What happened to summer? Seriously where did it go?

What happened to summer?  Seriously where did it go?  

It seems that summer came and went with a fury.  Endless trips to the beach, lake, and mountains seem a distant memory.  Everywhere I go a muffled rendition of Don Henley's "Boys Of Summer" fill the air.  I feel thankful to have some great memories... Jack, who is 9, now catching his first brook trout in Bethel Maine.  Maggie who is four finding her sea legs and confidence in the ocean and lakes.  Gus who is two, speaking in full sentences, exploring the world with wide eyes and taking in all that it had to offer him.

School is back in session and Cammie has excel files that are color coated with the weekly schedule.  I sometimes find myself in the "shuttle van" some mornings pin balling my way through school drop off, doctors, coffee, printer, architect, Gus's gym class, coffee, change a diaper, new product idea at a red light, no mom "I cant Skype right now", Jack forgot his lunch so back to school, more coffee...Then walk into the office at around 10 am and settle in to handle two growing businesses.  What a Salvador Dali, tornado, ADHD, web I have tangled for myself.  

Think Think Think, Focus focus focus!

I just realized that this April Cammie and I will reach a decade of changing diapers. 10 YEARS of SHIT MAN!  Gus and Maggie are in the middle of potty training and I am hopping that this will be it.  I don't even want to do the math on that dollar amount.  While all our couple friends without kids were in Aruba for the holidays we were deep in the thick of it, as we still are now. 

I do believe we are on the tail end of this madness.  At this time last year Maggie was having an operation to take out her tonsils and adenoids to help her sleep better.  Gus was one and between Maggie's struggle to sleep and Gus waking up every other hour Cammie and I were like the walking dead.   Seriously could have been on that show without special make up, and now I'd be touring the country sighing autographs at horror conventions... ..bring it back Kip.

So as random strangers point out to Cammie and I in Super markets that we are "coming out of it" and "that it's going to get better" I am starting to think so too.  Not that I want this time to end, I am going to miss it,  but I am ready to get my short term memory back, I am ready to remember my customers names and the stories they told me.  I am ready to connect further with my businesses as they are growing too.

eco-Kids is about to make some big changes.  Kind of like the business is growing up too.  Pretty soon the business will be out of the house.  Something I look forward to but know that I will miss. Kind of like the sleepless nights with a warm cuddling child uses your face as a foot stool.

So behold costumers, retailers, and vendors of eco-kids and Maggie's Naturals, the times are a changing.  Onward and upward small American made business!  So as the Government shuts down and our Congress men and woman head home on tax payer funded private jets with there salaries still being payed, eco kids, Maggie's Naturals, and thousands of other small businesses around the US. We will hand out our Obama Care Affordable Health Care package paperwork to our employees, then, we will GET BACK TO WORK, and continue to change the economic status of our employees and community.

Sorry got lost on another tangent there. 

OK so we are growing and changing and hiring.  It is awesome and scary, but it is happening organically!  And it makes for happy people and a "Happy Family".  Now back to the grind and getting ready for our trade show in Las Vegas!  To all you other parents and small business owners, thank you for "building your life, not just living it!

-Kip Weeks

Stonyfield Entrepreneurship Institute 2013

eco-kids attended the Stonyfield Entrepreneurship Institute this week.
To say it was inspiring and educational would not be saying enough.

 We came and displayed...

  We kept the panel entertained with eco-dough...

Kip participated in a rapid fire case study...

 And, we walked away with a new found energy to take us to the next level.

Thank you to everyone who organized, advised and inspired.

One thing we are learning, as this business grows, is that we have to take steps to bring the safest environmentally sound products to market.  Although we wish we could change the world overnight with eco-kids, the realization is that people are still going to buy products and items in this world based on price alone.  It is very hard to compete with products made in China that sit on the shelf next to eco-kids products and sell for a fraction of the price.  The average consumer is not going to ask where and how the box is printed, how the product is made or what type of plastic and dyes are used.  The consumer will see a big colorful "thing" and know it will resonate with their wallet. 

There are many times when we are short on money and we need to reorder vegetable extracts, cover payroll, weekly expenses, and somehow stay sane!  What if we did follow the advise of many of our business colleagues and outsource the company?  We could sell all of the products for less and mass consumers would buy more.  In fact, that is what BUSINESS is all about.  Sell more for less!  As we grow we will consistently try to improve our product line and lower our price point to compete.  We will also STAY accountable, do the best we can, and answer the phone when someone has a suggestion on how to improve. 

