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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway Winner’s Announced!

Happy Sunny-day friends! I hope you all have had a great week and a restful weekend so fine. First thing this morning, I dove into drawing names for the huge, awesome, rainbow giveaway – hooray! I was so excited to draw names and see who won!! This giveaway has been my favorite yet and I loved all the prizes so much, so I know all the contestants must be just as excited to see who won what!

Without further ado, here is the prizes & their winners! I have contacted all sponsors, so if you are a winner, be sure to keep an eye on your email inbox for an email from the maker of your prize to collect shipping info! 🙂

Erika Watkins

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Rainbow Mega Monster by Lu & Ed 

Tara Peterson

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Leprechaun Hair Clip or Headband (winner’s choice!) by Elle Bee Accessories

April Proveaux

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Green Baby Shoes by By Mindy

Tiffany

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Child Size Rainbow Clouche Hat by Knits for Love

Kashmir Campbell

Do something AWESOME today mug & 4 pack of cards by Big Hugs, Little Envelopes

Valerie Moore

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Monster Garland by Lisa’s Little Monsters

Heather Kallinger

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Custom Family Names Rainbow Heart by Selena Ashley Design

Holly Cothran

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St. Patrick’s Day Hair Clips by Three Little Snowflakes

Sarah Piccari

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Rainbow Adult Hat by Melli’s Yarn Works

Jessica McIlvenny

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Unicorn Pretend Play Mask by De Boop Shop 

PJ Halliwill

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Majestic AF mug by Rainy Day Geekery

Reina Trumpet

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Green St Patrick’s Day Monster by Pink Sprinkles Plush

Elizabeth Bloomquist

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Rainbow Stacking Toy by Outside Everywhere

Woohoo! Congratulations to all the winners! Yay! You guys are some lucky duckies and won some amazing prizes!

If you didn’t win this round – no worries!

You can still shop the sponsor’s online stores (all are linked under their pictures!) & I have another big giveaway (AND sale!!!!) coming up for my 7 year Envyversary in April! Can you believe it has been SEVEN years since I launched my online shop? It’s been a crazy, amazing, wildly wonderful ride, and I couldn’t have done it without you guys! So stay tuned for the huge 7 year celebration! Mucho smoocho!

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Engage – Storenvy’s New Email Marketing Tool to Capture Potential Clients, Address Cart Abandonment & Offer Repeat Buyer Incentives!

You guys! I have some super exciting news to share with you today!!

I’ve had my monster shop on Storenvy.com for almost 7 years. I am a huge advocate for their website because for entrepreneurs both seasoned & just starting out, it is the ideal platform for so many reasons – it’s free to list, free to sell through your custom store, 100% customization, they offer domain hosting & the ability to embed a blog, photo gallery, sizing chart, videos, Instagram feeds – I could go on and on! Storenvy gives you so much control over the appearance and functionality of your shop, and offers so many excellent tools for growth – which is what I’m writing about today!

Storenvy just rolled out a powerful new email service that I have been beta testing for them for a while now, and it makes generating sales and capturing new customers easier than ever! (It will be available to all Storenvy sellers the week of January 23rd.)

Introducing the new Storenvy Engage feature!

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Engage was born from Storenvy’s desire to set shop owners up for success and drive their sellers more traffic. This ingenious direct email feature was designed to help sellers harness the power of email marketing to turn Marketplace traffic & Watchers into customers. Engage is free and shows both Marketplace & Custom Store customer analytics, including purchase history (total amount spent & total number of orders), whether they were captured in the Marketplace or Custom Store, when the last time they visited your store was and if they have abandoned their cart. With Engage, you can use those analytics to send email promotions to individual people or entire segments of potential and previous clients, as well as send cart reminder emails to nudge customers to follow through with a purchase after abandoning their cart. To access Engage, you simply have to have your Marketplace Store open & have active listings in it.

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Here is a quick walk through of the new features, and some tips for maximizing Engage for higher conversion rates.

Firstly, like I mentioned above, your store must be active in the Storenvy Marketplace with active Marketplace listings to access Engage.  You do not need to activate Super Discounts to access the data and send cart abandon emails, but you do have to activate Super Discounts via your Extras tab on your Admin Panel to be able to use the Engage Discount Code features. This costs $5/month & unlocks Engage Discount Codes plus loads of other ways to reward customers! Totally worth the small monthly fee (it’s literally the price of a medium (grande?) white chocolate raspberry mocha at Starbuck’s. Yum!) because the discount code emails bring the cha-ching (in other words, they have a really great conversion rate, especially when used in conjunction with cart abandon emails, which I elaborate on below).

Got Super Discounts set up? Great! Now, let’s explore Engage!

Engage can be sorted into various views – All Customers, Repeat Customers (obviously, anyone who has bought from you more than once), Customers (anyone who has bought from you at least once) & Customer Leads (potential customers). You can search for a customer by name, or click Advanced Formulas to the right of the search box to unlock even more awesomeness.

