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maggie’s dream report: week seventeen

September 30th, 2011   |   Life

Letting Go

A couple of weeks ago I decided to close my Etsy shop. A few of my facebook followers asked if everything was ok, and actually, I’m better than ever! First, a little history…

I started the shop back in April of 2010 on kind of a whim. I’d been finding vintage items in my searches for my own home and saw things that were GREAT but I had no space or purpose for. But I hemmed and hawed and delayed until finally one day I just decided to go for it. I actually started on Big Cartel, then switched to Etsy later (here’s a post about that). When putting together my business plan for 2011, the Etsy shop was a significant portion of it – I’ve mentioned before that some kind of retail aspect is something I’ve thought about for the future of Maggie Rose and I saw the shop as a way to dabble in that without plunging into owning and operating a store-front retail store. I’d made some great sales since the move to Etsy and even wanted to start making and selling products for the home, which I did a bit earlier in 2011.

This all sounds great, right? You’re probably wondering where the “quitting” part comes in.

So here’s the deal: as my own boss, I like to measure my business activities based on what is fun to me and what excites me. If it doesn’t HAVE to happen (financials, invoicing, filing, contracts) and I can’t somehow change it to be fun (or the act of changing it to be fun also sounds like no fun), then I don’t want it as part of my business. And the Etsy shop got to be a big drag.

First there was the problem of not being able to consistently find vintage items that I thought reflected my “brand” that I could also mark up enough to make any money from (which, let’s face it, is a big part of business too). Some of the items that I’d invested money in weren’t selling and it was hard for me to justify spending MORE to have more inventory taking up space. I got lots of tips on how to boost profits (re-listing items daily for 20 cents a pop, having more inventory, etc) but stuff just wasn’t moving and I was reaching my limit of how much I wanted to spend without seeing any returns. And when I was only finding things to sell that would make me maybe $5… I wondered if it was worth it to me.

Secondly, I learned very, very quickly that I hated shipping. Jess, I don’t know how you do it! Maybe it’s because the post office wasn’t part of my regular routine, but getting a sale both thrilled and annoyed me because I didn’t want to deal with shipping it. It seemed like I never had the right size box, somehow even when I calculated the shipping with packaging and everything I was still under-charging and lost money on sales that way. Some items I didn’t even break even because the profit margin was too small to pad any shipping charge errors. And I knew that other sellers were undercharging on both the items AND shipping, making my prices seem inflated.

Lastly, it sucked that no one wanted to buy some of the stuff. I had been really excited to offer pillows in my shop. I’d picked out the fabric and trims and had more options ready to be stitched up when the first batch sold. But not a single. pillow. sold.  Even with lowering the prices, advertising a “sale” and relisting them several times. And that was a big bummer and blow to my ego (and it kind of is to admit that here, too, but I’m trying to keep it real).

Basically, it started to suck and it wasn’t profitable. And the less I wanted to deal with it, the less successful it was, and so on.

So I closed it, on as much of a whim as I’d started it. AND IT FELT AMAZING. I felt an immediate sense of relief and a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

The only thing nagging me was that I’d started this whole shop endeavor because a retail aspect was something I was considering for the future of Maggie Rose Interiors.

Once again, Ryan came to my rescue as sounding board and meaningful-question-asker. I thought (out loud… a lot…) about a retail space, what the time commitment and energy spent on it would be. Did I want to spend all of my time managing a store (most likely with an online component)? Not really. I wouldn’t have time left over to take on the design clients I hoped a store-front might attract. So I reconsidered why having a store-front was so appealing to me in the first place. Two elements stuck out to me.

1. I like the idea of choosing products, of picking out amazing items and introducing my readers & clients to them. I also like the idea of possibly designing products someday.

2. I really like the idea of having a physical space that reflects my business and that can be used to throw parties, host small design classes, book signings, and bring clients to.

Neither of those things require that I open a store.  I do have some ideas for how to incorporate products into my business, though. And until my budget can work it out, I won’t be opening any kind of office space, though now I know that’s more suited to what I want. I feel so much better now, and instead of dreading thinking about products, inventory, and advertising my shop, I’m excited about my new ideas and about doing something unique that is both fun for me, and beneficial for my business. Because that’s what I want my business to be about!

Have you made any business decisions based on how fun you thought they were? Have you backed out of something because it just wasn’t working anymore? Or do you see it through to the (bitter) end?

P.S. A reader suggested last week that I include my website address in my post. So if you can’t find a link elsewhere, I’ll be including it here at the bottom. For more info about Maggie Rose Interiors, check out my website.

makeunder my wardrobe: step three

September 29th, 2011   |   ExfoliatingLifeWardrobe

Once I created my vision for my wardrobe and exfoliated the items that did not match the vision, it was time to get to the fun part….

… Figuring out what items I wanted to purchase that completed my wardrobe goals.

Since I took such a methodical approach to creating my vision, it made this step fun and relatively simple. I knew from exfoliating in step two that I had some great items which fit my vision perfectly like great jeans, blazers, sweaters, black boots, and cardigans. The basics were there, but the “flavor” was lacking. So in my shopping list I made sure to focus on the fun and versatile pieces which would make my classic pieces pop.

Based on trolling through my Pinterest Makeunder My Wardrobe board I pulled these looks to add to my “intentional obsession” list:

(All sources and prices can be found on the Pinterest board. Stripe photo by See Jane.)

Once this list was created, I had a great idea of where to go for these pieces since my vision board included cross shopping high and low end stores already. I knew that I couldn’t find a comparable pair of brown boots in quality and style to the insanely expensive Tory Burch pair (which sadly sold out and I can no longer find). And that I could probably hit up Target for some of the more mainstream items like a dark plaid shirt. As shown above, my intentional obsession list included:

  • Dark Plaid Shirt
  • Silk blouse
  • Tall Brown Boots
  • Dark Winter Skirt
  • A Pop of Red
  • Printed Scarves
  • Brown Leather Flats
  • Brown Tights
  • Stripes (Trend)
  • Mint (Trend)
  • Polka Dots (Trend)
  • Fluffy Pin (Trend)

I will say that I’ve never been this focused when shopping before. It was like I could go into a store and easily sift through items and find what was or wasn’t worth my attention. Just because there was a sale on jeans didn’t mean that I needed to consider buying a pair; I already knew I had that category covered.

Also, knowing ahead of time which items I wanted allowed me to prioritize ahead of time. I got to figure out which items meant the most to me or were most wearable with my existing pieces. And I got to put some wish list items into perspective and save by getting a more generic version.

For some, this may be the perfect time to set up a budget as well and figure out what works best financially. For this makeunder, I didn’t focus so much on the total dollars spent, but just made sure that the buys I was making were worthwhile and within my reach overall. For me, items under $50 were a “save” and items over that price point were a “splurge.” But of course that splurge/save line varies person to person, so feel free to determine that point for yourself in your own makeunder.

Want to know what I got? Well, let me show you…

Intentional Obsession: Dark Plaid Shirt

Plaid Button Up - This was definitely a no-brainer for me. I loved the J.Crew or American Eagle versions, but this one has all the same features in a lower price.

Intentional Obsession: Silk Blouse / Polka Dots

Polka Dot Top (similar) – I love the sheer pattern and tiny gold buttons.

Intentional Obsession: Dark Winter Skirts and Stripes

Stripe Skirt – This was a stretch for me. I don’t usually wear muted colors, but I love having something a bit different to wear. It will look great with brown boots, too.