What would happen if we called up Monsanto?  Would there be anyone for us to talk with?

(Transition happening........NOW)  
Accountability is an important thing.  It defines who we are as a company and as people.  For those of us who want to live as natural a life as possible, we want to know what is in our food and have it labeled properly.  We don't want to be forced into a monopoly of consumerism by a company that is out for one thing only...their bottom line.  Their bottom line is at the cost of the environment and our health.   Monsanto genetically alters their seeds, they produce the chemical pesticide that works hand in hand with their GMO seeds, they have evaded proper FDA testing and they bully farmers who have no control over cross pollination.  Monsanto buys the companies that make the processed foods that line our grocery stores all around the country stating "naturally flavored".   We, at eco-kids, don't want genetically altered vegetables in our bodies or our children's and we don't support products that damage our environment.

So what can we do?  We can March!
On Saturday May 25th you can join the worldwide March against Monsanto.  

We let our individual voices come together to be heard.  
We can start a dialogue with one another about how to increase public awareness concerning this issue.  
We can demand accountability from companies using GMO's.
We can demand the government label products that use GMO ingredients!

 If our country doesn't care to change policies or if a company doesn't care to be accountable...who are we to trust?

Thank you - from all of us at eco-kids
Kip, Cam and Nancy


For more information regarding Monsanto:

List of the companies and brands Monsanto owns or controls:

List of verified GMO free products:

Spring Fever

Spring has finally come to Portland, Maine.  Today, we should reach a high of 64 degrees.  Trees are starting to show a true commitment to budding and soon the lilacs will be in full force.  Kids are in shorts with no jackets!  To say it was a long winter would be an understatement.  We're so happy to have the windows open and the kids OUTSIDE!  

It is time to climb trees, plant gardens and go to the beach.  With this new season also comes a new breath of fresh air for eco-kids.  We are at it developing four new products to introduce this August at NY NOW.  Like life, this business is in a constant cycle.  It is this time of year that we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off from our busiest time of the year.   Now we get to the art of bringing concepts to life and eco-kids products to shelves.  We have always been blessed with the constant support of locally owned toy stores and boutiques.  This past year we have started to find eco-kids products on shelves in larger chain stores.  Growing is the goal.  More USA made products, equals more USA jobs.  The more support and shelf space eco-kids takes up means the less room for "other" products that are not made with our environment in mind.  It is also important to remember that we are not all environmentally conscious.  For some people, it was just a matter of growing up without the environment being an important subject.  That being said, when a new customer picks up our products in a small store or a large chain, hopefully they read the box, see our ingredients, notice the responsible packaging and a change can start to happen for them on the way they view our planet.  

One individual change of perception is not only a change for them, but its one more person who cares about the environment for all of us, regardless of what store they found us in.  

earth day ~ every day

Negative to Positive to Freedom

Negative to Positive to Freedom

When you come up with an idea, do all the work to develop it, manufacture and introduce it at market you become not only financially attached but emotionally attached as well.   The product and the work becomes personal, and it feels like it is yours.  When other companies start following your lead and echoing your ideas and products, the first reaction is usually a negative one.  There is no doubt about it...you came up with a great product and other people are riding in your wake.  You could feel cheated and have ill will toward the companies copying your products, websites and press photos.  Who hasn't sat around and looked at a product, or talked about an idea and said, "Gosh I wish I had come up with that".   This thought process is negative and could instill bad vibes that will transcend through out your day.  You have to choose how to live your life, and eco-kids chooses to be grateful and humbled.

Excepting positivity is an amazing feeling that can change your day, your week, your life.

Being open to others without judgement is an overwhelming experience.  As we go into our fifth year we have seen other natural art supply companies come and go.  We have met them along the way at trade shows around the country.  We have always wished them well as eco-kids believes there is room for all of us.  This year we noticed a few companies following in our footsteps and putting there own spin on the products eco-kids developed.  One product in particular is the eco-eggs coloring kit™.  A few GREAT companies have made beautiful versions of our eco-eggs coloring kit™.  One of those companies is GLOB.  This company started a few years ago making a natural powder based paint set.  This year they introduced there Natural Easter Egg Coloring Kit.  This kit is beautifully packaged and made in the USA.   Another company is WE CAN TOO with their Nature's Magic Egg Dying Kit.  Look them up, check them out, read their story, and try their products.  Seriously!

