Friday, August 29, 2008

The mobile business

I am posting this from a car zooming 75mph through the desert of Eastern Oregon. I have been away from home all week, on the road for 8-10 hours a day. I've made sales from my shop, replied to queries from customers and taken on two new wholesale accounts.

I may go on vacation but my shop never closes.

With today's technology there is almost no excuse for not keeping your shop open 365 days a year. Closing your shop puts you at risk of losing precious sales momentum and we all know how hard it is to build that momentum. I'm not saying there is never a legitimate time when you truly are on vacation, I'm referring to closing up shop every time you leave home for a few days.

Every year for Thanksgiving my family goes to the Oregon coast to a house that has few digital amenities. The first year I opened my Etsy shop I would "close shop" when I went away. As there was no internet access at this house I did the same. Big mistake. All the momentum and sales I had gained during this critical holiday sales period vanished and I feel I really missed out on Christmas sales that year.

As I have gotten more technically savvy (due mainly to my tech savvy spousal unit) I see how simple it is to keep things running smoothly. Even at 75mph through the desert.

The key is merely communication. I put an announcement in my shop that I am gone but I am open for business and will ship items when I return. When I make a sale I convo each customer in case they didn't see my notice, and to apologize for the delay.

Use every gadget you own to it's fullest capability. If you want to be a professional business learn and love your gadgets. You can email customers, post blog articles, update your website, upload pictures to Flickr (more on this later) and your customers need not even know you are away from the "office"

This can be done quickly and with no fancy gadgets. Whether you go to a local library or an internet cafe, or have mobile wireless access with an aircard (as I do now), it only takes a hour at the end of the day to keep things running.

Next time I'll go into more in detail about how many different ways to utilize your gadgets and keep your business running smoothly even when you're on the road!

As I read this more than 3 years later it's amazing how far technology has progressed and me with it. while many of the tips I posted here are no longer very valid the over-all idea is still the same. Use your technology to make your life easier, not harder!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day 2 p.m. Grand Lodge

The Grand Lodge McMenamins was originally a Masonic retirement home, built in 1922. The Masons know how to treat their people right (and their families) and this building is proof. As opposed to Edgefield, which was a poor farm, the residents here were much better off. It was in use up until 1999 when a new facility was built and the McMenamins brothers worked their magic. (below; a sitting room across from front desk)

Well it was still hot as hell at check in (no joke, still over 100, and that's HOT for western Oregon standards) and we were moving a bit more slowly after our evening at Edgefield. While the gang napped away the heat of the day I did my wandering, camera in one hand, cold beer in another.

Most of the artwork illustrates the formers residents of the Lodge, some of them quite the characters. Here is "Cookie" as the Queen of Hearts. She lived to be over 100 years old. Notice the little chocolate chip cookies in her middle.

You know this old gal must have been famous for her cakes!

Some of the best artwork is in the basement. Home to two of the property's 3 bars, a spa and a soaking pool, the ceiling pipes and maze-like nature allow for plenty of creativity. The heat rather ruined our appetites for dinner so we had milk shakes instead and listened to a bluegrass band.

We were all still feeling the heat but felt bad hanging out in the basement bar all day so we ventured out to the outdoor bar The Yardhouse. We still weren't hungry until the server told us the special was sliced watermelon! How perfect is that!

So as the sun set (and cooled off maybe 5 degrees) we ate our juicy treat and listened to a rather entertaining dual of the wedding bands. There were only 3 weddings going on at the Lodge, two of them outdoors and on either side of the bar. We enjoyed a number of butchered 80's songs before we decided to call it a night and be ready to depart in the morning.

Luckily, the ride home was cooler and much faster than the car-fire laden ride down!

Many more pictures here

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 2 - Edgefield and Ringlers

The main attraction to the McMenamins sites is the history. They take old, usually run down buildings and estates, renovate them and them incorporate the history of the place and the people into the artwork that covers every square inch of the property. Every guestroom is named after a person and their history is painted onto the walls inside. Edgefield was a poor farm in the early 1900s and later a rest home.

