Monday, January 25, 2010

Not This Time

I wasn't able to go to the bridal shows this weekend ... but it seems to be show season and there are several more coming up over the next few weeks.  I have some second chances!

I continue to think about the pros and cons of doing bridal shows ... and what I would have to do to get prepared for them.  Some of my questions will be answered when I can attend a couple more shows ... and some answers may just be within me.   I don't feel very confident sometimes and need something or someone to give me a nudge ... once I'm doing it, I'm fine ... it's just uncertainty that holds me back from trying.   I am blessed to have some brave people around me who have confidence in me when my self-assurance fails.

The next show I attend, I do need to talk to the hair stylists there.  I've been wanting to add crystal and pearl hair adornments to my product line.  I'm wondering if they have preferences about things:  do they prefer combs or pins?  do they prefer metal or plastic combs?  do they prefer the old fashioned hair pins or bobby pins?  do they prefer attachments wired on or glued .. or both?  I haven't done a lot of these things yet, but if I'm going to put the effort into practicing, I want to use products preferred by the people who will be using them.  It's weird sometimes what I lay in bed and think about!!  :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My First Impressions

Well, I went to my first Bridal Show today.  It was a small one held in a local venue frequently used for receptions.  I had expected the usual variety of photographers, caterers, bridal shops, florists and disc jockeys and I wasn't disappointed.  There were a couple cosmetic vendors, a spa and a local winery.  One of the things distinctly missing from this show was jewelry -- only one jeweler there and he was primarily selling rings.  At this particular show, no one was selling accessories or jewelry, which surprised me a bit ... and makes me wonder why.  A friend went with me and one of the vendors turned out to be someone she knew .. so we felt comfortable asking questions.  We asked about the booth size, what was provided and fees -- all fairly reasonable by the standards that I've been seeing.

I haven't made any decisions about whether I will pursue this option, but I have a little more information to work with.  One consideration is that a bridal show may not recover it's investment on the day of the show -- it's really a place where potential customers are able to browse and see what services and choices are available but most customers do not BUY at the show.  So if I do this, I need to figure out some way to follow up on potential customers.  A lot of vendors were doing a drawing for a free gift -- so those signing up fill in their contact information on their drawing slip.  Some vendors had sign up sheets on a clip board... not sure I like that one.  Have to give that more thought ... develop a good plan.  And if I do this, I definitely need to develop a more "boutique" looking display.  My display needs to look neat, elegant and professional with a touch of romantic.  We definitely want different "layers" or elevations -- the jewelry guy only had flat trays full of rings on tables -- actually looked a little "flea market".  Need to use color very carefully ... and need to know what the "hot new colors" are for this season.  Someone suggested draping a few pieces of fabric in the trendiest colors to accentuate jewelry of that color. 

I plan to go to another show this weekend ... we'll see how it differs and continue to consider different ideas.  This market has the potential of really working for me ... but I have some serious planning and thinking to do.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Checking Bridal Shows

One of the things I'm working on this winter is researching bridal shows.  I know they aren't quite like craft shows but I'm not certain just how they're different.  I have an eye on 3 shows this upcoming week with hopes to attend them all.  They are all being organized by different groups so I hope to compare the different ways they get organized and how they're run.  At the show, I want to see if anyone has jewelry similar to mine... and if there is, how their prices compare to mine.  I also want to look at display ideas and how booths are set up, as well as getting a feel for how vendors are doing business.  I'm excited at the prospect!

This morning, I sent emails inquiring about 3 "Women's Expos" and a  Bridal Show -- I may be late to get in to any of them, but I thought it was worth a try.

And I have a Saturday Night Special on Etsy this week ... free shipping on every order!  SNS is good from 5 pm EST on Saturday evening until 6 am EST Sunday morning.   Come up and see me sometime!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Re-Evaluating ... Again

Well, it's that time of year.  Lots of people take stock of their lives ... many make New Year's Resolutions or start diets or just promise themselves to "do better".  

I've been taking a look at my business -- my business practices,  marketing, product line and the various aspects of doing what I do.  I haven't finished this examination, but I've decided to make some changes.

A year ago, I did a lot of research into marketing.  It's probably one of my weak points and something I knew little about.  I purchased several books from successful Etsy sellers with information on how to be successful selling on Etsy.  Some of the suggestions they made were pretty elementary and common to all sellers.  However, each seller had a unique thought or two -- something to consider.  
I carefully mapped out a strategy making both major and minor changes.  I changed my business name, purchased professional graphics and  took hundreds of new photos (which I'm still editing to make them right for listings).  I launched this new business with high hopes.  Unfortunately, the sales did not materialize.  My online sales account for only about 4% of my business.

