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Today I’d like to share a lesson that I’ve learned the past few weeks over at Jess LC. I usually wait a bit longer to share things that I learn there, but this one is at the top of my mind and I think it might be helpful for other business owners now or in the future.

Since the launch of our new iPad cases and coin purses we have had unprecedented success with them and have sold through our inventory much sooner than expected.

This is good (great, even) news, yet the newer, larger, orders we’ve placed are taking a while to create. We order in small batches yet when every item is practically sold out, that means small batches of lots of products = a large order.

The craftsman that we work with on our bags and cases are local, small, and make each item by hand. At this point in time, this is great for Jess LC because I can be in the workshop working with them directly on details and there is no shipping costs or lag time. They are also competitively priced for the small quantities we order, which means that we pass those low costs onto the customers in the overall price as well. If one day I decide to try manufacturing overseas in order to serve thousands of customers I have that option. But for now, I really like having great prices for high quality materials and local craftsmanship. It makes for a more personal product and much more of my own perspective in the design.

The issue that’s coming up is that our orders are pre-selling quickly and sometimes can take longer to make than anticipated.

For someone like me who is pretty Type-A (I decorate my closets just as much as my bookshelves), this is really upsetting. After all, I am the head of the company and even though I am doing everything in my power to get these orders completed on schedule, it still reflects on me if we are delayed.

For example, I was told our most recent order would be ready by Monday, October 24th. Then I found out that there was more work to be done and they would be ready by Thursday, the 27th. But in the meantime, a close family friend of a craftsman died and he flew out to New York go to the funeral. This left just one craftsman to work on the order over the weekend. By the time that the first craftsman got back from the funeral, there was still more to do and I’m now told that they will be completed by this Wednesday.

As you can imagine, this delay was completely unforeseen.

While I was processing this whole situation over the weekend, I had an epiphany when waiting for a table at the amazing burger joint, Kuma’s Corner. Kuma’s burgers are famous all over Chicago and with a tiny kitchen and small seating area, the lines here can be easily over two hours.

Right before we got seated my friend Alex made a comment that caught my attention. He mentioned that the hostess was one of the best he’d ever had at a restaurant. Knowing that I myself felt much like a hostess in the iPad case and coin purse situation, I asked him what made her so extraordinary. His response was simple, “She just seems like she really wants to get us a table as soon as she can. I know that there are a ton of people here waiting, and that she doesn’t need to keep us in mind that much, but she keeps coming up to us and letting us know how long it will be.”

And that’s when it clicked for me: the best thing to do when there is a wait is keep everyone as up to date on information as possible, in a personal way.

This course of action also validated why my customers waiting on cases were being so understanding and supportive over the past week. I, like the Kuma’s hostess, was doing my best to keep everyone updated. On the Monday that everyone expected to get their case, I emailed each person individually and let them know that their order would be ready to ship on Friday instead of Monday, just as the craftsman told me. Then, when I found out that the cases were not ready by that Friday, I again, let each person know in a personal email. I told them that once I had an update this week I would be in touch. I kept the emails short, honest, and apologetic, after all I have been so excited to get everyone their cases as soon as I possibly can!

Once I found out this morning about the funeral situation, I again, emailed everyone with an update. The honest and open communication with each customer has gone a long way. I am so thankful and blessed to have such understanding and supportive customers who are kindly and patiently waiting for their pre-orders to ship.

Once the packages do ship out, I have also arranged a little surprise; I have handwritten little notes to each customer, thanking them for being so “sweet” and patient – and I’ve included a little chocolate treat in the order to match my sentiment.

Overall, I think that what I’ve taken out of this whole order delay and hostess analogy is that honest, friendly, personal communication with customers is the best course of action. And in order to prepare for any future delays with these small batches, I’m now estimating the ship dates on the site for pre-orders right above the add to cart button, to keep people in the loop.

So while I am learning that I do not have complete control over production; I can do my very best, and be the most excellent hostess that I can be.

Happy Halloween! This morning I would like to remind everyone interested in coming to our second Business in the City event that it is coming up in Chicago this Thursday from 6:30-8:00.

There have also been a few changes from the previous event including the fact that Next Door is now opening up this event to their entire community, so we will hopefully have an even broader range of people and business ideas to share and talk about. The last event we had 18 people, so this time we are expecting anywhere from 10-30 to show up. You can now also RSVP for the event on Next Door’s calender on the November 3rd date. Feel free to RSVP, but it’s not mandatory. Next Door just wants to know about how many people plan to come so they can prepare for enough chairs and treats for everyone. Which leads me to my next announcement…

Next Door is now going to sponsor our events and will provide treats for us so we no longer need to bring our own! Which I’m very excited about since I’ve never tried any of their delicious looking baked goods.

Business in the City Run Down

As far as what the event will be like, the very loose plan is to have everyone meet in the main space in the back of Next Door (not the conference room, but the bigger space right in front of it) at a group of small tables.

We’ll go around introducing ourselves and our company/business idea. Then we’ll open up the discussion so people can share their business questions with the group. Due to the wide array of people with different backgrounds, we get some great answers, advice, and ideas to help people move their business ideas forward.

Then, we’ll break up into smaller groups based on specific topics (like service businesses, product businesses, marketing, online sales, etc.). After that, we’ll just pretty much open it up to everyone to talk to whomever they want and hang out.

The goal is to have a fun and informal meet up for people who are entrepreneurs, Midnight Hustlers, or Desk Job Dreamers.

Planning on coming? Feel free to comment here and introduce yourself!

maggie’s dream report: week twentyone

October 28th, 2011   |   Life

Action!

I read this awesome article on Monday and it’s really stuck with me all week. It’s all about the “Entrepreneurial Insecurity” that you may recognize in yourself or from some of my previous posts. My take-away message was this line: “Action is the antidote to fear.”

How fitting then, that Jess posted her message on Tuesday to “Start where you are and just keep going.” Act. Don’t stop to dwell on the fear and insecurity. Everyone has fear and no one knows exactly what they’re doing when they start out. The difference is that those who are now successful forged ahead anyway. They didn’t say “I don’t know, so I won’t act.” They figured it out and moved. the. hell. on.

Every time this week that I’ve thought, “that scares me” or laid my head down on my desk under a wave of insecurity and anxiety, this phrase has come back to me. Action is the antidote to fear. And I looked at my to-do list, pick something that sounds fun, and go. No holds barred, just tackling each item head on.

I haven’t been Superwoman or anything, but I’ve been very productive and kept the anxiety at bay for the most part. I’ve been in contact with several potential clients. Followed up on some collaborative projects. Made progress on some of those “maybe someday” ideas, including writing a good third of my next e-book. In the process of being more productive and more creative, I’ve had more great ideas that I can’t wait to get into production. Hopefully I’ll be busy enough with these client projects that that will have to happen in 2012, wink wink.

And I’ve felt great. The more I get done, the better I feel about the future of the business and about my abilities. And it’s not like I’m doing anything more amazing than was already on my list. I’m just choosing to act on them instead of worry over them.

