31 October 2013

Learn to Say Thank You // Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs #31Days


The information in this post could actually be part of a series called "What to do in Life", but it really really really applies in business, so we're putting it here, too.

Ok?

One of the best opportunities we have in life to make people's lives better, make them feel appreciated, acknowledge them and their value in the world is to thank them.  

It's so simple, isn't it? But don't we often forget to stop. And acknowledge a word, an action, a service, time spent, help given, or no reason at all.  Sometimes people just need to hear that they're appreciated, and that we notice them.  It's a beautiful way that we can build into other people's lives.

I love putting the practice of thank you into my own life. I have a long way to go, and still forget at times, because there are 324350956 emails waiting and my laundry just buzzed and my eggs are getting over cooked, and I have a 7:30 meeting, but it's WORTH it.

Here are some of my favorite ways to say Thank You:
  • The age-old handwritten note. It's fun to sweeten up the address area of the envelope, too. I have a Resources pin-board, and pinned some inspiration there.
  • A quick text message.  It's simple, isn't it? Just tell the person you loved seeing them, and thanks for making time.
  • An unexpected treat. I keep a supply of Starbucks gift cards in my desk drawer at work.  When I have a conversation with someone who I can tell just needs a lift, is feeling frustrated or unappreciated, I write a quick note (I found some simple and stylish stationary here) telling them they are doing great work, and I appreciate what they do, stick in the Starbucks card, and off it goes. 
  • Have WARM COOKIES DELIVERED. There's a company in our town that delivers warm cookies and ice cold milk all over town.  It's more of an investment than the other I've given you, but sometimes you need a really unique something that will make an impact. This is it.  Last year for Administrative Professionals Day, our office sent cookies and milk to all our advisors' assistants across town. It was a hit. We've also used it to acknowledge new clients joining our practice.  If you send it to a client's workplace, not only do they become REALLY popular, your name gets out there, too.  You can check to see if they are in your area right here.
This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 1: Why It Matters
Day 2: Business Basics You May Have Forgotten
Day 3: Get Control of your Day
Day 4: Do Looks Really Matter?
Day 5: Find Your People
Day 6: Resources You Should be Using
Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 8: What are you Afraid of?
Day 9: Margin
Day 10: Change Your Surroundings
Day 11: Get (really) Good Before You Go Wide
Day 12: Take your Birthday Off
Day 13: Done is Better than Perfect
Day 14: Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully
Day 15: Outsource your Weakness by Trading your Talent
Day 16: Invest in Yourself
Day 17: Allison Lehman of The Wonderjam Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 18: Make it Happen
Day 19: Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 20: Ask the Pretty Girl to Prom (aka Fall in Love with Rejection)
Day 21: Not a Grey Suit Kind of Gal
Day 22: Erin Souder of Grandiflora Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 23: Help the Little Guy
Day 24: Learn to Say Thank You

30 October 2013

Help the Little Guy // Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs #31Days


Can you remember back to the time when you learned to ride your bike? You were so wobbly, and more so because you were shaking a little bit a lot than from lack of skill, some because of excitement and some because you were just plain scared.  Thankfully your dad had a strong hold on the back of that bike seat, and you knew he was going to let go eventually, but thankfully he didn't until you were good and focused on that road, confident as you peddled on. 

And the first time you made it to the end of the cul de sac, all your family was there, and they cheered and made a huge deal out of the accomplishment, because they'd been in your proverbial seat before, and knew that part of the learning and succeeding is having people there to cheer you on and hang onto your seat until you're ready to stay up on your own.

I wonder if it's the same in business.  

Wherever you are in your business right now, there's someone who's not quite as far along as you. Their ideas are new and fresh, their work ethic is strong, their integrity the driver. Where they're headed is so good and so relevant - you believe in what they're doing - but they just haven't yet gotten to where you are.

As someone who's been on the bike before, making it to the end of the cul de sac, hang onto their seat to steady their nervous legs a bit. Cheer them on. Make a big deal about people who are just a little behind where you are. Find or ask(!) what would be valuable to them, what would build into their business, their visibility, their credibility. Then do something. Build into what you think the world needs more of.

