Friday, September 28, 2012

Believe Notes + WellWed Magazine

Good morning everybody! I am super excited to share that I'll be featured in The Hamptons issue of WellWed Magazine this coming Fall/Winter! I got to create some fabulous place cards (hello black and gold embossing!) and my little add features a sneak peek of the new wedding line!

You can also visit my designer page on the WellWed Hamptons website:

I can't wait for the new issue to come out! WellWed always puts together such fabulous inspiration shoots, and I am so excited to be featured!

Oh, and what do you think of the little wedding invitations preview? If you've been by the shop lately, you might have noticed the soft launch of just a few invitations. I can't wait to announce the whole line!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Common Mistakes Theme #3 - Learning to Say "No"

We're now on our last theme for common mistakes that happen with small businesses - or at least, the mistakes that have been common to my small business. This last one is probably the hardest, and I know a lot of you deal with difficulty in saying "no". I'm no pro now, but I'm much better, and here are some of my experiences.

Theme #3 - Learn to Say "No" When it Comes to Doing Favors

I could go on and on about the lessons I've learned from this theme (maybe another blog post someday). When I first started my business I was happy to get whatever experience and project I could. However, as my business grew, I found myself needing to value both my work and my time. I could no longer bend over backwards for people in ways that cost me significantly more than I was charging them. While I don't want to give a specific example for this one, I can tell you generally how this goes:

An old friend from highschool/work/town contacts me and asks for invitations/announcements/cards but really doesn't want to spend a lot of money. They ask what I would be able to do for them, and I basically agree to give them whatever they wanted for such a small amount of money that I knew I really would be losing money. But maybe I'd get a referral, so I convinced myself it was worth it. Then the old friend/coworker/dog-walker would want to make ten thousand design changes, and what about matching envelopes, or skinny labels, or textured-shimmery paper? And, oh, they needed them within two days. You get the picture. I know we all want to help out our old friends and acquaintances, but unfortunately undervaluing your worth as a designer is just not a good business practice.

Lessons Learned:
  • Don't undervalue your work
  • Offer a flat percentage as a "friends and family" discount off of regular, full priced items
  • Not everybody is your "friend or family"
  • Unless I sit next to you at Christmas Dinner, I am going to charge you regular pricing for any super-fabulous-totally-custom design
  • Learn the word "no" and use it when you need to
  • Have a contract that outlines your services and exactly what you'll be delivering (I am working on mine right now!)

So there you have it - the three main themes of which I've learned most of my small business lessons. My main themes were Theme #1 - Rushing Isn't Always Good; Theme #2 - Test Things Out and Theme #3 - Learning to Say No. Like I said in the introductory post, I'm not highlighting mistakes I've made in a way to put myself, or anybody else down. I'm actually doing it for the opposite reason - hopefully you'll be able to learn from these mistakes, or maybe they seem familiar already and you have your own ways for dealing with them.

The point of this mini-series is to show that mistakes happen, we learn from them and hone our business practices so that the same mistakes don't continue to happen. I'd love to hear your input on if this mini series has been helpful, and if you have any experiences you'd like to add.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Common Mistakes Theme #2 - Test Things Out

So we're onto the second theme in the Mistakes Happen series - I'm sure you're already laughing at how similar Theme #1 sounded to you. Let's move right on into the second theme...

Theme #2 - Test Things Out

There are lots of techniques and tools out there, but just because other people have mastered them, doesn't mean you'll be able to pick it up over night. Test things out thoroughly before offering to charge money for it. Here's an example:

Remember these pretty pink silhouette little girl cards? We used little crystals on the fronts of the card, and I had heard somebody recommend self-sticking crystals, so I decided to use them. I spent hours attaching them to the cards, and once they were all done, I packaged them up and sent them off. A few days later my client emailed me to let me know that she got the cards, but all the crystals fell off. I was devastated. I reprinted all of the cards and used the clear crystals I had always used in the past (I knew they would stay glued forever!). The next day I wiggled each one to make sure they were secure, and then I sent them to my customer. My customer emailed me to say that the cards arrived and were in great shape, but that she had really needed pink crystals. I ended up mailing her a third batch of cards, without any crystals at all, so that she could try to find the exact pink ones she wanted. At the end of the day, my client was so fabulously understanding and patient, but I completely felt like a failure.

