Change is good.

I recently joined the SITS Girls for their 31 Days To Build A Better Blog challenge. I gotta tell ya, it’s rockin’ my world. I could go on and on about it, but that’s not the point today. The point is, based on what I’ve learned so far, I’m going to be changing direction. Not a u-turn, just a slight veer to the right. Still, I’m kind of a crazy driver so hold on.

My niche

I started out writing about the challenges of a new business. Then I realized that if you want to know how to start your own company you’ll google Donald Trump. Clearly he can offer lots of advice.

So what makes my game more fun? I’m doing all this with peanut butter on my sleeve, laundry on the floor, and kids yelling, “what’s for dinner?” In short, my niche is the work-at-home-mom community. Those super-women who try every day to balance their family and their entrepreneurial dreams. (Please don’t confuse this with a mommy blog. It’s not. I don’t have anything against them, it’s just not what I write. ) So to whet your appetite, here are some of the blogs I’ve found most helpful as I steer this machine . Enjoy.

http://www.thewannabewahm.com/

A WAHM from New York offers her perspective along with tons of tips and resources. Also includes a Mom Owned Business Directory.

http://moxietonic.com/

Natalie at Moxie Tonic teaches you how to rev up your email marketing.

 

http://www.everythingetsy.com/

Everything for Etsy shop owners including free Etsy banners and a section dedicated to “Running Your Etsy Business”.

http://www.mom-e-preneurs.com/

An in-depth site with info on everything from date nights to community services to babysitting co-ops. 

My face

I’m talking about the look of my blog and my website. And I don’t plan to be just another pretty face. I’ll be improving the form and the function. It should make it a lot easier for you to click around and find exactly what you need.

My community

I have to admit, I heard this word tossed around the blogosphere a lot and thought it was a bunch of hoo-haw. I stand corrected. The people I have “met”, including the awesome SITS Girls, truly are a supportive, helpful community. So soon you’ll be seeing a lot more interaction with other bloggers, including guest posts, links, and badges.

That’s all for now. I would love to write more but dinner is burning and my husband says he doesn’t have any clean manties for tomorrow. Business as usual.

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Top 5 things I’ve learned about starting your own creative business

I am not a business expert. I might actually be the opposite, whatever that’s called. (Novice? Beginner? Idiot? ) But that’s why I’m writing this post. – to offer a handful of observations from a regular person. One who loves creating so much she made it her business. Sound like you? Then here we go.
 
1. Start small
My first show was a four-day wholesale trade show, downtown Chicago at the Merchandise Mart. It was big chiz. Unfortunately, I sold nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. It wasn’t that my product sucked, it was just way too big of a venue for me. Way. One day I would love to try climbing that mountain again but not until I’ve conquered a few smaller hills around here. I know you have big dreams but if you start out too big for your britches you’ll just end up showing everyone your ass.

2. Other people are making it up as they go, too.
Sure there are people out there with business degrees that have a written plan and a big budget. But I’ve learned there are just as many who don’t. A lot of the business owners I’ve idolized /stalked on Twitter write in their blogs that they are winging it just like us. Don’t feel like you can’t do it just because you’re not sure how to do it.

3. There’s a big community of supportive, creative people out there.
I attended my first local show a few weeks ago and was amazed at how many other business owners bought my product, offered help, recommended shows, and were just amazingly nice. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. What a pleasant surprise.

4. Twitter is your friend.
I was sooo intimidated by Twitter. It was something that real business owners used, not little ol’ me. But I knew it was all my marketing budget of $0.00 could afford so I pulled up my big girl panties and logged on. Now I’m a total addict. I hit Twitter before I pour my first morning cup of coffee and the connections I’ve made there are countless. Seriously, try it.

5. Do something. Anything.
When you think of starting your own business it’s easy to become paralyzed with doubt. What if I make a mistake? What if that one mistake now ruins my chances of ever being successful in the future? Chances are, it won’t. More importantly, doing nothing is the surest way to fail. This stuff scares me everyday, but everyday I make myself do it anyway. Slowly but surely, it’s paying off.