This is part of the story of our room… a black man who fought in the civil war, lived in Tombstone at the time of the OK Corral shooting, and arrived in Portland to work at a renowned, black owned and operated hotel before ending up at the Edgefield poor farm.

Bloody Marys with breakfast then down to the pool hall for some pool, shuffleboard and pinball (now that is had cooled off a bit over night). Notice the egg the chicken has laid.

After checking out I wandered the property and gardens and explored.

Our next check in wasn’t until 3pm so we decided to hit a couple locations in downtown Portland (and the likeliest air-conditioned ones!). We made it into Ringlers Pub and the Ringlers Annex (the best part of the Annex is the Cellar, an awsome tiny spot with a European feel. Second photo below)

Unfortunately the Crystal Ballroom upstairs (an historic music venue) was closed for a wedding. The temperature downtown was intense to say the least. After a late lunch we continued across town to the Grand Lodge, our final destination.

The heat of the day and last night’s drinking caught up with us so we all checked in and decided to take a nap to recharge for the evening. But I’ll save that for later!

Many more pictures here…

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 1 - Nightmare on I-5

The four of us left on time and ready to go! We’d told our friends so much about these places and were eager to finally show them. Our excitement lasted about an hour. Traffic was horrendous. A parking lot. Worse than that Thanksgiving Day trip that took us 12 hours instead of 6. Was it a holiday? No. Did a baseball game just let out? No. Accident?

Yup. A large crane, the big, city kind, had caught fire and was a melted wreck on the highway. Now the temperature is creeping up too, but we expected that. Traffic is still crawling. Another accident, this time a city bus was on fire, the whole thing a charred mess. Now the temperature is 100.

We crawl along at a snail’s pace in the unbearable heat until we pass another fire! This one looks like a vehicle caught on fire, then started fires on both sides of the highway. They had just re-opened the road or we would have been at a stand-still the whole time.

What should have taken an easy 4 hours took 7 but we finally arrived. And there is no parking. I mean there are so many people here (4 weddings per day plus conferences) that they had to direct us to park in a neighboring field! I didn’t think to drop everyone off at the door with our bags so we lugged them across the field in the 105 degree heat. But we made it and cold beer is only moments away! (below, side entrance and the Black Rabbit Restaurant)

We check in, dump our bags and practically run to the basement pub where we assume it will be coolest. Wrong! It’s a stifling coffin down there. We’re hungry too but at least we have beer in hand now and we go in search of a cooler spot.(And you can wander the entire estate with your beverages!). At last we find a seat in one of the bars, directly underneath a wheezing, dying AC unit. Heaven at last!

Let the good times roll! We polished off our fantastic dinners in record time and washed it all down with more deliciously cold, handcrafted beer. Part of our room package included a bottle of wine and a cheese tray in the winery so we rushed off, with full bellies, to consume it before they closed. Our server was cranky at out late arrival but we showed her what we were capable of and devoured it in the 15 minutes we had left. Deeeelicous! A cool chardonnay with brie, grapes and crackers.

Afterwards we wandered the property, showing our friends the sites and enjoying the slightly cooler nighttime air. There was the Jerry Garcia bar (their fav, see weather van above), a tiny little cozy, hippy den that played Grateful Dead videos all night. Then we went up to the Distillery for a cigar and a shot of whiskey. It’s at the edge of the property near the golf course and you could feel the cool air from the sprinklers coming down the hill. Everyone sat outside on the benches near (but not too close!) a large bonfire. Incredibly, one of our party actually worked up an appetite for a midnight snack so we hit another restaurant and helped him polish off a sandwich. My memory gets a bit hazy at this point but I don’t think any of us lasted much longer. (Here is one of the many balconies available for general settin' and drinkin")

Off to bed! We have most of the next day to see everything in the daylight and do everything we missed because of our late arrival.

More pictures here!

Friday, August 15, 2008

McMenamins, here we come!

My family has an unhealthy attraction to the McMenamins hotels. In a few hours my sweetie and I, and another couple are heading to Portland for a long weekend of McMenamins exploration and fun! The properties are just amazing, they make their own beer and wine, food is great but it's the art work that really thrills me...

