Hello all - here is a happy spring group that I finished today.

I love seeing groups of items together.  New fabric combos (like these shown) make me happy!

Maybe if we all keep giving out springy thoughts, it will finally come.  Who's with me?! =^-^=
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Springy group of cat toys & cat bandanas
Bax Cat & Co. is getting ready for spring... we have lots of new listings since our last post.  Feel free to browse with your kitties!  Here is our shop.  Have fun and see you soon =^-^=
 
Meet Bill!  This is Bill the Owl.  Bill is a cat toy made out of cotton, fleece, and felt, and has certified organic catnip in his belly.  He just recently hatched, and we are excited to announce that he has safely completed his migration to his new home!

Bill was so excited to meet his new cat friends that he wants his siblings to be listed in our Etsy shop so they can meet their new cat friends, too.  We are listening, Bill!  Not yet listed, but coming soon.  The owl fun continues.

Up next in our woodland creature invasion... foxes?!  Stay tuned =^-^=
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Bill the Owl catnip cat toy. Hoot!
 
Now that we have a whole year behind us (wow!), there are several things we want to accomplish in the shop; they include: organization to increase workflow & productivity; staying well ahead of upcoming seasons & holidays; spending a set amount of time each night in the studio; strengthening our brand; cutting the fat (explained below); and staying active online.  Let's branch these out and get out what's in our furry minds for the upcoming year!

Organization

Photo of irons and art
Irons and art
During 2012, we had lots of storage bins in the studio that held other non-Bax Cat & Co.-related craft and art supplies.  These supplies were strewn around in various different storage bins and drawers throughout the room. 

Our fabrics and other daily use items for the shop were in bins and drawers that sometimes did not make the most sense; since we use these the most, it would make more sense to put them in bins that are more easily accessible. 

Admittedly this seems like a "duh" moment, but it is not something that time permitted us to tackle in 2012!

Good news!  The storage bin organization was completely overhauled over the weekend!  All different fabric types now have homes, and our day-to-day use items and materials are readily available.  There are now even drawers with labels on them to clearly show what is in what drawer, without even opening up the drawer. 

A bunch of little changes like this were made, but all totaled, they have a very nice impact on the space.  All of our fabric was taken out, re-folded, and then re-stored too.  It was nice to have everything out, to see old and new favorites together.
Photo of fabric rainbow
Fabric rainbow at Bax Cat & Co.
Next up: re-organize the bulletin board where all of the patterns are kept.  It would be great to see all the patterns in individual labeled bags, grouped together in a way that makes finding the different patterns a very easy task.  Putting them in bags will also prevent them from having push pin holes, allowing them to last a little bit longer.  This is a task that will be tackled this year; looking forward to this one!

Finding a new home for the thread spool holder is on the list, too; right now it is on a shelf, but it would be ideal to mount it to the wall a bit closer to the sewing table.  Moving it to the wall might also make the space a little more user-friendly.
Photo of spools of thread
Thread spool holder

Staying ahead

In 2012 we were primarily working on getting the shop situated: filling it with items, creating accounts online for it, etc. and not focusing too much on whatever the next upcoming holiday was (as bad as that sounds!).  We opened in January 2012, so didn't have to worry about the December holiday season until many months later.  Prior to the December holiday season, we aimed to get several new holiday-inspired items into the shop.  The holiday rush was so fun (loved seeing that much activity coming through)!

From that experience, we will definitely focus on stay ahead of upcoming holidays and seasons prior to their arrival, so that our shop has related items well ahead of time.  So far so good with that - all the Valentine's Day items are listed, and St. Patrick's Day-inspired items are waiting in the wings to list. 
Picture of Christmas tree catnip toy
Christmas cat toys
Picture of heart cat toy
Valentine's day catnip toys
Cat bandana
St. Patrick's day cat toys & cat bandanas, too! (coming soon)

Daily studio time

It may sound silly or (unintentionally) slacker-ish, but we have not been setting aside a designated amount of time each day to go into the studio and sew.  Spending one hour per day so far in January has freed up time on the weekends, has helped us create a bunch of new designs, and could be really beneficial in the long run. 

It's nice to have a set amount of time to work, because it makes us stay focused within that time frame: "Ok, one hour tonight will be spent cutting... drawing up new patterns... ironing... sewing... packaging..." etc.  Breaking it down into smaller daily blocks of time is a great tool to use (and we plan to continue to do so!)  Now weekends can be the perfect time to spend on taking and editing photos, and listing the items that we've made in any given week.

(Look at all of these tools for making us more efficient by leaps and bounds this year - exciting stuff!)