Some of those things might be:
  • A simple re-tweet
  • An Instagram of their design/hand-letting/handbag/blog post 
  • A handwritten note of encouragement
  • An email introduction between two people who could work synergistically
  • A blog post
Hey big people: Let's build into little people so we get more really awesome big people to build into lots of really awesome little people who turn into big people.


Ok?



This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 1: Why It Matters
Day 2: Business Basics You May Have Forgotten
Day 3: Get Control of your Day
Day 4: Do Looks Really Matter?
Day 5: Find Your People
Day 6: Resources You Should be Using
Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 8: What are you Afraid of?
Day 9: Margin
Day 10: Change Your Surroundings
Day 11: Get (really) Good Before You Go Wide
Day 12: Take your Birthday Off
Day 13: Done is Better than Perfect
Day 14: Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully
Day 15: Outsource your Weakness by Trading your Talent
Day 16: Invest in Yourself
Day 17: Allison Lehman of The Wonderjam Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 18: Make it Happen
Day 19: Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 20: Ask the Pretty Girl to Prom (aka Fall in Love with Rejection)
Day 21: Not a Grey Suit Kind of Gal
Day 22: Erin Souder of Grandiflora Savvy Entrepreneur Interview

28 October 2013

Savvy Entrepreneur Interview: Erin Souder, House of Earnest, Grandiflora // #31Days


Today's Savvy Entrepreneur is Erin Souder of Grandiflora, a soon-to-be-launched Home + Decor line. Erin's blog is House of Earnest , which I've followed since last spring; she's one gifted lady, and her new line is sure to be as stylish as she is.




I am the owner and designer of a home decor and entertaining accessories line, Grandiflora - which launches officially in November. Grandiflora showcases 4 yearly capsule collections, each collection with a common theme or color story that runs throughout the pieces. This holiday, the line includes a lot of black, cream, gold, and warm wood tones. It's going to be gorgeous!




Yes, It was when I realized that I didn't want to be a full time blogger. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE blogging, but I wanted something tangible to create and to make others lives a little more beautiful. I sat on the plane on the way home from Alt and just started brainstorming. What was it that I loved about blogging and what was it that I loved about my day job (as a product developer for an apparel brand). I worked it down to a very simple desire: I love to create. That's it. At the very center of what I do everyday is that I create something that was once just an idea and I mold it into reality. The idea of forming my own home decor company based off this one realization was daunting to say the least, but my husband and a few very encouraging friends believed in me and that encouraged me to take the leap.




First is to channel those classes you used to have in high school or college and build a business plan with a mission statement. Its so easy to get lost in a sea of decisions and reading that pared down specific goal will keep you on track.

Second, hire the right people. I mean a lawyer, an accountant, and (for me) a graphic designer. Having other professional experts is really important to stay on top of issues and to also get another eye on things. If something isn't' your expertise, you'll end up worrying and second guessing it which leads nowhere fast.

Third, Jump in with two feet. I think a lot of endeavors fail because people are tiptoeing into it. Get your plan together and do it 100% 



I think a lot of people don't delegate the right things. I'm all about branding and having a very strong and recognizable brand image. You know I love DIY, but a home-done logo and business cards makes my skin crawl, and you can always spot them. Unless you are a graphic designer, hire one.


oh man, that's hard! I'm currently working on a big project with West Elm which was a total dream goal of mine. The project (official details to come soon) mixes a DIY element with a styling element and gets to play around with their new Christmas line. It incorporates all of my favorite things - DIY, Product, and Styling.



Creating relationships and networking is huge. This project didn't come along over night, I had one small interaction which turned into something bigger which culminated in my sending a really scary pitch (and it being accepted). At the end of the day, I try to always respond to email, never close a door completely, and take risks. 


I don't know that I have one yet, but at this point I'm researching the competition. I've been doing so much research, I know what every other ecomm shop in my demographic has, what prices they're selling at and how quickly they're moving through inventory. I want to set myself apart when it comes to product, but ensure that I'm in line with the price points and marketing exposure of those in my demographic.



