Thursday, July 29, 2010

You're the Boss: Part 3

Looking for the Munchkin Things and Strings giveaway?  Scroll down or click here.

Be Concentrated
If you are serious about wanting a successful business and not just a hobby, pick just one or two products and make them the best version of those products that you can.

I feel very strongly that if you have a home-based business you should stick to just one product, or a few very similar products.  
At least in the beginning.

All the more so if you have an Etsy shop.
I have never listed my invitations on Etsy.  I'm not sure why... I just have never done it.
Lately, I have been considering it.
However, if I do, I will open a different shop for my invitations.
I really like that when people look at my Much Ado About You shop, this is what they see:
Calendars... and then some more calendars.

It drives me crazy when I go to an Etsy shop and out of the twenty items listed for sale in the shop there are 18 different products.  I won't buy from a shop like that for two reasons:

1.  It tells me that they are not serious about their business.  They are grasping at straws trying to find a product that works... and FYI... they haven't found it.

2.  It tells me that I am going to get a crummy version of their product, because they haven't made enough of them to perfect it.

Here are some examples of shops that speak to my heart:

This shop offers several different types of accessories, but they all incorporate her beautiful, handmade rosettes.

Looking for an apron?  Here's where you will find aprons.  And some aprons.  And a few aprons.
I love it!

This shop sells adorable handmade baby shoes... just like it says.  I would feel confident ordering baby shoes here because she clearly makes a lot of baby shoes.  Sizing can be tricky with baby shoes... but I would trust her descriptions because she has sold 177 pairs of baby shoes.  Baby shoes... get it?

Again, this shop sells several different items, but they all incorporate beautiful handmade felt flowers.  There is consistency.

 Handmade headbands and hairclips.  Headbands and hairclips.  Headbands and hairclips.
You getting the idea?

So pick one thing {that you love to make, remember} and make as many versions of that one thing as you would like to.
But for now, stick to that one thing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Obsession: Google Analytics

Looking for the Munchkin Things and Strings giveaway?  Scroll down or click here.
Are any of you other Bloggers/Shop Owners as obsessed with Google Analytics as I am?  I admit... I check it every day.

So this evening when I noticed that my shop had some hits from a new source, I thought I should check it out.  It was a blog that  I do not advertise on... so I thought, Oh how nice!  She must have talked about my shop.

She did.  But it was not as nice as I had hoped.

It started out well, and at first I was really excited.  I mean the title was good:  The post about where I died and went to heaven

Wow, she must really like my calendars!

The beginning sounded great:
There is this lady, she started a business. A successful business. She MAKES CUSTOM PERSONALIZED CALENDERS. Like planners. Like just how you need then. And they're cute. And OH EM GEE I think I might die. Of course the OCD Type A in me was whipping out my debit card and ready to lay down the dineros for a personalized planner. How FREAKING PERFECT would this be?!?! 

Then I read the rest:
But, hold the phone Betty....48 bucks! And then I got a little sad. I refuse to pay $48 just on principle since I have a perfectly good planner right now that is pretty similar inside, just not decorated all pretty. And it's color coded. Yes, COLOR coded. Work days are in red pen, Colts games are in blue pen, birthdays are in black, payday is green, etc.

And then I started thinking of how I could decorate my already perfect on the inside calendar...

Now I am sad.  I guess she doesn't realize that handmade products are very difficult to make a profit on.  Or that we make these calendars from start to finish in my little office.  Or that at Staples you can pay $25 for a plain, plastic, cheap, ugly, non-personalized, horribly laid-out calendar.  Or that last year over 400 customers didn't think $48 was too much to pay.  Or that a local retail shop sells them for over $60... that would blow her mind!

They say any publicity is good publicity, right?  That is what I am going to tell myself tonight.


In case you don't look at comments, I woke up this morning to my husband cracking up at this one:

I'm so sad right now! This is totally NOT how I meant it to come across. The calendar is ABSOLUTELY worth the price. I meant, and maybe didn't come across as saying so well, that I refuse to spend money on a planner BECAUSE I have a perfectly good one I just filled out with all my information. Granted, it is in fact a generic one that I have ripped out pages and tabbed pages. It's still kind of messy and not perfect which is why the OCD in me screamed when I stumbled upon your site AHHH GOODNESS GRACIOUS I MUST HAVE!! But then frugal, single mamma on a budget in me went "hold on there crazy YOU HAVE A PLANNER".

