On the Search for Failure

I’ve determined, after seven years, that I’m on the search for failure.

I’m also on the search for success. Grand success. Maybe not the kind of success that allows me fancy cars and houses across the globe, but success that allows me the items I desire: helping others; living comfortably, without worrying about paying bills, or deciding if buying underwear is more of a priority than groceries, as an example; being able to help my family reach that same level of comfortable; traveling when I want and to where ever I want; less stress and more health.

No where in there am I striving to amass a great wealth. I do want to be secure for my future, should I be fortunate to live to my 99th birthday, but again, I want the security in the points above.

For around a month or so, I’ve mentioned closing the custom & wedding side of S2 Stationery and Design. And I have. October 1st, closed that door. And I’m glad it has been closed. It’s left me with time to really focus on the things I want to focus on and most importantly plan for the ways I want to grow S2.

I’m no where near complete on my goals. They’re evolving and every time I write one down, another comes to me later. Not to mention, I have other things that pop up and show up and steer my path a different way, which I know shifts my goals a bit more.

This past weekend, I found myself discussing with very good friends my goals for both my business and personal life. We discussed pregnancy and relationships. We discussed it all honestly. What sticks from the two conversations was the statement I said several times in both:

I’m never going to be happy until I actually fail. Until, I can say, I did the best I could with the stationery and I failed and it’s time for me to be an adult and stop following this dream.

Chances are, I’m not going to fail. I know in my heart that what I’m doing is what I’m suppose to be doing. I know it’s hard to explain and for those who aren’t like-minded to understand or even begin to fathom, but I’m not going to fail. Mostly because I don’t see failing as a bad thing. I think even in the things that don’t go right, or that crash and burn, or realize that something I felt so strongly about doesn’t work any more and needs to be revamped or cancelled or changed, there is opportunity. There is growth. This is the natural flow of life.

I’m sure I will fail in little ways as this dream continues, but I wouldn’t quite say that this journey has been a failure thus far.

It is this reason that I struggle now. That I’ve been struggling for the past three years since returning from Japan. It is why, I’ve allowed myself to fall into this abyss of uncertainty and comfortable, yet uncomfortable, discomfort while working a job I don’t like and going through the motions of living a life that isn’t doing anything for me or my goals.

I have good friends at my job, I have made great connections and I’ve allowed myself to believe that I need this backup because at one time, I did. And I’m sure I need this backup a little bit longer, too, but the reality is that until I let go of the backup, I’m never really going to fail and because I’ve yet to really “fail,” I’m going to continue to stay annoyed and in this uncertain abyss because this doesn’t make me happy. This doesn’t make me motivated to grow or change or fail.

And so, all of this has led me back to the point of origin for S2 Stationery & Design. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to get back to the root – to the dream that launched this business idea and company seven years ago. Once that’s in order, I’m adding the passion project that I believe will be my legacy.

Once these things are ironed out, I’m sure my future will look bright, my pockets will be as well, and I’ll be living a life where failure isn’t something I’m seeking, it’s something I’m staring at and saying, “hello, where are you taking me next?”

I can’t wait to share all of this with you!

 

“I Quit My Job, Again!” – When Values Don’t Align With The Work Your Doing

I have been sitting on this post for a while now. I’m not sure why. I think it’s mostly because I’ve been wallowing and trying to identify what to do next and how to pay bills that need to be paid sooner than later.

For those of you who don’t know, I quit my job (of less than a year) earlier this year. In January, to be exact. It wasn’t that big of a deal, yet it was. It required me saying goodbye to the very reason that brought me to New Jersey, although I think there was another reason, but that’s a topic for a later day.

I’ve quit jobs before and have always moved on to bigger and better things and this leave was along the same lines. I have moved on to bigger and better things, although many days it leaves me in a panic and other days, I wonder if I’ve set myself up for failure because my success isn’t happening as quickly as I’d like it. It almost always ebbs when I remember my days sitting in that space wanting to strangle myself and I think, “Thank GOD, I left that place!”

Recalling my reasons for leaving and my sense of fulfillment and dread allow me to live in the present. I know it seems a bit backwards, but there is some truth in recalling the past to bring about gratitude. It also gives me perspective on my reasons for not wanting to work for another company possibly ever again, and my hunger to make S2 and my own growth real and viable.

There are many blog articles on the topic of quitting a job and values and success and here I’m going to add my perspective to the mix. It is true. It is all true. It may be a bit different depending on the person and the experience, but your values are deeply connected to your success. Everyone wants to follow their dream and pursue their passions, and they can as long as they pay heed to their values.

