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Small Business

Etsy Faves, Objects, Small Business, Stationery

Avie Paper Products

October 10, 2008

I meet a lot of people who have websites or shops on sites like Etsy and DaWanda but they do not have a business card. Let’s all work together to change this okay? Maybe indie artists and designers feel uncomfortable passing them around but really it’s how we can maintain contact with those we meet on the street. Don’t be shy! It’s okay to be proud of your business and to share what you’re doing that makes your little heart sing and beat extra hard!

Avie Paper Products

I think women tend to hold back a little sometimes, don’t you? Maybe the idea is that? offering a business card comes across as desperate or aggressive perhaps? Do you think that this is the case? I don’t believe so. I think people want to know who we are and how they can reach us after the conversation if they need to. Most of us are so forgetful and busy that cards actually help us to remember prior conversations. Many times I’ve had great conversations with people and days later wished I could remember their name but because they didn’t give me a business card and my memory failed me, I was unable to get in contact with them.

Avie Paper Products

When I spoke at the DaWanda blogging event a few weeks back in Berlin, lots of people asked me how to offer a business card in conversation without coming across a bit arrogant or pushy. I advised that you can simply hand someone your card after an introduction is made and say, “If you’d like to stay in touch or reach me online, here’s my card”, and that’s pretty much it. I find only about 40% of those I’m meeting in Germany who run a small business online have an actual business card. Many at the DaWanda event did not have a card and I wish they had because I met so many that I would have loved to have looked up online now.

Don’t have business cards… Now to get to the real meat of this post. How to change that for $15 or less! :)

Avie Paper Products

Meet Avis Wampler who runs Avie, a small paper goods company. Avis wrote to me last week to introduce her paper shop but I noticed that she contacted all the blogs so everyone wrote about her at once. I thought since she must have gotten hit with a lot of orders and traffic that I’d wait a week and blog about her today. Time to share her with the decor8 audience. :)

What I like about Avie’s shop is that she creates quick and easy calling cards that you can hand out to those who ask you where they can find you or the things that you make online.

Avie Paper Products

No name, no mailing address, no phone number, no problem… Just your website. Once there, people can find all the rest of that information anyway. If you don’t have a business card this is your chance for only $15. Remember if you don’t talk about (and share) what you do no one else will, right?

Avie Paper Products

She also stocks cards that have more information on them like the Bright Type Calling Cards and the Birdie Cards. I like how crisp and clean they are.

Avie Paper Products

There are also pretty 2009 calendars if you aren’t currently looking for business cards and graphic notepads… Too cute. Avie we love your shop!

(images from avie)

Events + Markets, Small Business, Travel

Happy Weekend (& Berlin!)

September 19, 2008

Hello! Quickly I want to let everyone who has reserved a seat for the decor8/Dawanda event that the location has changed so please click here for location details and a map. An email was sent to all confirmed attendees of this change so you may already have heard, but for those who may not have reserved a seat via email and have decided last minute to attend — please note the location change. We originally had a lovely space booked but due to an overwhelming amount of interest we had to locate a larger space to accommodate everyone.

Happy Weekend (& Berlin!)

If you plan to attend this event please make a point to come up to me after my talk to meet me and give me your business card, I want to meet as many of you as I can so please do not be shy. Truth is, I’m a little scared to because this is my first big blogging event so we’ll all feel awkward at first but with drinks and cupcakes, music, and a room filled with creative people I’m certain everyone will feel instantly at home.

New location: Gotischer Saal, details and map here.

See you in Berlin tomorrow!

And to my other friends who cannot attend, I wish you a delightful weekend filled with plenty of creative projects and inspiration!



(postcard designed by enna)

Arts + Crafts, Etsy Faves, Small Business

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts

September 17, 2008

I have to spotlight Natasha Mileshina today because a parcel arrived from her in my little mailbox this morning and it absolutely made my day. I blogged about her etsy shop, bubbo-tubbo, in Take Five Tuesdays last week and like so many artists I feature here I end up becoming a customer because I want to own a part of their world.

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts

I absolutely appreciate and love the American arts & crafts scene, and though there is one here in Germany that is growing and blooming right now, there is still something about the American aesthetic that I really like. Of course, I am partial since I am American so of course I’m going to appreciate things about my own culture that others in different lands may not. I think Natasha Mileshina’s style is so positively perfect, I really enjoyed the package of goodies that arrived because everything was so carefully wrapped and arranged. It was special to just open it and after turning back the papers to reveal the contents – ah, bliss!

