Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Days After National Walking Day

OK, have to admit I didn't even know there was a "National Walking Day"; but I'm not surprised since there is a national "almost anything you can think of" day. In honor of this one I hope to encourage everyone to get off the couch, or away from your desk, or from the computer, (you get the idea) and get active. National Walking Day hi-lights walking, and walking is a good place to start. However, going forward, making cardio and weigh training a regular part of your routine is even better.  We all know our bodies are designed to move. "Use it or lose it", is more than a catchy statement; it really is true.  My husband had shoulder surgery, about 30 days in a sling; and it took months to regain strength and muscle mass in his upper arm.  I had a broken ankle; 4 months in a cast.  My calf muscle was shriveled looking and it took several months of strength training to get back to normal.  These are extreme examples but over time a sedentary lifestyle will result in muscle loss just the same.  Though I really hate to admit this; these statements become more relevant the older you get.  Ask me how I know...... yes, I'm older than I would like to admit. :)

So we make the decision; get up, start moving, and never look back, right?  Maybe not since it is also true that our lives are very busy.  Between family, work, housework, shopping, cooking (not to mention just figuring out what to cook), and life in general; exercise often falls to the bottom of the priority list.  The problem is, the less exercise we get, the less energy we have to do the things that need doing.  Seems to defy logic, I know; but it is true. In addition to challenging schedules, exercise is not the first word most of us use to define "fun".  So it takes some determination (OK a lot) and motivation to really make exercise a habit. If you can use the determination long enough to see the benefit in the way you feel, that will produce the motivation.  I am very fortunate; I have motivation in the person of my husband.  He is the one with the determination and I reap the benefit of it, since it is much easier to go with a buddy than alone.  So I have him; but anyone can be a workout buddy. Spouse, friend, a group of co-workers (part of the lunch hour or after work), or a parent/child pair. Find someone else who needs encouragement too and be that person for each other.

Good habits don't happen by accident.  How do they happen?  Here are some suggestions you can use and tailor to fit your personality and lifestyle.

  • Evaluate your schedule, be realistic.
  • Prioritize activities, daily, weekly, etc.
    • You may need to cut some activities, or reduce their frequency to make room for the good things you want to do for yourself.
  • Start slow, don't overwhelm yourself, baby steps are still steps.
  • Find a buddy, an accountability partner, be each other's cheerleader, make it fun.
  • When (notice that isn't an "if") you fail to stick to the plan; forgive yourself and get back on track.  No one does it perfect.
  • Remember the reason you are making changes.  Not to look good in a bathing suit; but to get healthy and keep or improve your quality of life.  The better you feel, the more enjoyable the fun and necessary things will be.  The people who love you will be glad you are taking care of yourself too.
  • Figure out a way to track progress.  I confess I fail a lot in this area; but it is very helpful when you keep up with it.  If you like the tech toys and can afford one; there are several on the market that will track things (movement, food, etc.) for you.  You just need to figure out you and that isn't always so easy as it should be, :)
I hope this encourages you to do good things for yourself; and and as you see the benefit you will encourage someone else.  We'll see a lot more healthy people as we lift each other up.  Have a very healthy day!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Work Smarter, Simplify Event Set Up

Since opening H and L Creations I've struggled with set up and tear down for events; more labor intense than I liked.  Set up took over an hour.  Considering the fact that my inventory is relatively small when viewed beside most vendors the time seemed excessive.  The problem centered around the type of inventory.  Jewelry; lots of small pieces, especially earrings.  So how did the process work? Arrive early, set up tables, racks, and canopy (if outside), unpack the jewelry, stage each piece; look at the clock and be amazed how long this has taken to accomplish.  It was not uncommon for customers to start arriving before setup was complete.  Guess I didn't arrive as early as I thought. Either way, I needed to make changes if I was going to continue to do events; tedious isn't my idea of fun.

It isn't obvious but if you look close you'll see that the jewelry was hung one piece at a time; tedious. This is half of the display; more earrings on the other side, which require more set up time.

Fast forward through several set up evolutions and set up takes less than 30 minutes from trunk to tables.  So what changed?  I re-purposed plastic canvas; cheap, sturdy, and versatile. Now each jewelry set is hung on plastic canvas, slipped in page a protector, and stored/transported in Rubbermaid type plastic buckets.  For earrings I used hot glue to secure plastic canvas in picture frames.  Perfect for hanging multiple sets in a small space and they go from bucket to table in 10 seconds, a great time saver.  Earrings are grouped by price.

Set up is very flexible depending on whether it is inside or out, how much space is allowed per vendor, and whether I only have tabletop area or can also use vertical racks. The below set up is in a conference room with limited space.  Not ideal but it worked. Behind the earrings you see several necklace and earring sets.  I use display busts to showcase pieces I think will get the most attention and the remaining sets are conveniently in the case they were transported in.  They are in hanging folders; easy for shoppers to look through.  If I had more space, setting more pieces out would take very little time. Simple to expand or condense the set up.

