I woke up tired this morning and skipped my usual cup of tea for something with a little more teeth. I sat down at my desk to try to wake up and I thought of you. This seems like a good time to check in with our blog readers.
This blog post is just one of my long winded general check ins. So let's start off with what you're most interested in. We're still shipping :) I didn't leave the office last night until 4:00am and I was back up before 7:00am. I'm still doing fulfillment mostly on my own. I have part time help, but she's a good friend of mine and her daughter just had twins, so she has her hands full. I need to hire additional help, but we're smack dab in the middle of of spring season and it would take more time to train someone than it would to process orders myself (learned that lesson back in late November), so I'm kind of between a rock and a hard place right now. Small business is tough like that.
Most orders have gone out on time this week. I work really, really hard to ensure that. There was a slight delay last week with some orders. Customs held six incoming shipments from the week before, as a result we had hundreds of plants to receive and ship last week (two weeks' worth instead of one). We did the best we could to get everything out. The rest is going out this week (some shipped yesterday, some will ship today and some more will ship tomorrow).
This is what a typical drop off looks like, we do a few of these dropoffs a day during our heaviest shipping days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
My daughter's last spring break of elementary school was also this past week, so I did carve out a little family time too. I don't know where the time has gone, she has grown up so fast. She reminds me daily of her sister, I'm very thankful for her health and spirit. She's a good kid and I'm trying my best to instill the work ethics that my role models instilled in me at her age. I come from a long line of small business owners and no matter what career path she chooses I want her to see an example of what small business looks like (the relationships you forge with people, the blood, sweat and tears that go into it). I think there's something really special about small business if you do it right. She is learning a lot and I'm really thankful for the opportunity you guys have given me to teach her these things. She bags a lot of your lavendar <3
Spring break sleepover fun, Delila is hiding in the background. Does anyone else miss Polaroids? I love how they are bringing them back. No childhood is complete without shaking a Polaroid.
General scheduling this week was tough. I was out of the office Monday (I actually let my daughter take one extra day of spring break because we had a special house guest visiting, so I spent that day with the girls), I was back in the office on Tuesday for a 15 hour day and then yesterday my air conditioning went out at home so I had to wait around for a repair man to come out. This seems to happen to me every single year on the first day the temps go above 80. I expected him out in the morning, he didn't make it until 6:00 PM, so I wasn't in the office much of yesterday during the day either, but I did work until the wee hours of the morning last night.
I am only one person, that has become very apparently to me the past two weeks. I'm working day and night, but without full time help it's a real challenge. Simple things like needing to meet with a repair man can throw a serious monkey wrench in operations. I can promise I'm doing my best.
This past week was a record breaking week for Cedar Creek, I'm so thankful for your support. This was a dream of mine that started about three years ago and I spent a full two years researching on how I wanted to structure operations. Obviously I'm still learning everyday, but weeks like this past week let me know that I'm doing something right, we sold everything we listed with the exception of two plants... I am incredibly humbled by that. It's more than just the bottom line, sellouts like that mean you enjoy shopping with us and that is something that means more to me than our numbers. I know that operations will always be evolving, we just continue to grow and I know we're going to have to address some more bottlenecks over the summer, but I sincerely appreciate how you guys have allowed me room to learn and grow.
New customers do not understand the sellouts. I can promise you I try to list as much as I think we can responsibly fulfill. It's a hard line to walk, I want to offer you guys everything I find, but fulfillment is still a challenge. I even had an email this week that suggested we use bots to remove inventory as we go. I can promise you that's not the case. I source these rares individually, by hand, communication with the farms happen in the middle of the night (mid-day Korea) to ensure we're getting absolutely premium stock.
I would never take the time to find a plant, and then list a plant, just to remove it without a sale. That wouldn't make much sense, but I can appreciate the frustration of sellouts and we're running about three uploads a week to combat that and then shipping three days a week. And then I handle Special Requests and emails one day out of the week (I'm working seven days a week, every week).