One tip for anyone wondering “that’s great for YOU, but how do I do that?”. List out ALL the great things you want to do. No judging them, just get ‘em on paper. Some will be your “someday” list. For your “action” list (what I’m working from), chunk out each idea into actionable tasks. This is a trick I learned from Getting Things Done. I don’t have something like “network on social media” on my action list. I have “comment on 5-7 blogs today, post two educational articles to twitter, create a poll on facebook”. I’m very specific, and the tasks are usually quick nuggets that are easy to check off.

Another thing I’ve been doing this week that is helping me feel positive and chipper – reaching out to peers and friends who I know are also in the throes of entrepreneurship (some of whom have emailed me to talk, vent, or for advice). Just a friendly hello to ask how things are going and remind them that I’m around to chat. I know that I love sharing my experiences and timid questions of “am I a weirdo because of this…” (think learning about puberty in 4th grade, only in a business sense, haha). So by reaching out I’m helping facilitate that conversation and it gives me the warm-fuzzies.

Did Jess’s post kick anyone else in the rear too? Do you find that by taking action you can keep the fear at bay? What about at 2:30 a.m. when you’re wide awake thinking about how to write press releases? Yeah, I did that. Hey, I didn’t say I was perfect. Just that I’m workin’ on it.

Maggie Morgan is an interior decorator in Seattle. Visit her website to see her work and read her blog, Maggie Rose.

produce your own success story

October 27th, 2011   |   Business Advice

[In direct opposition (okay, not completely) to this morning's post, I'd like to share a really important aspect to business which is about when it's not good to look for inspiration outside of yourself and your company's unique DNA.]

Pardon me, but I’m a little fired up today. While standing in line at the CVS to pick up some contact solution yesterday afternoon, I glanced at the cover of one of the weekly magazines and saw a feature on how “Ali from the Bachelor lost 10 pounds as revenge”… or something like that. Regardless of why she was losing weight as revenge (which is a pretty strange notion to begin with) or what she actually did to achieve the weight loss, I found myself with ruffled feathers.

I know that on another day, in the not-so-distant past, I would have stood there and wondered what she did to lose the weight, wondered how she might be happier now (I mean look, she got a cover feature), and speculated about whether I should try her methods to lose weight myself. But something inside me has shifted (at least for the moment). Ever since the trip to NYC and realizing my intention to pursue PR for Jess LC, my paradigm has changed. Rather than look to others successes for guidance in my life, I’ve become much more interested in my own actions and using those to propel myself further. I’ve become more interested in how I want to become successful than how others have reached their own successes.

Though I think there is a lot to be said about bibliographies, success stories, advice, and research, I also feel many of us are getting too comfortable sitting on the sidelines reading and watching other people achieve their dreams — and then attempting to replicate their achievements in our own lives.

The problem with this copycat method, I believe, is that it leaves us with a second-rate version of what worked for someone else, which doesn’t take into complete consideration all of our own unique factors. And therefore, whatever plan we follow, is innately going to clash with our individual abilities, motivations, and values – which ultimately leads to dissatisfying results, unmaintainable goals, or a simple lack of follow through on our part. Our actions need to speak to us on all levels, spiritually, physically, and mentally, and it’s very hard to really grasp that in a cookie cutter plan or a shadowed routine.

The one major concession I make in the above paragraph is when a particular plan does meet your individual spiritual, physical, and mental values – then the plan could quite possibly work with flying colors. Take my brother, for example. He has been preparing to follow the P90X routine this summer for almost a full year. He researched, thought about it, planned his meals, and devoted the hours he needed in order to reach his goal. He became so intrinsically motivated by the plan and the outcome that he faithfully executed each exercise and nutrition requirement to it’s fullest. He also reaped the rewards he desired in the process. On the other hand, I tried the Weight Watchers program for several months but finally realized I wasn’t seeing results because I wasn’t dealing with the right spiritual issue.

I maintain that many most of our failed attempts come from the fact that we are trying to fit ourselves into a prescribed routine that isn’t capturing our real desires. Or, we are fearful of failure and rush to find comfort in something that has worked for someone else. This constant focus on the information itself keeps us so busy listening to others that we are unable to actually devote the full amount of energy and attention that it takes to reach our goals.

I think this is because we underestimate how much time and devotion it requires to take action, follow through, and maintain progress. We think that if we “know” everything, we will be able to “do” everything. But the real knowledge comes from personal experience, until then, it’s just information in our brains. To follow with the magazine story example, we don’t really know how to lose weight until we actually drop the pounds. Until then we “have the weight loss information” without any experience to back it up.

So, back to my ruffled feathers, I am finding that for the first time I feel bold, less fearful of failure, and more focused on what I’m going to do next. I’m writing my success story each day that I take new actions and try new things. Not all of the things I try will lead to the success I am looking for, but each step ahead is one further away from where I started. It is a constant process that takes into consideration my personal values and goals. My path will be one-of-a-kind and unrepeatable because I am following my gut and trusting things to fall into place. I am following my purpose which is unique to me. Everyone is capable of doing this exact same thing for themselves, they just need to start tapping into what they know and stop looking around at the people next to them.

My Challenge to You

I challenge those who find themselves easily caught in the research and advice trap to take a minute this afternoon and write your own success story. Write out a future magazine feature story detailing how you are successful in three months, six months, or two years from now at the thing you are working towards.

For example, if you want to create a full-time business but are in a desk job, write the story explaining how you made your business so profitable you were able to quit your job after nine months. Explain what actions you took, what marketing efforts you made, what hiring decisions you struggled with. Write it all out and then use that as your own road map to success. Because when you stop and think about it, the story you just wrote captures your spiritual, psychical, and mental abilities and values. Your plan understands you perfectly and you resonate with it 100%.

In summary, stop reading someone else’s success story and start writing your own.

- I wrote this on August 3rd, 2010

i’ve knocked off another company

October 27th, 2011   |   Business Advice

Fact #1: Over the summer I really, really, really wanted to buy an expensive pair of Tory Burch boots which were only available via Tory Burch stores. By the time that I made my decision to plunk down the $500 for the boots, they were all sold out. They had only had a limited quantity of the style and I had no idea they were that popular. I was incredibly bummed.

Fact #2: Our new Jess LC collections are made by a few local craftsman here in Chicago and often we order in small batches to keep things manageable for the craftsman. And we have also done small runs of products which are limited edition and can sell out quickly.

Fact #3: I knocked off another company.

These three facts give you a pretty clear picture of what I have to share. Given Fact #1, I have been aware that my lack of information on how rare those boots were caused me to miss out on owning them. Had I known that they were so limited, I could have hurried my decision to purchase them rather than get my hopes up and then be disappointed.

Likewise, this same situation is also happening over at Jess LC with our new collections. Since our jewelry is made in-house, we often can make items quickly and easily as long as we can re-order the supplies used to make the styles. But our new bag, scarf, stationery, and iPad cases are all made by local craftsman in small batches. And even the materials we use are sometimes not meant to be re-ordered, but are just available for one season.

What I love about this method is that it keeps things local, intimate, and special for our shop and our customers. It feels great to keep things small at this time to grow intentionally.

And in this process, I’ve decided to knock off another company…

Yep. It’s true. I’m getting my inspiration for production from non other than the amazing and incredible Three Floyds Brewery of Munster, Indiana.

I first got introduced to the company on a beer tour with my friends Cathy and John. Mr. Lively and I drove out with Cathy and her husband to go on a brewery tour and then eat some incredibly amazing bar food (like truffle fries). And believe it or not, the whole experience pushed me to improve Jess LC.

