Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Now For Sale at Minted: Handy Thank You Cards

Head on over to Minted to purchase my latest design, Handy Thank You Cards.

This Handy design was so much fun to work on - it features hand drawn elements and fun typography! It was one of the first times I submitted a design to Minted that featured hand drawing. I've been trying to do a little more drawing for my designs, so be on the lookout!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Featured: Marry Me Lovely

A few weeks ago I did my usual Twitter check and saw a bunch of new followers - I had a problem with spam followers a few times, so now I always click on the people the follow me, just to sniff things out. Well, to my surprise, my new followers were the ladies behind Marry Me Lovely - a local Long Island wedding blog.

Kristen wrote up a sweet little post about my designs, and it literally made my day! It's so fun to find other local creative people - and I hope to soon sit and chat with the ladies behind Marry Me Lovely!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Custom Recap: Summer Butterfly Engagement Invitations

These invitations are perfect for a summer engagement party! I created them for my cousin - who loves the beach, butterflies, and summer - and I think we nailed all three on just one piece of paper! I'm so thrilled for her and her fiancé - we're so lucky to have them as cousins and friends!

If you love these invitations, they are now for sale in the Etsy shop!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Making Money

What's always amazing to me is how people become "professional" bloggers - where they somehow make enough money to quit their day jobs and blog full time. I have to admit, I am really jealous. Not so much that they were able to quit their jobs (ok, I am jealous about that) but mostly because they found a way to make some money off of something they love doing and that they made it seem effortless.

In my full time field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology, I've read a lot of research that has found entrepreneurship is linked to personality - some people want it and strive for it naturally, and other people just don't. I'm the first to admit that it doesn't come naturally to me. Every personality inventory, motivation assessment and value survey I have ever taken has rated commerce as low priority for me. Meaning that, generally speaking, I don't value money as much as I value say, feeling empowered. It also means that when I decided to open a business, I had an uphill battle because the first priority for me never seemed to be the profit.

Back in 2008, when I first started fumbling around with Believe Notes - my priority was to learn the trade. I did a lot of work for free, for friends and family mostly, and I made a few sales here and there, but I always lost money on the sales I made. I under priced, made mistakes, and miscalculated. If I can be really honest, I still struggle with underpricing. But it never bothered me to lose money, because I felt like I was gaining the experience, and the experience to me was worth more than the money. I understand that my nonchalance about losing money really is a personality thing, but I'm a smart person, and smart business people need to find a way to make money.

After a few years of testing the water, I started to grow - as a designer and as a business owner. I started to become more confident, and began making goals and decisions that would specifically aim to increase my profit - it was, and still is, very hard for me. I created a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, and an Etsy shop. I joined Facebook groups for Etsy sellers, I started participating more in online forums, and I began to read other blogs that had small business tips. With every little bit of effort, I would see a little bit more return. Maybe just one or two more Etsy sales, or more page views on my blog. I was thrilled.

But then I stopped.

I thought "Ok, so I did all the stuff, now I stop and let it ride." Right? Wrong. Things started to slow down, my sales decreased, I had less visitors on my blog, and people actually started to drop my facebook page. Ouch.

So then I started again. But not only did I start again, but I started with an entirely new feeling of empowerment, because I felt like I discovered something really, really good. Ready for my secret? Here it is:

It's simple, but it works. I know some people make things looks easy, as if they put no effort at all and all of their success comes magically. And maybe some people really do have viral/instant success, but in reality, most people don't. Most people have to work for their successes, and not just work, but work really goddamn hard.

Around January of this past year I decided I was going to start working hard. I didn't want my business to be a hobby anymore, I wanted it to make money. I realized that my day job, while good, should really only be responsible for taking care of my "regular" life, but it couldn't keep paying for my business. My business needed to pay for itself. I started thinking about all of my expenses and figured out how much I needed to earn in order to at least cover all of my business costs. I started making clearer goals for myself that I followed through. I really began taking things seriously - I got my Tax Id and registered my business, I'm making a very pointed effort to network more, I am adding some affiliate marketing to my blog and am thinking of selling some spots for recommended vendors, I started thinking about who/what my audience looks like and what they actually want, I'm researching new products before I invest in selling them. I took a hard look at what failure/success means to me, and I allow myself to redefine that definition if I need to.

Since I've been making so much more of an effort, I really have been seeing the results. I've been making not just enough earnings to cover my costs, but I'm at a point where I can save the money and start thinking about future business investments. I've learned the truth behind the saying "you have to spend some to get some" and I've been trying to spend little bits of money (for things such as search ads and advertising) to make some pretty big returns.  I hope some day to revisit this blog post and be able to talk about some major successes, but for now, I'm going to just keep on swimming and putting in the effort.

If anybody has any of their own little business tips, I would love to hear them :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Revealed: New Kitchen!

