A look back at 2016…


Life often flies by in a blur, but I love the process of closing out a year and taking two steps back to look at what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve grown over the last twelve months. After feeling like I’ve been in the weeds, it’s helpful for me to zoom out and gather insights into the year that was. Each year, I compile a little retrospective here on the Lucky Break blog about the year that was…. here’s how 2016 shaped up for me!



look back 2016


LOTS OF NEW CLIENTS: Over the course of the last twelve months, I had the pleasure of working alongside 561 brands who tagged Lucky Break in to help in one capacity or another. This year saw notable growth in a few particular product categories: I’m working alongside more apparel + accessory designers and stationers than ever before. I’m excited not only by the size of my community these days, but by the diversity in the products we make, too.


HEAPS OF FREE BUSINESS COACHING: I streamed live on Periscope 72 times this year, offering more than 80 hours of free business coaching. In the process, I amassed a following that’s 20,130 people strong and those lovely people thanked me by offering 1,889,056 hearts for the effort (thank you!). In 2017, I’m parking Periscope for a bit to launch a new podcast created especially for makers + product designers. More on that soon…


A BRAND NEW CLASS: 28 savvy brand owners joined me for the maiden voyage of my new semester-long brand development program. And I popped the bubbly for 49 more brand owners as they graduated from Brick House Branding throughout the year. In 2017, I’ll be making space for 90 more brands in BHB. Heads up: my next enrollment period opens on January 10 for the spring semester!


RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME GROWTH: I grew the Lucky Break email list by 27%, the company’s overall revenue by 60%, and my team by 33% this year. I was thrilled to welcome Eileen to my motley crew of empire builders last May. That means that there are now four of us working full-time to help you hustle smarter and leaner. Woohoo!


MY BIGGEST BUSINESS PROJECT IN 14 YEARS: I launched my most ambitious project to date with Wholesale Matchmaker. The technical logistics were 837 times more complicated than I ever imagined and I had to temporarily freeze enrollment after 100+ brands joined within the first twelve hours, but… hot damn, that was a good time! Since that launch in June, my team has built a mind-boggling amount of technical scaffolding to support new members, which proved to be a necessity as an additional 100+ members poured into the Wholesale Matchmaker community.  To date, my team has built comprehensive profiles for 2,498 awesome shops that adore artisan goods, and rolled out more than 100 new software features in six waves of software upgrades. We’re a special kind of exhausted, but we’re also incredibly proud of what we’ve built.


TRAVELING + TEACHING + COCKTAILING: I talked my way across the country (again). I was invited to speak at business conference from coast to coast… Ventura CA; Nashville TN; Tampa FL; New Orleans, LA; Greenville, SC; and a few other spots. Meeting entrepreneurs face-to-face is incredibly energizing for me and I look forward to meeting many more of you in 2017. I logged 67,178 miles on Delta this year and I plan to log a few more in the coming year!



Peek inside the Lucky Break Team Retreat in Savannah, GA

Retreat in Savannah, Georgia - Lucky Break - Lela Barker

Last week, I tucked away with my team in a gorgeous home in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia. Melissa, Shannon, and Eileen flew in from three different states so that we could huddle together to make grand plans for the coming year. Our Strategic Team Retreat has become an annual fall tradition, offering us a chance to look back on the year that was and plan what’s next for ourselves (and for you, too).


Retreat in Savannah, Georgia


The retreat itself is preceded by a solid month of data collection and planning. Aside from finding digs which are both comfortable enough and swanky enough to keep us happy, there’s a mountain of research that needs to be done: each Lucky Break teammate reviews themselves, giving me important insight into what they love about their job, and what they find less thrilling, I discover what skills sets I’ve left untapped, how I can make their work more efficient and fulfilling, and how I can communicate with them more effectively. There are dozens of reports we pull to discover data trends: revenue figures, sales-by-product, Google Analytics for our website, MailChimp email marketing stats, month-by-month social media analysis… the list goes on and on.


And then there’s the most important piece. You might not have realized it, but I saved a seat at our table for you too! I designed a Client Survey and sent it out to my email subscribers, asking them to share their thoughts with the Lucky Break team. We explored what you’re struggling with, which facets of your business you feel the most confident it, and what you’d like to see us create next. We wanted you to have a seat at the table, too, and we poured over all 142 survey responses with a keen eye toward understanding how we can best serve you in 2017.