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts“Nothing to put on” print, 5 x 7, $12.

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business ThoughtsNotebook, $7

Natasha lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland… not exactly the ‘hub’ when it comes to creativity like other places in the U.S. (Brooklyn, San Francisco, Portland OR, etc.) but I imagine that at times it must be nice to not live in uber creative communities because you are able to really be alone with your work and spend time developing it and fine tuning your style. Does this make sense? I guess I think this way because I lived for years in Boston and only when I relocated to southern New Hampshire did I really ‘slow down’ enough in my head to focus on my own artistic and creative spirit. Everyone is different of course. I cannot doubt the explosion of creativity I feel whenever I’m in San Francisco, L.A., even parts of the south where I grew up… But you can really be creative anywhere on this planet and though many artists pack up and relocate to the hip cities to be part of the local culture there, there are plenty of artists who do just as well in their little corners, too. If you’re like me, I go to cities to be inspired but I feel completely fine living outside of creative hubs now because I don’t need to be immersed in it 24/7. It almost stresses me out if I spend too much time in New York City, for instance. I like it there but I find equal inspiration walking on the beach in Maine.

I think in really creative hubs there are so many people making things that yes, it can inspire, but sometimes it may also feel competitive or stressful… like you must continuously churn out new designs or you are no longer ‘the hottest thing’ in your community. I wonder if anyone reading this lives in a creative hub and can comment on this. Here in Hannover, Germany we have many creative types but no one really sticks together, in fact it’s a little competitive and ‘high school’ sometimes just as it was in the beginning days of blogging for me online. I am trying to change this here in Hannover, but it will take awhile. But I have an idea…

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts
“Cat on my head” print, 5×7, $12.

I want to host a street fest here with the local artisans and craftsters but I’m scared no one will mingle because they seem to not like one another! I think these problems exist in the states too, but when I was at Renegade last summer in Brooklyn I didn’t get the sense that vendors there were competing or even jealous or upset at the success of the more popular vendors. I think this is one of many reasons why Americans have such success with their small businesses — the majority seem to support and rely on fellow small business owners knowing that their success comes, not by shunning or excluding others, but by holding hands with others and showing support. I don’t know if craft fairs like Renegade really exist here in Germany, but I’d like to get involved in hosting one here in Hannover to see how it goes. My friend Enna and I are in discussion over this so I’ll let you know what we churn out. I’m thinking next year, a summer fest. :) I want to have a ‘decor8’ table at the fair to show the work of my American friends, and even those from Australia, England, and beyond that may like to introduce their work to the German market. I want to expose more Germans to crafts outside of Europe, too.

You may be shocked to learn that most of my creative friends here aren’t even online, do not blog, and they’ve never heard of Etsy! Half or more do not even speak English, another problem if they want to reach customers outside of Germany. This is one of the major reasons I’m speaking this Saturday in Berlin, I want to encourage the many creative types who will attend the decor8/Dawanda event to blog and reach out to the world if they aren’t already doing it. I feel so confident in the indie arts scene in Germany but not many people outside know what’s going on in this country outside of Oktoberfest and beer. Not even many Germans know what’s going on because so many seem to create in their ateliers, closed off from the rest of the world so to speak, and not much is seen outside of their own city. This is only my opinion as a non-German but I think small business here (at least arts & crafts) is where American small business was back in 2004/05 – blogging was just picking up speed, indie craft fairs were starting to appear nationwide, more and more people were connecting online and making new friends, etc. It’s fun to be over here in the beginning stages of it all. I can’t wait to see what develops!

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts“Fake NYC” by Natasha Mileshina, processed using the fake tilt shift technique, most likely in Photoshop.

I think I’m running off on a tangent here (what’s new!?), but this was on my mind when I awoke this morning so I thought I’d talk about it today to see what your opinions are on this topic. Do you need to be in the heart of a creative hub to create and network? If you lived in a city where shop owners do not seem to support other shop owners, how would you promote peace and encourage a more supportive environment? How do you overcome feelings of competition with fellow creative types?

Now back to the lovely Natasha! Don’t forget to check out her Flickr album for further inspiration, and don’t miss her lovely studio over at Poppy Talk.

