Make A Difference

Shop Local, Handmade, and Small Businesses this Holiday Season. It makes a difference.

Shopping Local, Small Business, Handmade

It’s shameless self-promotion, but I’m proud of Mireio and I highly recommend shopping there this holiday season. Gift wrap is complimentary (free! though it will say nice things about you if you want it to!) and shipping is prompt. I’ll even ship to your intended gift target if you’re late to the shopping task! Not to mention everything is handmade by me, with love and care and from the best quality supplies I can find!

But Mireio isn’t the only option out there. And I get it if you look at my store and say, “Great work, Wende, but it’s not for me.” There are dozens, if not hundreds, of local options, small businesses, and handmade artists out there who would love your support. And it makes  a difference.

It makes a difference in your local economy. That’s pretty obvious, right? It makes a difference for small businesses, like mine, who rely on those holiday dollars to provide Christmas and clothes and food and to keep those twinkle lights on. Really, our Christmas doesn’t happen without it! And while I don’t believe that a handmade gift is better than a store bought gift (come on, ipad anyone?) I do think a handmade gift makes a difference to the receiver, even if that message is subliminal. YOU are choosing to support other artists or people in your community… that says something!

I know we all compile a gift list and it’s tempting this time of year, with all our pressing responsibilities and engagements, to blitz through that list as quickly as possibly and with the least amount of financial trauma.

Oh, I get that!

But I can’t tell you what it means to independent artists and crafters to realize that you chose THEM to supply a gift. So many of us give our hearts and souls to our little businesses. We put in long hours and a bit of ourselves into everything we make, and we hope and pray that someone will come along and see the beauty we see. So when you do, it’s a great moment. Or, for me it is. Every time. It’s a little bit of validation of what I do. See, your choice makes a difference here too.

However,  I also know that  not everyone on your list is easy to shop for. Some people want electronics and gift cards and all those things that are not local, small business, or handmade. Um, I procreated one of those, so I do get it!

Which is why I’m asking that you make a difference this year buy purchasing just one gift that meets the local, small business, or handmade criteria. JUST ONE. Oh, sure, if you want to go hog wild and do all your shopping at a craft fair… YOU GO GIRL, er GUY, er PERSON! But for the rest of us, with tricky lists and busy schedules, just one will do.

It will make a difference. To so many people. Maybe even to you.

Rule Breaker

Cream goes in your coffee. Not on your walls. I’m breaking my own rules here.

It’s called “Invitation Ivory” by Pratt and Lambert. I’m no fan. But, it’s the color of our trim, so when I decided that the dining room bay needed to be a neutral color for photographs I didn’t have a choice. Plus, I have buckets of this stuff floating around. Win win?

I don’t know. I’m not a fan of cream walls. I subscribe to the “color is better” theory when it comes to interiors. I mean, if you like softer shades and neutrals, I get it. But I think you can still accomplish that look without using straight cream. There’s pale and beautiful, and then there’s bland. Cream is for coffee and trim.

But I’ve also reached my end with product shots. Last year there was a dearth of home decor pillows in Mireio simply because I knew that I had no way of adequately photographing the product once it was made. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with IZ in the past 3 years that start, “These photographs are driving me crazy!”  Unless you photograph your work regularly, you probably don’t realize the hours some of us spend on crafting the perfect shot. It can be infuriating. In my case, living on the north coast means a lack of sun on most days. Add to that, a very non-photogenic yellow paint coating the common areas of our home and you get a grumpy Wende.

I want to dispense with the yellow entirely. But it’s a matter of time and money and IZ and I coming to some meeting of the minds on a replacement color scheme. We may need a professional mediator. He’s a visual person, so I have to show him examples of what’s floating around in my head, otherwise it’s a flat, “WHAT? Lilac? Uh, NO.” And he’s completely dismissed my idea of running with my signature blues throughout the house. So, while I scavenge through old magazines and save pennies, I still need a place  to photograph product shots when the light is dim and the dining room bay is my best bet. It’s sunny and scenic and with a fresh coat of paint, not yellow.