Values are the things your parents and grandparents taught you. They are those little reminders that your gut throws at you when you’re embarking on something. They are what gives you pause, and send you forward. Values don’t necessarily have anything to do with religion or ethnic background. They have everything to do with how you react to the events going on around and inside you as well as your treatment of what is around you during those times. Values have as much to do with how you view an article of clothing, a piece a trash, to how you treat an animal crossing the road and the homeless man/woman begging for money as you walk by. Values also have to do with whether you return the extra money when the cashier is incorrect and whether or not you hold the door for the person behind you or walking out as you get ready to walk in.

Now, I’m not perfect in any way. I yell at people in my car. I curse them out too. Telemarketers almost never receive a calm and fun phone conversation with me. And yet, when I’m about to go off, I tell the person on the other line, “I know this isn’t your fault, but I’m frustrated. It doesn’t allow what I’m about to do, but please know this isn’t personal.” Again, I’m not perfect, but I have values. I feel remorse in many cases where I reacted badly. I want to help the homeless person. In fact, there have been days where I have $2 to my name and I give the homeless man/woman a dollar. I don’t do this to feel better, I do it because it reminds me there are people who don’t have; where as I may be in a state of flux and serious concern, I’m not on the street and that person deserves to feel some sense of hope and care.

How does all of this have anything to do with quitting my job? It’s simple, really. I quit my job because I had different values than those of my bosses. When I think about it, many times I’ve quit my job because my values were different than that of my boss(es). In some cases, that value was monetary, but in most cases it was the quality of the life I was living and the impact I was making not just for me, but for the greater World.

One of the biggest reasons for quitting my most recent job had to do with the wedding of a really good friend of mine. One of my best friends, actually. That wedding coincided with The Super Bowl in the NJ/NY area and one of the largest gift shows in New York City. I knew given past experiences that my bosses were not going to be okay with me not being there for the beginning of the show because of a wedding. In fact, I knew that a “your priorities aren’t in order” conversation would happen, again and it would be thrown in my face that I was being paid “much more money” than anyone else. I simply did not want to hear it. Again. Ever. As I told them once in a conversation, “my friends and family come before work, always.” (Something they can not and will not understand ever, because their business is built around their extramarital relationship.) And so, Without any real hesitation (and after several weeks and months (I had been considering quitting after six months of employment with them) of considering my decision), I quit. I gave a three week notice and my last day was on January 30th. It was refreshing; not to mention the Universe kept throwing me signs that I could take this road. The day after my last day, I drove to Chicago for a wedding in a bloody snow storm. It was liberating, exhausting, and exactly what I needed to heal my soul and my values.

I haven’t looked back; I haven’t wished I were back there and I most definitely know in my heart of hearts that I did the right thing. Leaving a job (because it was never a career) where you sit in the basement of a house where your two bosses are “playing house” with poor internet connection and no natural light, was the right thing to do. As I kept reminding myself as I prepared to tell them I was quitting, “Sara, you didn’t quit one job where you received employee benefits and worked normal hours to go work in a dungeon where you were expected to put in 10 hour days, not make a noise, and feel miserable.”

I share the details of the situation because it’s important to know why values are so important. Why my values are shaping my current (and future) work situation. Many times people feel like they have no choice; as though they have to stay in a horrible situation even if their soul is dying. No one should ever sacrifice who they are for money. Ever. Yes, we need money. Yes, money gives us security, but the truth is it doesn’t. There will always be more money we can make, or more things we can (and feel the need) to buy. Now, I’m not suggesting everyone quit their jobs now because they’re not happy. What I am suggesting though, is that everyone take stock of their values and desires in life and compare whether they are being met in their current job situation. If they’re not then an exit strategy should be figured out. Sooner rather than later.

You’ll be fine when you take the step toward your values. In fact, the entire World might be more than fine if we all conscientiously took a step toward our values and did the work we were meant to do. It might be hard at first, but as my wonderful mother told me while I was in tears a few nights ago, “Sara, you’re following your heart and while that’s a difficult road, you’ll be better off for it.”

2013 Etsy NY Holiday Handmade Cavalcade – Success!

This past weekend, December 14th and 15th I participated in the 2013 Etsy NY Holiday Handmade Cavalcade. It was my first Cavalcade and it was A-MAZ-ING!

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My table in the corner at the 2013 Handmade Holiday Cavalcade.
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The amount of bags and stuff it took to get me to this year’s Cavalcade. EEPS!

I realized Monday morning when I posted a status on Facebook about the weekend that I based it on monetary gain. It was only after, that I felt badly. Now, don’t get me wrong. The monetary gain is important. And when I look at the overall picture of this little event, it is a huge part of why I’m calling this a success.  I made back the cost for the space that weekend as well as the cost of the table I purchased off of another Team member (my days of paying for tables at markets are over), gas to the City, and food.   I don’t feel bad about the amount I made, nor do I feel bad for emphasizing the monetary.

What I do feel bad is that I didn’t point out the other ways that the weekend was successful.

