Why I Don’t Chase Someone Else’s Dreams Anymore

MOrton2When I lived in Brooklyn, I worked in an antique shop. This was after I had started Just for Littles, but I thought it would be a nice way to get some extra money to help fund things like tables, entry fees and paint.

Working in the antique shop was a great experience. I got to work with amazing people (Brooklynites are an amazing-and colorful!-people), work with beautiful products (some were over one hundred years old!) and helped people find a perfect gift for their friends and family. Every day was something new. It was the perfect job for me.

And I hated every moment of it.

When I work on Just for Littles, trying to make it fit the vision I have, I am happier than when I do anything else. I can lose myself in what I’m working on, whether it’s a product or a blog post or working at a craft fair. Heck, I even dive into book work and taxes, which are my least favorite aspect of running an online shop! But while I was employed in the antique shop, I wasn’t able to work on Just for Littles as much as I wanted to-in fact I hardly ever got to paint and my social media was practically nonexistent. There was not a week I didn’t cry in the bathroom on my break. What it really boiled down to was that I msparklepig4could never shake the feeling that I was spending my life fulfilling someone else’s dream instead of mine.

There’s nothing wrong with helping someone else chase their dream. In fact, I owe so much to so many people who have aided me in mine. I just couldn’t get on board with it all. Every time I watched my boss working on his dream, I’d think “No, that should be me and my dream! Not his!” I had nothing against him, it just never felt right in my heart.

So I talked with Devin and we agreed that I would be happier chasing my own dreams instead of my employer’s. I quit that job and started working Just for Littles full time. Believe me, I understand that not everyone has the same luxury as I do. Not everyone can just quit their day job. I am very lucky that I have a supportive partner who will let me work from home to chase my dream.

mbengiraffe1I try to repay him every day by working hard on my products and online shop. But I also work hard to fulfill my dream for myself. It’s not easy, and there are no guarantees-especially without a part time pay check coming in to cover my lean months! In the end, though, I am much happier-no more crying in the bathroom, no more questioning what I’m doing with my life.

That makes what I do, worth it. And in a way, I’ve already caught a large portion of my dream.

 

What’s your dream? And what are you doing to chase it?

Nurturing A Child’s Dream

cloudsWhen I was 4, I wanted to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. When I was 7 I was going to be a world class violinist/rock star ala Kiss. During middle school I was going to be the next Dr. Seuss.

Kids have a lot of dreams. From what they want to be when they grow up to wants a desires, like a pet (or in my sister’s case, an older brother. Good luck Mom!). I watched both my niece and nephew run the gamut of “person who gets to play with whales all day” and “Barbie’s jeep driver” to “finance program writer” and “electric engineer.” No matter what state a child is at, however, it’s important to nurture their dreams.

Some say being realistic and showing kids the world as it is truly is in their best interest. I am the first to admit that I am in no ways a psychologist (and my opinion should never replace that of certified professional!) I have always felt that taking away a kid’s childhood was one of the saddest things a person could do. Yes, life is full of harsh realities. But there’s such a short amount of time where they can be carefree and happy-and I think that’s worth nurturing! So, as is my fashion, I have compiled a list of ideas on how to support the biggest dreams from the smallest dreamers.

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  1. Never Laugh! I know wanting to be a firetruck sounds silly to an adult. We know that a person can never be an inanimate object. Laughing can squash a little spirit and teach kids that dreaming big is worthless. What you can do, however, is explain that it might be a little hard to become a firetruck, but you can become a firefighter who gets to ride on the truck. If your child is insistent that no, she really wants to be the truck when she grows up, then ok! Someday she will understand, but let her dream today!
  2. Take Them! If your child dreams of being an astronaut, take them to the planetarium! If they want to discover dinosaur bones-or heck, even be a dinosaur!-take them to the museum. Let them see what the world of their dreams looks like, and that there are others out there who share their dreams. If a museum is too far away, take them to the library! Have fun checking books out, learning facts, reading stories and looking at pictures.
  3. Enroll Them! Sally wants to be a ballerina-what better place to be one than a ballet bubbleclass? If Jenny wants to learn karate, let her learn. This is especially great if its something they have been wanting to do for a while. Try to find a class structured in sessions, instead of open-ended. That way they can try one session, and if they change their mind they can be done at the end of the session period. Also look into “trial classes” that lets kids attend one class before committing to the entire session. (You can also use this opportunity to teach them about the responsibility of following through with classes even if they change their mind.)
  4.  Help Them See It! Create a vision board with your child! Find a few old magazines or photos printed from the internet and glue them to a poster board. If there are relevant items small enough to be placed on the board, add them too! It’s a fun way for kids to see their dream. And if they change their mind and have a new dream, they can always make a new board!
  5. Play It! Kids have endless energy. One of the best ways to help focus some of it while encouraging their dreams is to play it out with them in a rousing game of pretend. If Johnny really wants to be an ambulance, be a patent who has called for help and let him come rescue you. And honestly, who couldn’t have fun pretending to be monkeys from the zoo who are also princesses?
  6. Journal It! This one is great for older children. Have them write out their dreams in as much detail as possible. As they learn more, they can write more. Encourage them to write stories of them participating! If they want to be a singer and attend a concert, help them write about it. Not only does this engage their minds and help them dream even further, it is a fun thing to look back on!