Retreat in Savannah, Georgia


We spent an average of 12 hours a day in meetings: data review, brainstorming, and schedule plotting, punctuated by the occasional dance break. We tore apart a giant desk calendar, taping it to the walls of the dining room, loading each month with dozens of brightly colored Post-it notes to mark every open enrollment period, every new product launch, and every speaking engagement. Melissa typed as we talked, creating a 57-page roadmap of the next twelve months (complete with an alphabetical index, because that woman is a goddess!).


And there’s no possible way that you could get the four of us together in one room for a week without some serious shenanigans happening. Between meetings, we feasted on crab cakes in a sunny restaurant by the river. We noshed on goat-cheese-stuffed artichokes in a historic mansion. We hosted a wine-fueled pajama party on Periscope and survived a Moscow-Mule-fueled ghost tour in a pop-up hearse. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried…


Retreat in Savannah, Georgia Ghost Tour



The Lucky Break Calendar – November 2016


While the rest of the world might still be winding down from summer in the month of November, I know what you’re doing, maker of beautiful things, you. It’s prime holiday season + I’d bet that you’re elbow deep in product creation.


Believe it or not, the Lucky Break team is working furiously on product creation, too. Last month my team and I spent five days together locked in a beautiful house in Savannah, Georgia, where we mapped out all of 2017 during our team retreat. While next year may still feel far away, I know that now is the prime time to be planning ahead and to be starting work on what comes next.


I hope you can take a few moments out of your day to dream big for yourself, too. No matter what those dreams may be – just know I’m always cheering you on. Have a great November!




The Lucky Break Calendar – October 2016


It might feel like we’re just settling into fall as we move through October, but the holiday season is knocking on your door! Are you prepared to answer? This month the Lucky Break team is headed on our annual retreat, where we’ll decide what’s on tap for Lucky Break in 2017. Follow along as I’ll be sharing what we’re working on through Instagram and Periscope, including our annual Periscope Pajama Party. Grab your favorite pajamas and your most trusty cocktail; I hope to see you there!

What are you working on this October? Whatever you’re crossing off on your to-do list, I’m cheering you on!

Lucky Break October Calendar

If you make personal care products in the U.S., you need to be paying attention


While whispers of new federal cosmetic legislation coming down the pike are nothing new, those whispers grew a bit louder last week.  Reignited by a new discussion draft bill in the House of Representatives, the whispers have now become rumbles and astute makers in the personal care space (soaps, spa products, bath products, minerals makeup, hair care preparations, nail polish, and the like) are wise to take notice. I encourage you to pour a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes with this important update!




By way of background…

Special interest groups have had the ear of legislators for some time now, pressuring Congress to require the FDA to grant new mechanisms of oversight and increased powers in their governance of personal care products sold within the United States. Separate lobbying groups representing the interest of multinational conglomerates, mid-size manufacturers, and artisan makers have met many times with Congressional officials and staffers to help them better understand the industry and work to find “win-win” solutions that serve the public interest without causing unnecessary negative impacts on the businesses who count on this industry to pay the mortgage and feed their families.


From 2008-2010, I participated in lobbying efforts with a small team of dedicated, passionate women who sought to work with select Congressional staffers to build an understanding of how artisan apothecary makers create products and manage home workshop and small businesses.  Though I remain immensely proud of that work, I long ago stepped out of active lobbying, moving to the sidelines while keeping a careful eye on unfolding events. After watching a small wave of previously-introduced bills die in committee without much attention, my ears perked up last week as the movement once again gained steam.



On September 14, Congressmen Pallone (D-NJ) and Lance (R-NJ) introduced a new discussion draft on the House side aimed at overhauling federal cosmetic legislation. It’s worth noting that this discussion draft will undertake quite a lengthy journey on its path the becoming a law. However, discussion drafts are circulated in an effort to collect feedback and it’s much easier to influence the process early as opposed to rushing in at the eleventh hour, which means that voices raised now will have a larger impact on shaping the legislation than those raised later.


It’s particularly notable that the proposed bill has early bipartisan support. Also notable? It’s very similar to a Senate bill introduced earlier this year by Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Quick political refresher: the House passes its own bills, as does the Senate. Those bills must be reconciled before a final vote by the whole of Congress on a single bills. Bills which are approved by Congress then become law unless vetoes by the president. My antenna inches ever- higher when I hear “bipartisan support” and “similar bills in both the House and Senate.” May I humbly suggest that your antenna inch ever-higher as well?


Back to that new Pallone/Lance discussion draft: while I’m grateful that small business is being considered by legislators, I’m confident that this bill doesn’t extend sufficient protections to micro manufacturers. Regrettably, passage in its current form would cause unnecessary harm to tens of thousands of small businesses across the country without delivering commensurate protection of public health.




I have many concerns about the draft bill, and while the following list isn’t inclusive, it is an apt snapshot of several of my most pressing concerns.