During our brewery tour, the guide mentioned that 3 Floyds does year-round, seasonal, and collaboration batches. This way of operating a small, local business was brilliant. And I set out to do the same with my own shop.

Collaboration Collections

While 3 Floyds collaborates with breweries like Dogfish Head, I did my recent collaboration with Claudia if Fig. 2 Design Studio which resulted in our Webster note card collection. These cards are available in small quantities. And I’ve also done a collaboration item over the summer with Elizabeth Dehn as well.

So far these partnerships have been incredibly fun and successful, so I’m excited to continue adding new collaborative collections in 2012.

Year-Round, Small Batch Collections

And when it comes to 3 Floyds year-round brews, like the insanely good Gumball Head (my favorite beer of all time), we over at Jess LC make our Quincy collection in small batches as well. Due to the high demand for this collection, we also allow people to pre-order from the next batch that is to come in once the previous batch sells out.

Seasonal Collections

Then of course there are the limited edition runs of styles which are not re-order-able. Once these styles sell out, they are gone for good. Our Belmont scarves and Lake Shore bags fall under these categories.

(Lake Shore however, will return in the spring.)

How I’m Getting the Info Out to Customers

To let customers know about these details we added small arrows below, to each product page that falls under these three categories.

And each of these buttons are linked to the Collection Definitions page, which explains everything in more detail.

Which of course kinda looks like the beer list over on 3 Floyds’ site.

So there you have it. I can finally come clean and shout it out far and wide, I love and admire 3 Floyds so much that I have knocked off their production cycle.

Of course the idea of knocking off 3 Floyds is all in jest, but the truth is that this was a great example of how looking outside your own industry can give you creative solutions to your own issues or even allow you to think about your company in a fresh and unique way.

 3 Floyds image credit

my best piece of advice

October 26th, 2011   |   Business AdviceLifeThink About It

More and more often people have asked me what advice I have for them whether it’s regarding a business, a makeunder, or designing a life with intention. And really, I always have the same thing to say…

my home on Apartment Therapy House Tour

October 25th, 2011   |   LifeStyle

As I write this I realize how surreal this is for me: yesterday my apartment was added to Apartment Therapy’s House Tours. Four years ago when I first moved to a not-so-great studio apartment, I discovered AT and their amazing house tours. This was years before I read any blogs and I was amazed and inspired by the apartments they featured. In fact, last year when creating a vision for my own space, I used Summer Thornton’s AT House Tour as a huge source of inspiration for my home.

So to be now featured on the site is a dream come true. If my 22 year-old self could know that I would be featured at 27 with the apartment that I have, I’m sure I’d keel right over. And when I think about the journey that has led me here, I think the biggest thing that I did “right” was to treat that tiny little apartment I once had as if it was the apartment that I have right now. I cleaned, primped, and acted as though that little dinky room was a castle. And I continued to treat my other apartments with the same respect and care. Come to think of it, I also did the same with my business. Even when times were slow in the beginning, I did my best to treat each order and customer as though I was already in the bigger business that I wanted. I think with this kind of respect and appreciation for the things we do have, we prepare and make room for the larger things to come.

Since the Rue shoot last year, a few things have changed in my home and the AT House Tour captured nooks and angles that the previous feature didn’t. So feel free to take a peek.

My current rug (Rug USA), updated from the sea foam green one seen in the Rue shoot. I like this one much better. I think the dark gray really grounds the other, brighter prints and hues in the space and makes the couch seem less bland.

A great shot of how I made my TV work within the awesome and newly discontinued : ( Ikea Lack bookshelves.

My mini bar I’ve been curating over the past year or so with a chevron decanter from Cathy. Love those blue straws found on Etsy.

A great view of the dresser layout with those sorta-famous DIY chevron canvases.

Thank you so much Jason and AT team for shooting and featuring my home! Hop over to see the full house tour!

confession

October 24th, 2011   |   Business Advice

I have a confession to make: after four product launches (Ainslie, Belmont, Quincy, and Webster) this fall, I have one more collection to launch, the biggest one yet, and I don’t really feel like finishing it out.

Yep, I’m exhausted from learning how to make great products that are totally outside my realm of previous experience and dealing with all of the issues, delays, details, and inventory. I have stretched myself beyond doing my usual 3 launches a year and went for five in this fall season alone. I’ve been working on these collections since April and I don’t feel like sourcing more lining, finding the last few hardware pieces, and making sure this leather from Italy makes it to Chicago safely. I don’t feel like paying for the leather, and trying to turn this all around in time for the holiday season.

But you know what?

I’m going to do it anyways.

I’m going to finish what I started. All along the way the faith and vision I have for the bags remains incredible in my mind and I still know that these are my favorite products I’ve ever designed. And just because I am tired right now, doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of pushing through and completing them.

I just need to take a deep breath, focus, and just keep going.

 

maggie’s dream report: week twenty

October 21st, 2011   |   Life

Re-frame

Hitting Week 20 is quite the milestone! And to be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this week. In general, the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling grumpy and crappy, like I simultaneously need a nap AND an exciting getaway. But I didn’t want to write another whiny “what am I doing wrong?” post today. It’s time to snap out of that funk.

I’ve had a couple of projects recently hit the skids. Not client projects thank goodness, just things I’ve been trying to get off the ground that are, for whatever reason, not budging. This week I’m between clients so it was a chance to examine those projects again. After a few days (yes, days) of pouting and feeling junky about them (and one in particular), I finally decided enough was enough. I didn’t want to give up on the project, but it was time to admit that the way I’d been approaching it over and over the same way wasn’t working.

It needed to be “re-framed” – or changed enough so that while the soul of the project stays the same, the presentation or pieces of it are different. It changes the project just enough to get it moving again. And the key is, once something has been “re-framed” you don’t go back. No regrets, just lessons learned and on to Plan B.

I had been thinking this way about a specific project, but then it occurred to me that I could be applying my “re-framing” to several parts of my business and life to get me fully out of my funk. My marketing plan has settled into doing the same things and getting the same results. So if I want different (aka BETTER) results, then I should be trying different things. I’ve been a lot better about keeping my business hours during the day and taking time to relax and recharge in the evening, but even that could use some polishing. And yes, my attitude about looking for a part-time job could use re-framing as well.

In the end, it comes down to realizing that just because something isn’t working doesn’t make it a failure. That’s just not how it’s supposed to work. Re-frame.

Maggie Morgan is an interior decorator in Seattle. Visit her website to see her work and read her blog, Maggie Rose.

Recently I’ve been thinking about what I’d do if I was starting out with a brand new business while at a corporate desk job. Don’t ask what exactly prompted this, I think it has something to do with the stories I hear from Business With Intention clients and from our recent Business In The City event.

Although I had an unusually early start with Jess LC as a 15-year-old, I think that a slow but steady Midnight Hustle is totally do-able for those with a yearning to express their creativity, make some extra cash, or even start the process up full-time (eventually).

The steps that I will outline will be based on my own experience from Jess LC over the past 12 years as well as what I know the most, product selling. For this example, I’m going to pretend that I have 40 hour a week day-job that isn’t capturing my interest and a burning desire to make and sell handmade soap. Oh, and I also have just $100 to “invest” in my business.