dream-big-little-dudeI know what you’re going to say. “My kids change their minds every other week of what they want to be, how can I keep up?” I know! That’s one of childhood’s greatest blessings-you can be an astronaut in training today and a Broadway dancer tomorrow, without giving two weeks notice to NASA. So when Billy says he doesn’t love cowboys anymore, he loves pirates, take a few moments to readjust and get excited to learn all about pirates! Take the cowboy books back to the library and get pirate ones. Stop rustling up pretend sheep and start walking the imaginary plank. Enjoy each moment. Realize that you could be shaping the very foundation of the future professional they will become.

Perhaps they will help your dreams grow a little bigger, too!

 

Tips for Starting an Etsy Shop You May Not Have Thought Of

The new year is the time people set resolutions to attain their dreams. For many crafters, opening an online shop to sell their wares and add a little extra to their household income. However, this can be a daunting task full of questions. How do I set it up? How long will it take? Will I make money at it? Can I even do this? There is a big difference between creating teddy bears or jewelry and actually running a money making shop.

When I first started my Etsy shop, I thought it would be easy as pie. I pictured some modern Disney montage where I (a princess, of course) would happily paint fun banks, they’d pop up online and someone would order them within a few hours, maybe a day or two at most. Then my helpful little animal friends would package up the orders and my bird friends would fly them to their destination.

Then I woke up.

There was no bookkeeping, no photo editing, no marketing in my easy-peasy dream. And certainly no IRS and taxes! (Yikes and ugh!) So I decided to compile a list of tips I wish I had known then for all of you.

1. Play around with Etsy first. Before you can sell to the typical Etsy shoppers, you need to think like an Etsy shopping. The easiest way to accomplish this is to actually BE an Etsy shopper, even if just window shopping. Go to people’s shops, check out the front page, favorite some items and shops, make a treasury or two. You wouldn’t try to build a library if you had never stepped foot in one, would you? Once you get a good feel of being an Etsy shopper, you’ll have a better idea of how to present your shop.

2. Set up a system first! It seems simple-you make an item, list it, sell it and send it. Easy peasy, right? Well, it is. But you repeat it again. And again. And again again. Having everything set up in place  before you get going gung-ho will really save you time when the pattern starts over. Figure out where you’ll photograph your items, and keep necessary items close by. Set up a shipping station if you have the room. Otherwise you’ll have to find everything each time you need it, and could easily miss an important step.

For example, I like to include a handwritten note in all of my packages. Before I systemized and everything was scattered around, I forgot the note about a third of the time. While not the end of the world, it really frustrated me.

3. Start your book work early. I know there isn’t much to write down now. And the IRS probably isn’t going to care about your Etsy shop, especially the first year. But it’s worth it to write your numbers now so you can gauge your growth. It is also beyond helpful when it comes time to look at how your online shop affects your taxes. (And yes, even as a “hobby,” you do need to look at this!) It’s also pretty easy to at least keep an itemized list of what you spend at the craft store or craft fair entry fees, and how much you make from sales. Keep an envelop or shoe box in an easy-to-access play for receipts-even a contained mess is better than not having anything!

4. Pick a name and branding scheme you love. Even if an Etsy shop is your after hours gig, choosing a name and branding scheme you love is doubly beneficial. First, it’s an expression of who you are. Customers can tell when you’re not being authentic, and they’re turned off by it. They want to buy from someone they feel they understand, which is expressed through your branding. Secondly, you’re going to be seeing, saying and working with this scheme a lot! If you don’t absolutely love it, you will get sick of it. Branding affects every aspect of your Etsy shop-your business cards, craft fair set ups, your social media sites, etc! Better to love it!

