small biz

Makenna Laughlin of Pure Essence Spa

Makenna Laughlin of Pure Essence Spa

Makenna thrives on allowing others to escape from the real world to relax, reset and replenish while at Pure Essence Spa. Her company is represented by the Purple Amethyst. Amethyst is a meditative, stimulating and soothing stone with legendary abilities to connect with one’s body, mind and spirit to promote a calm, balanced and peaceful temple. Makenna aims to provide this same experience through Pure Essence Spa, helping her clients to reach complete relaxation, rejuvenation and stillness. Outside the spa she shares her values far and wide via the Pure Essence aromatherapy line, available at the Nooks Port Hope.



I started soap making about 4 years ago when discovered an interest in using ice cube trays/molds to create hand poured gifts for the holidays. I ended up posting these creations on a local Toronto trading page called Bunz, and my hobby took off from there.  Shortly thereafter, I began making skull candles to trade, as I absolutely loved candles and skulls. I joined my first local handmade market a few months later. Everyone would mentioned how much they loved the skull candles, but would never burn them, so I knew I had to start making a product that clients could enjoy (and burn).  I was always a fan of scented candles, so began researching and testing the best ingredients to make my own line of scented candles. The rest is history! Sara's Soaps and Candles was born, creating 100% soy, hand poured scented candles, and skull candles made using unique dying techniques. 



Business goals are essential for creative independents to operate with purpose and success. Having goals provides focus and direction and is the driving force which propels us forward. It gives us motivation to learn and grow and enrich our work-life.

A big portion of our lives revolves around the plans dreams and hopes we want to fulfill in our work or business. Still, we struggle sometimes to reach our goals. Our lives are complex and awash with distractions that pull us away from what matters most to us.  According to experts, advertising alone exposes us to several thousand ads each day.

Here are five suggestions on how to stay focused on your business goals:

1. Get It All Down On Paper  

You will be surprised by how much clearer your thinking will become when you write your goals down on paper. Using paper and pencil might seem archaic. Research has shown, however, that hand-written goals command greater focus and encourage persistence. People with handwritten goals have better follow through.

Thinking about your goals only involves the right side of your brain, which controls creativity, intuition and imagination. Thinking about your goals and then writing them down brings the left side of the brain into play, which is in charge of analysis, logic and reasoning. According to research by psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews, you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down regularly

2. Be Precise

It’s not just about writing them down, but also about documenting your goals with clarity and a healthy amount of precision. Many small business entrepreneurs use the  SMART approach  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to define their goals.

• Good:

“In 2019 I will sell 300 pieces of clay pottery.”

• Not so good:

“I should make more clay pottery.”

3. Break Them Into Pieces

Dividing big goals into smaller, “bite-sized” elements will make them look and feel more attainable. This reduces the uncertainty and apprehension that comes with setting challenging goals. Doing so also gives you smaller, periodic landmarks which help you check if you are on track to reach a specific goal.

For example the goal of selling 300 pieces of clay pottery can be broken down into quarterly sales targets, reflecting seasonality:

·      1st Quarter = 50 pieces

·      2nd Quarter = 75 pieces

·      3rd Quarter = 75 pieces

·      4th Quarter = 100 pieces

Some makers even break their quarterly targets down into monthly ones. In the first quarter the monthly target would be approximately 13 items. For most people selling thirteen items feels much more manageable than 300.

4. Get Your Act Together

Hold yourself accountable. Sometimes this is uncomfortable, but sticking your head in the sand will become even more unpleasant. Achieving goals is not often as idyllic as taking a walk in the park. The path to success is not a straight line and strewn with bottlenecks and handicaps.

You can hold yourself accountable by sharing your goals with friends, family, or your staff. Another option is to work with a coach or mentor who will help you with staying on track. If you are bold enough, share your goals on social media. When you struggle with reaching a goal, adjust your approach or your plan. But don’t take the easy way out and change your goal. We rarely find success inside our comfort zone.

5. Reward Yourself

Often we forget to celebrate our successes. Give yourself a pat on the back when you have achieved a goal or an intermediary landmark. Perhaps you have wanted a new tool, or dinner at a special restaurant, a weekend trip, or a day away from work. Rewarding yourself motivates you to keep going and helps you concentrate on what counts. If you have staff, reward them, too, and acknowledge their contribution.

Goals are important for creative entrepreneurs. They become concrete definitions of the success makers and artisan dream about. Once they are broken down into steps, they become plans and landmarks. Taking targeted action achieving these landmarks makes dreams come true.

“Goals help you to stay focused on where you want to go in life. Don’t be like the majority of people who have no goals for their life. Write down your goals, and believe in yourself and take daily consistent action because there are no limits to what you can achieve once you get truly focused on success.”ATGW



 We all have heard the stories about a small business start-up that became big - fast. The maker who sold 500 items in the first month on Etsy.  The grandfather who started a hard cider business in the garage and sold it for big bucks to a beer company.  Most of us have met vendors at shows who sold out before noon or in their first day.  Meanwhile, our own beautiful work is glued to the shelves and invisible to shoppers.

 It can be frustrating to see the successes of others when your own is less stellar. Their fortune quickly leads you to wonder what you are doing wrong and what they are doing right. What is their secret formula? Better merchandising? Better pricing? Better product?  What are your mistakes? Bad lighting?  Not enough low-priced products? Poor booth or table position?