We remodeled our tiny kitchen back in January - and I am pretty sure that the greatest thing on the planet is having a new kitchen, and a functional one, too! I shared a lot during the renovations, which my husband and my dad did on their own, but I wanted to share the final results.

Our kitchen is tiny, like really tiny, but we managed to make it incredibly efficient. We added a double-decker cutlery drawer, pull-out waste can cabinet, and an awesome lazy-susan for the corner cabinet. We cut corners by using semi-custom cabinets from Home Depot, a floor model fridge (our best bargain! It had a few little dents, so it was 50% off! We never would have been able to afford it otherwise!), and we went with a 2cm (slightly less thick) quartz countertop. We came in under budget, and the whole renovation was complete in about 10 days! Amazing!

We don't have any windows in our kitchen, so we wanted everything to be light and bright. The whole mission was for the kitchen to feel more spacious than it actually is, and I think we pulled it off. Especially when you compare to the before pictures in this post. We took down a wall, which helped TREMENDOUSLY! My father-in-law was hesitant, and he doesn't like to admit it, but I was right - taking the wall down made the biggest difference. We also got really lucky at a Sears Outlet Center and found a counter-depth fridge that had a little ding on it and was 50% off. The extra few inches of floor space also help to make the space feel bigger.

To see some of the progress along the way, here are some of my posts:

Remodel: A Prelude
Kitchen Update: The Expensive Part is Over
Quick Hello
DIY Kitchen Update

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Page: Recommended Vendors

I've already raved about the folks that helped make my own wedding day come to life, but I felt that I needed to get the word out more. So, I've created a page just for recommended vendors. Most of the vendors are New York, Long Island, or East Coast people but some might travel, so they are worth contacting!

I might expand this page to include sponsored vendors, with the caveat that I'd like to meet, or work with, the vendor first. If you're interested in getting together, send me an email - believenotes@yahoo.com. Right now the page has all my own wedding vendors, but I'll be adding a few other folks I have met through Believe Notes and who I think are fabulous.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Week(s) in Review

I've finally learned the art of scheduling blog posts - so where I used to lack the ability to post during my work week, I now am able to flood my blog with fun posts!

You might have missed something in the past two weeks, so here's a recap of what's been going down:

A little recap of the National Stationery Show, and the Matchbook Notebook Hunt.
I gave a behind the scenes look at my life over the weekend.
Sneak peek of my new stationery line.
Custom Recaps of a Brooklyn themed wedding invitation, and a pretty pocket fold wedding invitation.
New Baby Shower Invitations for sale at Minted, and a winning Thank You card design on the way.
I shared a scary goal for me, which is to network more, that I am hoping to conquer over time.
You also got the lowdown on the "before" of my office revamping.
Miss Juliet was formally introduced to the world, and got some awesome virtual love.

And then, possibly the most exciting thing to happen for me was the launch of my wedding Save the Date line. You can purchase any of the designs in my Etsy shop.

I'm heading out to Montauk this weekend with my family for some fun in the sun in our annual camping trip. If you've never been camping on the beach, I highly recommend it! Hope everybody else has some fun weekend plans!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WANTED: Organization

For those of you that know me, this post might be surprising - since I am known for being super organized and efficient. I've managed to squeeze tons of storage space into my little 1,000 sqft home - from using taller, better laid out cabinets in our new kitchen, to adding over-the-door storage behind every single closet door in our entire home - I try to maximize every inch we have.

But while my kitchen, living room, dining room and closets are nice and neatly organized, my office is a disaster. It's sad because the space is a nice big room, with a big closet, too - but it just isn't functional right now. For example, my desk area consists of one long desktop, two filing cabinets, a dry erase board (where the ink on it dried and can no longer be erased), a cork board, and two floating shelves (one of which is too high for me to reach).

To make up for the lack of efficient storage by my desk, I have added a bunch of miss matched storage solutions - from a 9 box cube thingy, to a repurposed TV unit (in title picture), and an old desk that never made it to the curb (under the window).


This morning I was showing my husband some samples of my new stationery line, and he took a step back and looked at the room. He has himself a little "Ahah!" moment and said "You need more storage." Yes, yes my love, I need lots more storage. And just like that, a new home project begins - project Jackie's office revamp.

I need my office to be more functional, and while all the pretty stuff is nice, what I need the most is a better system for bookkeeping. As my business grows (plus now I have tax obligations!) I'm finding myself overwhelmed with keeping track of receipts, order invoices, and basically any other paperwork. I'm starting to get seriously anxious about the accounting side of my business, and I'm hoping that making my office a little more functional will help me with the organization. Right now, I have a shoe box with receipts! Eeek!! (Designer friends: how do you manage your accounting stuff? I'm a designer, not a mathemagician!)

