Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You're the Boss: Part 9

Don't forget to enter our Raving Fan and Future Raving Fan Contests to win a Sneak Peek at the 2011 Line and Your Choice of Calendars from Much Ado About You.

Take Advantage of FREE Marketing Opportunities
Social Networking sites are not only great for locating your long lost Kindergarten crush, but they have opened up the door to tremendous advertising opportunities for your home-based business.  Have a fan page for your business and post frequent updates about your shop.

In the last two years I have sold almost 800 calendars.
I think that's pretty good for a little home-based business.

Wanna know how much I have spent marketing these calendars?
Almost nothing.

In the beginning, before I even realized that this was a business, I was making all my sales thanks to word-of-mouth.  The lovely thing about a calendar is that it kind of advertises itself.  Whenever one of my customers goes to a PTA meeting, or the dentist, or is asked by a friend to schedule a lunch... out comes the calendar.

Then I started selling my calendars on Etsy.  It is free to open a shop on Etsy, but you do have to pay a 20 cent listing fee for every item that you list.  I suggest to anyone opening an Etsy shop that you post a new listing every day, whether that means creating a whole new listing or re-posting a listing that has sold... something should be posted every day.  This is because Etsy's search engines go by date posted, so the more often you are posting, the closer to the top of the search your items will be.  Even though this is not 100% free, at 20 cents a listing, you could post every day of the month, and still only spend $6 a month.  That's not bad.

In the last 16 months that I have been posting nearly daily on Etsy, I have sold over 300 calendars in 40 states and 4 countries.  For less than 1% of my profit... I have been able to reach all these people.  That's pretty hard to beat.

But there are also many truly free ways to get the word out about your business.
Here are a few that I have found helpful: 

1. Have a Facebook Fan Page
 It is extremely easy to put these pages up, and it is a great way to communicate with your customers.
I'm sure there are many of you out there that oppose Facebook and the whole idea of Social Networking, but you should very seriously consider getting on the bandwagon if you are serious about your business.  I use my Fan Page to talk about shop updates, sales, the funny happenings of an office full of crazy women... it's a great way to keep my shop on my customers' minds.

2. Tweet
I will admit right now that I greatly dislike Twitter.  I don't get it... I think it is difficult to use... I hate how half the time you try to log on they tell you they are full... but I know that it is another valuable tool for reaching customers.  I do have a Twitter account... MAAYpaperfreak, if anyone is interested.  I opened it because Gussy wanted to tweet about me one day.  She did... and on that day I had the highest number of hits that I have ever gotten on my shop, so clearly Gussy knows how to take advantage of Twitter.  But to be honest... this is not a free opportunity that I take advantage of.  There... I said it.
This makes me feel old.
If you are not as "old" as me... use Twitter.

3. Use your Products
If you sell hair accessories... wear them.
If you sell checkbook covers... write checks often.
If you sell jewelry... never go anywhere without earrings.
I sell calendars... so every opportunity I get, I am whipping my calendar out.

4. Hand Out Business Cards
{Especially if you have super cute ones, like mine.}
Don't be afraid to approach someone that you think could benefit from your products and hand them a business card.
Brooke saw a gal at Gymnastics one day that had an ugly, generic, tattered calendar that she clearly lived by, and she handed her a business card and said, "I've never seen anyone that needed my friend's calendars more than you do."  I have since sold several calendars to that gal.
You don't have to be pushy... trust me, that is not me... I am not a sales person.  Just give them a compliment {a genuine one though... don't be fake} and hand them a business card.  You can say, "I love your headband.  I sell fun hair accessories... here's my card if you are ever interested you can check out my website."

4. Have Excellent Customer Service
I will go into much more detail about this when I talk about tip #10, but truly there is no better free advertisement than a happy customer.  You can't buy that kind of advertisement.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Simply Fabulous

What a fantastic weekend we had!  I hope you all had wonderful weekends too.

I will tell you all about mine {that way if you didn't have a fabulous weekend, you can live vicariously through mine}.

First of all though... a winner for our Initials, Inc. giveaway.
Congratulations Sarah from Blue Barn Quilts!  Yay... I'm so glad you are a big winner!

Okay, now... you may have noticed that I did not blog on Friday.  That's because I was in Temecula with Nathan and our friends from our Couples Small Group.  Why would we spend a super hot weekend in Temecula... you ask?  We were out there to see Brian Regan perform.  If you have never heard of Brian Regan... go watch some of his videos on iTunes.  He is a very clean, conservative comedian that just happens to be hilarious.  I was laughing so hard by the end of his performance, my stomach muscles and cheeks hurt and I had lost most of my make-up from crying.

We had good food, good fun, and there was also a funny incident meeting Brian Regan by the pool.

We had so much fun on our quick little getaway with our friends.. such a refreshing treat.

Then we came home Saturday to find the final copy of our Home Study in the mail!!!
Woooooo hooooo!!!  We are officially ready to adopt!

Now I just have to finish up my paperwork for the Adoption Agency and make my scrapbooks for the birth moms.
We're getting close now. :)

Before I wrap up this post I thought I would share one more thing with you for your viewing pleasure.
Remember I told you that we were going to dinner on Thursday night:

We had a really fun night at Simply Fondue with the Bennetts.