No surface is left bare. A flaw (fuse box) is turned into a work of art. Each property (the resorts, not the strip mall restaurants) is historic and they have painted the history all over the whole estate.

Our friends have never been to one (gasp!) and my sweetie and I were looking for an excuse to go back to Edgefield (the property where his brother got married) so here we go!

Tonight we stay at Edgefield, the McMenamins flagship. Saturday we stay at the Grand Lodge across town. There are many other awesome properties in town that we're hoping to check out too.

Well enough chatter, I have to pack! I'll be back with some amazing photos and details about the history of each place (and maybe a quart of their delicious Ruby Red ale!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to School, again and again

New dress, new shoes, crisp, new paper and unsharpened, un-chewed pencils. New friends, new teachers, more homework, less free time, rainy day recess. New schools, daisy chains, soggy lunch bags, school bus drivers.

Old friends, new crushes, new clothes, new fashions, new pimples. Laughing hard, crying hard, good friends, bad grades, bad study habits. First car, first kiss, first broken heart, first time up all night reading.

First apartment, good courses, great professors, love of learning, new experiences, learning to write better, better grades, reading evolves into bibliophilia, first love, second broken heart. Horizons widened, focus narrowed, Learning to be athletic, getting accustomed to being more outgoing, meeting new people. Lots of roommates, lots of soap operas, lots of final exams and lots of tequila.

Back to school, still love learning, impatient with the young, more patient with myself, professors as peers, self-satisfaction, Dean's list. Less traffic, less theft, more quiet. More new experiences, new skills, new craft, new confidence, new directions, new horizons. New hope. New job, new dress, new shoes….

I will always, for as long as my mind is able, go back to school.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mouse Pad Mania

I love making these mouse pads. Everything about the process is so colorful. Making the envelopes, choosing fabrics, cutting and fusing and finally photographing. I love seeing a stack of them on my worktable, cheery bits of fun waiting to liven up someone’s desk!

The fusing process is laborious and quite smelly so I can’t wait until I can afford a home steam press! That will also make the fortune cookie assembly much easier as well. I’m working my way through my “Large Purchases” list. The first was my craft canopy. Next is the steam press. Then comes my own website.

But I digress! Here are a few brand new mouse pads, coming very soon to my Etsy shop. I'm just not ready for summer to be over so they are bright and colorful.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Packaging and perceived value

Oh happy day, my tins arrived!

I have been struggling with finding just the right package to bundle my apron sets in so I ordered a few options, and the first one arrived today! The tins are wonderful – perfect dimensions and plenty of room inside and a big window on top.

Now the quandaries begin and I need your help. How large do I make a set? One reversible apron, two dishtowels, two potholders and a skillet mitt? Or is one of each sufficient? What is the perceived value of a nicely packaged tin?

I’m thinking a little reverse calculation is in order. What is the most you would pay for a cute reversible apron, (1 or 2) thick, high quality dishtowel, (1 or 2) thick oven mitt/potholder and little skillet mitt?

$76 ?
$86 ?

The tin is about lunchbox size and can be re-used. There would be a sticker on the back detailing the contents (including a photo) and some sort of ribbon around it (you can see from the photos a variety of options I’m playing with). I would be selling these wholesale, at craft shows and on Etsy.

I need to find that balance between “oh my god that’s expensive for a little package” and “that’s a good price for all that stuff”!
What’s it to be, smaller set with a smaller price or bigger set with bigger price?

Think who it would be given to – Christmas and wedding gifts are most popular, as are hostess/housewarming, Mother’s Day, birthdays or for spoiling yourself!

If anyone has any suggestions, tips or admiration, let me have it! And I’m taking pre-orders!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Green, Green Grass

When was the last time you took a walk, where the sky was so blue, and the grass so green that you were compelled to just throw yourself upon the lawn and gaze up at the sky?

Today was so lovely that I couldn't help myself. The smell of the grass, the buzz of the bees and the sun on my shoulders was irresistible. Much to the puzzlement of the dog, who thought this was her gig, I flopped right down on the grass and just enjoyed the moment. There really is something to be said for simple pleasures.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lessons learned at the Art Festival

Unsure whether or not you are ready for the big time? Volunteer for a show and find out! Today that's just what I did.