(images taken by holly becker for decor8)

Shop Tours, Shopping + Products, Small Business

Lucky Shops

August 1, 2008

Obviously I’m a girl who loves a good retail experience. I mean, just look at this roundup of shops both domestic and international. It’s a bit obsessive I know. I think that as much as I love the online world, walking into a beautifully arranged store can be a tad bit more satisfying than the virtual shopping experience. This sounds funny coming out of my mouth as 80% of everything I purchase now is online and I author a blog with most items I write about being solely available on the web. I must admit that I find online shopping more convenient though (for the most part) and usually I find fun perks like discounts or free shipping. I’m divided on this one. I love my retail shopping trips but online stores have a lot to offer a girl like me who isn’t based in the heart of a big city.

Lucky ShopsOoga Booga in LA.

What about you? Do you shop online more than in-store or vice versa (or equally)? What are the benefits of each?

Have you noticed the City Guide section over on the Lucky magazine website? It’s brilliant. My shops section once lived in the right column of this blog and was called City Guide too. Now it’s called Shops and is located directly above this post (yellow tab). I love how Lucky editors hand pick stores from all over the world (mostly fashion and accessories – no home decor but still) and feature a boutique of the week complete with a photo of the owner.

I’ve dreamed of doing this for decor8 when it comes to home design and gift boutiques and I have store tours on the blog from time to time… It would be wonderful to somehow make this a regular feature here but I’m still trying to figure out how and if shops would participate. I’ve had store tours on decor8 since February 2006 but I’d like to step it up a notch and turn it into a more regular feature.

As a reader, are you interested in this?

Especially now since the economy here has taken a hit and people are shopping less frequently, I want to help these shops ride the tide through this period until things change. I’m seeing more and more little stores closing up shop, on the web and in local towns, and it saddens me because not only is the dream of one little store owner over, but what about all those who once had products there? While I’m not encouraging debt or shopping for the sake of buying, I am encouraging everyone to consider how they are spending their money and if quality can start to replace quantity a little more often… Buy one item that you really love for $50 from a small boutique instead of 5 items for $10 each that you merely like from a major retailer. Less stuff, more of what you love, that’s the way to go in this economy but really it’s a good rule of thumb to follow no matter how strong (or not) the local economy is. Wouldn’t you rather have a few good friends than ten that you can’t depend on? Same goes when you shop. And of course, inexpensive things can be of good quality, just because something expensive has a shocking price tag does not make it better. I have a table lamp that I spent $375 on. I also have one that I spent $100 on and another I won on eBay for $30. Do you know that the best of three lamps in terms of quality is the $30 one? The pricey version looks pretty but that’s about it, I’ve already had problems with the socket cup and the harp snapped off!

When it comes to stores, I’d love a photo of the owner, a mini interview, and of course photos of their boutique so we can see all of the goodness. Of course, they’d need to have a website. And I’d like to take it a layer deeper and get insider’s tips on display ideas, how items are sourced, and why the business was started in the first place.

Lucky ShopsMaeve Riley boutique in San Diego.

So I’m putting the idea out there to see if any store owners are reading and if so, would you like to be featured here on decor8? I can develop a special section dedicated to shop owners that would look somewhat like how I’ve organized Faves. Below each image I’d list the shop name and city.

If you are a shop owner and are interested in participating, please contact me using this form. Depending on how many submissions I get and of course, the quality of the images sent, I may try to run one at least once every few weeks. Image quality is the most important to me and of course, the store needs to carry items for the home and/or gifts (no kids, fashion, art galleries, jewelry). So if you’d like to share your shop, no matter where you are located in the word, click here and tell me more. Those who have brick and mortar locations who are also online are preferred but those without will still be considered.

Readers: To view past store tours featured on decor8 click here.

If you have a moment today please visit the Lucky City Guides for a wonderful fashion fix and don’t miss their Boutique of the Week. Great stuff over there.

(images from lucky magazine)

Events + Markets, Small Business, Travel

Tonight: LA – Designers Networking Event

July 23, 2008

The fabulous Vanessa just informed me that the next Designer Networking and Social Event in Los Angeles will be held at Craig Olsen?s showroom* tonight at 7pm. The showroom is located at 130 N. La Brea (near Beverly Blvd). Please make it on time (7pm) so that there is enough time for introductions. And bring a friend – or two! You may invite other designers, product designers and showroom reps and owners. It’s a great opportunity to network so don’t forget to bring your portfolios and/or press information to share with everyone. These events always attract a terrific crowd of some of LA’s hottest up-and-coming and established designers so be there if you’d like to do a little meet and greet!