An extra tip-when naming your shop, try to avoid the cliche “Suzy’s Crafts” or “Handmade by Lacy.” While these names are great, Etsy is saturated with them. It’s hard to differentiate between them all-which means you’ll get lost in the mix. This also applies to misspellings such as “craftz.”

5. Realize it’s going to take more business work than you think. About 50% of my time is spent actually creating. The rest is spent editing photos, listing items, marketing both online and off, doing boring bookwork and any other little chore that pops up. It’s a reality that some people thrive on, some people hate. But most crafters I’ve talked to have been taken by surprise by just how much ‘business’ is in their ‘craft business.’

6. It’s up to you to get your items seen. Countless people create 10 whatevers, post them on Etsy and then wait for them to sell. And wait. And wait. While there is a chance they will hear a cha-ching, that chance is very low statistically if you just let them sit there without any promotion from you. You can share them online on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Also look into blogs that would be willing to feature you and your shop, or who host a weekly link up of items (DaftCrafts.net has a great one!). You might also look into local craft fairs, your local Craigslist or even crafting parties. Whatever it is, no one else is responsible for getting your items viewed and eventually bought.

7. Basic photo editing is a must! You’ve probably read this before, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the value of a good photo. You don’t need a fancy $700 camera to get great end results, however. I use a small digital camera and a free photo editing site called PicMonkey.com. It’s very easy to use and makes my photos really pop! Fuzzy, ill-lit photos scream ‘unprofessional’ to a potential client, and can often deter a sale. Take pride in your products and showcase them at their best!

I also want to mention the importance of a watermark. Using PicMonkey.com and one of my logos, I can essentially “sign” every photo of my work. When I post those photos to an outside site like Pinterest, viewers can see where it came from and go to my site. Without the watermark, my photos are just nameless, homeless pictures on the internet.

*Please note: It is NEVER okay to use photo editing to cover up undesirable areas of your product. You must show your product exactly as is, or you’ll be dealing with unhappy customers who want their money back!*

8. Clearly state shop policies you’re comfortable with early. This will save you so many headaches down the road! Set policies for refunds, returns, custom orders and anything else you might need. First, set guidelines that you feel okay holding up whenever a problem crops up. Then go through them again, this time with the eyes of a customer. Try to see the problems that could arise from their point of view-how would you feel if the UPS lost your paid for package containing a birthday present for your niece? I’m not saying bend over backwards for customers-and always keep an eye out for the rare but very real scammer. But it good to remember people are people, and like to be treated as such.

9. Remember that perfection is unattainable. YWhile perfect photos and perfect listings is always desirable, perfection is a fleeting mistress. Nothing is perfect, and while striving for perfection is certainly admirable, ultimate perfection is simply unattainable. And what’s more, it doesn’t guarantee sales. What does get sales is putting a really good listing with great photos up in your shop for customers to see. So don’t waste extra time and worry working to make something that will ultimately never happen. Done and available is better than perfect!

10. Don’t stop learning. I am constantly learning new things about running my Etsy shop-from new shipping methods to different ways to systemize my work station. Right now I’m learning a lot about filing business taxes-something I knew absolutely nothing about two years ago! It was a wise person who once said something to the effect of “When we stop learning we start stagnating.” It doesn’t have to be a major study session, though. Find a topic you’d like to learn more about, read a few articles and maybe implement a few changes to your shop based on what you’ve learned. Then take a few weeks and see how those changes affect your shop or work habits. If you can’t think of a specific top, Google! One day I simply Googled “Etsy Tips” and ended up learning a lot about SEO and how Etsy runs its search engine.

I hope this list helps any of you who are considering starting your own Etsy shop! And I hope you consider jump in and join the Etsy movement! It’s a lot of fun, if a lot of work, but completely worth it!

Happy

Hello friends!

Enter the cliche “boy, is it the end of the year already?’ here! But it’s true, this year just flewnew year by for me, my family and my shop. I was going to sit down today and write about my goals for the new year…but that just doesn’t feel right.

I see online everywhere, everyone is talking about their resolutions for next year. Work out, lose weight, work harder at their job, spend more time with family, read more books…whatever it is, people are resolving to become a better version of themselves. And that’s great! We should all be striving to be the best we can be, always chasing our dreams.