And of course it goes without saying that the process can take a long time, cost more, or vary from my case study. But this is loosely comparing what I’ve done when I started to what is possible today.

Ready? Let’s start.

Step One: Make Some Soap

The first thing that I would do is learn how to make great soap. Right now eco-friendly, handmade, all natural body products are incredibly popular, so I would start finding formulas online or in books that fit these attributes. I’d invest most of my $100 on the items necessary to make a few dozen bars (I admittedly don’t know the costs associated with soap, but let’s imagine that we can make 50 bars of soap for $50).

After I experiment with the formula itself, I’d find ways to create unique scents because for me, I think that moisture and scent are the most important attributes besides packaging that will sell these puppies. Since the holiday season is coming up, I might craft a two regular scents and a holiday one as well.

Step Two: Design Some Packaging

Okay, assuming that I’ve pretty much perfected my soap formula, I’d then focus on the packaging. At this point I don’t need the worlds best packaging, or branding. I just need elements that are “good enough” to get started.

Because while I can most likely come up with a pretty clever or unique name, most likely that I won’t have the best graphic design skills nor the money to invest in professional boxes. And there is no use delaying a business just because things aren’t perfect right off the bat — they never are. Right now, selling my first bars and getting feedback is all that really matters.

So I’d probably get business cards printed at Vista Print for about $10* with my initial name and logo (made by myself or the most talented person I knew at graphics who would do it for free or for homemade cookies). Because I’m on a budget, I would probably make the business cards pretty and simple enough to double as my labels with soap info on the back so that I could use them in the packaging as well.

Then, I’d probably pick up some simple clear plastic bags used for party favors or something like that at Michael’s or Jo’Ann Crafts. Choosing a spool of ribbon in my company color would allow me to tie the business card/label around the clear plastic bag with the soap inside. It may not be the most elaborate packaging, but it’s useful and keeps costs low.

(Obviously packaging can vary, but the point is to double up utility when you can like the business card / label combo and purchasing packaging that is pretty but in small quantities at big box stores keep things simple and easily changed later when there is money to buy in bulk from more professional packaging suppliers.)

Step Three: Make My First Sales

For pricing, I would take my costs of the soap ($1 in this example) and packaging ($.50) and multiply it by three. $1.50 x 3 = $4.50 per bar. I would also make a three pack of each of the flavors I made that could serve as a holiday gift for $12 – which is just slightly less than the cost of three individual bars.

After I have made my soaps and their prices, I would then start telling my friends, family, and close co-workers (assuming I don’t work for a soap manufacturer) about my new side business. I would share how much fun it was to create the soaps with all the eco-friendly, all natural ingredients and how much I’ve enjoyed using it myself (assuming that I do really like my product – I’d never lie and say it’s great if I personally didn’t like it). And I wouldn’t try to sell anyone the soaps outright, I’d just let my enthusiasm for the process and products sell itself. If you are excited about what you are doing, other people can sense that and may want to seek out the sale themselves.

Though some people may want to avoid this step, I think it can be very positive. The people that know and love you are also the most interested in the new venture you are starting. Especially given that this is a low price item (you aren’t making $600 handbags), a few or even several people are likely to want to buy and try them out.

With Jess LC, I found that in the very beginning and more recently my friends and family were most likely to buy. When I was in the middle, from years 2-10, I found people would support me emotionally, but purchased less often. So be sure to get that initial support via sales in the beginning to get some cash and feedback.

The goal is to have friends, family, and your first customers tell their friends about what you are doing. Word of mouth can be great, especially if your product is good. But also, don’t expect sales to be huge immediately either. You may need to tweak the formula, change the scents, or update the packaging before things pick up more steadily.

I’d also keep all the profits from the first sales in the business. My day-job will continue to fund my life as usual for right now.

Step Four: Figure Out How I Want to Sell to People I don’t Know

After you’ve mastered your first sales via your real life contacts, it’s time to decide which way you want to sell to people you don’t know. The three main ways are: wholesale to stores, direct to customers online, and arts or crafts shows. Below I’ll explain the first steps I’d take for each of those avenues:

Wholesale

For wholesale, I would re-examine my pricing. I would take my costs, $1.50 per bar, and make the wholesale price $3 (or $2.75). Most likely stores will then mark up the soap to $6 or $5.50, depending on your wholesale price.

Then, I’d make sure that my packaging was professional looking enough to sell in a store environment and also that the cards on the soaps did a great job explaining the benefits, ingredients, and scents of my soaps. I’d also probably start a simple blog as my first website and include that url on the card as well so customers could reach out directly to me.

Then, I’d walk into the local stores that sell high end bath products, locally made goods, or all natural products. From here, I recommend reading my advice for getting into stores.

Online

To sell online, I would open an Etsy shop to start. I would get the best possible pictures I could of my products (by asking the best photographer I knew who would do it for cookies or a trade). I’d also get the best header I could, keeping things simple and clean.

After it is live, I would make sure that business cards going forward had the site url on them as well as link them to my blog with soap info.

Then, I’d take the cash I had made from the soap sales so far and purchase a blog ad with a blogger I really liked that had a readership that would appreciate all natural products like mine. I’d also send her a three-pack of soap for herself and for a giveaway on the blog. This would help me get people to my shop. Because I know very well that just having a site or Esty shop is not enough, once it’s there, it is up to me to get the word out about the store.

I’d keep repeating the process above and selling directly to people like in step three.

Art Shows

To find art shows in my area, I’d google around and also ask anyone with their own small business who was local as well. I could imagine that a Farmers Market might also be a great place for me to try out selling my products since they match a lot of the same customers and values that my products have.

 Step Five: Keep Growing

As I got more experience under my belt, I might consider hiring a blog and graphic designer like Danielle, Alaina, or Claudia to make me a beautiful site and header which I could use on my labels and business cards. Branding is a very important part of separating my products from the rest, especially when you are not able to smell them online or test them out a store.

 

So there you have it! I hope that this has given you some insight into the first steps that I took that would also translate to those with day-jobs. The steps I outlined could easily be done after hours or on weekends. But you most importantly need to continue to improve the product and the appearance of the site and packaging, reach out to new people, have fun along the way, and just keep going!

 

* If you google the words “free business cards” Vista Print reliably comes up at the top of the search with a deal for 250 free business cards, you just pay for the shipping. I have used them since college and think the price is great for the very decent quality (if you aren’t a stationery designer, that is).

october/november email intervention

October 19th, 2011   |   Life

The time has come for another Email Intervention!

If you are new to MML you can catch up on my epiphany about why I didn’t really like my job (even though it’s awesome) and why email is a privilege. I strongly believe that the decision to not check email on nights and weekends has been an incredible life changing decision for myself. I believe it is the biggest way that I’ve designed my work/life balance with intention in recent years as well.

At first I thought it was impossible to go without checking email and even somehow “wrong.” But my experience over the past four months has told me quite the opposite.

Now that I limit my email to workdays I have more energy, look forward to work each morning, and am insanely more present in my personal life. I have (sort of) learned to play the guitar, sometimes get bored on weekend afternoons (which is fantastic, it gives me the chance to really look forward to work), and I don’t have the urge to check email at a restaurant table while my friend is in the bathroom.