Tonight: LA - Designers Networking Event

* Parking is available behind Olsen’s showroom. There is also parking available after 7pm on La Brea. You may contact Vanessa directly to RSVP or ask any questions. {at}

(image from craig olsen)

Inspiration, Small Business

Shop Girl: Career Advice for Creatives

June 16, 2008

I thought it may be fun to open this up as a topic today on decor8, Career Advice for Creatives. Warning: This post is a long one! I’m interested in talking about this because many emails arrive on a weekly basis asking me for career advice. So many aspiring bloggers, writers, and designers out there — it’s exciting! And though I love to read your emails, I often wonder why you are writing to me looking for help because I don’t think of myself as qualified to give career advice, I don’t consider myself a mentor. Your emails have shown me that I greatly underestimate my own ability in this area. I try to reply to as many of them as I can, but I thought for the sake of reaching more of you at one time that I should write a little on this topic today here on decor8.

My hope is that readers will chime in with their own advice and that in the future when new readers write in looking for career advice, I can refer them to this post and the comments that will no doubt be left here by so many of you.

Shop Girl: Career Advice for Creatives Follow Your Bliss by IS Photography.

Where to begin? Hmm. I guess it is hard for me to give advice when it comes to career paths because I am still fine tuning exactly where I belong myself! I think I always will and I have grown to love and accept this about my personality. From your emails, many find it interesting that I jumped into the freelance pond after so many years of swimming around in the corporate sea. I think you like positive examples of how others make the switch because you are in the big sea currently and dream of smaller ponds. If so, I understand completely. Leaving it all behind was a pretty big risk for me but if I had stayed I would have risked a lot more. I guess I will begin by telling you the ugly truth regarding a little meltdown I had at work in ’04 that got me to thinking that a change was needed.

Towards the final days of my career I remember feeling physically sick when I had to go to work. Do you ever feel this way? It’s normal now and then, but if you feel ill on an almost daily basis you need to see a doctor like I did and he told me that I was in perfect health but I knew better. Often after arriving, I would zone out at my desk because I couldn’t quite absorb all of the information flying at me any longer. I felt depressed, but only when I was in the office. The moment I left I felt full of energy. No one sensed I was losing focus at work, I was always able to keep up with things and often exceeded expectations on purpose — I didn’t want anyone to think I was unhappy there. But my body was telling me I needed to make some changes. A year before I resigned, I was on a yet another conference call and with the mute button on, tears starting rolling down my face as I tried not to cry out loud. After the call, I found a windowless conference room, locked the door, and sat in that very dark room and cried for what felt like 10 minutes. After my mini meltdown, I pulled myself together, wiped my eyes and put on the Holly smile emerging from the conference room walking a little taller and feeling more confident than ever. Why? During that meltdown there in the dark the lights went on. At least in my mind. I told myself that I would find a more creative career path and that I could make changes, it was in my power. I told myself that crying in a conference room was pathetic. I couldn’t allow myself to experience this amount of pain for any job. It was my low point. I knew I had a mountain to climb ahead but I was ready.

After the mini melt, I started to lace up my climbing boots. It took me one full year before I resigned. You have to prepare your way before you quit a lucrative job in a field that you spent years building. Lucky for me my husband does not depend on my income to sustain us. Please do not think for a moment that I feel comfortable with this fact, jobs can change in the blink of an eye so I never place all of my eggs in his basket. I’m very independent. I remember the day my father took me to the town hall on my 15th birthday to register for a social security card so I could start working part-time after school. I had to contribute a weekly percentage to my parents, and they didn’t need the money, but they wanted to teach me the value of it. I have been working ever since. I’ve also learned that money is not something one can fully rely on to always be there. That is why I had a hard time at first with the idea of leaving behind my job to give up this ‘control’ that I’d long held so tightly. When my husband first relocated to this country from Germany in ’01, I was the primary source of income for the first year while he worked on his English. He spoke the language, but it was the written word he needed to master in order to get back into his field. Once he mastered English, he easily found employment and has been with the same company now for over 5 years. But the first two years we had to sacrifice a lot. And I remember that sacrifice and so in ’04 when I decided to leave my career behind, I reflected on that challenging period we had experienced as newlyweds vowing to myself that I would not repeat that if it was in my power. My husband works full-time and is very driven and dedicated so I never worry about his ability to support us. But I was scared to walk away from my secure weekly paycheck because with that came comfort, the comfort of knowing that if something happened to his job that we still had mine.