I'm going to post a follow up on my blog explaining my foot in mouth (keyboard in mouth?) so to speak and you will be getting an order from me soon.

I'm so sorry!

He said to me, "Now you have had your first hater and your first blog war."

I informed him that this is not a blog war.
Just the opposite
I have a new friend now, same as with my "hater".

Welcome Jen... now I am going to give you a free calendar because I didn't mean to make you feel bad, and I certainly don't want people thinking we are in a blog war.

P.S.  I love people.  There was also a comment from Linsie of Munchkin Things and Strings saying that she was going to send me a credit towards Jen's purchase.  And she did.  Thank you for your generosity Linsie, but I will send it back since I am going to give Jen a free calendar.

P.P.S.  Don't go getting any ideas that if you blog a complaint about my shop I will send you a free calendar.  I'm not made of money here people!

Finally... a Giveaway!

So, I don't know if you've noticed, but we haven't had a giveaway around here since before the big raffle!  It's high time, don't you think???

This morning our giveaway is from Linsie at Muchkin Things and Strings.

Linsie has been a sponsor of mine from the very beginning, and you may remember that she donated some adorable hair accessories for the Adoption Raffle.  

She has a fanatastic blog where she shares lots of great tutorials that I think you will all really enjoy.

This week, Linsie is giving away several hair accessories to one lucky winner.

I will give you a detailed list of each item that is going to be included in this giveaway later this week {the package has not arrived yet, but as soon as it does you will know}.

***This giveaway is now closed***
The contest will run until this Sunday (August 1st... is it seriously almost August???) 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 Linsie's website to browse the options, and let me know what your favorite item is in your comment.
Want 5 more bonus entries {is this getting a little ridiculous?}, then become a follower of Linsie'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, July 26, 2010

You're the Boss: Part 2

Today I am going to start breaking down my list of my

Top 10 Tips for Starting a
Successful Home-Based Business

So let's look at the first one:
Sell a Product that you Love to Make

Notice it doesn't say Sell a Product that you Love.  Remember that if your business thrives, you could potentially be making this product everyday for the next several years.  If it frustrates or bores you... you will wish you had decided to sell a product that you love to make!

Last year I put on a boutique, Much Ado About the Holidays, to introduce the 2010 line of calendars.  I had several friends that volunteered to help me that evening, in exchange for their 2010 calendar.  It was a win-win.  I decided to make aprons for each of them, so that the guests at the boutique would know who was there to assist them.

Here we all were, right before heading over to the boutique:

Aren't those aprons cute?
I thought so... and so did many people at the boutique.  You wouldn't believe how many women asked if they could order one of those aprons.  I had people offering me $100 for them.

But you know what?  I hated making those aprons.  I cursed my way through that entire project.  I was completely over it after the first one... and I made twelve!

I knew that if I started selling those aprons, one of two things would happen:
1. I would throw my sewing machine out the window, ruining my screen and possibly killing a child playing innocently below,
or 2. Nathan would kick me out of the house.

Calendars people... I sell calendars.  That's what I kept telling those women at the boutique.

I didn't even let my girlfriends keep the ones that I made them because I didn't want to have to make twelve more this year!

So really take the time to assess how much you enjoy the process of making your product.

If you are not passionate about what you are creating, then how can you expect your clients to be?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chocolate, Fingerprints, and Greenhorns

I've got three things to talk to you about today.

First, the chocolate.

I have mentioned my friend Kim Sprague on this blog before.  She is a Dove Chocolatier.  
That means that she goes to people's houses, makes chocolate things, and lets you eat them.  

On Monday night she came to my house and gave me and my friends chocolate!

This is Beth's Chocolatini that I subsequently spilled all over my coffee table, rug, and my sister's leg.

Wanna know a secret?  I don't even like chocolate.
I know... I am the only woman on the only woman on the planet that doesn't like chocolate.
But this Dove stuff makes me want chocolate, and I can't wait for all my free stuff to come!

Okay... now onto my second item.  Fingerprints.