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How to send discount codes using Engage

To send a discount code to a customer, you select the person you want to send a discount to, then click “Send Now”. This is the screen that pops up.

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From the top column, you will choose from active discount codes to apply to this promotional email. Once you pick which discount to offer, you just click send! I sent myself a test email first to see how it looked, and here’s what I got on my end:

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Looks great, doesn’t it!? It’s formatted for mobile as well, so it looks sleek in a desktop inbox or on mobile. Buyers can click directly from the email to your shop & the code is automatically applied at checkout.

When someone clicks from that email into your store and places an order, a “Success” icon appears by their name in the Engage window, and their orders have an Engage badge in the Orders Window, too – examples below.

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Engage is really easy to use, and now I am going to go through some ways to leverage this service to get more of those “Success” icons to appear for you!

Utilizing Engage to Address Cart Abandonment

Being able to send a gentle nudge to shoppers who abandoned their cart is such an amazing feature – I mean, I’m a mom. Do you know how often I add stuff to my online cart then get whisked away and completely forget about it? A reminder for that awesomesauce I left in my cart would almost definitely convert into a sale – and that’s exactly what this service offers!

Super Discounts isn’t required to use the Abandoned Cart email feature, but your Marketplace store must be active & have have active listings in it. You can’t, however, entice shoppers who abandoned carts to make a purchase with a discount code without activating Super Discounts.*

To view a segment of customers who abandoned carts, use Advanced Formulas, choose whether you want to sort cart abandons by the last day, week, month or between set dates. Apply your filter, and you can view where your cart abandon issues are happening** (custom or marketplace store), whether the shopper has purchased from you before or not, and the date of the abandoned cart.

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To capture these customers, click “Send Now” under the cart column. It brings up this simple message & you just click “Send E-Mail” – easy peasy!

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*Tip: When you search for cart abandons, you will be able to see which customers you sent a cart reminder message to, and whether it was successful or not. Definitely consider taking the second step to send them a coupon code if the cart reminder didn’t entice them to finish their order. I found the code following the cart reminder almost always sealed the deal!  

**I will be publishing a post soon on what causes cart abandonment and how to reduce the number of cart abandons in your online store!

Utilizing Engage to Convert Watchers into Buyers

Wacthers are people who use the Storenvy Watch function to follow your store & receive email updates about your new products because they like what you sell. Basically, an untapped goldmine until now!  Here’s how to set up a segment for Watchers.

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First, you would click Advanced, then click “Watches Shop” and in the Orders Count row below, select “Equal to” and input 0. This will filter results to show only people who watch your shop who have never purchased from you. (If you activate the Automate feature, this makes sending bulk discounts to watchers a snap! Details on Automate are towards the bottom of this post.)

If you are wanting to capture those potential customers, you can send a discount code to people who Watch your Storenvy shop via the marketplace Watch feature – again, these are people who found your products or shop through the powerful Storenvy Marketplace, liked what they saw & clicked the Watch button (which is a great asset in itself, as it immediately signs them up to get emails whenever you list new products, yay!). This new Engage features allows you to contact Watchers directly through the Storenvy platform to offer buyer incentives to get that first sale!

To create a code just for Watchers, go to Promote tab on your Admin panel & click add new promotion. Give it a name that elaborates what it’s for (“Thanks for following my store on Storenvy!” or “Here’s a code to thank you for Watching my shop on Storenvy!”) and put in the rest of the pertinent info – discount type and amount, code, expiration, etc.

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Tip: Offering a code of 20% or more is the best way to capture a new customer – any discounter greater than 20% is most likely to result in a higher conversion rate, whereas codes offering 15% or less have a much slimmer chance of conversions. 

Then just go down the list & send your code out to Watchers – or sign up for Automated discounts and save yourself from carpal tunnel. It’s worth it, trust me.

Utilizing Engage to Reward Repeat Customer

Honestly, being able to offer exclusive rewards to repeat buyers is my very favorite thing about the new Engage feature! To do this, you click “Advanced Formulas” in top right bar, and in the Orders Count select your segment – you can choose Equal to, Greater Than, or Less Than, then you type in the order number amount. Here, I put in Greater Than 5, so every client who has ever ordered from me more than 5 times will appear in this segment.

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Similar to creating an exclusive code for Watchers, while I was beta testing Engage I made a code just for repeat buyers, offering 20% off. I titled it “A New Year’s Discount Just for You!” and sent it out the first week of January to everyone who had ordered from my shop 5 or more times, and had great success with the campaign!

How to Automate Campaigns

In order to automate discount campaigns through Engage, you have to activate Super Discounts then activate this feature in your Extras. (Keep in mind, these features aren’t available to the public until the week of January 23rd, so your Extras page will look slightly different than this until it’s released sitewide).

