Monday, December 27, 2010

Travel Clutch Dilemma

Since Hong Kong's U Magazine featured my Travel Clutch Wallet as the Editor's Pick on one of their October issues, I have had a Travel Clutch Dilemma. I was not prepared for them to be so popular and sell so quickly!! It's an awesome problem to have, but, as I said, not one for which I was prepared!

BACKGROUND
When someone purchased a Travel Clutch, they were essentially buying a time slot. Each clutch requires 7-10 days for me to make it. Ok, that's not exactly accurate. If I started in the morning, I could cut, iron, sew, iron again, topstitch, iron again and package one clutch all in one day. Even with munchkin distractions, it's possible. If I do that, I'd make 5 in one week. So, not really ideal. Because I have a background in manufacturing, I have a tendency to set things up in assembly line fashion. If I do this with travel clutches, I can cut the fabric (linen and cotton) as well as the interfacing for 6-12 clutches in one day. If I'm having an awesome day, I can iron on the interfacing too. I finish sewing the clutches over the next two days. By doing it that way, I can theoretically turn out 6-12 clutches in one week (4-5 days).  This generally works out pretty well. Twelve clutches a week is the most I have been comfortable with.

My system was pretty good. I have a dry erase board calendar. So when a person ordered a Travel Clutch, I counted out seven business days and put their order on the board. Inevitably, the week fills up so those I have 6-12 to make that week. I make them all at once. Yes, it may mean that someone's order ships in 9 days and someone else will have a ship date at 5 days. It wasn't a perfect system, but it is how actual manufacturing companies schedule business. It allows the people to be the most efficient. And in this case, I am the people.



As is true with any type of manufacturing, you will get to a point where an excessive quantity takes away from the efficiency. My 'sweet spot' for Travel Clutches is 12. The week my store was featured in U Magazine, I had to make 20 in one week. The week just before Christmas, I had to make 24. The week before that, was 20.  I could keep going back, but basically from the time my Travel Clutches were featured, my life was CRAZY TOWN!! 

THE BREAKDOWN
Each travel clutch has 13 pieces that have to be cut. That's 13 pieces from fabric and 12 pieces of interfacing plus 1 Heatbond strip. The week before Christmas, I had to make 24. Here's how that breaks down:

7 Pieces of cotton * 24 Clutches  = 168 pieces of cotton to cut
5 Pieces of linen * 24 Clutches = 120 pieces of linen to cut
1 Piece of twill * 24 clutches = 24 twill strips to cut
1 piece of heatbond * 24 clutches = 24 heatbond strips
12 Pieces of interfacing * 24 Clutches = 288 pieces of interfacing
Total pieces that have to be cut to make 24 travel clutches = 624

Then, I have to iron on the interfacing and heatbond strips. So that's 312 pieces that have to be ironed individually. Let's not forget the labels, so add 24 labels for a total of 336 pieces that need ironing.

Once the ironing is finished, I sew the labels in place. One sewn strip on each side of the label for 48 short lines.

Then I piece together the Clutch's pockets and compartments. It has 4 main compartments, plus the closure tab and pen pocket for a total of 6 items that have to be pieced together. Grand total for 24 wallets is 144 pieces. 

Then I have to turn 48 pieces inside out (the tabs and pen pockets). After turning those, I iron all 144 pieces again so I can top stitch them. And then I top stitch 144 pieces.

So far, this is all prep work. Once I've top stitched the pieces, I can finally start putting pieces together to make the wallets. Once they are all pieced, I sew fronts and backs together, turn them inside out, iron all 24 and top stitch the outside. It takes me an average of 10 minutes just to turn them inside out. It's a delicate procedure and if you rush it you'll rip a stitch or poke a hole through the corner. So for 24 clutches, that's 240 minutes or 4 hours just to turn them inside out!! Then I install the pearl snaps, iron again, package and ship.



So what that basically means is, I slept a total of 10-12 hours the week before Christmas. My mother-in-law watched my munchkin for me a couple days and my husband was home for the other days or I would not have been able to physically do it. I'd sew, and sew, and sew and go take a nap for 30 min to an hour and come back and sew some more. It was out of control.

LESSONS LEARNED
It was also very unintentional. I was selling them faster than I could take down the listings. Which is eventually what I had to do, take down the listings. I would walk away from the computer for a few hours and come back to see that I had sold 10 of them. I felt panicked because I knew that people were buying them for Christmas presents and I knew it would be bad business to have to contact them to tell them I just didn't have time to make their clutch. As the time got closer to Christmas, I was afraid  people weren't reading the listings to see the time frame and were hoping I was going to ship in time for them to be Christmas presents. So I took down all of the listings. And while I sewed the orders I already committed to, I formulated a new plan.

The two questions I am most emailed about are "Do you have any Travel Clutches that are 'Ready to Ship?" and "When will my Travel Clutch order ship?"  It takes a lot of time to filter through and respond to emails, so these questions were taking up a lot of my time. Since I had not anticipated their popularity, I had not really considered that I could sell more than I could physically produce within my published lead times. Now I know that's possible. I also received some feedback that publishing the lead time as 7-10 business days is confusing. People were glossing over the 'Business' part of the phrase and wondering why I hadn't shipped their order within 7 days. It's more accurate to say that the lead time is 10-14 days.

OSD 2011 CHANGES CONCERNING TRAVEL CLUTCHES AND PORTFOLIO CLUTCHES

  1. Beginning in January 2011, everything in the shop will be ready to ship. I will make 6-12 clutches a week and list them every week to build up inventory. I will make them from my most popular fabric choices as well as new fabrics.
  2. A customer will still be able to 'Build Their Own Clutch' and choose their own fabric. This has been wildly popular and I'd be foolish to take it away. Having everything else in stock will allow me to better manage the 'BYO Clutch' aspect. Lead time will be 10-14 business days. If my inventory is very low, or if my week fills up to 12 clutches, the lead time will be extended to 14-28 days. This change will be CLEARLY listed in my shop announcement as well as the individual listing. For good measure, I will also email the customer to make sure they are aware of the extended lead time and they will have the option to choose from a clutch in stock or cancel their order.
A NOTE OF THANKS

I am beyond humbled by this experience. It's hard for me to put into words how rewarding it is to develop a concept, take the concept to market and have that concept be wildly popular. You have no idea how much this success has blessed my family. I am blown away by how excited my customers are to find my shop and love my products. I have several repeat customers and repeat customers are always the best compliment. I am so thankful to have a website like Etsy that allows me to inexpensively take my products and ideas to market. This has been an amazing and exciting year in my family's life. While I am nowhere near perfect, I am a better person having experienced all the highs and lows of running my own business. God inspired the idea to open Owl Say Designs. He provided the means. He has put me in touch with people who have given me wonderful product and business advice. It is through His Grace, that my business succeeds and excels and I would be remiss if I did not place the Glory where it belonged.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Business Tip #4 - Copyright Infringement, Part 1

Copyright Infringement runs rampant ESPECIALLY in a world where having an online-only business is fast becoming the norm. It's not only difficult to protect yourself from violators, but it's hard to even catch them in the first place! One distinction that needs to be made is the difference between Copyright Infringement and Copycats. Both are morally and ethically abhorrent, but only one is punishable by law.

