Friday, March 21, 2014

The Rules of Freebies, Discounts and Bartering In Your Small Business Part 1

After 7 years of running Madeline Lewis Designs, I have encountered all of these arenas in my business.  Since it's just me, myself and I, there isn't a policy handbook sent down from corporate to help me navigate situations I face.  I have, however, after many mishaps, been able to develop a standard set of rules that can be applied to these situations:

1. Freebies:  You get a call from your good friend asking you to "whip up" a cake for her daughter's birthday or you might be a hair stylist that has a friend ask to stop by so you can trim up her hair. We've all been there... and in my case, I might get a request to throw together a banner for a birthday party.  Let me preface this by saying that I don't think our friends and family have bad intentions asking for free services.  I simply do not think that people always understand what it entails for you to "whip" or "throw" something together.  To be honest, neither did I until my Husband became a lawyer.  I have watched him several times (especially in the early years) being pulled away at a party by someone who had a "quick legal" question.  My Husband is kind and wants to help, so he provides "free" advice. What the questioner does not understand is that the free advice he just gave you would cost you $250.00 if you were sitting in his office.  Now, we can save the topic of thieving lawyers for another post, but those encounters have taught me that it is not okay to assume that just because you have a passion for your business and enjoy your work, you are willing to give it out for free.  It taught me to keep my mouth shut when sitting next to a pediatrician at a social function.  I could have talked that pediatrician's ear off asking about ear infections, the pros and cons of cows' milk and/or breast feeding.  Instead, I let the pediatrician eat his steak. that part of the rant is done.  So what happens if you get a freebie request?  If you are brand spanking new and trying to grow your business, jump on them.  WHAT????? but Stephanie, you just said not to give your expertise away!!!  I know...but you have to be able to develop an expertise before you have the opportunity to give it away.  Do not jump on every single one, just the opportunities that will benefit you in the long run.  Below are a few rules to help you determine those opportunities.

1.  Will the service I am giving away produce a recurring customer?   Let's go back to the hair stylist.  If she gets a friend that can come back to her on a regular basis or has a large social networking group that can refer her, then yes.  Take that opportunity.  If it is your long lost cousin visiting from Arizona that in no way will create local business for you then, no.

If you are doing free work for a potential "come back" customer, there is nothing wrong with making it clear to them that this is a one time freebie that you are offering in order for you to grow your business.  You can say... "sure!!  I will cut your hair, but would you mind posting a selfie of you on
Facebook with your awesome new haircut with a link to my website?"  Odds are (especially if they are your friend) they would love to reciprocate!

2.  Will the service I am giving away grow my business?  Let's take a baker asked to donate cupcakes for a school talent show after party.  Will the participants of the talent show take notice?  Think about who is benefiting?  Are the kids the only ones that will be eating the cupcakes?  Will their parents be able to taste the cupcakes?  Will you have the opportunity to be at the function to hand out your cupcakes?  Are you able to put signage and business cards on the cupcake table?  Will other dessert vendors be there too?

3.  Will this service I am giving away help me learn as a business owner?  Let's take me in this example.  When I started offering logo design, I was looking for every opportunity to design logos.  If I came across anyone needing a logo, even for free, I jumped on it.  A huge amount of pressure was taken off me because I had not taken any money from the client.  During those free logo designs, I was able to learn the ins and outs of PNG files and vectors, how many revision rounds are acceptable and why a tag line is important.  I could have spent all the time in the world making up my own logos, but working with an actual client was priceless and well worth the freebie. 

4.  Community Service. As in every business, it is important to give back.  Providing services for charity is a great way to get your business name out there and do good at the same time.  A word of caution: only do what you can handle.  You want to enjoy working for your chosen charities. Too many in the pot will stress you out and take time away from your paying clients.  If you have not been approached by a charity to provide services, seek them out.  Every 501-C3 can use help in some way.  Think about what you offer and find a charity that you can help.   Our hair stylist can volunteer to do hair at a nursing home; our baker can provide cupcakes to a number of places; and I can create (and have created) invitations for a fundraising gala. 

