Monday, March 28, 2011

For the Love of Fabric. And Flamingos. :)

I love fabric.

I can spend hours in a fabric store. (And a chunk of change.) The colors. the patterns. The textures. It makes me dizzy. And oh so happy. I credit my Mom (as usual). She loves fabric, too.

I also love flamingos. I have no idea why. I grew up in the Midwest and live in the West ~ neither of which are exactly flamingo territory. For years I collected them. I had to buy every single flamingo-related thing that crossed my path. Then I went thru a decluttering stage and either packed them away or gave them away. But every once in awhile I just can't resist. So when I came across a slim bolt of this very retro-looking fabric today, I had to have it.

The other day I stood on our upper landing and looked down into our living room. I saw a lot of brown. Brown is a nice background color, but holy moly - we need a punch of color!! Especially coming out of a brown winter and into spring (my tulips will bloom soon!) ~ it's time to bring some life into the house, too. I have a feeling my couch may be sporting some retro flamingo pillows soon... and once I get started, oh boy. The fun is just beginning... :)

Winters are long. Don't you just want to add some color to your life, too? :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Doing Business.

I recently watched a segment on the Today Show about women over 50 starting their own businesses. And honestly I don't remember their suggestions; mainly because I was so surprised they didn't mention online venues ~ of course Etsy being the most well-known. It made me wonder who did their research for the segment. Sheesh.

Etsy is the most popular but there are many other online venues that offer anyone who has the time, the drive and a good product to sell the opportunity to do so. I'm learning now two years in, that it is important to get yourself and your wares out there locally, too. But online is a good place to start - to test the waters so to speak. It is a safe space to see if the idea you have is worth pursuing.

Of course, it is not just the product itself. You could have the most fabulous one-of-a-kind awesome product; but if you don't know how to promote it ~ or take time to promote it, it will fall flat. And that is, again, where sites like Etsy go above and beyond to help you learn ~ if you take the time to study.

Facebook is another good way to get the word out. Building a business page is easy peasy and can reach millions. Again, you have to be diligent in posting and making it fun; the posts aren't going to write themselves.

Of course there is Twitter and all manner of other options as well. But, at least for me, there are only so many hours in a day (mine is usually about 15).

Blogs - of course. But (and I've learned this and I try my best...) keep it fairly brief ~ again, fun. Online viewers/readers attention spans are very short. I know because I'm one of them. :) Unless it is your Mom or your best friend, you're probably going to lose them after the second paragraph. And on that note, I'm done.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One Idea.

Some of you may already have heard part of this story, but I do have a point and I wrap it up with a new bow at the end. So if you've heard my "one idea" story go have a sandwich and come back in five minutes. :)

I'll try to be brief. When I first opened my Etsy shop I had a hodge-podge of all kinds of things in there - photography, stuffed animals, knit hats, books I've written, note cards ~ all kinds of stuff. After a couple of months I started thinking that maybe it was too confusing for people stopping by to know exactly what I was doing and selling.

Then I came upon a quote that set me on the path to my decision. (I'm big on inspirational quotes.)

"Take up one idea.
Make that idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea.
Let the brain, muscles, nerves every part of your body be full of that idea and just leave every other idea alone.
This is the way to success, that is the way great spiritual giants are produced."
*Swami Vivekananda*

I distinctly remember the moment I settled on my "one idea." We were visiting my son and his girlfriend in Berkeley, California, in June of 2009. I went for a solitary pre-sunrise stroll along the East Bay overlooking the brilliant city of San Francisco. (Walking has always been how I do my best thinking.) I thought about that quote and which one idea I should choose. I asked myself honestly what I enjoyed doing the most. And I kept coming back to making the little stuffed animals. I had been focusing on photography (no pun intended) for a long time and realized I really enjoyed doing something more tactile. I have always had an affinity for stuffed animals ~ since childhood. They filled a void in a lonely little country girl's life.

So that was it. My one idea would be my stuffed animals.

Done with that sandwich yet? Come back in here.

So partly because my business has taken off in ways I had never anticipated; partly because I just celebrated my 2 year anniversary; partly because I felt I had earned a little treat ~~ one night I came across a beautiful jewelry shop on Etsy - one that personalized pieces ~ and she liked quotes as well. It took me very little time to decide this was going to be my gift to myself. And I knew exactly what to inscribe on the ring.

Yup. "one idea"

So now every day as I'm sewing or typing or doing anything ~ I can look down at my hand and be reminded of my "one idea" ~ and how it has changed my life.

One idea. That is all it takes. Just one idea.

I'll bet you have an idea. You can do it, too. I promise.

(Thank you Brigit of Two Silver Moons for my very special good luck piece. I love it. And it will continue to inspire me every single day.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Share Our Strength!

Recently a dear friend asked if I would be interested in making a donation to a worthy cause. Well, I'm always up for a worthy cause!