Per the http://copyright.gov website, the definition of Copyright is:

a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. 

Kind of vague, isn't it? To a certain extent, that's on purpose because there needs to be room for interpretation on a case by case basis. But I felt as though I really didn't understand it so I actually called a lawyer to ask for clarification. Here's what it boils down to, anything that you authored is protected under copyright law. But the term authored makes you think this applies only to written works. Not the case! Here's the definition of authored:

1.  a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.
2.  the literary production or productions of a writer: to find a passage in an author.
3. the maker of anything; creator; originator: the author of a new tax plan.
4. Computers . the writer of a software program, esp. a hypertext or multimedia application.
–verb (used with object)
5. to write; be the author of: He authored a history of the Civil War.
6. to originate; create a design for: She authored a new system for teaching chemistry.
 
So actually, it's not as vague as you might think, is it? Definition numbers 3 and 6 make it pretty clear that original forms of art are protected under copyright law. The part that gets me the most, is 'the originator' i.e. author of a new tax plan.' What is a tax plan if not an idea? So shouldn't copyright protect original ideas?
 
Well, no, unfortunately, copyright laws do not protect ideas. What is meant by 'the author of a new tax plan' is that a person thought up a brilliant idea, wrote it down and most likely, presented it. So the idea was protected by copyright because it was written down in a tangible medium of expression. It can easily be documented that so and so had this idea on this date.  So the idea is protected. The only other way to protect an idea is a Patent. Patents are in place to protect ideas more notably thought of as inventions and usually apply to new inventions or drastic improvements to old ideas. (Like a Dyson Vacuum cleaner versus your run of the mill Hoover.)
 
Bringing it down to a more personal level, is the fact that I had the brilliant idea to insert pretty paper into vinyl passport covers or coat the paper in a laminating machine and sew the pieces together protectable by Copyright Law? Um, no. I sincerely wish it was, but that doesn't make it so. Not unless I could prove that every single passport cover I sell is a mini work of art or altered art. That would be very hard to prove. It was a business idea I had. I have often wondered if I'd written down my idea and mailed it to myself (the poor man's Copyright protection) could I make a case that all others who copied me were in violation of that copyright? That's a good question that I didn't ask my lawyer. Since I didn't do that, I didn't bother to ask. 
 
I'd also like to point out, that if (and when, because it's coming loyal fans) I create my very own artwork and make it available as a passport cover, that WILL be protected under Copyright Law. Not because I had an idea to make the passport cover, but because the cover is made from my original work of art. It's a really fine line, but I hope I'm making the difference obvious (as possible, anyway).  It also probably goes without saying that my logos, pictures, and written descriptions are all protected under Copyright Law (because those are all tangible mediums of expression).
 
Copyright DOES however, protect your ideas if you have it documented as a pattern. So taking 2 already existing items (paper and vinyl) and putting them together was an idea (not protectable). But taking fabric, linen, a concept (idea) of a travel document holder and designing my own new pattern to make said Travel Wallet, is most definitely protected by Copyright Law. The pattern is my own original design and before I listed anything, I did make sure to protect myself by documenting my pattern. So, no one had permission to make my Travel Wallet unless I decide to offer the pattern for sale. And if I offer the pattern for sale, I have the right to dictate the means of use for that pattern. Meaning I can require, by law, that the pattern be used for personal use only and products cannot be sold using my pattern. 
 
Guess who one of the biggest makers of new, cool patterns is that has expressly written on her patterns they are for personal use only and items made from the pattern are not to be resold? Amy ButlerFor those of you who didn't already know that, would you have guessed that interesting tidbit? I wouldn't have. In fact, a few of the first diaper bags I sold in my first shop Tattered Tapestry were from an Amy Butler design. One day while cutting out a pattern while working at my Church's Mother's Day Out (babies were sleeping, don't worry) I just happen to read that fine print. When I got home I noticed it was on all the patterns of hers that I owned. Once I realized that, I stopped making her bags to sell. Which was frustrating considering how much I'd spent on those patterns for that express purpose - to resell!! Most fabric/paper designers have Angel Policies. Angel Polices basically mean, they allow you to use their fabric/paper to make a product and sell it. But you are not allowed to associate your product with their name. So all those Etsy listings you see that say 'Diaper Bag in Amy Butler Fabric' are technically in violation of the Angel Policy. They are using her name without permission to market their products. Like I said, fine line!!
 
Ok, so in regards to the very obvious shops on Etsy who are attempting to copy not only my ideas but also my business model, are they in Copyright Violation? No. It would be hard to make a case of it. And believe me, I have certainly contacted my lawyer about it on more than occasion. Iit's heartbreaking and aggravating to say the least. It's also unethical. 
 
A fellow Etsian told me to think of it in terms of jeans - you know, blue jeans. One of the first manufacturers I think of in regards to jeans is Levis (ok, so the first is Seven, but only because they are my favorite). Levis may have been one of the first on the scene to take tough, durable denim, 5 buttons and make those super sexy button fly jeans. It didn't take long before they were copied. And copied, and copied again. Maybe the pattern was slightly different from each copycat, but the concept, the IDEA, was/is copied repeatedly. There are jeans manufacturers that try their hardest to undercut the prices of a good pair of Levis (the Walmart brand, Rustler for example).  Do they take sales away from Levis? Of course, or the copycat wouldn't be in business.

This is the difference between Copyright Infringement and nasty ol' Copycats. One person can have a brilliant idea and then someone else comes along and thinks, "Wow, I want a little piece of that action" and goes to the trouble of finding out how you do what you do so they can do it too. The only course of action you really have is to be better than them. (Levis are better than Rustlers, in my opinion anyway). But it doesn't make it any less devastating for someone to ride the coattails of your brilliance.  And it makes it so much worse when they make a point to say they have been selling them for years at craft shows, etc. Maybe it's true, but it's not really likely is it? And what is their other course of action? To say, 'Man, OSD has such cool stuff and I'm devoid of any original thought of my own, so I think I'll do what she's doing so I can have a little piece of that pie." Also not likely.
 