5.  I felt the need to add one more reason to give away your  My daughter was invited to several birthday parties one after the other.  In an effort to save a little cash, I decided to make the girls personalized notecards.  Little girls love things with their names on them.  One mom called to tell me how great it was that she had something with her name on it.  I give notecards out for teacher gifts, monogram thank you notes for wedding gifts and birth announcements for baby gifts.  I love being able to save money and have a great excuse to create, using my style. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

You're A Star Talent Show Party

Better late then never party post.  I have been MIA since I changed my blog to connect to my website.  Turns out, the web host blog only allows one picture per post.  What????  Yeah..that's not gonna work for me.  Soooo after many months of waiting patiently since they said they were "working on it", I had to change back to the trusty blogger.

So, here is my better late then never party post.  A few months before my daughters' birthday, my seven year old started begging me to host a talent show for her little friends.  Finally giving in, we decided to turn it into her and her little sister's birthday party since they have the same birthday month.

This was one of my favorite party to design.  The details were so much fun! I decided to hire the fabulous Jennifer Conrad Photography to help me capture all the great details and moments.

The Invite

My favorite detail of this party was to create a star studded backdrop of all the party guests.  These photos doubled as party favors.  The girls loved their photos.

My other favorite detail was creating the stage and chairs.  Our back deck was an easy solution for a stage which of course had to have a red carpet.  The chairs are good ol' fashion metal folding chairs that  got a coat of paint and the seats were covered by an outdoor tablecloth.  We had popcorn for the audience (parents) but I think think the kids dove into them before we could get any!

I have to plug Jennifer Conrad Photography here.  She has such an eye for a memory and she was able to get the feel of the party.  I love the close up of the guitar which was available for the girls to use.  I love she caught one of the party guests quietly practicing her talent.  The crumbled up tickets on the "glittered" stage and the half eaten food plate was spot on.

The party favors were a bouquet of flowers.  What else would you give a star after a fabulous performance?

We had many performers: pogo stickers, ballet dancers, singers, hula hoopers, keyboard players, a gymnast and hip hop dancers.  The audience loved the show and the girls had a ball.  It was a perfect talent show!

Until next time,  Celebrate Perfectly!


Friday, August 30, 2013

Lamp Table Tutorial

So, I was looking for a side table at Hobby Lobby the other day.  I am in need of a little table to go in an empty space next to the guest room bed.  I found several that I loved, but was not loving the price.  After all, the guest room dose not get much use.

Later, while wasting time (again) in my local Goodwill store, a light bulb turned on!  I'll just make a table!!  Yeah!!! Project! I found a tall lamp base that would be perfect for the "leg" part.  I then went searching for the perfect table top. 

I found a oval brass frame with a lovely 1977 (possibly 1982) print.  The frame and glass were both in good shape, so I grabbed it!

Next, I cleaned both the frame and "leg" with a mild soap and let dry.

Then I flipped the lamp over and removed all the wires.  

I primed and painted both.  I love how brass paints.  It always looks good!

While the frame and leg were drying, I pulled out the "print" which actually was stuck on the back of the frame.  It took me a while to decide what I wanted to cover this with.  I first used a pattern I printed off my computer, but changed my mind to use a piece of left over burlap.  I just sprayed the backing with an adhesive spray to hold in place.  I then flipped over the backing and folded the burlap over and secured the folded over edges with hot glue.  Sorry no pictures .... I got caught up in the project and forgot!

Once the paint on the leg was dry, my husband cut a wood square slightly smaller then the frame.  You can use any strong adhesive like gorilla glue or even wood glue.  This just gives the frame a little extra support.

Put the frame together with your desired print or fabric.  Glue the bottom of the frame to the top of the wood square using the same glue.  