Gray Skirt – This pencil skirt with a little ruffle pocket detail was a great buy for meetings or to wear with black tights and black boots in the colder months.

Intentional Obsession: A Pop of Red

Flame Sweater (sold out) – This was a more expensive sweater than I usually buy, but the merino wool is great and the exact flame color I loved would be hard to find elsewhere. Since buying this sweater I have found it’s definitely been worth the extra cash since it goes with so many items and gives me a whole batch of new outfits.

Intentional Obsession: Printed Scarves and Eyelash Lace

Vintage Scarves – These scarves were a great, inexpensive way to add color and pattern to basic tops. And I even swapped one of my own vintage scarves for another, thus giving me something new to wear without spending a penny. I also loved that it was a purchase from an adorable local shop.

Eyelash Lace Trend – This scarf in particular was a great purchase because it touched on one of my other intentions, eyelash lace. The $5 scarf was a much less expensive way to try a mini trend without the financial commitment.

Intentional Obsession: Brown Leather Flats

Brown Leather Flats – These were a great buy since I don’t wear heels. They were a bit big at first, but I added shoe inserts Aldo sells and they fit much better – and are more comfortable.

Intentional Obsession: Mint

Mint Plaid Top – This was a great sale item which allowed me to get some more pattern in my clothing and try a new color I don’t already have.

Intentional Obsession – Fluffy Pin

Fluffy Flower Pin – This was from J.Crew (couldn’t find a photo, but this old Forever21 pin is similar). I knew that clips and hair pieces were a huge trend and finding this $10 polka dot pin that worked as a pin or hair clip was a great way to test the trend without much commitment.

So there you have it! I hit almost all of my intentions (except those Tory Burch boots, haven’t found a durable and good looking pair that meets all my requirements) and am so happy to create outfits now. It really does feel like a new closet in so many ways.

Going forward, I hope to do wardrobe makeunders in the spring and fall. Setting out ahead of time to figure out what items I want to add  – intentionally – will save me a lot of mindless shopping.

makeunder my wardrobe: step two

September 28th, 2011   |   ExfoliatingLifeWardrobe

Yesterday I shared the first step of making under my wardrobe, Create a Vision. After I decided what style I liked, learned how to create more pulled together looks, and figured out which fall trends I wanted to try, it was time to move on to my closet.

To get started on my closet, I took Jessica’s advice in What I Wore:

and then,

It was not the quickest process, but it was really enlightening and worthwhile. I discovered that a lot of stuff I normally passed over was actually quite cute and fit better than I remembered (which has not always been the case in the past, often many items need to be donated or passed on because they fit poorly).

There were also a few items that needed to be hemmed, mended, or ironed. Once they received a little TLC they were fine to put back into active duty.

I even exfoliated a pair of boots which were in good condition, but didn’t fit me that well. Luckily, they were a perfect fit for Michelle, an awesome lady manager at Jess LC.

This makeunder was unusual since there wasn’t that much to exfoliate. Most makeunders have much more exfoliated stuff.

My Tactics for Clearing the Clutter

For those with more trouble letting go of stuff after it’s no longer being needed, used, or loved, I recommend trying these tactics to help kick start the process:

End of the Week Exfoliation – At the end of each week, find something that you don’t need, use, or love and pass it on, donate, sell, recycle, or toss it out. This is like a gentle pruning process that is a great way to maintain a clutter free home.

Throw Out Fifty Things – Take some time to go through your home (or even just one room) and find 50 items that are no longer needed and again, pass them on, donate, sell, recycle, or toss them out – depending on the item.

What I Don’t Want for Christmas – Before the holidays hit, take some time to go through your home and find things that you wouldn’t put on your wish list and find them a new home.

Host a Free Garage Sale – Go through your home and find things you no longer need and host a garage sale on your blog or in real life and do it free of cost. (In the past when I’ve done this I did ask blog readers to cover the shipping costs, so you might want to do that as well.)

Summer Home Slim Down – See how many pounds of stuff you can lose from your home.

 

After I determined what was staying in my closet, I put it all back inside. This time I put the blouses and sleeveless tops together on the left, from light to dark and then put long sweaters, shirts, and cardigans together from light to dark as well.

In the past I did not separate these items into their own categories, and I think a lot of smaller tops got lost in the mix when it was all one mass of color coded clothing.

Now that the closet was in good working order and I had a clear understanding of what I had, it made the next step, Identifying Intentions, much easier. I’ll explain more about that tomorrow.

 

makeunder my wardrobe: step one

September 27th, 2011   |   ExfoliatingWardrobe

For the past month I’ve been making under my wardrobe. And since it’s been a while since I’ve tackled the basics of making under “stuff” here on MML, I think it would be a great refresher course on the four makeunder steps.

Making under is about designing an intention for our home, getting rid of unnecessary items, finding out what we need to complete the vision, and evolving as needs change. It can be a straight forward exfoliating process when there is a lot of clutter. Or it can also be a transformational shift when there is major life change as well (like from career to mommy, college to career, single to married, or even moving).

(A Soapbox Moment)

Before any action in a makeunder, I think it is most important to step back and really evaluate what the overall goals and intentions are for the makeunder. I believe that the more we can focus on the overall outcome we desire, the more we will be able to cut out the crap that isn’t serving us well and to really determine what items we may want to purchase. The more we “begin with the end in mind” (thank you, Seven Habits), the more we will truly find ourselves with the stuff that serves us best and functions positively in our lives.

Though it may seem counter intuitive, I’ve never been against having stuff, I just believe that we need to have the right stuff to improve our lives. It’s mostly a quality over quantity matter to me. I don’t advocate living extremely minimally unless it brings you joy. For myself, I find the most peace when I have a beautiful, calm space that serves the goals that I have for my life. When clutter accumulates that does not serve that ultimate purpose, it is time to get passed on to someone who needs it, tossed in the trash if it is no longer usable, or recycled if possible. It’s really that simple.

Ready to start? Let’s get going,

For this wardrobe makeunder I decided to take the first step to a new level and really evaluate the vision and overall goals I have for my clothes. I wanted to totally re-think how I looked at my wardrobe, improve my skills at putting together outfits, and better represent myself as a person and designer.

Here’s what I did to get started,

To start, I decided to read up on the art of putting together a fantastic outfit. Research is something that I did naturally for my home since I love to decorate, but I had never applied myself to the art of making an outfit in the same way. Reading Jessica’s new book, What I Wore, was a great place to start thinking about my wardrobe more seriously. I loved the chapters in the beginning where she laid out some great steps like trying on everything in the closet and sorting out the items that needed to be mended, ironed, dry cleaned, or donated.

She also drew some beautiful outfit combinations that I used as math equations. Rather than looking at each outfit altogether, I started to identify which items she paired together.

Strappy Sandals + Beige Skirt + Print Top + Belt + Blazer = A Great Work Outfit

This helped me recognize which items I owned could be mixed together to make a whole new look, and which items might be great additions.

After getting the fundamentals from What I Wore, I studied my favorite style bloggers like Kendi, Jessica, Jill, Liz, and Blair. I started to see how they put their outfit combinations together and started to compile a set of looks that I could use as inspiration.

Which led me to…

… Start a Pinterest board. My Makeunder Fall Wardrobe page was perfect to collect inspiration pictures and also to tag items that I may want to try to add to my wardrobe later in Step Three: Identifying Intentional Obsessions.

