A letter from Dawn
2021 was year of substantial growth for us as a company. It was hard and fast and reminds me of going down an old metal slide on the big kids playground.
You know that one.
It's tall and sort of rickety. Some days the metal is hot AF and you burn the back of your legs. But on cold mornings after slipping on down you look like you've wet your pants from the mist you've collected from the damp metal along the way.
You've been there, right?
But here's the thing: regardless of the time of day, you always skid right off the end and smash your rump [or fling forward and scrape your exposed knees]. Every time.
But, it's breathtaking, and you want to improve [and reduce that slam/skinning at the bottom] so you keep on doing it. And, that was our 2021.
I'm proud to say that as a collective team we've gotten damn good on the proverbial slide and without this teamwork and the folks in the photo above: I would have personally walked away to hang on the monkey bars.
And so, instead, I live to tell about it, and am going to start with the story of our packaging since I'm assuming that if you are reading this; you've held a bag of Treats for Chickens product in your hand at one time or another.
In mid 2020, yes, I'm throwing it whay, way back, I started the journey into what I could do to improve our toxic footprint here on Earth. [don't panic; all packaging is approved for human grade ingredients!]
At the time the simplest solution was to change the material our bags are printed on. Working with our printer we came up with a solution and immediately changed the protocol. Every bag that was sent to be created would now be "made with up to 23% post-consumer waste".
This process was not as "simple" as it sounds, there was endless back and forth, our costs increased between .25-.50 cents per bag and although we were making an improvement - it didn't seem like that much was being accomplished.
And, this is why: although our bags now contain up to 23% post-consumer waste they still end up in the damn landfill - ugh. One giant step toward a goal and, and we roll back down. Talk about baby steps.
Throughout 2021 we put efforts into compostable packaging. Can you imagine? How absolutely rad would that be? Our printer thought they were close to making it a reality but sadly somewhere right around October, 2021 they pulled the plug and told us not until 2023, or later.
The good news: the team here at TFC is relentless.
Relentless like the critter that continues to dig that hole under your coop fencing.
Relentless like the pesky hawk that you've seen circling your coop or so astutely propped on a fence post - just staring.
Relentless and determined; we are on a mission to decrease our toxic footprint when it comes to the packaging that holds the products you purchase, the gigantic shrink wrap we wrap our pallets with, how we dispose of the plastic sacks that literal hundreds of thousands of pounds of ingredients come to us enclosed in.
We don't know what is going to come of this in the end. Will our packaging be a cardboard box? Maybe a compostable bag inside? Perhaps a cylindrical container [ I have to share that the sheer storage space needed for this type of vessel is monumental btw].
Anyway, I thought it important to let you know that we are making an effort in this department.
Next up: Workspace. It's not new-news that the real estate market in California is over-priced. And, that holds true here in beautiful Sonoma County, gateway the wine country and the rugged coastline. It's where I call home, it's where we've been headquartered for a very.long time and I'm here to tell you it's a pricey place to live; and for the time being we are staying.
In May of 2021 I was going to move us into a pristine, new workspace across town. It was the only one available at just over 5,000 sq. feet. The longer negotiations went on, the clearer it became that our type of business was not suitable for the space.
We'd need to schedule and plan for when we'd use our noisier equipment. The delivery trucks were, perhaps, going to be a noise issue as well and more than anything the situation and energy around the whole dang thing felt reminiscent of a well-intentioned blind date that I needed to excuse myself from and go to a friends house, cry and eat cupcakes.
And, so I did.
It was odd though. There were so many delays, on both sides, preventing the signing and moving-in. I'm going to assume that my Granny was meddling because the whole thing was a dumpster fire, shit show - she was up there in the sky working some magik. Or maybe it was Dell. Either way I'm grateful.
Right before I was due to be signing the contract I rescinded my interest and walked away going home and sleeping the first full night in weeks.
With the new-news and realizing we were staying put, and not moving into a big, spacious super-complex, we put our heads together to make use of what we have in the fullest capacity we can.
And, so, we:
- took out a door in one unit and framed it up so later one day when we leave, we will hang a double door BUT for now; it's big and spacious and wide enough to drive a forklift through giving us an additional amount of space to park 5 or 6 pallets of necessary ingredients.
- knocked down a wall so we could access the second floor [with that same forklift] and we can store another 5 or 6 pallets of necessary ingredients, case boxes of ready-to-ship products or whatever the heck we want, really. It was a damn good idea btw.
rearranged our online shipping area so it no longer occupies half the room. In other words we went super vertical and have cut online shipping times and have so.much.more space!!
- UP. UP. UP. Truckloads of orange and green pallet racking were ordered, delivered and assembled allowing for additional storage space of 12-16 pallets of ingredients, ready to ship product, case boxes; basically all the things.