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It costs $15/month to use the Automate features, but trust me, after manually pushing over 200 Engage discount codes while I was testing this out, it’s well worth the $15 a month! (I may or may not have bribed my son to send half of them for me, so if you have a preteen who is perpetually bored, that is also an option). Cart abandonment automation & discount code automation are two separate features, and each run $15. But! You are able to bundle all features (Domain Hosting, Super Discounts, Automated Discounts and  Automated Cart Abandonment Messages) for $30 – a total of 25% off savings. If you have a large customer base & lots of Watchers, this is a great investment! If you have a slightly smaller customer base, it’s not too terribly difficult to push the campaigns manually, albeit time consuming.

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When Automate, you create a discount code, then set it in the lower right hand corner of the discounts page, as shown above. Then just click the Automate/Bulk Send button at the top of the Cart or Discount Code column (shown below), and you can bulk send a campaign to everyone in the segment you currently have selected. This is a stellar way to address all recent cart abandons, reward anyone who ordered from you during a certain time frame, remind people who haven’t ordered from you in a while about your shop or to quickly introduce your brand to all of your Watchers at once. You can also use the Automate feature to send a follow up discount once a month as a gentle reminder to people who haven’t used their coupon yet.

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What kind of epic sorcery is this, you ask? The kind that makes getting your sale in front of your entire audience a million times easier.

Pretty rad, huh?

Before we close out, it’s important to note that all transactions that occur through promotions sent via the Engage function are subject to a nominal 10% commission to Storenvy (because these are sales you would not receive without using Storenvy’s functionalities to drive them). It’s a one time fee for orders placed by customers captured using Engage, so if your client typically shops from your custom store or discovered you there, you will NOT pay 10% commission on future sales from them. Make sense?

What do you think about the new Engage feature? Will you be trying it out?

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2017: Achieve

It’s been a wild year and probably the worst year yet for my little biz, so I’m excited to wrap it up and head into 2017 with a blank slate & lots of ambitions, new products, and plans for improvement!

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See, my word for 2016 was Grind – I knew it was going to be a rough year: I got divorced and moved halfway across the country in November 2015, so I knew I’d be starting from scratch, struggling financially and trying to reestablish myself, my son & my biz. I had chose Grind because this year was all about breaking off the rough bits, uncovering the ugly and grinding it all smooth so I can polish my life & biz into exactly what I wanted it to be. Throw in an unexpected pregnancy & birth that were both exceptionally difficult, and woof. What a year. Grind was the perfect word for 2016.  

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My word for 2017 is going to be Achieve. Inspired by Lisa Jacobs, I decided to set monthly numerical sales goals – and I plan to shatter through them each month! I am going to Achieve more by focusing my efforts where I see the highest conversions for my business – here on my blog, through my newsletter, and by supporting other makers through community and collaborations. I will be relaunching my swag bag program & I am also going to book (at least) 3 events this year to continue establishing myself locally & spreading the word about my monsters, and also putting products up for sale in a local children’s boutique as well.

Besides the stereotypical “I’m going to get back in shape and do yoga every day and meditate more often” personal goals, I also am going to start attending a weekly mother’s circle, to help network & grow my local community, as well as attending more local events/dinners/shows/festivals. As a mother & maker, I feel like having a strong local community is imperative to growing personally & professionally. It’s so important to build your village!

I chose Achieve for my word for 2017 because I am going to achieve big things for my little monster biz, and in my personal life as well! This year is all about achieving my hopes & dreams. I want to spread roots here in Western North Carolina, to start making connections and friendships, and really make this place my home while growing my monster business to better support my growing family. ♥

Do you pick a word of the year to focus on? If so, what was your word for this year/will your word for next year be?

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On mothering a new baby & running a handmade business

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The last time I blogged, I was 40 weeks pregnant & had been struggling with prodromal labor for weeks. Though the last few weeks were incredibly painful and exhausting because of daily contractions that lasted for hours upon hours at a time, it was a painful, uncomfortable, difficult pregnancy from the get go. Zoey Rose was born October 12th, and it was a traumatic birth experience. Basically, it was all super rough. Pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

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I still get really emotional when I think of it, so I won’t go into details of her actual birth, but in my last post I talked about my frustration with the constant contractions & false alarms, and with everyone telling me “You’ll know when you’re really in labor”. I didn’t, actually. I had chorioamnionitis, an infection that spread from my amniotic sac & amniotic fluid to my placenta, uterus & cervix. I started having bad stomach cramps, followed within a few hours by a fever of 103.7 & uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. I thought it was just a stomach virus. My doctor wanted me to come in for fluids, and by the time I got there I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk or talk (except to scream a few choice words). It wasn’t contraction pain, it was constant, excruciating, sob-crying producing pain from the bottom of my ribs to my hips. By then my fever was 104.2 & I found out I was 9cm dilated. Thankfully they were able to get an epidural in to relieve some of my pain, and she was born a few hours later, through a fast, traumatizing birth. She spent an equally traumatic week in NICU.