We knew when we started the Home Study process that the thing that tends to hold things up is the fingerprint clearance.  So the very first thing we did, the first weekend, was go get our fingerprints done.  It took an hour and a half to take three sets each of fingerprints and cost us $320.  

For the life of me I cannot figure out why I keep having to have my fingerprints taken when fingerprints don't change!  I had them taken when I was thinking about starting the teaching credential program.  I had them taken just last year so that I could volunteer at Beau's school.  And yet, we had to have them taken once again for this Home Study process.  Oh wait... scratch that.  We had them taken three times for this process.  They were taken electronically.  Someone explain to me why the electronic file has to be taken three times.  Can't they just send the same file to three different places.


The good news is that I got an email yesterday from the Adoption Coordinator at our Home Study agency and all three sets of our fingerprints have cleared!

All our paperwork is in, we have passed our Home Inspection, our fingerprints have cleared, and after our interviews with the Social Worker this weekend... we will be done with the Home Study!

I am so excited... I have butterflies.

Finally, part three of this email... the greenhorns.

Today two of my friends, Marlo and Hayley came over to start training to join the Much Ado About You crew!  I am so excited to have them as my new lackeys.

I hope they come back.
I think I totally overwhelmed them.

Marlo says she is coming back tomorrow.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You're the Boss: Part 1

I was recently asked by Gussy to write a guest post for her blog, which will be posted sometime in the next week while she is on vacation.
{So be looking for it.}

I decided to write about starting a successful home-based business.  When I started writing it, I realized that I had a lot to say {shocking, I know} and so I thought why not make this a series of postings on my own blog? 

So here it is... Part 1 of You're the Boss.

I can't remember how much I have shared with you about my business, and rather than scan through the last three months worth of postings, I'll just tell you again.  If you know this story {or if you don't really care} skip to the list of tips below.

Okay, so in 2007 I started my Event Planning and Custom Invitation business.  I was so excited to be running my own business, but Event Planning was hard and stressful, and not really consistent.

A few months into my business I went searching around town for a calendar because things were getting busy and I was feeling disorganized.  Being extremely particular about my calendar, I could not find exactly what I was looking for.  So I enlisted Nathan, the Excel Spreadsheet Master {really, we always joke that if there is ever a reality competition show for people who make Excel spreadsheets, Nathan will be the Tom Colicchio of the show} to make me a calendar.  Then I bound it, decorated it, added a family photo and some bling... and had my perfect calendar.

When my friends saw it, they wanted one.  Then their friends wanted one.

Pretty soon I was working full time to keep up with the demand of my calendar business.  What, you say?  Calendar business???  Yeah... it was a surprise to me too.  I also thought I was an Event Planner.

In the last two years {in the middle of an economic crisis in our country, mind you} I have sold close to 600 calendars out of my little home office, and have hired six of my friends to work with me.  Things are going well for Much Ado About You.

As much as I love the creative outlet that my business provides, I also really love the business of it all.  I enjoy strategizing about ways to streamline my process and grow my company.  I have learned a lot through trial and error and by picking the brains of other Small Business Owners that I admire and respect.

I love sharing my experience with friends that are trying to start new businesses, so I wanted to share with you all my
Top 10 Tips for Starting a 
Successful Home Based Business

I will share the whole list with you today, then share more details about each item over the course of this series.  
Fellow Business Owners, please feel free to comment and share your own experiences!

Sell a Product that you Love to Make
If sewing makes you want to throw your machine out the window, do not sell handmade quilts.

Be Concentrated
If you are serious about wanting a successful business and not just a hobby, pick just one or two products and make them the best version of those products that you can.

Make Sure the Price is Right
Price your products reasonably, but don’t undersell yourself!  Remember to account for your supplies and your time, and leave room to grow into paying for labor costs.  If you can’t do all this… you probably shouldn’t be selling that product.

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. 

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Have Excellent Customer Service
Ultimately, the best free advertisement is a happy customer!  Go above and beyond to ensure that your customers will not only want to come back, but will also be sending their friends your way.  People that are willing to spend a little extra for handmade products expect a little extra service to go along with the price… give them more than they expect!

Check back in the coming days for even more 
details about each of these ideas!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Creative Connection

Okay, so have I been living under a rock???
Why did I not know about The Creative Connection?

Why have you all been holding out on me?