Firstly, One MUST have a passion for their idea. It cannot be a fleeting 'like'. I've been working as a product developer for 8 years for other companies and still absolutely love it. I knew that I wasn't going to fall out of love with the day to day job function and I knew that I had a real drive and passion to make this my career.



Success is so subjective, but for me I want to achieve build an internationally recognizable brand selling beautifully designed, unique product which allows me to live a comfortable life working alongside my husband. I believe the formula for this is about 1 part having a relevant and unique product and 5 parts really hard work.


Y'all - So great, right?!  Now go to the Grandiflora launch site and stick your email address in that little email box so you know when they launch.  You don't want to miss what's coming! What she is doing is awesome. Now go support her!

Erin - thanks so much for sharing with us today! Can't wait to see your beautiful creations come to life!

This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 1: Why It Matters
Day 2: Business Basics You May Have Forgotten
Day 3: Get Control of your Day
Day 4: Do Looks Really Matter?
Day 5: Find Your People
Day 6: Resources You Should be Using
Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 8: What are you Afraid of?
Day 9: Margin
Day 10: Change Your Surroundings
Day 11: Get (really) Good Before You Go Wide
Day 12: Take your Birthday Off
Day 13: Done is Better than Perfect
Day 14: Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully
Day 15: Outsource your Weakness by Trading your Talent
Day 16: Invest in Yourself
Day 17: Allison Lehman of The Wonderjam Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 18: Make it Happen
Day 19: Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 20: Ask the Pretty Girl to Prom (aka Fall in Love with Rejection)
Day 21: Not a Grey Suit Kind of Gal
Day 22: Erin Souder of Grandiflora Savvy Entrepreneur Interview

25 October 2013

Not a Grey Suit Kind of Gal // Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs #31Days


I think in my life as a colorful gal working in a traditional wealth management firm, I've had a few crises of identity.  You see, I'm not really the kind with seven suits hanging in my closet in all their professional and neutral-color-they-go-with-anything glory.  I am addicted to color, and think it plays a really important role in the world.  I'm much more likely to show up in a bright red blazer  than the perfectly conservative tan suit and pumps.  

And I think that has held me back. Not the fact that I don't really dress the traditional part, but that I've spent all this time wondering about it.  Are they going to think I'm not serious? That I have no clue? That I'm just a kid trying to make it in a grown-up world? 

I wonder if anyone else has had the same kinds of questions. Maybe it's not about what you wear on your body, but what your diploma says or how frayed your camera strap is, hanging loved across your shoulder.

Can we just do away with those things? 

How about we show up early, do a great job, and care genuinely about people, and let the rest work itself out.

That's a wardrobe I can live with.


This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 1: Why It Matters
Day 2: Business Basics You May Have Forgotten
Day 3: Get Control of your Day
Day 4: Do Looks Really Matter?
Day 5: Find Your People
Day 6: Resources You Should be Using
Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 8: What are you Afraid of?
Day 9: Margin
Day 10: Change Your Surroundings
Day 11: Get (really) Good Before You Go Wide
Day 12: Take your Birthday Off
Day 13: Done is Better than Perfect
Day 14: Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully
Day 15: Outsource your Weakness by Trading your Talent
Day 16: Invest in Yourself

24 October 2013

Ask the Pretty Girl to Prom (aka Fall in Love with Rejection) // Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs #31Days


A couple of weeks ago, I approached someone I very much (VERY much) admire in business and in life.  My email was perfectly crafted - thoughtful yet to the point. I wondered if she'd be one of my Savvy Entrepreneur interviewees (like this and this), and the little butterflies in my stomach made their appearance as I got ready to click send.  

I'd been thinking a lot about risk and reward and rejection at that point, so when she wrote back and graciously said she wasn't able to participate, I almost wrote her back and THANKED her for saying no, because it had meant rejection for me, and rejection means growth, which means reward!  