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Finding out that I had a life threatening infection that could have taken both me & my daughter if I had waited just an hour or two longer to get to the hospital, followed by her NICU stay, shook me to the core. In the weeks immediately following her birth, I suffered from severe depression and what felt, inexplicably, like survivor’s guilt. Because of her NICU stay, our breastfeeding journey was a little rocky starting out, which any breastfeeding mother will tell you is an emotional battle to begin with. Due to the antibiotics she received, she had gastrointestinal distress for the following week and a half after leaving the hospital and cried & vomited almost constantly. After that, she was in a hip brace for weeks and constantly screamed and cried, and vomited, because of that.

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My pregnancy, birth experience and the early weeks of caring for Zoey were not bubbly, beautiful moments of motherhood. I struggled a lot with depression & anxiety as I tried to care for an extremely fussy baby, home school a 5th grader & somehow plan to return to my business, as NOT working at all was not an option because we simply couldn’t afford for me to not work at all for several months, unfortunately.

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I won’t lie – in those early weeks of fresh, angry, projectile vomiting babyhood, when she would scream no matter I did to comfort her, nurse to the point of projectile vomiting then scream some more, then wanted to nurse to comfort herself after screaming and crying, then back to screaming as soon as she finished nursing until she projectile vomited again, rinse and repeat, I would weep and tell my partner I was just going to have to go back to work outside of the home because I just didn’t think I could balance caring for her, schooling Gauge & running my own business. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up my monster making, but at the time could not see any way I could manage it all. I would get her to sleep and before I could take five steps or touch my fabric she would be awake screaming angrily again. I just felt so drained & like I would never be able to feel creative again.

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Then somewhere, around that fourth or fifth week, she finally started to chill out a little. That’s around the time she gave me her first smile and it was like the dark sky split open & kittens puking sunshine and farting rainbows spilled out of the crack. I started to put her in a Beco baby carrier my friend Magda sent me or the ring sling my friend Kimberly had mailed me while I was still pregnant, and was actually able to sew a little here and there. We readjusted our schooling schedule & lesson plans a bit, and my son quickly caught up on missed lessons & surpassed our semester goals.

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Over this last month, things have done a total 180. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations, positive people, and started meditating on positive thoughts every morning again, something I hadn’t been able to do in those early weeks no matter how hard I tried. I was able to get a large batch of monsters made & into the shop in time for Christmas – thanks to baby wearing. I think baby wearing literally save my sanity – she only sleeps when she is being held or very rarely, sometimes in her swing for 10-20 minute spurts. But thanks to wearing her, I was able to start sewing every day again while she napped against me, allowing me to slowly settle back into the mindset being a business owner. In the past two weeks I’ve even been able to outline ideas to make 2017 the best year ever for Lu & Ed – with lots of flexibility and options, because with this little firecracker, who knows what the next year will hold?

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Maybe it’s because I had unrealistic expectations about being able to dive right back into monster maker while I wore my happy, gurgling baby right out of the womb. Maybe it’s because I had rigidly blocked off the week following her birth from visitors at our house, unaware that week would be spent sleepless in the NICU unit. Maybe it’s because my son was such an easy pregnancy, birth and baby a decade ago, maybe that is why I felt so helpless & spent. Maybe it’s just because each pregnancy and birth experience and baby is so wildly different and unique, but these past two months were nothing at all like I anticipated. They were dark, difficult weeks & while the past month has been better and I am feeling more like my old self, and I am finally reclaiming and revitalizing my business from it’s stasis of the past several months, I would be lying if I said I was totally out of the dark emotionally and mentally. But I have learned a lot about what it means to be a small business owner & to mother a new baby at the same time, and these are important lessons for maker mamas because the stigma that new mothers should be basking in a happy glow with a pep in their step is just another one of those things that puts pressure on new moms & keeps them from reaching out when they need help & support. Motherhood and small business ownership isn’t some picture perfect Instagram feed. So here’s what I’ve learned about mothering a new baby and owning a handmade business:

It’s okay if you didn’t plan well enough for your maternity leave and unexpected  expenses, losses or struggles arise because of it. There’s no way to plan for every possible scenario, no matter how hard you try. I had a solid plan set in stone for my maternity leave but my last trimester was spent in so much pain I couldn’t even lean over to cut out monster bits, I couldn’t sit to sew, and I was unable to follow through with that plan because I wasn’t able to make the inventory to make the income needed to actually even take a maternity leave, not to mention our NICU stay drained the savings account between gas, lodging, and having to eat out constantly. And that created a lot of stress for me, but you know, c’est la vie.

It’s okay to avoid (or even remove from your life completely) negative, toxic people. I didn’t/don’t have the capacity to handle drama, negative degrading remarks or toxic people – and I’m pretty sure my mama fans know that nothing like a new baby brings out the judgmental and unintentional meanness of others. The first weeks when family members kept lamenting “She’s SO fussy, how do you stand it?”, “Haven’t you tried to get her to stop crying?”, “Does she always cry? Why don’t you do something about it?”, “Maybe she has a disease, have you asked her doctor why she’s always crying?” or “Why don’t you give her formula instead of breastfeeding if it’s so hard?” alongside remarks about how I had a BABY now, it was time to shelf my business; it was soul crushing. From there, I only made room in my life for people who empowered me, comforted me or gave me positive energy. I was not in a good place mentally to allow anyone else access to me without being reduced to a sobbing mess. And that’s okay.

It’s okay to feel guilty. Trust me, no matter how much grace you give yourself, there’s guilt. Guilt for working, for not working, for wanting to work, for not wanting to work, for not being able to work because your baby is needy, for never wanting to work again because you just want to soak up these peaceful, sweet sleepy moments with your baby, for asking someone else to hold your baby for a little while because you’re overwhelmed, haven’t peed all day & just need to breathe for a few minutes. So much guilt. So much stress.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to lose sight of your goals, it’s okay for things to not go how you planned, it’s okay to miss deadlines, it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to feel like giving up, it’s okay to be unsure & insecure. You can make new goals, you can make new plans, you can set new deadlines. No number is worth unnecessary mental stress, especially during this already emotionally jacked up time of new motherhood.

It’s okay if what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. You have to try absolutely everything to find what works for you. No one has any magic advice to make all the pieces of new motherhood & business ownership to go together seamlessly. (I don’t even know if they can go together seamlessly).

It’s okay to be frustrated and unsure. What worked yesterday may not (probably won’t) work today. What worked for your business last year may not work for it this year, or next year. What worked to keep your baby happy yesterday, may not work today. I learned you have to try new things, try a new schedule, try new content, try new creations, try new ways to make your baby happy, every single day. Some things work. Some things don’t. And that. is. okay.

It is all okay. All of your feelings are valid. All of my feelings are valid. There is no wrong way to feel. There is no right way to feel. Being a mother is an emotional shit storm. Being a mother to a baby who was in the NICU is an emotional hurricane. Being a mother to an extremely fussy baby while trying to run a business, is like an emotional nuclear explosion. It is all okay.

It. is. all. okay. That is what I learned.

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Home schooling as a maker mama – it’s not easy, but I love it.

In years past, back to school was always a little hectic, but as a work from home monster making mom, it made it a little easier to get out the door in the mornings. We had our system – clothes laid out the night before, breakfast items on the counter, lunches packed & in the fridge ready to be grabbed on the way out the door.

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This year, like all other routines & just life in general since our move, is totally different. My son hated the public school he went to here in WNC last winter/spring. Here’s a quick example of just one of DOZENS of examples of my son’s horrendous short time in Haywood County schools last year: during a science discussion, the teacher told the class the Milky Way is NOT a galaxy, galaxies don’t exist. She told them there’s just one universe, and that’s the Milky Way. When my son tried to correct her by telling her, actually the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, one of at least one hundred billion of potential galaxies in outer space, he was reprimanded and given a silent lunch for “lying” & I received a note about how disrespectful he was. Oh, and first week of school, when I tried to ask for more challenging work for him because he had already learned what they were covering in first grade, she told me right in front of Gauge that he wasn’t as smart as I think he is, even though right before we moved from Missouri he was testing at 8-9th grade level in almost every subject in 4th grade… so it didn’t take much convincing when he asked me if he could be home schooled this year rather than go back to school in this district.

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So, we officially “started” home schooling July 1st. We started in the middle of summer because when the new baby gets here, we’ll be taking a week or two off to bond & adjust as a family. A little over two months “into” home schooling, we are finally starting to find a little balance & normalcy – though with this pregnancy nearing it’s end, it’s been a lot more difficult to balance this new life style, home schooling, running Lu & Ed, and growing a tiny human all at once. But we have found a few things that work really well and for any other maker mamas out there considering home schooling while running their biz,  cheers! You can do it! Here’s what has helped me balance lessons & making monsters!

wake up before the kid(s)

Usually way, way easier said that done. But thanks to baby brewing in my belly, most mornings I am up between 4-5am. It’s rough. And I won’t lie, a lot of times in the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to muster the energy  to get out of bed and do productive things. But some mornings I somehow find the spunk to roll out of bed, brew some coffee, soak up a few minutes of me time while I set intentions for the day, and then get some work done before Gauge wakes up (like right now! 6am & I’m up blogging! Go me!!!). You can read my previous post about making the most of summer mornings as a maker mama here – a lot of it is still applicable as a home schooling mom, too!

