Gaining Momentum

Things have been really humming along lately. I have been working on three new websites and started back part-time at Nordstrom.  I ran out of Wizard of Oz pillows, so I spent two full days last week silk screening more. I sold pillows at a “Handmade Sale” on Sunday, and had some new ones in the collection. And I have been diligently working on my business plan and branding for Suzanne Harrison Home.  Whew!

Sounds crazy, but it’s actually perfect. Mostly. I remember back when Todd started his business, how it seemed like he was always either worried about getting enough work, or worried about how he was going to get all of the work done. And he still does sometimes. Maybe that never goes away.

I’m not really stressing about getting my work done, because I am fortunate right now to have clients with very loose deadlines. But I have put personal deadlines in place to help me manage my workload.

What’s happening to me is that I feel like I’m not making time for the other stuff that needs to get done – like working in the yard, getting our summer planned, putting the ski stuff away, and laundry! I love the work I’m doing right now, and there’s plenty of it, but I’m letting it consume all of my time, putting other things off, letting the little things slide, not meeting some of my personal goals and milestones for the year. But…

Who cares? Does it matter that much? It’s hard to say. I always want to do a thousand times more than is actually possible, but I still get a lot done, and I really try to be systematic about my priorities. Will there be more work after I complete these websites? When should I start looking? Should I block off some time to focus more on Suzanne Harrison Home? Plus, summer is right around the corner – what will this be like when the kids are out of school? I have no idea…

I’ve decided not to overthink it, and just keep plugging away at everything. Making sure I have some billable hours in every day. Making sure I do a little bit of pillow work and/or marketing every day. Making sure I spend only a little bit of time texting, emailing, scheduling, etc. Making sure I’m there for my family, and taking care of myself.

This image came through my email the other day from Tai Lopez, and while I wouldn’t exactly call myself an entrepreneur, I think it’s really great:

10 Habits

#8 makes me laugh because I don’t exactly have a team… Or do I? I am always telling my kids “Solve the problem – don’t make it worse!” Hmm…

 #9 sounds like something to strive for because I am constantly shifting gears between my various “business activities” throughout the day.

But… at the end of the day, I am happy, and hopeful that all of this effort will pay off. It may not be paying big right now, but it’s hard to put a dollar value on the freedom and flexibility I have. Plus I am learning so much about SO MUCH! I’m not sure where I’m going to land with all of this, but I’m excited, and feel like I’m headed in the right direction. Hooray!

A Fresh Start

News definition

I couldn’t decide what to call this post: “A New Beginning” or “A Fresh Start” or “Starting Over”?? All of those phrases sounded so redundant to me. Aren’t all beginnings new? All starts fresh? Well, kind of, I suppose. But what is truly new? Everything stems from something else. Right? Too deep? Why am I even bringing this up?

Because I am embarking on something new, but not totally new. I’m taking everything I’ve done so far, and I’m doing it again, slightly different this time, and hopefully better. I’m making a fresh start! Here’s the backstory…

At the beginning of the year I got a message through Etsy (a ‘convo’ as Etsy calls it) from a woman who said she loved the ‘Words to Live By‘ pillows and was wondering if I’d be interested in selling them on consignment in her store, The Handmade Showroom, at Pacific Place down town. I wrote her back and said ‘Yes!’ and we scheduled a meeting to talk about the details.

At the meeting I showed her the ‘Words’ pillows, as well as the ‘ Wizard of Oz’ pillows, as well as some potholders I’d made, and to my surprise she wanted them all. Her enthusiasm for my work was such an ego boost, but even more, the consulting she gave me was invaluable. We talked about pricing, and craft shows, and wholesale, and labels, and finally she said, “So tell me about the name ‘So Fashion.’”

I explained to her that it was something my son used to say, and that it is a combination of “old fashioned” and “so fashionable” and a play on the idea that everyone has their own way of interpreting things. When I was done she looked a bit concerned and said, “I’m just going to come out and say it…” and I interrupted her and said, “You think it’s weird. It is weird, isn’t it?” And she said something like, “No… I think it’s really important to have a name that you connect with, which obviously you do, but I also think it’s also important to have a name that your customers connect with, and I think they’d have a hard time connecting with that name. It took you a long time to explain it to me and I think it would be better if people could grasp it more quickly. And I have to be honest with you, because there’s a lot of stuff from overseas on Etsy, I thought maybe English wasn’t your first language.”

What a relief! Finally someone said what I really wanted to hear, and confirmed my doubts about the name. So we talked some more and I explained how I had considered using my own name, but nothing sounded right to me, like “Suzanne Harrison Designs” or “Suzanne Harrison Studio” and she said what about “Suzanne Harrison Home?” and I said, “That’s it! I love it!” Why hadn’t I thought of that?

So I went home and bought the domain name SuzanneHarrisonHome.com. Then I made some labels with my new name and the care instructions, and brought them back to the store. Then I built a quick website to support what was on the labels: SuzanneHarrisonHome.com. Then I got out a piece of poster-board paper and started writing ideas and to dos on sticky notes and sticking them on the board.

It might sound a bit impulsive to change my name, just like that, but in the instant she said “Suzanne Harrison Home” it completely resonated with me. It felt right. It felt so much more like me. I love that using my name makes it personal, and that adding ‘home’ includes a word I love, that represents the thing I probably value most in my life.