Let's make a little picture:


RISKING REJECTION --------> GROWTH --------> OPPORTUNITY


Here's the deal, guys.

You have to fall in love with rejection.

Doesn't it sound so strange but make so much sense at the same time? 

See, for me, when I got that NO a couple weeks ago, I knew I was in EXACTLY the right spot, because I'd put myself out there, and risked her rejecting me.  I (quite literally in fact) celebrated the NO, because I'd found a willingness in myself to tiptoe out far enough on the branch to risk it breaking. And it broke! I'd tiptoed far enough!  

And so, after celebrating a bit, I wrote an email back, thanking her for taking the time to respond and wishing her well on an upcoming project, then got back to my list of Savvy Entrepreneurs, and crafted an email to the next person on my list, excited that they may also say no.

Does what I'm saying make sense? 

Find yourself in places where there is a risk of rejection, because that is where you'll find growth.  And growth means opportunity.

Send the scary book proposal, ask your hero to be your mentor, ask a blogger to feature your new product design, tell someone you'd like to work with them.

Ask the pretty girl to prom.




This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 1: Why It Matters
Day 2: Business Basics You May Have Forgotten
Day 3: Get Control of your Day
Day 4: Do Looks Really Matter?
Day 5: Find Your People
Day 6: Resources You Should be Using
Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 8: What are you Afraid of?
Day 9: Margin
Day 10: Change Your Surroundings
Day 11: Get (really) Good Before You Go Wide
Day 12: Take your Birthday Off
Day 13: Done is Better than Perfect
Day 14: Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully
Day 15: Outsource your Weakness by Trading your Talent
Day 16: Invest in Yourself

Day 18: Make it Happen

23 October 2013

Savvy Entrepreneur Interview: Rebecca Smith, Better Life Bags // #31Days

Today's Savvy Entrepreneur interview is with Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags.  I had the joy of meeting Rebecca in person at this year's Influence Conference, and she is as sweet a person as her bags are in style!  From the moment I heard about Better Life Bags, I knew I wanted to support them because I believe so fully in their mission, which you get to learn about as Rebecca tells us her story below.



Better Life Bags is a custom handbag company that makes bags based on the customer's design from our website.  We also intentionally hire people from our immigrant community who have a hard time finding jobs outside their homes.  Not only does this help them become either the primary or secondary income provider in their homes, but provides them with much needed friendship and fellowship as we visit with them and invest in their lives as people. 


I attribute much of the course change of Better Life Bags to Kacia and Raechel.  They pushed me to try using genuine leather on the bags I was making for them and it really changed the direction of the business for the better.  Up until that point we had been making custom FABRIC bags.  The leather/fabric combo really sets us apart from other bag companies. 


1. Find something that you genuinely love doing/making.  I was naturally interested (aka: obsessed) with bags, so designing them and making them was easy for me.  You will spend hours upon hours in the start up phase of your business creating (and getting paid very little for it).  Make sure you love the product you are making!

2. Have a presence on social media.  Especially Instagram.  My Instagram followers are my favs (shhhhh - don't tell FB or Twitter).  It helps that I love Instagram myself, but my fans on there are genuine, encouraging, and my best customers.  I also think it's important to have a mix of your personal life and business on social media.  People like to get to know the person behind the business.  

3. Customer service is key.  A happy customer is much more likely to tell their friends, but an UNHAPPY customer will tell everyone they know!  



Trying to do it all yourself.  As soon as you are able, hire someone to help you do the things you hate: shipping, emails, etc...  Then as orders pick up (because you have more time to devote to your products and marketing and are generally more encouraged), hire more people to help you make/create the products until you've worked yourself into your dream job behind your business.


{Full disclosure: As the answer to this question, Rebecca asked me to select some pictures from her website. This bag's name is Brynnda, and I. LOVE. HER.  As soon as I can justify the purchase, she will be mine. And this will be her design (did you know you get to custom-design your bag?). So snazzy.}

In the fashion industry, I think it's important to stay ahead of trends.  I've phased out a few bags that I felt were too outdated and am constantly looking for new design ideas in fashion magazines and Pinterest.  It's important to be unique and to create something that no one else can.  Listen to your customers, too!  Some of my best selling bags have come from a suggestion from a customer.