Clean the glass well.  

Find a fabulous place in your house to put your new table!

Stay tuned for my next re-do project.  I'm currently working a desk re-do for a special project the the girls birthday party!

As always....Celebrate Perfectly!


Monday, August 12, 2013

10 Things Your Stationer Wants To Tell You About Your Wedding Invitations.

After almost 6 years of running my own graphic design/ stationery business and working with over 60 brides, I have several factors that are always true.  Here are the ten things that your stationer wants to tell you, but probably does not, but probably should, so here I go!

1) My feelings will not be hurt.  This is not my wedding.  I was married to a wonderful man almost 11 years ago.  I had my wedding.  This one is not mine.  I actually do tell brides this.  My feelings will not be hurt if you do not like a sample design I created for you.  I cannot tell you how many times I have presented sample invitation designs to a client, and they are hesitate to tell me that the color is wrong, or they prefer a more script font.  No big deal...that is why I am a custom designer, so I can custom design the invitation to your liking.  So,  please, be bold and let me know the changes you want to see.

2) This leads me to my next tip..I am not a mind reader.  I am good at interpreting your design style, but I cannot get into your head to try and figure out whether you want a sunny yellow or a mustard yellow.  It really helps me out when brides tell me up front "I do not know what yellow I like best", Okay, good!.  I can do a few more samples to try and help you narrow it down.  I can ask questions to try and lead you down the decision road, but if we are leading down the wrong road, let me know!

3) I am not listening to anyone but you.  At our meetings, you may have your mother, your future- father-in-law, even the groom with you.  I think it is wonderful that so many of your loved-ones want to be apart of your special day.  It truly is a joyful time in your life and it is nice to share.  However, I am not listening to anyone but you regarding your invitation design.  I will joke with father-in-law, have sympathy for the groom that he does not see any difference in the 5 samples I have jut shown, and compare baby stories with your mom. But you are the most important person at the table.  You will ask your mom 10 times "what about this one mom?", but I will not:)

4) You are paying for my talent, my time and my labor along with the actual paper.  I am designing you a custom wedding invitation, which means that there is not other wedding invitation like it.  Your invite will be a true original.  I can change the colors, the fonts, add 5 more leaves to that tree branch, make the 5x7 a square and turn the bird the other way.  However, a custom designed wedding invitation takes time.  I have had a bride say to me "but it's just a piece of paper".  It may look like that at the end, but I spent a substantial amount of time "converting to curves" to get the perfect shape on that bird.

5) This leads me to my next tip....if you do not care that your invite is custom, then I may not be the stationer for you.  I have had a mother of the bride say to me  "we ordered our other daughter's invites from William and Arthur and they were beautiful, but half the cost".  Do I even need to go further?  The fact is that I am one person with one printer.  The big on-line companies can crank out thousands of invitations in one day, and yes..they tend to be less expensive.  However, you get a few color choices, usually one paper choice,  etc.  If you go on-line and find an invitation you love, go for it!

6.  I need time to fulfill your order.  It might seems silly to start the invitation process 6-8 months prior to your wedding date, but the truth is, it takes time to develop your design.  If you contact me 2 weeks before your invites are suppose to go out, I will do everything I can to get it done, but you will not get the benefit of a full custom design.

7.  I will make mistakes and it is your job to catch them.  I spend much more time on the design of your invitation then the text. While I read through your invitation 100 times while it is up on my screen, I still may not catch that I have spelled your future husband's middle name wrong.   It is very important that you thoroughly read what I have sent you for approval.  I will not print unless I get approval from you.

8. You can have your custom monogram or image...for a price.  I would love to give you the monogram I designed in a pdf or vector file, but it does cost.  While I do not charge extra for custom monograms or images (some designers do charge extra for these in the design process, but I do not), for the rights to those images to use on other items such as thank you notes or for another designer to make a cake-topper, I charge a fee.