It's obvious that I have a small handful of people who admire my business model so much they have decided to copy it (as best they can). The truth is, I've also been accused of being a Copycat. Unjustly so, but accused just the same. So my opinion on Copycats might surprise you. But since this post is already so long, I'll save my personal stories and opinions for part 2!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fabric Travel Clutch Review

I'm so excited to share an independent review of an OSD Fabric Travel Clutch! I contacted The Lost Girls World several months ago about advertising on their website. The website is addicting, by the way. Tons of awesome travel articles that had me adding Places to Go and Must Sees to my Long Term 'To Do' List!

So the ladies I've worked with, The Lost Girls, could not have been any kinder or more professional. And you can't help but wonder if you'll even be given the time of day when you contact someone with such a successful website while they were in the midst of promoting their book as was the case when I first contacted them. But all were very down to earth and nice which put me at ease enough to ask if they did product reviews.

As a rule, I do not send any of my products out for review. Namely because if I receive something for free, I sort of feel obligated to give it a good review even if I'm not that crazy about it. The second reason I never send anything out for review, is because it's not reviewed at all! I'd like to say this hasn't happened to me, but it has. Earlier this year, I sent out a travel clutch for review on a popular blog and not only was it not reviewed, but I never heard from her again. As in, she continues to post on her website (popular blog, lots of followers) but does not answer my emails. If your dog eats my travel clutch, just tell me. Really, I'm pretty nice. I'll understand. JUST ANSWER MY EMAILS because I put a lot of time and effort into that little bit of chew toy and I'd like for you to acknowledge that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth! Alright, so now that that's off my chest...

So Jen from LGW, let me know that Cailin O'Neil would be reviewing my Travel Clutch. What was so exciting about Cailin reviewing my clutch is that she travels and this is, well, a Travel Clutch. What I've been searching for is an independent, field-tested review of my travel clutch. I mean, I think it's great and functional. My friends and family think it's great and functional. But what does someone who doesn't have me on their Christmas List think about it?

See for yourself by going here to read her review.

Fun fact concerning this review: Cailin's background is in Film & TV Industry. Apparently, my Travel Clutch (and Cailin of course) visited the set of Sarah Polley's new film Take This Waltz. I'm not saying that Ms. Polley or any other famous person coveted my Travel Clutch. I'm just saying it's possible. Right?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ponytail Holders - Limited Time Only

Sometimes I can't help myself. When I was buying magnet parts for my Button Machine a few weeks ago to  make samples for The Little Black Box, I came across a new way to use my Button Machine - to make Ponytail Holders.  

So, right or wrong, most of my day is spent with my hair in a ponytail. This goes for pre-momhood too, by the way. It's just my thing. If you'd like to sign me up for What Not to Wear so I can get a free $5000 new wardrobe because I'm addicted to the ponytail, please feel free. $5K can buy some really snazzy ponytail holders and hair clips!!

I'm thinking these will just be a limited edition in my shop. They are a  really cute idea, but I only purchased about 25 or so to make. I can, of course, purchase more if they start flying off the shelf. For now, I have a few listed and as usual in my shop, you can have one made from any fabric or paper you see listed.

Business Tip # 3 - Track Your Progress

Ok, so Etsy and Metricly has made the post I had been agonizing over how to adequately explain, so much easier. When I originally intended to post this, Etsy first introduced Metricly and I wanted to check them out - crossing my fingers that they would be user friendly and provide all the info I wanted to discuss.

When you have a variety of products you sell with a range of prices, it's important to not only track your sales/purchase dollars, but also which items sell the best. Also helpful to know is your average sales dollar, your average sales per week, and what percentage of which product do you sell the most. For instance, passport covers remain about 40% of my business while Travel Clutches are about 15% (and rising). Adding the Travel and Portfolio clutches have raised my average sale dollar about 35% - this of course, depends on the month.

Tracking your sales also helps you to visually see which products aren't working. For instance, I invested in a 2-1/4" Button Maker Machine last year. I purchased a snazzy one because, as is I'm sure is the case with every entrepreneur, I just knew this was the next big thing. This idea was a perfect way to use up scrap paper and fabric and would be great 'add-ons' to my orders (would you like fries with that?) It was a great idea, but I didn't market it properly so it was not the next big 'Money Maker' I thought it would be. I was able to realize this by tracking my daily sales as well as views for my Pocket Mirrors/Bottle Openers. So I scaled back this section of my shop to alleviate what I had determined was a bit of  clutter. Magnets, on the other hand, are pretty popular so I'm planning on expanding this section of my shop.

I did the same thing with my Vinyl Book Covers. I sold them very rarely and because I sold them rarely, I could never really gain enough buying power to buy a lot of supplies to make the profit I wanted. They were a great idea and when people bought them, they loved them.  Want to know something else? I really did not enjoy making them. They were a pain to make, a pain to package and a pain to ship. When I eliminated them completely, I did not at all notice a dip in sales. If anything, my sales rose.

So my point in all that, is you have to pay attention to what sells.  Not every idea you have will be a good one-and this is a topic all to itself! Paying attention helps streamline what you offer to your customers and keep your online business looking cohesive.

So, if you have an Etsy Shop, Metricly is an awesome new function that helps you do all that. To explain it better than I could, check out this link and set up your Metricly account!

What I love about Metricly, is it is SO user friendly. So much more so than Google Analytics and it provides information more directly related to your shop. PLUS, you can incorporate GA into your account as well as Mail Chip to see if your newsletters have an impact on sales.

Which reminds me, I set up a Mail Chimp account weeks ago and have not yet sent out a newsletter!! I have to move this up on my 'To Do' list since Holiday Season is approaching.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fabric Travel Clutch Improvements

Ok, I've been so hesitant to write this post. When you design a product, you never want to have to admit it could use improvements. Who doesn't want to believe their product is perfect without need of change from its inception? But, the truth of the matter is as you use a product, you do come to realize such and such might be better if....  And that's the case with my otherwise perfect Fabric Travel Clutch.

When I designed the clutch, I went through several prototypes. I laid out different designs, used different fabrics, and most importantly tried different interfacings to apply behind the fabric. Interfacing is basically a sewn-in or ironed-on web like material that makes fabric have more body or makes it more stiff. It's what makes the collars of dress shirts stiff. A lightweight interfacing can give a skirt more body. It's most definitely required on almost all craft projects involving fabric. Otherwise you'd have a flimsy, droopy purse that could not stand up under its own weight. So, you might say it's the most important aspect of a fabric craft project.