Chefs Up Front Denver, a group of amazing restaurateurs and chefs in the Denver area, are holding a fundraiser for Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters on April 17 at the Colorado Convention Center downtown Denver.

Their goal? To raise the critical funds needed to empower low-income families with the skills, knowledge and confidence to prepare healthy and affordable meals. Now that is a worthy cause!

So meet Chef Luis who specializes in Spanish dishes. His favorite ingredient is chorizo and his speciality is gazpacho. He's off to be a part of the silent auction at the fundraiser on April 17. He is really looking forward to meeting his colleagues and sharing recipes!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hellooooooo Chicago!!

And it is a GO in Chicago!!! What a great topper to my 2nd Anniversary celebration! Wahoo!!!

I just signed a consignment deal with an awesome shop hanger 18 in Chicago. Chi-town. The Windy City. Chicago, Chicago, that toddling town!

I super excited as I have wanted to get into the Chicago market for some time now and hanger 18 looks like a perfect fit. Thanks to Tina at hanger 18 for the opportunity!! My mister is a native of Chicago and we absolutely love that city. Who knows... perhaps we'll need to take a business trip one of these days...

So if you're in the Chicago area, stop by hanger 18, 4726 N. Lincoln Ave. next week and visit my Wee Ones. Who, by the way, are super excited to be going to live in Chicago!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Imagine That... 2 Years and Counting.

Some people celebrate March 17 as St. Patrick's Day. I totally respect your day ~ may the road rise up to meet you.

Me? I celebrate my anniversary. Oh no, not of my marriage, but of the start of my little business. At the time March 17 was just a random choice of days to open my Etsy shop; now I find it an easy anniversary date to remember. You know like getting married on Valentine's Day so you'll never forget your wedding anniversary. ;-)

So today I celebrate 2 years of sketching, designing, sewing, photographing, writing, posting, promoting, selling, tagging, shipping ~ and then starting it all over the next day. Two years ago my challenge was to see if I could actually sell something online. I never imagined that two years later I would have my products in fabulous shops on the East Coast, West Coast and my adopted hometown of Denver. I never imagined I would be joining artistic organizations and actually stepping out of my Hello Kitty pajamas and into some fancy go-to-meeting clothes (I wore heels, people!) to promote my products. I never imagined I would actually design my own lines with my own original ideas. I never imagined I would actually make a couple of bucks.

I didn't imagine that two years later I would still wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and quietly sneak up to my studio to start sketching before I forgot them. I didn't imagine that I would still wake up each morning and after walking my dog and making my peppermint hot chocolate I would walk upstairs to my studio and dive in - every single day - to create something whimsical. And never tire of it!!

But what I really never imagined is that in this little endeavor I would find myself. I didn't go to college. Well I put in a couple of years at a community college; but I always felt like I really missed out on something not going to a four year school. You know - lesser than... I married young. I worked many years as a secretary/administrative assistant/office manager ~ and mind you, I was pretty good at it. But I was never fulfilled in my work; never truly happy with how I spent 8 of my 24 hours in the day. So it took me a long time to find my calling ~ which is ironic because I am doing almost the same thing I was doing as a teenager. But at the ripe ol' age of 56 I finally embrace each day with joy and cannot wait to see what waits around the bend.

Which, by the way, may lie in a city I really love. Mums the word until all is finalized, but I can't wait to [hopefully] make an exciting announcement soon!

Thank you to my family and friends for all their encouragement and support ~ especially my charming husband who has totally taken over the kitchen and cooking. Dinner is so yesterday.

And omysweetgoodness ~ thank you to all my fabulous customers, many of whom keep coming back and have become friends as well. No way would I be here without you.

Maaaaawah! Kisses all around! Here's to Year #3!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Listening to the Customer.

When one of my loveliest of customers called last week with a special request I immediately said, "Sure! - What do you need?" (See my previous post re: saying "yes!") In retrospect this was maybe one of those cases where I should have said the "What do you need?" part before the "Sure!" part. But on second thought ~ as always ~ I learned and grew.

My lovely customer is an older woman ~ very creative and imaginative ~ and lucky me, she loves my products. A friend of hers is throwing a baby shower for her daughter and my customer is invited. She decided she wanted one of just about everything I make: a dog (but not a Wee Dog - something else); a knit hat; a Wee Traveler bag; a pillow and a baby blanket for the baby's car seat and stroller. Oh, and none of this pastel-baby-looking stuff; we want dark, strong colors because the baby is a boy. And she loves my little truck applique, so could I please incorporate that somehow. And coordinate them all? Oh, and she needs them all in a week.

Keeping in mind that I was in the throes of preparing for the RAW: Natural Born Artist event at the time and slightly freaking out about that, as well as having many additional orders in the queue, I wondered... what had I gotten myself into?