Adding product images from online stores also allowed me to cross compare via my Pinterest board. I pinned products both high-end (Tory Burch) and low-end (Target and PayLess) to find the items that matched the overall vision I was creating at a price that worked for me.

By taking these actions above, I saw how items can be put together from my closet already, which fall styles I was most drawn to, and which items I thought would work into my closet seamlessly. I had a strong vision and goal for the wardrobe overall.

Of course it goes without saying that each person should create their own vision for their makeunder in whatever way works for them. I totally understand that many people would not go to the lengths that I did in this vision step. For me, I see the payoff as twofold for myself, the better I get at dressing and style personally, the stronger the designer I will be for Jess LC products to come.

In conclusion, take some time to stop and reflect on what you’d like the outcome of your makeover to be before tackling the clutter. The steps flow together best when there is a strong foundation.

 

perfection and reality

September 26th, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

My friend Kate sent me this image she found on Super Great and I think it perfectly encapsulates what I’ve been working through since revisiting The Pursuit of Perfect. In the book the author, Tal, explains the difference between a Perfectionist and an Optimalist. A Perfectionist will decide what a perfect course of action would be and refuses to allow any deviation from the straight path towards success. While an Optimalist is someone who takes reality and current situations into account and works within real-life possibilities, doing they best they can at any given moment.

Often, the course of an Optimalist is staggered, imperfect, winding, confusing, or even delayed. It can be as squiggly as the line above. But the strength of the Optimal approach is that it lives within Real Life while the Perfect line is an imaginary ideal. The Optimal way is often simply much more possible.

A fantastic example of the Optimal vs. Perfect route is seen in Patrick Makau’s world record breaking marathon performance this weekend. As the article states,

Not content to cover 26.2 miles in a neat loop, Patrick Makau of Kenya turned the Berlin Marathon into his own personal conga line Sunday while setting a world record of 2 hours 3 minutes 38 seconds.

Just before Mile 17, Makau swung from one side of the flat course to the other, once, twice, three times, then surged. This zigzagging tactic exposed and dropped the previous record-holder, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, who had run 2:03:59 in Berlin in 2008.

By taking into account that there was the previous record holder on his tail, Makau, choose the imperfect, zigzagging path to the finish in order to shake the contender in his wake. Had he been so focused on running a perfectly straight performance, it is easy to see that he could have allowed Gebrelassie to draft behind him for much longer and even exposed himself to a more tense and possibly unsuccessful first place finish.

Instead of letting that happen, Makau dropped the ideal path in order to deal with the present moment reality: that there was a man behind him who he needed to shake. And in order to best out run this opponent, he ran a irregular path. And in spite of this setback, he was still able to reach the finish and break the world record, achieving the “perfect performance outcome” that he desired in the first place.

Like Makau, I want to be able to read Real Life situations and deal with them as they come in order to push past barriers and allow for delays and mistakes. It’s the only way that really allows me to take risks and learn from them. It’s the only thing that will really give me peace and help me achieve the intentions I set out for myself.

 

photo credit

recent gratitude

September 24th, 2011   |   Business AdviceLife

Though I don’t normally do posts on the weekend, I couldn’t help but share the gratitude I feel for these two recent features.

Yesterday Oh Joy shared coin purses on her amazing blog. I’ve been a huge fan of her for years and to see her get excited about our coin purses is truly amazing.

And earlier this week I was interviewed for a Psych Central article on 12 Ways Successful Bloggers, Entrepreneurs Stay Productive. The article is great and shares my viewpoints along with the likes of Tara Gentile. It was great to see how differently we all approach our workdays and life balance.

As many of you know, one of the best ways for me to stay productive during the weekdays is to avoid email on nights and weekends. I still highly recommend the practice for those who haven’t tried it yet. It has changed my life and helped me truly appreciate what I do in and outside of work.

maggies dream report: week sixteen

September 23rd, 2011   |   Life

Establishing a Routine (following up!)

Last week I reported on my struggles with establishing a routine – thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments! I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone. It seems to be a common problem, but not one that can’t be overcome.

Sadly (yet, somehow, realistically) I can’t report that my week was magically perfect after airing my frustration. I still didn’t fit in exercise. But I did wrap up a client project, answered questions about another, lined up another client consultation, worked on an upholstery project, and managed to fill up my evenings next week with events and outings. I felt productive.

However, I did take note of how I was thinking about my time. I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks that I have on my plate – even though they are things I WANT to do. But on Sunday night I found myself mentally committing to way more tasks for the next day than would be physically possible. Finishing the chairs, finishing a client’s floor plan, emailing like 20 people, working out, doing laundry, hanging pictures, running errands, cooking a new recipe for dinner (which ended up taking four hours in itself), blogging (I like to write several posts at once and pre-schedule them). I’d think of “just one more thing” and think “I could do that tomorrow” but was setting myself up for failure by just wanting to do too many things in one day.

Since noticing that, the last few days I’ve been committing myself to accomplishing just one large task each day. Sure, I can do more (and need to if I want to keep this business ticking) but waking up in the morning knowing that “finishing these chairs” is my task for the day helps eliminate the wandering indecisiveness and overwhelm. When I finish that task, there are others waiting to be done.

I might eventually land on a schedule of, say, three must-complete items per day and a fall-back list for when those are complete. But this week, I’m sticking with one. It’s a learning process, and adjustment.

I guess my main message for the week is that it’s ok to have a learning curve, to realize that something isn’t working and take steps to adjust. And it’s ok for a realization to not magically create a better habit or action. It still takes time to build habits. I used to be one of those “all or nothing” types, but I’m learning as I get older that those plans have never worked for me. One change at a time.

love and learning

September 22nd, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

Everyone gives a lot of lip service to the idea that a loving relationship should be filled with learning and growing together. It’s easy to find Etsy prints, books, and postcards with sayings related to this idea, yet I never seemed to really get the message.

You see, when Mr. Lively and I started our relationship, I immediately wanted to “design a relationship with intention” (as I do with every area of my life). I thought that we should talk a lot about our future plans, dreams, and intentions. That we should work to discover our strengths and weaknesses, and resolve any issues.

I imagined that once we figured out what kind of life we wanted and what our intentions were, we would automatically be an (almost) perfect couple. That by designing a relationship with intention, that we’d be in a smooth sailing partnership.

And to some extent it’s true, I deeply love, respect, and appreciate him. Our life, though not perfect, is pretty darn incredible. He is kind, thoughtful, funny (okay, downright witty), smart, and talkative. We have tons of fun together eating amazing food around Chicago, biking, running, and reading aloud to each other at night.

But there still were issues and conflicts in the relationship nonetheless.

In the past, each time we found ourselves faced with an issue, we would talk it out, work through it, and find a way to get back to the smooth sailing. That’s what I thought it meant to “learn and grow together.” Whenever there is an issue, you figure it out together and get past it as a stronger team.

Recently, however, I’m learning that there is more to it than that.

In the past few weeks we have gradually evolved from “problem solvers,” intent on clearing away the barriers in our life to get back to Great, to honestly pursuing growth as a goal in and of itself. Before, I used to grow enough to keep the relationship positive. Now, I’m looking to actively continue to improve whether there is trouble or peace between us.

And I don’t think that I was being lazy before, I just don’t think I knew any better.