So hopefully before school starts up again in August, I'll have a nice functional office space. Somewhere to store all my paper samples, printer, envelopes etc. and be able to manage my business as well.

I sure have high hopes for this new office, don't I?!

I've started a Pinterest board just for some office inspiration. Check it out and follow me along as this new project begins!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Introducing Save the Dates by Believe Notes

I am so excited to announce the first part of my wedding line launch: Save the Dates! These cards are flat printed on thick, luxurious recycled paper and come with a matching patterned backer. They are the perfect way to ask friends and loved ones to hold your wedding date.

Here's a little preview of the 6 designs currently available:

They each have a matching wedding suite, please email me (believenotes@yahoo.com) if you are interested in purchasing coordinating pieces. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Goal Setting - Networking

As a self-taught designer, I've always felt like an outsider in the world of graphic design and stationery. There are so many incredibly talented people out there that I seriously admire - I read their blogs, follow them on twitter, and cyber-stalk the crap out of their business adventures. One thing I don't do is actually tell them how much I admire them. I feel like they are untouchable; too busy to read emails (that aren't from other design celebrities), too involved in their own amazingness to read my blog, too elite to be want to have coffee with a stranger.

But it's dawned on me that these people aren't really as untouchable as I've made them up to be in my head. I think it's more my own intimidation, fear of rejection, and genetic link to hermits. I mean, who doesn't love a little note that says "hey, I think you're awesome"? I personally LOVE those notes (hint hint), they make my day week - so, why am I so afraid to send them?

A few weeks ago I made myself a new goal; to proactively network more and send heartfelt notes to the people I admire. If one of those people happen to live locally, I'll see if they'd be interested in meeting up over dinner or coffee or tea or whatever. If it's somebody I could see myself collaborating with creatively/professionally, I'll say that too, and maybe they'll be interested. I won't beat myself up if somebody doesn't write back, and I'll allow myself to be totally giddy (think me circa 1990's with N'Sync) if one of my icons really does write back.

So far I've sent out a few little notes, and I'm really excited by the responses I've been getting back. I'll be meeting up with some people in the future, and maybe doing more collaborative work. I am so, so, so proud of myself for taking the first step and I can't wait to continue moving forward with this goal.

I also want to make sure that I am as available as possible to anybody else out there. I don't ever want people to be too intimidated to shoot me a quick email, I might not get back to you within 24 hours, but I will get back to you, I promise. You can find me at believenotes@yahoo.com, and I seriously do welcome any kind of notes!

A few months ago I posted some of my tips for setting goals, both personally and professionally. One of my goals was to obtain a Tax ID, which I am happy to announce I did finish on time. Which is also why I was able to share my fun recap of the National Stationery Show and the Matchbook Notebook Hunt

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bowtied Baby Shower Invitations - Available at Minted

My "Bowtied" baby shower invitations are now available through Minted. If you've got a bun in the oven, or are hosting a shower for somebody else, head on over and check them out!

Matching thank you cards are also available, I love the little bow!

And if you are looking for more baby shower invitations, head on over to my Etsy shop!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Custom Recap: Flourished Wedding Invitations

You might remember these Save the Date cards I designed, well, here is the invitation that followed! Lisa and Eric chose a bright, ocean blue as their accent color, which was paired perfectly with a cream shimmer pocketcard and yellow accents.

I love pocketcards with wedding invitations - I think they are the perfect way to get the convenience of a pocketfold, without the extra cost. It's a simple and elegant way for a budget bride to get the quality and design they want for their wedding invitations, while still staying within their budget!

Congratulations again to Lisa and Eric, we had so much fun celebrating your big day!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Winner Winner!

I recently got my very first Minted Winner star! Up until now, all of my designs for sale at Minted have won awards as Jury picks or Editor picks, which means that one of the special judges for a particular challenge picked my design to be sold. In the Thanks A Million challenge, I got my very first "winner" which means my design scored high enough that it landed in the top 20 for the entire challenge! How exciting!!

Here's the winning design, that will soon be for sale at Minted.

I'm looking forward to the launch of several new designs on Minted, once they are all available, I will certainly let you all know!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July 2012

Happy 4th everybody!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Custom Recap: Brooklyn Bridge Wedding Invitations

Here's a lovely wedding invitation I created for my friend, who got married on a yacht cruise around Manhattan. She was on a tight budget, and I was really glad to be able to bring her a beautiful design that fit into her price range!

Since the bride did an online RSVP, we were able to save on the budget by keeping the entire "suite" to just one piece. We printed the invitation on a beautiful linen textured paper - and the results were gorgeous! 

It's a reminder to all brides, that if you are flexible and creative, you can achieve your wedding invitation dreams on any budget! 

