Saturday, July 30, 2016

One of "those" people

I've been thinking this over for awhile, and I've decided to become a distributor for It Works, a direct sales health and wellness company.

I'm just going to go ahead and let that sink in for a minute. In a lot of ways, this doesn't feel like something I would do, but in a lot of other ways, it does. I've written before about my feelings about those sort of parties and those sort of products. While I was thinking about taking something like this on, I went back to read my own thoughts - they are here if you'd like to read them as well:

If you haven't heard of it before, It Works is an industry-leading network marketing company that focuses on all-natural health and wellness products, the most famous of which is their It Works wrap. (I'll share a #truth moment here and say that the wraps are something that honestly turned me off to the company for a long time because they just sounded like a gimmick. However, the wraps are included as part of the package for becoming a distributor, so I plan to find out for myself if they are worth the hype!) The company began in 2001, and has been growing like crazy since then.

So the question I expect I'll get the most - why? Well the short answer is that I'm interested. I'm interested in trying several of the products, and I'm interested in making a little bit of extra money on the side, especially as we move toward building a new home in a couple of years.

I have watched my friends Erin and Andrea skyrocket through this company over the past two years, and something in me finally opened up to wanting to see what I could do too. While I say friends, I should clarify that the relationship is fairly one sided. I came across them both way back on message boards back when I was planning my wedding. (Ever the researcher, I was on there a year or two before my actual wedding in 2007. I think they both got married in 2006, but I may be slightly off there.) Anyway, back then I  was much more a consumer of information than an active participant, which is a bummer since it obviously laid the groundwork for long lasting relationships! It's hard to believe, but I've followed their blogs for over 10 years now! (RIP google reader....I like feedly, but it's just not the same)

I've definitely heard of the pyramid scheme thing, and the get rich quick scams, and the possibility of losing all your money (the investment, yes, I'll get there in a little bit, especially if you have questions like I did. Erin could tell you, boy did I have questions!)  I give you the back story above to say that I think it's dangerous to look at the income projections of companies like this, to look at the people at the top and think that of you sign up, then you will automatically be just like them and just as successful and all that because you never really know their background and whether or not they are just putting on a show or what. However, I've followed both of their stories for a decade, since way before either of them got involved with it works. I know you can never know a person's finances, but neither of them seem the type to go overwhelming into debt to project a certain image, and both of them have built or bought their dream houses this year thanks in no small part to their success with it works. That's incredible. That's real. That's here in my backyard. It's not some crazy dream or facade on the Internet. They are real women whom I've met in real life at one of Erin's charity events. Yes, they both have a much larger social media presence than I probably ever will, so I don't expect that I can attain the same level of success...but if I can achieve even a fraction of that it would be incredible. 

In some ways, it feels like I don't have much to lose. I buy things like vitamins, skincare, heck, even essential oils regularly, and I do tend to switch those brands up every so often, so why not try them through It Works? I like to think I'm a pretty discerning consumer. I don't tend to jump on fads, and I don't believe in spending money for the sake of it. I like to buy and use products I believe in, and I pass on what I've learned in the event it may help someone else solve a problem or reach their goals. For example, I can think of several friends with digestive issues that may be helped by the probiotic. I know some people have trouble getting their kids to eat enough vegetables, so greens might be great for them. (If I'm honest with myself, they would be great for me too, because I don't do as much cooking as I used to.) I know a lot of people looking for great anti-aging skincare, so why not give this a shot? My point is, I wouldn't want to simply blanket my friends and family with an annoying sales pitch, but I am likely to recommend things that they might want to try, whether it benefits me or not.

The gist of the commitment is this - it costs $99 to sign up, which gets you samples of several products and a business builder kit. After that, it costs $20 to maintain and run your unique website storefront where customers order products directly. You are also required to spend between $80-100 per month on products. Another #truth moment...this was the place where I thought aha! That's where the scam is! They just want you to buy things! Well, on the one hand, yes, that probably is true that they want you to buy products....but personally, I can't in good conscience recommend or sell things that I haven't tried, and can't wholeheartedly say that I like. (I was also pretty surprised to read that my personal finance Jiminy Cricket, Dave Ramsey, is not against MLM's as a rule.) For me, that monthly commitment is going to serve as my barometer for this whole experiment. If it turns out that after 3 or 6 months that I'm not making that investment back in commissions, I'll probably chalk the experiment up as a loss and call it a day. If I like what I've gotten, I'll probably continue to order, but just through Erin and not through myself, and at the end of the day I'm out the initial $99.