This shift started with reading The Pursuit of Perfect together.  As we’ve been reading the book aloud, we’ve taken time to stop, discuss, and relate the concepts to areas of our personal lives and work situations. We’ve begun to share and help each other learn how to approach situations and life in general, differently.  — And there isn’t a “problem” to be fixed this time. We are simply reflecting and learning so that we can be better people towards one another and out in the world.

In the process of being study partners in self-improvement, I have sensed a shift in how I see relationships. I now know that it’s possible to be in a relationship that can lead to higher growth as an individual. That I don’t need to just grow in the couple to be a better girlfriend, but I can use it to become a better woman. And sharing in a goal that is larger than “us” brings us closer together on a totally different level.

A great relationship doesn’t have to be an unending string of positive feelings and fun. And it also doesn’t have to be one that faces conflict as a way to keep the peace. It can be one that includes the positives, the conflicts, and the unending shared pursuit of individual and shared growth.

 

business in the city details

September 21st, 2011   |   Business Advice

Thanks to the many responses to the q&a business chat idea, we are moving ahead! I have reserved a spot at Next Door, an awesome new spot in Lincoln Park, for Tuesday, October 4th. Since the space can only be reserved until 7pm, I’ve gone ahead and booked us for 6:00-7:00. Hopefully that will be enough time for commuters to get there (it’s near the Diversey El stop and the Clark/Broadway/Halsted intersection).

Since I’m imagining some people may be hungry… feel free to bring snacks or take out. Based on the emails and comments, some people are whipping up some awesome treats to share, which is more than encouraged. Oh, and there is a coffee shop right inside the space, so we can be caffeinated if the mood strikes.

For those who aren’t in Chicago, I apologize if it is not possible to attend. A few people mentioned that doing it online would be nice, and I am definitely considering that for the future. But more than anything, I really want to get out and interact with people. I spend so much of my time working in the studio with the girls that I miss the live connection. Heck, I’d even love to bring this kind of thing to other cities in the future as well… but again, I’m taking it slowly and seeing where it leads.

And of course for those who want in-depth one-on-one advice and consulting, please also remember that I do that as well (via phone, Skype, or in person).

So now that the date is set, who’s coming!?

my fall picks

September 20th, 2011   |   Wardrobe

Danielle over at Breakfast at Toast (and photographer for our launch) has combined a fantastic group of bloggers to share their top picks for fall. I’m honored to say that she also asked me to participate (my picks are above). To find out where my favorite items are from and the other amazing choices that the girls selected, hop over here.

I’m obsessing over the perfect white and gold watch in Jillian’s picks.

 

annual review

September 20th, 2011   |   Business AdviceLifeThink About It

Yesterday Mr. Lively had his first annual review at his current job. And I also had a review of sorts, with the launch of Quincy and Belmont.

As we talked about the very positive outcomes from both reviews, we were slightly amazed. Given how challenging our jobs have been in the past year, it is almost baffling to think that among dozens of hardships, setbacks, and delays, we were able to come out of the year with glowing feedback.

For me personally, thinking about how freaking hard it was to get Quincy and Belmont to launch day, I almost feel like the buzz and support I’ve gratefully received seems undeserved. I mean, I was far from perfect during this process. I’ve written a fair amount the past few months about . the . challenges I’ve been working through in my head. And I’ve felt a fair deal of anxiety and frustration.

And despite all of the problems, mistakes, and worry, the ultimate outcome is fantastic.

To go through so much crap and then find such glowing reviews confuses my brain.

Because you see, as Mr. Lively and I have been re-reading one of my favorite books, The Pursuit of Perfect (found on the MML bookshelf), I’ve noticed that some of my latent perfectionist tendencies have been resurfacing this year.

I’ve been believing, deep down, that in order to “really” be able to enjoy success, I need to have been perfect the whole way through the process. I need to have handled every situation and issue that came up along the way perfectly in order to truly deserve a great launch.

The reality of getting these products developed included imperfections, anger, joy, breakthroughs, and tears (both good and bad). How can the outcome be good if there was so much stress throughout the journey?

Because a happy life, or a successful business, does not require perfection.

I need to relearn that I do not need to expect an uninterrupted stream of positive emotions or outcomes to be happy overall. I set myself up for failure when I have that expectation because it is impossible. It also numbs me from positive feedback. I can’t really believe the positive comments people say too much because I still have been holding on to the negative feelings and reactions I’ve had in the past during the process.

It’s like I finished a marathon and instead of being thankful that I finished and pushed through the tough parts, I’m focusing on the times during the race where I walked, slowed down, or deviated from my perfect pace. I’m not allowing a positive response to the race because there were setbacks along the way.

So now it’s my job to work through these limiting beliefs and let go of the dead weight in my mind to free myself up to fully feel the happiness of what I’ve accomplished.

 

the quincy and belmont lookbooks

September 19th, 2011   |   Life

Thank you so much for the amazing feedback from the initial launch of Quincy and Belmont! I am thrilled to hear how many of you love the styles and colors we designed. And from the initial sales, it’s clear that gold and fuchsia is a big winner (not that we are surprised).

It’s also funny to hear how many people have been on the fence about buying an iPad. I know that my own decision to buy one was driven in large part by the case I’d be using. Which as you know, became the catalyst for designing one for Jess LC that had all the bells and whistles that I wanted – protection, leather, brass zipper, pockets, and gorgeous lining. And though it may not be the best buy for everyone, I have loved having mine and use it daily. I use mine to sketch ideas with my stylus, take notes, read The New York Times, do short yoga videos in the morning, play Words with Friends, and it makes one heck of a blog reader. So while I definitely don’t recommend buying one if the finances aren’t right, I do think it is worth the money for me personally.

Now, on to the lookbooks. I honestly don’t even want to share them until I give proper credit where credit is due, so without further ado,

Danielle Moss – Photographer

Blog – Breakfast at Toast
Site – Danielle Moss
Twitter -@DanielleMoss_

Danielle shot all of the incredible photos for the Belmont and Quincy lookbooks and I couldn’t be more blown away. She captured the essence of what we were doing in the blink of an eye, works extremely hard, and is so reliable. I cannot recommend her enough for people in need of a photographer.

It was a pleasure having her as a photographer for Jess LC and I feel honored to have her as a friend as well. Her hard work with her blog, photography, and booming blog design business make her a great person to follow online as well.

Alaina Kaczmarski – Stylist and Model

Blog – Live Creating Yourself
Site – LYC Graphics, LYC Shop
Twitter – @AlainaKaz

When I first started thinking about these lookbooks I knew that the products lent themselves to a variety of shots and, unlike jewelry, could be shot in vignettes as well as on models. Which is tricky for me. And I knew that having Alaina on board to style the shoot was going to make everything look 100% better.

I was right.

Alaina has an eye for style of all kinds, fashion, product, home, you name it. And since we were dealing with those types of locations for Quincy and Belmont, I wanted her to take the lead when it came to laying out the shots and getting everything placed just right. Heck, she even styled the images above (I saw how well she put them together for her post and begged her to let me use her “styled” photo layout as well). What was even cooler was being able to actually have her model in the shoot as well. As a friend of Alaina, I knew her beauty and amazing laugh would shine in the lookbook. (And I was right again.)

Liz Schnider – Model

Blog – Sequins & Stripes

Twitter – @LizSchneider01

Liz, I am happy to say, is a new friend. I met her via Alaina’s blog design for her awesome style blog, Sequins & Stripes. I started to follow immediately and was hooked to her editorial perspective. I am not personally the best when it comes to clothing and outfits, but this girl knows how to make a freaking adorable outfit. So I started to literally study how she does it. And then it occurred to me to have her model along with Alaina to keep the lookbooks varied and interactive.