And it feels like a flood of energy has been released in me. Like this was the trigger I needed to start over, so to speak; to do things again, better, more deliberately, with the knowledge I have from everything I did the first time. I have a ton to do, which feels overwhelming, but exciting at the same time, and I’m not going to rush through it. I’m going to be organized and take it one step at at time. I’m not in a rush. I’m finally going to make a business plan – not a super detailed one, more of a manifesto + high level plan. I want to create some new pillows, but I want to create some other products too, get some professional branding, and the list goes on, and on…

This time of year is always about newness. The year is new, spring is starting to make an appearance, “Out with the old and in with the new” is in the air, it’s a new moon, and the start of the Chinese New Year. This year it’s the year of the fire monkey. I think it’s interesting (and perfect) that all of this is happening right now. And how excellent that this article about the year of the monkey on Refinery29 says:

… the Year of the Fire Monkey is a great year for fresh starts: “If you’ve been on the sidelines, waiting to start a new business or jump into a new hobby or back to school, it’s a very supportive year to do those kinds of things.”

Welcome to the new year — embrace it, and see what new paths it leads you to.

Here’s to fresh starts! Happy new year!!

And check out my pillows at the Handmade Showroom…

Suzanne Harrison Home Words to Live By Pillows at the Handmade Showroom in Seattle

Suzanne Harrison Home Wizdom of Oz Pillows at the Handmade Showroom in Seattle

Ready, Set, Organize!

The other day, as I was cooking dinner and listening to Fresh Air, my ears perked up when I heard the speaker, a linguist named Geoff Nunberg, talk about his pick for the word of 2015. I was expecting it to be a word related to iPhones or technology, and was surprised to hear that the word he had chosen was “gig” which he described as “the name for a new economic order.”

I always thought of the word “gig” in terms of musicians playing a show, but I guess now it’s also used to describe freelancing, and it’s the wave of the future.  Nunberg says:

The lifetime job is history, we’re told, a victim of technology and the logic of the market. Instead, careers will be a patchwork of temporary projects and assignments, with the help of apps and platforms with perky names like FancyHands, Upwork and TaskRabbit.

He also says:

As the head of a freelancers’ organization puts it, we’re no longer just lawyers, or photographers, or writers. Instead, we’re part-time lawyers-cum-amateur photographers who write on the side.

Like me! I’m a part-time web-devloper-cum-pillow-maker who blogs on the side. I had no idea I was part of this “gig economy.” Cool!  I think…

Because while I love my patchwork life, it can be pretty stressful sometimes not to have a steady income with steady benefits, and it’s really hard to keep everything organized. What should I work on today? How do I find time to get my bookkeeping done, my taxes paid, my inventory up-to-date, my kids fed, my house cleaned, my emails answered, my projects done, and find new work and sell pillows and write in my blog?

That is why my word for 2016 is Orgainize! And that is why I’ve spent a lot of January setting the stage to be more organized in 2016.  

What have I done?  So far, just these three things…

Thing 1:  I purged!  

I cleaned out my desk, and my files, and my laundry room, my fabric stash, my closet, and my kitchen. I was fast and I was ruthless and I got rid of so much crap. I had actually been holding onto fabric that I had gotten when I worked at a fabric store way back in the 80s. I had two blenders! I had pay-stubs from the 90s. It took quite a bit of time, and I often wondered if this was the best use of my time, but I was kind of on auto-pilot. And then I was done. Sure, I could have kept going and tackled the living room, the shed, the bookshelves, the freezer, the list goes on, but this felt good. And right. Now I had room to organize.

Thing 2:  I created my 5 x 5 Plan.

What is a 5 x 5 Plan? I didn’t know until a few weeks ago when I came across Natalie MacNeil’s website She Takes on the World, and her post Create Your 5 x 5 Plan for 2016. In it she suggests that you write down five goals to work towards in 2016, and then write down five milestones for accomplishing these goals, giving each a deadline. I loved the idea, and I appreciated her emphasis on being flexible with your plan. That if an opportunity comes your way, it’s okay to replace a goal with something else you really want to pursue, and that “You can complete a goal simply by crossing it off your list.” She also suggests you create a vision board for each goal, which I haven’t done, although the visions are very clear in my head.

Here’s what my 5 x 5 plan looks like for this year:

Suzannes 5x5 Plan

Thing 3:  I created a time management plan for 2016.

For me, I find that I’m best at getting things done when I write them down and then have them visible, like my sticky boards. So I decided to create a loose schedule for the week, and try as best as possible to stick to it. I know things will fluctuate and I’ll need to make some big adjustments for the summer, but I really want to maximize my time by doing laundry only once a week, planning meals and grocery shopping just once a week, and not procrastinating on bookkeeping and other things.  We’ll see how it goes, and again, I’m gong to remain flexible and make adjustments along the way.

Here’s what my time management plan looks like:

Suzannes Time Management Plan 2016

One other little thing I did was set a timer on my phone to go off every weekday at 12:30pm, to remind myself to take a short break. To meditate. To stretch and maybe lift some weights or do some sit ups. I spend way too much time in a chair in front of the computer, and so I need to make sure I get away and move my body and still my mind for a little bit.

My contract job at Nordstrom ended recently and even though I have some freelance jobs going on, I’m feeling a little anxious about the amount of time I’m spending on all of this organizing. My hope is that in the future I will be so organized that I won’t need any significant breaks, and that I’ll have enough “padding” in my bank to feel better about doing the un-billable work that needs to get done in between gigs.

Interested in learning more about the gig economy? This is pretty interesting: Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce.

2015 Review

2016 is here, and it feels great.  The holidays came and went in a whirlwind, like they always do, but we had a lot of fun. We slept in, we shopped, we baked, we decorated, and we celebrated Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Years with family, friends, food, and fun. We saw Star Wars and we skied a few times. What more could you ask for? Nothing! But if sure feels good to have it all over with!