  • For starters, my newsletter list grew by 11 people. That’s right, 11 people signed up to receive the occasional newsletter from me about my company.
  • I also got some incredible feedback on my product. I received so many compliments about my work, including one guy who came to my table toward the end of the show who told me, “Based on the table alone, you do a great job of representing yourself.”  I told him that was one of the best compliments I had received all weekend.
  • I now know that people want single cards of certain styles.  Which I have always been reluctant to offer, but I can take some of those cards and offer them as singles at future markets.
  • Understand that my Etsy shop needs to focus on these simple, but elegant things rather than reflect my portfolio.  These are things that can still remain priced where they are, but showcase my love of lined envelopes and communication. And while they don’t need to be greeting cards, in the traditional sense, they can be single thank you cards, congratulations cards, etc.
  • I learned that people will pay for things they find valuable if you can not only share that story well, but engage with them. Others, may not see that value, and those customers are not the customers I want anyway.

The Cavalcade was a smaller “Market” by comparison to the ones I’ve done before, had much more of an intimate feeling, and the mix of product for sale was eclectic and interesting.  You could get things for almost everyone on your list. I had a problem finding something for my youngest brother there, but that’s only because he’s 19 and well, you know how 19 year old guys can be.

Something else I noted was that the energy of the weekend was a bit off. A few people who stopped by to visit noticed this too and said that they didn’t quite a festive energy that they were expecting to feel. It could have been because Saturday turned out to be a whopper of a snow day, which still brought in quite a few shoppers. In fact, I’d say that Saturday was far busier than Sunday, but I think the air of the market was off. It’s almost like in the movie “Elf”, when they talk about Christmas spirit being low, or not existing…that’s how I felt about the market. As though, whatever Christmas spirit there should have been was non-existent. As for me, well, I’m pretty bubbly and am so filled with passion for my product that even though there wasn’t a Christmas tree with lights in my corner, a few sellers even came by to tell me that they wanted to come over to the spot of cheer tucked in the far corner. I’m glad I was able to provide that.

Anyhow, back to business. These two points made me realize a lot more about my target customer, something I’ve been thinking about the past few days since my meeting with the Marketing Strategist, Halley Gray, of Evolve & Succeed . See, the people who bought from me, were my people. They were the type of people who were easy to chat with, who didn’t balk at pricing, who exclaimed, “I love stationery, or paper, or writing,” or “I collect paper from everywhere!” etc. These are my people. They are the people who saw my work and told me, “your stuff is unlike anyone else that I’ve seen”, or “you’re work is really beautiful”, or “I wish I had a need to buy your stuff.” These people are the people who want elegant, natural, simple, are educated, well traveled, and value art. These are the people who want to work with people who have stories and mix those stories. These are those people. I really believe Halley, helped me out a lot this weekend, more than she even knows. (I’ll have to email her and let her know!)

But most importantly, it got me thinking a lot about the story I tell and how even when I’m exhausted, my story is important and there are people who want to hear that story and connect and be part of that story. THAT is why I got into this in the first place. The 2013 Holiday Handmade Cavalcade reminded me of that and that knowledge will help me push forward into 2014, which I’m really excited about!

So yeah, that is why I’m counting the Cavalcade a HUGE success and why even if I don’t do it next year, although, I’m sure I will, I’m really excited to see where I move forward. I’ve learned time and time again that success isn’t just the money you make, but the people you connect with, the stories you exchange, and the lessons you learn.

OH, and before I forget…I had a gentleman come up to my table at one point and chat with me. He noticed my book of photos that I had from my recent trip to Japan and he looked at it and said, “I’ve seen this picture before! Are you the girl that went to Japan and couldn’t speak Japanese, but learned how to make paper?!” I said yes. He responded with, “I don’t know where I read/heard about you, but I read about you! I know who you are!”  I was shocked and told him, “No way!” He took my card and said he’d be following up on me. That, is another form of success! Huzzah!

A Letter to the 2011 NYC Marathon

Dear NYC Marathon Route, all 26.2 glorious miles of you,

Hi! We met this past Sunday, Marathon Sunday, but I fear that you may not remember me. After all, there were 47,000 runners that touched your path on November 6, 2011. I was the girl with the high curly bun/pony tail at the Staten Island end of the Verrazano at 10:40am, and the deflated, low curly bun/pony tail in Central Park at approximately 5:48pm.

Actually, you may remember the last 4 miles that I cried. Or the last 1/2 mile where I found the strength, on sore and achy legs and feet, to sprint to the finish line.

You were so hard and yet, a marathon ending never felt so sweet. Two days ago, you showed me everything I’ve achieved and am in the 6 hours and some odd minutes it took to complete you. You reminded me of the grit and determination that lurks in my personality. It’s the one and same that has had several friends say, “Sara always does what she says she’s going to do” and currently that has me living a dream and plotting an escape.And at the end, after I refused a goody bag, mylar wrap, and photo at the finish, again showed me just how damn, plain stubborn I can be.