I have to say, I pat myself on the back for that decision, because Liz rocked it out of the park with her adorable giggles, smile, and fun attitude. She seems made for this stuff. And I’m excited to see where her fantastic blog takes her from here.

(And again, I’m thrilled to have her as a friend now, too.)

 

To view the lookbooks in their full size, expand the images below.

 

Thank you Refinery29!

I’d also like to thank Refinery29 Chicago for featuring the iPad cases this afternoon. I love their headline, “New iPad Cases You Won’t Be Embarrassed To Carry.”

introducing the quincy and belmont collections

September 19th, 2011   |   Life

 

 

After a summer of product development, I’m proud to share two new Jess LC collections, Quincy and Belmont.

Of course, you can straight to the lookbooks to see the entire launch. But for those who are more patient, I’ll fill you in a bit about the collections (details on the lookbook shoot with Danielle (photographer), Alaina (styling and model), and Liz (model) will come later today).

Quincy iPad Cases

Quincy is our iPad2 case and coin purse collection. My intention behind this collection was to make everyday items pretty. And when it comes to iPad cases, I found that there were many “practical” options and just a few beautiful (and extremely expensive) ones. But none had the colors, protection, price, and style that I was looking for. And so, I set out early this year to develop what I consider the best case on the market for under $100 (we came in $20 below the mark).

The colors, you may notice, are from that little color survey I had you all comment on earlier this spring. I think you all did a great job picking. We went with gold/gray, gold/fuchsia, gray/canary, eggplant/fuchsia, and cocoa/coral. Each one is hand made with real leather in Chicago.

Quincy Coin Purses

And since not everyone needs an iPad case, I also wanted to design another style to this collection which used the awesome color story we created in a different way as well. And these coin purses are the perfect choice. The soft, supple leather and pop of lining is the perfect little place to stash cash, credit cards, iPhones (it fits without the case), or lip gloss. The key ring makes carrying keys and cash simple, and the brass zipper is strong and pretty. Like the iPad cases, they are hand made in Chicago.

I have one in gold and gray and I can’t stop using it. The fact that it’s small enough to fit in all the bags I have and also fits easily into Mr. Lively’s pocket (if I decide not to bring a purse on errands) is ideal.

Belmont Scarves

I have also been hard at work developing scarves for Jess LC as well. Belmont scarves are hand silk screened in Chicago on 100% silk. I was inspired by the classic Greek key pattern and how our logo could be used to create a similar look. I think the overall effect is subtle, but is sophisticated and easy to wear. My own personal wardrobe is filled with many basics, and I find using scarves to add color and pattern is a great way to make simple outfits feel more pulled together instantly.

We chose to go with four color ways, graphite and gold, french blue and light gray, navy and kelly green, and khaki and poppy. Each color is in two styles; as a square and a large rectangle. And to show the variety of ways each can be worn, I whipped up a few cheat sheets.

 

Phew. I feel like making this post is like having my own version of a Fashion Week runway show. I’ve worked so hard on all of these details and you all have been so incredibly encouraging and patient as I got these collections ready. I am so grateful for all that you have shared. Each encouraging comment, tweet, and email along the way has helped me get to this point.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

 

maggie’s dream report: week fifteen

September 16th, 2011   |   Life

Establishing a routine

One of the things I looked forward to the most about leaving my 8-5 job was having the freedom to do whatever I wanted during the day. Due to a very limited public transit schedule, I was on a very punctual (and not at all convenient) time table, lacking free time to do much but pre-scheduled outings with friends and work on the business and blog. I’d given up attempts to exercise because I couldn’t find the time in my schedule.

When I was still working and dreaming of entrepreneurship I listed all kinds of activities as part of my “ideal day”. Do yoga, eat healthy meals, meetings where I’d collaborate with other creatives, couple-time with Ryan, time spent in the garden, business work, and lots of design work and playing at the Design Center. I think I even did a Dream Report several weeks ago where I talked about motivation and what my normal day was like.

Three months in, I’m still struggling to find a routine that works for me. I know it’s a partial trial-and-error process, but I’m getting frustrated with days that fly by and I still haven’t written a blog post, done laundry, or exercised. Where does the time go? How am I spending it?

I will admit that I think the initial joy of not being “at work” caused the rebel in me to flare up just a bit. Knowing I could do whatever I want led to sleeping a little later than I’d intended, getting distracted by Twitter and Pinterest, and other internet tools that I MEANT to use productively. But lately it’s more that I’m stuck in a routine of NOT having a routine. Sleeping in later than I want, getting sucked in by blogs or catching up on my own, tackling design work, eating breakfast at 11 and lunch at 3, working on marketing ideas or other projects that don’t “show” right away, then realizing it’s almost 5 and I haven’t had the slightest thought about dinner for when Ryan gets home and the apartment is a disaster from starting a project at 2:45 before realizing I was ravenous. After dinner and feeling crappy when Ryan starts cleaning after HIS long day at work, I’m an insomniac until 2 or 3 am. I can’t seem to catch up or get ahead.

Luckily I do think that this is something that can be remedied pretty easily, at least with a plan of action. Part of my floundering is because there isn’t a plan in place. Not saying I’ll always stick to the plan exactly, but I’ll either be able to recognize when I’m steering off course, or know that I’m altering the plan for a particular reason.

This is something I’ll be tackling in the next week. Identifying my priorities, satisfying my need for some structure, even setting specific time benchmarks (such as “If it is 9:30 and I haven’t had breakfast, I’ll eat it now.”). I know from working with Michelle, my life coach, last year that it helps me to set timers to focus on a given task. I think sometimes realizing just how MUCH I have to do to accomplish all I want is so overwhelming that I sit and do nothing or I distract myself (with something like Pinterest). Setting a timer that means I’ll only focus on this for fifteen minutes, then I can move on if I need to, keeps me from feeling that panicky “It’ll never all get done” and drifting off to Twitter.

As far as my sleeping habits go, well, I just either need to embrace the night owl (even as a kid I’d stay up into the wee hours and don’t get me started on my college years!) and make those hours productive, or force myself into a slightly more reasonable sleep schedule. I’m never going to be awake at 6 am and asleep at 9:30 but being up by 8 should not be a chore! And if a barista is getting up to go to work, I probably shouldn’t still be awake! (I could probably do a whole post on insomnia).

Entrepreneurs, do you keep a pretty regular schedule? Are you a night owl? Do you use a timer or other “trick” to keep on task during the day? Would love to hear! Wish me luck! I’ll report back next week on how my routine is going ; )

beauty with intention: fall skincare 101

September 15th, 2011   |   Life

Fall Skincare 101

Fall is such time of transition—and I love it. Leaves are turning, closets are turning over, and our skin is, well, about to turn as dry as those leaves crunching underfoot. Now is the time to switch up your skincare regimen, because it will be much more challenging to soothe redness, flaking, and irritation (oh my!) once they appear. Did I just lose you? DON’T PANIC. I know how overwhelming skincare can be. I just spent the weekend with my college bestie who is a wedding planner/professional organizer/mom extraordinaire and even she blanches at the thought of overhauling her beauty bag. So I’m going to keep it super simple:

Switch to a gentle cleanser. Instead of the squeaky-clean, foaming one you’ve probably been using all summer, opt for a creamy wash or bar that will dissolve dirt and makeup without stripping skin. I love Suki Sensitive Cleansing Bar and Eminence Coconut Milk Cleanser.