Why is that?

xmas Tree 2015Maybe it’s because the holidays are like the last paragraph of the last chapter of a long book, and no matter how good, bad, or mediocre the story, we’re glad when we’ve finished it, and we’re excited to get started on the next one. That’s how I feel at least. I thought 2015 was really good – great characters, full of meaning, lots of fun, with all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. And now I’m ready to start 2016.

Last year I picked a word to focus on for 2015, and that word was “Integration.” I chose it because I wanted to take my seemingly separate endeavors – web development, pillow-making, and blogging – and turn them into a more cohesive thing. I also wanted to integrate more people into my work.

After ringing in 2016 I started reflecting on last year’s word and I was feeling like I had failed; like I hadn’t integrated much at all in 2015. In fact, I felt like I’d done the opposite and dis-integrated. (Ha! That makes me look at the word completely differently now.) But, isn’t disintegrating actually a means of integrating? You know, like how you disintegrate sugar in water, the sugar seems to be gone, but it’s really still there, it’s just in a different form and now you’ve made simple syrup! Hmm…

integrate

For 2015 I really wanted to start working with other people more, like with my office-mate and graphic designer friend. I also wanted to find mentors to learn from. And I wanted to create one type of business that integrated everything somehow.  Well, none of that really happened like I thought it would.

In fact, I quit going to my office when I started my Nordstrom job, and eventually gave it up altogether. Maybe my word for 2015 should have been ”quit!”  Because I also quit doing Todd’s bookkeeping. And Krypton quit meeting. I also quit hanging out on the playground after school. I quit coloring my hair. I quit sewing all of my own pillows.

But that was what I was thinking last week. This week I’m thinking very differently. I’m thinking that I totally integrated things last year. It’s just that I had to disintegrate a little too.

I may have given up my office space, but I got a new one at Nordstrom, as well as new people to work with, and lots of new web development challenges that got me really excited about the work and my abilities. I often thought to myself: This is great! I’m good at this. This is what I should be doing with my life!

I also did a lot of silkscreening, made a bunch of new pillows, sold them at craft fairs, and often though to myself: This is great! I’m good at this. This is what I should be doing with my life!  Good grief.

So how then did I integrate? Well, mostly I integrated internally. I realized that all of the things I’m doing are important to me. They fulfill me and make me who I am.

The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.  –Aristotle

In 2015 I worked on my branding and came up with a tag line for my pillow business:

Style. Comfort. Inspiration. Fun.

Turns out that those four words, beyond the pillows, are what I believe in completely. I believe we all have our own personal style that we need to be true to. We want to be comfortable. We need inspiration and to be inspirational. Life should be fun. So no matter what type of work I’m doing – web developing, pillow making, blogging, or “momming”, that is the sensibility I strive for. And that is the integration I accomplished in 2015.

So Fashion Business Cards

And I’m not done integrating yet. But I suppose it’s a constant process…

So what is 2016 going to be about?

It’s hard to say just yet, because I’ve only just started the first chapter. But the word for 2016 is:

Organize!

I need to organize my time, my money (Ha ha! Like I have so much it needs to be organized!), my pillow inventory, my workspace, and my house. I need to create web-sites for me and standard processes. I know, it sounds really boring, but I’m excited about this word, and I’m really excited to get organized and into my groove in 2016. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 

Energy

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about energy.  Well, not as much thinking about it as paying attention to it. And by energy I mean those positive or negative feelings you get when you’re working on something or interacting with someone. You know, those good or bad vibes you get from people, or that happy hum you get when you’re having fun, or that icky heaviness you feel when you’re struggling with something.

Earlier this holiday season I sold my pillows at a couple of craft fairs, and I loved the energy. Local, creative makers, getting together to sell their stuff – the energy was great – positive, supportive, and encouraging. There seems to be such mutual admiration amongst makers. You hear comments like: “Beautiful!” and “I love what you’re doing!” and “What a great display!” and “Wow, that must have been a lot of work! How did you do that?” I’ve had vendors help me with my display, assure me that my prices weren’t too high, and high five me when I sold three pillows to one customer. We chit chat about etsy, selling retail, packaging, and other craft fairs to try. I sold more pillows than I thought I would at these past sales (hooray!), but even if I hadn’t, I got so much out of them. Most importantly I got the validation and excitement to move forward with my craft.

PNA Craft Fair

Last summer I spent a long weekend selling pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival, then on Monday I went to the office to do my web development job, and the contrast in the energy between the two places of business was extreme. At the craft fair I was outside in the sun and fresh air, people were having fun, and I was proudly (yet nervously) showcasing my work.  Back at the office the lights were off and it was silent.  My coworkers were all in their cubicles, staring at their screens with their earplugs firmly planted, not even acknowledging my presence. Don’t get me wrong, these are good people, it’s just that this is how they like to work.

For most of my life I’ve worked in the IT department, and in my experience the energy has not always been that great, especially at my last job, where it was pretty darn negative. In the IT department I never got a lot of “Wow, I love it!” or high fives when I succeeded. Nope. It was all about requirements to fulfill and problems to solve. Not a bad thing really, but there was a lot more “The data is a mess!” and “The site is down!” and a lot less “Wow, that’s beautiful!”

Unlike the craft fairs, the IT environment at my last job often felt competitive rather than supportive. People talked negatively about each other. Feedback was given only at performance reviews, and not by the people you worked with or were helping, but by the person you worked for. And the drive to do better was tightly connected to the drive to make more money, please your boss, and move into the next pay band.

When you look at the work, though, there’s not that much difference between the process of building a website and making a pillow. You go through the same basic steps: brainstorm → design → prototype → build → test → deliver → repeat.  And I really enjoy doing both kinds of work.  So why is the energy so different? Is it the culture? Or my personality? Or both?