But on the chance that it actually works out? Well then it's win-win! I have to say, signing up for something like this through someone like Erin gives me a lot of hope that it actually could work out, and turn out to be something amazing. She started just two years ago, and is ranked at Presidential Diamond. I realize that title sounds made up, but what isn't made up is that a Presidential Diamond distributor brings home an average of $16,000. Per month. Again, this is one of those things that won't be true for everyone, but it is true for some. We were chatting about what level the rest of her team is at, because I don't want to be completely dazzled by the off chance potential of $200k per year, and she said that 20% of her team is at Ruby and above. So 20% of the people she helps support are bringing home an average of $500 per month, which, when you back out that $120 or so in product purchases and website fees, is $380 in profit. That's an extra $4,500 per year, which isn't exactly life changing, but is nothing to sneeze at. It's plenty to pay an extra bill or two, and it would be some nice padding to our savings account. But look at those numbers again. If you follow the link to that chart, only 10% of the company distributors are Ruby and above, and Erin's team has doubled that. This tells me that there is something special about her team. Plus she's got 20 or 30 Diamonds on her team which are part of that 20%, so they aren't just stopping at Ruby, and honestly, that's really attractive.

So what changes here? Honestly, probably not much. I've never been someone to post 5 times a day and clog up your feed, and I'm not going to. I'll continue to post about what I'm working on and snippets of my life. I'll continue to talk about things I've tried that I'm liking, and now some of those things will be from It Works. Just like when I was actively running my Etsy shop, I'll pop in a link as to where you can find them, but you'll never get any pressure or a hard sell from me. I'm starting up an email newsletter, which you should sign up for if you'd like to read more. I think I'll send something out 1 or 2 times per month. Fill out the form at the bottom of this post or at the shiny new sign up widget at the top of my blog to sign up. If you are interested, check it out, if not, well stick around for the knitting. There will always be knitting. And if any of what I've said sounds interesting to you, then you should definitely think about getting started with me. It would be so exciting to learn the ropes together! Who knows, in two years we could be sitting in our dream homes like Erin and Andrea! Shoot me an email at if you'd like to chat. :)

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Monday, July 25, 2016

I made soap!

And like a terrible blogger, I took exactly zero photos of the process! (Also I was doing this with my mom, sister, and a friend, and I was a little embarrassed about playing at "blogger.") We followed the recipe in a book I happened to pick up from the new release shelf at my local library. It's called The Complete Guide to Creating Oils, Soaps, Creams, and Herbal Gels for Your Mind and Body: 101 Natural Body Care Recipes Revised 2nd Edition (Back to Basics) by Marlene Jones. Quite a succinct and elegant title, no?

Anyway, I'm always up for playing around with body care and household products, just trying to make an effort to avoid harsh chemicals as much as possible, and attempt to be a bit sustainable. Whether or not I'm actually successful is debatable, but there you go. My sister had been talking about making soap for awhile, and I'd seen some classes though the timing didn't work out. There are actually a lot of local soap makers here in Milwaukee, so I even asked one of them if she did workshops, but I didn't hear back. Then when I saw this book, I decided to go for it on my own!

I ordered my supplies through Brambleberry , which I had heard about several months ago on the Craftsanity podcast. I probably could have found most of the ingredients at my local food co-op, but the lye seemed to be mail order only....or drain cleaner. Part of my goal for soapmaking was to try to soothe eczema, so I was really concerned with getting pure lye without anything else funky in it, so I just ordered everything.

While there are some things that I wasn't crazy about in this book, one thing I really liked was the description of allllll the different kinds of oils and fats that can be used to make soap, and why you might use one over another, and which combine well together. As you can see....I took notes.


I used the basic cold process recipe, but I swapped out some of the oils to include those that were good for eczema of very sensitive skin. We used a combination of calendula oil (marigold petals which I infused in olive oil for a couple of weeks before), palm kernal oil, castor oil, and vitamin E oil. We also decided to use goat's milk....because it seemed good and fancy.