As outlined in the Pallone/Lance discussion draft: If your businesses *grosses* under $100k a year, then you’re exempted from all provisions of the bill, including registration fees. That’s a lovely start but $100,000 boils down to just $10,000-20,000 in profit at the end of the year and we’re going to need exemption thresholds much higher  than that if small business are to thrive in this country. For reference, the Food Modernization Act set the threshold at $1million and that’s the same threshold for Prop 65 in California. This proposed exemption threshold is inconsistent and unnecessarily burdensome.

If your business grosses more than $100,000 but less than $500,000 per year, then you must adhere to all the rules but you’ll be exempted from the registration fee.

If you gross between $500,000-2.5million, you’ll be required to adhere to the rules and pay a $250 registration fee annually.

If you gross over $2.5mill a year, then you’ll need to adhere to the rules and pay a higher fee on a sliding scale according to revenue.

IMPORTANT NOTE: My primary concerns about this proposed bill revolve around the regulatory and paperwork burden this will cause. While the fees are an inconvenience and somewhat burdensome, they pale in comparison to the damage that will be done by other facets of the new regulations.

The additional paperwork burden is especially problematic and it has the potential to cripple small businesses. If the bill were to pass as it’s currently written, all business grossing over $100,000 would be legally required to adhere to all new regulations, including those I’ll detail below. And lest you forget, most handmade businesses net 10-20% profit, so while that $100,000 gross sales figure may feel expansive, it’s actually quite meager. If that doesn’t feel like a problem for you, then I encourage you to aim higher for your business. 😉



No pre-approval of finished product is necessary, but everything will need to be on file, including the exact percentages of all ingredients within a given formula. If the formula changes in any way, a new recording must be placed in the FDA files. Note that there is a statement in the discussion draft that the FDA “may” allow for altered rules for small business. That language isn’t strong enough as it stands and it guarantees small businesses no specific protection.



Any period of legislative uncertainty is less than ideal. Long periods of legislative uncertainty are far less than ideal from a business perspective. Mergers and acquisitions necessarily slow, lenders are reticent to extend credit, and manufacturers are hesitant to make investments in their business without the some assurance of what the future holds. Most of the apothecary brands I work with can’t afford a 2-5 year “pause” in their business.



There’s a lot of language in the discussion draft of how that might be done, but none of the avenues are especially viable for small businesses. I’m not sure that any business with $1million annual gross could comply. I’m fairly certain that businesses on $100,000 annual revenue would be unable to comply.



Manufacturers may still use the “trade secret” designation for ingredients like “fragrance” on the ingredient listing on a product label. However, manufacturers will be required to list their supplier, the specific item number of the product, and the percentage on the ingredient declaration to the FDA (see item #2 above). That methodology virtually removes trade secret protections that have been in place for decades.



All manufacturing facilities must be registered with the FDA, so registration of home workshops will no longer be voluntary.



What can you do to help shepherd this process and protect your business? I’m so glad you asked! There is strength in numbers and each of us has an obligation to speak up for ourselves and our community. Please don’t count on others to carry the banner for you… this is the time for you to become active and engaged!


The Senate is hosting its first cosmetic legislation hearing this on Thursday, September 22 at 10am EST. You can watch the public hearing as it streams live. Invited guests include Senators Feinstein and Collins, the chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council (a trade organization representing the largest businesses in the industry), a medical doctor specializing in dermatology, a senior representative from Environmental Working Group (an nonprofit who has championed the call for additional legislation), and a “small business” representative from Jack Black, a personal care manufacturer with at least $5million in annual sales.


Read the House discussion draft for yourself. Summaries from third parties are helpful, but they’re no substitute for a through self-reading! Review the discussion draft… this section-by-section summary might also prove helpful.


Join the Coalition of Handcrafted Entrepreneurs (COHE) to connect directly with Anne-Marie Faiola of Brambleberry, a small businesswoman who has been a fierce defender of micromanufacturers since 2008. She remains engaged in active lobbying and meets regularly with Congressional officials. Anne Marie offers a direct line to the latest news about what’s happening on Capitol Hill and she needs to connect with as many small businesses as possible.


Write your Congressional officials… it only takes a few minutes! You can quickly locate your Senators and discover how to contact your Congresspeople with a few simple clicks.  COHE has created a simple outline for effectively and easily contacting legislators.Tell them who you are and what how a few of the specific provisions in this bill will impact your business.


We have an opportunity to influence this process and both Congressman Pallone’s and Congressman Lance’s offices have released the draft to solicit opinions. Please make yours heard!