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 -,, and

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 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


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.