As for the mixing, we knew that the lye+liquid step was the most potentially dangerous. The book warned of a "volcanic type explosion" and also that it would get extremely hot. I can't recall offhand what the exact temperature we were looking to achieve was, but the gist was that the chemical reaction could get to about 200 degrees and we needed to cool it down to something like 120. So we took our materials outside, added the lye to the liquid with our ice bath standing by. At first it seemed like nothing happened, which was good and also sort of disappointing!. As we mixed it, the milk took on a bright, egg yolk yellow color (the lye was also white to start). That was exciting! Then we put the pot in the ice bath and took its temperature...and it was something like 80 degrees. This made us a little worried that it wasn't going to work out, so we decided to heat it up on the stove to the target temperature. I have NO idea if this was the right thing to do, but we did it. Once we were at temp, we added our other oils and some lavender essential oil, and Kate took on the stirring job until we think we achieved trace. Basically it thickened up a little, but not super dramatic. By then it had been about an hour though, and we were kind of done. We poured it into silicone square molds - on a cookie sheet so you can move it later! - wrapped it in towels, and left it alone on a shelf in my mom's linen closet, because her house is so big she just has empty shelves, which is crazy.

We let the soap cure for a little over a month. I checked it once before then, and was pretty happy that it seemed to have hardened! The first bar had its inaugural bath last night, and it sudsed up pretty satisfyingly! I was pleased that it seemed pretty moisturizing as well....which was the whole point. I'll try to pop back with a picture when I get the rest of the bars out and ready to divvy up between our little coven of witches / chemists.

Friday, July 1, 2016

So 2016 is for classes apparently

I took my first knitting class a couple of weeks ago, and now I basically want to take all the classes. I attended a sweater class taught by Ann Budd (of the "Knitter's Handy Book of...." series) at Wild Haven here in Milwaukee, and I loved it. This week I got an email from Joann's about a free Craftsy class, and I snapped up - and actually watched part of! - the drafting class by Jacee Boggs Faulkner that I've heard about over and over again. (That's drafting for spinning, not architectural drafting!) Now this morning I read Susan B Anderson's latest post, and I am SO tempted by her double feature class at the Knitcircus retreat this fall in Madison, Wisconsin. I'm on a self-imposed spending freeze right now....but it's only $120 to take in a whole day of classes from a teacher who I think is a pretty big deal.....Decisions, decisions.

I was lucky enough to have dinner the night after the Ann Budd class with a yarn rep, Ann's event coordinator, the owner and other teachers at Wild Haven, and Ann herself. The rep, Kim Lui, had an interesting question to pose to the group. She was wondering how you go about creating an engaging yarn shop that keeps people coming back again and again, and how classes can be a part of that. I feel a little silly even considering myself a "teacher" because I've taught all of one class. My second session was cancelled. We aren't sure if it's summer thing - maybe people aren't up for learning to knit as the weather warms up? - or if it was an over-saturation thing, as maybe monthly 101 sessions are too any case, it was a really interesting discussion. I have a lot of ideas, but am a little unsure how to implement them...especially since it isn't MY shop. I mean, I like it there, but I don't run the place! Oh well, we will re-evaluate this fall, and for now I'm happy to take all the knitting time for myself!

I didn't manage to finish my sample sweater in class, but am nearly finished with it now. Having that in person demonstration, I'm finding, was invaluable. I went to pick up the underarm stitches on the sleeve, and it was a breeze compared to some of my past attempts. (also Ann commented on my instagram post - a brush with knit celebrity!)

I find the same thing when I manage to make it to knitting group - I can learn so much by watching someone demonstrate a technique. I've mentioned before that I'm mostly self-taught, and I'm surprising myself with how much I like in-person learning. Maybe it's an evolution, or a season in life where I just don't have the time to search down multiple tutorials online. The act of paying for a class and getting my butt in the chair and getting as much out of that time as I's resonating with me right now.

I'm hopeful that I'll finish the sweater this weekend. I actually knit the whole body, but had a little brain glitch, as we modified the sizing to get a lot accomplished in class. Basically my stitch count works for 6-12 months....but the length chart I was following was for a child size! I've more or less knit a sweater dress that will go down to the knees. I have finished the sleeves, and will rip the body back to a more typical length. Fingers crossed for few mistakes. I tested about 3 bind off's on the first sleeve, before landing on the sewn bind off, which Ann recommended in the first place. Last night I bound off the second sleeve first with a too tight i-cord bind off. I ripped it back and did a lovely, looser i-cord bind off. And yet....the cuff still wasn't as stretchy as....or matching....the first can that be? Oh yeah landed on a SEWN BIND OFF. back again, complete sewn bind off, put self to bed.

Stay tuned.