Try a facial oil. Plant oils like almond, shea, and apricot kernel are the closest thing to our skin’s natural oils so they make for ideal moisturizers. They also help balance skin when it gets out of wack, and unlike mineral oil won’t clog pores. Depending on your skin type, you can apply facial oil under your daily moisturizer for extra comfort, or to dry patches as needed. I also love to pat a little oil over makeup for a dewy glow-a trick I picked up from a makeup artist. My favorites: Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Oil or By Elizabeth Dehn The Serum.

Don’t skip the sunscreen. Just because the temperature has dropped doesn’t mean UVA/UVB rays are hibernating. No matter what the season, don’t leave the house without sun protection. Since you’re less likely to forgo this step if it’s built right into your moisturizer or makeup, try Origins Brighter by Nature with SPF 35 or any of Bobbi Brown’s foundations, which contain sunscreen. My guess is that you’re probably overdue for a fresh shade anyway (aren’t I sneaky?).

When you’re ready for a few more advanced moves, pop on over to Beauty Bets or leave me a question below!

Cheers,
Elizabeth

live (free) small business workshop

September 14th, 2011   |   Business Advice

One of the most transformational quotes from The Seven Habits for me is this:

The imagination can be used to achieve the fleeting success that comes when a person is focused on material gain or on “what’s in it for me.” But I believe the higher use of imagination is in harmony with the use of conscience to transcend self and create a life of contribution based on unique purpose and on the principles that govern interdependent reality.

- Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective people, page 135

I believe that a focus on true contribution was lacking in my list of intentions and visions for my life earlier this summer, which caused me a lot of anxiety and selfishness. I was thinking about me, me, me, not about serving society.

To rectify this, I think is a way I can contribute which is closely aligned with my purpose.

I’d like to host free small business q+a sessions here in Chicago.

While I am busy working on Jess LC, MML, and consulting with small business owners one-on-one, I also think that a recurring series of live chats to answer business or blogging questions may be an additional way to help people with my strengths.

I don’t have a detailed plan of what this may evolve into, I just want to put myself out there and see where it leads.

To start, I would like to know if people are interested in getting together here in Chicago to chat. I already have the perfect location lined up in Lincoln Park/Lakeview. And for this first session I’d really just like to gather, talk about what everyone is working on, and answer any business/blogging questions people have. And it would be in the evening to accommodate all you Midnight Hustlers out there.

So, if you are interested in attending please comment on this post or email me at {jess at jesslc.com} and let me know. If we get a 10-20 person group, I’ll go ahead and reserve the space and announce the details here on MML.

(And the best part? We can even bring treats to share.)

when to push and when to wait

September 13th, 2011   |   Business Advice

As I mentioned yesterday, we are launching the new collections for Jess LC next week.

But the truth is, I really wanted to launch today.

In fact, I really wanted to launch the first week of September. But it didn’t happen. And for a while that bothered me quite a bit. I’ve been working on these collections since April and June. Each seemed easy at the onset and were slated to be completed over a month ago.

But life didn’t turn out that way. And since so much of the delays resulted in making the products better, I was understanding of many of the setbacks.

However, now that I am down to the wire, of being thisclose to launching, I was seriously bummed yesterday when I decided to hold off another week.

It’s an age old question: when do you just launch and get it out there, and when do you hold back and wait just a little bit longer?

Many people are not doing what they want to do because they are afraid of trying, failing, or not doing it perfectly. This perpetual delay often causes their dreams to remain theoretical. As Seth Godin says, you gotta ship.

I, on the other hand, am not that way. I realize that as much as I want things to be absolutely p-e-r-f-e-c-t, that goal is impossible, and I work to ship and go forward improving along the way. And yesterday I was tempted to barrel ahead with the launch simply because I am so darn sick of waiting to share with you all what I’ve been working on.

But after a lot of thinking, I decided to wait.

I thought about the pros and cons of rushing the launch this week versus waiting until next Monday. We could have launched if I worked around the clock last night on all of the product pages, lookbooks, inventory, and marketing. We could have had the products available for pre-order to ship next Monday. It could have gotten more buzz simply because it was out an extra week longer than it would be otherwise.

Yet, I held off. I decided to value a more steady, quality approach to the last minute details and the ability to ship orders the same day we launch the collections. I decided to tie up loose ends before sharing it with the world. Though it still won’t mean there will be a perfect launch, it will be more excellent.

And most importantly of all, it will still be launched. Period. 

So though I know this isn’t an Earth-shattering post or revelation, I do think it’s important to think about the balance between shipping vs. not shipping, and shipping well.

ready to launch the new collections

September 12th, 2011   |   Life

 

… next Monday.

But for now I couldn’t help but share a little something from my Saturday with Danielle, Alaina, and Liz. With Danielle shooting, Alaina styling, and Liz and Alaina modeling, the shoot was pretty incredible.

And since there are two collections launching, I figured I better give you a peek at the other products as well. It’s only fair, right?

Yep, Danielle’s pics are bananas. (I don’t even use that word, but it’s really the only way I can describe them.)

I can’t wait to share the full release with you on Monday.

maggie’s dream report: week fourteen

September 9th, 2011   |   Life

Take a break.

I’m up to my ears this week finishing up client work and breathing some life into some projects that I started and then neglected, but I still jumped at the chance to get away for the day on Monday when Ryan had the day off.

We headed up to Whidbey Island, about a half hour drive and 20 minute ferry ride from our neighborhood. We spent the day driving up the island, eating terrible-for-us (but delicious) foods, taking countless pictures of the water, and finally crossing a majestic passage back onto the mainland and then home. It was so needed.

I’ve now been self-employed for three whole months. And while I’ve had some quiet time when work has been slow and I’m not quite sure what to work on next, I’ve spent a lot of time working, worrying, and moving apartments, and more working. As much as I try to get out once or twice a week to have coffee with another entrepreneur or run out for errands and what-not, I still spend the majority of my time sitting at a computer. I love the internet, I love blogland, tweeting and the vast resources available to a decorator and to my distance clients, but I needed to step away from the computer and get out of the apartment.

A long drive is also a good time to talk, and we had some good discussions (not all were business related, but this was!). The last month or so I’ve been sort of bored with blogging. It always seemed like a low priority thing on my to-do list, seeing as it isn’t a direct source of income (I do have a few sponsor spots in my sidebar, but nothing past coffee money). The summer months have always been slow traffic months for me. And as I get closer to my three-year blogging anniversary this December, I’ve wondered if I’m just running out of things to say! I have been unmotivated to write posts, brainstorm new ones, or (worse) I’d think of a great timely post and just never get around to writing it until it was “too late”.

Luckily, with a little escape and quality time with Ryan, I’m feeling rejuvenated and newly inspired. Ryan is always a good sounding board for my frustrations and offers great perspective. We agreed that blogging not only contains the roots of my business, but provides a very basic way for me to continue to steer the direction my business, brand, and readership go. Since being back Monday evening, I’ve written some of my best posts of the summer and drafted several others that will debut within a few weeks. Not to mention a new refocused emphasis on connecting with my readers and offering free tips and decor ideas – the best free marketing a girl could ask for!

Others may have more sophisticated methods of capturing blog post ideas. I tend to start a new post in my blogging dashboard with a title and maybe a blurb of what I’m thinking or a photo and credit. Then I save it until I sit down to do a bunch when I get the writing bug. Right now I have a nice little drafts file, and I’m hoping to continue to always have something in the works.