Thank you Sandi for finally bringing me into the loop.

Now I need to know... who among you is going?
Are any of you planning on participating in the Handmade Market?
Is anyone else peeing in your pants over the possibility of being in the same room with Ree Drummond, Heather Bailey, and Amy Butler... all at the same time???

Tell me some of you can relate.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where are all my CLOTHESPINS?

Does anyone else seem to lose clothespins left and right???

Are you now wondering why in the heck I use clothespins in 2010, when I have a clothes dryer?

I use them as chip clips.  I know... smart, huh?

Well, clothespins come in bags of like 100.  So clearly, I started out with a lot of clothespins.  But somehow they are constantly disappearing from my house.  I know I don't have 100 bags of chips in my pantry {although, admittedly, at times it might be close}, and yet I have no pins left in my drawer!  Argh!!!

Now all my chips are getting stale.  Boo.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I know... I've been MIA.  I'm sorry.

But I have three excuses.

One is that I have been teaching Vacation Bible School all week at church.  Anyone that has ever participated in a VBS with 500+ children in 90+ degree weather knows how incredibly draining that is!

My second excuse is that tomorrow the Social Worker is coming to interview us and do our Home Inspection, so I have been madly locking up medicines, filling in fountains, and purchasing fire extinguishers.

The last excuse is my favorite.
Frankly, I felt like my posting on Monday was way more profound than I am... so I wanted to relish in it for a little while.  I mean seriously people... that was pretty good stuff that God gave me.  I wanted to make sure you all had time to read it.

Alright... wish us luck tomorrow!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Bird in the House

So Friday morning Jennifer and I were working away in the office and the kids were outside playing. 
Jen kept hearing a funny noise, but didn't think much of it.

Then she went to go downstairs, and this is what sent her screaming back into the office {and I do mean screaming... like there was a giant tarantula on the loose}.

There was a bird in the house.
In the window above my stairwell, to be exact.

A tiny, tiny, confused, little bird.

The problem was that we were getting ready to leave, and I didn't want to leave the house with a bird on the loose.

I got my extender duster (which I first had to figure out how to use, since we all know I don't do the cleaning}.

It just made him angry.

This is the bird's angry face, according to Jen.  She thought he was trying to bite her.

This is my reaction to the bird's angry face:

We quickly realized that we were getting nowhere with this stupid bird.

We were hungry.

So we left the front door {which is right below this window, for the record} propped open and went to Chick-fil-A.

Fortunately, no one stole anything while we were gone.
Unfortunately, the bird didn't leave.

I called Animal Control.

They told me to turn off all the lights and open the door.  Duh.  That might have helped had the bird not been perched in my bright, sunny, non-opening window!

At four o'clock {now a good five hours into Birdgate} I had to leave for the evening.

The bird had already made a huge mess of poop all over my window sills, and I couldn't just leave him in my house all night.

I called in reinforcements by the name of Kevin {my brother-in-law}.

He got right to business fashioning an even longer extender onto my extender duster, and he knocked that bird off the window sill and onto my landing. 
{Note: The following pictures were taken by Jennifer, in a state of terror.}

The bird was under the duster at this point.

Then we sent Beau in to trap the bird in a trash can.  
{That's right... we sacrificed the 7 year old.}

Finally... containment.

Kevin then slipped a piece of cardboard under the trash can and took the bird out to the front yard.

Free at last little bird... now don't come back!

Because it wasn't easy to clean this off my walls:

I was then able to leave in peace and head off to what I have been looking forward to for the last year, since my mom bought our tickets... Beth Moore.  Live.  In person.

The conference was phenomenal.  Beth was speaking on prayer... a simple topic, but with her usual profound twist.

We studied Luke 11:1-13, which includes this passage:  "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Beth shared that sometimes we think God does not answer our prayers because we have asked for a snake, and he has given us a fish instead.  In other words, we ask for what we think is best, but he gives us the even better thing.

It made me think of that stupid little bird, and how he and I are actually a lot alike.

I kept yelling at that bird on Friday, saying Stupid bird!  The door is wide open... just fly out the door!
But all the bird could see was what was on the other side of that window.  So he banged and banged his head on that window, desperate for what was on the other side, thinking that was the only way out.  It was hard and scary and painful, but he just kept banging.