Good times... good friends... good news... good weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Super Steal of a Deal

Looking for the Initials, Inc.  giveaway?  Scroll down or click here.

Don't forget to enter our Raving Fan and Future Raving Fan Contests to win a Sneak Peek at the 2011 Line and Your Choice of Calendars from Much Ado About You.
Has anyone out there ever heard of Restaurant.com?  My mom just told me about it the other day, and it's an amazing find!  It's a website where you can get gift certificates to various restaurants at ridiculous discounts.
One of our favorite local restaurants is Simply Fondue.  It's this funky little place in downtown San Juan Capistrano that is just my style.  It's got leopard print booths, zebra fabric on the walls, black and silver damask wallpaper, and accents of hot pink and purple... to name just a few of the funky elements.
Last year for Christmas, Nathan and I gave each of our parents a nice bottle of wine, and told them we were taking them to Simply Fondue for dinner. {FYI... there are no corkage fees on Tuesday nights.  We took them on a Tuesday.}  We had so much fun, and Beau loved it.
Anyway, my mom called the other day to tell me that I could get a $100 gift certificate to Simply Fondue on Restaurant.com for just $40.  I logged on to check it out, and sure enough... it was $40.  
But before I checked out I Googled "coupon code for restaurant.com" which I like to do before any and all online checkouts {I can't tell you how many times I have gotten free shipping out of that}, and I found a code for an additional 40% off.  {The code was "bridal", and as far as I know it is still working.}
I typed in the code... and sure enough... my $100 gift certificate ended up costing me just $24!
So tonight Nathan and I are going to Simply Fondue with Jennifer and her husband Nathan.  {Yes, they are both Nathan, and even worse... they are both Nathan B., so we like to call them Thing 1 and Thing 2.}
I can't wait!  Fondue is my favorite!  I can't wait for the cheese course.  Mmmmmm.

And just so you don't think Oh, that poor Emmy... she totally got scammed... last night we used the gift certificate I had gotten off of Restaurant.com for Diho Siam, our favorite local Thai restaurant.  It was a $25 gift certificate that I purchased for $6.

Check it out!  They are gift certificates available from restaurants all over the country.  If you get a good deal... tell me about it!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Looking for the Initials, Inc.  giveaway?  Scroll down or click here.

Don't forget to enter our Raving Fan and Future Raving Fan Contests to win a Sneak Peek at the 2011 Line and Your Choice of Calendars from Much Ado About You.

"You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting."
 -Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

In the last six years I have gotten really good at waiting.

When we first started trying for a second baby, I thought for sure it was going to be a piece of cake... just like it had been the first time.  But after just a few months with no results... I was tired of waiting.

Then many more months passed.  And years.  And we were still waiting.

Only at some point in my waiting process I stopped waiting for what I wanted, and learned to wait on the Lord.

Have you ever heard the song While I'm Waiting by John Waller?

I really love this song.  The lyrics go like this:

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
ing every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting

I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord
I love this song because first of all, it acknowledges that waiting is painful.  
It is painful.  And frustrating.  And scary.

But it is also a great reminder that sometimes while we are waiting, we get so caught up in the waiting that we forget that our first calling is to be worshiping.  We were made to worship, not wait.  Worship and serve.  When we selfishly focus on our own desires, we neglect our calling as worshipers and servers.

You know what is funny?  I started this blog entry because today I am waiting again, but for something really silly.

Today I am waiting for packages to arrive.  
Packages full of fun things like supplies for my new line of calendars.
And I am reminded that while I am still waiting for a baby, God has provided so much to fulfill my days.
I'm not stuck in the Waiting Place.

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing."

Well Dr. Seuss... in the midst of my waiting today, I have found my bright places.
My family.  My home.  My friends.  My neighborhood.  My business.  My church family.
My packages that are beginning to arrive.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Initials, Inc.

Don't forget to enter our Raving Fan and Future Raving Fan Contests to win a Sneak Peek at the 2011 Line and Your Choice of Calendars from Much Ado About You.

 We've got another giveaway today.  Yay... more free stuff!

I understand that most of you across the country have already started school... which I think is bananas!  Here in California, we still have two weeks of Summer Vacation left.  Good thing, since I haven't even thought about school supplies shopping yet... maybe I will do that today??? 

You know that commercial for Staples where the mom is skipping around the isles while It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is playing in the background.  I love that commercial.  And not because I can't wait to get rid of my son.  I just love routine.  I do much better when we are on a routine.  Summer vacation is great for two weeks, and then I am ready to be back on a routine.

Anyway, in the spirit of back-to-school, my friend Holly from Initials, Inc. is giving away a Personalized Lunch Sak.

Have you heard of Initials, Inc.?  It's a new company that creates and produces customized and personalized products from Chic Handbags & Totes to Trendy Storage Bins and the personalization is always FREE.  You can design your product to fit your own unique style and personalization.

This item retails for $24.99 and comes in five different fabric patterns, which can be found on Holly's website.  This one is the Bubbles pattern.