My lesson learned this week: get away. We entrepreneurs (and especially you Midnight Hustlers) may not get “real” vacations for a while, but you can probably spare a day or half a day to go do something just for the enjoyment of it. You’ll be a much better business owner when you come back to your desk with a clear head and fresh air in your lungs.

Want to catch up on Maggie’s first three months of full-time entrepreneur? Check out her full report.

Photo is by Maggie Morgan, from our trip to Whidbey Island.

The Art of the One-Dish Meal

I think there are a few things about cooking that intimidate people, but I’d guess one of the main things is the idea of putting together a meal. I get why it’s intimidating: you have to figure out what goes with what, find recipes for each dish, and then time everything correctly while cooking. It’s a lot to think about! And it’s why I love one-dish/one-pot meals. I love the idea of getting everything I want in a meal with one singular recipe. They also tend to pack lots of flavor! The most common one-dish meals are things like soups, stews, casseroles, crock-pot meals, stir-fries, etc.

The essential elements of a one-dish meal

  • A satisfying protein. Some of my favorite easy proteins to use in one-dish meals like soups or stews are beans, pre-cooked chicken sausage, rotisserie chicken, and tofu. None of those need to be cooked, so it makes incorporating them into a recipe almost foolproof.
  • A flavorful fat. For me, no meal is complete without some form of (unprocessed fat). In a one-dish meal, I recommend butter, cream, coconut milk, coconut oil, or olive oil.
  • Lots and lots of veggies. You can really go nuts with the veggies, but a good place to start is always mire poix: celery, carrots, and onions. Trader Joe’s sells a pre-made version that’s so convenient when prepping soups, stews, or sauces.
  • Herbs and spices! My best advice is to have a heavy hand with the seasoning when cooking a one-dish meal. Italian spices like basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc., are pretty safe, as are non-spicy flavors like paprika, pepper, and citrus zest. And though you don’t want to go overboard, you’ll probably want some salt, too.
  • A dash of carbs. I tend to leave carbs (rice, pasta, potatoes etc.) out of my one-dish meals completely, but a little goes a long way if you can’t imagine living without them. Grains and starches don’t have much bang for your buck, and they tend to act as “filler” (big on bulk, small on flavor). However, as long as you tread lightly, adding a few potatoes or a small amount of rice, starches and grains can be a nice way to bulk up a one-dish meal.

Bringing it all together

Slow and low heat is the method for a successful one-dish meal. The longer and slower you cook it, the more flavorful the dish will be. In fact, many one-dish meals (again, think soups, stews, casseroles, etc.) taste progressively better as the flavors have time to marry. Crock pots make wonderful one-dish meals! Baking at a low temperature, simmering, or slow-cooking are all good methods of cooking one-dish meals. Don’t forget: one-dish meals tend to freeze well, so these types of dishes make for perfect make-ahead lunches and dinners.

All-star one-dish meals

Some of my favorite one-dish meals include:

Do you prefer one-dish or multiple-dish meals? Either way, share your favorite soup, stew, or casserole recipe!

principle centered living

September 7th, 2011   |   Think About It


Over the past week, I feel like I’m regaining myself. After a whirlwind year of change, anxiety, growth, and worry, I feel like I’m coming back to my roots.

And it’s not just my metaphorical roots, literally even my hair, which has been progressively highlighted over the year, has returned to it’s normal chestnut color.

Life is good.

What is so amazing about this growing transformation is how little has actually changed physically. My perception and life paradigm is returning back to north. But my circumstances remain largely the same. And I couldn’t be happier.

While re-reading The Seven Habits, I have found where so much of my stress has generated from. I let my center focus on outward influences rather than principles.

As Stephen Covey explains in detail, there are many centers that we can have which will act as a barometer in our life. They become our compasses which help us analyze how we feel and react at any given moment. Centers can be focused on spouse/significant other, family, work, money, friends, self, and even enemies. And each of these centers will guide decisions that we need to make each day.

But each center has specific vulnerabilities which can leave us less effective and more reactive throughout our lives. And several centers can overlap one another and cast all sorts of distorted shadows on our lives and guide us in dizzying circles.

I found myself in this vortex myself this summer.

To be honest, I was centered on work, significant other, self, and enemy. 

Anything that happened, both good or bad with the product lines could cast a shadow on my entire day. Anything that I felt, both good or bad, about Mr. Lively and I could shape my mood. Any thought about getting all of the “stuff” in life that I wanted could cast ridicule on my life’s less perfect areas and make me feel dissatisfied. And any interaction that did not go well with manufacturers (who are certainly not enemies, but shared tense moments when things didn’t go as planned) over the summer could shake me as well.

I was an emotional and reactive mess. And at some point in August I realized so much had changed in the past 11 months of my life, that I almost didn’t recognize myself. I couldn’t connect who I was in August with who I’ve been my whole life.

Heck, even my hair was close to blond.

But coming back to The Seven Habits has retaught me the lesson that I learned several years ago, back in college when I went through a similar bout of doubt, frustration, and anxiety.

I had stopped living by principles.

Principles like excellence, honesty, integrity, potential, patience, dignity, encouragement, and growth had for many years been my guide. But somewhere along the way I had lost that focus. As Covey claims, life simply goes well when principles are followed and centered upon. And from six years of doing so myself, I have lived this and know that it works. In fact, almost all major and lasting religions and spiritual teachings share these common principles. They are timeless and universal.

I had just forgotten to value and look to them as my guide.

Since revisiting this concept, I’ve begun to reintegrate principles as my center. When things happen in my life that I might feel anxious or worried about, I’ve begun to ask myself how I’m doing in the situation? What is the principle that I can call upon? If I know that I have acted with good intention in the best way possible, I have stopped letting myself get upset about small injustices.

Today for example, I’ve chosen not to get upset about the large order that got lost in the US mail and needed to be remade and sent more expensively to the customer even though it was not our fault. Instead, I chose the principle of being patient, and delivering excellent service to our customer. Since I did the best that I could in this situation, I had no reason to get worried or upset at the money lost on this missing order.

However, when I curtly declined an invite to an event today, I didn’t do so with principles in mind. Because our credit card information had been stolen from an order with this company, I acted out of spite and was unkind to people whose system was simply hacked. Going forward, I want to act with kindness and understanding.

Using principles as a compass is helping me recognize that my ability to choose the right path is where my focus should lie, not in what actually happens to me along the way.

As long as I’m acting in a way that I’m proud of, I have no reason not to worry about what other people do or what happens. Sure, I will need to take appropriate actions as things come up, but I don’t need to dwell and let outside influences carry too much weight.

And the best part is, principles lead to peace. Which is what I’ve sought in vain for so long this summer.

It feels great to be peaceful and brunette again.

sneak peek of new collections

September 7th, 2011   |   Life

I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend! I got back yesterday from my cousin’s beautiful wedding in Philadelphia. It was a great time and Mr. Lively got to meet the family. (Which is a pretty big deal, folks, a pretty big deal.)

Now, it’s time to get back into the swing of things here at the studio. This is a big week for us. Our first three collections are finally reaching their completion and we are shooting the lookbook for the first two collections on Saturday. The third collection is coming out in October, and the fourth will be ready in November.