But I want to take some time and applaud everything we’ve done this year! Maybe you got a promotion? Good for you! Or you got married or had a baby or finally asked that cute guy out at the coffee shop? Way to go! Perhaps you lost 10 pounds or ran a marathon? Yes!! Or maybe it was a crappy year you’re glad to get behind you–at least you made it through to the other side! Maybe it was just a year of average-ness? Still great!

I feel that in our society today, we hear so much about how we can be better-look better, work better, parent better-that we forget to love who we ARE right now. We are beautiful, intelligent people who deserve the good things that life offers us. Instead many people feel they are unworthy because they aren’t a size 2 or don’t have the most glamorous job or apartment–I say BAH! You are awesome!!

calvin resolution

Don’t get me wrong-I have my own set of New Years Resolutions. To work out more (I’m so unfamiliar with the gym I call it James), drink more water and work on my Etsy shop and blog (hello!) more, grab more opportunities to continue to grow. But I am also taking some time to remember my accomplishments: I moved across the country, I took part in a 300+ vendor fair, I got back into playing music in a symphony and will start teaching soon, expanded Just for Littles to include figurines and wall are–all awesome things! Go me!

What I’m saying is, this New Years, don’t just focus on what you’re NOT and how to fix it. Take some time to be proud of who you ARE and applaud it. Wear it proudly.

Because you’re awesome.

21 Things You Simply Must Do This November

Hello Friends-and welcome November! Can you believe how fast 2014 is flying by? Soon it will be behind us, so it’s important to take some time to stop and enjoy the little things life presents us. And what better time of year than when it gets a little colder and you’re surrounded by friends and family?

  1. Catch a falling leaf. When I was a young girl, I believed that falling leaves were similar to shooting stars-when you see one, you get to make a wish! And if you caught that leaf, it was twice as special!
  2. Try a new coffee, tea or cocoa flavor. Find a new twist on an old favorite during the seasonal sales, like apple cider coffee!
  3. Break out the blankets! Cuddles are extra snuggly under a fluffy blanket. Bonus points if the blanket was handmade by a family member or friend.
  4. Hug the oldest person in your family. If they’re far away, give them a call!
  5. Hug the youngest person in your family.  And maybe a sloppy kiss, too!
  6. Meet a new neighbor. Chocolate chip cookies are great ice breakers. Take a plate and knock on doors!
  7. Prepare your plants for winter. Do they need to be mulched or trimmed? Now is the time to tackle that project so your lilies will come up next spring!
  8. Take a day to yourself. With the holidays around the corner, you’re going to be busy. So take a day now to pamper yourself however you like!
  9. Watch some football. Even if you’re not a fan, find a group of people, pick a team and cheer!! Don’t forget the tail gating food!
  10. Gather fall flowers. I like to include neat leaves, pine cones and acorns, too.
  11. Plan a mini date. Remember to set aside a bit of time for some romance!
  12. Stock up on winter necessities. Grab your lotions, mittens, shovels, soup stock, chap stick, fuzzy socks-whatever you’re gonna need for when the snow falls, get it now!
  13. Put away summer clothes and take out the winter ones. Hooray for sweaters and leggings!
  14. Make a pie. Pumpkin, apple, chocolate-it’s all good! Heck, even store bought is great if you’re not a great baker.
  15. Rake up your leaves and jump in them! This childhood classic will never get old!
  16. Wear a different hat every day of the week.
  17. Take a walk. Listen to the leaves crunch under your feet.
  18. Light up your fireplace. Spend the first of many chilly nights in front of a cozy fire.
  19. Check out your local theater. Many groups are preparing their first shows of the season. No theater group? Check out high school drama club shows!
  20. Find a new board game for the family. When you can’t play outside, you’ll have something fun to do that’s unplugged.
  21. Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! It just isn’t the holidays without the parade.

What are some things you enjoy during November? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

 

 

Why I Don’t Believe in Motivation

Motivation-definition

 “How do you motivate yourself?”

I hear this question at least once a week. People find motivation in all sorts of things-family and friends, nature, music or their faith to name a few. All of these are good motivators, and can really push you to get what you need to get done.

I just don’t believe in it.

Hear me out. Motivation is a fickle mistress. Sometimes you wake up ready to tackle the day, and check everything off your To-Do List. Other times, Facebook or Netflix or the dog or that crack in the wall are just more captivating to your attention. I myself have spent hours on my couch waiting for motivation to strike me like a thunder bolt. I’ve even Googled “how to motivate myself,” (talk about wasting time!).