If you are local to the South Orange County area and would like to host an Initials, Inc Home Show, Holly is offering an additional $20 in Hostess Credit to anyone that books a show in September.  
Just contact Holly for more information.

Okay, so here's the details on the giveaway:

The contest will run until this Sunday (August 29th) at midnight PST.

Here's how to enter:
{I am changing the system a little... so pay attention.}

Leave a comment with your email address so that I can contact you if you win.

If you want a second entry:
Become a follower over in the right sidebar and leave me a second comment.  
If you already are a follower, just remind me.

If you want a third entry:
Put my button on your blog {the code is in the left sidebar} and let me know in a separate comment.  
If you have already done this, let me know... and thanks for the support!

If you want a fourth entry:
Blog about this giveaway and... you guessed it... let me know in another comment.

If you want a fifth entry:
Post a link to this giveaway on your Facebook status {honor system here}.

Does all that make sense?  I know last time I asked you to leave just one comment, but I am getting too many entries for that system.  Now I want you to leave separate comments for each entry.  Sorry to keep changing things up... I'll figure out a good system one of these days!

The winner will be announced on Monday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You're the Boss: Part 8

Don't forget to enter our Raving Fan and Future Raving Fan Contests to win a Sneak Peek at the 2011 Line and Your Choice of Calendars from Much Ado About You.

Be Organized
Organization with your supplies and products will make work much more enjoyable for you.
Organization with your invoicing and expenses will make work much more profitable for you.
Organization with your clients, like responding to emails in a timely manner and getting orders shipped quickly will make work much more marketable for you.

Many years ago Brooke and I were trying to come up with a business that we could start together.  We came up with the idea for Organize Me.  We were going to be Organizational Consultants that came to your home or office and turned your crazy clutter in a beautifully organized sight to behold.

We even wore matching overalls.  It was 2001 people.
Anyway... that business never took off, but my point is that I love to organize.

I am a generally very organized person.  I like lists, labels, and order.

This has been extremely helpful to my business.

I don't need to tell you why being organized is a good idea... it's obvious.

But I am going to give you some tips on organizing your supplies and paperwork that I hope will help you to make your business more efficient.

You know that phrase "Time is money."  Well, it's true.
When you are running your business... the more efficiently you can produce your products, the more profit you will be making on each one.  Bottom line.

So first things first... organize your supplies well.

I make calendars {in case I haven't dropped that hint enough} and so I organize my supplies by design.  Each design has its own drawer that contains all the paper and embellishments needed to complete that design.

Each drawer is labeled with the name of the design it contains.

There are also drawers for extra solid paper, labeled according to the color(s) contained it those drawers.

The white drawers at the bottom contain other supplies, such as glue sticks, Stickles, calendar bindings, ribbon, etc.

I also have a tub that we keep on the work table with supplies that we use every day.

Okay, so my supplies are all in order, but none of the supplies would even be necessary if we didn't have any orders to fill.  And in order to get orders, and continue to get orders, you have to have a good system for organizing your invoices.

I have told you that I use Etsy, so I am going to show you how I keep things straight with my Etsy account, but I'm sure that you could apply a similar system to any shopping channel you are using.

The first thing I do when I get an order is print the order, contact my customer to let them know that we received the order, and relist the product.

I then put the order in a hanging file that is above my desk that says "Need to be Entered", which means that it needs to be entered into our database.

Once the information has been entered into our database, the invoice is marked with an "X" and it is put into the file above which says "Ready to be Made".

Our amazing database that my amazingly fabulous husband built for us prints out a Daily Status Sheet which lists all of our open orders.  {If you don't have a nerdy super-smart husband that can build you a database, you can always just keep a running list using Excel or even Word, but don't tell my husband that I suggested that.}

When my employees come in to work each day they check the Daily Status Sheet, then go get the invoice out of the "Ready to be Made" file and begin working on an order.

While orders are in-process, they are kept in these snazzy trays that I got from Ikea:

I love these trays because each one pulls out completely and can be carried to the work table while someone is working on that order.

When an order is complete, it is prepared for shipping at our fantabulous Shipping Station.  The invoice is then put on my desk so that I can complete it in the database.  Once it is completed, it is marked with a "C" and filed in our Recent Invoices box:

I keep the current and previous month's invoices in this box, in case there is a situation in which we need to refer back to the invoice.  {What... a mistake?  No!  We never make mistakes around here.}

At then end of the month, I move the previous month's invoices into my filing cabinet and start a new file for the next month.  Make sense?

It may take you a while to get yourself organized, but it will be so worth it in the end.  If you have to, shut down your shop for a week and devote your time to getting things in order.
You don't have to spend a fortune.
I got most of my organizational tools at Target and Ikea, and they definitely didn't break the bank.

One last tip about organization: be sure to extend it into your finances as well.  If you are not organized with the money coming and going in your business, I promise that you will never make a profit.  You will never know how much money you are making {or even if you are making any money} unless you know how much you are spending.  My friend Gussy just did an amazing post about Budgeting Your Business that you should definitely check out.

