Big Changes

Wow, July was a busy month. The biggest change for me was I bought my partner’s share of our event business (Deckci) so now I own it all by myself. I’ll discuss the specifics of how that process went down and tips for others later this month. It’s been a little overwhelming juggling everything but I’m finally getting into a groove with things and am looking forward to moving forward with sole control.

We’ve had some excitement on the home front as well. My baby girl, who turned 10 months old two weeks ago, took her first steps last week! It was pretty exciting for us.

Chase has continued to be very picky – but I’m discovering new tricks to get him to eat well. This week I got a great deal on Chobani orange vanilla greek yogurt which Chase refuse to eat. He spit it out crying. So, I pulled out our popsicle maker, poured the yogurt into the molds and froze them. A few hours later we had popsicles – which Chase happily devoured🙂

 

Pinterest Project: Making Oil Rubbed Bronze Hardware

Which do you think looks better?🙂 It would have been a million times easier if the furniture I bought came with oil rubbed bronze hardware. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky. That meant I had two choices 1) Buy oil rubbed bronze hardware 2) Make oil rubbed bronze hardware. After researching my options, I found it was much easier to just make them. Particularly with the help of Pinterest🙂 Fortunately, I was able to recycle the hardware from one of the dressers. I did have to buy some hardware new. As you can see above, using the old wood knobs wouldn’t work.

To embark on this project I needed four things: Spray paint for metal, sandpaper, cardboard, and hardware.

I washed the hardware and prepped it by sanding it.

Then I spray painted them. I did 4-5 coats, all done within 5-10 minutes of each other.

Voila, oil-rubbed bronze hardware! This was such an easy project and totally worth the time. It only took about an hour for everything.

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Making Brushed Nickel Hardware

Refinishing furniture sounded scary at first. Then I tried it. While it takes a lot of time, it is definitely worth the effort! Instead of spending thousands of dollars on new furniture for our house, I decided to purchase used furniture from Craigslist and refinish it. While embarking on this effort, I discovered an easy way to go from shiny steel to a brushed nickel look. All it took was the hardware and sandpaper.

Using medium grit sandpaper, I sanded the hardware on every side. I then washed it and voila! Brushed nickel! It would be wise to put a protective coat on this. I didn’t because I was sanding them to spray paint.

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The struggle with frugality

Since getting married, my husband and I have been pretty good with our finances. We’ve made a budget, used cash envelopes, and saved as much as we could. Unfortunately, our savings was whittled away with selling our old house and having to pay in, buying our new house, and buying some items for it. This has left me in an uncomfortable place without our large cushion in savings.

This has been all the more incentive to be frugal with our finances. But, we all have our financial weaknesses.

My favorite artist is Michael Birawer. I’ve been a fan for almost 10 years now and love the style of his pieces. We’ve wanted to commission a piece from him for quite some time, but it’s rather pricey. When I saw his Icons of Minnesota collection I was smitten. They are very limited editions (5 of each available) and I really, really wanted to get some. Hence, the battle with frugality. Obviously art is not a need and isn’t important in the grand scheme of things. I weighed the pros and cons in my head and went back and forth on this in discussions with my husband. I knew that if I waited they would sell out and I’d simply lose the opportunity to get one.

So, I guiltily admit I bought them. It was not my greatest moment in frugality. I was able to get $25 off each because I bought four, nonetheless it was still a large purchase that wasn’t in the budget. We did not put them on credit though – we never, ever carry a balance on our credit cards.

While it wasn’t very frugal, I don’t regret my purchase in any way. I love looking up at them in my office and enjoy my collectable art🙂

I grew up going to this drive-in so this was a must-have for me!

What’s your not-so-frugal splurge?

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Happy 4th of July!

What does the 4th of July usually entail for you? For my family, we head up to our cabin in the boundary waters on Lake Saganaga. We don’t have internet or cell signal at the cabin, so it tends to be a pretty relaxing and laid back time for us. It’s a great opportunity for us to spend time with my dad, go fishing (and hopefully catch some walleye), and swim. Since I’m constantly on email/internet (literally like 10+hours a day) I’m looking forward to spending time having fun and getting some reading in. What are you doing on this beautiful 4th of July?

My husband driving the boat back to the cabin after fishing

Photo Credit: Eli Christman

Building a community of followers

Building followers and building community are not the same thing. You can have thousands of followers that are uninvolved and don’t check your page – or have a dozen that comment on every post and check your page religiously. Ideally you’ll have both – thousands of active and involved individuals. So, how do you get there?

