Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Wedding Report

Came across a cool new blog called The Wedding Report recenlty. They feature "wedding trends, news and research for the wedding professional." There are a great group of articles there as well as a cool new tool: Wedding Keyword Search Tool which allows you to search over 10,000 wedding keywords to check on average number of searches per day.

Hooray for Gay Weddings!

My "hooray" is two-fold. Firstly, its about time that gay couples begin to get their props with the loooong overdue notion that marriage can mean much more than just man+woman. My fingers are crossed that this will stop being such a controversial, attention grabbing topic and soon just fade into the background of our cultural norm. Secondly, if you are involved in the wedding industry, you best begin to take notice that this super duper important group of customers is ready, willing and able to take the world of weddings by storm. Those who have jumped on the bandwagon early are already reaping benefits, with gay specific wedding services from planners to caterers hitting the scene.

MSn recently featured on article on Gay wedding registries. The article mentions a cool sounding chick named Gretchen Hamm who got herself involved in the gay wedding biz after experiencing her own frustrations in trying to plan her own daughter's lesbian wedding. She went on to start and which sells cake toppers, albums and all sorts of fun stuff for gay brides and grooms. You go girl.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Startup Success

Here's a pretty great article from The Wall Street Journal online on avoiding the pitfalls common to startups. Oops...i've already made quite a few of these mistakes. I hope you don't (or maybe you should...don't we all learn from our mistakes?).

Monday, May 23, 2005

Fan Club

Spending time at the National Stationery Show with all of the amazing peeps who were exhibiting there was pretty inspiring. Everyone is so talented and interesting and attacking things from so many different angles, it really was fab to be all around a huge cloud of creativity that was just bursting at the seems. I'm still taking everything in and, though I know I have been inspired, I'm not exactly sure in which direction, but here are some of my faves. Consider me in your fan club:

Hello! Lucky has been a fave of mine for awhile. There is literally nothing about a single card of theirs that I do not love, love, love. The colors, the "updated retro" design (i.e. retro with a twist, not boring, been there done that retro). You ladies rock. If your collection was an apartment, I would want to live there.

For a gift giving, wrapping paper junkie like myself (yes, I will admit to an occassional incident during which I spent as much on the gift wrap as I did on the gift), Heidi is pretty much the holy grail. Her wrapping papers, in my opinon, are pretty enough to use as wallpaper and her notecards are quite lovely and divine in their own right. I'm most excited about her "gift wrap program" that is starting up in June. Forget wine of the month clubs; Heidi will send you all the makings for a fabulously wrapped gift either bi-monthly, quarterly or every 6 mos (NOTE: TO ANY FAMILY MEMBERS OR FRIENDS WHO MIGHT BE READING THIS AND LOOKING FOR A GREAT GIFT IDEA FOR ME, THIS IS IT).

I also really loved the Paper Dolls collection (and booth!). These ladies also have some fab wrapping paper and a group of seriously gorgeous notecards. Though most of the designs are super simple, their stuff manages to look really rich and beautiful. I think my fave are their Vintage cartoon place cards. So cute.

When I walked into the Javits Center to set up my booth, I nearly almost fainted. There were several early birds who had already succedded in making their booths look gorgeous and I was really overwhelmed and scared at the notion of competing with such superstars. After passing the Tallu-lah booth, I was absolutely seeing stars. It was the sweetest, prettiest little thing I had ever seen and had an adorable collection to match. Tallu-lah and Paper Bride might actually be distant, long lost cousins as, though our styles and approach are super different, we are both attempting to inject some uniqueness into the current meager offerings out there for hip, stylish brides. Anyway, Tallu-lah is terrific.

I honestly could go on for days about all of the wonderful things I saw. I said to my boyfriend that if the Javits Center were a store, we would seriously be bankrupt by now.

What I learned at the National Stationery Show

1. Sore Feet - Standing on your feet all day is *HARD*. Not to sound like a complete and total whimp (b/c I know people all over the world do this as part of their everyday jobs), but I had no clue how insanely hard that aspect of the show would be. Comfortable shoes or not, I came home walking like Frankenstein every night and had to put on 2 or 3 pairs of socks to cushion my feet during the eve so that I could recharge for the next day. Needless to say, I have a 40 minute foot massage scheduled for today that I hope will rescue me from the world of aching feet (and I'm thinking for bumping it up to 60!).

2. Smiling - As much as I said hello and smiled at everyone I could, I swear I had more people come into my booth the minute I walked away, turned my back, leaned over to pick up lint or ran to the bathroom. I didn't give up on the hellos or smiles, but it just struck me as funny.

3. Candy - Thankfully, I did not have any candy in my booth. Based on the number of times I ran around the corner to my neighbor's booth to do a "candy drive by," I'm quite certain I'd be deep into a sugar coma by now, popping pixie sticks like they were glasses of OJ. But I will say, I often saw people stop in booths that they might not normally stop in due to a particularly good bowl of I'll reconsider that one next year.