  I will just say:
1.  Open a separate checking account and credit card {with a low limit} for your business.
2.  Keep very good track of your receipts for all expenditures.
3.  Get a good CPA that knows how to take advantage of every tax credit that you should receive for running your home-based business.

Friday, August 20, 2010

20 Things on the 20th

Okay, wait... today is the 20th, right?  Yes!  I'm pretty confident that it is the 20th.

Today I thought I would share with you a few random facts about me.  20 to be exact.

But first let me remind you that you currently have 2 opportunities to win a calendar from Much Ado About You.  For free.
1.  Check out the Giveaway Week at 30 Days for my calendar and many other fantastic giveaways.

2.  Enter my Raving Fan and Future Raving Fan contest.  

Okay, did you ever get that 25 Random Things message on Facebook where you were supposed to write a note and share 25 Random Facts about you and then tag 25 friends and tell them to do the same?

I loved that fun little phase.
I learned some of the most interesting things about my friends that I thought I knew pretty well already.

Anyway... for your reading pleasure {or maybe you are thinking, what in the heck do I care about your stupid facts?}, here are:

20 Random Things about Me
{remember... because today is the 20th}

1. I married my high school sweetheart, and I absolutely believe in soul mates and love at first sight because it happened for me... when I was 14 {of course, it took Nathan 3 years to fall in love with me... but for me it was "at first sight"}.

2. In the last decade I have had a total of 7 surgeries.

3. In 1992 (the year I was in 8th and 9th grade) these things happened: a bus load from our youth group went off a cliff on the way to winter camp (not the bus I was on, but one carrying many of my friends, including my counselor... miraculously no one died), a woman I babysat for killed both her daughters two nights after I last watched them, and I witnessed a fatal hit and run in which an elderly pedestrian was dragged 100 feet by a speeding truck... it was a traumatic year.

4. When I moved into my current house, I moved across the street from a girl that I met in 6th grade at summer camp and was pen pals with for several years (she lived in AZ at the time), but hadn't spoken to in more than a decade before I moved in.

5. I met my two best friends at school... one in Junior High Woodshop Class, and one in the dorms at Cal Poly.

6. I have one tattoo that I got on my honeymoon {we went to Tahiti... the birthplace of tattoos}, and when we got home the first thing my new husband did was tattle on me to my mommy.

7. I am extremely social, and I hate to feel like I am missing out on a good time anytime any of my friends are together, but I am also a total homebody, and would usually rather be at my house than anywhere else.  Which explains why all my friends are always here.

8. My family wins things.  A lot.  My mom won a million things on gameshows, including a car and a trip around the world.  My sister just won one of Lysa's TerKeurst's blog giveaways.  I have won a Christmas wreath, a trip to Cabo San Lucas, and Bingo... to name a few.  Sometimes I don;t enter contests because I feel bad for the other people because I know I will probably win.

9. The worst day of my life was the day my husband's mom died, and I remember almost every detail with vivid clarity, but don't remember most of what happened over the next week.

10. I am a perfectionist, but I sometimes mask that with messiness.

11. I want to be a guest on The Martha Stewart Show.

12. My favorite "desserts" are doritos, tortilla chips with ranch dip and peach salsa, and string cheese.

13. I gained 45 pounds when I was pregnant.  I started at 110 pounds, which means that I nearly doubled my weight.
{I can't believe that I am showing you this picture!}

14. My grandma was a movie star, and one of her biggest roles was in a movie called Playgirl.  No... she was not that kind of movie star... she played a young girl being trained by a con-artist to trick men into giving them lots of money.  One day the Cable Guy came over to fix my cable box and saw Playgirl listed on my DVR list.  He then proceeded to tell me how pornography is the number one source of revenue for the cable company.  It was embarrassing.  Thanks Grandma!

15.  I believe that I have a calling to share with other women how to love God even when you don't get the greatest desire of your heart, and hope that someone will someday ask me to tell my story to a group of women.

16.  If I won the lottery I would buy a whole street full of houses and move all my friends and family there.  And I would open a paper store.  The only problem is that I don't play the lottery.  {Hmm... maybe I should... I do win things.}

17. The best and worst thing that has ever happened to me has been infertility.

18. I hate my middle name.

19. My parents and Nathan's parents had the same wedding anniversary.

20. If I could live in any other period in history... I wouldn't.  I am way too high maintenance!  I need my flat iron, my TV, and a drive thru!

There you go... 20 things about me.  Have you got any Random Things that you would like to share with me?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

30 Days Giveaway

I almost forgot to tell you that I am participating in a great Giveaway Week on the 30 Days Blog.

Check it out! 
She is giving away a ton of amazing products all week long!  More free stuff.  Yipee!

Raving Fan Contest

I am super, super excited to say that I have finished designing the 2011 line, have ordered all the paper, and am currently cleaning out the office making room for all the fantabulous paper that is making its way here as we speak!!!

Can I get a wooooo-hoooooooo???

Okay, maybe no one else is as excited about this as I am, but I feel like celebrating.

