Saturday, October 6, 2018

Lemonade Life in a Lemon Peel - 6 Years!

Good Saturday Morning!

I'm writing from my cockpit and home aboard our 41' Cruising Sailboat inspired by the calmness of the harbor this morning. As I watch the myriad of fishing boats, kayaks, paddle boards and the Island Packers boat the sun is peeking through the cloud cover warming everything up.

This week was all about reflection on our past year's performance. With our fiscal year ending September 30th we look back at the good, bad and the ugly from last year. What a difference just one or two orders can make on the entire year's picture. I have been told I am lucky for being able to still be in business for 6 years now, but the struggle was real this year as I worked hard to make a profit for our lemonade company. There are so many layers of costs between us and our customers that cut away from the necessary profits that need to be made to be sustainable.  And even when you invest in retailers, as we spend thousands of dollars for shelf space, you are never guaranteed a long life there. We are dealing with that now as new products come out every day and retailers want to rotate us out. We will be looking at that this year as well to see what makes the best sense for our company's future.

For certain, I have learned that even with slashing our expenses, the need for capital to invest in promotions is critical to the success of a beverage company. The old saying, it takes money to make money was something I wanted to prove wrong. But looking at the end result of our hard work this last year, there is no denying the fact that statement is more true than I still care to admit.

Thanks to my mentors at SCORE I have connected to an amazing woman, CFO and Quickbooks guru. She speaks my language and is the first person that has taught me how to really read my financials and not feel like an idiot or leave the meeting in tears. Though we have only met a couple of times, I am painfully focusing my dreaming sales and marketing brain to the true heart of the company. And that heart lies in the lines of the P/L and Balance Sheet. Because, if those numbers are wrong, all the passion and incredible tasting product won't make it to the people that want it.

While, the only reason I wanted to "sell" my lemonade was to pay for the college expenses I promised our three kids, I look back now and realize how naieve I really was.  It was a dream, one I believed in so much so that I made it a reality. And that reality could be seen by everyone who met Lori's Lemonade - they could see my vision too.

For that reason, I continue every day to find a way to somehow make the impossible happen as I pour every single dollar we make back into the company to bring the best shelf stable, organic lemonades to a market looking for something real, from a real person with purpose.

Wish us luck friends as I continue to evolve, learn and grow a lemonade company into the success I know it can be.

Lori Volk, Chief Believer/Founder
Lori's Original Lemonade

Monday, October 1, 2018

Finding Answers In Nature - Outside The Office

Good Monday Morning!
(why is it Mondays come so fast after the weekend?)

While I usually try to blog on Fridays, last week got away from me as we had spent a few days in the wilderness of Santa Rosa Island. As I closed up 6 years on Saturday building the lemonade company, I have spent more time than I normally would away from the office and hustle and bustle of lemonade land. A firm believer in balancing life and taking time to restore and rejuvenate, I tell my kids to take care of themselves, but I seem to rarely take my own advice. This morning here is my view from my our 41 foot sailboat and as I hear the seagulls around the harbor and the barking of the sea lions, and waiving to the local diver who cleans boat bottoms, the sun isn't yet up but the water is a beautiful mirror to the sky, reflecting watery moving images all around me.  At the islands we met the most amazing people, all so different yet, we all had a common need for nature and adventure. Inspired by an older woman who actually spends 4 times a year out there by herself in the backcountry for 8 days traveling miles each day .... all by herself. I was so inspired by her that we will be doing our next adventure on the island in the back country. While I love spending time with my husband of 34 years camping, I have also found that going out alone has been a rewarding experience. While I have always relied on my husband to set up the tent, set up the cookstove and generally take care of things, I love being able to do these things myself.  Spending time on San Miguel Island again this year for 5 days alone where you need to bring everything, including your water, has been able to give me another perspective of who I am and confidence that I can carry over to my lemonade company.  While it may seem that you are "playing hooky" and leaving work to play, I have found that the opposite is true. In the silence of nature, I have found more answers for questions that I have in my
work than sitting for hours and hours on end at my desk.  Allowing space for the brain to rest without restriction seems to be a lost art.  I recently showed up at Patagonia in Ventura, to buy some things for our island trip and when I arrived, there were no cars in the parking lot, the store looked dark and there was a sign outside that said "Field Day". I racked my brain to figure out what field day was, some sporting event?  I admit I was a bit frustrated as I needed these things and didn't have a lot of time to come back again. Turns out it that it was a day off for the employees to take time to do what they liked, mostly they went surfing. Yvon Chouinard who wrote Let My People Go Surfing always believed in this tradition of taking breaks away to help support the balance. And so, now as the sky
goes from dark to light I will take this with me today as I move through this week and get back on track. I look forward to the next step in building my company outside the walls of my office and feel a bit more strength after the rest to continue on.
Lori Volk
Chief Believer
Lori's Original Lemonade

Friday, September 14, 2018

Island Adventures, Sharks, Dolphins, New Website and Lemonade Fans!