And since I’ve been speaking about the new collections without really giving any details, I think it’s finally time to share the goods. So tomorrow evening I will be at a trunk show at Macy’s with our jewelry and bags – and I will bring samples of our first three collections so you can see what’s in store and pre-order if you like. I’ll just make sure you pinky swear not to share any secrets beforehand.

And for those of you who are out of town or can’t make tomorrow’s event, I’ve also whipped up some clues…

Hope to see you tomorrow!

(And as usual, no need to buy anything if you just want to stop by and introduce yourself, that’s wonderful too.)

when the going gets tough

September 6th, 2011   |   Business Advice

Today I’d like to share an excerpt from an MML reader email I received a while back. Raj, who also shared a DIY DYL, had this to share:

… Last week my husband and I got some horrible news. He was laid off from work last September and was expecting to receive benefits until this fall, unfortunately, there is no more funding in the program and he has just been informed that he only gets paid for another 4 weeks. As you can imagine this hit us like a tonne of bricks. We have two young children, and I am a freelance marketing consultant with not a lot of work right now. I was totally crushed, but I visited your blog for inspiration and a pick me up, and it worked!

Rather than freaking out and falling apart, my husband and I are going to start a marketing company together. We are going to take the skills we have and turn them into a lifestyle that works for our family. Both parents working from home, making money, and being involved in our children’s lives. We are even going to blog about the whole journey.

- Raj, May 29th, 2011

Today I’d like to share with you the results of their intentions, hard work, and faith. Please stop by and support Raj and her husband on this new, bold path.

Talk about turning shit into fertilizer.

[Full-size desktop wallpaper (small font)][Full-size desktop wallpaper (large font)]

Last week Arianna Belle of Organized Interiors commented on my Living Life with Open Hands post with the quote above by Alexandra Stoddard that she had turned into a beautiful image.

I loved the quote so much that I asked her if I could make it our free September wallpaper. Thankfully, she said yes and I now have a full-size desktop wallpaper with small and large font to share.

Original image by Arianna Belle.

maggie’s dream report: week thirteen

September 2nd, 2011   |   Life

 

So How’s Business?

If you ever meet me in person and happen to ask “So how’s business?” please forgive me if I’m extremely awkward. As I’ve become more and more confident introducing myself as a small business owner and decorator, more and more casual acquaintances tend to ask me how the business is going. And I never know how to answer.

You should be warned that in general I’m a very shy person. I can turn on the networking chatty skills, but it leaves me mentally drained. I am quite naturally chatty with my best friends, but I need a recovery quiet day after a lot of socializing. Textbook introvert.

Typically the questions “So how’s business” or “how is your new business going” are just innocent conversation topics. But I get really uncomfortable answering those questions. If I just say “It’s great!” it’s kind of a conversation staller and weirdly too-upbeat, but clearly they aren’t asking for my annual report and bank statements. Sometimes I get away with a jab at the old job, like “well, it sure beats that commute I had!” or by sort-of sharing that it’s DAMN HARD (which is the truth), saying something like “It’s tough, but I have some fun projects coming up.” Cause if you end with “It’s tough” PERIOD, that makes people uncomfortable. Not exactly what I’m going for at Ryan’s company picnic.

It’s a question of where the over-sharing line is, and how much information I want to divulge. But obviously there is more to starting a business than “it’s great!” as you’ve seen from some of my posts this month. Maybe I’m over-sensitive about it (Ryan thinks I’m making something out of nothing) but I hate feeling all squirmy.

So my question for you is, how much do you share with casual acquaintances (or prying family members) about your entrepreneurial efforts or dreams? If people know you’ve started a business or midnight hustle, do they ask how it’s going? Does it send you for a loop, or do you take it in stride?

Funny note: When I spent five years at my desk job, people always asked “So how’s life at XYZ?” My first year (during which I realized I’d made a huge mistake) I think I replied, “Can’t beat that paycheck!” By years 2-4 it had changed to “It’s a great learning opportunity” (HA!), and by my final year I’d say, “Why, are you hiring?”

Hi, everyone! It’s Cathy from Fiscally Chic with another post about “finance with intention.” I’ve decided to alternate between personal finance and business finance, with this month covering business finance. At the request of AcanthusNichole, I’m going to touch on a touchy subject, budgeting.

Great question, Nichole! Since I don’t know your business particulars, I’m going to share some thinking points. Plus, budgets differ since everyone’s businesses are at a different point in the business development cycle. The needs of a start-up jewelry designer will be different than Jess LC, which has been around the block a while longer and has expanded into new product lines.

Pay yourself first.

While expenses are definitely a concern for every entrepreneur, paying #1 (you!) should be priority #1. Nobody goes into business to break even or sells widgets just to make more widgets. Even if you’re just starting out, get into the habit of paying yourself first. It doesn’t have to be a large amount. Maybe it’s $50 each week. Maybe it’s 25% of each sale. As your business grows, you’ll already be in the habit of paying yourself and can increase your salary or even give yourself a bonus for a tremendous holiday season or large sale. Plus, you’ll be motivated to sell more!

Focus on your product/service/message, not the marketing promotions

When people think of marketing, they generally think of promotions. There are actually four P’s in marketing: product, price, place (where to purchase), and promotion. While promoting your product is important, I would focus more on the actual product*. Jon Acuff wrote an excellent post about this topic and I couldn’t have said it better myself:

If you worry about the marketing first, you’ll quickly attract a lot of people who eventually find out your message is empty and leave. If you focus on the meaning first, your support might grow slower, but the people who come won’t leave because they’ll realize you’ve got something deeper than hype.

Think about your core business objectives and priorities. Then invest accordingly. If you tell people about your product, but the design is flawed or poorly made, they won’t want to make a purchase. If you make a high quality product with a unique design, customers will be more likely to make repeat purchases and refer their friends.

*Pricing is also extremely important, but I’ll save that for a future post.

EmersonMade is an excellent example of focusing on the product. They started off with handmade linen flowers. The promotions were simple: blogging and the power of social media. However, the product and branding were (and still are) amazing. How many of you wanted to run around a Vermont farm wearing one of her oversized flowers? I know I did. I bought two during Summer 2009. Back then, EmersonMade had a simple website and the flowers were packaged in simple brown boxes. Nothing that broke their budget.

Fast forward to Winter 2010. I purchased a flower clutch with some Christmas money. At that point, EmersonMade had expanded into clutches, jewelry, clothing, and all sorts of other products. They had also upgraded their website and packaging. Those things were nice, but I purchased the clutch because I knew the quality and design were still very high. I didn’t let the simple brown boxes from 2009 hold me back from a purchase in 2010.

Where will you get a positive return on investment?

Along those same lines, make wise business investments. A better, more expensive camera might help, but will it make you a better photographer? Taking a photography class and practicing with your current camera will make you a better photographer. When you think about investing in your business, will it bring you more income? Will your work be worth more?

As a CPA, I know continuing education classes are extremely important since they help me maintain my license and keep me informed about changes in the accounting industry. Maybe there are certifications you can work towards or conferences you can attend for additional training or networking opportunities. If nothing else, investing time in your business will pay significant dividends.

And don’t forget to sell

Cash is king. You don’t want to be sitting on piles of raw materials (flour and sugar) or finished products (cookies), while waiting for the next sale. If that’s the case, your funds should be put towards promotions. But promoting your product or service doesn’t have to be very costly. Jess has some wonderful tips in previous posts.

Bottom line: Consider your business’s intentions and priorities when creating a budget.

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