So I have decided to hold a contest to find 
the craziest  
and the most desperate  
Future Raving Fan

Here's the deal:

Take a picture of you and your Much Ado About You calendar {like Renee did the other day... love it}

 and then some close-ups of your calendar, showing just how much you have used and loved it.

Send your photos, along with a brief description of how much you love your calendar and why you should be chosen as our Raving Fan {a few sentences is plenty... we don't need any essays people... this isn't college application time} to emmy@muchadoaboutyou.com.  

Don't have a Much Ado About You Calendar yet, and feeling left out?

Well, I've got a special offer for you too!
You can enter our Future Raving Fan Contest!

Here's your deal:

Take a picture of yourself with whatever you are currently using to keep track of your life.

Send your photo, along with a brief description of why owning a Much Ado About You Calendar will make your life so much better to emmy@muchadoaboutyou.com

My employees and I will choose our favorites.  

The winners will get a very special sneak peek at the new line, 
and first choice on their new calendar 
that they will get for free.

Free, people!

All entries must be received by 
Wednesday, September 15th at midnight PST.

Are you excited?  I am!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You're the Boss: Part 7

I just giggled when I looked at the tip that I am supposed to expound on today.

Start a Blog
Blogs are another great {and free} alternative to a website, and a great way to get the word out about your business.  Update your blog frequently and it will be likely to show up at the top of web searches when people are looking for your types of products.

I was feeling bad that I have not been blogging very consistently lately... feeling a little worthless to my sweet bloggers... and now I'm supposed to tell you all about how you should be like me and start a blog!

Well... be like me and start a blog... but then be better than me and give your readers something to read.
Okay, now I will tell you why I think starting a blog is great for your business.

First of all, if you don't have a website a blog is a great way to have a free presence online.

I knew nothing about blogging before I started this blog.  To be honest, I am not really a blog follower myself.  It's kind of a random set of circumstances {which we all know is really just God's divine knit work} which got me into this crazy blog world.  

I was checking my Google Analytics one night {which I have said I am obsessed with doing} and I noticed that the number one Google search term that was leading people to my calendar shop was 
"how to make a felt hair clip".


So I tried it.  I went into Google and typed in "how to make a felt hair clip".  The first link that came up led me to Ashley Johnston's Make It and Love It blog.  So I started browsing around her blog and loved what  I saw.

I saw that she had over 4,000 followers. {Which, by the way, has more than doubled in the last six months... she now has 8,700 followers... if you are not one, you should really become 8,701.}

Then I noticed that she had sponsors.

I thought, hmm... maybe I should sponsor this blog.

So I sent her an email asking about sponsorship.

Then I started thinking, hmm... maybe I should start spending some money on blog sponsorship rather than Etsy showcases {which didn't seem to be getting me anywhere}.

And with that, my blog journey had begun.  

I started madly searching the web for fun crafty blogs.  I emailed several that I thought would be a good fit for my business and started calculating who I should sponsor.

{Since I am a little off topic here, let me just insert that I do not sponsor a ton of blogs.  Currently I am sponsoring Make It and Love It, Gussy {the blog}, and Bird Crafts.  I basically took the money that I had been spending trying to market on Etsy, and switched it to this blog sponsorship.}

As I started reading through these blogs I had two thoughts.  One, wow, these women are amazing, and two, I could write a blog.  When  I saw how many sponsors some of these ladies had I realized that they were making a pretty good living sharing their random thoughts with the world.  I thought... I have lots of random thoughts.  Maybe if I shared them with the world, I could make some money.

So there you have it bloggers... in all honesty... I started this blog as a business, with a plan to make some money off my random thoughts.

I had no intention of making it personal or letting you in on my life.

See how well that plan worked out.

I should have known better.  I can't keep things to myself.

Back to the point... which was... what?  Oh right... start a blog to increase your business.

I have a friend named Kelly that makes the most amazing cupcakes on the planet.  Her business and her blog are called Once Upon a Cupcake.  She has never had a website.  She doesn't advertise other than word of mouth.  But if you notice the Unavailable Dates she has listed on her blog, you will get a glimpse of how in demand her cupcakes are.

All the pertinent information that Kelly's customers need is clearly listed right there on her blog.  For Kelly, the blog was a temporary solution while she was waiting for her Web Designer husband to build her a website... but in three years she has not found the need to create one.

If you do already have a website {which I did before starting my blog} a blog can be a great way to increase traffic to your website.  Since starting my blog I have seen a huge increase in sales.  They are up over 280% from this time last year.  I know that many of my blog followers have become Much Ado About You customers {and I really super appreciate it}.

Now, I don't want to give you the impression that you can just willy-nilly start a blog, and the customers will come running.

I was very methodical about my blog.

The first thing I did was make a list of about 40 topics that I thought I could blog about.  I figured that gave me at least 8 weeks worth of material, and that should be enough to see if this whole blogging thing would work.
Then I ordered my fancy blog {from Designer Blogs... who are very affordable and who I highly recommend}.

Then I started blogging, and let everyone know it.  