9.  I will not steal another designer's design.  If you bring me a picture of an invitation that you want an exact replica..or even a close replica of, I will refer you to the original designer.  We, in the design world, take this seriously.  I love inspiration, so please show me all the pictures and pinterest boards of the invitations you love.  I will be able to design something that takes the aspects you love and make it your own.

10.  I truly want you to have the best invitation.  I love what I do...few designers get into this field because it's a great money maker or it's just the family business.  You either love design or you don't.  I am good at what I do because I love it! and after talking to you I  am excited to get what is in my head on the screen.   It is important for you to be happy with your wedding invitation and I will work hard to make sure that happens.

I am so thankful that I have found this path in my life.  I love my brides!  I Hope these tip help make your invitation process run more smoothly!

As always! Celebrate Perfectly!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August Design of The Month

We are so excited to be starting a new "Design of the Month"!!  Each month, we will be featuring a new design that will be sold at 50% off for the entire month. 

Here are the details:

1) Every new design has been designed by scratch by Stephanie Smith from Madeline Lewis Designs.  No clip art of stock images have been used.

2) Wedding invitations will be printed on 80lb linen card stock and comes with matching linen envelopes.  RSVP cards are printed on the same 80 lb card stock.

3) Wedding invitations and RSVP cards come in a package of 100. 

4) When ordering, please include all the relevant information regarding your invitation details and RSVP details.  A JPEG will be sent to you for your approval before printing.  You should expect your invitations to be mailed out to you 2 weeks from your order date.

5) Colors can be changed to match your event.  Please include your color choices when ordering.  RGB codes and image swatches work well.

6) No custom work can be done on the design during the sale month. 

7) Extra invitations and RSVP cards can be ordered at the regular retail price. Please contact me for a more specific price quote.

8) Other items can be made to match, such as accommodation cards, details cards, menus, programs, save the date etc. and be priced at the regular retail price. Please contact me for a more specific price quote.

9) Envelope printing and envelope lining are available at the regular retail price.

10) Digital images of this design are not available until after the sale promotion ends.

Again..we are super excited to embark on this fun promotion.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at 317.696.4811 or for any questions you may have.


Can't wait to get these started!
As always..celebrate perfectly!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Top Ten Tips to Help You Throw an Outstanding Child's Birthday Party

Notice I did not say "top ten tips to help you throw and outstanding BUDGET friendly child's birthday party".  That's another post!  The fact of the matter is, most of those fabulous parties you see on the party blogs tend to be a bit pricey.  Let's just face it...when your cupcake is wearing more accessories then you are, you know the host dished out some cash.

But for some of us, the process of planning, designing and creating a party is a true joy.  I have heard MANY time..."I'm not going to spend THAT kind of money on a birthday".  I will address that issue later in another post.  But for now, here are my top ten tips to pull it off if you want to be one of "THOSE" moms!

1) Pick a good theme.  While I understand that this decision in not only yours....apparently kids like certain trends and although they have only seen "Elmo" 9,000 times, they still want him center stage at their birthday.  I try and stay clear of commercial themes for my own kids. And if the Ariel, Madeline, Dora, Lego, Barbie and Angry Bird parties that I have thrown in the 4 years should give you some indication on how super successful I have been!

2) Once you have been suckered into a theme, start thinking how you can "de-commercialize".  I know that is not a word, but it's the only description I can come up with.  Think about ideas around your theme.  For example..a Madeline Party/French Party, Dora/Fiesta Party, Barbie/ Fashion or Spa Party, Harry Potter/ magic.  In other words..think about elements that you can add to the party that you are not going to find at the party store.  This leads me to my next tip.............

3) Stay out of the party store...WHAT??????  Yes.  You may go into a party store ONCE to shop for your party.  Party stores are like coloring books..they stunt your creative thought process.  Your party is a blank canvas and having all the party supplies you think you need front and center will stunt your growth.  The only things I usually buy at a party store are items for favors.