Strengthening our brand

Throughout the first year, we have really notice how great it looks when shops are branded across all online platforms.  When the same photos are used on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, as Etsy, you can really begin to recognize someone's shop (and brand presence) in each different avenue.  This also trickles down to matching brand packaging (stickers, business cards, etc). 

Things we did in 2012 for branding, and any changes we want to make in 2013:
- 2012: Had a banner made for the shop when it opened / 2013: new and improved banner is in the works, along with matching graphics to use.  We feel really good about this update!
- 2012: Had custom fabric labels made (see below) / 2013: continue to use fabric labels, they are a great addition to our items!  Need to look into whether the new graphics can be printed as the labels so that those match as well... branding!
Photo of fabric label Bax Cat & Co.
Our custom labels

Don't spread thin, but remember to trim the fat

Last year when started out, we signed up for a lot of different free avenues/accounts.  Each one offered a potential audience of people who were interested in our products and our mission (we were still learning how all of this stuff worked).  Lesson learned: spreading yourself too thin makes it nearly impossible to keep up with signing in and maintaining multiple accounts. 

Trim the fat; keep the accounts that work best for your shop's needs open and focus on those.  By spending more time with fewer accounts, it will allow those accounts to thrive (we're looking at you, trusty Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts)!  Our shop now has a very focused set of accounts that raise it up and help it thrive, instead of making us rip our hair out trying to keep up with a million other avenues. 

It took a while and a lot of diving in to figure out what different sites are best for the shop and run with those.  If there's one important thing we've learned, it's that we always need to keep evolving/changing/growing as our shop does. 

Who knows, our set of go-to sites will probably change somewhere down the line as the shop's needs change too.  We are ready for the ride!

Active online presence

Further to everything mentioned above, we think it's important to make sure our shop has a strong online presence (something we are constantly working hard at!). 

Elements and key parts to an active online presence to consider as we move into 2013 will be (in no particular order)
- Reach out and find blogs that would like to feature our shop or one of our items
- Find our stride (whether slow or fast) and keep the stream moving!  The visual of a stream through the woods is helpful - some areas it runs faster, some slower, but it's always so happy with whatever pace or bend it encounters!  And minnows, let's not forget the minnows!  (Disclaimer: no minnows will be used in any of our shop's items, it was a metaphor!)
- Try our best not to neglect our blog!  It's another great resource to use, and allows people to stay connected to the shop
- Continue to interact with fans and keep them informed of shop happenings (this includes FB, Twitter, and the like). 
- Active participation on Etsy teams

In conclusion...

...the first year of our brand's existence has been quite a fun learning experience.  We look forward to the years ahead with Bax Cat & Co., and will strive to stay productive through an organized space, keep ahead of holidays and seasons, spend dedicated time in the studio with fabric, maintaining a strong brand, trimming down accounts and staying focused, and staying active online! 

We hope you and your kitties are all having a great year so far; we thank you for your continued support & enthusiasm! =^-^=
 
Couldn't resist... Henry now has a friend!  Listings are in the works for both owls, and we hope to have both of these catnip toys available soon in our shop.

Aren't they a hoot?
Catnip toy owl
This is Henry's new owl cat toy friend <3
 
Happy first day of autumn!  We are gearing up for Halloween at the shop, one new toy at a time!  We have bats, pumpkins, and now even a (friendly) ghost!  Still a couple left to be listed, too.  Here are some fun Halloween cat toys for your viewing pleasure.  The photos link back to the actual listing in our shop, if you get into the holiday spirit and want more info about any of the items :)
Pretty soon we are going to whip up some new goodies for Thanksgiving and the December holiday season... can't believe that time of year is coming up.  First things first: fix the sewing machine so the loaner can be returned.  All while sipping some hot apple cider?  Sounds like a great idea!
 
...cut up what you were working on, and start completely from the beginning again!  That's what happened yesterday, and starting from the beginning was such a good idea - the end result was perfect! 
 
This week I was hit with a plethora of ideas for back to school catnip toys; that's right, a plethora!  At the shop, we have been gearing up for Halloween, but I feel like I shouldn't skip completely over September without doing something school related!  The ideas for new September cat toys are drawn up, but I don't want to spoil the surprises!  So instead, here are a few sneak peeks...
Photo of books
Books!
Do you have a cat who likes to help you read?  My cats get excited when I'm reading (or trying to).  They love to scratch against the corner of the book with their mouths.  So far their favorite books are legal fiction, books about wizards, and currently a certain fiction series about youth and civil uprising. 

Because they are such avid readers, I thought it would be fun to create a book that my cats could enjoy all on their own.  The only potential drawback I can see is that when they are done playing with their own catnip book toy, they will still want to come "help" me read my real book!  Who am I kidding though, I will absolutely still allow it!

