Napa Sonoma SBDCSanta Rosa and Napa, California

“I am eternally grateful to the SBDC! They changed how I see my business, and more importantly how I feel about my business. Now my confidence shines through in my interactions.”

Carole Balala

BACKGROUND
Plum Blossom Farm is an artisan retail company that creates decorative and functional fiber products. Using the exceptionally unique wool from her flock of Wensleydale sheep, owner Carole Balala creates items such as wool scarves, purses, dryer balls, felted soaps, and ornaments. PBF also sells kits to crafters and raw fiber to people who spin their own yarn. Unlike other farms, animals at PBF are guaranteed a forever home, and no animals are ever sent to slaughter when they are done being “useful.” Carole sees her animals as members of the family, and customers can feel good knowing their dollars support a small compassionate farm.

CHALLENGES
Carole struggled with issues that plague many solo entrepreneurs, particularly how to get all the work done on a tight budget. She had loyal customers who knew she had unique products and shared values, but her marketing materials were inconsistent and often did not express her values clearly enough. Carole came to the SBDC looking to build an attractive and effective website and increase her web presence. However, once working with a Business Advisor, it also became clear that she needed more brand consistency across all her marketing materials, as well as assistance in sharing her story with others.

ACTIONS
Addressing Carole’s challenges required a two-pronged approach: creating a defined brand identity and developing a WordPress web site with shopping cart.

Carole and her SBDC Business Advisor went through exercises to define her company and the values it represented. A new logo was designed, a color palette was created, and new photos taken of the farm, the animals and the products. Print materials were then redesigned for consistency, with the animals given center stage. New hang tags now feature the photo and story of the specific animal whose wool was used in each product. Copy on the web site was updated and now also reflects Carole’s charming sense of humor.

Carole did the website development work herself, learning how to use WordPress and select an appropriate theme and shopping cart for her site. The new site is now perfectly aligned with both her philosophy and the look of her print materials.

RESULTS
Carole and her Business Advisor have been working together for just over two years. During that time, Carole has been able to expand her online business, both with her own web site and with sales through Etsy. In addition, Carole has expanded the number of craft fairs she attends and each fair is increasingly more profitable. The combination has resulted in sales that have more than doubled. Better yet, projections for the coming year indicate continued growth.

In addition to the stronger branding, greater appeal of her marketing materials and increased sales, Carole has found new confidence in her business, which is perhaps the most beneficial result of working with her local SBDC.

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Funded in part through cooperative agreements with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the California Governors Office for Business and Economic Development, and other private and public partners;  and nationally accredited by the association of SBDCs.