Since doing the monthly two-week Email Interventions on MML, I’ve gotten some great feedback from other MML readers as well about their own experience:

Sarah’s Insights

“To get more accomplished and check email, I found myself waking up earlier, eager to see what had arrived the night before. My body clock is shifting, and that’s probably a good thing.

My favorite moment in the whole challenge: my non-smart-phone husband and I went on a date and he suggested leaving our phones at home. Normally, I would have said no. But the email challenge helped me say yes! I loved that, even for our quick dinner, we had each others’ full attention.”

- Sarah

Erin’s Insights

“Throughout the two week intervention I sometimes found myself opening my work email and beginning to log in. It was so weird because I didn’t even think about it. Suddenly my brain would start thinking about work and suddenly I was opening up my email. Because of your intervention though I would catch myself rather than allowing myself to become absorbed by my job at all hours of the night. So there I would sit, staring at the log in page and asking myself, “why?”.

Why did I feel a sudden need to check my work email…

  • Was I hoping to get something done? Not really.
  • Was I looking to fill the time with something random? Yes, sometimes it was nice to have something to do rather than fill that time with something meaningful for me.
  • Was it necessary? Not at all.
  • Did it cause problems? Actually, yes it did. My boyfriend repeatedly mentioned that I checked my work email too often and I noticed that even though I would plan on just “seeing what was in there” I found myself responding to emails and working on projects for 30, 40, 50 minutes and suddenly I was working and worried about projects and deadlines and everything else.

Essentially, this bad habit was taking away from my personal time, and you know what? My manager wasn’t demanding or even asking me to check my email every night.”

- Erin

And if none of those motivations strike a chord, maybe Jon Acuff’s out of control inbox does.

Take the Email Intervention Two Week Pledge

For any or all of these reasons above, I hope that you will join me on a two week fast from email on nights and weekends between October 24th and November 7th. You can alter the Intervention slightly for your own personal reasons or even use the Intervention for sites like Facebook instead if that is something you struggle with taming. I just urge you to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone and really re-engage with life outside your computer or smart phone.

And if you’ve already taken the pledge before, feel free to comment and do it again!

To be included on the intervention, please comment on this post before Friday, October 21st. I will be sending out four emails during the two weeks with tips and insights regarding the Intervention.

(And it’s all totally free, I see this as my Public Service Announcement.)

I hope you join and send this post to friends, family, or co-workers who might also be interested in breaking the email addiction!

 

rejoice in your suffering

October 18th, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

 

This morning I had an “aha moment” that I’d like to share. It all came from something that Joyce Meyer mentioned in a recent show about the bible passage regarding “rejoicing in your suffering.” (As you may know, I’m not Christian, but I was raised Catholic and I have continued to study spiritual teachings of all kinds.)

I knew of this phrase about suffering for many years, but I don’t think I ever fully grasped the implications on my daily life. I always felt like the idea of “rejoicing in suffering” meant that I should be happy about the suffering, to be thankful for it. And for obvious reasons, this never really sounded that appealing to me. Sure, it would be a fantastically spiritual to be thanking Life for suffering while I was in it, but never something I thought I could genuinely achieve.

However, this morning I realized that the passage doesn’t have to mean that I’m being happy because of hardship, but rather that I can be happy during tough times.

I don’t need to be a Super Human unaffected by negative feelings and emotions during trouble. But I can learn to be happy while negative things happen. I don’t have to be happy because of bad things, but I also don’t have to be locked in to only feeling good or bad based on the presence or absence of suffering.

Now that I think of it, even Stephen Covey in you guessed it says something very similar. In his book he shares that a dear friend who went through agonizing pain and suffering during her battle with terminal cancer remained positive and upbeat despite her failing health and eventual death. It wasn’t that she was happy because of the cancer, she was happy independent of it. The ability to shift focus in tough times is the essence of pro-activity, Covey explains.

So for me in my daily life, I’m refocusing on this idea. I want to be better about challenges and learn how to create a space around my Core which can be insulated from positive or negative events that happen to me. That I can fill that Core with a peacefulness that remains unswayed when the winds blow. I’m sure this will be a tough process to fully integrate into my life, but one that ultimately could help me a great deal.

 

Jess LC pop up shop this saturday

October 17th, 2011   |   Life

After the success of the first Jess LC Pop Up Shop earlier this summer we are doing another this Saturday in Chicago’s Millennium Park! It will be a part of the Style Chicago event in the huge tent on Chase Promenade North (the south side of the silver Bean) from 10a – 6p.

And… as a little extra bonus, if you come in and mention this post we’ll give you five dollars off your purchase!

 

hello there!

October 17th, 2011   |   Life

Well, hello there! I have been in such a rush launching the recent collections, growing Business in the City, prepping for our next collection (due out in November), and so forth that I feel like it would be great to fill you in on my life lately and my current intentions.

First, I will say that I had a fantastic time celebrating my 27th birthday over the weekend with my dear “sister” (we aren’t really sisters, but almost as close), Carol Beth and her husband in Rochester, Michigan. Mr. Lively and I had a great time and I got to show him my childhood hometown.

As far as my birthday goes, I am taking this as a great opportunity to sit back and make a mission statement for myself. It is something heavily stressed in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but oddly something I only did in college. Recently I have been a bit intimidated by the prospect of distilling my overall life purpose, values, and goals into just a few paragraphs. I think that I’ve honestly been worried that if I really write them down that I will then be held accountable to fulfill them at every moment of my life.

To help myself shake off this perfectionism, I’m now re-framing the activity in my mind to be my “Intention Statement.” This way I intend to let the thoughts guide me, keeping in mind that I may not always be 100% perfect all of the time. When it’s ready I’ll be sure to share here on MML.

As far as Jess LC goes, things have been going well! There are times when I definitely feel over my head, lost, frustrated, and confused. But then there are also moments of clarity, excitement, and awe at how much the company has evolved this year. So in general I kind of feel like a new mom must feel. The challenges are there, but so are the moments of bliss.

I’m looking forward to January to look back and reflect on all that has happened and craft the vision for 2012. At so many points this year I have questioned what I’ve been doing and whether I should have held back, done less, or been safer. But each time I face those fears and push forward. I am using this year as a (calculated) experiment. And when the dust settles after the holiday season I’ll be able to see what is really possible when you give a company like this all that you have to give.

As for this week, things are already picking up! I have an exciting photo shoot of my apartment on Thursday. And on Saturday we are having a Jess LC Pop Up Shop in Millennium Park.

So there you have it! I am so happy to have the opportunity to fill you in and share this journey with you. It’s meant so much to me and I am so thankful for MML and this amazing group of people who are also designing their lives with intention.

 

maggie’s dream report: week nineteen

October 14th, 2011   |   Life

Self-Educating

There’s a reason he’s one of the greats! Room by decorator Billy Baldwin from the 1970′s (though it looks current!)

Like much of the Western World, I was saddened and touched by the recent passing of Steve Jobs. It surprised me, in a way, just how much it affected me – I didn’t know him, and didn’t particularly think about him much when he was alive. But as someone with a purpose and drive he made an impression on me.

In the days after his death I saw his Stanford address for the first time, read inspiring quotes from his speeches and interviews, and started to piece together what impressed me so. His ability to think outside the box. His striving for the perfect product. Always trying something new. He changed the face of technology and then continued to improve and shape it.