When making my Fabric Travel Clutches, I determined I'd have to use one of the most stiff interfacing available. It's Pellon 809 fusible interfacing. And each piece, front and back, of my FTCs is mated with a piece of Pellon 809. Even though I use one of the strongest interfacing available, I still had an issue with the spine of my FTCs. With repeated opening and closing, the linen would start to bunch in the spine and the spine would weaken.

Ok, so I knew this was an issue, but I wasn't sure how to fix it. When I received a couple of emails from customers saying they loved the design, but wished the spine was a bit more stiff, I knew I had to find a way to resolve the issue. I'd go over this time and again with my husband (the engineer) and he kept telling me I needed to add something behind the linen. But how? When my brother and sister-in-law were here for A's 3rd birthday, I showed them my concern. My bro (also an engineer), said what my dear hubby said, add a strip of fabric behind the linen. But he added  that he thought I needed to sew a line down the middle to bind the linen to the strip to the outside fabric. And this is where he explained a bit of physics to me.  (This is my little brother, mind you)

When I sew the front of the clutch to the back, the pieces are equal in length. I leave an opening at the top to turn the clutch inside out. When I fold the clutch in half, the outside fabric is stretched and the inside linen is bunched a bit. A little bit of this is actually good because this helps give you the room you need to fill up your wallet. Too much makes the linen bunch unattractively down the center. This spine area is also the weakest part of the wallet. So, now, fix it already.

And I did. The new design has a 4" strip of heavy duty twill backing heat bonded to the back of the linen and interfacing. I use heavy duty heat bond (just try peeling it off - it withstands non-sewn appliques on the world's greatest product tester t-shirts - my little munchkin).  I also sew down the middle to bind all those pieces together. You can see the difference in how clean and non-bunched-up it looks here:

Here's more of a close up picture:


So far, the response to the change has been awesome. I made the change on all outgoing FTC's in late July/early August. I've been carrying one around in my purse since the first of August and I can tell it is certainly an improvement over my previous design.

So, while I was reluctant to admit my design needed any changes, I am honest enough to believe you shouldn't keep selling something when you know it needs a fix. I want my customers to love their purchase. I don't want anybody to get something from me and think, "It's nice, but I wish it were more sturdy".  Most importantly, I want my customers to feel like they can come to me if they have an issue with their purchase or if they have an idea for improvement on any of my products.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Giveaway - Mom. Undecided


Samantha at Mom. Undecided is hosting a giveaway to my Etsy shop!! I'm giving away a $15 Gift Certificate to my shop. The Gift Certificate will be good for an entire year! You can find out how to win by clicking this link:

http://momundecided.blogspot.com/2010/08/giveaway-owlsay-etsy-shop-15-gc-ends.html

The winner will be announced on August 19th!! http://momundecided.blogspot.com/2010/08/giveaway-owlsay-etsy-shop-15-gc-ends.html

Psst: Following my blog gets you an entry!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Business Tip #2 - Make Your Business Legitimate

If you missed my first Business Tip post, you can catch up on it here.

I've talked to so many people who say they didn't really intend to start a business, they just wanted to make a little extra spending cash from their hobbies. As you become popular, and the income starts flowing, you have to be prepared for not only what to do with the money, but where to put it, how to invest it etc. Sticking with some basic business guidelines will help simplify the process.

1.Get a Tax ID #
I know States will have different policies, but in Texas you can run a business without having an official Tax ID Number. (You are, of course, still required to pay State Sales Tax as well as report the income Federally.) Personally, I think if you open an online shop of any kind, you should go ahead and apply for your Tax ID#. If your business doesn't sell a dime, all you have to do is report that. In other words, it doesn't cost you anything to go through the motions.

The upside of having a Tax ID # is not only can you buy office products and shipping products tax free, you can also be approved with manufacturers to purchase their goods (like fabric, paper, beads, etc) at up to half off the retail value. Most companies have a minimum dollar amount you have to purchase and even minimum quantities, so you'll have to be prepared to pay more for the products up front. BUT, every dollar you save on your material costs goes directly to your bottom line and increases your profit dollar for dollar.

2. Set up a Business Bank Account
It's very important to make sure you keep your personal money separate from your business money. The main reason for this is in the event you are ever *gasp*  audited.

Considering my first post was all about starting out debt free, chances are you started your business with personal money. But when you start making money, you need to start using that money to run your business.  Which means you'll need a debit card and checks. You also need a place to start saving money in case your computer crashes or your sewing machine dies - both of which happened to me!!

Honestly, there is something empowering about opening a business account. To be able to see your name directly below your business name gives you both a sense of confidence and accountability. If you've gone to all this trouble, then surely you'll work your butt off to make this business succeed, right?

Setting up a bank account is super simple. Look for a bank that has a simple free business checking account. Your transactions will be limited to 500-700 a month, but let's be realistic. If you start needing over 700 transactions a month, you've probably had to hire help, the money is rolling in and you can afford the next level.

What most banks require:
  • A DBA (Doing Business As) document. You'll have to file for this at your local court house. It just says that I, Kelley Terrill, am doing business as Owl Say Designs in Rockwall County. It prevents anyone else getting a bank account or any other credit info in my personal and business name.
  • Driver's License
  • Social Security Card
  • Tax ID # - this probably depends on the State/Bank. I had mine when I opened up my account, but they did not require it.
3. Set Up Dedicated Contact Info
I'm not saying you need to set up your own 1-800 number, but if your home email address is eggs4breakfast@whoever.com - that's not a very professional email address. Cute, but not appropriate. Try to set up your email account as close to your business name as possible. If you have already set up a personal website, then info@myamazingwebsite.com is great. In any case, think about you as a consumer.  Wouldn't you pause for a bit if you noticed the email address for the $70 high end diaper bag you're about to purchase is myarmpitsstink@whatsit.com? Just think about it.

4. Get Organized
I'll have more in depth posts on this as I go on, but I can't stress how important it is to save every business transaction receipt. If you get a great deal on ink cartridges for your printer from a seller on Ebay, print the receipt and SAVE IT! Save ALL your business related receipts for EVERY SINGLE THING you purchase. Whether it's webhosting fees, domain name fees, paper for your printer, fabric, thread, shelving, a new desk, the cool organizer thingy you got from the craft store - whatever it is, if you purchased it to aid you somehow in your business, SAVE IT!

Keep a running log in Excel (or equivalent) of how much money you are spending and where it is going. You'll need this for so many reasons not the least of which is during Tax Time. When you file your Federal Taxes, you'll be asked to provide your gross income (aka - yearly sales dollars). That part can be a bit scary. What's more important is you'll also be asked to provide your expenses - which is directly subtracted from your sales showing your true net income. Again, if you are ever audited, you'll need to be able to prove all those expenses you claimed. Not only that your purchased them, but also that they were truly business related.  I could ramble off a slew of reasons being honest in your business is important and reporting to the IRS is definitely one of them.