See, the road to YOU, my dream marathon, has taken five years. It has taken three marathons prior and a ton of self-belief and determination. For each of those marathons, and you, too, I fundraised on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Team in Training. I realized yesterday afternoon that I’ve raised over $19,000 for blood cancer research. That’s quite a feat. One that makes my long hours on four race courses not a failure.

When I started running in 2006, I said that I would only put myself through the pain of 26.2 miles for really cool places. Never would I run the Cleveland Marathon when I could run a marathon in Egypt (does that even exist?!)! And never would I run Boston because I’d have to qualify and commit myself to even more discipline than regular marathons and possibly even a lifestyle change.

And that’s where in lies the feelings of failure.

Between you and me, I have a fear of success. I have never fully appreciated my ability to “succeed”. I’ve always chosen to hide it so that I don’t stand out too much, or in another way of saying it, hold myself back. I’ve seen it at work and especially Sunday, as I crossed from the Queenborough Bridge into Manhattan and again at mile 21 when I thought, “You don’t really need a medal; you can quit you know and accept that you are just not good at running marathons, Sara”.

When it comes to running, sometimes I believe I can’t do it, even though I know that I can-I’ve witnessed the moments where my body becomes a running machine. It is because of this thought, that I’ve always finished a marathon, regardless of time and why I’ve gone back to challenge myself two and three and four more times after.

Every step up 1st Ave required me saying to myself, “It’s just 10 miles, you have this. You know what to expect.”  Seeing Amy and Chiara at mile 18 was amazing and exactly what I needed, but you’d prove to me that I’d need to dig deeper, especially at mile 22, to get to mile 26. If it hadn’t been for spotting my boss at 22 and the pep-talk from the woman who saw me “hit-THE-wall” and said, “You’re doing what I couldn’t do because I got injured and had to drop-out mid-training”, I really don’t know that I would have finished.  It was also at this point that I was reminded of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” lyrics, ” if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York…” at the start line.

I knew you were going to be  tough, but I also knew you were going to be an emotional one. I am a Brooklynite by birth, even if I grew up in the Mid-West, and my Mom and little brother were here to see me run not-to-mention all the friends in the city that I knew were going to cheer me on.

Running the streets of NY was incredible, especially Brooklyn! When I got into Bay Ridge, and ran up 4th Avenue, I was awed and impressed. I even stopped into my favorite Coffee Shop in Root Hill and screamed from the door to get the attention of Michelle, one of the owners. It was surprising to her and I may have deafened a customer, but I felt such a love and pride for the Borough of my birth and the people that call it home. But what was more was the over all energy of YOU and the city. The people out there cheering in every Borough were such an amazing display of what there is to love about this incredible city that attracts so many runners to this day each year.

I would not have finished without all the support and encouragement that I got all 26.2 miles of you. The signs specifically for me from friends in Brooklyn and Long Island City made it extra special. What was the best though, hands down, as seeing my Mom, little bro, aunt, and cousins at mile 11.  See, I’ve spent a lot of time in Williamsburg and so it was like I ran home as I ran through to LIC (another place I’ve spent countless hours) and on to Central Park.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to an email from my friend in South Africa that said the following,

” Well done! You made it. I was watching your progress online! Saw that
you made it half way and then it was late here, so I went to bed, but
checked your time this morning. Well done for persevering, I knew you
could do it. wishing you a quick recovery…”

Yesterday, with my swollen feet and aching legs, I ventured on facebook to see an outpouring of support, encouragement, and love unlike any other marathon I’ve completed. I no longer think that I failed you after all.

As I took MetroNorth to White Plains for a work conference yesterday morning, we rode into the Harlem-125th Street stop, just where I passed yesterday on my two feet and it was extremely cool to think, “I ran past this just yesterday!”.

When I walked into the meeting, everyone of my fellow conference attendees, from all over the world, knew I was the girl who ran the NYC Marathon Sunday. During the day introduction, they clapped for me and spent the rest of the day congratulating me and asking questions. Never once did it phase them that I didn’t finish you in 3 or 4 hours. They were just awed that I even had the gumption to run a marathon.

But that’s not what stopped me from feeling like a failure. No. It was more. It was the realization that no matter what-I’ve ALWAYS finished a marathon-even on poor ankles, a month after my father’s death, sacrificing my marathon for the sake of another marathoner and now, YOU, with an overwhelming desperation and anxiety to be just be done.

And so I thank you. Yes, I’ve rambled quite a bit here and I don’t think I even began to do you justice in regards to your scope and awesomeness, but THANK YOU. I had a heck of a journey to, through, and even now, after you. You inspired, caused doubt, fear, pain, anger and tears. You were harder than I expected and yet, more fulfilling. You were everything I wanted you to be and then some.