I realize the pictures aren't the best but I hope the visual helps; and I hope I have given you some ideas that will save you time and make events more fun and less work.

Your feedback and ideas are welcome.  As we share ideas we all benefit.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter

Just a note to encourage you to have a wonderful Easter.  Enjoy the egg hunts, candy (chocolate yum), new outfits, and all the fun things that we do on Easter.  But while you're having fun; stop to remember what Easter is really about.  It is the time we remember the greatest sacrifice ever made; when Jesus gave himself to pay my debt, defeated death, and arose in victory!  The greatest war ever waged was fought the day Jesus was crucified; and the greatest victory was won at His resurrection; Easter.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16 (KJV)

Wishing you all the wonderful things Easter is really about!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

First 2016 Event

I started 2016 looking for new opportunities to get exposure for my jewelry and dream catchers, and to improve what I already had in place. So how is that working for me?  Let's take a look:

  • I opened my ETSY shop several years ago; but made no sales.  Not because ETSY is ineffective; but because I didn't do what was needed to raise the presence of my shop in the search engines.  Obviously my, "I can figure this out on my own" wasn't working.  So now I've stepped up efforts to succeed on ETSY by getting some training.  Though all of the things you can get from training can also be learned from research and trial and error; training saves time and frustration.  By taking advantage of what others have already spent time learning; you jump ahead to making productive decisions and the saying "time is money" becomes very relevant.
    • Case in point. By employing just the first couple lessons, I have my first ETSY sale.  I have far to go; but feeling confident that I can reach my goal of multiple sales per month and repeat customers.  If you are interested in this training I'll gladly provide the link. Send me a message or leave a comment.

  • On the local front I started looking for event opportunities with low fees, simple set up, and limited hours (multiple day shows are not a good fit for me and are usually expensive).  I started with 3 events.
    • The first event was "free" because a friend gave me the use of his Real Estate office; no charge.  I qualify the "free" part because I did provide snacks and door prizes, still minimal investment.  I also shared the opportunity with 2 friends; an artist and a Shaklee consultant.
      • The result was respectable.  Sales were worth the set up effort and we all got exposure to new customers.  Note to self; a location in the midst of other businesses, or in an open business, would be better.  The people who came to this event were out specifically to visit us.  We advertised through Facebook, neighborhood websites, local businesses, and word of mouth.  However, had there been adjoining businesses we would likely have had walk up customers; probably yielding more sales.
    • Event number 2 is coming up.  It will be in a recently opened coffee shop.  The set up fee is only $10 and a door prize.  We will be marketing as before; but we will also have other vendors passing the word and walk in customers.  Hopefully the momentum will build and we will see lasting and repetitive business.  If this event is successful it will become a monthly happening.  Good for us and for the coffee shop as our customers will likely be buying coffee; I know I will.
      • Stay tuned for updates.
As 2016 unfolds I'm excited to see how my business will grow and for all the learning experiences I'll be able to share,  I would love to hear your success stories too!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Look for Hidden Opportunities

Marketing has been a bit of a challenge for me.  I assume I'm not alone, so I want to share some of my experiences; both productive and not.

Some things that haven't worked (I'll get that out of the way first):
  • I get at least 10 e-mails a day promising thousands of "targeted" leads and even offering to write ad content for me.  I assume these work well for many people but they are not a good fit for me.  They fall into the "too good to be true" category in my mind.
  • I subscribed to for a year.  Got a few calls; no sales. Cancelled my subscription.
  • I've tried a variety of paid venues with some level of success, but not as much as I expected.
  • I developed a website; but keeping the cost reasonable limited how much I could upload, which limited my ability to keep it fresh and updated. I recently closed the website.
  • and so on.......
So what has worked for me?

First, some unexpected opportunities.

  • I wore a necklace/earring set I made when I went to a doctor's appointment. The ladies that work in the office suggested I bring more pieces back on a light appointment day.  We set a date and I went back with inventory.
    • In about 45 minutes in the lobby I sold more than I did in an entire day at several paid events.  It was free and there was no set up.
  • A friend invited me to be a guest at a local BNI meeting (local chapter of an International networking association) and bring my jewelry.  Again; 2 hours, no fee, and good sales.  Ended up going back twice, time well spent.  I didn't join the group; but that is a post for another day.
Next, old friends and new possibilities