If you like these, go ahead and check out some other Custom Recaps:

Emily's Wedding Thank You Cards
Feminine Silhouette Note Cards
Charming Moving Announcements
Citron Save the Dates
Country Chic Moving Announcements

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sneak Peek - New Believe Notes Stationery Line

If you've been following me on Twitter and Instragram, you may have already seen a few little snaps of the new stationery line I am working on. I am so super excited about it, I cannot even contain myself!

So while I swore to myself that I wouldn't debut it until all of the pieces were finished, I cannot help but give you a little sneak peek.

One of my best friends, who I have known for just about ever, recently graduated with her Master's and became a Special Ed. teacher (way to go, Liz!!!). So to celebrate her new job, I wanted to create something that was classy, but still fun and perfect for the classroom.

The "Tiny Little Apple" stationery set is part of my new line - which will be featuring lots of fun hand drawn details.

I hope these whet your appetite!

Behind the Scenes with Believe Notes

There are a lot of big things happening for Believe Notes, and I am super, super excited! Big things mean busy weekends and evenings, since that's really the only time I have to work on my stationery business. I work full-time in corporate America during the day, which means my entire brand needs to developed on my "off" time. It's busy, but it's so incredibly rewarding.

I get a lot of people asking me how I do it all. How do I manage my time? Well, the answer is, not very well! I spend almost all of my spare time working on designs, photographing recent projects, blogging, researching, and recently I'm focusing on trying to network more.

A typical weekend for me begins around 6:30 or 7:00am. Yes, it's early, but I have a lot to do. And no, I don't use an alarm.

Here's an idea of what a typical Saturday or Sunday looks like:
  • 7:00am: Wide awake, stepping over the sleeping Miss Juliet to get to my Tassimo for some caffeine. 
  • 7:15am: Check emails, facebook, twitter, instagram, blogger, pinterest, and etsy.
  • 8:20am: My husband comes home from work, which wakes up Juliet momentarily. I tear myself away from my computer long enough to greet him and ask how his shift was. Sometimes, on Sundays, he brings me the newspaper, flowers and some bagels. This is why I love him.
  • 8:45am: Back to my computer. At this point Juliet wants to cuddle and go back to sleep, so she usually waits for me in my office before eventually curling up by my feet. 
  • 9:30am: The sun is perfect right about now for taking some pictures of recent projects. I wish I was more skilled with my camera....
  • 10:15am: I want to make a bow as a photo prop. My bows look like poo, so I turn to Martha Stewart.
  • 11:00am: All the pictures are uploaded, and it's time to edit them. I still haven't perfected taking pictures of my work, so I rely on the editing. But it's a timely process, and I need to reheat my second cup of coffee. 
  • Noon: Juliet is starting to wake up. She piles a bunch of toys at my feet. Maybe I should take a break and play with her. 
  • 1:00pm: Time for errands - I stop at the Post Office first, to drop off orders. Then it's off to Target, Walbaums and TJ Maxx, which are right up the street from me. TJ Maxx, although never on my actual errand list, tends to take up the majority of my shopping time (and budget). Whoops. 
  • 2:30pm: Lunch & cleaning before returning to my computer to finish up whatever I was working on in the morning. My plants look thirsty. Maybe I'll give them some water. Maybe I'll see how long they'll survive without the water...
  • 3:30pm: I try to draft a bunch of blog posts for the week and schedule them to auto-post during the week. Sorry if that spoils the excitement for everybody, but I am not magic, and I cannot be at two places at once. So, while I'm off in corporate America during the day, my blog is programmed all nice and nice. I decided to do this because I've noticed that I have a larger audience during the week - and since I put a lot of time into my blog posts, I want to make sure they reach as many people as possible.
  • 5:30pm: Time to wake up the husband and attempt to make dinner.
  • 7:00pm: Husband and I hit up the park with Juliet. All the neighborhood dogs meet at the park next to our development every night. It's like a big ol' doggy play date. 
  • 9:00pm: I can barely keep my eyes open. My husband and I do some more chores around the house. I head back to my computer for a little while, but by 11:00pm I'll most likely be passed out on the sofa. 
  • 11:15pm: Time for bed. 
The busier I've gotten, the messier my office has become (as you can see in the title picture). Although, my favorite accessory is Miss Juliet, who is always by my side when I'm in my office - I couldn't even take a picture of the space without her leaving her spot. I've also had to pull an upholstered chair from my dining room to replace my favorite orange captains chair (which is now shoved in the corner). My butt was literally starting to go numb from the lack of support, ouch! I'm also in desperate need of more storage space in my office, and I'm trying to save up some money to build out and entire wall unit for my desk. 

Le'Sigh. Now you know a little more about what my day looks like, and how I barely manage my time. How do all of you manage your time? I hope your days (and desks) are as cluttered as mine! 
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