Now, I’m not a software engineer (I’ll leave that to my boyfriend) but it made me think a lot about interior design and what “making an impact” means in my industry. I realized that for me, it’s not enough to spend an entire career just “making things pretty” but rather to change what design IS. To do something new and different. Try new ideas and create new trends, not just follow them. I don’t want to be satisfied with putting the latest “hot” fabric on a pillow, painting the walls the “in” color, and making a “nice” or “cute” room. I want people to walk into a room that I designed and say “WOW!”

So, um, how exactly do I plan to start doing that?

There are lots of nasty arguments on the internet about the difference between the term “decorator” and the term “designer” (for the record, I am a decorator) that primarily has to do with education. For the sake of staying on topic, we’re tossing that out the window right now. What I’m talking about is SELF-educating.

The difference between a good decorator and a GREAT decorator comes from, I think, the ability to start trends and predict trends and not just follow them. In order to do so, I think it’s key to have a fundamental understanding of what came before you, what’s going on around you, and how to tap into your creative voice that says, “To hell with it all, paint it red!”

Since going back to school isn’t something that I’m interested in right now, my plan is to voraciously learn all about design on my own. Sure, I am a good decorator and I can think outside the box once in a while. But I want to understand where the design trends of today are coming from, what they’re building off of, and where they might go next. By looking back into the history of design and significant designers, I think I’ll gain insight and add a layer of depth to my work that is only hinted at right now.

My curriculum:

  • The work of past designers, notably Billy Baldwin, Dorothy Draper, David Hicks, and Albert Hadley.
  • The work of current designers that I admire, notably Miles Redd, Steven Gambrel, Molly Luetkemeyer, Kelly Wearstler (so crazy, but she’s just light-years ahead of us), Mary McDonald, Thomas O’Brien.
  • Architecture
  • Art history
  • Textiles – design, manufacturing, history, etc.
  • (more to be added!)

My materials:

  • The library (basically everything I can read)
  • The internet
  • Job shadow or tours
  • Hands on – Dying to learn to paint, for instance

Ideally we’d be adding some “travel” in there too, but from my last post you’re right to assume that it’s just not in the budget now (although we are planning a visit to New York in the spring and I will be making the most of it!).

My hope is that studying the work of the designers whose footsteps in which I wish to follow will open my eyes and brain in a way that will make me a better decorator. And that I’ll always strive to be better and to learn more and not be satisfied with just doing well, but instead always be trying to improve and grow.

Maggie Morgan is an interior decorator in Seattle. Visit her website to see her work and read her blog, Maggie Rose.

Earlier this week I did a pretty good job covering how I grew Jess LC‘s online shop for Anja over at A Heart and Soul Story. She kindly allowed me to re-post my response here as well because she thought it would help MML readers and Midnight Hustlers.

How I Succeeded at Marketing and Selling Online.

One of the most popular questions I am asked about my company, Jess LC, and my blog Makeunder My Life (MML) how I managed to grow the business’s online sales via social media and blogging. It is overall a great question to ask, and one that many entrepreneurs would like to replicate with their own businesses, if possible.

And for some reason whenever I’m asked to think about this and explain my “methods” or “tactics” I hesitate and feel a bit uneasy about it. It’s not that it’s some big secret that I hide, it’s that it was never a planned out, methodical strategy to begin with. So it feels like I should be telling them what my Game Plan was when I started this online venture, but the truth is that I didn’t have one.

I just started sharing my story online, started to spend my time online, and started to connect with people online.

I was being myself and doing my thing on the internet the same way that I would do so in real life. I wasn’t just trying to get sales, I was being myself and getting to know people and I tried to make a difference. I knew that I wanted to help people design lives with intention, I believe that that is my calling and purpose in life. I figured out through trial and error that blogging about this would be a way to help people in a large way without having a book deal, media agent, or huge following. I had a blank post to show up to each day and I shared what I had to offer on MML.

Because I found blogging as the best way to reach people with my purpose, I also started to advertise Jess LC, the company, on blogs as well. I was a huge blog reader myself at the time, and I thought it would be great to introduce people to my goods on the blogs that I loved the most. Advertising for Jess LC was very successful when I worked with large blogs with large audiences. Giveaways were great too.

I also became friends with many bloggers, some were just starting out along with me, some had big followings which I met through my Jess LC sponsorships, and some because I simply emailed and introduced myself. As we became better friends, it made sense to me to try to bring my brand to life by asking some of the fashion bloggers to be models for lookbooks for my new collections. And that also ended up spreading my business around the web more as well. And again, I continued to show up and help people design lives with intention day in and day out on MML.

In order to meet and connect with readers and customers I also started to get on Twitter and Facebook as well. It’s not that those sites “made me successful” but they gave me a channel to talk to people quickly and easily that wanted to reach me. Do I use the sites very often? Truthfully, no. I don’t go on as much as many business owners do, but I think they are overall helpful for me to say hi to people and share what we are doing in the studio. And of course the good old business email newsletter is still a great way to announce new launches and deals to my customers as well.

But more than any of those things individually, I succeeded because I spent the time being myself and sharing my purpose and business. I spend most of my day online interacting with readers, customers, writing posts, making graphics, and reading other blogs. I get tons of my inspiration for new products via blogs, and I love chatting with friends via Twitter and email. These are the things that I like to do naturally, so it is easy for me to do them consistently and with success.

So all in all, there isn’t a Right Way to succeed at selling and marketing online as much as it is about loving what you are doing, connecting with people in that space, and being yourself. No one can replicate what I’ve done specifically because what I’ve done is organic and completely my own, developed over three years of steady effort. But, on the flip side, what you are able to accomplish by being yourself and sharing your unique business and passions with the online world is equally unlimited. So just get started and see where it leads. The more “you” you are online, the more customers will trust and respect you and your business.

 

makeunder my finances: epic vs. enough

October 13th, 2011   |   Life

Epic vs. Enough

Hi MML, it’s Cathy from Fiscally Chic with another post about finance with intention. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I recently attended the inaugural Financial Blogger Conference. It was an amazing experience. I made new friends, learned more about blogging in a weekend than I have the in past year, and am inspired to make my blog even better for my readers.

One of the other takeaways from the conference was from the final speaker, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. He challenged us to “Be EPIC!” Be noteworthy. Be amazing. Be shareable. Make the message epic. And make the delivery epic. The phrase “Be EPIC!” has been haunting my thoughts for the past few weeks.

abbydays Etsy listing

I also noticed that many of the male presenters talked about making more money, developing products, and/or growing your product and brand. While many of the blogs of female speakers were about saving money or being frugal. Yes, I generally fall into the second camp. So I got to thinking, I need to think like a guy more often. Cutting costs in my budget only gets me so far. The better way to increase my net income is by earning more income. I need to take ownership of my skills and do more. It’s OK to make money! I don’t want to just get by, I want to be epic!

Which is interesting because I’ve been mulling over Christine Mighion’s comment from one of my first contributor posts for the past few months too:

It’s my experience that money and how you feel about it is an attitude. I have lived hand to mouth and abundantly. I find abundance much more fun and it’s truly wonderful to give back and share this abundance. I think you should be smart with your money, but do enjoy it!