Building followers: You don’t want to be talking to yourself, so the first step is to get followers. There’s no magic bullet to getting followers. It just takes actively working on it. The first and most obvious thing you should do is ask your friends, customers, family, etc to “like” or “follow” you. Hopefully this will get you started with at least a hundred people following you. From there, you’ll want to continue ask people as you get new customers and friends. You also could consider running a campaign to get more followers. Many businesses have done this quite successfully. For example, some businesses will have coupons but you can only see them if you like their page on Facebook. Another business I am familiar with offered a steep discount to the person who got them the most likes on Facebook. You could also have some sort of competition to incentive people to post about you. For example, have a prize for the best answer to “If our business was an animal, what type of animal would it be and why?” Then people would have to answer it linking your name on Facebook – which then puts you in front of all their friends.Lastly, you could consider purchasing a Facebook ad asking people to like you for coupons, etc.

Building community: Having an active group of followers is ideal for any business. Not only are they frequently posting on your page, responding to your posts, and posting about you – they are also loyal to your brand. By them posting about you/on your page, they are getting your name out there in front of their friends – basically doing marketing for you. Getting that active community is the tough part. There are two essential components: 1) Frequency 2) Content.

Just like blogging, you want to update social media frequently. For Facebook, you’d ideally be posting stuff daily – if not a few times a day. What can you post about? Lots of things. For example, your blog posts, pictures of customers at your business, pictures of new products, articles relevant to your business/customers, polls/questions for customers, contests, funny jokes/pictures relevant to your business, trivia, etc. With many of these things, you can use them to build your followers. For example, when you ask customers a question/poll you can also ask your friends on Facebook to answer it (there’s a button for it) and it will show up on the page of anyone that answers it. The nature of your content will also determine whether your community is active. If you just post an article link, it won’t inspire participation. But if you post an article link, share some thoughts on it, and ask others what they think – then you might get some comments. Similarly, running contests, polls and trivia will also get people to comment. The key is not doing these things just once a week – you should do something daily that encourages people to comment. Obviously you shouldn’t ask a trivia question every single day – but asking one a couple times a week – or at least once a week “Trivia Thursday” will help build commentary. If you post interesting, comment inspiring stuff frequently, it will help pave the path to an active community.

Wondering about social media for your business? Check out 30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: Promoting your business through social media

Photo Credit: Picrazy

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30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: Full post list and wrap-up

Starting a business is an unbelievably rewarding experience that I hope everyone can experience at some point in their lives. Once you start one business, it’s hard to stop. I know I definitely have caught the entrepreneurship bug🙂 I have many business ideas that I am considering for my next business – two of which are in process. As my plans begin more concrete I’ll post more information (likely later this fall). I hope you have found this series to be helpful in your pursuit for entrepreneurship! Below is the full series post list:

30 Days to Becoming an Entrepreneur Series Introduction

Photo Credit: Markus Eckstein

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30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: My biggest regrets

I will never regret starting a business. Not only did I learn a tremendous amount about entrepreneurship, but I met so many amazing people along the way and learned what it is like to become self-sustainable. There’s nothing better than knowing that all of the extra work you put, the late nights, and long hours are going towards your own personal success – not your employers. With that being said, I do have some regrets about how I did things in the beginning, that I would change if I could. My biggest regrets are:

  • Being extremely cheap.Yes, it is important to be frugal. That does NOT mean you should sacrifice on important things and put in cheap finishes that won’t even last a year. I wish we would have just taken out a small business loan to invest in the infrastructure for our business. Instead, we used our own personal investments – and credit cards to pay for everything. Because of that, we had limited funds to work with and were forced to choose things because they were cheaper – not because they were the best. We have learned our lesson the hard way as we have had many, many things we needed to upgrade, replace, or fix because it was cheap. Remember, there is a difference between frugal and cheap – make decisions for the long-term and don’t go cheap just to save a small amount.
  • Not spending more time doing due diligence before starting. With Deckci we had no idea how to treat linens when we first got started. We didn’t take the time to figure out how to clean them and that led to us throwing away a significant amount of linens that we could not get stains out. Now, we have a process stained linens go through that gets out almost any stain. If we had taken the time to do some testing early on we would have saved that money. Similarly, we didn’t spend enough time researching business structures prior to starting and less than a year after starting we had to switch our business structure to an LLC which took some paperwork and time. If we had done more research to start we would have started as an LLC to begin with.
  • Needing efficient processes. We have had many, many mistakes over the past few years with both businesses and oftentimes it is because we do not have a well-defined process or policy in place, so the ball gets dropped somehow.