Before you agonize too much about other artisans’ success let’s look at a story which is sometimes used in business schools:

The anecdote begins with the premise that 1000 monkeys are investing in the stock market. They buy and sell shares randomly. They are monkeys after all.  After one year, about half the monkeys lost money but the other half made money and continue to invest. In the next year, one half, i.e. ~ 250 of the monkeys make money again whereas the other half does not.  The same happens in the 3rd and 4th year. After the 5th year 30 monkeys are left that made the right decision 5 years in a row. They are now quite rich.  After 8 years three monkeys are left. As unbelievable as it may sound, they invested right each time. They are now super wealthy. Everybody is shocked. The media might call said monkeys “savants” or “geniuses”. Some companies might hire them as investment consultants.  People scramble to find out their secrets to success, how they picked stock, how they determined when to buy and when to sell. There must be some kind of pattern or process because they can’t just be uninformed and uneducated monkeys.  Still, that is exactly what they are. So, positive results are not always the result of good decision-making.

The story highlights our tendency to evaluate decisions based on outcomes and not on the quality of the decision-making process.  The monkeys’ choices were poor at best. They did not use strategy, logic or specific investment expertise. 

It therefore follows that the amazing successes mentioned at the beginning may not come from a sound decision process. Nor should artisans automatically assume bad outcomes are a result of faulty decisions. No matter how solid and thorough a decision-making process has been, it does not guarantee great outcomes are achieved.  Small businesses are affected by too many factors which cannot be controlled with even the best decision-making process.

Instead of focussing on outcomes you should objectively examine your decision-making process and the information you had at the time. If you find you made the right choices even though the outcome was not as expected you could take the same actions next time. If your analysis finds flaws in your process, you can make changes which will improve future results.

On the other hand, if you have been successful, you still should identify why you made your decisions. Simply patting yourself on the back for a good result and moving on without reflection is a wasted opportunity. It obscures your understanding of the reasons which lead to the positive outcome.

J. Edward Russo and Paul J. H. Schoemaker in their book Decisions Traps state:

You have to focus not on learning from outcomes but on learning through analysis of the decision process itself.”

Canadian marketing expert Neil Bendle adds:  

“You shouldn’t think that a decision was great simply because it all turned out well. Plenty of bad decisions turn out good through luck and vice versa. It is decision quality, not outcome, that matters”

By analysing your decision-making steps critically you will identify and learn a repeatable process that leads to the results you want to achieve.  With time, your outcomes will not just be stellar, they will be consistent.



2018 is over. All that remains to be done for this year is to ensure sales for December keep rolling in. It’s time to get ready for 2019. A good way of starting the process is by reviewing your 2018 successes.

The first question to ask yourself is:

What went well last year, and why?

Most artisans find it easy to answer this question. Success is a very rewarding experience and therefore becomes memorable. The second part of the question, the ‘why’ is more difficult, but equally important. Determining the reasons behind   your achievements is the real prize. It reveals actions and tactics that have been proven to be effective, are repeatable and can be applied for future success. Focus on the 3 -5 most relevant successes.

What did not go well last year and why?

As successful as many makers are, running a business is never without setbacks and challenges. Ask yourself what roadblocks had the greatest negative impact on your business. As with your successes it becomes important to determine why these roadblocks occurred. With that knowledge you can work towards eliminating them in 2019. Identifying the most important 2 or 3 will give you plenty to work on for the next year.

There are at least 4 other questions that can be instrumental in preparing for the upcoming year. 

What are my best opportunities for growth in 2019?

Here are 3 good choices for growing your business:

- better pricing strategies

- expanding or simplifying product lines

- creating greater profit margins by decreasing operation costs

Some artisans may decide to increase focus on a particularly profitable customer segment. Others might find that expanding brick and mortar shelf space or adding new sales channels (e.g. direct selling via online portals) are necessary for their business to grow. 

Who is my customer?

At the beginning of 2018 you defined your 2 or 3 most valuable target customer segments.  If you were selling handmade soap bars, you might have focussed on 3 target market segments of different size and relevance. For example: 

- 30-40 year old university educated Moms with a medium house hold income 

- Millenials from affluent neighbourhoods 

- Young and middle aged men buying gifts for their friends and families 

Now, almost 12 months later, you should try to determine: 

- How the importance of the segments has changed – if at all?

- How the buying behaviour in the segments has changed – maybe it has not? 

- If they should still be your main customer segments for 2019?

G.R.O.W., an organization that supports women in business, summarizes the value of staying on top of your target market segments:  

“Understanding and building upon your customer knowledge and relationship will put you ahead of the game.”

What are my goals for 2019?

Goals should be defined through the SMART approach (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). Using these criteria will help to focus your effort. It also increases the chances of achieving your goals. Don’t set too many goals, 3-5 will suffice. More than that will water down your efforts. 

Most craft-businesses set sales targets. Other goals can be customer related (e.g. increasing your customer base), or reflect changes in production (e.g. introducing a new product line), or improvements in promotion (e.g. a new PR campaign).

What do I need to learn?

Your maker venture is an extension of you. The better you become at running the business the more it will flourish. Ask yourself which skills and knowledge you need to improve or acquire. Perhaps it is worthwhile to learn a new production technique or the use of new tools or machinery. It might also be beneficial to expand your business knowledge, for example in areas such a finance, time management, customer interactions and selling. Some of your learning might be just out of interest, but a healthy part should be practical and correspond to this formula: 

By learning … A B C..., I will be become better at … X Y Z …, and that will improve my  ............  (insert business parameter like sales/productivity/effectiveness, etc.).

 As J. Kulla puts it in Forbes  business journal:

Lifelong learning is the fundamental key to successful entrepreneurship.”


Reviewing 2018 now - and without bias - is the first step to better results in 2019.  The insights you gain become the foundation for building an even stronger business. You will be able to have greater success - and more fun.