It's been a short week as I took some time off with my husband for our 34th wedding anniversary! Living aboard a boat has some advantages and since the weather was nice we opted to head out to the Channel Islands for a few days. While it sounds luxurious, its not exactly that - sailing, anchoring, motoring, can all cause a bit of stress and is one continuous problem solving adventure. By definition, adventure is the unknown outcome of a chain of events. And, if you've talked to anyone who's been sailing for a few years, they have more than their share of stories to tell about their "adventures at sea".

Since LOL is still my "baby" and needs lots of care round the clock, I was fortunate (and not) to find Little Scorpion Cove with cell service. Using my hotspot on my phone, I can log into the internet on my mac and operate my entire business just like being at the office.  Our home is a 41' Mariner Neptune classic cruising sailboat built in Taiwan in 1984.  With only 20 built, everyone loves her design but have never heard of the name before.  Comfortable with all the amenities of a home (except smaller) we can literally travel anywhere in the world with this boat.  We operate on propane for cooking, solar for powering the
house batteries and we have 2 generators aboard that help boost the batteries when needed. Exploring the coves, watching the historic Chumash Tomol Crossing into the cove, 2 am strong south wind wreaking havoc in the cove, trouble picking up the anchor and spotting a 7 foot Blue Shark swimming alongside our boat in the channel made for an eventful trip.

As we were headed back to the mainland I uploaded more images for our new website under the direction of Creative 365. Quick progress is happening on our site update and we can't wait to launch it in the next couple of weeks.

And now, back to land and the real lemonade world.  Back at the local coffee shop yesterday morning, some fans spotted me and my lemonade wrapped cube and asked how business was going and said how much they loved our lemonade and buy it all the time. I love to hear this and every time someone asks its an automatic response with a gift of a lemonade bottle that I pull out of the back of the cube for them :) Their reactions usually end with a wonderful hug for me and lots of smiles.  So before I even hit the office door I had given away several bottles of lemonade to our wonderful fans.  Those moments of meeting our fans in random places keep me going every day.

We now have our eye on expansion through our current retailer network that is already established.

Looking forward to moving forward one day at a time on the lemonade adventure, where just like our cruising life aboard our sailboat, I have no idea what will happen next...

Cheers to the weekend!

Lori Volk
Chief Believer/Founder/Ironman
Lori's Original Lemonade

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Record months, awards, new stores OH MY!

It's been awhile since I've posted. This morning I am writing from my home aboard our sailboat.  It's a cool overcast morning at the harbor and the barking of dozens of sea lions on the docks are distracting my thoughts! I can't believe we are closing in on the start of our 7th year. So here is an update of the whirlwind of action we have been experiencing here at LOL. 

In April we were chosen for American Small Business Champion 2018, SCORE/Sam's Club award for California.  I flew to Reno for an all expense paid trip for business training with 101 other award winners from across the country and learned a ton about how to run my business more efficiently. 

From Reno, it was off to New York (my first time to NY!) to the Fancy Food Show and celebrate the sofi Silver Award for our Ginger Lemonade presented to us by the Specialty Food Association in a worldwide competition of over 3000 products.  In New York we met with buyers, including an 8k store chain and media as we attended special events for the winners.

Our win in NY led to a call from a wonderful buyer from Cost Plus World Market in July who believed our lemonade might be a perfect fit for their stores! We have spent the last two months preparing for the launch and our lemonades should be arriving in select 212 stores nationwide this week and next!

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one fiscal year, we were nominated by Dianne de Malley of DDM Metering Systems, Inc for the Pacific Coast Business Times/SBA Spirit of Small Business Award - Woman Owned Business in August and attended the annual luncheon at the Biltmore, Santa Barbara to receive the award.

And there is more....! Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine is featuring us on their October 2018 issue titled "Second Acts" describing our journey from the startup of our lemonade company as I was desperate to help defray college costs for my kids.

It's been a whirlwind of a year - We are grateful for the continued support of our Ambassador Team,  customers, friends, family, suppliers, distributors, retailers and everyone else who believes in us every day. 

I've learned the importance of a balance sheet (after 6 years!) and I am working hard to continue to bring the highest quality lemonade to the market while doing it in a sustainable way to ensure the health of our company.  I've learned more this year than any other year in how to operate my business and couldn't have done that without the mentors and advisors I've had along the way, including

As we wind down this year's lemonade season, we are looking forward to the exciting opportunities that lay around the next corner for us.  Part of the thrill is coming into the office every day wondering what is going to happen next!

I appreciate each and everyone of you and am grateful for the opportunity to be involved in one of the most amazing industries.

Thank you!

Lori, Chief Believer
Lori's Original Lemonade