Culture definition

When I took my alchemy class a couple of years ago, one of the first things we learned about was energy and frequencies.  I remember learning that the opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite of love is fear.  That the highest frequencies are love and enlightenment, and the lowest frequencies are fear and shame.  Like frequencies attract and are harmonious, unalike frequencies cause dissonance and are uncomfortable. That made sense to me.

So is it possible then that the difference between the craft fair energy and the IT energy was love versus fear?  Or was it the way my personal frequencies were interacting with those different environments?

Here’s the thing. It’s not like I spend every day at a craft fair selling pillows.  These sales happen only a few times a year. They are a lot of work, driven solely by me, and when I finally get there, it’s like my performance review. Based on that review, I make adjustments that are, hopefully, lucrative adjustments. This pillow business is run 100% by me, and my success or failure is 100% up to me. That is not the case in the IT department of a large corporation.  And that, I believe, is a big reason these environments feel so different.

The other day a mom friend of mine who wants to get a job said “I just don’t know that I can work for someone else.” And I said, “Well, I don’t think anyone likes to work for someone else.  I think we all need to work for a purpose and not a person.”  Often, though, these are mutually exclusive options. Either you work for yourself and your own mission, or you work for someone else and their mission.  It is a very lucky thing to find a job where you work for someone whose mission you embrace completely.

At a craft fair it kind of looks like the vendors are just standing there not doing much, doesn’t it? But really we worked our butts off just to get there, making stuff like crazy, doing work we love, not because we’re making so much money, or because we might get a promotion, but because believe in the work. It makes us happy. We’re not trying to impress our bosses. Our only competition is ourselves, as we strive for uniqueness, perfecting our craft, and finding the people who connect with and value what we’re offering.

Can I apply that same mentality to web development? I think I can, and I think I am. I really love making websites for people. I really love pushing though the challenges of figuring out the tough stuff. I love working with the business owners. And I love being my own boss. But I think it’s important to pay attention to the energy, and strive for the highest of frequencies.

Christmas is in two days, I haven’t been working much since the kids got out of school, and it’s a totally different vibe right now. The weather has been horrid, we’ve been sleeping in, making (and eating) a lot of cookies, spending time inside, going outside only to get in the car to go shopping. I’ve been feeling a bit anxious, but I know that will all change tomorrow as we celebrate Christmas Eve, and then Christmas, then do some skiing, hang out with friends, and ring in the new year.  I’m really excited for 2016, and to keep the good vibes coming. But I’ll roll with the bad ones too.

Wishing you all the best energy this holiday season and in 2016!

Selling Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival – Part 2

continued from Part 1.

Seattle Street Food Festival 2015So here I was at the Seattle Street Food Festival, standing behind my display of pillows, not really sure how to act (Should I stand? Sit? Wear my sunglasses? Say ‘hello’?), watching throngs of people walk on by (on their way to the food trucks I presumed), often smiling, pointing at, or touching my pillows.  Actually, almost everyone touched my ‘Welcome’ AstroTurf pillow, and lots of people read the quotes on the back of the Wizard of Oz pillows out loud.  ”Experience not brains will make you wiser.”  Would anyone actually buy one though?

So Fashion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival

I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter.  That it is what it is, and even if I don’t sell a single pillow, at least I got a lot of pillows made, figured out a display booth, and if this wasn’t the right type of sale for me, I would just have to be more deliberate in finding the right type of sale or outlet for my product and customer.

But I was still nervous, and I still wanted people to like and buy my pillows.  Meanwhile, the cutest couple ever in the booth next door were working their butts off selling meringue after meringue.  They gave me a key lime one, and it was truly amazing.  They really understood that they should be selling food at a food festival.  Meanwhile I was just smiling and taking it all in. Such great people watching, so many cute dogs, so many pregnant women.

Seattle Street Food Festival 2015

My meringue selling neighbors at the Seattle Street Food Festival

At 12:30 someone walked all the way into my booth, and immediately bought a Tin Man pillow. I was so excited I could barely swipe her credit card or put her pillow in the bag. Woo hoo!  Gushingly I told her that this was my first sale at my first craft fair and she was so sweet and wished me luck.  I told the couple next door, “I sold a pillow!” and they said, “Way to go!”  Okay, maybe I can sell pillows at a food festival.  A few minutes later, it happened again – another Tin Man pillow.

By 3:00 pm I’d sold three pillows total, and by the end of the night I’d sold five.  Hmmm. Not terrible, but not great.  Especially since across the way the fuzzy monsters, which were super cute but not cheap, were flying out the door, the mustard guy was working his butt off selling his mustard, and the couple next to me sold out of meringues and had to go make more.

The vendors across the street

My view of the vendors across the street.

At one point the fuzzy monster lady came over for a visit and said, “Your booth is awesome.”  I told her this was my first time and she said, “Well you nailed it.  It looks great.”  I told her hers was amazing too, and she said that her boyfriend built it for her.  ”It looks like people are in love with your monsters,” I told her.  And she said, “Yeah, these are my peeps – the geeky young people who work at Amazon.  And kids.”  She also told me that she sells a lot a Comic-Con and did a killing at the Urban Craft Uprising winter sale, and that she’d been doing it for five years. I loved talking to the other vendors, who had such great stories, positive energy and enthusiasm.  Most of them had been doing their thing for about three to five years, and all of them did it exclusively for work.

The first day ended at 10:00 p.m. and Todd and the kids came early to help pack up my pillows and secure the tent for the night.  It had been a long day, and I was so happy when we all piled into Todd’s truck, with Miles on my lap and Nadine in the middle, and headed home for the night.

