Happy New Year Y'all! It's hard to believe it's 2023. The last few years have been a pretty wild ride. 2022 was our tenth year in business, so we had plenty to celebrate!
We (okay really my husband because he knew we were way too busy with work) planned a celebratory event for our team at Bowen's Island Restaurant on Folly Beach!
The weather was perfect and the view of the marshes and river was incredible. While watching the sunset we celebrated with good old southern cuisine - fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, pimento cheese, shrimp & grits, and peach cobbler.
One of our biggest accomplishments was building a new website on Shopify! Building a website is not an easy (or inexpensive) feat, and learning a whole new system (especially right before Black Friday) is no easy task! But our goal was to give our customers a better online shopping experience for the holidays, so we were determined to make it happen!
We wanted your user experience to be easier, faster, more enjoyable, and more streamlined. We were also excited to provide a better online ordering experience for our wholesale customers through a new wholesale portal. We look forward to continually improving your online shopping experience through 2023 and beyond!
Mid year we made the decision to outsource the fulfillment of our e-commerce and wholesale orders in order to streamline operations, but quickly learned we prefer to fulfill our own orders. We sleep better at night knowing we can quickly address customer concerns, last minute changes, make sure our postage stays under control with appropriate box sizes, and packages are beautifully and lovingly packed every time.
We learned little fun details like using specific tissue paper and branded tape wasn't possible, and oddly, our shipping prices increased. Shipping times increased significantly, breakage increased and customer complaints soared.
Overall, it just didn’t feel authentic to our brand to have another company fulfill our orders. We really felt like we had let everyone down, including our team, so we made the quick pivot back to fulfilling all orders in house.
There were silver linings to this experience, now that we can look back clearly. One positive that came out of it was we were forced to organize some internal processes before moving our business to the fulfillment center - things we did manually that we knew needed improvement but just had not committed to doing it. Sometimes until you’re forced to really think about it, you don’t realize how inefficiently you're operating.
A few improvements that came out of the experience:
- wholesale body butters are now in case packs which means they’re boxed nicely in sets of six
- all products including wholesale case packs are now scannable which means significantly less time manually counting and recounting.
- new program we use now scans each item and we can easily spot mistakes.
These few efficiency improvements have had a major impact on our ability to fulfill orders, especially wholesale orders, quickly. Turnaround time has improved, mistakes are pretty far and few between (they were minimal before because we were so careful, but we have even less now), and we can get things done in less time which allows us to improve even more.
In the past year, we learned the ins and outs of navigating importing, and the importance of building relationships with our suppliers. Having relationships with the people working at the companies we’re doing business with is key in both good and challenging times. Our wins are their wins, challenges are more easily overcome and worked through when you know the people on the other end of the phone. Receiving important information on supply chain, shipping times, pricing (especially coming increases), and hiccups is much more likely when you have a relationship, and we can do our best to plan for those internally so our customers aren’t negatively impacted.
We achieved a dream of ours, especially mine, this year - to collaborate with an artist we love on packaging design! We worked with local Charleston artist Blakely Little on our packaging, including fall and holiday limited edition scents, which turned out amazing!
Her laid back, breezy style is so inviting. We have all followed her journey for years, and our offices and homes are filled with her art, so we were delighted when she agreed to collaborate with us. She created beautiful hand painted and hand drawn designs we then applied to our product packaging. We launched our first ever pumpkin scent called Portside Pumpkin this fall, and Blakely created a fall plaid perfect for the collection! We also reimagined our Mariner’s Moon packaging to include Blakely’s pretty drawings of different phases of the moon.
For the holiday season, we launched our best selling and beloved Coastal Christmas scent in bath bombs, body butter, candles and soap, along with a new holiday scent Sugar Plum Ferry, in a candle, body butter, and bath bomb! We worked with Blakely to create the sweetest hand painted, green and pink plaids for both scents, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with how they turned out. The holiday season is always a busy time for our small business, but our seasonal scents always put us in a festive mood!
On the more businessy side of things, we worked with a new accountant on manufacturing tax credits, Danielle Michel, CPA, Founder and President of Manufacturing Tax Recovery Services. Before last year, we had never even heard of manufacturing tax credits! Apparently, Uncle Sam likes manufacturing and wants to incentivize businesses to do research and development, which creates jobs. She taught a lot about how to make those tax credits benefit our business.
After ten years in business, we have learned so much, but know our self education must be never-ending to be the best business we can be. There will always be something new to learn, understand, and implement. One of my personal goals as a business owner is to eventually package all this information - everything I have learned over the years - in an easy way to freely share with others, as a way of giving back to a community that has given us so much.
On a more fun note, we really stretched our comfort zone when we launched our Tiktok account last year, but had a lot of fun and even had a video go viral! 20M views of us making our bar soap waves helped grow our following to over 17,000 followers almost overnight! For context, it’s taken us ten years to build an Instagram following of 25,000, and Facebook sits right around 13,000 followers. We’ve had a lot of fun making silly videos, and it forced us to get out of our comfort zone in a good way. We’re looking forward to sharing more behind-the-scenes videos, scenes from our shops, and hope you’ll follow us along!
We made big improvements in our production processes last year! We invested in a pneumatic body butter filling machine which has been a much needed and wonderful addition to our warehouse. With this machine, our time spent filling our body butter containers (in both sizes!) is dramatically shorter, and the best part: it significantly decreases the amount of physical stress on our team (they previously did continuous manual pumps all day - which is definitely taxing!). We have a small but mighty production team, and we’re always striving to improve our manufacturing processes across the board.
An exciting accomplishment for our retail team is that we won Charleston City Paper's Best Of Charleston Awards for Best Gift Store in 2022, and coincidentally it was announced on our tenth birthday! Our retail team is absolutely the best, starting with our Retail Operations Manager Catie. Under her leadership, the team's commitment and dedication to making Old Whaling Co stores a wonderful place to shop and visit is really incredible, and we're so grateful to each and every one of them, past and present.
Lastly, we added an awesome PR team, LBH PR CO located in the picturesque community of Sea Island, Georgia, and they have been a great addition to our business. They help us streamline messaging, collaborate with influencers, and gain press placements in local and national publications - basically they help us share our brand with the world in the best way possible. They even managed to push (okay maybe it was more like a nice little shove) us out of our - you guessed it - comfort zone - by hosting our first in person influencer event at our King Street Store. It was so much fun and the turnout was amazing!
As for looking ahead, we are always full of ideas, and going into 2023 is no exception.
We’re working on:
- new body butter packaging redesign coming up soon (it may have already launched before this posts)
- Valentine's Day gift boxes
- redesigning our candle packaging
- new scent idea swirling around for early 2024 that will take us the year to plan out
- we have a current scent (or maybe unscented) that is getting a fun and fresh new identity so it stands out like the beautiful product it is
- launching a brand new product - one that we have never offered before but get tons of requests to do.
Thank you for reading our first blog post of 2023! We plan on writing a post more than once a year - you can hold us to that by sending a note if you notice we’re (okay me) slacking. We plan on making it our best year yet!