I mean... I pimped myself out.  I sent an email to just about everyone I know telling them about my blog.  I posted it on Facebook, and then kept posting {and still do} every time I blogged.  I put a notice in my shop.  I emailed everyone I knew that had a business and offered them a free trial sponsorship on my blog.  I'm telling you... I really spread the word.

Forget what Kevin Costner taught us... if you build it, they will come.  You are going to have to work to build your blog, but if you are really serious about building your business, a blog can be a great tool.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Too Many Entries

Okay, I am exhausted.

You people love Creme de la Gems.

I had the most entries I have ever had for a giveaway.  457.

I had fully planned on posting Part 7 of the You're the Boss series today, but after an hour+ of organizing giveaway entries and picking the winner... I am tired.

So tired in fact that I forgot to take a screen shot of the winner, so you are going to have to trust me on this one {good thing it isn't someone that I know personally}.

Congratulations Sabine!  You are our winner.  I will send Tracy your email address.

Check back tomorrow for Part 7.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Confession: I am Desperately Out of Shape

Beau and I just got back from a 3 mile bike ride.

I may be skinny, but I am desperately out of shape.

I think I need to work on that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You're the Boss: Part 6

Looking for the Creme de la Gems  giveaway?  Scroll down or click here.

The next tip on my list is

Be Creative with your Packaging
Make your customer feel like they are opening a gift when their order arrives.

but I am currently working on some new packaging that I can't wait to share with you, so in the meantime we are going to skip ahead to

Use Inexpensive Shop Hosting Services
Etsy and Big Cartel are two great shop hosting services that offer very reasonable rates.  Until you know that your business is profitable don’t waste any money building your own website.

I have an adorably cute website.
But don't look at it.  No seriously... don't.  It's embarrassing.  Really.
Okay fine, look at it.

Did you notice that it says on the home page under the "Just In" section "The 2010 Calendar  Line is Almost Here!"?  Yeah.  We revealed that line 10 months ago.  That's how long it has been since my website has been updated.

I got an amazing deal on it, because it is really meant to be more of a blog.
However, at the time I wasn't a blogger, so I asked my Designer to use that design to make a website.
The problem is that it is not very functional.
I cannot do any updating myself.
Then my sweet, sweet, wonderful Web Designer went and had herself a baby and quit working!

I am working on solving this problem and I am hoping to reveal my new and improved website to you all very soon.  Stay tuned.  {I know you are on the edge of your seats.}

My point is... wait, what is my point?  What were we talking about?  Oh right... use inexpensive shop hosting services.

Let's talk about Etsy.

I am a big fan of Etsy.

Etsy has helped me take Much Ado About You global!
I have sold calendars in 39 states, and four countries... and that is in most part due to Etsy.

If you have no idea what Etsy is... you need to check it out.  Warning: in the beginning it is addictive.  There is a constant stream on the homepage of all the new products being posted.  I used to sit and stare at my screen, giddily {is that a word?} watching all the fun handmade goodies pop up.

Etsy is basically a handmade marketplace.  To sell on Etsy you have to sell either handmade or vintage items, or crafting supplies.  It is free to open a shop on etsy, and you get your own shop URL... for example, mine is www.MuchAdoAboutYou.etsy.com.  You pay per listing and then a percentage of each transaction.

Etsy is a great place for handmade crafters to start.  It won't cost you more than a few dollars to test the waters.

But if you are going to do it, do it right.
Here is my advice for starting an Etsy shop:

1. Get a Cute Banner
If you can't do it yourself, there are many shops on Etsy that sell banners.  Just type in "Etsy banners" in the search box and you will get a plethora of options, and it shouldn't cost you more than about $20.

2. Start Posting your Products, and Re-Post Everyday
When people do a search on Etsy, the most recently posted items will pop up first.  If you are not constantly posting, people may have 20 pages of other "girls' hair bows" that they see before your cute products.  Listings are 20 cents, so even if you posted one a day it would only cost you about $6 a month.  Once you start selling things consistently, you won't have to worry about posting, because you will be re-listing your items and that moves them back to the top.  Since I now usually sell at least one item a day on Etsy, I never have to worry about re-posting my listings to get my items to the front.  Make sense?

3. Answer your Convos in a Timely Fashion
On Etsy, a "convo" is when someone sends you a message.  If customers don't get a quick response to their convos, they may take that as a sign of poor customer service and move on to their second choice.  I try to respond to convos within a few hours at the most.  It is ideal when I can respond immediately, because they may still be sitting at their computer ready to order!

4. Know When it is Time to Move On
This is where I am at right now.  I love Etsy, and I am super grateful for how it has helped me grow my business.  But the volume of sales that I have grown to is starting to cost me a small fortune on Etsy.  My Etsy bill has been over $80 a month at times, and heading into my busiest season I expect it could get to over $100 a month easily.  At this point I believe that a lot of my business is coming from blog traffic, and I am hoping that that following will follow me to a new shop.  I don't plan on closing my Etsy shop completely {at least not a first}, but I need to find a cheaper option.

Which brings me to Big Cartel.

Now, I have not started using Big Cartel yet, but it is a big part of my Website Updating Plan.

