale ( cash or check).
Con is CL can be fickle, your ads can be deleted and you must repost once a week. Its a bit draconian for the how and the why for how you get flagged.
Online Webshop - We use Woo Commerce, which is a wordpress plugin for our direct to consumer, online sales. This plugin works great with our website and is relatively easy to use. Our online sales are a bit hard though because consumers have multiple options for how to configure their hen houses. This can lead to confusion. Also, some people are still wary of online shopping. We are finding that we still need to talk with consumers and walk them through the online sale process. Which is a learning curve - but hopefully people will get more tech savvy or we will have to change our website to make shopping easier. Advertising this shop is done through organic SEO and with our nifty Google AdWords account.
Pros: Online Shop was cheap to set-up and did not take too long to configure. Our hosting fees are super cheap. Any changes we need to make are fast and easy. Money goes directly to our Paypal account within 1 business day.
Negative: The website can be confusing to consumers. We are consciously attempting to make it easier to use. Consumers are sometimes afraid to put their credit card information onto a site that is not Amazon or eBay. We still have to perform lots of hand holding to get an online sale (since we get phone calls and emails). We also are dependent upon online advertising to attract new customers. There are some big players in the game - like Petco, Lowes, Williams-Sonoma who are all selling chicken coops and buying up keywords. I just can not compete against these guys for ad spends. Additionally, there are paypal fees (albeit small). And we have to deal with shipping and the potential for broken goods (more headaches and loss of margin).
Williams-Sonoma - This is our biggest client. And we love working with WS. They are quick to respond, hard working and have helped us immensely. Nothing but praise.
When you work with a large corporation its easy to get swallowed and thrown into the mix as “just another vendor”, but with WS I do not feel that way. We have direct contact with our buyers and everyone in-between the sales and shipping process.
Pros: Sit back and wait for the orders to come in. Building out orders is easy for us. We have exclusive designs with WS. My crew knows how to build out these product lines quickly and efficiently. I enjoy the back and forth banter with WS. They also have their own internal PR which is helping to sell our brand for us so that more people buy our products at WS. This is killer! And in the end we get greater exposure on a national stage. Payments are done quickly and efficiently.
Cons: When you do large(r) scale manufacturing with a big company you get hit with lower margins than products you would sell direct to consumers. The great thing is that I am getting quantity orders and paid for them ($$$), but between direct shipping - shipping to consumers and DC - shipping to a storage warehouse - it can get confusing very fast. I do not have a problem with the difference in margin. WS has a huge overhead that I do not incur. We do not have any brick-and-mortar locations, we do not have shareholders, PR, Shipping Depts, Depos and thousands of employees.
At the end of the day, we value each and everyone of the sales relationships that we have worked hard to earn. We love our Williams-Sonoma connections as much as our online customers and our Craigslisters. We are growing quickly and although margins vary on each product and with each vendor portal, we wouldn’t be growing at this pace if we did not have all things working together in unison. As the company grows we will continually make strategic decisions regarding who we work with and what margins are acceptable.
If you have any questions or comments please let me know. Happy to talk more about what it takes to become profitable and what it means (for me) to be an entrepreneur.
Central Coastal sections of California BEWARE! I will be coming down later this week to hike, frolic, camp and enjoy giant redwood trees.
If you follow my travels and daily life at all - then you will understand how much I love the outdoors, especially trees. I love trees. They are majestic, stoic, giving and nurturing. Perhaps this is part of my Big Sur fascination. Growing up I have traveled up and down Highway 1 multiple times, but I do not always have the ability to “stop and smell the roses”. But this weekend I will!
This Big Sur hiking site looks good.
Rad pictures to follow.
My company Laughing Chickens is jumping into the realm of Google AdWords and the scary, bottomless pit of SEO despair.
We are seeking someone in the Bay Area who is knowledgeable about the subject and willing to take a chicken coop ( or other items we produce like composters, chalkboards, raised bed supplies, etc) in exchange for their precious knowledge.
I freely admit that my area of expertise is not in the SEO/Wordpress/AdWords arena, but if you are interested in urban homesteading, backyard chickens and raised beds that are AWESOME - then maybe we can make a deal.
We launched online National sales of our coops a few weeks ago and a few coops have been sold ( Yay!). But to really make this work I need the help of someone who is great at online retailing and spreading the word with a small- fixed budget. Once we get more online sales going we will be happy to toss that money right back into online advertising. Our product is amazing and re-investing any profit is our stated goal right now.
At Laughing Chickens we honestly believe that our reclaimed redwood chickens coops rock! We are always trying to conserve our resources and build products that will last, are thoughtfully designed and respectful of the environment. Utilizing our not-patented idea of bike boxes, we can now ship our coops anywhere in the continental United States for a relatively manageable price via UPS Ground. But we need more sales to fulfill the goal of a laughing chickens coop in every neighborhood.
If you know of anyone that would great at this please pass this along or have them email me directly - kristian at laughingchickens dot com !!