Seattle Street Food Festival at Night

So Fashion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival Night Market

On Sunday morning I slept in a bit, but when I got out of bed at around 8am, my nervous stomach was back.  Would I sell any pillows today?  I hadn’t sold even one in the last hours of the festival the night before, and I was doubtful that any pillow buyers would be at a food festival on a Sunday.

When I got back to my booth at around 11am I decided to move my display up towards the front of the tent.  People were shyer than I’d thought, and liked to look at things without actually stepping into the tent.  They seemed to like it if I ignored them and just let them look.  I felt like I should say ‘hi’ when people stopped by, but then let them browse in peace.

So Fashion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival

So Fashion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival

Sunday had a completely different, more mellow vibe to it, and I liked it.

The first guy that came to my booth said he thought I was charging way too much for my pillows, and that instead of $65 for the Wizard of Oz pillows I should be charging $20 or maybe $40.  (Ha!)  I told him that they were labor intensive – all silk-screened by hand – and that the linen they are printed on is expensive, so is the insert, and that it takes a really long time to make them, and that if he wants to spend $20 on pillows, Target has some really cute ones.  He said, “Yes, but they are not as original.” Good grief! But it’s hard not to worry about your prices.

So Fashion June Bug Pillow

Next a dapper looking couple came into the tent and said they loved my pillows and that they looked really well made.  They asked me where else I sold them, and I said “Just etsy and here.”  Turns out they have a business selling printed textiles and ceramics to wineries, and they told me so much about their business and what’s worked well for them. They had a lot of great information to share, and their enthusiasm for my pillows was a real ego-booster.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, but business was slow.  The first pillow I sold was the “Welcome” AstroTurf pillow to a couple at around 2pm.  Guys loved that pillow, and everyone touched it as they walked by or commented on it.  I had to explain that it was an outdoor pillow and waterproof, which I thought would have been obvious, but apparently not.  The guy who bought it suggested I make another one like it that says, “Go Hawks!”  I can’t tell you how many people suggested I make Seahawk pillows.  I just don’t see that happening, but it would probably be a real money maker.

At around 3pm a nice English guy, wearing a straw hat and a checkered shirt, really surprised me when he said he wanted to buy all three of the Wizard of Oz pillows. I reacted by jumping up and down, saying “You made my day!! Thank you!!”  So professional.

So Fashion Wizdom of Oz Collection

As the day wore on, my nervousness disappeared and was replaced with contentment and fulfillment. By the end of the day I had sold seven pillows, and I felt really really happy. Even though I didn’t exactly sell out of pillows, people really seemed to like them.  People talked about them, touched them, read the quotes and words, sometimes bought them, and often picked up a business card.  People really connected with the Wizard of Oz pillows, which, considering the book was published in 1900, I think is truly amazing.  I loved talking about those pillows and showing people the images in the book.

Throughout the day Nadine would text me and say things like, “Sold any pillows?”  or “Are you bored?” or best of all, “Are you hungry?  We’re coming down to eat with you!”

Seattle Street Food Festival

Todd, Nadine, and Miles came down at 6pm and bought a smorgasbord of amazing food from the food trucks, which I gobbled down after eating practically nothing all day.  Then at 7pm we packed everything into the truck, said goodbye to our new craft-fair friends, and headed home.  That might of been my most favorite part of the festival – that feeling of accomplishment and contentment at the end of day, loving that the kids and Todd were enthusiastically helping me and supporting me.  It’s a feeling I just don’t get working in the corporate world.

Help from my family

So, what’s next? Well, it’s time to apply for holiday craft shows, so I will get those applications out in the next week or two.  I also need to spruce up my etsy site, and create a dedicated website, which means I need to get some good pictures taken, write a whole bunch of copy, and work on my branding. I still haven’t figured out the perfect insert for the pillows, and I need to keep working on how to keep costs down so I can afford to sell retail at some point.  I also need to get my accounting in order.  Bleck!

I don’t know that I’ll do another street food festival, but I am so thankful for the opportunity and the experience.  I learned so so much and I’m excited to keep moving forward with this fun new business of mine.

Stay tuned!

So Fashion Stay Tuned Pillow

Selling Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival – Part 1

I’m still recovering from my big pillow sale last weekend.  The house, inside and out, is still a wreck from it all, and this is what my work table currently looks like:

Pillow Sale Aftermath

But it was all worth it!

I haven’t written a blog post since The Beach because for the past few weeks, when I haven’t been doing my web development job, or doing the kid thing, I’ve been spending every spare moment getting ready for my first big craft sale at the Seattle Street Food Festival.  It’s been a lot of fun – happy work that doesn’t pay by the hour, but makes me excited seeing it all come together, dreaming of the possibilities. I’m not exactly a pillow mogul yet, but I am proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

The festival/sale was last weekend, August 15th and 16th, and on Saturday morning I woke up at 6 a.m. with a big old nervous knot in my stomach, and for the first time I doubted myself. This is food festival! I thought, and people are coming here to buy food, not pillows.  What, are they going to grab a hotdog and a beer AND a pillow? What was I thinking?? Well, typical me, I really wasn’t thinking when I signed up for it; it all just kind of happened, like life does.

Last March, when I applied for the Urban Craft Uprising‘s June sale, I checked the box that said I’d also like to apply for the Urban Craft Market at the Seattle Street Food Festival.  A few weeks after getting rejected from the summer sale, I got an email that I had been accepted to the Street Food Festival in August.  Okay, I thought, that works well for my schedule and gives me more time to get ready.