Lessons Learned:
  • Don't ship something new until your positive it's good quality
  • Communicate often - I should have told my customer that I was using clear crystals because the pink ones were back-ordered 
  • Do more research - don't take just one person's opinion. Or if you are taking somebody's opinion, test out a sample of something first
  • Double-check your work. When I switched to a new program for printing invitation envelope addresses, I found the new system botched a bunch of addresses. Unfortunately, I found out when my bride got all her invitations back.  
Anybody want to share how long their first orders with ribbons/crystals/bows/embellishments took to put together? Luckily my husband is super detail oriented, so he always helps me get things perfectly. But the very first order I had took us both nearly all night! 

Ready to learn a little more? Can you relate to Theme #3? It's all about learning to say no when people ask for favors - which is even harder when you know the person!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Common Mistakes Theme #1 - Rushing Isn't Always Good

Are you ready for the first theme in the Mistakes Happen series? Yes? Well, then let's just get right into it.

Theme #1 - Rushing Isn't Always Good

When I first opened my business, I was afraid to say "no" to any potential customers. Lots of times people would contact me and ask for rush orders. Instead of saying no, I would always try to do it. I'd make mistakes (usually by trying to cut corners to save time) and it would always end up costing me more to make the product than I got paid for. Here's just one example:

One of the very first orders I sold on Etsy was for a time-crunched customer. I was so eager to make my first sale that I agreed to have the cards to her within a week. I used an online printer that typically delivers to me within 3 days. All was going well until a blizzard hit New York and my online printer lost power. Panicked, I found a local printer, that was willing to print overnight for me. The local printer had crappy paper, and charged me 3x the price - but I did it anyway because I didn't want to let my customer down. In the end, I had the cards to her by the end of the week, but I lost a lot of sleep and money. The day after I mailed her the cards printed at my local printer, the gorgeous ones arrived in my mail from my online printer. I had to throw them out.

Lessons learned:
  • Charge a LOT more for rushed orders (like, double the price you'd normally charge)
  • Only agree to rush an order if you're actually able to do it. If it isn't possible, just say no
  • If something happens, don't compromise the quality of your work
  • Email your customer, tell them the situation, apologize, and offer something nice in exchange for their patience. I tend to offer free note cards, a stamp, or a coupon for a future order
  • Slow and steady wins the race (this must be why I like turtles so much)
 Have you ever made any mistakes because you rushed? Would you mind sharing?

Coming up you'll hear more about Theme #2 - Test Things Out, and Theme #3 - Learning to Say No

Small Business Mistakes Happen, Learn to Fix Them

*yes, I know it says miskates. sh!t happens, what are you going to do about it?

I don't care what you call them - mistakes, mishaps, errors, learning opportunities, screw ups, whatever - they happen, so you better learn to deal with them. I've made a lot of mistakes since throwing myself into the self-taught world of stationery design and small business ownership. I've had little mishaps, big meltdowns, and many sleepless nights. However, I am a firm believer in learning from the past, and so lots of mistakes, means lots of learning. The mistakes weren't intentional, these things just happen, and if you have a small business, I am sure you could easily rattle off all of your "learnings" from when you started off. I'm glad the mistakes happened, because that's how I got to where I am today, and how I learned not to make the same mistake twice.

The "Mistakes Happen" posts aren't exactly ones I am proud to share. Nobody wants to admit that they've done something wrong, especially not to the whole wide blogiverse. But I'm confident that my experiences will be helpful for those of you just starting out. While you may be able to avoid some of the mistakes I've made, don't fool yourself into thinking that you'll never again make a mistake. I'm sure this little series of posts will be a continuous one, and I'll try to periodically reflect on things I've learned the hard way.

I've bucketed my mistakes into general themes, since that seems to be the way things happened. The three themes are:

Rushing Isn't Always Good
Test Things Out
Learn to Say "No" When it Comes to Doing Favors

I'm going to do a blog post on each theme, starting in about an hour with the first theme, so keep checking back throughout the week. In each post, I'll give one example of when that theme really tripped me up, and then give the lessons I learned for moving forward. Are any of your mistakes in themes? Have you had to learn some things the hard way?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Believe Notes Collaboration with Daily Sip Studios

One of the most amazing benefits of being part of the Minted community has been the opportunity to meet and collaborate with some amazing & inspiring designers. Kimberly FitzSimons, of Daily Sip Studios, is one of the designers that I have had the absolute pleasure of getting to know.  Kimberly creates impeccable letterpress stationery, and her wedding invitations are out-of-this-world amazing! She's been an inspiration for me & has helped me define (and then refine) some of my own business goals, so when she reached out to me for a collaboration on her new wedding line, I was thrilled!