So now what?

Time to evaluate.  What have I done right?  What have I done wrong?  What may need just a little tweaking?

A year ago, I examined my pricing structure and opted to include shipping in my product pricing.  I had hoped that the lure of "free shipping" would be irresistable to buyers.  Hasn't worked out that way.  So today, I've made the first business change for the new year -- I've gone back to adding shipping.  I was going to need to increase prices somewhere -- the price of silver is up and I've had to find a new source for one of my frequently used items, which also means a bit of an increase.  So, rather than increase the prices of my products, I've added the shipping again.  I'm actually kind of disappointed, but i think it will probably work out ok.

Undoubtedly, there will be more changes coming ... but for now, one cautious step at a time.  And I'll keep reading and studying, listening to the advice of those who are making it work and analyzing if their practices will work for me too.  Keeping fingers crossed....!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Remembering Dave

It's been 32 years.  Seems like yesterday.  Seems like a lifetime.

Dave was 18.  He was a freshman at Grand Rapids Baptist College (now Cornerstone University).  On Tuesday, January 10, 1978, he died in his room on campus.  His picture is posted in the campus library -- I wonder if anyone remembers?

Dave grew really fast in his last couple years of high school.  He was working on a farm, nearly 6 miles away, often biking between home and work a couple times a week.  He'd been chubby in his early teens but had really skinnied out in his senior year -- looking good and feeling good.

In the fall of '77, he went off to college, like thousands of other kids.  He was a decent student.  He played the tuba .. well.  While in high school, the US Navy band came to our town for a concert .. Dave was selected to play along with them .. an honor and memory he valued.  In college, he continued to pursue his musical interests, playing in the  college's Symphonic Band.  He especially loved a Bach composition and when the school had no funds to purchase the music, he bought it for the entire band.  

The most important thing in Dave's life was his walk with Christ.  He very much desired to be exactly where God wanted him to be and doing what God wanted him to do.  He was outspoken and consistent and his faith was rare for a teen.

In November, with his roommates, Dave attended a taco party.  On the way back to campus, he wasn't feeling very well but brushed it off to a little heartburn.  His friends were a little concerned about his coloring and decided to take him to ER.  Once there, doctors found that his heart was beating at about 200 beats per minute.  Attempts were made to slow it down but to no avail.  The last resort was to stop his heart and re-start it, hoping it would start.  The doctor told him the risks.  Dave was unphased.  He told the doctor that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" and if Dave didn't wake up, the doctor should not be distressed -- it was God's will.  He did request that if he didn't wake, that the doctor would call the campus, tell them what happened and ask them to sing "Amazing Grace" and "be happy".  That night, all went well.  Dave's heart was stopped and started 3 times to start it at the right number of beats .. but Dave survived.

In the weeks that followed, Dave saw a heart specialist.  He ended up on medication that the doctor expected Dave would need for a year or so then would probably never need again.  The doctor also told him that his life expectancy was about 80 years.  No problem.

Over Christmas break, Dave really struggled with where God wanted him.  He spent an entire night laying awake and praying, but found no direction.  My parents, concerned that once someone has had a medical problem, it could be difficult to get life insurance (and expecting that one day he would marry and have a family), applied for an insurance policy.  A local doctor did an examination and a deposit was made.

At that time, we lived 200 miles from my parents, so on the second weekend in January, my parents and brother came to visit.  It was a nice weekend, although I don't really remember much about it.  The family left on Sunday afternoon, so my parents could take Dave back to college -- classes were supposed to start later that week.  Dave worked in food service so would start work as students began to filter back to campus.

Tuesday was an ordinary day.  Keith had a dental appointment.  I did housework and chased our 16-month old daughter.  Dave was at school and went to work in the kitchen -- it was student registration day.  He told his boss he wasn't feeling well -- his boss sent him back to his room to lay down.  His roommates were there -- they didn't like his color.  The Resident Advisor was called.  He got to the room and immediately called the ambulance.  He also called a couple people, on campus, who were EMTs.  Help was there within 2 minutes.  CPR was done.  The ambulance arrived and they took over for the EMTs.  Dave was rushed to the hospital.  That night, the same doctor who had treated him in November was on duty.  Every effort was made to revive the young man, but after several hours, Dave was pronounced dead.  

The physician had been impressed with this young man a couple months earlier and remembered his words.  He called the president of the college, told him the whole story and told him of Dave's request that the student's sing "Amazing Grace" and "be happy".  The story was related to our family.

The funeral was held later that week, in a tiny little mission church we called our "home church".  At the back of the packed auditorium, doors were opened to a little fellowship room where most of the Symphonic Band was seated.  The music Dave had purchased had arrived on the day he died -- he never heard them play it with earthly ears but they played it for his funeral.  They also played "Amazing Grace".  And the congregation sang it.

Someday I'll talk about the changes in our lives and in the lives of many of Dave's friends .. but not today.  I will mention that, the day after he died, my parents got the doctor's report for the insurance policy in the mail -- Dave had gotten a clean bill of health.

We don't always understand God's timing or His plan.  We do know that He allows all things for a reason.  I miss Dave... maybe more as I grow older than I did back then.  I have no other siblings so find myself an "only child" (sort of).   He loved his little niece, Laura and as she has grown and reached some of the milestones in her life, I've missed his presence -- I know how proud he would be of her.  Our other children were born later -- he'd think they were pretty cool too!  I look forward to "going home" -- to meet with Dave and others who have gone before me.  In God's time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Our Holiday Adventures

No great epiphanies here ... just a glimpse of life. It all flew by so fast, it's actually kinda nice to sit and reflect on all we did!

We left WI to head for MI on Dec 18. In the days leading up to that, I was finishing Christmas cards, baking, doing laundry, packing and trying to tie up lots of little loose ends. On the 16th, our frig died -- but since we live in the parking lot of the church we're building (and their kitchen is done) I put everything in the
church frig -- my husband was so busy with work (and finishing up HIS loose ends) and he when he couldn't find the problem quick, it was really nice to have a back up! So we left after work on Friday. 7 hours later, we arrived at our daughter's house -- it's for sale and no one lives there, but we've had a bed there so we could stay.
Dec 19 - we slept in a bit, having gotten to bed around 3 am. Caught a fast food breakfast (because there's really nothing in the house except our bed ... literally) then did a bit of quick shopping. G
ot to our son's place about 11 -- they were moving from one apartment that day to another one -- with lots more space. We helped with unloading the first load of boxes and furniture and I set about to unpack the kitchen boxes. Later, my parents came (from 100 miles away) and we celebrated my father's 80th birthday by going to one of our favorite local restaurants, then back to the new apartment where our daughter-in-law, Amanda, had grandpa's cake ready. There were the typical balloons, presents and singing. Our bed had gotten moved that day -- and we fell into it that night, exhausted.
Dec 20 - got a little later start than we wanted so missed the Morning Service at church, but made the Adult Bible Fellowship. Lunch out. Back to the apartment for more unpacking and watching football.
Dec 21 - More unpacking. Grocery shopping. Christmas shopping. Finished gift wrapping. Tried to make dinner in the new apt but the oven quit in the middle of baking. New stove needed.
Dec 22 - Went up north (100 miles) to my parent's house. Keith had a shop project and I did cookie baking. On the way, we had some work done to our car -- it has over 250,000 miles and is still goin
g strong! Want to keep it that way. New stove arrived at the apt.
Dec 23 - Shop projects and cookies continued until late afternoon. Then we went to my brother-in-law's house for dinner with his whole family. Very nice evening -- really had a good time. Until one of the little guys bumped heads with another -- lost 2 teeth along with needing stitches. But it was late enough for us to be leaving. Had that 100 mile drive back to our son's and an ice storm was threatening.

Dec 24 - I spent the day in the kitchen preparing for Christmas dinner -- made apple pie, blueberry pie, squash rolls, and my famous stuffing -- made with cornbread, sausage and apples. Also made the breakfast casseroles for Christmas morning breakfast. Squeezed in a couple loads of laundry too. Amanda's family arrived and helped make fixings for Christmas Eve dinner. My parents arrived. Everyone beat the worst of the ice storm and we were all together. Normally on Christmas Eve, we go out after dinner and look at light -- too much ice so we had to forego it for this year. Some of us stayed up late and played games. There was a little "Santa business" to finish too. Oh, and yes ... the kids hosted Christmas in a place they'd only moved in to 5 days earlier!
Dec 25 - Our son, Matt, is crazy about Christmas!!! He's up bright and early and can't WAIT to open gifts!! Once everyone was up and around, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and had a prayer of thanks f
or God's many blessings. Then the gift opening began!!! Pretty papers flew everywhere and squeals of joy were emitted frequently but delighted recipients. Breakfast followed with our egg casseroles and Jule Kaga - traditional Norwegian Christmas Bread (made into the most delightful toast!). Some sat and talked, others finished preparations for dinner, which was a big turkey dinner with all the fixings. I did some packing.
Dec 26 - we left MI and headed for Christmas, round 2 in Denver. Our travels were good, despite the wintry weather until the west side of Des Moines -- stopped for gas and a trucker said something about I 80 being closed at the Nebraska state line -- right where we were headed. We got back on the road but called our daughter, who checked it out on the internet and confirmed that the roads were closed. We called someone in Kansas City, thinking to drop down to I 70 -- they were getting a big snow storm -- no better that way. So we went back to Des Moines and spent the night -- oddly enough, we really slept long and h
ard -- but that was good -- would need it.
Dec 27 - checked internet, roads open in NE. Lots of travelers had been waiting to go that way so traffic was heavy. Roads were open but rough going in spots. It took us a hour to go 20 miles in one place. Over 700 miles later, we arrived in Denver -- to lots of hugs and kisses!!!
Dec 28 - kind of caught up -- with family, with rest. Played with grandkids. Just "chillaxed".
Picked up a few groceries with the kids. Unpacked the car.