After getting the news, the first thing I did was plan my inventory.  I had no idea how many pillows I would need, but decided I wanted to have at least ten of each pillow. That way I would also have plenty of pillows to sell on etsy and at other sales.  So I created a spreadsheet, wrote down what I had already, and figured out everything I needed:  fabric, zippers, piping, etc. Then I shopped, then I washed and cut and ironed all of the fabric, then I did my silk-screening, painting, stenciling, etc.

Ironing

Painting

Silk-screening

Drying

Heat-setting the ink

Cutting and prepping

Then I contacted my sewers.

There was no way I could sew eighty-some pillows myself, but fortunately, a while back, I found two talented people that could sew for me, doing a way better job, especially with those pesky invisible zippers.  And, fortunately, they both said they could sew forty pillows each in time for my sale.  I can’t tell you how great it felt when I got my pillow ingredients off to them finally, and how even more thrilling it was when I got the completed pillows back from them.  I had two new Wizard of Oz pillows – the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion to join the Tin Man, and new fabric colors and contrasting piping for my ‘Words to Live By’ pillows.  I loved them!

Wizard of Oz Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion Pillows

While the pillows were off being sewn, I got busy with my display.  I borrowed a table from my neighbor, bought a 10′x10′ tent on Amazon, spray painted some baskets I’d found on the side of the road that had a ‘free’ sign on them and a wire bread rack I found on craigslist.  I got some burlap from JoAnn Fabrics to cover the table, some fake fur from IKEA, and Todd made a great pillow backer for the table out of our old broken down fence.Then I got some business cards and a couple of signs printed out at Fedex/Kinkos. Everything was coming together.

Back Yard Prep

So Fashion Pillows

On the Friday before the sale, much needed rain came to Seattle, and all day and night we had crazy thunderstorms and high winds.  Yikes!  Not good craft fair weather! Thankfully everything cleared up by Saturday morning, and when Todd and I got to South Lake Union, in his truck loaded with my display stuff and many many garbage bags full of pillows, all was dry and just a little overcast.  Perfect street festival weather! I had a great spot between a lady selling shortbread and a couple sellling meringues, and across from a lady selling fuzzy monsters and a guy selling specialty mustards.  Fun!

It was so nice having Todd’s help because not only did he provide the much needed muscle to get the tent up and the truck unloaded, but he has a really great eye for displaying pillows.  Who knew?  And in about an hour I had a booth I was really proud of.  I still had my nervous stomach, but the booth looked great I thought.  And at noon I was open for business.

Okay, here we go!

So Fasion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival

To be continued…

Rejection Stinks.

Snoopy RejectionOn Sunday I got an email from the Urban Craft Uprising that said:  ”We appreciate all the work you put into your application, but regretfully are unable to offer you a spot at our upcoming summer show.”  Darn it!  That was supposed to be the craft fair where everyone saw my pillows and couldn’t live without one!

I had turned in my application and photos on March 20th and I was, for some reason, pretty confident that I’d get in.  I’d heard a lot of rejection stories, but that didn’t sway my confidence.  Until Sunday, when I checked my email, I saw it there in my inbox, and even before I opened it I knew it was going to say “Thanks but no thanks.”

The funny thing is, when I read the email I wasn’t at all upset.  Well, honestly, my initial thought was Why didn’t they like my pillows??  My pictures were so good!!  But then I was kind of relieved.  Now the pressure to get everything done for that big sale – only two months away – was gone.  Now I would have more time to focus on the other things on my sticky board, like hosting another Art Walk sale on May 8th, improving my Etsy site, and creating a site of my own. I also have a web-site to finish and another to start.  Plus, I will hear back in May if I got into the smaller Urban Craft Market which is part of the Seattle Street Food Festival. I think I might also apply to the Renegade Craft Fair, a new Seattle craft fair happening August.

I’m sure I’ll apply for the Urban Craft Uprising again some day.  But first maybe I should get some smaller shows under my belt. Sure, I would have liked to have been chosen, but I’m totally okay with how things played out.

 A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.

- Bo Bennett

What’s weird is that about two weeks ago I got a different and totally unexpected kind of rejection, and it wrecked me.  After receiving an email inquiry through the contact form on my web design site, I scheduled a phone interview about doing some freelance web work for an on-line marketing company.  It turned out to be a conference call with a couple of guys – the owners – who started by explaining their business, followed by me explaining my process.  However, just a few minutes after I started talking, I could tell they were totally uninterested in working with me.  They wrapped up the call pretty quickly and said they’d be in touch.  What just happened?  I was baffled.

I followed up with an email thanking them for their time and immediately I got a response back that they weren’t interested right now, but that they would keep me in mind if future projects came up that were a better fit.  This time, I was devastated.

I’m pretty confident about my web work and my process, and I was totally confused.  What did I say wrong?  What am I doing wrong?  I didn’t sleep well at all for two nights.  I wrote imaginary emails in my head defending myself and explaining how they must have completely misunderstood me.  I wondered if I should write them back at all.

Soon after I got this brief email newsletter from Tai Lopez:

The tough truth about life is that some things just take time. Most people aren’t strong enough to deal with that fact.

Stay on the rise,
Tai
Tailopez.com

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it totally turned me around.

Finally I decided to write back and say “Thanks for keeping me in mind if a future need arises” and included a quick blurb about me and my process.  I liked it, and after I sent it off I felt so much better.

The whole experience really made me think about who I am, the type of work I want to do, and what I’m good at.  Just because they didn’t pick me, would I have picked them?  Would I have wanted to work in that type of environment?  Who knows.  But it made me think a lot about what I want, how I present myself, and how I need to own who I am and how I work.  When you’re working for yourself, that is something that takes time and effort and experience.  I need to be patient and to keep the faith.  I need to remember my commandments.