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create lots of opportunity for independent studies

This will vary based on the age of your child, but for us, after we work together through math, vocabulary words & science, my son has the rest of the day to work on reading, creative writing or studying history/social studies independently (right now we are covering Early American History, from the discovery of America to the Industrial Age, and I let him pick which time period to study in the evenings that week – right now he’s obsessed with the Revolutionary War!), which is usually done through reading historical stories/biographies, work books, or watching documentaries. While he is doing his independent studies, I get in some sewing! If he finishes up daily lessons while I’m still working, or before his dad gets home/dinner time, his options are educational programs, reading, art projects or outside play. This gives me about 4-6 hours a day to dedicate directly to my business. There’s a ton of ways to provide resources for independent study that allows you time to balance your handmade business – from work sheets to iPad apps, nature documentaries to free play with creative toys (Legos, blocks, fort building, marble mazes, obstacle courses, creating Rube Goldberg contraptions) or “recess” outside if you can work from a place where you can supervise your children!

make your creative business a priority

Home schooling while running a creative business from home means your kids are around you 24/7. It can be a little overwhelming at first adjusting to the new schedule and constant contact if in previous years, you’re child went to school outside the home. This is why it’s so important to set boundaries for you, your partner, and your child(ren). I made sure before we started my son knew that just because he was going to be home, didn’t mean he would 1) play video games all day & 2) have my undivided attention all day long, because I do have a business to run. So he knows during independent study time, to work through problems on his own, research & try to find the answers himself & we’ll review materials/lessons the next morning – so there’s no need to bust into my room while I’m sewing eleventy billion times to ask me questions about his current lessons. (Note: providing age appropriate study material with clear directions is essential to making independent study time, and therefore time for mama to make things, a success!)

get creative: utilize activities & classes

As moms, and makers, and creative business owners, we often feel as we have to do it all alone. You don’t! There’s so many amazing resources, both conventional and more creative, to utilize to make home schooling easier & more enjoyable.

Find your tribe. This was hard for me, because we couldn’t afford a co-op this year, but even if it’s just one other home schooling parent you can meet to have coffee with, chat about your day, share lesson time with or swap kids with for a day for a few hours to get some work done, find those people, love them, give them coffee and chocolate, and schedule a bunch of play dates! Finding a few great home schooling buddies (for both my son & I!) has proven to be the greatest home school aid. Taking time for social gatherings is essential for mental health, plus getting out of the house regularly keeps the creative juices flowing.

Consider outside specialized classes & use community resources. Not only does this take a load off of you if say, you aren’t feeling on par with current math or science standards, or your child wants to learn something you have no clue how to teach (like coding, sign language, Spanish or theater), there are many community resources that offer once a week classes for 1-6 hours a day that your child can participate in – which gives you a little more time to invest in your creative business! If you are in the WNC area near me, check out Elevate’s class list – they have a huge list of interests and subjects, from history & science to dance & parkour! Local zoos, museums & nature centers often have programs for home school students as well. And don’t forget to check your local library’s list of activities – most libraries have “after school” clubs for 1-3 hours a day, once a week. Ours has a Lego club that meets every Tuesday from 4-5:30, a Minecraft club, and a few other specialized interests clubs. Not only does specialized classes & community resources like these give your child a chance to socialize & explore new interests, you can bring your laptop & get some computer work done, or bring along your current hand sewing/crocheting/knitting projects to work on, while your kid enjoys their classes/clubs! This winter, my son is taking coding & Spanish classes. 🙂

teach your child(ren) about entrepreneurship

Having your kids home with you while you run a creative business is a great opportunity to teach them about commerce, budgeting, consumer math, graphs & charts, conversion rates, scheduling, money management, ROI (return on investment, AKA measurable data for an action & it’s corresponding reactions, like purchasing an ad on a blog & tracking traffic/sales that it generates to gauge how much value that action garnered) and most importantly – the value in hard work & dedication to making your dreams come true! Involve them in the process. Give them simple, age appropriate tasks to do to help make the functions of your creative business run more smoothly – my son helps me a bit each day with things like stuffing monster bits, pairing fabrics, sewing, cutting things out, packing orders, and doing postal runs. He also has learned a lot about conversion rates, profit/loss charts, income projections, marketing, photography, public relations & more. He’s always been an active part of my business, but this year I’m really showing him more of the functionalities & processes that go into running an ecommerce business & how he can apply those skills to other parts of his life.

accept that some days, you aren’t going to get it all done

At first I was completely, totally overwhelmed, and between trying to find a good rhythm for lessons & try to find time to sew while dealing with third trimester exhaustion, there was a lot of bad days. For instance, I like to sew first thing in the mornings – Gauge does better with his math first thing in the mornings, and it’s one subject he does need more supervision & guidance on. So I have had to sacrifice my most creative time to do my least favorite thing ever (ugh, math), which sometimes ruined an entire day for me creatively because it just saps my juju; but after a few weeks of this, settling into a new routine of sewing after lunch (while not as creatively charged) is still a routine capable of productivity. It just requires a bit more effort!

I know here in a few weeks when Baby Z gets here, that’s going to throw our entire system out the window and we’ll be starting from scratch again. And that’s okay, because I also know we’ll find our rhythm again (eventually). If you are considering embarking on a home school journey as a maker mama, stay flexible, don’t be afraid of adjusting your schedule time & again, and know that once you find what works for you & your child(ren), it gets easier to balance productivity for your business & lessons for your kids!