Next week I'll talk about how to organize all your sales and expenses in a spreadsheet to visually capture what's working and what isn't. You can do this yourself with basic spreadsheets WITHOUT having to purchase any expensive software for fancy spreadsheets off Etsy or Ebay. DIY and save the difference!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Birthday Business

Last Friday was my birthday and it definitely ranks as one of my favorites! We had a dinner party with our family and friends at La Madeline, my favorite restaurant. They have a party room we reserved which was awesome! It was quiet and away from the other customers so we could all hear each other, take our time and pretty much do our own thing. I have some very sweet friends and family and I'm so glad I was able to spend some down time with them. Even A behaved :)  Of course, I think he thought the birthday business was all about him for a bit there, but what three year old wouldn't?

I have to share my favorite gifts if for no other reason than to highlight how much my family loves me!  My husband knew I'd been wanting a new bike for a long time. Actually, a very long time. But with A, bike riding during the day wouldn't really be feasible w/o some sort of toddler transport. Enter, a new bike trailer too! Yay! He actually let me pick out my bike, so we finally settled on this Schwinn from Target:
 Mine is more of a light purple rather than blue. I actually wouldn't have been too picky about the color either way.  And here is our new bike trailer.

Ok, so A isn't a lightweight. He started out at 10lbs 7oz (and that at 3-1/2wks early!) so, you know, they only go up from there. He's not overweight, he's just a big kid. He's up to about 50lbs right now and he rides very comfortably back there! I love that is has the mesh screen so he doesn't get eaten up by mosquitoes while we ride!


Last night we all went for a ride around our neighborhood. We stopped back at our house about halfway through so we make adjustments to the seat and height. I know it's still new, but I was amazed that he actually stayed back there w/o trying to get out or whining to get out. Anyway, this is so exciting for me!! A and I use to walk to the post office every day but A, in his opinion, got 'too old' for the jogging stroller and he'd fight me to get out the whole way there. So then we'd both just walk, but on the way home he'd get tired, so I'd end up carrying him piggy-back style the rest of the way home. Let's just say pulling a 50lb child in a bike trailer in a lower gear is SO much easier than carrying him! So, once it cools off a bit, we'll be able to ride to the post office in style. The packages can either sit in the trailer with him or I may get a pannier of some sort if I'm not convinced he'll leave them alone on our trek there!

My in-laws gave me a Flip Mino HD camera as my birthday present. I swear, if it hadn't been over 100 degrees, it would have felt like Christmas. I've wanted a Flip camera since A was born so I could email video quips of all his funniness to my family. I've just charged it and I'm still learning how to use it, but it seems pretty easy. I'm trying to video A singing 'My Ho, My Ho' (Hi-ho, hi-ho) so I can send that to my family!

I'm so blessed to have such a thoughtful, amazing husband and sweet friends and family!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Business Tip #1 - Start out Debt Free

Have you ever seen an episode of Shark Tank? It's a show where budding entrepreneurs go before 4 established entrepreneurs, present their unique idea or invention and agree to give up part of the profits from said invention for monetary backing and help with marketing. One thing every contestant has in common is their confidence in their product. What gets me every time is how many of them have mortgaged their home (sometimes twice!) or racked up thousands of credit card debit or signature loans to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on their idea.

Only to find out, it's not unique enough to market and/or they haven't thoroughly thought through their product idea or invention. It makes me sick to my stomach to know those people banked all that debt on striking it rich only to learn they won't be striking anything.

So my advice to you today, is learn from their mistakes. DO NOT rack up ANY debt to start your business. Success RARELY happens overnight. True entrepeneurs build on an idea. Over time, they refine it, learn from others, adapt to their environment or cliental and learn from their small mistakes. Most importantly, they start small. And so should you.

A man in debt is so far a slave.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Debt is the new slavery.
The effects of having business debt are no different from having personal debt. In fact, I think I could argue the side effects of business debt are more serious. Because you owe money to Discover, Capital One, Citi, Chase, or whomever, your time at work belongs to them. Your paycheck, at least partially, is theirs. Which means what? It means you don't have complete freedom.

The rich rule over the poor and the 
borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 (NIV)

Have you ever looked up the definition of slave? I mean, sure, we all know what it means. But sometimes looking up the textbook definition of a word, helps give us some clarity.

slave - a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bond servant.

A bond servant is someone bound to work without wages. So if you owe somebody money, all the work you do until the debt is paid is theirs. Your money is not your own. You are a slave.

Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the 
chain and whip of the slavedriver.
Ambrose Bierce
The good news is, if you're willing to abandon the "I want it now" philosophy, you can launch your business debt free.
How do I start?
1. Use what you have
If you're starting a business based on your hobby or interest,chances are you already have lots of supplies waiting to be put to good use. I certainly did. The amount of fabric and paper I had was ridiculous. So when I opened my first Etsy shop, Tattered Tapestry, I started it with material I already owned. It wasn't necessarily the most popular, but it was enough to get me started.
2.  Sell your junk.
a)This one is my personal favorite. It would have been more aptly titled, 'Sell your husband's junk' because that's exactly what I did. My husband says I'm a purger while I contend he's a hoarder. So we try to meet in the middle. Years ago, my husband told me if I could sell it on Ebay, I could get rid of it. That's all I needed to hear. I've been selling off and on Ebay since 1997. And if it wasn't nailed down, I listed it. I sold clothes, books, cookie jars, cake pans, car parts, movies, cds...if we hadn't used it in a year, I listed it. The more I sold, the more able I was to recognize what would be a good item to list, so I occasionally rummaged yard sales and thrift stores.  Ebay's fees have gotten way out of control so it's not as profitable there as it use to be.  But you have lot's of sites you can sell on for very low or reasonable fees. Here are just a few: Craigslist (great for large items like furniture): for handmade or vintage items - Etsy, Artfire, 1000Markets; for all else - OnlineAuction.com, Bluejay.com, and Overstock.com.

b) What do you sell? Anything you're not using or don't think you will use in the next year. Movies, CDs, Books, Old College Textbooks, Electronics (even older ones), Shoes, Clothes (especially jeans or other designer clothes), Kitchenware, Knick Knacks, Records (especially if you happen to have any old 78 RPMs), etc. A good way to see if your item will sell is to search both current and completed listings. And don't get too big for your britches. You're not going to make thousands doing this. But just as you can nickel and dime your way into debt, you can nickel and dime your way into wealth too. Just be diligent.