Something I've heard a lot from people is that their cats love to play with larger toys, too!  It's a challenge to find interesting kick stick toy inspiration, but I have done just that for this back to school season!
Photo of a ruler
Measuring fun, one inch at a time =^-^=
First up: a ruler.  I think these will be so fun!  After the cats are done playing, they can even sit down and use the ruler toys to help with their homework (although I'm not sure how accurate the ruler toys would be as a straight edge, since they are going to be made of fabric... but I digress).

My next back to school kick stick idea?  A pencil!  Growing up I always remember stocking up on new pencils when going back to school!  Granted, cat's don't have thumbs, so these toys probably won't be a good idea to actually try to write with, but they will be great to play with, instead!
Photo of an apple
Apple cat toy inspiration - yum!
An apple a day keeps the doctor away!  We like healthy cats, and what better time of year to make an apple toy than right at the end of summer / beginning of fall?  Granted, we don't recommend for any cats to actually eat the apple toy, but instead I'm sure they'll love to play with it! 

They may even get extra bonus points if they bring it for their teacher on the first day back to kitty school, you never know.

Photo of apple, book, and ruler
Apple, books, and ruler... cat toy inspiration!
Other ideas are on my radar from this week's brainstorming session, but more on those some other time.  Today's focus: back to school for kitties!
 
My cats loathe when the doorbell rings, or anyone knocks on the door.  Halloween, therefore, is NOT necessarily their favorite time of year! 

This year they are in luck... I plan on distracting them with some fun new black & orange Halloween cat toys!  The catnip will make them happy, crazy, and then they'll all be nice and asleep by the time trick or treaters come by with the dreaded doorbell ring (I hope). 
Photo of halloween cat toys
A whole group of fun Halloween catnip toys and mats we have for your special cat! Click on the photo to go to our shop's Halloween section.
We have pumpkins, bats, broomsticks, Jack o'lanterns, ghosts, witch hats, and much more!  Celebrate black & orange with us this season, your cat will be so happy!  I'm a little early with this sentiment but... Happy Halloween to you and your cats!
 
We love our friend Hazel Jane McBunny!  The cats do surprisingly well around her, and she seems to like being around them, too.  I only let her out when I am in the room, though, because you can never trust that a cat's instincts won't kick in when they see a bunny hopping around in the house. 

Hazel loves to be a part of the cat toy making process, and is very helpful around the Bax Cat & Co. studio.  Her favorite activities include: hopping around and playing the with the cats, sniffing at fabric, trying to bite the cord to the iron when I am ironing fabric, and stretching out to take naps throughout the course of the day.
This morning I've been on the hunt for a local veterinarian to see Hazel because she was breathing rapidly and acting unlike her usual fun self.  Surprisingly, not a lot of places in my area have small animal specialists.  Rabbits need vet care, too!  After an hour of calling around and looking online, I was able to find a vet in the area who can see her.  My paws are crossed that she is ok. 
Here are a few good resources for rabbit owners, and other pet owners, too:
- Local Vets
- House Rabbit Society
- American Humane Society
 
Photo of catnip bat toy
Organic catnip bat toy for cats
Halloween cat toys are coming soon to the shop.  I have a number of draft listings to edit, and will list the items soon starting this weekend, and continuing through September! 

I'm excited about some changes with the shop.  Older items are going to be donated to a couple local cat shelters.  I am confident that the catnip in those toys is still fresh, but it's getting closer and closer to becoming stale, and it's selling in the shop.  I'd MUCH rather give these good toys to kitties who will appreciate them while waiting for their forever homes! 

Further to that, When I make toys in the future I will photo them without catnip put in yet, and stuff them at time of sale.  Freshness of catnip is important, especially because I don't make refillable cat toys.  The toys that I am donating will then be changed to "made to order", with a note about fresh catnip being added at time of purchase. 

Also upcoming (this weekend, I hope) is a lot of work on my website.  Yes that's right, this very website you are reading right now!  SEO is my new friend, and I need to spend lots of time bonding with him over tea and cinnamon rolls (because they are SO DELICIOUS and I haven't had one in years). 

Speaking of things that are delicious, I'm a little in love with these customizable earrings by Haus of Ariella on Etsy!  Click on the photo to go to the listing =^-^=

Photo of cat earrings
Customizable cat earrings by Haus of Ariella on Etsy
So that's what's up, what has been up, and what will be up for me in the upcoming days and/or weeks.  Tell your friends about our new blog, We're right here waiting to share our Bax Cat & Co. stories with you!