Any other maker mamas out there home schooling their kids?

I would love to hear your advice, opinions & thoughts on balancing it all, what works for you, and what concerns you may have about running a creative business while educating your child. Let’s discuss in the comments!

4

5 Tips for getting more exposure in the Storenvy Marketplace (or possibly getting featured on their social media accounts!)

A lot of people struggle with leveraging the Storenvy Marketplace. While the dream is being able to just throw some listings up, walk away and make sales, unfortunately, that’s not how selling online works. You have to put in a lot of effort, do a lot of research, network and make connections, and become established as a Marketplace seller to start to really see the benefits of being a part of the Storenvy Marketplace – or any online e-commerce marketplace venue!

But! There are a few things you can do to get more exposure as a Storenvy Marketplace seller, and possibly even get featured on their social media channels! They have over 67,000 Facebook fans, 23,000 Twitter followers & almost 10,000 Instagram followers, so anything you can do to increase the possibility of getting your products selected as an Editor’s Pick or featured by Storenvy should be a priority!

Have amazing, well lit, clutter free product photos.

Have you SEEN their Insta feed?

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Storenvy rocks a highly curated, drool worthy Instagram feed featuring unique items with bright, well lit product photos. There’s no clutter, distracting backgrounds, dark shadows obscuring any details of the products. All of the images singularly focus on the product, they all have excellent lighting and composition and they are all very unique products – however if you visit the shops they are from, you’ll notice the branding from one photo carries over to all the images, providing a very consistent, professional look in their stores. In order to possibly one day see your items hit this line up – you have to deliver photos of ALL of your products that are equal to the quality of images found in their Insta feed. If your product photos don’t meet the aesthetic Storenvy is trying to create, they won’t get featured. Besides good images increasing the likelihood of being featured on their social media channels, they also increase your odds of becoming an Editor’s Pick (meaning your product shows up in every single Storenvy users feed, plus it’s been proven again and again the better your photos, the more likely people are to purchase your products.

Have an active marketplace store

Storenvy loves all of their sellers, but won’t feature shops that don’t have active Marketplace stores on their social media pages, plus you can’t become an Editor’s Pick if you aren’t in the Marketplace – so make sure all of your products are listed for sale in the Storenvy Marketplace! But active doesn’t just mean having listings up, either. The more traffic, Watchers, Envies & sales your Marketplace store is generating, the more likely you are to be featured. So be sure to join the Storenvy Community Group & The Storenvy Collector’s Group I run on Facebook – both will get you active and involved in the Marketplace & increase your odds of getting featured! Also be sure to let people know about your Marketplace side store – pin items from it from time to time, blog about it, let people know they can Envy an item to save it for later if they aren’t ready to purchase. Obviously our goals is to promote our custom Storenvy websites, where sales are free, but the more you work to generate traffic to your Marketplace store the higher your products will appear in search results, which results in more organic traffic as well!

Tag #storenvy & @storenvy in all your posts

Make sure to use the #storenvy hashtag and tag @Storenvy in all your Insta and Facebook posts. This gives them an easy way to find your posts & discover your goods! Plus it groups your posts with other #storenvy posts, so people browsing for Storenvy shops to buy from can find you!

Make sure your Storenvy URL is in your bio or linked on your fan page

Obviously, if Storenvy is going to feature goods from a seller, they want link backs to benefit them. So make sure your Insta bio links to your Storenvy shop, not your Etsy or blog URL, and the same goes for Facebook. As an aside, NOT linking to their Storenvy shop is the main reason a lot of people AREN’T making sales on Storenvy. If you want people to find you on Storenvy, you gotta make sure that you are directing them there. Having the links on your social pages direct to Storenvy will also increase inbound traffic, which boosts your listings in search results. Yay!

Encourage people to shop the Storenvy marketplace

Do you know why Etsy is so successful? Because everyone just says “I got it on Etsy” or “have you tried looking for it on Etsy?” So, it stands to reason, the more people talk about Storenvy, the more sales sellers will generate through the Marketplace.

But also replying to posts on Instagram or Facebook & tagging @Storenvy will show them you’re an avid supporter, which is a lot more likely to put you on their radar than anything else. See a post where someone is talking about selling online? Suggest @Storenvy. Tell them why you love it. When someone asks where to shop for something? Suggest @Storenvy. Put up a post about why you love Storenvy & why people should sell/shop there. Wear your support for the platform on your sleeve and encourage others to as well! It will help the Marketplace thrive, increase organic traffic for all shops, plus let Storenvy know “Hey, guys, I love you. You are doing a great thing here, and I’m happy to be a part of it.” Active community members are more likely to get noticed than silent sellers – so be active and an advocate!

These are just a few of the tips I have for increasing your presence on Storenvy & also increasing your odds of getting featured on their social media channels – I hope you find these tips helpful!