3. Do without.
One of my favorite quotes is from Dave Ramsey, whom I consider a living debt free guru and excellent financial advisor. He says, "Live like no one else today, so you can live like no one else tomorrow." Do you still want to be living in debt into your golden years? Who does?  So sacrifice now. Here are a few of the things we do or have done to save money:
  • Take your lunch to work. If you spend $10 a day, that's $50 a week or $200 a month!!  
  • Don't shop w/o a list or a purpose. Do you need black slacks for work? Look at thrift stores, or designer discount stores first before moving to big department stores - and even then, peruse the sale rack. If you do pay full price for them, only buy the pants!! Don't add on with a shirt, shoes and belt and leave the store with an outfit. 
  • Cut the TV or satellite bill. Ouch, this one hurts. I put this one off for months! I kept telling my husband I needed to DVR my favorite shows!! Then he introduced me to websites where I could watch all those shows the very next day for free. Then he purchased a high powered antenna for $60 (less than half price) off Craigslist. And when I bought a laptop (all with business earned money) a few months ago, he set up our old PC next to the TV so we could easily watch anything online in our family room. Now I had no logical argument for keeping our satellite. There are lots of places to watch TV online, but I watch my favorite shows for FREE on Hulu, CastTV, Netflix (yep, we do pay the low fee for this), or on a specific station's website (like TNT).  Take that $70+ bucks a month and pocket it. You'll be glad you did.
  • Use coupons. It's not my favorite thing to do, but when I ring up at the grocery store and see that I saved $10 on $100 groceries, it's so worth it. That's 10%. If you saw a $10 bill stuck in a shrub, you'd nab it right?
  • Use cash. I know it's not always feasible. But if you give yourself a weekly budget for gas, groceries, etc and make yourself pay with cash, you'll be surprised at how frugal you'll become when you see the bills leave your wallet.
4.  Get a second job.
It's pretty easy to find a second part-time job. Deliver pizzas, work in retail, work in food service (really, are you too proud to flip burgers so you can realize your dream?), work in childcare, find a temp job...If you want it, you can find it. Because we live primarily only on one income, I absolutely had no extra money. Sometimes I was cutting money from the grocery budget to pay for an oil change or somebody's birthday present. So when the opportunity came to work at the Mother's Day Out program at our church, I took it. It was 2 days a week, but most weeks, I only worked 1 day. It was only about $50 a week, but it was enough to buy fabric, paper and other supplies to get me started and keep me rolling. And the best part was, I could take Aiden for free.

5.  Change your thinking.
This is, perhaps, the most import tidbit I could give you. Get out of your day to day rut. If you want to be somebody, if you want to have something that's all yours, it's all up to you. You have to be willing to make some changes.

I can't stress enough how important it is to start your business out debt free. It may take a few months longer to get it going. It will be harder and require more work from you. But in the end, it will be all yours. You will owe no one. All the profit will be just that - profit.  Now get busy.

His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Village Blacksmith.


Next topic: Make your Business Legitimate 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Super Busy

I'm working on my first business tip post, but in the meantime, I thought I'd post the final pics of Busy's 3rd birthday. As promised, here's the vintage Superman Cake:
The hardest part was coloring the flesh. And it didn't help that the face plate had faded a bit over the years. But I don't think it effected the overall appearance too much. I know I won't be winning any cake awards anytime soon, but not too bad considering this is only the 3rd cake I've made like this and it started out like this:

Official kitchen helper and taste tester...

Uncle John entertaining Busy with a Dublin Dr. Pepper. They're made in Dublin, TX and it's the only Dr. Pepper plant left (in the US at least) that still makes DPs with Imperial Sugar instead of corn syrup. So, it's ok for him to have it right? No corn syrup???


Here's the Superman cape I made Busy. It was super easy and is STILL a big hit!!



I found a birthday card that played the Superman theme song. As soon as he opened the card, he immediately flipped down his mask. It was hilarious to see him so serious about getting into character!!  We got it on video tape too so we can be sure to torture him with it when it turns 13 :)

And a 3rd birthday party wouldn't be complete w/o a family pic. Too bad that Superman mask gives me such a double chin and fluffed up my hair. Ah well, still pretty cute.

Being a Super Busy is hard work...


Just for fun, Busy's first Superman costume. He's about 15mths in this picture.
It cracks me up every time I see it. Wouldn't this be cute album cover?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Business Tips - Introduction

I've had an idea swimming in my head for a few weeks that I'm thinking about turning into blog posts. I initially was going to post an "What I learned in my First Year on Etsy" type post. I'd planned on doing this back in May to celebrate my 1 year anniversary of my Etsy Shop. But once I finished my rough draft, I realized it would be much more helpful to expound on the topics individually. And doing so may actually help someone else. At the very least, it will release the thoughts that are trapped in my brain and give my readers something else to read aside from Aiden stories (which are still my favorite).

So, what qualifies me for said tips? Well, I have a B.A. in English and a minor in Interdisciplinary Studies. My major means I wanted to be a famous novelist with million dollar book deals or fall back onto being an editor if the 'novelist' thing didn't work out. This may help explain why my blog posts are so long (and yes, I know they're long). My minor means I went to one private college and 4 community colleges before finally finishing up at TX A&M-Commerce and I had a lot of useless elective classes that TX A&M thankfully allows you to lump together into a minor. I think it's supposed to mean I'm well rounded. Which I am, my pants size says so.

I landed my first 'real' job in Jan of 2000 at AFC/Unifab Division. They have since consolidated to ACS/Unifab in MA. That was during the 2004 election (Bush/Kerry) and a strict conservative has no business moving into liberal territory any time of the year, much less election time. So I chose to be temporarily jobless. (And for my many liberal friends out there, don't freak out because I'm conservative-like it's a dirty word. No one would defend your right to be all-out-liberal like I would. So calm down.)

I started out as a Receptionist and ended up as the Production Scheduler. It was a small business, so your title didn't necessarily reflect all your job duties. Yes, I scheduled production, but I also had to keep track of time studies, know how every product was engineered & built, it's cost to make-both material and labor, margins, purchasing of materials, marketing, etc.  Basically, I had a front row seat to all the behind the scenes workings of a manufacturing company.

At the time I hated that job, but I do believe God always puts you somewhere for a purpose. I have since realized my almost 5 years there taught me invaluable lessons on how to run a business. The president of that company started it as an entrepreneur. He saw my potential and gave me responsibilities that have proved beneficial throughout my life. Most especially in starting/running my own business.