In that post, I talked about being happy with “enough.” I’ve never been poor or had to live hand to mouth, and I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be greedy and ask for a mansion, private island, and expensive car. I just want enough money so that I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t really like budgeting. I’d rather make more money than I spend, instead of trying to spend less that I make. And yes, having more money means I can give back to others and my favorite charities. I noted in the comments that my husband and I are both savers by nature, but also enjoy some of those savings on nice dinners at restaurants, trips, etc. It’s all about finding the balance that’s right for you between saving and spending.

But this question is still in my mind. Does being happy with “enough” put limitations on myself? In thinking about differences between men and women, it seems like some women set wimpy goals in comparison to men. In the job world, part of the reason women don’t get paid as much as men is because women generally don’t expect to get paid as much as men. Women are told to be appreciative and not be greedy. But it seems like this line of thinking can cause women to undervalue themselves. And this thinking will cost women thousands of dollars over their professional lives. According to Forbes.com, “By not negotiating their salaries, many women sacrifice more than half a million dollars by the end of their professional lives.” That’s serious money.

As a business owner or employee, I challenge you to know your worth! Learn to negotiate. Take pride in your work. Really know your customer and offer them an amazing product. If you believe in yourself and have confidence, it will shine through in your work.

Here are a few amazing articles about earning more money:

Do you struggle with the balance between epic and enough?

Thanks to the great response to the first Business in the City event we had in October (we had 18 wonderful people!), I am going to have it again in November. My hope is that this meet up group for people with business ideas and business questions can be a roughly once a month event at Next Door.

The November event will also be at 659 W. Diversey from 6:30-8:00 (feel free to come late or leave early if you need to)- only this time we are going to have it in the main space rather than the conference room to have more room to move around and chat with one another.

Friends are welcome and you can always pass this on to anyone you know who is a Midnight Hustler, small business owner, or someone who just has an idea they are daydreaming about at their desk job.

We’ll do a round of introductions, open it up to general questions, and then split into smaller groups based on specific topics.

Feel free to comment if you plan on coming!

my pretty powerful person (and giveaway)

October 12th, 2011   |   Life

Recently the crew at Bobbi Brown asked me to participate in a campaign to feature Pretty Powerful women from all walks of life. And though the obvious benefits – the ability to get and give a custom makeup palette to the person I chose and to a reader on MML was exciting, I really got on board when I thought of who I wanted to share as my inspiration.

You see, the pretty powerful woman I chose doesn’t really know me, and I don’t know her extremely well.

And she has no idea that I’m featuring her today.

But that doesn’t mean that she is not someone I deeply respect and cannot wait to share here on MML. A lot the time when I think about designing my life with intention I tend to focus on myself and what I want for my life. And though I do a good job thinking about contribution and giving back as well, this woman I want to bless has taken the “design your life” concept to a truly inspiring level.

My Pretty Powerful Woman – Casey Chappell

Casey Chappell, a talented photographer, wife, and mother of three from Fort Worth, Texas has a lot to be proud of and thankful for. She’s seen her share of hardship after losing her son Asher and has since adopted two children and is in the process of adopting two more from the Congo. So in just a short time she will be the mother of four babies under the age of three.

And she and her husband are doing this on a real-life budget. She has been raising money via Gift Baskets on her blog to help pay for the staggering medical and adoption costs.

She’s doing whatever she can to make a difference, and I think that is the most genuine power you can have. I also imagine with the hectic life she has, that this makeup might actually be a welcome treat that she can enjoy all for herself. Spending so much time thinking about her young ones must be exhausting while arranging for the new babies to arrive.

So Casey, here’s to you and your amazing journey! I can’t wait to send you a little surprise thanks to the Pretty Powerful campaign.

To see and vote for the Pretty Powerful women that Bobbi Brown is featuring, hop over here.

And now it’s time to share how you can win your own Bobbi Brown palette…

Bobbi Brown Pretty Powerful Giveaway

So again, as stated above, this giveaway is taking place over on Twitter. You can find me at @JessConstable and please remember to use the hashtag #prettypowerful. I’ll be announcing the winner via Twitter on October 19th.

Second and third photos source, Casey Chappell

Jess LC stationery

October 11th, 2011   |   Life

I have big news! I’ve been working over the past few months with Claudia Smith, the amazingly talented stationery designer behind Fig. 2 Design Studio to create a collaborative limited edition line of note cards for Jess LC!

The two metallic foil card styles, Cheers and Merci, come in single flat cards ($3) and eight card sets ($14) along with coral envelopes in keeping with our signature color.

It was so much fun to work with Claudia on this project. When I came upon her shop earlier this summer I was immediately struck by her talent and amazing products and I knew that I wanted to pair with her to create our cards. Our individual styles are unique but also overlap in that we both love fresh, clean, bright design. Working with her to make cards in my all time favorite color combo, white and gold, was a dream come true. And to mix it with our coral from Jess LC made the blend of Fig. 2 Design Studio and our shop seamless.

As for the intention behind the designs, I wanted to make sure that the phrases we chose would work for a variety of occasions. In fact, we designed our lookbook around this theme to show the many ways these cute cards can be used again and again.

Here are a few pics from the lookbook,

And as with the Quincy and Belmont lookbooks, I went straight to Danielle Moss of Breakfast at Toast to shoot the lookbook photos for Webster. She did such a fantastic job (I can’t say enough about her work for others looking for a photographer for business, home, or family). And I adored getting her little Buddy into the shoot as well.

To see the full lookbook, scroll the images below.

 

Thanks so much for following me along on this journey over the summer, I know that I haven’t revealed much, but hopefully the wait has been worth it!

 

makeunder your distractions

October 10th, 2011   |   Business AdviceLife


I came across this video on Rockstar Diaries this morning and thought it was a pretty interesting (read: kinda extreme) way to makeunder distractions. For me, the idea of letting go of distractions is great, but I find that my email intervention is a great method to calm the distractions in my off hours. Any other distraction techniques out there working well?

maggie’s dream report: week eighteen

October 7th, 2011   |   Life

Are you a success or a failure?

How do you measure success? Is it being free to do your own thing, enjoying the work that you do, or spending quality time with your loved ones? Or does it maybe have (just a little) something to do with money?

Here’s the tricky thing with working for yourself: I’ve been busy. I’ve gotten guest post spots. I’ve had more readers to my blog. I’ve had more clients, and been featured on blogs that seem to (really!) like what I do. But I’m making about the same amount from my business now than I was from business activities when I was working a cubicle job 4 days a week. Sure, I’ve made a couple extra hundred dollars a month, but I haven’t met my financial goals – as in, my just bread-and-butter goals.

Do I feel like a success? Not right now. But yet, re-read the first part of that paragraph: I’ve been busy. I’ve gotten guest post spots. I’ve had more readers to my blog. I’ve had more clients, and been featured on blogs that seem to (really!) like what I do.

Sounds pretty successful.

When I’ve sheepishly admitted to other entrepreneurs (new and old alike) that I’m barely making any money, they nod in understanding. So at the very least, I don’t feel totally alone. But come bill time, I’m starting to sweat and I wonder how other people do it. How do they get by? Wealthy husbands? Fifty grand in the bank? Massive piles of debt? Sure, one of the reasons I’m able to take this leap and not totally drown is because Ryan is working full-time. But he’s not making a ton and it would be nice to be putting money INTO savings and not just taking it OUT. Luckily something always comes through at the last moment, but not before a few sleepless nights.

