Going out of business

I just realized I had posted this to social media but not the blog. Here goes.
To some of you, this will not entirely come as a surprise, but it sort of did to me: Foam on the Range will be wrapping up operations and shutting down by, the current estimate suggests, the end of the year.
There’s no massive tragedy which provoked this state of affairs, it’s just a collection of one thing and another leading to the gradual conclusion that it is time to put it to bed. I’ve been letting things slip through the cracks – mostly shipping orders late, but other things, too. Between other responsibilities, and my continuing anxiety/depression issues, and so forth, I concluded recently that it was time to bring the business to a tidy, intentional close, and stop fretting that I might continue to deteriorate until I’d destroyed the reputation for quality and service that I have worked to build over the last six and a half years.
At the moment, the plan is to maintain mostly-normal Etsy operations through October, including make-to-order and custom listings, so as not to leave anyone without their very most favoritest FotR items without some warning. Beginning in early November, you can expect the available selection to begin shrinking somewhat, and around that point I will begin to offer discounts and eventual clearance sales to get us to the end of the line.
It is not absolutely impossible that this or another, similar business might rise from the ashes in future, but at this point there are no specific plans to that effect.
Thank you all so very much for six awesome years. It’s been wonderful growing with and into this business as time has gone by, and I have learned an unbelievable amount.

Sweet – But Temporary – Sorrows

Business announcement and very personal revelations indelibly entwined follow.

OK, so, here’s the deal. You guys aren’t going to like this, but I’m not going to beat around the bush: Foam on the Range, while not actually closing our doors, is drastically curtailing online retail activity beginning at the end of the first week of April and continuing for the immediate future. Etsy will be going on “vacation mode” for the moment, and I expect to reopen it for Christmas, but I’m not sure when exactly that will happen. Amazon will continue to have products in its own warehouses for Fulfillment By Amazon for the time being, at least. We will still be attending the local farmer’s market starting up in a couple of weeks, however! And likely at least a few other local and near-local shows and markets; the latter half of the year when we usually go to those is still unplanned.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and it’s tempting to take the easy way out and handwave it as “personal reasons”, or the slightly less weaselly “health concerns”. And both of those would be true – and no, I don’t have cancer, calm down.

What I do have, on the other hand, is an anxiety disorder of about 25 years’ standing, manifesting primarily as intense social phobia but with many other lovely tendrils as well, which has been entirely untreated (unless you count NONONONONO NOT LISTENING TO THE BRAIN WITTERINGS as treatment, which, uh, I don’t) for that entire time. It’s been kept in check to one degree or another by the aforementioned ferocious skillz of denial and avoidance, but it’s still impacted my life quite significantly. For instance, I’ve rarely kept a job longer than a year, I dropped out of college twice (and eventually finished!) and grad school twice (and didn’t), due mostly to an unacceptable frequency of panic attacks leading to missed obligations. I’ve let friendships lapse and left others sorely neglected, I’ve pretended illness or voluntarily taken on extra work as an excuse to avoid social outings, and I have almost never been able to initiate a business-related pitch in all the years since starting to sell things.

It seems, summing things up this way, as if I should have realized a long time ago that this was a disorder which needed treatment, but instead I just thought it was a series of personal failures representing evidence of my unsuitability for the world of “normal” people, and it was best dealt with by pretending it wasn’t happening so I could avoid despair and worsening depression. It’s useless to rail at one’s past self, of course, and indeed my iterative progression toward hermit-dom is indirectly responsible for the birth of Foam on the Range in the first place so I can’t hate it categorically anyway, but regardless, it took me until just a few weeks shy of the age of 38 to finally come to terms with this on its own grounds and be able to go to see a doctor (incidentally, going to see a doctor when illness itself feels like a moral failing even when it’s not a mental illness? Yeah, anxiety disorders are self-reinforcing on many fronts).

So anyway, why am I scaling back the business now, once I have actually set out to seek treatment? Well, it turns out that when one’s only stick to keep the anxiety monster at bay has been denial, when one stops denying, things destabilize faster than medication regimens can be spooled up to take their place. So things are, uh, a little discombobulated in my head right now. Also, not to put too fine a point on things, but due partially to the anxiety issues hampering business operations and partially to the vagaries of business tides themselves, Foam on the Range has not been generating sufficient revenue for us to live on for some time, and an increasing number of my working hours have been being devoted to other endeavors for those reasons.

So in order to free up my attention to focus on both getting better and on paying the bills, this is the way things have to be for now. But since I don’t want to cut my non-local customers off without a chance to stock up on Foamy goodness for the summer, the implementation of the plan won’t happen until April 11. Until then, the Etsy store will remain open as normal. Orders accepted – and welcome – for the next three weeks!

After that time, well, if you just absolutely can’t live without something, drop me an email. I might be able to help you out.

I’ll miss you guys this summer.


Welcome to 2016!