So, no, I'm not an expert. My plan is to share what works for me and what I've noticed works for others as well. I'm sure the topics will expand as I go along, but here's a preview of the first few topics:
  • Starting out Debt Free (and why that's important)
  • Knowing your costs - down to the penny
  • Cohesiveness of Your Products
  • Advertising
  • Knowing when to say no
  • Wholesale accounts  - Is it worth it?
  • Do Social Networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc) work for everyone?
  • Copyright Info - Don't worry, someone will copy your idea
  • Time Management
  • Not every idea you have will be a good one
  • Not everyone will think you're amazing
  • Why you should still have faith in yourself
  • Don't forget where you came from
Business tips will start posting later this week :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Swim Lessons - Day One

Today was day one of swim lessons. I took him a bit early, so we could watch the senior citizens do their water aerobics. Ok, really I took him early because I wanted him to see the pool and all that goes on around it, tell him about "walk, don't run" and stuff like that. But as a sidebar, some of those senior ladies were looking pretty awesome in their swimsuits and I'd seriously consider joining that class..it looked like fun.

So, the main reason my hubby and I wanted Busy to take swim lessons is because the child has no fear. I know, it's not unusual for a 3 yr old to be a bit daredevil-ish (new word, I'm coining it) but I've worked with toddlers since I was 18 (long time) and Busy is on the extreme end. (How's that for a run-on?)  I was literally holding him by the waistband to keep him from vaulting in with the swimming grannies.

So his instructor introduced himself to us and told Busy to sit by the side of the pool and put his feet in while he went to get the other 2 kids.  I knew it was going to happen; I could see Busy set his jaw and steel himself with bravery. I know my child. He thinks like me. Busy had no intention of merely sitting by the pool and letting the water lap his toes. No sirree bob. His mama had been holding his waistband for 20 minutes and that was far too long a wait for the cool rush of chlorinated water. He was going in full force. And he did. He jumped. Folks, I have a jumper. He bent his knees in good long jump fashion and jumped. His bottom bounced on the first step into the water, and then the second step. In less than a second, all 45+ inches of him was under water. And not that I needed any further encouragement for him to have swim lessons, but I could see in an instant how fast a child can drown. In seconds. He did exactly what My Love and I knew he would do if he were every around a large body of water.

I know that child heard his instructor say to him, 'Sit by the side of the pool.' I know he understood; he's a smart kid. He did not want to simply sit, he wanted to swim. And by gosh, he thought he knew how. It stunned the instructor, but he did react quickly - fished him out, made sure he was ok and repeated his instructions to sit by the side of the pool. And only because the initial swimming hadn't gone as Busy had envisioned it, did he obey.

The other 2 kids were at least 4, so a good year older than Busy. But considering he'd never been in a real swimming pool before, he did remarkably well. He did listen and follow directions. Which means I know he understands me when I tell him to pick up his toys. Despite my guess that the instructor is still sporting a driver's permit instead of  a driver's license, he was a very patient and overall good instructor. See, no age discrimination here.

So for 30 minutes he took his turn swimming. And when it wasn't his turn, he flirted with a very cute 4 year old little girl. Who was wearing a swim (surf type) shirt and swim shorts which I'm going to remember if I ever have a little girl. It was super cute, and very modest. I don't really have a problem with a girl wearing a regular swimsuit or even bikini (ok maybe a bikini) when they are older, but I think modesty is drastically undervalued. And there are creepy looky-loos who'd get a kick out of seeing a 4 year old in a bikini, so why not err on the side of caution? But I digress...


So, there was all the makings of an excellent day until it came time to leave. When Busy threw the world's most ridiculous fit, literally kicking and screaming. I got soaked trying to drag him from the pool. He was screaming at the top of his lungs "I WANNA GO SWIMMIN'" and holding on to every post we passed in an attempt to keep me from dragging him to the locker room.

Now take a good look at this face. Go ahead, look at it:
Does this look like the face of a child who would throw such fit? It doesn't does it? This, my friends, is the face of the most strong-willed child on the planet. He is perfectly congenial so long as he is in agreement with what's going on around him. But this face, is the reason I have read James Dobson's The Strong Willed Child not once, but twice. Ok, so not really the point here, except to say that he LOVED swim lessons and I'm praying the fit does not repeat itself when we go back tomorrow.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Today's Conversation

Busy: (singing) My ho, my ho, (unintelligible) work I go. hmm-mm-mmm-mmm

Me: Busy, what are you singing?

Busy: Honey*, I singing 'My ho'.

Me: thinking he may have watched Snow White at Gigi's on Monday, You mean, "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go?"

Busy: Yes, Honey, 'My Ho, My ho'

Me: No, it's HI-ho, HI-ho

Busy: Yes, I know.(resumes singing) 'MY-HO, MY-HO, working work I go..."

Me: (sigh)
Busy, please don't sing that at church on Sunday....

*Remember, Busy calls me 'Honey', not Mommy :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Extended Lead Times

Lately, I've been driving my family crazy with nonstop work. When you are a one woman show and your office/studio also happens to be your dining room, it's hard to separate work from, well, everything else. Which brings me to self imposed lead times.

When I first started making Travel Clutches, I had the lead time set as 3-4 business days. That was pretty rational so long as I only had a couple to make a week. As their popularity grew and business picked up, I had to change the lead time to 5-7 days. By this time, I'd stream lined my process and could do 6 or 8 in that time frame without really pushing it.

Popularity for the Travel Clutches, thankfully, continues to grow. And now I have added Portfolio clutches to the mix. I also have 2 new product patterns I'm working on and have NO intention of promising introduction dates for those items. Over the past 6 weeks, I've noticed that I'm working all the time. Mornings, nap times, late at night while everyone else sleeps and worst of all, weekends just to meet the 5-7 day lead time I have published.

I have a muted type A personality (meaning, I'm not a jerk) so I'm very goal oriented. My husband would say, overly goal oriented. If it's on my list of 'To Do's', it's getting done that day come hell or high water. I notice this is annoying in other people, so, you know, I'm working on it.

While I was freaking out over these lead times, my husband reminded me that it's my business, I can change it anytime I see fit. So, I am. I'm extending the lead time for a made to order Travel or Portfolio Clutch to 7-10 business days. I consider Monday - Friday as business days.

My husband is usually my voice of calm and reason but I tried very hard to ignore him this time around. It wasn't until I looked up the swim lesson schedule at our local YMCA that I realized I had to adopt the new policy now! I'd been promising to take A to swim lessons this summer. Summer is more than halfway over and I have only 2 more sessions available to take him. So, that's what I'm doing. Taking my baby to swim lessons.

Sometimes it helps to put things into perspective. Why did I open OSD? Yes, I had great, marketable idea , but primarily, my desire to have my own business was to help relieve the financial burden from my husband.  Tying for first place, was my desire to ensure, at all costs, I DID NOT have to go back to work and leave my child to be cared for by someone other than his parents.

