Have you ever heard or read something like this? ”I think a soap/candle/body products business would be a great idea, so I signed up for a show next month. Please give me your best recipes.” I have.
Equally disconcerting at an event: ”I make that product, too. Where do you get your supplies from? What is your best seller and how do you make it?” I have been asked these questions.
I could go on, but you get the picture. Is it a problem for people to ask? Do you become offended?
Personally, I do try to keep things in perspective. It’s likely that Newbie Ned doesn’t really understand what he’s asking. He may think it’s as simple as answering the question, “Where do you shop for groceries?” Those of us who have been in the business for awhile, however, know that nothing could be farther from the truth and we would do well to communicate that.
Molly Moocher may not get the concept of competition or research and development; so, when she asks where I get my supplies, ideas, and formulas, I try to keep that in mind.
Does that mean that I should feel compelled to answer their questions as forthrightly as they were asked? Not a chance! And it’s not that I am feeling selfish. I have many reasons for thinking that spoonfeeding potential soap and candle makers is a poor idea, and here are two of them:
1. Potential hazards to future customers are imminent in the situation where someone who doesn’t have a thorough understanding of their craft sells their goods. Soap, body products and candles can hurt people when they are poorly made or when the maker doesn’t have a good understanding of what they’re creating. Lye heavy soap damages the skin. Certain essential oils shouldn’t be used for skin care. Candles with the wrong wick size can cause fires.
Those who have taken the laborious road of research and experimentation are more able to produce a good, safe product, and respecting that gives them a distinct edge over their inexperienced counterparts. Skipping this process may have devastating consequences.
2. Those whom see no problem in asking potential competitors questions whose honest answers would require the person answering to divulge proprietary information have little respect for the business or the person they’re asking. We can hope the problem lies simply in naivety, but that is not always true. Occasionally, they are simply ruthless. Letting them run roughshod over you is not the answer.
Is it wrong then, to ask for help? Not at all. Those who practice a craft have a wealth of experience to share, and I hope that they do. However, rookies should learn respect for the process and those who are experienced in it. This alone goes a long way, both in their own development and in their relations with potential mentors. It is, in fact, a fine line sometimes between asking for guidance and demanding, like petulant children, that others give us what we want, NOW. Requesting guidelines or good books and websites to learn from shows an understanding of the rights of the other person to keep competitive information to themselves. It also demonstrates personal ambition and motivation, a willingness to learn for one’s self. That should be encouraged.
Not everything in life can be had handed to us without effort on that proverbial silver platter, and recognizing it is the sign of one who has true potential. These are the people that most of us love to help.
How do you feel? Do you respond when you are asked questions by amateurs? If you’re brand new, how do you ask for help?
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax,