Monday, February 25, 2013

Business planning, part 4

Well, now that you know I’ve been lazy (Jan 14)
And I’ve told you about some resources I’ve found helpful (Jan 28)
And I’ve explained how I implemented a reasonable household schedule (Feb 12)
Let’s talk about how I’m applying all this to my business planning.

To some degree, I’ve been “playing” at my jewelry business.   I’m not sure whether it’s been a profitable hobby or an extremely part time venture but I’m feeling the need to take it to the next level.  I’ve been depending pretty much solely on craft shows for my sales but it’s time to step it up and go beyond the shows.  Making a plan will be an important part of that effort.

I started by analyzing my business – marketing, practices, activities.  What am I doing right?  What needs improvement?  What tasks need to be done regularly?  Then I set a few goals.  Some goals are very long term, some are more immediate.  But they’re goals (if you don’t have anything to shoot for, you’ll never hit the mark).  My 5 goals for 2013 are:
Improve my online sales
Improve my offline sales
Expand my product offerings
Improve my show displays
Streamline my business record keeping

I considered a customer service goal, but that is an area that is currently satisfactory – need to stay on top of it of course, but it doesn’t require any major changes right now.  And by the way – this analysis has taken place over a couple months and has included discussions with several other people for outside (and maybe more objective) input.  

For each of my goals, I have listed 2-4 strategies.  A strategy is defined as “a plan designed to achieve a particular long term aim” – in this case, broad ideas for achieving my goals.  Each strategy is broken down into specific tasks intended to help implement the strategy (eating an elephant one bite at a time).   So, I have a goal – a purpose to achieve; a strategy – a plan to help achieve my goal; and tasks – the specific activities to carry out the plan.  Example:

Goal:    Expand my product offerings
    Strategy:   research trends in styles and colors
        Task:  talk to beautician about wedding hairstyles
        Task:  read the Pantone color forecast for 2013
        Task:  get the new color swatches from the bridal shop
    Strategy:   learn new techniques
        Task:  take a class in wire working
        Task:  purchase a tutorial on making ear cuffs
        Task:  purchase tools and supplies needed
        Task:  practice techniques to gain proficiency

Now that I have a set of goals and the specific tasks needed to achieve them, I can use this information when planning my days, weeks and months.  I can be more productive because I’m not shifting aimlessly and when I have completed a task, I enjoy a sense of accomplishment.  And while I certainly hope that these efforts will result in greater sales, I can be confident that I’m utilizing a well thought out plan, not wasting precious time on meaningless tasks. 

I’m going to have to be flexible about this at times and prepared to make changes when I see the need.  After all, if I’m successful at increasing my online sales, I’m going to have more product to make, more to ship, more packing to do, more materials ordering to do ... well, you get the idea.  Some of my goals may change ..or at least change in priority.  

I'm adding a goals form that I created -- and hopefully it can be downloaded by you!  You can save it as a jpg file by right clicking on it with your mouse and selecting "Save Image As" from the drop down list. OR to save as a pdf file, click on the Goals Planner title link which will take you to Scribd where you can download it - Scribd is free to join.

   Goals Planner by  

I grew up on a farm and enjoy gardening this is the perfect analogy for me.  A good business is like a plant – it’s a growing, living, changing thing.  The seed is off to a good start and the roots are in good rich soil.  I have a plan in place to nurture it at this stage of growth but like a plant, it may need different care as it matures.  With a little watering, a little feeding, a little weeding and some tender loving care, it will produce an abundance in time.  As it grows, I’ll be keeping an eye on it ... and looking forward to that harvest!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Introductions Please!!

Well, I've been gone for a few days.  Last week on Wednesday evening after work, my husband and I headed out to our son's .. his wife was going to have labor induced.  We got most of the miles under our belts when we learned that she needed some pre-induction medications and she wouldn't be getting pitocyn until the next (Thursday) morning.  We were exhausted and pulled in to a motel for the night.  Good thing ... our next few days were long and tough.  Our sweet DIL spent hours attempting labor.  At one point, it hadn't taken so they quit and let her eat, then began again.  It looked more promising the second time around as she got dilated to 5 and was having hard labor pains every 3 minutes ... but it ceased to progress beyond that and late Friday afternoon, the decision was made to do a C-section. 

Andrew was born at 6:55 on Friday evening and came in at a petite 8 pounds, 13 oz and 22" long.  Everything seemed to be pretty much ok -- just a little fluid in the lungs, typical of C-section babies and normally clears up in a short time.  We all (5 grandmas and grandpas and an aunt were waiting) got to snuggle him for a few minutes, then we all headed out for a good night's sleep, leaving the new Daddy and Mama to enjoy their little guy.  

Saturday morning we sauntered in to the hospital -- and found that Andrew was having irregular breathing and he had been moved to the NeoNatal ICU of the Children's Hospital next door.  The 2 buildings are joined and we were able to go to see him.  It was frightening to see his tiny body all wired up with IV, feeding tube and monitors, but it was a great comfort to know that he was in one of the best Children's Hospitals in the nation and was getting the best care.  Andrew progressed slowly over the next few days, his breathing becoming more regular.  He hadn't been able to eat at first for fear that he would choke, but he gradually began eating more and more.  

Yesterday, Andrew went home.  His Mama and Daddy are delighted and relieved to have him home with them!

These past days have been a real challenge in patience.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.  Waiting for labor to happen.  Waiting for delivery.  Waiting for breathing.  Waiting for eating.  All things are in God's hands and God's time ... which is not always MY time!  I want to "fix" things ... NOW!  and make everyone better.  But life doesn't always work that way.  It's been a real reminder that, as much as I sometimes like to be in control, things aren't always IN my control.  
So let me introduce you ....
This is my husband with Andrew.

My husband and I have returned home.  I get to see Andrew again in a few weeks ... can hardly wait!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Business Planning Part 3

So far, I’ve confessed my laziness.  (see post for Jan 14)
And I’ve shared a couple resources that I’ve found helpful. (see post for Jan 28)

Now what?

I’ll start with my home plan because it will lay the foundation for business planning.  My goal:  I wanted a cleaning schedule that was easy to manage, kept everything reasonably clean but didn’t overwhelm my life.  I made a list of every room in my house, then made a list of EVERY cleaning activity necessary for each room.  Yes, I included washing windows, cleaning curtains, even washing walls....but don’t panic yet!  I then assigned a frequency to each task.  Some tasks, like doing dishes, are daily tasks.  Some, like washing walls, are done once a year.  Everything else falls somewhere in between.  Oh ..and remember .. you are NOT Martha Stewart!  It doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.  But you do want to keep the common areas clean enough so if your Mom drops in unannounced, you won’t be embarrassed by the size of the dust bunnies!

Once I had my list of tasks done, I looked at the rhythms of our lifestyle.  Our weekends tend to be busier with social and church activities (and these days, craft shows) so I avoided adding any cleaning tasks to Saturdays or Sundays.  And because they are social, I want the house to look decent, so I made sure that the cleaning tasks involving the common areas of the house were added to Fridays.  Make sense?  I intentionally planned that my kitchen,  dining room, living room and bathroom would be clean and ready for those weekend social events.  Tasks needing to be done 3 times per week kind of naturally fell into Mondays - Wednesdays - Fridays while tasks needing to be done 2 times per week fell into Tuesdays and Fridays.  Thursdays ended up being “light” days for me – and became the perfect place to do some of those less frequent tasks like washing windows.  I ended up doing most of my laundry on Thursdays – so most of our clothes would be clean and ready for anything that came up on the weekend.

The beauty of this plan is that once you’ve laid out your schedule and you implement it, you don’t even have to THINK about when tasks need to be done.  We lived for 6 years in a big, old Victorian house – 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, a massive living room, 3 kids (2 homeschooled) and assorted neighbor kids.  I could do most of my household tasks on Mondays through Thursdays (except laundry) in about an hour per day.  Fridays took about 2 hours – but the whole house was ready for anything the weekend threw at us. 

My point is that before I developed a cleaning plan, I would look around the house and feel overwhelmed at all I thought had to be done.  Before I laid it all out in black and white, then prioritized, I would see EVERYTHING as a task needing immediate attention.  Once there was a basic plan in place, I was free to do only what was actually necessary, being confident that everything would be done in it’s time.  Having a plan did not constrict me freed me. 

So what does all this mean for developing my business plans?  I’ll get down to some business nitty gritty in a couple weeks.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Naming the Babies

When I first began my business, I realized early on that my designs were reproducible ...after all, I started because of a wedding.  I also figured out that I needed a way to identify each style so orders could be taken and multiples made.  Pretty easy ... each design needs a name.  But what names to use?  Lots of options were considered and I needed to make allowance that the number of design styles would expand and change over time.   With several groups of designs, there was a fair amount to consider.  I wanted a group of names that would communicate elegance and grace – a name like “Bubblegum Jellopops “ wasn’t going to cut it.

My main line of jewelry styles use crystals with either white or cream pearls.  I decided to use it to honor special women (and girls) in my life.   The names are in alphabetical order and almost every name in my “Fantasy Girls” group represents someone who I have loved or admired.  It was hard to come up with names for a couple of the letters so I looked through baby books to see what names meant and chose accordingly.  For the most part, the names from the early part of the alphabet are the small styles and they get progressively longer as we get further down the letters.  And as time has passed, and I’ve gone far beyond 26 styles of earrings, I’ve added second (and sometimes even third) names for the letters.  My business started by making earrings so I have lots of those designs ...but when I started making necklaces, I had a new problem with naming.  While I was in the process of figuring out what to do about those names, I happened to watch a classic movie with the main character being royalty.  It occurred to me that the royal titles seemed a natural next step in extending my Girls line.  Yes ... we have a few typical titles like Duchess or Contessa or Empress ...but we have (or will eventually have) some unique names.  Bantiarna is an Irish Baroness and Grevinna is a Swedish countess. 

"In The Mood" Earrings
My second largest jewelry line uses a variety of pearl colors with crystals to match.  Some designs can cross over from the Girls ... but some styles are unique to this line.  You may already know I’m a fan of movies from the 1930's and 40's, but I also love the music!  So this line is called “Big Band Baubles” and the designs are named for the titles of some great songs from that era!  I started with some of my very favorites from Glenn Miller then moved on to Cole Porter standards and songs done by Frank Sinatra.  “In the Mood” is one of my best sellers!

Right from the beginning, I’ve also made jewelry using Semi-precious stones.  A lot of people impart mystical qualities to various stones, but I’m not of that neighborhood what to name them.  I did want these names to be very distinct from my other design names.  We had occasion to spend several weeks on a working vacation in Florida and I encountered a couple unusual (but very pretty sounding) names - like “Jacaranda” and “Lantana” (both flowers).   As a very northern girl, I found tropical words intriguing ...and the idea for naming the stones was born.  This line is a bit different because each stone family has it’s own name, and then each design has it’s own name.  “Bling” is the same style in every stone.  Many stone families are represented by names resembling their colors.  For instance, Snow Jade, a translucent white stone, is named “Lantana” which is a tropical white flower.  The Jacaranda tree bears blue flowers so was the perfect name for Blue Chalcedony.  Not all names are exceptionally tropical – Banana Fofana seemed like a fun name for Yellow Aragonite and Pirates Cove works well for Black Onyx. 

I have 2 other lines, both with fewer styles.  Bracelets are all named for classic movie actresses – Garland, Taylor, Hepburn, Monroe.  And I have a line of mixed colors based on seasons and holidays called “Seasons Dreams”.  “Autumn Dreams” is a beautiful fall blend of browns, gold, olive and Indian red.  “Summer Dreams” are beachy colors of capri, aqua, light smoked topaz (sandy colored) and white pearls.  In honor of St Patricks Day, “Irish Dreams” features crystals of emerald and erinite mixed with white pearls.  Each of the combinations of the Seasons Dreams line has a miniature called Sweet Dreams.  And I’ve made allowances to eventually offer earrings, bracelets and anklets using each of the Dreams combinations.

There are ideas tumbling around my head for a couple more combinations – new lines that I’ll develop someday.  And they already have names set aside for them.  I love what I’m doing now but my creativity is not limited to Swarovski crystals and pearls – so I actually have another Etsy shop so the name is “reserved” – something more fitting for an entirely different kind of style.  No plans to launch any new shop this year – Gentle Adornments is keeping me busy enough – that and the fixer-upper house we’re working on!  But maybe when the house is settled?.....

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Monday Madness ... strikes again!!

It’s Monday Madness!  Amethyst is the color of the month ..the birthstone for February ..and have I got a deal for you!  Get 25% off any amethyst jewelry you order!  This is how it works:  Choose any style from my Etsy shop (look for the girl’s names for styles available in amethyst)
Place the item in your cart (regardless of the color shown in the listing)
Write “amethyst” in the notes section
Use coupon code  MondayMadness  when you check out

It’s that simple!  

This is a one day only special so make your selection quickly!  All items will be made to order and should be ready to ship by Wednesday.  This offer is good until midnight (eastern time in the US) and only available on amethyst colored jewelry ... so don’t delay!  Oh, and if you’d like ball posts or leverbacks instead of French wires, please go to the Special Services section of my shop and add the desired alteration to your cart.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Valentines for my Valentines


I LOVE Valentines Day! I know it’s a “Hallmark Holiday” but I still love it.  It’s like a mini-Christmas.  People are kinder for a while, but they don’t go nuts in the stores.  There’s no pressure to be here or there or anywhere (please excuse me while I break out my Dr. Seuss). This time of year I pack a love note or card into my husband’s lunch box for the first 14 days of February.  It appears that it doesn’t matter whether your 8 or 38, a note in your lunch box makes you feel special, and makes you smile when you see it. Sometimes I make a big deal out of it, and sometimes it’s just an “I love you” scratched on a piece of paper. I’ve already finished some cards for Jon’s lunchbox.   And I have plans for more.  

This one I plan to wrap around a banana in his lunch box.  
Every Wednesday he has to travel further for work, and I don’t pack his lunch so I think I’ll wrap one around a bag of kisses and stick it in his computer bag.  So you see why this is fun…it’s like being Santa when no one expects it.

This year I’m also planning on making cards with my 8 year old daughter.  She’s a bit of a crafty bug like her mom.  On Wednesday I was helping in her class and she told her teacher “You can find her on!” The teacher says “I’ll look for her there.” To which I corrected her and said “I have NO idea what she’s talking about.” And we all chuckled about it.  I’m pretty sure that domain name is taken, and it’s not taken by me.  Ellie thought it was cute because it rhymed.  Here’s a picture of what we’ll be working on for her class. 

I’m going to show you a step by step process for making one of your own.  I used my cricut to cut out the cupcakes, but you can use any die cut you can find. 

Here’s what you’ll need: 
3”x4” storage bags
Happy Valentine’s Day Stamp
StazOn Ink (it doesn’t have to be StazOn but it does need to be an ink that will work on plastic, not just paper)
Glitter and Glue
Create-A-Critter 2 Cartridge
            Cut 1 ¼  inch heart from the lady bug
            Cut 3 ½ inch cupcake
            Cut 3 ½ inch cupcake wrapper
Embossing machine with heart embossing folder (I used a Big Kick with a Paper Studio folder)
Conversation hearts (enough for 10-12 for each baggie and some extras for snacking)

1.     Stamp the bags and give them time to dry, if you move the ink too quickly it will still smudge even though it’s supposed to be ok on plastic.  Once they’re dry put 10-12 conversation hearts in each one.

2.     Fold the 4”x6” piece of paper down 1.5 inches so it measures 4”x 4.5”.  Use a bone scorer or the edge of a credit card to flatten that fold out better.  Place the 1.5” flap into the embossing folder, it’s ok to let the rest hang out, and emboss. 

3.     Staple the storage bag with candy into the flap.

4.     Glue together cupcake wrapper and cupcake.  Spread glue around the top of the cupcake, but take care to avoid the area where you want to glue the heart cherry.  Add glitter.  Then glue the heart cherry on top.

5.     Cover the staple by gluing the cupcake to the flap.

Before I attach the bag of candy to the flap I can have Ellie write out her “To” and “From” on the back.  Here’s a tip, as this will be my 4th Valentines Day party, it’s easier to distribute on Valentine’s day if they simply put “From” and then can just pass them out.  It can take forever for the littles to figure out who’s name is who and where that particular valentine should go.

My son is 5, and not quite the crafty bug as…well…as anyone.  So his valentines ended up being really quick and easy.  The longest part of this project was getting him to put on that tie…and it’s a clip on.  I took his picture on a plain white background (we call it “the wall” at our house) with him holding out his fist and “showing it to me”. 

 I printed them off at…they come 3 to a card and you can just cut them apart.  I did a hole punch above and below his hand and threaded in the sucker.  

 Now he can hand out treats to his friends with very little effort.  My husband pointed out that Grandma’s might like pictures of that handsome devil too, so good thing I printed extras.  I also thought that for Grandma’s I might thread a small fake flower into that fist.

I hope you now have some creative juices flowing so you can go show some love.  And even if you’re not creative, scribbling “I love you” onto a napkin will surely bring a smile to your Love’s face.