I'm not knocking 2 income parents AT ALL. When my 12 weeks of maternity leave were up, I had to go back to work too. I worked until A was 7mths old. We didn't have a choice. I was very, VERY, lucky in that my mother-in-law or sister-in-law could watch A at my house during the week. I mean, really, how spoiled could I have been? But not a day went by when I did not cry and pray and beg for God to provide a way for me quit my job and stay at home with my baby. I'm not being melodramatic, I just knew God had placed that desire in my heart. Prior to getting pregnant with A, I would never have considered staying at home. I just assumed that I would go back to work. When I saw his little face the day his was born, I knew I'd never be happy anywhere but home with him.  I also knew that if God placed that desire in my heart, He'd be faithful in providing a way for me to stay at home. It's a long story, but He did provide a way. And then He provided me an idea to supplement our income. And then He blessed that idea and has continued to bless it in ways unimaginable to me when I first started this business.

I didn't mean to get on my soap box. But it really all boils down to, if God provided me a way to stay at home and nurture my family, but I have gotten caught up in the means of His providing and ignored my family, then what's the point? So I am going to take my munchkin to swim lessons, and watch TV with my husband after dinner, and play outside and help in the garden on Saturdays like I use to, and not rush everybody home from Church on Sundays so I can get orders completed. And I believe that God will continue to bless this business; this idea He gave me. I will be faithful to Him as He has been faithful to me. It's the least I can do.

Alright, soapbox time over. New lead time is 7-10 business days. It will probably be shorter. I can't help being an over achiever.


P.S. While typing this, I had the joy of watching a blond squirrel stare back at me through my dining room window while balancing on the fence. If I don't let myself think about the possibility of said squirrel getting in my attic and chewing through my electrical wires or taunting my basset hound to bark all night long, I can enjoy how cute she is.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chupacabra

So Saturday, while I'm in the kitchen pulling Betty Crocker duty, I hear my brother say to my child, "Now A, listen to the Word of the Day. The Word of the Day is Chupacabra. Can you say Chupacabra?"

Need I say more?

I would have posted a picture as good blogging etiquette, but the more I looked for one the more ridiculous they were.  Just wait 'til he has kids...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Superman Cake

Tons of OSD work and party planning have certainly kept me busy this week! Who knew planning a b-day party for a 3 year old would be so much work? Tomorrow is the big day for family and friends to cram into my dining and living room for fajitas and a Superman themed birthday party.

The centerpiece of course, is the vintage Superman cake. This vintage Wilton Super Hero cake pan set takes the cake!! (ok, bad pun) This set is actually my mother-in-laws and it's totally made me appreciate how she never throws anything away! She bought this in the seventies to make for my husband when he was a little boy. How cool is it that I get to use the same  cake pan set to for my little boy?

These cake pan sets were all the rage in the late seventies, early eighties. They were made with REAL buttercream icing and every bite melted in your mouth. My MIL made tons of cool cakes for my husband's birthdays. And when I was young, my mom got me these type of character cakes too. Some of my cakes were Holly Hobby, Scooby Doo, and Wonder Woman - she was in a set like this Super Hero set.  And thinking about that cake seriously makes me hope I have a little girl some day so I can make her a Wonder Woman cake!!

Ok, so this is just a sneak peak of what I'm making tomorrow. This is only the 3rd cake I've made like this, so hopefully it comes out just like the picture!! Wish me luck!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth of July Fun

As usual, my plans never go as planned. That's ok. I like to plan a bit and then wing it the rest of the way. That's exactly how my July 4th plans ended up. Our original plan was to take a leisurely drive to San Antonio on Friday, go to Longhorn Caverns Sat, 90th B-day party Sun. followed by some awesome fireworks, and then leisurely drive home Mon with stops for shopping at the outlet malls between San Antonio and Dallas.

Friday started out as a mess. I didn't have time to finish a few projects I really needed to be done with on Thursday, so I was rushing Friday to complete them. I hadn't packed AT ALL for ANYONE and since I was already in vacation mode I'd not set the alarm so I overslept (so did everyone else, I'd like to add).  We finally left around 2:30pm knowing we'd hit Austin traffic, but dealing with it as best we could. Not only were we trying to get out of Dodge on holiday weekend, but it was also raining.  We didn't even get 10 miles from home when the highway became a parking lot of cars. In fact, every way we turned to get out the Metroplex, just brought us more headache. By the time 3 hours had passed, we were only about 1/4 of the way to San Antonio. A 5-1/2 hr trip turned into an 8+ hour trip.
I know, just roll with it right? Normally, I'd be aggravated with a change in plans, but not panic attack aggravated. Unless it involves car travel. I hate to drive for long periods. More than 3 hours in a car and I'm getting antsy. The more people in the car, the worse I get. I can't help it. I just hate to be stuck in a car. It doesn't help that I'd forgotten to charge the portable DVD player and the car charger wasn't working AND I was subjected to Willie Nelson's version of Reggae music (no, not kidding). I lost count of how many times I heard, "Can I watch movie? Pweese?
Robot movie? Spongebob Pirates? Honey, PWEESE!?  (A doesn't call me Mommy, he calls me Honey. That's sometimes how I address him so he understands it as a term of endearment. I keep wondering if it will stick, or if he'll grow out of it when he realizes none of the other kids call their mom 'Honey'.) If you ever want to go on a road trip, don't call me. I won't be any fun on the way there or the way back! In the end, I survived, as I always do.

Saturday was much more fun. We stayed with my brother and sister-in-law. So Sat, we all piled in our car and drove about 70 miles to Longhorn Caverns in Burnet, TX. My brother and I had been there once before years ago on a family vacation, but neither of us remember it. Because TX is getting off and on rain because of the Tropical Storm, we decided to do something that would be fun raining or not. Plus, we're in TX. July heat is usually around 100degrees so anything fun that's outside but cool is preferable.

The pics throughout the post were all taken by me at Longhorn Caverns. I'm trying to teach  myself a bit of photography tips, so it was a good excuse to play with shutter speeds while in the caverns.  The tour was about 1-1/2 hours long, so well worth out money. And I always think it's pretty awesome to see how God's Handiwork reaches down even to caves. These caverns were formed by and underground river, so they leave some pretty great and unusual architecture structures. The best part of the tour was A attached to his Aunt and Uncle (who were way cooler than Mom & Dad could ever think about being) and A's constant whispering questions about monsters. He was never scared, he just genuinely wanted to know if we'd see a monster.  All in all, everyone had a great time and A was very well behaved. He makes up for the next day in every parents nightmare of a 'problem child'. More on that later :)


*All pics of A are with his very loving Aunt and Uncle (my brother). He was too cool be photographed with his actual parents.