While it was hard to learn these things as we went, I’m glad we did. Now I know that the next business I start won’t (hopefully) have these issues. I also want to add, that I think it is more important to take the plunge and start a business cheaply than to not start one at all. So, if you know going in you’ll have to do some of these things because you truly have no other choice – then that’s ok. You’ll be able to plan to replace things sooner, etc. Just start your business, don’t wait, because before you know it someone else will start it for you.

Next, 30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: Full post list and wrap-up

Photo Credit: Anon Photography

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30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: Promoting your business through social media

Every business should include social media in their marketing strategy. Social media can be a valuable tool to promote your business. It can help you create a community that people enjoy being a part of and want to participate in. There are many options for social media ranging from YouTube to Facebook, Twitter to blogging. You need to figure out what will be the best fit for your business.

For small businesses, I think Facebook and Blogging are the best options to consider when you first start. While tons of people are on Twitter, it just isn’t a good fit in my opinion for small businesses. YouTube can be a good fit for advertising – but it could be a costly endeavor unless you or someone you know has some skills in video making. Blogging is a great fit for some businesses – but not all. We have blogs for both The Woof Room and Deckci Decor. The Woof Room’s blog focuses on highlighting dogs that visit us, promoting dog events, and providing dog tips and advice. It helps create a community with our clients providing them with useful information and featuring their dog. We’ve had many clients comment to us that they love reading about all the dogs that visit us. Our blog is also helpful in providing a forum for us to explain changes in our policies and pricing. Deckci’s blog provides wedding tips and advice, and features pictures from the events we do each weekend. Since weddings are a one day event that people invest significant time and money in planning, clients want to feel confident that we know what we are doing and can provide what they need. The blog satisfies this as they see that we do many events each weekend and are able to see our work.

Facebook is the best all-around option for a new business. It can be used similarly to a blog by providing pictures, updates, and information – but allows you to get in front of people daily. Facebook can be used to run promotions to get more likes – and do polls of clients. While it does take time to manage, it’s a free service. We have a Facebook page for The Woof Room – but haven’t focused on it for Deckci yet. For The Woof Room we have linked our blog to Facebook so that anytime we write a blog post, it automatically gets posted to Facebook. We also will add random pictures of dogs in daycare, run contests, or ask clients questions. We have found Facebook to be very useful in reaching our clients.

The most important thing to remember about social media, and specifically about Facebook and blogging, is that you need to be active. Do let weeks or months go by between postings. If you want to build your community and raise awareness about your business, you need to be active in promoting it!

Next, 30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: My biggest regrets

Photo Credit: Gee Ranasinha

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30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: Navigating the world of business partnership

Should you have a business partner (or several)? As you start your new business, this will likely be a question you ponder at the beginning. There are many pros and cons to having a business partner and it’s absolutely critical you think beyond the first year. Consider:

PROS

  • More manpower. You won’t be the sole person responsible for everything. You’ll be able to work less than you would if you didn’t have a business partner.
  • Less risk. When you start a business with someone, you share the risk. If it fails, it’s not just all on you.
  • More money. You likely won’t have to fork over as much to start your business since the start-up costs will be shared.
  • Skills. Your business partner might bring some special skill set or knowledge that is important for your business – or that you can’t afford.
  • Support. When you are up at 2am working like crazy and feeling like your business is a failure, your business partner will encourage you and sympathize with how you feel.

CONS

  • Less money. When your business starts to show a profit you’ll make less. When you have a partner you may not be able to pay yourself as soon as you would without one – and when you do finally pay yourself, you won’t make as much because your partner is getting paid as well.
  • Less power. You are not the sole decision maker. It won’t matter if you feel strongly about something if your partner doesn’t agree.
  • Inequity. In many business partnerships someone does more work than the other person. This often leads to resentment because you are putting in more work, but not getting more money – or a bigger share of the business.

Deciding whether to start a business with a partner should be a long-term decision. I strongly feel that if you can start the business on your own and without a partner, you will be better off in the long-run. I say that from experience. I am friends with my business partner and have known her since high school – but friendships will be tested when owning a business, and for many, many reasons I wish I started them on my own. So, if you can do it solo I strongly encourage you to do that. However, if you simply aren’t going to be able to start a business without a partner – then it might be better to do it, because between having a business with a partner and having no business at all – it’s better to have one.

If you do decide to have a business partner, make sure you 1) Have a partnership agreement that spells out roles, responsibilities, selling the business, percent shares, etc and 2) Check in regularly to make sure equitable division of tasks.

Next, 30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: Promoting your business through social media

Photo Credit: Jo Christian Oterhals

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