  • A friend (not so old) offered to have a home party for me.  It was fun and productive.  I made several sales; took orders for a couple custom sets; made some new acquaintances, and decided I would like to do this again.  I have a couple offers. 
  • I wanted to do an Open House for myself and some friends.  My house isn't large enough to accommodate it so I called on an old friend; a Real Estate Broker I worked for several years ago.  He graciously gave me use of the building for the Open House.  No report on how successful that will be as it is 2 weeks away.  The advantage here is we are not paying for the use of the building.  Other than some snacks and a few door prizes, there is no cash outlay. Hopefully passing the word through Facebook, word of mouth, and local businesses will produce a good turn out and a productive night for each of us.
  • New possibilities.  A new coffee shop opened in our area.  As part of their effort to bring business in and get involved in the community, they are planning "events" of various types. For vendor events the charge is $10 and a door prize per table, very affordable!  We put an artisan event on the calendar for April and hopefully will continue to do so at least once a month after that.  I plan to look for other opportunities of this nature.  It seems like a win/win plan, and it is always a good when everyone benefits.
Said all that to say; think outside the box.  There is nothing wrong with using today's technology and taking advantage of the vast internet audience; but putting a few eggs in an old-school basket isn't a bad idea either.
  • Establish relationships with coffee shops, day spas, and other customer service oriented businesses.  Mutually beneficial are words everyone likes to hear, and that is exactly what working with local businesses can be.
  • Set your sights on establishing and maintaining a stellar reputation.  Good reviews on line and word of mouth recommendations locally are your best advertisement.
I hope this post has given you some ideas to explore and I look forward to hearing success stories in the near future.

Monday, February 29, 2016

I Have a Favor to Ask

I've been using computers for years.  Here's the thing though; before I retired if I had a question there was a Help Desk to give me answers.  Now, ...... not so much.  So, I have been reading, visiting forums, doing research, and taking better pictures in an effort to improve my on line presence.  I even signed up for training to improve my ETSY shop ads.  Part of the time I think I'm getting it and then suddenly it feels like I'm navigating through thick fog and hoping I don't trip over some unseen obstacle. Thus, progress seems slow; but I am feeling good that there is progress.

So over the past few weeks I've been improving descriptions, adding tags, using better layout and light for pictures, and generally stretching out of my "technology" comfort zone.  This brings me to the favor I need to ask.  If you would check out my ETSY shop and give me feedback I would very much appreciate it.  Also, if you find something you are interested in; contact me and I'll reduce the price by 10%.  Mention "Blogspot" when you make inquiry.  I'm still working on the "coupon" button for the ETSY shop so I'll need to adjust the price manually.

Here are some of the pieces I've listed recently.

and there is more to come.  I look forward to hearing from you.


Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 A Year of Great Possibilities

2015 In Review.

Personal Highlights:

My nephew married a wonderful women.  I think both families were as excited as my nephew that she said yes.  We love her.  I felt very privileged to be a part of the wedding by making jewelry for the bride as well as gifts for her attendants and the Moms.  The wedding was beautiful, they are enjoying starting their life together, and their parents are looking forward to becoming Grandparents, no pressure there, right.  :)

Teaching jewelry classes at Michael's produced more than students; I have several friends as a result of the classes. Priceless!!

My husband and I celebrated 43 years of marriage.  Good times, hard times, but by God's grace still together and better than ever.

Our dog Butch passed in June.  He was 13 years old and had been our companion and best friend for all those years.  He traveled with us, "protected" us with his big bark, loved us, entertained us, and broke our hearts when we lost him.  If you are familiar with "Marley and Me" you know a little bit about our boy.  He wasn't quite as "bad" as Marley; but we have many stories and memories that make us laugh and cry.  We will never forget him.  Though the loss was painful (still is sometimes) we wouldn't trade those years for anything; so worth it!!

After a few months we adopted Kate.  She is 18 months old, full of energy, very loving, and quite hard headed.  We are working on convincing her that we are the "alpha" dogs in this pac and she is slowly accepting that fact.  We love her and know she is worth the work.  Thankfully we are retired and have the time to invest in her.  Now if we can just train our friends not to instigate bad behavior we'll be on the right path.  She has already won our hearts and we look forward to many years with her.  Isn't she beautiful!

On the business front:

I believe I have improved in the area of technique (friends have offered positive feedback in this area, which is very encouraging); I have expanded the styles offered and have included dream catchers in the inventory.  Sales for 2015 ended up being at least triple 2014 and I'm hoping for the increase to continue in 2016.

I am getting better at being my own advertisement by wearing pieces I made.  This resulted in an invitation to bring product to my doctor's office on an off day; the result was over $250 in sales. More than I expected, very pleased.  Home shows and setting up at a business networking meeting also proved to be a good use of time and resources.  Still looking for additional face to face options; but also trying to break into the world of internet sales.  Will keep you posted on how that goes.

I'm working on improving my time management skills; which in turn should help me keep up with this blog, my Facebook page, and maybe even develop Web design skills.  Stay tuned for pictures and updates.

Wishing you all a blessed and productive 2016