Do you have a specific question about selling on Storenvy? Feel free to leave a comment & I’ll do my best to get a post up with an answer. ♥

16

500 Monsters in 2016 update & some really BIG news

Going into this year, I knew Lu & Ed would be my sole source of income, and that I would have to increase production & sales greatly in order to make ends meet. At the beginning of the year I set a goal to beat last year’s monster production (just over 350 monsters) & exceed it by at least an additional 150 products – for a total of 500 monsters made in 2016.

And guess what?! I just made more monster making history: my 300th monster this year! Shooting right along towards the big 5-0-0!

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The 300th monster of 2016!

While this is a super exciting milestone to hit, I have an even bigger, much more exciting announcement to make – the reason why I’m hustling so hard to meet this goal early!

And that is that I’ll be a mama again in a few short months!

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Whoa, right? I know people will have questions, so here’s the short & skinny version: Several months after I moved, I reconciled with my son’s bio dad. It’s been amazing for me & G, and we are so super happy! The timing of it all and how things just rolled together is so serendipitous, I can’t even begin to explain it. And apparently this is just how things were meant to be, because now there’s a beautiful babe on her way this fall, and we are all so happy together!

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I won’t lie though, it took a really long time for it to sink in that I had gotten pregnant. Gauge is ELEVEN almost & I never thought I would have another baby. I have chronic ovarian issues, and had been told the odds of me conceiving again were much slimmer than that of a healthy woman with normal hormone production & no ovarian issues. But somehow, this little miracle happened, against all the odds. And it’s only just now sinking in that in just 3.5 months (or sooner, depending on when the babe is ready to make her debut) I’ll be a mother to a newborn again, for the first time in eleven years. Which makes me stupidly excited!

But it’s, like, really starting to really sink in that in a few months, I’ll be the mother to a newborn again. And that my goals for Lu & Ed this year, and next, needed to shift drastically. So I did some evaluations, and while it will be tight, I think I can still make my 500 monsters in 2016 goal – if I make 90% of the rest of the monsters before mid-October, when the baby is due. No big deal, right? (Seriously though, send me all the productive vibes!) If I can meet my production goals, I’d be able to take almost the entire last quarter of the year off post-babe from sewing monsters & soak up those weeks with my own new little monster.

So, I decided I’m still going to push to meet my production goal for this year. As far as next year, the unofficial goal (I don’t like to set goals in stone until the end of the year, but this was sort of a must-do thing) was to move into a bigger place with a 3rd bedroom I could use as a studio. Currently, we are living in a tiny little MAYBE 700 SF home with two tiny bedrooms and one closet in the entire house. (Seriously, it’s so little you have to turn sideways to walk by the sink to get to the toilet, and we have less than 24″ of counter space in the kitchen). But if we do upgrade to a home with a third bedroom, I wouldn’t be able to dedicate that to my studio space for long with babe needing her own space eventually. So now I am considering other alternatives:

  • Rent a one room office downtown to use as a studio
  • Scale down production to make room for babe (though how, I don’t know, I’ve already went from six totes of fabric to two, and less than 8 SF of production room, and it’s really really really difficult to get stuff done in this teeny space already).
  • Try to afford a four bedroom house (in WNC? HA! I would need to win the lottery).
  • Buy a three bedroom home with either a main level office or place that could be used as an studio, like a sun room (light is essential for product photography so a basement is out of the question, unless it magically has tons of natural light) or convert a shed into a kick-butt fully functioning studio space with heat, AC and good lighting within a year or two of moving.
  • Buy a school bus/camper and convert it into a mobile studio, with monster graffiti all over the outside of it, of course.
  • Set up a Yurt in the backyard of our tiny rental, move studio to Yurt. Or move us into Yurt, turn house into studio.
  • The most undesirable option is to shelf Lu & Ed for several months until we are in a better position financially & space wise. I am loathe to do that and completely halt the growth I’ve made since moving. I’ll empty the living room and turn it into a studio before I shelf Lu & Ed.

As you can see, I have a lot to figure out in a few short months about what path I need to focus my energy on – while still getting the house ready for babe. Renting a one room office space is so far the most appealing option for space requirements but I would have to greatly increase production & sales to make it a viable option for my budget which will be tough with a new babe – and the added rent & utilities for a space would be equal to what we’d pay on a mortgage for an additional bedroom or two…. so much to think about and decide on!

Right now? I’m just focusing on meeting the production goal. I have a lot of work & planning ahead of me, in order to keep Lu & Ed functioning at full capacity, but hitting that goal is the first step. After that, we will see what we are able to make happen after the babe gets here. It’ll be tough, but I’m excited to share this journey of new motherhood & small business ownership with all of you!

Got small space living tips? Please, share them with me in the comments – we need to make this tiny house work until at least March of 2017. Got space saving tips for babies (besides using lots of Mon-stors to hold clothes and toys?) – share those in the comments too! I’ll need all the help I can get!