So that’s my top 5 for now. I learn something new everyday so I’m sure the list will continue to evolve. Hopefully you read something that was helpful. Or maybe you have something to add. Let me know. I always love hearing from you.

abi

Ladies’ Day Out Expo – My bungee bounce-back

Let me start by saying I consider the Ladies’ Day Out Expo a success. That being said, it was far from a smooth process. The short version goes like this: there was a huge miscommunication between the show organizers and the venue management. The result was approximately 13 vendors, including yours truly, with no table and no place to set up.

DO NOT PANIC. DO NOT CRY. DO NOT INJURE ANYONE.

I waited. And waited. Eventually, I decided to cut my losses and leave. It just wasn’t going to happen this time. And I was crushed. But then at the very last minute a space opened up and I jumped on it. It was an hour-and-a-half late but I had a table. And a glimmer of hope.

I set up my space just like I practiced at home and I’m pretty pleased with how it looked. I’ll probably tweak a few things next time but I’m not planning any big changes. (Of course, I’m always open to suggestions.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to take a minute to mention my “neighbors”, Tammy and Keyana. They were so supportive and helpful – the kind of people you always hope to meet at an event like this. The three of us attacked what was left of our day with positive attitudes and big smiles.

Then it happened. I sold a card. This may not seem earth-shattering, but if you read my previous posts you’ll understand my euphoria. By the end of the day I had sold over 20 cards plus a handful of gift tags.

EXHALE. SIGH OF RELIEF. PAT ON THE BACK.

Of course, the people I met are proving more helpful to my business than the sales I made. I love when that happens. And I also have to point out that the show organizers offered each and every vendor a free show to make up for the morning’s chaos. It’s already been scheduled and it looks like all the details have been handled. Nice.

So my biggest fear has not been realized. I did not suck. My bungee cord did not break – again. Now it’s time to put all this drama behind me and move forward.

REMOVE WEIGHT FROM SHOULDERS. SMILE.

A bungee jumping survival story

Imagine you went bungee jumping and the cord broke. You plummeted to the ground but, by some miracle, survived. Now imagine you’re insane enough to try another jump. Imagine that knot of raw fear deep in your gut. That’s how I feel this week, preparing to sell my cards at another show. 

My first show experience was excruciatingly painful. Broken bungee cord painful.

If you haven’t read my previous post, take a look so you’ll understand my current state of mind. If you have read it, you know my first show experience was excruciatingly painful. Broken bungee cord painful. But I survived and I learned. So here’s what I plan to do differently this time.

I’m representing myself.
Nobody knows Purseonals better than me, regardless of their experience with trade shows, craft shows, and expos. I will not be so intimidated by the show itself that I hand my product over to someone else.

I’m starting small.
My first show was at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Most of the competing vendors there sold lines of 100+ cards. I was selling 8. Great opportunity, bad fit. Sort of like jumping off the Empire State Building for your first bungee experience. This time I’m setting up at a local show, one that fits my company and focuses specifically on my target market. More like jumping off my dining room table.

I’m selling to consumers instead of retailers.
I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% confident about this one. I buy all my cards from brick & mortar stores, usually the day I need them, maybe the day before. Thankfully, not everyone is like me. Some people shop online. Some stock-pile cards so they’re always ready. Others are just looking for something special or unique. Those are the people I hope to meet and connect with.

These are all small things but they make me feel better, like I have a plan. A very simple, yet effective, strategy.

So that’s my story. Here’s my truth. I’m so scared I feel like I might throw up a little.

What happens if this is a repeat of last summer? If I don’t sell a single card? It’s happened before. Do I just keep calm and carry on or is it time to face facts? And exactly what facts am I facing? Who really signs up for a third bungee jump after two near-death experiences? Me? We’ll see.

My Story – Chapter 1

My new addiction to Twitter leads me to inspirational blogs every day and over time I’ve realized, I have a story to tell too. The most obvious starting point is the start of my business, Purseonals. So here’s Chapter 1. Enjoy.