For me, I never want to go into debt to start a business.  I will work for $2 an hour (for a period of time) before going into debt.  I also would have to have a passion and reason for starting the new business in the first place.  It would have to meet a need in my community (like jobs) and be something I'm so passionate about that it doesn't feel like work.


Ultimately, I think Passion + Perseverance = Success... whether or not your business succeeds in the world's eyes or makes as much money as you'd like.  Creating and trying is success enough!

If hearing Rebecca's own words weren't enough, I discovered this video on her website.  It really helps cast a vision for what they've got going on.  

Rebecca - thank you for your generosity in telling your story.  Thank you for your commitment to making your community a better place. And thank you for making beautiful bags we want to buy! 

Let's support what Rebecca is doing!


Having trouble viewing the video? Watch it HERE.



This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 9: Margin
Day 18: Make it Happen

21 October 2013

Savvy Entrepreneur Interview: Allison Lehman, the Wonderjam // #31Days

Ok, kids.  I am so excited for today.  It is interview day.  And today we get to hear about entrepreneurial secrets from one of my VERY FAVORITE entrepreneurs.

Drumroll please… one of my favorite bloggers (her posts are quite literally one of the first I read each day), and for sure my graphic design hero (if you need a design - for anything - she's your first call)… help me welcome someone who's making the world a better place (go support what she's doing!). 

- Allie Lehman of The Wonderjam:




I own a business with my best friend + husband. It's called The Wonder Jam and we're still figuring out everything that we do! Lately we keep calling ourselves "The Defenders of Brands" because we're often brought in to do exactly that! We love working with businesses just starting (or existing, successful companies too) and making sure that they stay true to who they are. This is really broad so more specifically: we brand, we build websites, we help increase online sales and traffic and everything in between. Last week I ran around town creating a birthday present for a client's mom. We love being partners and allowing our clients to do what they're good at. 



Wow! You're asking the wrong person. I only say that because I have the worst memory. Ever. But I do remember going to Weapons of Mass Creation last year in Cleveland and I left so inspired. I saw and heard artists talk about their passion and we can't waste the time we have. We should be lucky that we get to do this! I quit my full-time job a couple months later to start my own business.



Hire an accountant, hire a lawyer and work to over-deliver with every client. Referrals are why we're successful. 


Don't let anyone convince you that you NEED to take out a loan or borrow money. There are definitely times when some startups will need to do...but most creative entrepreneurs don't need it. I also see a lot of entrepreneurs grow prematurely and hire employees or pay too much for an office. Overhead is not your friend! Try to keep those costs down and you'll be able to work with passionate people.



The Blowout Bar! We've worked with the owners since September 2012 and it's one of the most rewarding projects I've ever been a part of. I was able to design the logo, website, signage, windows, chalkboard menu, photography, paper goods + more. They opened October 12 and I basically felt like a proud mother. When you're dedicated to working with clients - they start to feel like family. 




I wouldn't have been able to do all of that if I had undersold my skills. Working with someone for over a year (and then on a retainer) can't be cheap. You can't always expect to do great work when the client or customer doesn't appreciate quality. We can now be picky about who we do business with and that's really important.  



I do believe that our clients (or potential clients) enjoy working with a husband-wife team. Adam and I love each other, respect each other and can tease the heck out of each other. We both have different strengths and because of that we're never really caught off guard. 



Make sure there is a need for what you're about to provide.



I wouldn't even say that you have to be 100% passionate about the business idea for it to be successful because "success" is different for everyone. My definition of success is having an enjoyable lifestyle. It's not to make a million dollars (although I wouldn't be opposed do that!). I just want to travel, live comfortably and give to others. 

Thanks Allie!  You are awesome and we love you. And your great work. Thank you for making the world a better place to be.

(now go support her!).


This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 9: Margin
Day 18: Make it Happen