Big Cartel has three pricing options: free, $9.99 a month, or $19.99 a month, depending on the level of service that you require.  I will be using the $19.99 a month option, which gives me 100 product listings with 5 images per product.

There are several reasons I am making this switch.
One is that it is $19.99 a month.  Period.  No listing fees.  No transaction fees.
Another reason is that it allows the use of discount codes.  Something that Etsy currently does not offer.
Also, it will be a part of my own website, using my own URL, which I think is very official.

I will keep you updated on the pros and cons as I go through the process.
If anyone else has any info they would like to share on Big Cartel or any other Hosting Services, please let us all know!  If I get some really good info, I will add it to this posting.

The bottom line is that Web Design is not cheap.  You could easily spend $3,000 to $10,000+ developing a website with a shopping cart.  For a small, home-based business this just doesn't make sense.  Take advantage of the many inexpensive options open to the little people like us.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Creme de la Gems Giveaway!

Good morning out there!
I hope you are all enjoying your mornings,
that your to-do lists are not as long as mine,
and that you are eating a healthier breakfast than my Flavor-Blasted Goldfish.

This morning it is time for another giveaway.  Don't you just love free stuff?
I found out yesterday that I won a giveaway on my of my friend's blogs... so I know how super exciting that can be.

Today, Tracy Rogers from Creme de la Gems is giving away a fabulous 
Moms Duet Handstamped Mother's Necklace

This super fantastic necklace features two brushed sterling silver hand stamped circle pendants, which you can choose in either shiny or oxidized styles.  They are adorned with two Swarovski crystal birthstone charms:

and you get to choose which font you would like:

Tracy has been a Sponsor of my blog from the very beginning and has been so helpful and encouraging in getting things going here.  She also has a beautiful blog that you should check out!

The contest will run until this Sunday (August 15th) at midnight PST.

Here's how to enter:

Leave a comment with your email address so that I can contact you if you win.

If you want a second entry:
Become a follower over in the right sidebar and let me know in your comment.  
If you already are a follower, just remind me.

If you want a third entry:
Put my button on your blog {the code is in the left sidebar} and let me know in your comment.  
If you have already done this, let me know... and thanks for the support!

If you want a fourth entry:
Blog about this giveaway and... you guessed it... let me know in your comment.

If you want a fifth entry:
Post a link to this giveaway on your Facebook status {honor system here}.
Want 5 bonus entries???  Then go to Tracy's shop to browse the options, and tell me what your favorite item is.
Want 5 more bonus entries {is this getting a little ridiculous?}, then become a follower of Tracy's blog here.

Okay, I think that 15 entries is enough... phew!

By the way, no need to make separate comments for each entry.
You can just include them all in one comment.

The winner will be announced on Monday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Clear is NOT Invisible

It's time for a winner!

Random.org chose:

Congratulations to Melissa of The Searched & Found, Oh, My Darling, and Darling Yardsale... phew, goodness gracious Melissa... you are one busy lady!


Okay, now I know we had a very serious topic on Friday, but it is time for another equally serious topic.
Clear. Bra. Straps.

We went to the Orange County Fair this weekend, and had a fabulous time eating way too much totally nasty, horrible-for-you food, watching pig races, and riding roller coasters that I was sure were going to fall apart at any moment.

But most importantly it reminded me of how many women are misinformed about their bra straps.

So here it is ladies.  My public service announcement for women everywhere.

Clear bra straps are not invisible!

You cannot wear a strapless shirt, or a halter top, or spaghetti strings straps, and throw on a bra with clear straps and think that people cannot see them.  We can see them people!  They shine in the light.

Plus inevitably clear straps turn yellow.  And that is disgusting.

Do me and eyeballs everywhere a favor and invest in a good strapless bra.  If your tatas are too big for a strapless bra, then you shouldn't be wearing a strapless top anyway.  Or spaghetti strings for that matter.
Alright, who's with me?  If you agree, then commit with me to never wearing clear bra straps.

We will make the world a more beautiful place one bra strap at a time.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Something Important

Looking for the Rags to Stitches giveaway?  Scroll down or click here.
Alright... enough of all this serious business talk.  It's time to talk about something important.
Something near and dear to my heart.
Something I hope will make you all want to join the discussion.

Reality TV.

My favorite thing about summer is that we usually get a lot of great reality TV in the summer.

Right now we've got some of my very favorites: Top Chef, Project Runway, Bethenny Getting Married? {although the season finale was last night, which I haven't had a chance to watch yet... sad}, Wipeout {this is definitely Beau's favorite}, Top Shot, The Colony... did I lose you all on those last two?

But let's talk about the serious part now.

Does anyone else hate it when they change the system on your favorite reality competition shows? First of all Project Runway... do we really need an extra half an hour???  I hate to admit that the last few seasons I have mostly fast-forwarded through the middle making-the-outfits part.  I like when they tell them what they have to make... and then I like to see what they made.  The extra thirty minutes so that we can now watch what the contestants say to each other every time someone comes back from the runway... so not necessary.  It was hard enough for me to retain control of the remote for an hour... now I have to try to hold on to it for an hour and a half!  Not helping Project Runway!  And what's with the "how many should we send home tonight?" twist?  I don't like it.  And while we're on Project Runway, for Brooke's sake I must say... what is up with Heidi's hair???  {Brooke has devoted several Facebook status updates to this topic.}  It looks like a wig.