I think another big issue is that to me rejection = no money and I want to make more money.  But making money means doing work I am capable and proud of.  And let’s face it, weather it’s making and selling pillows, or doing freelance web work, I’m still pretty new to all this.  I still have a lot to learn, to develop, and to present well.

Unfortunately I’ve never been a very patient person.

Rejection isn’t failure. Failure is giving up. Everybody gets rejected. It’s how you handle it that determines where you’ll end up.”

- Richard Castle

A Little Help From My Friends

I had so much fun today!  Today I went with my friends Kim and Lenny down to Ballard to a couple of trendy furniture stores, to take pictures of my pillows on their furniture, and I loved how they looked on all of those beautiful couches and chairs.  I am so thankful that my friends went with me, because not only was their help and their feedback  invaluable, but because with them I wasn’t nervous at all.  I didn’t doubt myself or feel like I was imposing.  I just had fun.

So Fashion Pillow Shoot

I wrote that on Friday afternoon, just after the photo shoot, and I didn’t have time to finish writing it, so here’s the rest of the story…

I need five great photos of my pillows to submit with my application for the Urban Craft Uprising, a big craft fair taking place at Seattle Center at the end of June. The deadline for application entries is March 27th, but I don’t want to wait until the last minute, so my plan is to get the application in by the end of this week – by March 20th.

Urban Craft UprisingI’ve never done a juried craft fair before, and this one is a biggie, so a few weeks ago I had a $30 “Application Consultation” with a girl who works for the Urban Craft Uprising, and it was worth every penny.  To prepare I typed up some answers to the application questions, and then brought along a few pillows and my laptop to the meeting.  At the consultation she told me a lot about how they choose the vendors from hundreds of applicants, and clearly the most important thing for getting chosen is good pictures.

She said that the first step of their judging process is to look at a slideshow with all of the pictures from all of the applications, and decide from those pictures either “yes”, “no”, or “maybe.”  If you get a “yes” you’re in; if you get a “maybe” then they’ll look at your application to help them further decide.  So I showed her the pictures I had on my Etsy site, and she wasn’t impressed.  She suggested I take some photos of my pillows on actual furniture, and suggested I try Digs in Ballard.  She never looked at my application answers.

That afternoon, on the playground after school, I told my friends Lenny and Kim about my consultation and they immediately and enthusiastically volunteered to help me.  “We can hold up a sheet in the background for you!”  “I have one of those thingies that bounces off the light!”  “I can borrow a really good camera from my husband!”  Wow, how nice was that?  So I enthusiastically accepted their offer, and even though I was happy for their help and gear, I was mostly excited about not doing this alone.

So I went to Digs in Ballard and talked to the owner about the idea and he said, “Sure!  People have done stuff like that here before.  Earlier in the day would be better.”  Then I went to Camelion Design and spoke to a woman there and she also said “Sure, no problem.”  So nice!  Both shops seemed truly happy to help.  I was getting excited.

Next I went through my pillow inventory and decided which ones to bring.  I decided to make three new ones with brand new designs; one of which I sewed up fifteen minutes before it was time to leave for the big shoot.  Then at 9:30 a.m. on Friday morning, I packed up my car, picked up my friends, and took them out to breakfast – a sort of pre-payment for helping me out.

Photoshoot at Digs

First we went to Digs and the owner was so nice, and the space so dreamy – gorgeous furniture and accessories, beautiful hardwood floors, and lots of room to move around in.  My friend Kim borrowed a super-fancy super-expensive camera from her husband and she started snapping away, totally in her element.  We were there for almost two hours, and the owner had no problem with it at all.  (I need to bring him a nice bottle of wine.)  Lots of customers came in and they just walked around us.  We rearranged furniture and blankets and vases, and tried the pillows out in all kinds of combinations.  So much fun!

I even took the opportunity to ask the owner what he thought about my pillows – the quality, design, and price range, and he said they were great and thought they looked really well made and in a good price range.  He said pillows over $100 don’t sell well.  My range is $40 – $75, so that was encouraging.

Me on Cloud 9

This is me on Cloud 9.

Next we were off to Camelian Design where there is a lot of beautiful furniture and accessories packed into a not-that-large space.  The colors and textures were amazing, the lighting was excellent because of the sky-lights, and I loved the way my pillows looked on their stuff.  The lady that worked there was super nice and also very encouraging.  She wished me luck, said she loved my pillows, and that she wants the Tin Man for herself.  (I’ll have to go back if I decide to sell retail!)  It was just the encouragement I needed, and when we left the store I was on Cloud 9.

Recently I read (and loved) Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking:  How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.  She’s a musician who got a lot of flack for raising $1.2 million on Kickstarter to fund the recording of her new album.  In her book she talks about how hard it is to ask for help, or even to take help that is offered, but that when we do, people always step up; people are usually happy to help because it shows that you value, appreciate, and trust them.  When you let people help you, not only do you get the help, you strengthen your connection.  You grow the love.

I totally believe that, because that’s exactly how I felt about my photo-shoot day with my lovely, talented, and generous friends, Lenny and Kim.  Not only did I get their invaluable help, but I got their love, support, and encouragement, which in turn boosts my faith and courage, as I continue on this crazy pillow path I’m on.  The shop owners too!  So so nice and so helpful.  Lucky me!

Here are a few of the pictures from the shoot.  (Isn’t it cool the way I call it “the shoot”?)  I’m not sure yet which one’s I’ll pick to submit.  Suggestions?