While color is beautiful and I think you should live in colors that work for you—my idea of wonderful probably isn’t yours. If IZ’s response to my ideas is any indication! And the golden rule of product shots is to create an environment your customer can imagine being in. I don’t care how amazing the pillow is, or your doodad, if it’s shot against a loud and obnoxious background you’re limiting your customer base to people with YOUR taste. I’m not willing to risk it.  So, I’m breaking my own rules.  Hold me closer tiny dancer! It’s freaking me out!

It’s not ideal. But I do think it’s creative. Well, as creative as cream can be. Oh, who am I kidding! I just painted walls cream. Shoot me.

Duh, Winning!

When life hands you lemons… make cake. Or add Vodka. Or take pretty pictures and blog about it. Because you really shouldn’t waste life’s lemons.

Duh, Winning!

One of the realities of running a small business (especially an online business) is that you find yourself dependent on social marketing more than you might like. No adverstising budget? No worries, you have friends. Right?



Well, sometimes. Like last week, when some of my friends took the time to repost the news article about Mireio on Facebook. It meant a lot to me. And for small businesses, any press is a good thing. You scramble for those mentions on Twitter, Facebook, and assorted blogs.

But sometimes, friends don’t come through. And it’s really hard to NOT take that personally.

Truth is, it isn’t personal. It’s probably thoughtless… they have no idea what a difference a tiny little effort on their part would make for you—because they work “real world” jobs and don’t spend hours online everyday hocking their wares. They run offices and teach school and raise babies—all important things. But, they have no idea how soul wrenching it can be to constantly be “selling” any more than they have any idea that tweeting or blogging or posting a status link about you would make such a difference.

It does, though. And those of you who sell online know what I’m talking about. That amazing feeling of discovering a friend took the time to sing your praises. It helps. Immensely! Here’s how:

First, it puts your product in front of a completely different customer base. Social media is all about the power of the personal pitch. If a friend “likes” a thingamabob, then you’re more likely to check it out. YOUR friends might not be MY friends. And one of YOUR friends might have another friend in need. A friend who can use that thingamabob but didn’t know it, until your friend passed on your post. Get it?

Second, with the tweeting and blogging platforms, inbound linkage is golden. Google pays attention. And for small artists competing against megaliths with advertising budgets, linkage creates visibility. Being found by google, means you are found by customers. No matter how great your thingamabob is, if you sell online, you need to be seen.

Third, and I think most importantly, it provides a morale boost. Working from home is lonely business. There’s no water-cooler, break-room, coffees out with the mom’s group during your day. Having a friend promote your work gives you a terrific sense of well-being. A sense of “Hey, I’m doing OK!” It fuels the creativity muse (I’ve made more things inspired by friends!) and reminds you that you are not alone in this.

But not all your friends get this. So, what can you do?

First, you can ask. Which is what I did last week. I directly asked people to repost the article on Facebook. It was a hard and awkward thing for me to do. It makes me feel like I’m imposing. But, if a friend asked ME to post for them, well… I’d do it! And I wouldn’t think twice, because I know how hard self-promoting is. So, I summoned up my courage and ASKED.

Lots of friends followed through. YAY!! Far more did not… not so yay.  That’s reality folks, even when you ask… even when you’re pointed and clear and direct, not everyone is going to climb on board the “YOU” train in any meaningful manner. What then?

Well, you have two choices here. You can get frustrated and rant over coffee, spend time worrying and being bothered by it all. That was me last night. Really frustrated by a particular situation.


You can focus on the people who got on board. Say thank you! Tell them how amazing they are for supporting you, because while it’s a small gesture to them, it makes a HUGE difference to you. Make sure they know that. Look for ways to support them. Nothing wrong with a little communal back scratching.

And pass it on. Use your social connections for good. Be a small part of someone else’s PR team. It’s so easy to make a difference! And trust me, if you spend part of your day promoting other people and their amazing work—you don’t feel quite so alone while promoting your own.

So, go make some Lemonade. I promise I’ll drop by and share a glass!