4) Start your planning early.  If your party is next week...then (I guess) you can go to the party store.  The earlier you start, the more fabulous your party will be.  You have to give your mind time to come up with all the fabulous ideas and then you need time to execute them.  Don't forget to write your ideas down.  Create a check list of the details you want.  Even if you are not sure whether or not you want to do a project, just write it ink, not blood.

5) Now that your wheels are spinning and you have come up with all these great ideas and details, decide what party detail/decor is the MOST important to you and do that first.  For example, for my daughters 2nd birthday, I REALLY wanted to have pictures of her dancing (she was having a ballerina birthday).  I dressed her up in a tutu and did a photo shoot.  I knew if I waited until closer to the party, it may not get done.  It gets hectic the days leading up to the party, so the smaller details may slip through the cracks.  For my other daughters 5th birthday (Madeline Party), I really wanted all the girls to have yellow hats.  I spend a full week spray painting what use to be pirate hats yellow.  They turned out fabulous, but again..I would not have been able to that days before the party.  And just FYI, you cannot find yellow Madeline hats anywhere!!

6) And that leads me to my next tip..if you cannot find it, make it! Banners, cupcake toppers, invitations, Madeline hats  etc. can all be made by you or someone else. Just because it does not exist does not mean it cannot be.  Books that are the theme of the party are a great way to create many different party decorations...that is, if you can stomach tearing up a book (sorry mom).  For the previous mentioned ballerina party, I wanted ballerinas for cupcake toppers..I couldn't find what I wanted, so I made them!

7) Create a really great party table.  These do not have to be huge...just pretty.  They can have just the cake and drinks on the table or a full spread of goodies.

8) Outsource what you cannot do.  It took me a long time to realize that I cannot bake...well I can bake, it just is never pretty.  I no longer worry about the cake,  cake pops, decorated cookies etc.  I love having an edible treat that has been decorated, I just find someone else to do it.  For me, they tend to be a time sucker and I want to concentration on the styling of the party.  I once let a pan of cupcakes burn because I was so focused laying out the table decor, I did not hear the timer going off.   Yeah..I'm kinda like that :)

9) This leads me to my next tip...splurge on at least one thing you want.  For me, it is the cookies or the cake.  Remember I told you that I'm not always budget friendly.  I styled a "county fair" party where I really wanted a roll of tickets.  I had not idea how expensive they were, but I really wanted them.  I grind my teeth and bought them....glad I did.

Country fair party and "pie bake-off" - just adorable, and perfect for the 4th of July!

10)  Keep things simple.  I know it seems that I am going to the wrong direction, but simple is usually better on most items.  You do not want your party to be too "cluttered".  If you are finding that you are running out of room, time and money, you might have to scrap some of your ideas. Remember your list...just cross it out.   For my fiesta party, I initially wanted to have a huge taco bar with all the fixings, but as time and money ran short, I just could not pull it off.  I instead decided on salsa chicken chili which I just threw in a crock pot and was just as fun.

I know these tips are more "mental" then concrete suggestions.  It took me a while to learn that party styling in a mental process.  The shopping and crafting are the easy parts.  Pulling together your vision is what is an awesome and fun challenge.

As always!

Celebrate Perfectly!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Conner's Beach Prints

As spring seems to linger on here in Indiana (and evey once in a while, jumps back into winter), I am desperate for some sunshine that lasts more then two minutes before it hides back behind the gray cloud that could any minute dump a ton of rain on our already saturaded ground.

The Smith Family is headed down south to the Gulf in June, and on a day like today, I couldn't get the beach out of my mind.  So, I put them on prints:)  Now on sale in my Etsy Shop!
At least the mediocre weather makes me productive:)

Anchor Print

Crab Print

Lobster Print

Boat Print

S.O.S. Print

wheel Print    

As Always!

Celebrate Perfectly!