I hope to meet you again as a runner, one day in the future; maybe in a few years. For now, you remind me of my initial reason for signing up for a marathon and that marathons are not for babies or wusses. Marathons aren’t even for those that are half-hearted. No, to be a real marathoner, you must never give up, even when you want to, even with inconsistent training. You must be me, two days ago. The rewards to never giving up are much more than a medal at the finish, it’s NYC street cred.

Until our next meeting, my tired brain, achy legs and feet thank you beyond this long letter.

Cheers!
Sara Stroman

How Will I Know When I’ve Succeeded?

“Think about the big questions that drive your business. What challenges are you trying to solve? What changes are you going to make to your industry? How will you know when you’ve succeeded? ” –  Adelaide Lancaster (Co-Founder, In Good Company)

I was reading through some articles this morning for the end of the Month posting with my favorite articles and came across those words from Adelaide Lancaster, who wrote the article titled “Build Your Business Empire by Thinking Big and Starting Small” for Women 2.0.  As I continued reading the article, I kept going back to those questions, especially the last one, “How will you know when you’ve succeeded?”

How will I know when I’ve succeeded? 

I haven’t the faintest idea. Which scares me!

Why?

Well because I’m a type-A goal focused control freak. Okay, maybe I’m not all of that, but I am quite a bit of all of that.  I’m flexible in everything that I do, but I am prone to have a new goal almost as soon as the old goal fails, dies, or finishes.  For example, after Marathon number 4 on November 6th, I have decided that I will focus on rock climbing. I haven’t even begun to look at places for me to tackle this challenge/goal, but I know that I’ve wanted to do it for a while and I did it once, freaked out and then climbed to the top, so I can do it.  More importantly, I want to experience that feeling again, get better at it, and build strength. Crucial not just for my health, but for my brain; changing activities and moving toward new challenges helps keep me motivated, challenged, and learning.

I know you’re thinking, “Great, you know when to stop running, but what does it have to do with knowing how to succeed in your business?”

My point in sharing the bit about knowing it’s time to leave running endurance events alone for a new challenge is that I’m aware I know when to cut my losses and move toward a new area. Which seems to me as part of knowing when I’ve reached a success business wise.  But I know it is just a piece, a very small piece.   And the differences are huge. Now, I know I need to move on from running  (and a few other things) because of three things:

  • I’m exhausted with the status quo;
  • I’m bored;
  • I need to spice up my life a bit with variety.

I’m a Sagittarius, I can’t help that I’m this way. And just for the record, I am not blaming my fire sign for my lack of care and boredom, I’m just saying it’s a trait of my sign and I’m okay with it.   This is something that is part of my DNA. As much, and often, as I talk about wanting to go into the woods and remove myself from distractions and find peace and quiet, I know that it’s unrealistic. I need people, noise, smog, dirt, and all the rest of the ugly as much as I need beauty, peace, nature, time alone, and quiet. All of those things help make up my creative person I am.  I also don’t ever want any of this to tie in with my business. I want S2 to thrive and grow and if I ever feel the way I feel about running about S2, we’re in trouble.

So back to knowing when I succeed, I’m still stumped.

The questions that have me thinking are the following:

  1. Will it be when I make a certain amount of money? Probably not. Although, that will be a great success in deed!
  2. Will it be when I’ve given back to the community in ways that I can see the value?  Probably part of my success equation, but not the total sum.
  3. Will it be when I have my own studio space and some employees? That’s definitely part of the equation, too, but again, only part. 
  4. Will it be when I have a work/life balance? Again, part of the equation, but still not the full total. 
  5. Will it be when sales are at a certain level?  Or rather when I’ve completed “X” amount of custom orders?   I haven’t even considered this! Currently, a sale is a sale and exposure, so I’m always pleased for a sale, but I don’t know that making a goal of having 100 custom orders or 200 sales is really going to make me feel like I’ve succeed. I mean sure, it’s a goal, and a good one to have, but it’s not the end all be all and I know it’s not what is propelling me into this business and industry, so no. 
  6. Will it be based on my customer(s) joy? You can bet on that! But again, not the complete sum, just a piece of the final equation.

Hmm… I’m going to have a complicated equation when I finally get this down! I also see now that I really need to give this thought. It doesn’t have to take that much space to the point where I’m not working on design, but it should definitely be something that I focus on as I create my business plan and strategy.  I think it should also align with my company values and mission.

But a mission and personal values don’t always add up to success. I don’t want any of you to think that I don’t have my values and mission aligned because I do. But those are more about education and helping people. Both amazing and extremely possible things, but I need to have a product and a successful one to boot to create the opportunities that I want to in education and that help people.  This is a conundrum that any business person and entrepreneur faces. It is what leads many to decide whether they want to outsource or not, or use plastic to wrap their products, or find a more eco-friendly alternative.  It boils down to having a profit to make other things happen. I’m realistic about this, but I’m also an idealistic optimist. I believe that we can all find solutions that aren’t hurtful and can inspire positive impacts.

