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Archive for March, 2011

Reader Question/Comment of the Day – Can Mylar Bags be folded?

I had a customer today ask about the folding of the bags and whether it damages them.  Definitely understandable, as there is some creasing of the bags when folded.  I asked her to try to do a seal test to determine the integrity of her bags.  She sealed a bag and submerged it in water to see if there were any leaks…happily for me, there weren’t!

The Mylar bags we sell are actually a multi-layer combination of foil, PET (a type of plastic) and LLDPE (another type of plastic).  The two plastic layers are the oxygen barriers and enable heat sealing…the foil is mainly for stability and keeping out light.  All foil bags also have ‘pinholes’ in them (up to and including the heavy duty 7-8mil bags), however they do not effect the integrity of the bag because it is the other layers that are really keeping the air in and out of the bags.

29

03 2011

Advice and Beans Updates

So it’s been a week since the event, and I’m as thrilled as I thought I would be!  It’s nice being able to get everyone’s shipments out same day for the most part, taking a full day off of the delivery time for over half our customers.  Orders for Mylar Bags and Oxygen absorbers have been steady, including some bulk shipments, and I’ve started receiving more comments from those finding their way to the blog, which is very exciting.  I hope to post a couple of guest articles here in the near future as more folks share their experiences in preparedness and food storage.

One of the things I’m committed to as a part of working from home is to not turn into the slug I was as a teenager!  It’s tempting to sleep in and work at a slower pace, or sit and watch TV or surf the ‘net, and not really take the opportunity to improve all aspects of my life.  I have slept a little bit late some of the days since I left my previous job.  However, I believe that I’ve been offered a wonderful opportunity, and I won’t squander it.  I started this morning with some Wii DDR (Don’t laugh; for those who don’t know that stands for Dance Dance Revolution).  I have put it on the calendar that every day from 8-9am I will do something physical…some days that will mean DDR, or the Wii Fit, while others I plan on walking with the dogs.  I also plan on getting some hikes in as well, though usually those will happen on Sundays due to the schedule of getting all the orders out.  Part of it is to improve my physical condition, part to prepare for my Appalacian hike later in the year, and part to spend at least an hour a day NOT thinking about everything that needs to be done.  Sometimes a job, career, preparedness, video games, or anything can absorb us so completely we forget that we all need to breathe.  So that first hour of the day will be my chance to do just that. 

I’m also using Microsoft Outlook to schedule tasks I might forget about, such as paying the bills, ordering more product, or doing a particular piece of research.  I’m pretty unorganized by nature, and I need to use all the tools at my disposal to overcome that handicap!

Other updates:  In the near future, I will be commissioning some improvements for the website, to include a clean version of the LDS Food Storage Calculator…this is a project that I’ve been meaning to get to for ages and mentioned last year.  I actually have a backlog of ideas that I mentioned ages ago that need to be implemented.  Every day is going to include a couple of hours for exactly this type of project.  With hope I’ll have something concrete to deliver to folks in the next 45 days.

We also have one huge long-term project on the table that I hope to unveil officially later in the year.  Advice and Beans will be spinning off a software development LLC in the next month (also basically run by me, with a small mostly-volunteer development team); with a small bit of venture capital we have a commitment for, as well as a signficant investment by my wife and I, I hope to offer the preparedness/survival community something very special in the next couple of years.  More details forthcoming soon!

As always, anyone with stories, questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to contact me;  I’ll always give credit for anything I might post on the site, and I love to learn what others are doing or thinking about!

29

03 2011

Mylar Bags, Oxygen Absorbers and Advice and Beans as a Full-Time Job

For those of you who have read my ‘About Page’, you will have seen that I worked as a Procurement Manager for a large corporation for many years.  As of yesterday, that is no longer the case.  I decided that this business (Advice and Beans) was doing well enough that I would make the leap of faith and do it full time.  As some of my earlier posts have alluded to, I believe that anyone with a dream, the willingness to work hard, and the blessings of their creator, can build something of their own.  As I knew that my relationship with my previous employer was getting tenuous, I made preparing for the inevitable move my number one priority for about the last 6 months.  In my opinion, employment status is one of the biggest reasons to make preparedness a part of one’s life.  Here are some of the things I did to get ready for the day when I would have to leave my day job:

1)  Have a plan – While I hoped that Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers could be a full-time job, I also know the risks of putting all of my eggs in one basket.  I actively searched out new product lines (Such as the Gamma Seal Lids, buckets, desiccant, Rothco and some others I haven’t even gotten around to selling yet), started some basic advertising, and worked pretty much all the time.  While working 16 hours a day is not the way I want to live my life forever, I knew in this case that for every day when I had two incomes coming in, it would better prepare us for when one of those went away.   Even if starting a business is not your thing, a part-time job never hurt anyone!  The steps below were additional parts of the plan.