Then, just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, and that he would never get out, this big black thing knocked him off the window sill and suddenly he found himself alone in a dark, dark place... a little banged up, frustrated and hopeless.

But that is when he opened his eyes and found that he was out in the yard, with the sunlight on his face... exactly where he wanted to be all along.

I am that stupid bird.

God has thought of me Silly girl {I don't think he calls me stupid}!  The door is wide open... just fly out the door!

But I have been banging my head against the window, thinking my plan was best.

It makes me wonder how many times in my life I have missed out on the incredible blessings that the Lord had for me because I was too busy banging my head on that window, trying to make it work my way.

Today I am going to fly out the door.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fancy Grace

I used to be an Event Planner.
I try to avoid it at all costs now, but sometimes the crazy in me takes over and I end up coordinating another party.

Event Planning is a very hard business.  Not only do you have to be extremely creative and able to make quick decisions, but you have to be ridiculously organized and handle stress well.

I got tired of trying to maintain my sanity with clients that wanted to nickel and dime me in the eleventh hour because they had a hard time seeing the value of my intangible product.
{Forget the fact that when all was said and done, I was making under minimum wage for the amount of hours that I would put into each event!}

I did love the planning though... my favorite part is taking a theme and infusing it into every element of the event.

The other day my friend Kristen posted some pictures on Facebook of her daughter's 4th birthday party.

I am never going to plan an event again... from now on, I am calling Kristen.

Take a look at Kristen's daughter's Fancy Grace Party:
{Click on any of the images below to enlarge.}

I mean talk about getting it down to every last detail!!!

And look at all the fun activity stations she has set up for the kids:

I can't imagine how much time she spent on the food alone:

I am hoping that she bought some of these items.
If everything here was homemade, I think Kristen might be hiding the fact that she has some kind of super powers.

Look... she even managed to have a picture of the birthday girl with the author of the Fancy Nancy series.

Look at the detailing on the centerpieces {which, yes... I am certain she made}.

And the best part is that even John {Kristen's husband, and one of our groomsmen} got in on the action.

If you live in Orange County and are looking for someone to help you plan your next event, don't call me... call Kristen Morgan.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Obsession: Fonts

I am obsessed with fonts.

I have over 500 on my computer.
{Which I don't recommend... it just makes choosing a font extremely difficult.}

Generally speaking, I will find a new font that I love.
I will use it as much as possible, on every invitation I design.

Then... one day... I will just tire of that font and it will leave my repertoire.

Of course, I don't delete it from my computer, because what if one day I decide I like it again?

Another thing I am obsessed with is Christmas cards {wait for it... I swear there will be a connection}.

I love getting and giving Christmas cards.  I have a contest to choose my favorites in a variety of categories that change each year {for example, this year we had the category "Best Use of a Fake Deer"}.

Last year, my friend Corey {who is a Graphic Artist} and I were looking through Brooke's Christmas Cards and we decided that there should be a Font Graveyard {see... there it is}.
A place where we can bury {i.e. delete from the computer} those fonts that have been so very overplayed and should never, ever be used again.

This morning, I think I will start clearing the clutter, and begin the burial.

Here are the fonts I am burying first and foremost.
{If you are currently using one of these fonts as your go-to... please consider making a change.}

If I have just crushed your spirit by burying your favorite font, I apologize.
So how about I make it up to you by telling you my newest font secret?

I found this blog a few weeks ago...

You can download {for free} some amazingly cute fonts.

My current obsessions are:

See... super adorable, right?
Did I make it up to you?

Do you have any font secrets to share???
Want to add some to the memorial?  Or know about a great font resource?
Think I'm a cooky bird that obsesses about weird things?

It's okay... I am aware.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Does anyone like Arby's?  I mean really, really like Arby's?

Nope?  Well me either!

The last two summers we have taken road trips through Utah.
We love road trips.
Nathan loves road trips through Utah because there is an Arby's at every exit.


We learned last year that rule number one when driving through Utah is never u-turn for an Arby's.
{We learned this after we u-turned for an Arby's, then passed one on almost every other exit for the rest of our trip.}

Today we are driving home through Utah.

Nathan is extremely excited for Arby's.

I am hoping they have a Chick-fil-A next door, but I realize that is a pipe dream.