4. Water - Bring your own damn water. At $2.50 a bottle for a *small* bottle of Poland Springs, this gets pricey. Seriously, what a racket they have going on there (I think it was $3.00 for a cup of tea!).

5. Badges - I quickly learned the first day that I needed to perfect my "casual badge glance." It's almost like being in a bar and seeing a cute guy walk want to look over and check him out but not be too obvious about it. Thankfully they color code the darn things, but the writing is still fairly small, so its hard to read names/stores/locations with a quick glance. The trickiest of the bunch flip their badges around (as if they had casually gotten caught up in their shirts and didn't notice...oops!). As it turned out, the flipped badges peeps were always the most interesting for us (usually press). Bmiinc told me she had a much rougher policy than I did for the flipped badgers (my policy was basically be nice and see what happens!), but I'm a first time newbie and basically was happy with any traffic I got.

6. Creativity - MY, OH MY, I was so blown away by how much talent and creativity there is out there. I literally would walk around in awe gawking at all of the wonderful lines, creative booths and interesting ideas that people are exploring. I swear if the Javits center was a big stationery store, I would not have my rent money for this month. I was way intimidated at first to the point that I almost had an anxiety attack when we were setting up my booth, but of course, in the end realized that there really is room for us all. Just really inspiring to see the creativity bursting from the seams in there.

7. Good show/bad show? - Ok, this was *the* question of the century: "did you have a good show?" Having never done this before, it was super duper hard for me to answer as I had nothing to compare it to. Did my fantasies of a mobbed booth ever come true with people waiting in line velvet rope style to get in? no. Did I make enough money to quit my job and retire? no way. But for me, I'm trying to look at the big picture. A month ago, the only people in the world who knew about Paper Bride was my family, you guys and a few stray blog readers. After the show, I'm thrilled to report that I'm in a number of stores throughout the country (PB is big in the Pacific NW for some reason, go figure!), handed out lots of catalogs and *may* (pllllleeeassse, fingers crossed, toes crossed, eyes crossed) get some good press out of this. So, with nothing to compare it to, yes I had a good show...there I said it. That felt good.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

On Your Own: Health Insurance

I've yet to quit my "other" full time job...the one that pays the bills and provides me with unlimited supplies of post it notes and bottled water. I'd like to quit this job...and God willing, will do so soon, but being a small business owner (along with all of the perks) is a big responsibility and undertaking. Luckily, today there are many more options for those of us who wish to strike out on their own.

Health insurance has always been a huge issue for small business owners. Cobra plans, which allow former employees to continue on their health insurance for a specified period of time after their employment, have been a godsend for some. However, the monthly fees for these plans (which may have just been a few dollars a month after your employer offset the costs) can easily be over $500 a month. Additionally, the coverage only lasts for so long and eventually you'll need a plan B. In New York, where I'm lucky enough to live, there was a program started several years ago to bridge this gap called Healthy NY. They provide fairly comprehensive health coverage for eligible small business owners and their employees including Sole Proprietors and individuals. I'm not sure how far along other states are in this process, but if nothing is in place where you live, do a lot of research. More and more there are independently employed groups of people coming together to form their own unions or coalitions that take on the issue of health insurance for you. Working Today for example, represents the interests of and provides health insurance for freelance workers in New York City. Bottom Line: no one should be without health insurance, so please look around and see what's out there for you.

Hooray! Our Website is Done (for now)...

We finally went live with our Paper Bride website yesterday, and I'm pretty darn excited about it. Its not in its most perfect format (I know there are still some typos and little glitches here and there), but symbolically, it was a pretty big day for me.

Some observations on putting a website together:

1. Man, is it it a ton of work! And I didn't even do the "putting together." I mean, as a black belt web surfer, I really had taken for granted the notion that everytime I click, every little nook and cranny I check out on a website, someone, somewhere wrote that text, coded that html, designed that color combo. And as soon as you fix one thing, it affects something somewhere else.

2. I love Macs...I love Steve Jobs...I will never own or purchase a PC, but man does Apple make it tricky for web designers with Safari. We have a website that works flawlessly with every other browser--except for Safari. This is particularly painful to me as, yep you guessed it....I use Safari.

3. You cannot sacrifice function over fashion. By this I mean, yes, we all want an amazing looking website. But there are so many websites out there that are pretty to look at but difficult to navigate. Or pretty to look at and counter-intuitively designed. As much as I resisted, yes...white space makes a difference and always has a way of making things look cleaner and more professional.

4. Nothing will ever be perfect. It can get close, but even when it is perfect, the next day you'll probably think of something you'd like to change...or you'll get some press that needs to be added...or a link will mysteriously disappear. I figured out pretty quickly in the process that I needed to let go of this notion of perfection and just go with the flow (note: I am definitely still working on this one as it is more a life lesson than anything else).

5. However long you think it will will take longer. This rule has also been applied in construction: if they tell you 6 mos, plan for 12. I don't think its quite the same ratio, but getting a website to look good and behave properly is no small feat.

Ok, I've allowed myself five full minutes of celebration and now must get back to National Stationery Show preparations.