2)  Save, save, save – Even prior to starting Advice and Beans, my wife and I always saved a good portion of our pay, upwards of 30% or more when we could manage.  When I knew I might have to leave my job, that number became more like 50%.  Living on less than you make is the best, and some say only, way to build financial security.  While it has been easier in recent years due to rising income, dual income, and becoming debt free, I made saving a habit even when I was making $8 an hour as a temporary 12 years ago.  Every paycheck, I put money in an envelope, whether it was $5 or some weeks $20.  Having even that little savings available to handle some basic emergencies is a lifesaver and can save you from having to put it on a credit card.  Some folks say there is never enough money for them to save, and that can be true if you pay yourself last all the time.  Pay the savings envelope first when you get paid, and anyone can do it.

3)  Give Things Up – My wife and I, while we have some nice things, are also willing to sacrifice when we need to.  We cancelled our cable TV over 2 years ago and have saved over $2000 by not having it.  I gave up Dunkin Donuts coffee every morning at work, saving $500 a year.  Additionally we sold and continue to sell a huge variety of stuff in our household.  Books, movies, games, collectibles, we sell all of it.  And not only did that make us some extra money to save, it also cleared much of the clutter from our lives.  Giving up any one thing might not make one financially secure, but making some regular cuts or selling things you might not use often can help your budget a great deal.

4)  Do Something, Anything, to Make Some Extra Money- My original goal with Advice and Beans was to make an extra $20 a day.  I figured an extra $7000 a year would make a great difference in my families financial condition.  Starting small also meant not writing huge checks and taking unnecessary chances.  So in the beginning, I would buy a case or two of supplies and try to sell them on eBay and Amazon.  Once I sold out of those, I rolled that money over until I could buy 5 cases at a time and get a better price.  Eventually it got the point where the business, while not generating any ‘income’, was able to buy larger and larger increments of inventory, up to and including multiple pallets nowadays, drastically improving our buying power.  I say this to make the point that while sometimes risk is good, it doesn’t have to be a part of starting a business as I’ve heard some say.  Sure, I could have started out writing $10,000 checks to suppliers (well, not too many of those)…but only at an unacceptable risk to my family.  So for those who are thinking about starting a business…start small and cash-flow your way to big.  That’s infinitely better than writing some huge checks only to find out you have no market for whatever it is you want to sell.

This whole adventure demostrates exactly why we (or at least I) prepare.  Having a couple of years of food on hand certainly provides some comfort in knowing that if the business goes sour, at least I can feed my family.  I’ve learned some new skills, such as researching suppliers, doing complicated taxes, and dealing with beauracracies (oooh, my favorite part!).  I’ve also learned a bit of patience and adaptability…especially these last few months when my best suppliers all flaked and went out-of-stock.   When I didn’t have big oxygen absorbers, I substituted mediums; now that I am out of mediums, I am substituting smalls for some SKU’s.  The point is to keep moving forward and building momentum, even when it seems things aren’t going great.

24

03 2011

In-Stock Notice – 2000cc Oxygen Absorber Update

Great news!  After much haranguing of my vendor, we are now back in stock with 2000cc Oxygen Absorbers.  Our listings have been updated!

As I still get the question now and again, this is a reminder that all prices in the store now include Free Shipping!

22

03 2011

Supply Update – Out-Of-Stock Edition

Well, I always wanted to be a place folks could rely on to get their food storage stuff.  However, you may have noticed last month I ran out of 2000cc Oxygen Absorbers.  The day the shipment was to arrive in our warehouse I called my main supplier to ask why it didn’t arrive.  Only then did they tell me the order hadn’t even shipped.  Worse, they said they were out of stock, and no one knew for how long (Yet they cashed my check while I’m still stuck waiting, more than a month later).  I started subbing larger quantities of 300cc absorbers for the 2000’s, and while not optimal, that was working ok.  However, I went to place my order on Friday of last week for 300cc absorbers with my 2nd supplier, and they let me know they were out of stock as well and a new shipment wouldn’t arrive until the 2nd week of April.  UGG! 

Exacerbating the whole supply issue is the Tsunami in Japan which occurred on Friday…I am lucky I was off from my day job, as we did triple our average volume of sales as people started to stock up in the wake of the disaster.  However, it nearly wiped out my stocks of larger absorbers (we still have 100cc absorbers remaining), and I will have used up the remainder by tomorrow.

In any case, I am here to let you know we are essentially out of stock of both 2000cc and 300cc absorbers for the near future.  I am trying to place a 300cc order with another supplier right now, but they can’t yet give me any indication whether they are in stock or if it will occur.  I called some other suppliers as well, but they wanted so much that I would have to raise my prices more than I am willing to.

You all have my deepest apologies.

If there is any silver lining to this situation, it is that while I am out of stock on these items and not shipping many orders, I am going to work on the new e-commerce ordering system, listing some items I haven’t gotten to (buckets, Gamma Seal Lids and some Rothco stuff), and otherwise improving the back end of the business which has been left wanting as our order volumes increased dramatically. 

Oh, and I am still fully stocked on Mylar bags (we actually got a new shipment of bags in this week, and they are beautiful; I am ultra happy with a new supplier), including the large 5-gallon Zip Seal bags.

17

03 2011