And so, now my plan is to adopt this question as my basis for my business plan.  The profit that I make will have to be based on how I determine and measure my success as much as anything else I would consider. 

This will be an interesting experiment and I’m sure that many a well established business person is scratching their head and laughing at me.  But I’m going to remain adamant about this. I’m going to see how I can develop a profitable and sustaining business based on not just my values and mission, but on how I finally conclude as my equation for establishing success as a business.

I had decided earlier this year that in 2012, I would really put effort into piecing together my polished business plan. I know I’ve mentioned before that I do not have a business plan. I mean, I do, it sits on my hard drive no longer than four pages.   I’ve been all action and not strategy since 2009.  2011 has been a great year for me to help pick things that will help make the more concrete strategy next year, but it’s partially why I risked a lot more money this year and dove into tabling shows and created ready-to-sell pieces (that I had originally been against) without any real consideration or depth and planning.

As someone who has experience in business and studied Marketing in college, I had set out to create a business plan first and then immediately got caught up in the creative element. I don’t regret that I have done things this way, but I do think in 2012, as I approach my three year mark, it’s time to step my game up and be able to present my business in a way that’s not just for paper lovers, invitation and stationery needers, and fellow crafters, but business people who can see my big picture and go to bat for my team, as I continue to make things with a focus on high quality, small scale, and  unlimited education.

I should definitely be scared, but I should also be excited. The future is and will be extremely bright, I just need to figure out how I will determine and measure my success.  To the drawing board, I go!

I’ll make sure that you know how I end up with my equation (believe me, I’m about to create an equation!). I want to know about your success measurements and equations. If you have one that you think I can learn from or should see to help me, please share! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to ponder what they consider their footprint.

Thanking A Little Army Called Friends

This morning I was all geared up to write this post.  As a matter of fact, I was in the middle of formulating the sentences during my walk to the bus, but then coincidence struck (or maybe it was the Universe and my Dad’s spirit?) and it stopped me in my tracks.

During my walk,  I spotted a man that resembled my father. His outline was the exact to my Dad’s. I didn’t get a great look because I was so shocked that all I could do was say the words “no!” and cover my mouth. As I slowed down and walked around the car, I saw his profile and only registered the facts that the guy was a big guy with lowly shaved hair, a beard and goatee, glasses, a large belly and hands-I immediately started to cry.  I mean sobbing, body shaking cry. I cried the entire bus ride to work and  for a bit when I sat at my desk. They could possibly have not looked alike, but from the silhouette it was a guy that looked and reminded me of my Dad.

This isn’t the first time I’ve spotted a man that resembles my dad on the streets of NYC.  However, this is the first time in a while that I’ve had to stop to catch my breath because the shock and crying were too much for me to handle.  As I walked to work this morning with tears in my eyes, I looked up at the sky and said a little hello to my Dad.  I smiled because I know that my dad doesn’t want me to cry. Death is part of life and life continues and prospers thanks to the impact and influence of death and the people who leave a lasting impression. You know the story of how my Dad inspired and me and I know that he continues to do so. This morning was a reminder of that.

In all of the emotion that exploded from me this morning, writing this post stayed on my mind. In fact, it lit a fire in my belly to thank all the amazing friends in my life.

In every aspect and phase of my life, I have maintained that I am who I am thanks to my awesome family (drunks, crazy, poor, and everything else) and friends.  I’ve also always included a few guys from past relationships and still do-they influenced growth.  In the end though, it always boils down to my family and friends and I include friends that I’ve recently met along side the friends I’ve known for years.

See,  I come from a great background and my parents have always been 100% supportive of me. There are many factors-my parents struggled, my mother is an immigrant, and while my mother has a degree, my father only had a high school diploma-his career was driving a truck and chasing freedom (something I understand all too well).  When it came to me, my parents always created an environment where I never felt I needed to confirm or be anything other than myself.  They accepted me and my choices-friends, college, clothing, jobs and everything else- beginning as a four-year-old in a pink tutu dancing around to Madonna before all the guests visiting our home would leave for the night.

Fast forward 26 years and I am still essentially a four-year-old dancing around in a pink tutu (and my Mom still goes along with it), just with a bit more style and I have managed to become a bit more sensible about my eclecticism. Okay, maybe not a bit more sensible, but I’ve gathered enough sense to know when dancing around in a pink tutu is ideal or not. It is only then that I make the decision to either attempt to seem “normal” or just rip off my clothes and show the pink tutu underneath (every silly, stand-out-of-a-character knows that she has to always be prepared for any given moment!).

Which is why my friends are so deserving right now of this shout out-this electronic thank you note from me.  My friends, many of whom I’ve known for years, allow me to dance around them in this pink tutu and what is more, they encourage it and support it. How can a gal be so lucky?!