…I mean, OK, fine, that news is two weeks old; it’s been 2016 for long enough that the shine has worn off the change, and we mostly remember to write the right year when filling out forms, right? (I did say mostly.) But I’m running a bit behind around here, and while I am [ONCE AGAIN] dusting off my longstanding intent to do some more blogging, it always takes me a few weeks after the holidays are over to remember which way is up. Which isn’t a complaint! If the holidays didn’t knock me tip over teakettle I’d know for sure I was doing something wrong around here. But still, it does lead to a slow restart for January.

2015 was a rough year, I won’t deny. Sales were down in many areas, expenses were up in all of them. Depression was a big theme. Also stress. Good things happened too, of course! But all in all, I’m not sorry to have seen the end of it, and am determined that 2016 will be better.

A few things have happened already this year: We’ve said goodbye to some old friends, product-wise, and new things are waiting in the wings to replace them as the weeks go by. We’ve started the beginning phases of a new facelift to our brand as a whole, and I’m really happy with how the concepts are starting to come together. I’ve even made the year’s first batches of soap! (It’s always a twitchy time, December, when I don’t have time to make soap and the creative bits just pile up in my head and yell at me for not letting them out.) But we have more and more plans ahead!

Here are a few of the things we intend to accomplish in 2016:

  • Focus! 2015 (and to a lesser extent 2014) represented a time of aimless wandering, creatively and business-wise. It’s time to remember what we’re really best at (making spectacular artisan bath, body, and beauty products), and do more of that.
  • See above re: brand facelift. It’s a bit awkward to realize I’ve been putting the wrong face on some of my products; trying to make them into something they’re not. But as we feel our way through this process, I can already tell things are going to be much, much better when it’s done.
  • More blogging! Yes, I know I’ve said that before, and I meant it then, too. What can I say, except this time I’ll really truly try to get a post made at least once a week? Really! And if there’s something you’d like to hear more about – inside looks at things, whatever – let me know – I’m always looking for ideas.
  • We attended our first and second SF fandom conventions in 2015, and are looking forward to doing more of that in 2016. We aren’t turning the whole brand into a fannish exercise (which I won’t bother to pretend I couldn’t do if I let myself), but a couple of our Firefly-themed soaps sold well enough in 2015 that they will be becoming part of our core product lineup, and there will be some additional products made available in those scents. And that’s in addition to anything specific we might make for special events! (There’s a Star Wars soap curing on the shelves right now, as a matter of fact.) So the nerd is coming out from behind the curtain just a teeny bit.
  • Wholesale, wholesale, wholesale. Now, don’t get me wrong, I will always love selling product directly to customers myself. But I’d also love for more of you to be able to just nip out to a local store and pick up a bar when you’re running low! So if you’ve got an adorable little boutique, or a natural foods store, or other awesome spot in your neck of the woods, drop us a line and we’ll see if they like us as much as you do!
  • Relatedly, we may be looking into an additional online marketplace or two. This is still up in the air, so no details yet – but we’ll let you know when we get something worked out!
  • And as always, we’re going to spend all year getting better at making the things we make, so you can have even more Foamy awesomeness in your shower than ever before.

Whew! That’s a longer list than I really intended it to be, but that’s OK. They’re more like guidelines than actual rules anyway, right? Right.


Busy times on the horizon!

So, farmers market season is just about over – only one Saturday morning market left in the regular season! Which is sad; I’ll miss the weekly routine. But there’s plenty going on to keep us busy for the foreseeable future anyway! So it seemed like time to sum it up in a list here, as well as the usual calendar-tracking you can find on the Find Us page.

So:

Friday, October 30: Last-minute notice, I know, but we’ll be at the Women’s Fair in Oxford, KS from 4 pm to 7 pm. Should be fun!

Saturday, October 31: Final Saturday of the regular market season; we’ll be at 21st and Ridge from 7 am to 12 pm. Come help us wrap up the season with a bang!

Thursday, November 5: Suds & Foam and the Gnome! This is a foamy event at a local brewery, Hopping Gnome. We’re launching a new Hops in the Shower soap made using their Frank’s Oatmeal Stout, and you can get custom-blended lotions and liquid soaps, too – as well as browsing a selection of our regular product line. All with beer in hand!

Saturday, November 7: Crafts & Drafts in Kansas City. This will be the third year we have done this show and it’s been awesome every time! And yes, this means we’re doing two beer-themed events in one week. But in different states!

Friday, November 13 through Sunday, November 15: Shops at the Gala at Century II. This looks like it’s gearing up to be quite a whirlwind of awesomeness! Three full days of shopping extravaganza.

Saturday, November 14: Buttons & Bows in Manhattan, KS. Yes, this is the same weekend as above! We’re pursuing a “divide and conquer” strategy here, and will have a presence at both events on Saturday. Anyone who brings a mocha to deliver to whoever is running the booth at either of these shows will get a free bar of soap, because we will DEFINITELY need the caffeine.

OK, I think that’s enough for one post – it gets us a few weeks into the future, anyway. I’ll talk about the rest of November and maybe even some of December later!