We’ve talked a lot recently about me taking on a part-time job close to home while the business is still getting off the ground. But the very act of looking for jobs makes me feel like a big fat failure. Writing it on here makes me feel like a loser. I don’t want to make coffee or file other people’s papers or wear business attire I want to be working on my OWN business! The few jobs I’ve been interested in I’m probably not qualified for.

If success is a measurement, then to determine whether or not I’m succeeding or failing, I need to know what I’m measuring. At the beginning of 2011 I wrote a business plan – mostly for my own interests as I wasn’t approaching financial backers. I set statistical goals of every sense. And by August, I’d blown every one of them out of the water. My goals for number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers – passed and doubled. My goals for monthly visits, passed. My goal for record number of hits on one day, hit in June. My etsy sales (before dwindling and the shop closure last month) had already surpassed 2010′s revenue. But design clients (where the majority of my income should be coming from) show only a slight up-tick, despite my optimistic projections in January of 2011. And here I am, four months into Living the Dream and I’m wondering if I should be perfecting my espresso skills.

So I guess what I’m looking for from you, readers, is: What makes a person successful? If you’re an entrepreneur, how scary is the money part? Were you making ANY money the first year? And if you’re hoping to be an entrepreneur, are you socking away every penny you can while you’re still working a day job? Every dollar comes in handy, you can take it from me!

Maggie Morgan is an interior decorator in Seattle. Visit her website to see her work and read her blog, Maggie Rose.

my guru is a five year old

October 6th, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

Sorry for the delay on the post. This morning Danielle and I were shooting the next lookbook for the new Jess LC collection debuting next week. The shoot is a bit different this time compared to past lookbooks due to the nature of the products, so I can’t wait to reveal the collection!

Now it’s time to talk about my new little inspirational guru. Though there are many ideas out there on ways to give thanks from blessing books to grace at mealtime, Jessica’s methods (shown below) have far and away been most joyful and gratitude inducing for me.

I first revisited this video as Mr. Lively started mimicking her gratitude for things in our own lives and over the past week or so (including the fist pumps) and it’s become a running joke as well as a positive way to talk about good things in our lives.

Today on my morning run, I started to (silently) use her singsong style to give thanks for things in my own life. And you know what? It actually got me smiling grinning. I found this little tactic actually helped brighten my mood more than any other gratitude method before. And I wasn’t in a negative mood when I started, but the silent singing took me from happy to practically ecstatic.

Try it. It is certainly silly, but I think that’s half the magic.

And… Thanks to Adore Magazine!

Also, one of my things to be thankful for is a recent feature in Adore Magazine’s new issue! Thank you so much Rebecca for the wonderful shout out for our new Quincy Coin Purses.

PS – We got the gold/fuchsia and eggplant/fuchsia back in stock!

makeunder my wardrobe: step four

October 5th, 2011   |   ExfoliatingLifeWardrobe

First, I’d like to say a quick thank you to all of you who showed up last night at the first Business in the City event! I had such a great time meeting you all and hearing more about the businesses you are starting or thinking about starting. I’ll be posting in the weeks to come about the next event, right now I’m thinking that they will be roughly once a month.

And now, it’s time to get back to wrap up the makeunder of my wardrobe. So for those who are coming in a bit late to the party, here’s what I’ve covered so far:

Step One: Create a Vision

Step Two: Exfoliate Stuff

Step Three: Identify Intentional Obsessions

This final step is about reflecting on the progress that was made and continuing to reflect in the future.

Here is the before closet:

And here is the after:

Though there isn’t a drastic change, I can tell just by looking at the photos that I did accomplish what I set out to do; create a more dynamic closet by adding pieces that would take my basics to a new level. The red, mint, darker plaid, and dotted top all add some great new options for cardigans and jeans.

And… to follow up on step three, I found the perfect new boots to replace my sold out Tory Burch obsession.

These Etienne Aigner boots from Macy’s were a mere $159 compared to Tory’s $495 boots – which to me totally makes them a save. I love this new pair because it has so many of the features I loved about the expensive pair – durable brown leather, curved top, low heel, logo detail, and clean lines.

In fact, I saved so much on those new shoes that I decided to splurge a little on another pair of flats as well:

These Franco Sarto leopard flats were originally $89 on sale for $62 at Macy’s. I love the leopard print paired with a trim of black patent leather. Already I can see how mixing these shoes into my wardrobe is again, taking my basics to a new level.

Going forward, I plan to keep my list of intentional obsessions in mind when I go shopping throughout the rest of the year. But I also know that there isn’t that much to be added… so the lure of shopping isn’t quite what it used to be.

In general, I’d like to do this kind of makeunder to my wardrobe each spring and fall to really get a handle on what I want my wardrobe to be like, what I don’t need any longer, and what I do want to add.

I hope that you enjoyed seeing my makeunder take shape and maybe even got a few ideas on how you can do the same thing to your own closet at some point down the road.

business in the city – tonight!

October 4th, 2011   |   Business AdviceLife


The big day is finally here! Well, sort of. It’s time for the first Business in the City event in Chicago at Next Door from 6-7. Please feel free to bring business questions, business cards, business ideas, and/or treats to share (the event is totally free). We’ll be in the awesome room in the back of the building.

Tonight will be a great chance to see if this kind of thing is something worth doing on a regular basis. So if you like this idea, please come and let me know!

And to those in other cities, I don’t have any grand plan with this, but I definitely would one day like to see it in other large cities. And maybe at some point in the future it may even pop up online.

 

the girl effect

October 4th, 2011   |   Life

Recently I was asked to share The Girl Effect and though I typically try to keep things beyond the scope of designing a life with intention to a minimum, this video got my attention.

As I sit here thinking about what to write or “share” about the movement, everything I think of just kind of seems silly because the powerful video does a far better job than I could. So I’ll leave it at this:

Please check out the video and find out more about The Girl Effect.

unintentional, but awesome: guy on a buffalo

October 3rd, 2011   |   Life

Over the years I’ve evolved the focus of MML to be more and more pointed to the theme of “designing a life with intention.” And in many ways, it’s a great shift for the blog. But lately I’ve been finding some other, not-so-intentional, things that I’d like to share. So for the next week or so, I’ll be posting things on topics totally unrelated to intentions. Because in real life I’m not always thinking intentionally, and I’d like to share my less serious side.

First up, my very favorite current favorite You Tube video found via Jon Acuff.

And don’t worry, there will still be a good mix of intentional posts coming up, too.

[download full-size wallpaper]

Happy October! This is one of my favorite months of the year. My birthday, pumpkin flavored treats, fall leaves, and cooler weather all combine perfectly during these 31 days.

This month’s wallpaper quote comes from, you guessed it, my favorite book. I really want to take the time this month to figure out what is most important and make sure that I make time for those things. Yoga, for example, has been on my list of activities to do for more than a year. But I have pushed it back over and over again because I haven’t made my schedule work around that priority. It’s time for me to make that priority before the schedule gets filled.

Click here to get the full-size image.

 

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