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In my massive Googling foray, I discovered a harsh truth that took me a while to accept: You don’t need motivation to take action; you need to TAKE ACTION to get motivated.

It is such a simple concept that is harder than heck to apply to life. But if you think about it, it’s really true. How many times have you started to pick up just a little in your kitchen and ended up doing a full blown deep cleaning, leaving you with a sparkling stove and gutted refrigerator? One small step often leads to fantastic results.

So what is the trick to harnessing this first step? How do you motivate yourself to take it?

I use a two-prong approach: First, make the step ridiculously small. Laughably small. So small you can’t NOT do it. The classic example is if you don’t feel like a full workout, do one single push up. Often you won’t want to stop, leading to the workout you had planned. If not, then at least you’ve done one push up! For me, I make myself walk into my studio. That’s it. Once I walk into that room full of my projects, I feel a surge of energy and excitement, and I want to work.

Calvin and HobbesThe second step is to make step one nonnegotiable. When you were in school and just weren’t motivated to go to school, you still went. Why? Because you HAD to. It wasn’t an option. The same logic applies to this. Returning to our classic example, you have to do that single push up, no matter what. Snowing, raining, tired, busy-no excuse! Days I don’t feel like working, I still have to climb the stairs and open the door to my studio. If I seriously do not want to do anything after that, then it’s okay. Perhaps I’m sick or overly tired or just need a mental health break for a day. 99% of the time, though, I’m just feeling lazy. Being in my studio makes all the laziness melt away.

I am honestly a very lazy person. I subsisted on popcorn and frozen pizza in college simply because it was easier than actually cooking real food. However, I also have goals I want to achieve and dreams I want to accomplish. So that laziness has got to go, and I can’t wait for motivation to just show up!

I challenge you to try this technique for one week and compare your results to a normal week! Let me know your thoughts and progress in the comments below!

The Littles at Art in the Park

My, my how the summer has flown by! We have been super busy with trips to both Seattle and Arizona, swimming in the pool, and of course, preparing for Art in the Park! I As I wrote in this past post, Art in the Park is a huge, two day craft fair here in TriCities,WA. I have been going almost every summer since I was a little girl, dreaming of having my own booth one day. This year, I made that dream come true as I set my booth up alongside 300+ other vendors!

It was a dizzying few weeks leading up to the fair followed by a whirlwind two days. I had a lot of fun and learned a LOT, which I want to share with you.

  • It takes a lot of helping hands. Between setting up the tent, hauling tables, puttingWP_20140725_022 up banners and setting up all the products (among many, many other tasks!), there is NO way I could have pulled off this event by myself. I owe a huge debt to my entire family for helping me set up and take down, and manned my booth during potty breaks.
  • You never know about your fellow vendors. People who create are quite creative in themselves. One jewelry seller wore a cat outfit both days-tail included! Another was an awesome, hippie-esque man selling jewelry with his college-aged daughter. All were amazing people, full of friendliness and great advice. I even formed a friendship/mentorship with my neighbor Rob, from Saucy Jewelry. (Check them out here-they have beautiful pieces!)
  • You never have everything you need. While not my first fair, it was my first outdoor venue-which brought a whole set of obstacles I hadn’t prepared for. Most noticeably, the DUST! Dust got on my tables, my banks and of course me! Thanks to my awesome family and a bit of quick thinking, my sister ran to the store and got me a box of swiffers-which now live in my “fair box!”
  • Never stop thinking outside of the box. I wanted some shelving for my tables for
    Teddy Bear Banks sitting on a wrapped box!

    Teddy Bear Banks sitting on a wrapped box!

    visual effect. However, I didn’t have any shelves or extra cash to buy some. What I did have, though, was a lot of spare boxes and fun wrapping paper.-poof! Fun, inexpensive makeshift shelving that helped my products-and entire booth-stand out! There is no “right” or “wrong” way to set up a booth at a craft fair.

    Both days of the fair were beautifully sunny but not too hot,which meant a lot of people out shopping! The best part for me was running into so many old friends and community members that I haven’t seen for years, since before moving to Brooklyn, NY. I even ran into my 7th grade teacher! So many smiles,hugs and adopted Littles-it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in long while!

Making your own dreams come true is totally worth it!!