Dec 29 - I made Gingerbread cookies with Ellie. She's 5 and this has become a Christmas ritual for the 2 of us. We both wear our Christmas aprons and this year, she helped me mix, cut and decorate. Precious!! This was the night to celebrate our Christmas together too. So, turkey round 2, with all the fixings -- good thing we LIKE that stuff!! The weather was a bit more cooperative in Denver, so we went out looking at Christmas lights. At one stop, there was a sign in the yard to tune the radio to a particular station -- they were playing Christmas music and the lights on the house were keeping time!!! It was SO cool!! Then we went home and opened gifts. When the munchkins were put to bed, the games came out. Nice day!

Dec 30 - An area bowling alley had open bowling for .99 per game ... so we were right on it! For the rest of the day, we were lazy... played more table games...and it was fun!
Dec 31 - Our daugh
ter, Laura, came down with the flu. The rest of us watched football and pretty much had another day of lazy. We all went (except Laura) to the home of one of their friends for subs, snacks and fellowship -- nice evening but with Laura home alone, we cut it off early. Went home to be with her, watched a movie, kissed at midnight.
Jan 1 - Rose Parade in the morning, then football, football, football. I made "power grazing" snacks (appetizer/finger foods). Laura was still under the weather.
Jan 2 - Laura felt better .. and was ready to get out. Our daughter, Amy, would have to go to work that afternoon but we were all able to do a little shopping in the morning. One of the Christmas electronics wasn't working -- needed to be replaced. Grandpa got a Sirius radio and wanted an extra antenna for his truck. Lunch all together at Chili's. Home for more football and table games.

Jan 3 - Sunday morning we workshipped with our children -- great service! Lunch at Outback. Amy had to go to work. For the rest of us, more football and games. I did a bit of packing.
Jan 4 - We left Denver to make the 2 day trip home. Weather was nice (although very cold .. and we knew there was a storm chasing us) and we made over 700 miles.
Jan 5 - arrived home (after another 500 miles) to find that our furnace wasn't working and our water lines were frozen. The furnace problem turned out to be in the thermostat -- got it fixed and turned on the heat but it was SO cold, so late and no water. Spent another night in a motel.
Jan 6 - Water lines were thawed when we got home. The only leak we've found is in the valve for the toilet. Fixed. Looking for others, but so far, so good. While he was at it, Keith also found the problem for the frig -- it's fixed too. So everything is back up and running.
And life is resuming a more normal pace.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How You Do Holidays

Wow!! It's been a while since I've been here!!!

My past weeks have been incredibly busy ... family, travel, holidays. Our son and daughter-in-law moved the weekend before Christmas ..then hosted our family festivities.... it was a little "rustic" but wonderful to be together!

How do you work the holidays at your house? Our oldest daughter has been married for 11 years and when we came to our first Christmas, the big decision was "whose year is it going to be ... with her family or his?" We hated that. Naturally, we want to be with our kids so we also understand that our son-in-law's parents want to be with their kids. I seriously hated the idea of only being with them every other year. And what about when the other kids got married ... what if the "our years" didn't coincide? Either we would end up only being with our family every other year (and being alone on the in-between years) or we would never be able to all be together on the same year. Didn't like it. Our solution? Our family gets together and includes the parents (and some siblings) for our children-in-law. It just makes sense to us. We share the most important people in the world (our kids and grandkids) -- we can certainly share our holiday.

I know that all families are not able to do this, but it's worked out great for us! We have a whole set of traditions that we enjoy as a family, and we've been absorbing traditions from our new extended families. Foods too -- you know... those "it's not Christmas unless we have ___" foods? Everyone participates. Two of our three children have married into families with values similar to ours and our religious views are very close -- that helps (our youngest child isn't married yet). It's required some flexibility on our part but really, as they've grown to adulthood, things were going to change anyway -- why not adjust to accommodate the needs of our changing family?

Other changes will come. It's inevitable. We'll cross those bridges when we get to them. But for now, it's been wonderful!!