I am so happy, and proud, to share that you can now purchase my Harmony Wedding Suite, available in letterpress and die cut, at Daily Sip Studios.

They came out beautiful didn't they?! Thank you SO much Kimberly for doing such an amazing job on these invitations! I cannot wait for future collaborations and to continue working with such talented designers.

The flat printed version of the Harmony suite will be available by Believe Notes in just a few more short weeks, when I launch my full line of wedding invitations. In the meantime, if you'd like to purchase the Harmony Save the Date, you can go ahead and do so here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Holiday Cards Now Available at Minted!

One of my favorite parts of being a stationery designer is having the joy of Christmas in May. Yes, I said May. You may not realize just how much work goes into designing holiday cards every year, so trust me when I say it's a lot of work. As a designer, I'm thinking about the holidays all year round, and it's always SO much fun when Minted has their holiday challenges in the Spring. It's such a blast to play holiday music in warm weather with the windows open. My neighbors must think I'm crazy.

Anyway, I have two designs that will be for sale this year through Minted. Snowy Man is a fun, simple design featuring a little snowman and simple type.

I'm so excited that Snowy Man is now available, and if you're one of those super organized go-getter types that started buying presents last year, well now's a perfect time for you to start thinking about your holiday cards!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Announcing the Tiny Little Note Stationery Line!

A few months ago I gave a little preview of the newest Believe Notes stationery line, and I am excited to announce that the new line is officially here!

Please join me in welcoming the Tiny Little Note line to Believe Notes! These note cards are small in size - measuring in at A2: 4.25"x5.5" - but BIG on impact. They feature hand drawn details, fresh colors, and matching metallic envelopes. They come in sets of 12, and are available in a variety of coordinating themes. From florals to sweets, you're bound to find a set that speaks to you!

A secret? I've been using these as my own personal stationery for a rather long time now. 

I'll be introducing the rest of the line on the blog, but for now, head over to the Etsy shop and check out the Tiny Little Flowers line, featuring the three designs above!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2012

I took this picture in Rome back in 2009 while on vacation. I was touched to see this on an old building on a random street in such a far away place. It reminded me of just how huge the impact of September 11th was, not just for the victims + families, or for me, or for NYC or America, but for the world.

The anniversary of September 11th leaves me speechless every year. I tried to write some thoughts last year, but this year I decided I need to be true to myself and stay relatively quiet. Today is a day to remember, to reflect, to mourn, and to allow myself to be present and feel whatever emotions I find myself feeling.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Graduate School Necessities

I get a lot of questions about my time management techniques, and to be honest, I don't think I do it well enough to offer any really good advice. Most of the time I just put my head down and get crap done. That's exactly what I'm doing right now with graduate school. It's September, which means summer is officially over and I'm back to school at night after work. Right now I am only taking one class at a time - it seems to be the most manageable for me and my busy life. I get to my full-time job super early (around 7:30am) and leave by 3:30pm in order to make it to class by 6:00pm - yes, it takes me 2.5 hours to get to class. Yes, I hate it as much as you think I might.

Anyway, I do have a few things that are my absolute essentials when it comes to being an adult learner that goes to graduate school at night after working a full day. Here are the things that help keep me on track.

I wouldn't be able to survive without my giant Vera Bradley bag (1), it's machine washable, comfortable, and easily holds all of my stuff. What will you usually find in my bag? My favorite pens (3), my Nalgene water bottle (5), my Five Star notebook (6) and my iPad (8), which I keep in one of my own super durable covers. I tend to wear cardigans (2), since it's often hot on the subway, but cold in class. And I'm pretty sure that everybody in NYC wears super comfortable flats (4) for their commute - these flats might take comfort to a whole new level. My favorite watch (7) keeps me on track, especially since some classrooms don't have clocks. Although, I don't need my watch to tell me when it's time for a snack. Usually by 7:15 (mid-class) I am STARVING. So I usually pack myself a few brown rice cakes (9) with peanut butter to munch on.

And so there you have it, my graduate school survival guide. Anybody else going to school at night and have some good tips? I'd love to hear them!
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