- Shelving units were moved from Unit to Unit and room to room in order to maximize space. Where we once had tables we replaced with free standing shelving units so we could utilize the space blow the "table" and at least one or two shelves above.
- Storage, bins, racking: if it is food-grade approved and we could purchase it [and it was in stock and available in this lifetime]..we did. Bright yellow, food-grade storage bins [on wheels!] increased our capacity to blend and stage more ingredients at a time. Baking racks taller than all of us help to cool Cluck Yea and Gourd I 🧡 You pellets in a breeze without taking floor space. Amen. We usto have a whole wall full of what we call "in progress" ingredients. That process has been re-worked, re-tooled and re-organized adding so.much more space with new stackable bins and gigantic clips that look very much like chip-clips but dang, these things are huge!
- Last but not least; we purchased a new electric forklift [with a handy line of credit from our local bank] although it's not called a forklift....it's called a Stacker. And, we use it to fit into tight spaces and it's such a dream to be able to access areas that before our big ole' forklift just couldn't squeeze into.
I'm telling you - teamwork is where it's at. I'm so grateful.
Okay, now on to a compilation of nitty-gritty numbers and percentages regarding our growth, where the money goes and the top blogs for 2021.
- The top selling products were Chicken Crack, Nesting Box Blend and Cluck Yea
- Revenue company-wide increased 48% [thank you. thank you for your patronage, orders and trust - thank you!]
- Workers compensation rates shot up 192% [more employees, working more hours]
- Licensing and Permits [Organic Certification, Tonnage Fees, Licensing + Registration across the USA, etc] came in at a 54% increase
- Fees paid to credit card companies and processors to conduct online sales at treatsforchickens.com hiked to 42%
- Payroll increased 57% [bonuses, raises, expenses and taxes]
- The cost of shipping pallets, case boxes and online orders went up 31%
- Our Cost of Goods skyrocketed 81% [the price of ingredients and packaging]
- Subscribe + Save orders increased 88% [Thank You!]
- Most visited blogs: Number One: Plants to Plant IN Your Chicken Run. Number Two: 5 DIY Boredom Boredom Busters. Number Three: My Umbrella Dusting Station
Some other things I'm proud to share publicly:
- I thought long and hard on whether I would share, in detail, this next piece. I've typed it, erased it, deleted it and decided that I'm fully proud of the outcome so I'll share the dark, troublesome beginning - maybe someone needs to read this? Here we go: the business and I had been carrying a hefty sack of unsecured credit card debt [for what felt like eternity]. I'm referring to six figures here - with nothing to show for it. Gulp. Yeah, bad business decisions for shure! My decisions. Sure, I could point fingers. Play the blame game. Get shitty. But, at the end of the day it was my doing. Some times bankruptcy is the best option, period. And, while I certainly looked into it, tirelessly weighing all the options, - it didn't feel right for the situation, [no market had crashed and not a crisis in sight to take the brunt, not yet at least…damn you, Covid.] Plus, I hated what it looked like for the future of Treats for Chickens. Instead, I set out to pay all the damn cards in full - even though it fully pissed me off or brought me to tears some days. The process was a spreadsheet of musical chairs so-to-speak, strategized and planned years out. Balance transfers, 0% offers, requesting APR deductions, making double payments or at minimum paying a few bucks more - if we had extra: it was allocated to paying the debt incurred as far back as 2017 and 2018. We just pressed on. One by one until fast forward to one sunny day in the middle of November, 2021 Treats for Chickens became 100% debt free. Kind of a big deal. It took persistence, tenacity and heart and as a company it could not have been accomplished without teamwork/the day-in and day-out, the behind the scenes, and customers like yourself who adore your chickens and trust our products. To me it’s a big deal, a milestone. It took years. Whew!
- Next up: Pardon My Dust has been reformulated and is expected to be available in a few short months.
- We launched on Chewy.com - they offer free shipping at $49 btw.
- Amazon business improved and while we have taken steps to eliminate unauthorized 3rd Party Resellers we are so much closer to being able to guarantee our products on Amazon. More on this in another post.
- At the writing of this blog we are interviewing for a Marketing/Content Creator and have hired a fabulous Administrative Manager to handle all.the.things and lighten the load. Next up a Sales Manager. Could that be you?
This has been a long read, has it not? Whew.
Thank you for being a loyal customer, many of you friends, and for taking the journey of backyard chicken keeping with me. It's an honor to make products for your flock and I don't take that lightly.
Wising you and yours all the health and happiness in 2022!
📷: Sonia, Diego, Jocoya, Lori, Dawn + Charlie