But she is a dear soul, so I agreed. The dog, the pillow, the hat - snap. Done in a short work day. The bag... I hadn't made one in awhile and it took a couple of runs to get back in the groove, but it finally clicked. And the baby blanket ~ I've been talking about adding Baby Bubby Blankets (small for car seats and strollers) to my line for about a month, but hadn't made a proto-type yet. So it was time to dive in. It was surprisingly easy and I am excited to say I can officially add them to my line.

You see the finished gift set above. Not something I ever would have dreamt up for a baby shower, but now that I see them all complete and together ~ I must give credit where credit is due. My dear sweet soul of a customer had a fantastic idea - unconventional, one-of-a-kind and fun! Now I can't wait to show it all to her!

Once again - lesson learned - to listen to what the customer wants and go with it. Inevitably delightful surprises will result!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Saying Yes

In my previous post I eluded to the thought that saying "yes" is a new concept for me.

From childhood I fell into the habit of immediately thinking "no" and always going to the down side of things first. I'm not proud of that, but once a train of thought like that starts, it's hard to retrain the brain. Since starting my little business two years ago I have learned if I want to grow and be successful it is important to say"yes" more often than "no."

It kind of started with saying "yes" to myself when I decided to open my Etsy shop. Within a year, that was followed by saying "yes" to consignment opportunities across the country. Following that, I started saying "yes" to supporting fundraisers for worthy causes like Make-A-Wish. Recently I've ventured out of my introverted shell and said "yes" to participating in real live venues to display and sell my wares.

Each step has been one of learning and growth - both professionally and personally.

And along the way the one thing I think I have always said "yes" to is special requests from my customers. That has been the most rewarding thing of all - challenging at times - but rewarding in the end for sure. My customers inspire me and take me places where I would never go ~ an orange and brown dinosaur pillow; a neon green giraffe; Wee ones in a variety of Colorado sports colors and resembling sports mascots; a bear that looks like Pooh ~ and on and on.

So it is all a good reminder to think about saying "yes" in general ~ to say "yes" to opportunities and invitations that come along in life. After all, this isn't a dress rehearsal, ya' know. ;-)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Constantly in Motion...

Last night I had a unique experience as a participant of RAW Natural Born Artists Denver. What is that you ask? Well, let's share.

About a week ago the Co-Director of the Denver RAW organization contacted me and asked if I would be interested in participating in the upcoming event at Jet Hotel downtown Denver. I learned the monthly events feature a wide variety of artists ~ poets, musicians, photographers, painters, fashion designers, jewelers and more. I decided my Wee Ones and I must fit into the "and more" category. Kind of like Andy Rooney used to be on 60 Minutes. (And if you don't get that reference, then I really AM old.) She explained to me the March event was going to have an unspoken theme of animal-esque and my Wee Ones were perfect for that.

So, since I am trying to adopt a new attitude of saying "yes" to things (particularly related to my Wee Ones, et al), I said "yes." I should follow that immediately with ~ I have the greatest husband/best friend ever because he's always up for coming along on my little adventures. He quickly said "yes" to my invitation. That raises my comfort level immensely because as an introvert and someone who doesn't even like to talk on the phone, my husband balances me by being the kind of guy who has never known a stranger. It works.

Which is why, as part of the RAW Artist experience, I would have much rather sent him in for the one-on-one interview with the videographer and the sound guy and the lighting guy; but I took a deep breath (oh, and a glass of wine) and made it thru that on my own. Miraculously.

So, anyway, I spent an entire week preparing. And it was worth it. What fun we had! And what wonderful artists and creative people we met! I made a fair amount of sales, but I can't put a price on the contacts I made, the exposure the Wee Ones received (and may I say, they were very well-received!) and just the fun we had and the interesting people we encountered. What a great experience!

I'll explain the photo now ~ because it does tie in. I snapped it with my iPhone as we were leaving Jet Hotel this morning (we spent the night and it is a charming little place). And as usual I'm in motion and the image is blurry. But I decided I liked it because it is who I am and how I am - constantly in motion. And yes, that's my BFF in the background holding the elevator for me. ;-)

My Dad was a man of few words but I do remember two things he said to me in my adult life.

"You sure know how to make work for yourself, Cindi."
"I get tired just watching you run up and down the stairs!" Constantly in motion.

Both of which have certainly helped me get to the point I am at today. Constantly working and constantly in motion. So yay on that.

And thanks for coming along. :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Something Very Special... for Someone Very Special

I always say that I welcome special requests.

Some requests are more special than others.

Today I received a request for these two cupcake pillows for a young girl suffering with life-threatening cancer. My customer (a lovely repeat customer) requested they be made with an incredibly soft and comforting fabric as the young girl is now spending most of her time in bed.
So I used the softest super duper fleece I had. (I wish you could reach thru your monitor and smoosh these.)

I was honored to make them. They are on their way now carrying all the love they can possibly hold ~ for sweet Delaney.