My little town has an amazing Art and Craft festival, with over 250 booths. It's juried and very competitive and I've always been too intimidated to apply. Nor did I feel my craft or display was up to par. This year I thought it might be fun to get involved as a volunteer. My original intent was to get my name out around the city as a volunteer with museum/docent experience and to help with the fine art exhibit portion of the festival.
As it happened, they already had enough volunteers for the gallery and so today I was a booth sitter. This was the perfect choice! As a booth sitter I gave 20 minute breaks to the artists and man the booth. I didn't get to "play store" in just one booth but a dozen! There is no better way to research anything Craft Show related!
I got to see all the booth displays - the innie vs the outie table set up, canopy types, ventilation solutions (the barrel-roofed canopies have windows!), all manner of display tricks (fresh fruit and vegetables in vases instead of just flowers), flooring types, how to attractively hide canopy weights, kinds of anti-fatigue mats, how different items stand up to a stiff breeze.
Some had their booths crammed full but still had good flow, others had a few small items but displayed in such a manner that it filled the booth. Some artists left their cash so I could make sales in their absence and some didn't. I got to see several different ways artists keep track of sales and inventory. How they organized their back stock, bags and packaging materials.
After I finished my shift I was able to chat with the festival committee about possibly applying as an artist for next year's show. They were so helpful! They gave me tips, let me know when the application for next year was available (apply in January for an August show! wow.) and even showed me some of the photos from the artists' applications.(You only get 3 shots, 2 of product and 1 of booth). Good photos are KEY. They also explained how the wait list works - shows often have a short wait list of artists who didn't make the cut but who can be available on a moment's notice should there be a no-show. Sort of a runner's up list.
Had I been more prepared I would have taken more notes! But all in all it was an invaluable experience and I got see first hand the caliber of talent I'll have to compete with to get in and be peers with if I do!
I highly recommend if you ever get the chance to do this, take it! You also get a feel for the way the show is promoted and organized as well as all the rest and it's the best crash course you'll ever get!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Attitude readjustment

I've been feeling a little discouraged and blue the last day or two. Between my sweetie being gone a lot, the clouds rolling in and my hormones doing their monthly riot act, I just wanted to crawl back into bed and stay there. I probably would have if there weren't a certain hyper dog giving me the "Is it time yet?" look.

Instead we went for a 5 mile cross-town hike. Taking the dog for a walk is always a good emotional reboot for me. It gets me out into the fresh green air (I swear, in the NW you can smell the green) and the dog's happy exuberance always makes me smile. I needed to drop the car off across the bay for some repairs so it was the perfect opportunity to walk the new trail home.

We are lucky to have a wonderful new bike path as part of the Rails to Trails program, which converts old, unused railroad tracks into wonderful bike/hike paths. Ours happens to cross the Bay. It was a grey, windy day in the middle of the week and there was no one about so the pup enjoyed a little off leash time.

It was nice to dawdle and play tourist. I was in no rush. We sat on a bench and watched the seals and their pups. The seagulls dropping clams from up high in order to crack the shells and get the meat inside. The bright wildflowers and Madrona trees against the grey sky...

My favorite trees!

A beautiful garter snake...

Driftwood art...

We live in a very beautiful area, surrounded by water and islands in the northern Puget Sound. The only blemish on our island (ok, carbuncle) is this. An oil refinery. The irony is they have the most beautiful and coveted land out there on a peninsula. I love this shot with the rolls of hay in the foreground. Looks like a marshmallow factory! We call it Thunderdome because at night it often glows and the towers flame. You'd think we'd get better gas prices...

The first 3 miles of the walk was on or near the water. The rest was through our little town and I love walking the neighborhoods and strolling up the alleys...fresh air, good exercise and a reminder of what an amazing area we live in. Getting out of the house and away from business and stress is so important. Walks are always a great way to refocus and literally see the big picture. It was just what I needed. And it worked!