A few years ago my oldest daughter and I fashioned a purse-shaped thank you card out of construction paper and glue. It was small and sticky but the concept, and its potential, were stuck in my head. I planned to cut out a bunch of these new inventions, sell them until Target or Hallmark offered to buy me out, and then . . . whatever happens next in an amazing success story like this.

I did make a bunch of cards. And I did sell some. To my mom.

Plan B: Wholesale. Start local and work my way up. I’ll be honest, my efforts at this were . . . well, pitiful. I was totally intimidated by the idea of pitching my product to shop owners and I’m sure it showed. Despite that, four of them said “yes”, and put Purseonals on their shelves. Out of the four, two went out of business, one never reordered, and one is still an active client. It wasn’t the start I had dreamed of but at least it was a step in the right direction.

Then came the opportunity I had been waiting for. My (only) client offered to rep my cards at a wholesale trade show in Chicago. Suh-weet! I worked my tail off and emptied my bank account getting ready. Finally, the big show arrived and . . . nothing. For four days. Literally zero sales.

That, my friends, is what you call a “crushing blow to the ego”.

I spent the following months desperately searching for my big girl panties. I’m happy to report that I found them and, slowly but surely, pulled them up. Which brings me to today. I have a new plan that’s centered around being true to myself and the things I know. Some of this new-found confidence came from supportive friends and family and a lot of it came from the truly inspiring people I’ve met online. Visit their blogs and remember to check back and see where this new path leads. Whether you’re learning along with me or sending me advice I would love to hear from you.

abi

It started with pet artist Adriana Willsie http://adrianawillsie.com, specifically her guest blog on Make Under My Life http://adrianawillsie.com/2011/04/guest-post-at-makeunder-my-life/.

That led me to Jess Constable, http://jesslc.com, an amazing jewelry designer and writer. I especially love this blog post http://makeundermylife.com/why-i-started-this-blog-2/.

Wenderly http://wenderly.com had a story so similar to mine that just reading her bio made me feel like I could be successful.

And I can’t forget Kendi Lea http://kendieveryday.blogspot.com/ who I actually discovered at http://makeundermylife.com/kendi-and-bryans-dream-report-week-sixteen/. Her writing makes me want to call her up and invite her over for coffee and scones.

A collection of bizzare bags.

Browsing the web this week I found a number of purses and handbags that were . . . well, unique – some more than others. These are a few of the standouts. Have you seen some doosies online too? Or do you have one hiding in the back of your closet, next to a mint-green bridesmaid dress?  Share them with me. I promise not to judge.

Lemon or banana? Either way, it's fruity.

You know I'm gonna say it. I have to. There's something fishy about this one.

I can't find a thing in my closet go with this. If you can, I wanna see it.

Can I push ctrl+z if I make a wrong turn or say something embarrassing?

The road to forgotten birthdays is paved with good intentions.

We all know the road to forgotten birthdays is paved with good intentions. We’re positive it was on the calendar but somehow it got lost. Now it’s a week late so we fire off a quick email and hope for forgiveness.

A simple solution is the perpetual-birthday-calendar. It charts the months and dates without the days of the week so you write down Bob your uncle’s birthday one time and you’re done. Forever. No more transferring dates at the end of every year – the same calendar you use for 2011 works for 2028.

Just like traditional calendars, perpetuals come in all sorts of creative choices. Some of my personal faves are at http://www.rockscissorpaper.com/calendars2.html. I also love, love, love the Andy Warhol images at http://www.galison.com/Perpetual-Calendars-C76.aspx. Or, if you like to buy handmade, check out http://www.etsy.com/listing/60726661/perpetual-birthday-calendar.

So if you think the only solution is to start sending impersonal e-cards or (gasp) text messages, don’t do it. It’s not the same and you know it. Search the hundreds of beautiful, real cards you can buy online. Have them shipped directly to your door. Then take the time to write with a real pen. Lick a real envelope. And spread the joy that comes from finding a handwritten message hiding between the credit card offers and sales fliers.