I decided that the comfort of income wasn’t as important as the comfort of a joyful, happy spirit. I wanted to regain joy and the steady income wasn’t doing it so my answer was quite clear. Sacrifice the pay and pursue a career doing what I felt passionate about.

Because this could easily turn into a book, I’ll wrap up soon so that others can jump in with their own experiences and if you have questions for me, please feel free to ask.

I resigned in ’05 and have never looked back. Never once did I doubt myself. I’ve had success, and I’ve had failures. I’m happy that I made the change, it worked for me personally. It is difficult for me to advise someone else on how they should go about embarking on a new career since there is no ‘one size fits all’ recipe. But I can tell you that I would not go back to a ‘normal’ job. I have nothing against it at all, in fact I know that had I not spent nearly ten years being professionally groomed in a pretty intense and competitive environment I may not be able to do what I am doing today. I almost wish everyone could work a corporate job alongside powerful executives for at least a year. There is something to be said for the exposure, the accelerated rate as which you acquire new skills, the contacts you build, and the second skin it can help you to grow. There are also parts of it that I miss but I am careful not to focus on the past because the only direction in life is forward.

I do not think working for ‘the man’ is wrong or selling out. We tend to judge others for the roles that they take on as adults, it is not up to us to direct the life of another person. We can only be a good example and be the change we want to see, not force others into a role we think is best for them. That is why I’m careful when I talk about this subject. I also am careful to not form cliques where I limit myself only to others following the same path as my own. It’s best to surround yourself with people who are happy, however they achieve that happiness is their business. One of my closest girlfriends manages communications for a huge company and works nearly full-time remotely from her Boston-based home office. She loves it, she can walk her dog on her lunch break and have some flexibility with her 9-5 schedule. She is very successful in her field, I see her in an executive role by the time she is 40. I don’t think for a moment that she isn’t following her dreams because she’s working for a corporate giant. In fact, I know for a fact that she is over the moon happy with her job. I admire her very much! Recently she was published in a popular business journal because she is an excellent writer and the opportunity to write outside of her company was thrilling and fun for her. She finds creative outlets outside of her job and gains much satisfaction this way. My wiring is a little different that’s all. I wanted to start my own business, just as nearly everyone in my family started their own business at one time or another. The point is that we are all coded differently so there is no point in comparing yourself to someone else or thinking that your path is wrong or the only right one out there. I do not think freelance work is a bowl of cherries. There are lots of pits just like any other job.

To wrap this post up I’ll conclude with an email that I sent to a lovely reader who wrote in today seeking career advice. This is what I said in reply.

“Let me remind you though that I am not a career counselor though I think it would be a really fun career path to be one for creatives! With that said, I really cannot advise one on next steps in their career. I do not know your talents, I’ve not seen your work, and I do not know your personality type (introvert, extrovert, enjoys working alone, with teams, etc.). I also am not at all familiar with want side of interior design you personally like. I do not know your strengths. Is it writing? Community building? Is it decorating, knocking down walls, kitchen design, etc. I wish I could advise you but based on lack of information and not having met you in person, it’s very hard. When I was getting started back in 2004, I took a class. You may want to just enroll in a class — pick something you’ve always wanted to learn in the design realm and enroll. You will then have access to college professors, peers, and career counselors. I met with one at Northeastern University and our conversation was life changing. A good career counselor can help. Also books on the subject. Write lists of your strengths and be as detailed as possible as you write a page or two in your notebook describing how you envision your day. Will you meet with clients? Will you rep someone? Will you work from home? In an office? It’s good to do
all of this personal evaluation before you approach a career counselor because they can work better with someone who knows themselves well already.”

I concluded with these remarks, “I wish I had the magic wand, I would wave it and poof! you would be working in the best field imaginable. But life is a series of risks and challenges. Each help us and to remove them from anyone’s path does not help them to grow and learn.
I cannot give you the answers, but I can tell you that self evaluation and taking a class got me started and I’ve been very happy with my choice so far. One recent thought I heard that stuck is, When you are trying to accomplish a goal, you will hit brick walls. Remember, brick walls aren’t put there to stop us, they are placed there to see just how badly we want our goal. I think that is really good to remember as you make this journey. You mentioned being nervous – FACE your fears by just doing it.” – Holly

If you would like to add to my comments above, ask questions, or jump in with your personal experience of how you got started as a writer, blogger, designer, decorator, etc. please please please do! This can’t be all about me! :)

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