Soap What You Know

Aspiring writers looking for advice are often told “write what you know”. Which is a useful piece of advice once you know how to apply it (it does not, for instance, mean that all science fiction writers must have met actual aliens before publishing), and it turns out to be more broadly useful than just for writing. For instance, it is only now, in my sixth year of running Foam on the Range, that I have begun to have the confidence to make soaps in my true area of expertise: Epic Nerdery.

I mean, don’t get me wrong; soap in general is an area of expertise for me now, and the chemistry behind it was definitely well within my wheelhouse even before my first batch hit the molds. But branding has been a work in progress for me all along, and this year the brand has been sending out some feelers – perhaps it would be more apropos to say pseudopodia – toward expressing fannishness in our own particular . . . idiom. Er, medium. Whatever. Why did it take so long? Shreds of “but what will people think” that I haven’t managed to shake off yet, I suspect, or a belief that starting a business meant needing to cleave wholeheartedly to the mainstream and deviate nary a bit. Which is silly, of course; there are whole businesses making a quite respectable living out of embracing the edge cases.

It’s been a tricky line we’ve been meandering along, though. We haven’t wanted to convert Foam on the Range wholly into a geekfest; the “normal” things have an established customer base who may not wish to wash up with Browncoat soap. We have contemplated spinning off a sub-brand (“Foam on Lagrange” is the name that we’ve floated, and even have a special logo for it), but so far, you can still find Petrichor between Patchouli and Prairie Twilight in the regular shop, and it will probably remain so for some time still. But there’s a limit to how long we can continue to attempt to be all things to all people, so the spinoff may happen eventually – or maybe we’ll spin off the conventional things instead!

In the mean time, we are adding a “foam on lagrange” tag into all the Etsy listings which qualify for it, as a sort of compromise measure.

What sort of nerdalicious stuff do we have, anyway? Well, take a look!

The Firefly set has another member coming soon (Serenity, not pictured), and the Whovian soaps have many, many friends still on the curing racks – after all, we’ll be at a Doctor Who convention in less than three weeks, so we’d better be prepared!

Have a geeky soap idea for us? Let us know, and maybe we’ll put it on the list!

Note: These are all bar soap only so far (though there are a few geektastic nail polishes scattered here and there), mostly because the visual element is part of the package, and without that it’s just a funny name. But if these continue to do well, we may branch out into a few other product lines as well!


Online Wholesale Ordering Now Available!

Getting Foam on the Range products into your store is now easier than ever with our online ordering setup! Browse the available wholesale items, add to cart, and off you go to checkout. It’s a snap!


The Whithertos and the Whyfors of Beer Soap

“You make soap with BEER?!”

…yes, yes, I do! There are many reasons for that, which we’ll get to in a moment, but first: No, it will not make you smell like beer. It will not make your boss believe you binged for breakfast. It will not provide a convenient “But ossifer it’s just my soap!” excuse. The beer provides part of the inspiration for the final scent, but the soap is, as always, an entity in its own right, and ends up with a fascinating and non-boozy scent of its very own.

Right, so, let’s talk about why one would make soap with beer. First, the proteins and sugars in the beer itself (especially in big chewy malty beers) help make soap extra sudsy, for semi-complicated chemical reasons that this post isn’t really about. Second, craft beer is a fascinating art form, and it is tremendously satisfying as an artisan to take a carefully crafted beer and build a soap around it, creating a derivative work which is awesome in its own right but gives plenty of credit to its inspiration. And third, well, beer is just pretty great stuff, right?

We have a fairly extensive selection of beer soaps at this point, which we call our “Hops in the Shower” line. They’re all made from local Wichita beers from two local breweries, and with two new breweries this summer, we’re excited to get to design some new soaps for new beers, too!

Here’s a couple of our favorite Hops soaps from the last year – but check out the whole selection on Etsy or Amazon, too!

Chile Down, made with a green chile beer from River City Brewing Company which was available last summer, called Cerveza de Chile Verde. That beer is gone now, but they always (ALWAYS) have something new and fun on tap. The soap is scented with a faint peppery sharpness, a hint of cilantro, and an overall green, fresh fragrance.

Chile Down, made with a green chile beer from River City Brewing Company which was available last summer, called Cerveza de Chile Verde. That beer is gone now, but they always (ALWAYS) have something new and fun on tap. The soap is scented with a faint peppery sharpness, a hint of cilantro, and an overall green, fresh fragrance.

Quittin' Time, made with 5:02 Amber Ale from Wichita Brewing Company, one of their regular brews and a favorite of mine. The soap is scented with amber, with a hint of bitter myrrh and just a touch of sweet orange.

Quittin’ Time, made with 5:02 Amber Ale from Wichita Brewing Company, one of their regular brews and a favorite of mine. The soap is scented with amber, with a hint of bitter myrrh and just a touch of sweet orange.

Happy – or should that be hoppy? – sudsing, and remember – don’t drink the soap!