Yes, reader, I’m sure that you’re probably thinking that your friends are cooler and more gravy than mine, but you are mistaken! My friends are some of the best. They’re kind of like my army. More so, they are also growing little armies (kids) that love their pink tutu wearing Auntie Sara meaning that I’ve got even more of an army than I thought!

The great thing about my friends (little army) is that they aren’t always hooting and hollering their support, but instead like silent ninjas, they are there watching and waiting.  See, they all have their own lives with spouses, other friends, children, jobs, vacations, and family, but they also take time to be part of my life. They send me mail and emails with all kinds of love and encouraging sentiments, donate to my charity events, review my designs and sometimes even do things like edit my resume and cover letters (Alice, Katie C, Katie G, Mary, Esther, Mark, Paul, and way too many to list by first name); They attend reception events, cook meals for me and walk all around the city with me (Amy); They inspire me with their own gifts and talents (Dodie); They make me laugh (Erin);  They joke around about being my assistant, but sometimes really do things like an assistant would (Geeta); They place orders from me (Missy, Jenna, Dawn, Erin, Crystal, Taria and a few others not included here); and they are my  “greatest fan” (Eric).

I know that all sounds like a lot of giving and giving in ways that are tangible, but it isn’t. While placing orders from me and making donations to a good cause is actual money, just knowing that they are reading my emails asking for money, or are considering me to design something they have a need for means much much more to me.  In return for this amazing out pour of love, support, and encouragement, I return with undying support, loyalty, and truth. They also get “crazy” Sara in a pink tutu that always is there with her loud personality to lend anything she can along with spreading cheer.

If anything,  my pink tutu allows me to dance around and make people smile.  If my nearest and dearest are embracing that, which they are, then they are keepers, true blue keepers.  Which is why my friends are like rich, thick, brown gravy at Thanksgiving and why I have to give thanks to them and their support today and every day, but especially today.

Simply put, S2 Stationery and Design would not exist without them.  Okay, maybe it would, but it wouldn’t be as fierce. They inspire and help me create new things. They push me sometimes when I don’t want to push myself. They also always help teach me important lessons. I’ve learned some amazing customer service lessons from my friends. They are just as much of a force as my Dad.

THANK YOU FRIENDS! You’re an AMAZING small army that reminds me to be the best person I can be daily. Love you! 

Oh and reader, if you aren’t already a part of this small army, you can be  if you want! You just have to reach out and who knows what possibilities may come from it. Reaching out is the first step.

February Favorites

Remember how I had said I’d post my favorite articles from the month a week before the end of the month, oh about a month ago?

Well, I completely forgot.

Not because I was ignoring writing the post, either, but because I had so many other thoughts going on in February about work and potential blog posts that well, I forgot to keep track of postings/articles that I really loved. In other words, I don’t have many articles to send your way, but I do have three things that I came across/discovered/took part of in the month of February that I want to share. Oooo…I’m not a lost case after all!

1.  Etsy Success Symposium, 2011

Etsy hosted their first all day event. It was filled with wonderful entrepreneurial women like myself who sell crafts through their website. I attended. And it was a great day for many reasons–the information, the speakers, the food, the energy, all of the wonderful new people I was able to connect with. It truly was an amazingly full of inspiration day! Even the speaker on copyright and legal issues was bubbly and turned legal jargon into fun and digestible pieces of information. And then there was the singing CPA. He was maybe my favorite–a man who loves his numbers while singing songs about them at the same time. Awesome!

What really got me was the wealth of knowledge the room held–long time crafters, makers and vendors (table/ festival sellers and online sellers).  The speakers all have information to offer on running businesses because they own businesses. They were all women whose blogs I read and look forward to their insight. The best insight I got the whole day was from a woman named April Bowles of Blacksburg Belle, who talked about getting clear about your money so that you can figure out what roads to take that will help you get there business wise. SO IMPORTANT!  It also helped reiterate another session I went to called “The Greedy Crafter.” The speaker, Lorrie Vesey, of LennyMud, talked about how often times we think artists are not supposed to make money and so the word “greedy” has a negative connotation, but it shouldn’t.

A lot of the time, we talk about making money, but we’re never truly realistic about the number. Many artists, women especially, think that we’re supposed to be the “starving artist” and be happy not making money, just making art, but the reality is we’re not. I know I wouldn’t be happy. I have a life style that I wouldn’t mind scaling back on, but I have just the same.

Being able to live with what I make comfortably is what really matters to me, now. If I wanted luxury, I’d figure out how to climb the corporate ladder! Instead, I want a creative enterprise, where I can be happy and healthy while helping other people be happy. As I have stated before, without customer satisfaction, money is irrelevant, at least in my business. Those are my realistic goals for my business. I don’t think they’re far-fetched or irrational.

Oh,  one more thing,  I would  like to make money to continue to do some traveling here and there.

