I can't tell you how glad we are to back in business! We're listing new products and ramping up production ahead of the holiday shopping season. Thanks to everyone who has been so patient as we worked to get the leaky workshop roof replaced.
As part of the roof replacement, we had solar panels installed. Tremendous thanks go out to Valley Solar for their excellent work. The panels went live 7 days ago and we are generating way more power than we are consuming. We hope that when we look at our energy production versus consumption a year from now we'll be able to say that we are truly a green home and business. And with upgrades to our heating system in the coming years we aim to be net-zero.
For now, I can tell you that your puzzles are produced using solar-generated electricity and, as always, the most environmentally friendly materials and methods I can find. This includes:
I'm always looking for ways to make Holyoke Puzzles greener and more environmentally friendly. I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.
The idea of making resolutions for the new year is appealing but always gives me pause. In the past I've set too many goals or made them so ambitious as to be unachievable. Then when I didn't meet those impossible goals, I felt bad. Yet setting goals is important for making progress. Without a clear goal, how can you chart a way forward? I'm going to take a page from my teacher playbook and be sure that my 2017 goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based. With that in mind, I'll tackle my resolutions for the new year.
First, a recap of my 2016 personal and professional goals and how I fared.
Resolutions for 2017
Are you making resolutions for 2017? I wish you the determination and resolve to follow through on them.
Happy New Year!
- Barbara, your happy puzzle maker
Holyoke Puzzles might seem like a one-woman show. While it's true that I do all the designing and puzzle production, my family is an essential ingredient in the puzzle magic.
My husband Sean has the biggest support role. He is chief child-wrangler, shipping clerk, and errand runner. If Sean didn't keep the kids occupied, I would never have time to get into the workshop. From September to June when I'm busy with my other full-time job during the day - teaching - he runs boxes to the post office and picks up supplies. He's always willing to step in and lend a hand when crunch time comes up. With Celebrate Holyoke coming up this weekend, Sean and our oldest son Gabe helped me assemble and package up several dozen puzzles that I cut over the past few days.
Sean isn't the only family member who has had an impact on Holyoke Puzzles. Gabe is my chief inspiration officer. He has his finger on the pulse of the 9-year-old set. A number of the puzzles that have made it into production began with his ideas, including the saber tooth cat and my redesigned bunny. Unfortunately I can't keep up with the speed of his imagination, so I keep a list of puzzle ideas by my computer for when I'm in a creative mood.
My youngest son, Xavier, is not yet in a place where he can help out in a practical sense. But he keeps me going in his own goofy way. Xavier has a rare genetic condition that ends up looking a lot like autism. Building my business is one way that I can help create a better life for him and pay for the medical equipment and specialists that he needs. Xavier inspires me to keep going despite whatever hardships come my way.
Another main player who is an essential support for Holyoke Puzzles is my mother-in-law Linda. She steps in to babysit the boys so Sean and I can have a night out to recharge. This weekend she'll watch the kids so that Sean can accompany me to Celebrate Holyoke. With the festival ending at 11 p.m., I'm sure to need him to prop me up by the end!
I'm not unique in relying on my family for support to make my small business successful. I'm lucky to have great people around me and to live in the business-friendly city of Holyoke. Behind every small business success story is a family and community.
Thanks for reading! - Barbara
I've always been pretty tech-savvy. I had the good fortune to go to college right at the time when personal web pages were becoming a thing, so I learned how to write HTML by hand and I've kept a hand in coding in the 16 (*gulp*) years since graduating from college. I've never been afraid to try new apps or dive into social media and am generally considered the go-to gal for tech questions at my day job as a teacher.
But having a casual website and a Facebook page isn't enough when you're trying to run a successful online business. I'm ready to grow beyond the occasional errant shopper who stumbles across me on Etsy. (Thank you, errant shoppers! You've given me hope that what I'm doing is worthwhile and you've taught me a lot about selling online!) I'm ready to compete in the big leagues, and that means getting found when people search for me.
So I started Googling. I was appalled to discover that my business didn't show up on the first page of results even when searching for "holyoke puzzles." *sad trombone* Clearly it was time to get serious.
I started looking for tips online for getting my website recognized. And that's when I found the three letters that now obsess me: SEO - Search Engine Optimization. I've started dreaming in keywords and pondering meta descriptions. No, it's not as fun as designing puzzles or selecting beautiful woods, but it's just as much a part of my job as crafting. After a lot of sifting through posts on SEO, I thought I'd share some of my favorite (and most readable) choices.
Barbara Bitgood, Artisan owner of Holyoke Puzzles in Holyoke, Massachusetts.