Okay, done with my Project Runway rant.  And admittedly, I think this season has more really talented people than they ever have before, so don't worry... an hour or ninety minutes... I'll be watching.

Now... here's what I need from you... am I missing any great reality TV?  Since I'm sure 99% of you have no idea what Top Shot {the History Channel... yes, one of Nathan's favorite channels}or The Colony {the Discovery Channel} are... it's your turn to tell me what I am missing.  

Is there some great reality TV that is being overlooked in the Blakely household?
And now that  I think about it, I think I missed an entire season of one of my absolute favorites, Tori and Dean.  

I better check on that.  Gosh... do you think they are available online???

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You're the Boss: Part 5

Looking for the Rags to Stitches giveaway?  Scroll down or click here.

Brand Yourself
No, don’t get a tattoo of your business name on your shoulder, but do create a logo that accurately represents yourself and your business.

Before you come up with a logo, you have to come up with a name.

Coming up with a name for my business took me weeks.  
Really?  {You're saying}  Weeks to come up with Much Ado About You???  

I know.  
To be honest, I don't love my business name.  
It is too long, too hard to tell people, and doesn't represent my product.
But my friend Corey, who is in marketing and who I really respect, told me not to change my name, so I am keeping it.  For now.

Another friend of mine {I know... I have lots of friends... I'm blessed}, Sarah from Deer Lovely has been following this series and sent me an email with some great Branding advice.  Since I am not feeling super wise in the area of branding {and since I stumbled upon an amazing designer that created all my branding for me}, I am going to defer to her for this one:

Branding "Cover your Bases at the Beginning and Along the Way"
by Sarah Dowdell

Choosing a Name
My 3 keys to a great business name

1. Make it Original
Sometimes simple is original and sometimes its quirky.

2. Make Sure it is Available
This may seem like something so simple, but make sure whatever name you choose is available.   

3. Make it Memorable
What about your business name is going to make people remember it? Maybe your logo ties it together or maybe your branding image sparks people's memory.

  4. Pick more than one... just in case your first choice does not work out. 
Advice and suggestions from friends and family could also help in cultivating ideas.

After you Choose a Name...Covering your Bases

1. DBA (Doing Business As) 
This is something you have to do if you are doing business under any name other that your personal name and  is usually just local, but I also recommend checking the surrounding counties. You want to make sure there are not other local businesses with your name. This is very inexpensive and the best prices can be found at www.dbastore.com (they do everything for you… it is pretty awesome) 

2. Resellers Permit and Business License
Once you have a DBA, then it is imperative (if required in your state) that you get a Resellers Permit. You don't want the IRS coming after you for not paying sales tax.
Also check with your city to see if you need a business license... some require it and some don't.
3. Bank Account
Get a separate business account. (Advice from my business lawyer: If you can manage get one at a separate bank from your personal accounts, this will make it easier and less likely to have co-mingling of funds in case you decide to Incorporate.) 

4. Website
You can pretty much go to any hosting site and search if your business name is available. Also make sure it is something that people can remember... your simple business name works best. For example, my previous business name was Bird Street (which I loved), but my website was www.shopbirdstreet.com because www.birdstreet.com was taken. This may seem like a trivial thing to add shop, but people forgot all the time about the shop portion and I missed out on sales. Now I am changing the name to Deer Lovely (I love this too... yes I have a thing for animals) and I own www.deerlovely.com

Another inexpensive option for those that want to add a personal shop on their own website is www.shoppepro.com, I just found them a few month’s ago and started using them. They are only $10 a month and the owner is a stay at home mom, who started her own business and the women who work for her are super helpful. It is very simple and basic, but it’s a great starting point and they have a ton of templates to use and also a build your own. This is a great solution for those selling products that are not handmade or in addition to their Etsy site.

5. A Logo or a Look
Quality and consistency are important. (One of the things I love about Emmy's website, business cards, calendars... pretty much everything is that it is totally EMMY. The quality and look of everything is cohesive!) Order quality business cards!!! For a lot of people this may be their first impression of you. If you can afford to hire a graphic designer, do it... so many today are affordable and I'm sure both of us have a list of people that have helped us. If you can't afford it... I recommend www.uprinting.com. Great Templates (including build your own), great products, and great prices.

6. INC. 
Make sure you check if your business name is incorporated already in the state you live in. This might not be necessary for all of you, but if your business grows, you will need to Inc. and if someone else has incorporated that same name (another reason I decided to change my business name) this does not mean you can't use your business name. At this point it is a good idea to talk to a business lawyer to know your options.
7. Trademark
If your name is really original and your business is growing, you need to have it trademarked. (You can also get logos trademarked.) This is important and is one of the best things you can do to protect your business. However this is the most expensive and I recommend it for people whose business is really growing and expanding.  Especially if you grow nationally. 
Resource: www.uspto.gov

Thanks Sarah for taking the time to put this great posting together!