One would think it would be hard to see other companies following us, but instead of negativity, eco-kids chooses to welcome them.  There is room for all of us and the truth is,  we need more companies like eco-kids, GlOB and WE CAN TOO!  Not only in the natural art world but for every product we consume in every category in everyday life.  We need to support one another until we have taken over the shelves at all of our beautiful mom and pop toy stores, mid tear franchises, and as blasphemous as it may sound every big box stores in America.  Yes I am saying it…WAL-MART,  TARGET,  HOME DEPOT, TOYS R US,  WILLIAMS-SONOMA and GAP!  The more companies like eco-kids, GLOB and Wee CAN TOO that have their products on shelves, the better it is for the consumer, for children, and for this earth.  It's all about small companies making responsible products and taking care of the environment along the way.  I would rather see our products on the shelves than PVC based action figures from the newest blockbuster movie saturating our kids minds.

This positive way of thinking and living will set you free!  Support all that are making strides to change the world. And I say to them, competitor or not, "DON'T STOP!"  There IS room for us all.  I hope to meet you along my path.  Maybe at a trade show and then a discussion at a coffee shop.  I am proud of all of these companies, as you all should be too.

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.  Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Giving Back

When Cammie first started making eco-dough® it was to give to our kids, our kids friends and the children Cammie would nanny for.  When we decided to sell our eco-dough® at the Hollywood Farmers market we were overwhelmed with encouraging words.  If a child enjoyed our product while visiting the booth we always wanted to make sure they left with dough regardless of whether or not money was exchanged.  When we started our company we were never worried about keeping inventory counts.  It just felt better to give our excess product away to people.  We would trade with other vendors at the market, and they were kind to us.  I would sometimes leave the market with a box full of heirloom tomatoes, vegetables and fresh cut wild flowers.  All the necessities to fill a house, body and mind with joy. 

As eco-kids has grown we've never had a budget for PR and Marketing.  What we did have was a willingness to donate or give our products away to a good cause or a family in need.  Giving away gift baskets to be raffled off at schools and doing give-aways on blogs around the country seemed to be the perfect fit for eco-kids.  We have been very fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive customer base, family and friends. 

So to continue on this path, this Spring we have decided to do a eco-eggs coloring kit™ give away.  We've put 5 golden tickets randomly in our eco-eggs coloring kit™ reminiscent of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.  The lucky winners will receive our entire line of products, PLUS eco-kids will donate $500 worth of art supplies to a charity or cause of that child's choice.  

As we continue to grow it is nice to be reminded of where eco-kids 
came from and our core beliefs.

What is the perception of success?

When we ask ourselves what success means to us there are many different answers.  Most commonly the answer is money. 

To me success is accomplishment, and it comes in many forms.  Whether it be finishing a paper, passing a course, running a marathon, teaching your child to announce they need to go to the bathroom or today it means putting 9 pallets of natural egg coloring kits in my driveway for pick up and delivery to Williams-Sonoma.  Our kits will be available in every Williams-Sonoma store in North America including Canada and online.  This endeavor took four months of planning and executing.  We had to hire more staff, stock more product and buy more natural vegetable extracts than ever before.  All this came at a cost to us at eco-kids both financially and psychologically.  As we drained our bank accounts to fill this order we were put to the test as a company, family and at one point had to ask ourselves, "How far are we willing to go?".

For us the answer was simple, all the way, until it works or fails.  You keep going and pushing because you know there is light at the end of the tunnel.  If you can visualize the end, then all you have to do is put the pieces of the puzzle together to get there.  When you own and operate your own business and manufacture the products yourself, it is a feat that you even remember your name at times.  There are days when you struggle to answer "Why are we doing this?".  Then, there are days like today where I stand in my driveway surrounded by success.  We made the right orders, asked for the right favors, our staff did the work that was required, and now we reach another national level.  You might look at all this "success" and think it is filled with money...but it's not.  The cost of ramping up production comes with it's own growing pains.  What I see in this photo, is a family with a dream, who went from the farmers market to the national market.  I see the hard work of our employees, whom in return got a fair wage and are able to work toward their dreams.  I see pride in a job well done. I see a small made in the USA business risking it all to get to this point.  A big and a small business providing for a nation, all out of a house in Portland Maine.  Our bank accounts may not be filled with paper gold, but to me, that has success written all over it. 

We are off to the the New York Toy Fair!