I source everything as if it were intended for my own collection, I look at a plant and ask myself if it's something that I would buy. I think that level of thoughtfulness goes a long way with people and as a result we have a cult-ish following (which I am totally blown away by and incredibly thankful for).
Spring arrivals at Cedar Creek Farmhouse.
Anyway, I know most of our long-term customers know all of this stuff, but we've had a lot of new customers this month and I just wanted to share kind of how we operate. Sometimes I just like to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you guys without the pressure of a live upload, so it comes out in these rambling blog posts.
One more operations-related element I wanted to address this post is my inbox. Between the double shipments and spring break my inbox is just bursting at the seams. My heart flutters just thinking about that inbox-- it's like Everest to keep up with, I never seem to find the top of that mountain. I got five emails at midnight last night in the span of ten minutes. It's daunting guys. I ask that you guys please try to help me with the categorization, otherwise important emails get buried. Most of the emails we get are related to special requests and care tips, these are not as high priority as things like vacation holds, so please help me route those to the appropriate inboxes (plus when I go to source the special requests if they're not where I'm looking then I might miss them when I go to order).
We have three emails that help me categorize the email subjects:
Special Requests: Even if we primary chat via my personal email please send your Special Requests to firstname.lastname@example.org I look at this particular inbox before ordering. I try to source these once a week, but the farms don't always have the same availability from week to week so sometimes requests will take longer than others to fulfill.
General Care: Care is predominantly the same for most all rares. I suggest planting in a high quality soft organic medium for the first week until you see fresh, new pink root fibers. Then move to an inorganic medium and establish a watering schedule that suits your plant, this will vary depending on your individual region. If you have any issues with health our plants are guaranteed for the first 30 days (store credit for anything that you need/want to return). Please send us an email at email@example.com if you need to do a return.
True urgent requests should come to firstname.lastname@example.org or if you just want to chat. I love getting to know you.
Please understand that it may take me up to a week to address non-urgent emails. I do my utmost best, but it's really hard to do the sourcing, uploads, website maintenance, supply runs and fulfillment and keep up with 50 emails a day. I promise I'm not intentionally leaving anything unanswered, but not enough hours in the day has been a problem for us the past two weeks, especially when it comes to the inbox.
As the temps continue to rise we are starting to come to the end of our presales until autumn. We will likely be cutting off our regular uploads in late May. We don't feel that any shop that imports can guarantee the quality of anything sight unseen when temps climb above 80. It's a lesson we learned the hard way last summer and I have no intention of repeating it. I know other shops will continue to sell, but we're trying to source and supply premium plants and in order to do that the weather has to cooperate. Plants that are actively growing can stretch, rot and misbehave in general, the heat facilitates all of these issues. We will continue our in-stock uploads and sell rares that are in hand, but the presales will stop until autumn.
We intend to start on climate controlled greenhouses this summer. I have saved every single penny this business has made to fund the next stage of growth that I feel is necessary for us to provide the best quality. I don't think you can run a business like mine without growing some of the more difficult rares in-house. So, we're hoping to work on that this summer as well. So the time we take off from our presale uploads will not be wasted, we'll be working on big, long-term projects that will benefit our customers in the future and ensure that some of these hybrids keep getting produced for years to come.
Thanks for listening to me ramble this week. It's been a minute since I sat down with a cup of coffee and just chatted with you guys. I drank an entire French press of Kona for this blog post, lol! I appreciate you guys so very much, even if I'm slow to answer your emails or DMs on Instagram, it doesn't come from a place of ambivalence, I'm just trying to keep up with demand and keep everyone happy.
This is a hard stage of growth, we've struggled with it. We definitely need more help, part time help is not enough. I hope to take another stab at that over the summer, but it's hard to do it when we're in the middle of our busy season.
I hope when I cut back a little this summer that I can get to know some of you better. I feel like the relationships I forge with my customers is the heart of my business, I know it's my favorite part of what I do. So I'm genuinely looking forward to that.
Until our next cup of coffee,