Alas, given that I’ve been dealing with questions about money,  increasing prices and evaluating my work and my time, I’ve been thinking about making the most of my pieces. When I think about my work, I know without a doubt that I can sell and be successful off of it because of what I can offer — another great topic discussed on multiple levels by different people. As a matter of fact, one of the most challenging sessions was toward the end (it was a long day), when Michelle Ward, the “When I Grow Up Coach,” asked us to fill out work sheets describing ourselves. This culminated in each of us having an elevator pitch. I failed this project and it made me realize that I need a better handle on describing what I do.  So I have a new focus, and a new blog posting/series to write about (stay tuned).

While these aren’t specific articles, I know, Etsy, has a few of the sessions via video stream in their community section. I highly recommend you check them out!

2. pinterest.com

I am absolutely and completely obsessed with pinterest.com! I know that I’m not going to do the website enough justice, but it is an incredible tool for those who are tired of making lists on random pieces of paper of things they’ve seen online that they want to remember for that one day soon, when they have an occasion to get dressed up for, or a house to furnish. Like me.

The premise is that you create boards of your favorite images online. You can name the boards anything you want and you stick to a theme.  For example, I have a board that is of quotes that I love.  I also have a board called “My style” and “puppy love.” I have 12 boards now, I think, but I have so much fun putting them together. It’s incredible how one little button called, “pin it” can bring me so much happiness.

I suppose what I really love about it is that it’s a virtual vision board. Thanks to being inundated with images and graphics, daily there’s just not enough space to contain all the favorites. But now I can have my “real” vision board on my wall at home and my virtual vision board where I can keep track of all the things I can’t print and hang on my wall.

Currently, pinterest.com is by invitation only, although I did submit an email to get added to the invitation list, which worked because I’m now a member. I highly recommend this site!

3. Forbes Magazine

Below resides an actual article.  Promise. I graduated in 2002 from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. It’s a long story for another day, but I knew with every fiber in my being that GWU was the school for me. It was my first “love at first sight” moment (I have only had two of those moments).   It is going on nine years since I graduated and I’m still fairly active–I update the English Department on my whereabouts and doings, attend alumni events,  mentor recent grads occasionally, as well as, donate money from time to time.  Two months ago, they offered me membership in this business group with a free subscription to Forbes Magazine. I figured why not. It’s good to be connected sometimes. What I wasn’t expecting was my interest in Forbes mag. I have gotten several issues and I’m hooked! I have enjoyed almost every article I’ve read and I really like their entrepreneur articles. They’re informative and eye-opening.

In the last issue for February, an Op/Ed piece by Rich Karlgaard titled, Ten Tips: Great Restructuring Winners really got my blood pumping. I even ripped out the article to put in my “business planning” folder.

My favorite points are, well all of them, but: design, speed, service, internal communications, external communications, brand and purpose. I know, it seems like I just picked all of them, but I didn’t. I simply picked the ones that seem the most relevant to me as a new entrepreneur. In this moment, I am obsessed with design, brand, service, purpose and communication.

I selected internal (and external) communications because while this may be a one woman show, I need to be open and honest with myself at all times. One of my great frustrations is that I haven’t learned to face my boss the way a man might and be comfortable with that. Instead, I let emotions get in the way. This could be for a variety of reasons, but  I know it’s bad.  And I know that moving forward in my own business, I need to make sure that I can be comfortable with talking honest with myself (which I can, mostly) and also conveying that to future employees (I can’t believe I just said/thought that!). Nobody wants to work for someone they don’t like/can’t trust/hate talking to and I refuse to become that type of boss. Not to mention, you can already imagine the effect it would have on any and all external communication.

Brand and design seemed to be good to combine because I am designing my brand and branding my design (I was an English Lit major, give me a break). Any designs that I do must go along with my branding guidelines and mission and my business branding needs to fit along the lines of whatever I design, otherwise, I will be conflicted. I want to point out that I am not saying that this will restrict my designing and branding whatsoever, but I want to make sure that at the core of my design and brand are the values I want to carry down the long road known as S2.

Finally, service and purpose. These two could easily go along with communication, but I separated them and combined them together because I think in order to provide service (which should be the most important value to any business, large or small), you need to understand your company purpose.  By purpose, I mean what IS that you’re doing? and why? and what exactly are you hoping to accomplish?. Without this, you’ll be lost forever, not to mention you’ll leave many clients and potential clients, confused, or lost to the point where they won’t return.

None of the points, or the article itself, seem very innovative (regardless of the heading it sits under), but it helped remind me of what should be key business points for every business, young or old.  And this is the kind of information you need when plotting and planning for business and world domination. Especially in a world where information abounds and can be overwhelming.

I hope your designing, building, planning, thinking and plotting is going well. If you have any articles to share, please do, other wise, stay tuned for the next two postings this week and Happy Marching!