Follow Your Heart Tin Man Pillow

Welcome Pillow

Words To Live By PillowsSo Fashion Pillows BeetleSo Fashion Pillow Shoot

So Fashion Pillow Shoot

So Fashion Pillow ShootPlease wish me luck on the Urban Craft Uprising application!  And let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you.  For now, here are some lyrics to get stuck in your head, to remind yourself to (give and) get a little help from your friends!

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends
Oh I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends

Figuring out Etsy

I opened an Etsy shop on August 14, 2014, just after I did the Art in the Garden event, my first craft sale and first attempt at selling my pillows.  One of the things I did for that event was whip up some business cards/care instructions/price tags.  On the card I put my just-drummed-up business name, email, and my not-yet-in-existance web-site:  www.so-fashion.com.  I didn’t have time to get a website set up before the sale, but since I’d sold a few pillows and handed out some business cards, I figured I’d better get something set up quickly.

I decided Etsy would be the easiest way to go, so I got my domain name registered with GoDaddy and set it up to forward to my Etsy shop, SoFashionPillows.  Setting up my Etsy shop, I have to  admit, was harder than I’d expected.  Having something to sell is just the start.  You also need a name for your shop (no spaces), a description of your shop, great photos, great product descriptions, meta tags, pricing, and shipping all figured out. There are thousands (maybe millions!) of shops on Etsy that make it look easy, but when you do it yourself, all by yourself, you realize that it’s way bigger than you’d imagined.  At least that’s how it was for me.

To help me through these types of hurdles I always like to keep in mind Seth Godin’s advise that perfect is the enemy of good, and to just start something!  It’s easier to achieve many small goals, than one huge daunting one.  So I put a few pillows in my store, using the pictures I’d taken for the Art in the Garden sale, wrote up some descriptions, added a price, did my best to calculate shipping, and that was that.  That was a start.

SoFashionPillows on Etsy

Then something funny happened.  A few days after I opened my shop, someone favorited my thistle pillow.  Hooray!  Someone liked what I made!  I know it sounds trivial, but it was a huge ego boost for me.  Then a little while later something even better happened.  Someone bought the TV pillow!  Wow!  I can’t tell you how happy that made me.  But holy cow, how was I going to package and ship that thing?  Turns out a pillow is a ridiculous thing to ship – big and bulky, and it’s hard to find a box just the right size.  At least it isn’t breakable.

Initially I was a little wary of Etsy.   I’d visited often and bought a couple of things, and it seemed like there were billions of products for sale.  How would I ever get noticed?  And I’d heard some nightmare stories of people getting their designs ripped off and mass-produced in China.  Plus, a lot of stuff on the site looks far from handmade, and so many of the pictures look like they’re straight out of a catalog. Who are these people?  How can there be so many freakin’ incredibly talented people out there who are brilliant at making things, take professional quality photos, and write exceptional copy?  I could never be that amazing!  I mean I’m just someone who’s making pillows in a corner of her house in her spare time.  How are people doing this??  (Hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow when I take a free course from CreativeLive:  Etsy 101: Establish your own successful shop.)

When I started making pillows last year, I was pretty proud that I’d actually made some pillows.  Now I’m understanding that designing and making pillows is just the start; that it’s a whole other ball-o-wax selling them.  What’s the best way to sell a pillow?  Retail stores?  Craft fairs?  An e-commerce site?  Etsy?  I’ve decided I probably need to try them all, and right now I’m trying out Etsy.  So far, even though I don’t get much traffic, and I’ve only had a few sales, I’m really loving Etsy, for a lot of reasons.

First of all, it’s a brilliant application.  Setting up a shop is pretty darn straightforward, and if there’s anything that confuses you, there is a ton of help available.  Not only is there a ton of help, but there’s a ton of advice.  Etsy has a great blog written by users who share their experience.  Over and over again I read “it’s all about your pictures” and “you need great prictures.”  A Google search returns hundreds of articles on how to make your Etsy photos look great.  I’ve tried taking better photos, and I’m happier with the ones I have now, compared to what I started with, but at some point I’m going to have to take some great pictures, PhotoShop each one to make them look even better, and figure out a process of creating great shots for every new pillow I want to add.  Sounds like a lot of work…

I also love reading success stories from owners of popular Etsy shops; because almost every success story begins with some fails, or at least some hurdles to get over.  I read from one shop owner that her shop is a far cry from what she started with – she’s not even making the same products – but that Etsy was the place that allowed her to try things out, evolve creatively, and it took a few years for her shop to become really successful.  That is the kind of story I love (and need) to hear.

FavoritesSomething that surprised my about Etsy was that even though it’s a faceless e-commerce exchange, there is still a sense of community.  Lot’s of people have favorited my shop and my pillows, and I have started favoriting other people’s stuff (there is so much incredible stuff out there!), and I’ve had some great conversations with buyers and potential buyers.

A few weeks ago I got an email notification that someone had ordered the Tin Man pillow, and included  in the order was this message:

I keep coming back to this pillow! It reminds me of my brother-in-law who is a sheet metal man and who has a big heart! Thank you for this wonderful offering.

The Tin Man

I shipped off the pillow, and in the order confirmation email I said I hope her brother-in-law loves the pillow, and that my husband is also a metal man.  Then just the other day I got another message from the buyer that said this:

Hi, I just wanted you to know my sister said it is a rare moment to see her husband (our real life tin man) show emotion which he did when he saw your pillow. Thank you for making a special man feel special.

I was so touched to get this message, not only because it was so sweet, but because she took the time to send it.  It was about the best thing anyone could have said to me about my pillow.  It makes me so much more confident in what I’m doing, and makes me love Etsy.  It also reminds me to keep following the advice on the back of the pillow.

Follow Your Heart