Monday, May 2, 2011

Quotes to Inspire

"Pricing low is shortsighted, because someone else is always willing to sacrifice more profit margin and drive you both bankrupt."
- Tim Ferris, author of 'The Four Hour Workweek'

"A schedule defends from chaos and whim."
- Annie Dillard, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, 1975

"What gets measured gets managed."
- Peter Drucker

"Perfect is the enemy of good enough. When your product or service is good enough, get it out, because cash flows when you start shipping. You'll also learn what your customers truly want you to fix."
- Guy Kawasaki

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Become Profitable as Quickly as Possible

By John Sanpietro, Certified Business Coach

Whenever I begin working with a new Coaching client, I ask them what they want out of their business.  Most of them will tell me, among other things, that they want to be profitable.

I tell them that isn't a problem… IF they're truly committed to profitability.

And even though they all say they are, many come to realize they really weren't, and once they can change that, profit will soon follow!

So, what does it mean to be truly committed to profitability?  It's really quite simple.  There are just 2 criteria:

1. You Don't Allow Yourself To Waste Time
Wasting time is easy!  There are so many things you can do that distract you from your actual business.  Things you may even convince yourself are necessary, but, in reality, don't pass the profitability test.

Time is the one thing you truly have a finite amount of.  And the amount of time you have to spend on your business is even more finite.  EVERY MINUTE of that time spent on tasks that don't build your business is making you less profitable. 

And those minutes add up! 

Even if you spend just two hours per week wasting time, that adds up to almost three weeks of lost productivity and profit per year!  Imagine what you could have done with those extra three weeks!!

What Can You Do?:  Take a good, hard look at where you're spending your time.  Ask yourself… is this REALLY helping me build my business?  If the answer is no, eliminate it.  Plain and simple.  Like I said, becoming profitable isn't complicated.  You just have to be committed.

2. You Don't Allow Yourself To Waste Money and You Stick To Your Profit Margins
This is the classic battle between stamping as a hobby and stamping as a business.  If you want to truly build your business, you have to be committed to doing everything you can to make sure EVERY DOLLAR you spend yields a profit.

Not just breaking even… but a real profit!  You have to base your decisions on ROI (return on investment). 

For example, you may have an idea for a class, but when you crunch the numbers, you realize it doesn't make you enough profit to justify the time involved.  What should you do?  Can it!  Or, at least, change it so you can meet your profit margins. 

Plenty of ideas I've had have died in development.  Not because they wouldn't have made me money.  Because they wouldn't have made me enough money.  They wouldn't have met my margins.

Remember, profit margins are important.  A higher profit margin means you can work less and make more.  This leads to better work/life balance, as well as greater opportunities for growing your business.

Another example… I'm a big believer in professional development.  I like to take courses and attend conferences.  However, I won't even think about purchasing a course or a ticket unless I was 90-95% certain I was going to earn TEN TIMES what I was spending in the first twelve months.  So, if I spend $750 on a conference, I expect to make $7,500 in new profit as a direct result of that conference within twelve months. 

If I don't think that's a real possibility, I don't do it.  And I have no hesitation and no regrets because I'm committed!

What Can You Do?:  Take a look at everything you're spending money on, and analyze the return on investment you're getting.  Determine what you want your profit margins to be.  It doesn't have to be 10X like me (although it could be), but it should be at least 3X.  If you find things not meeting your margins, drop them… or figure out a way to change them so they do.

Again, this isn't rocket science.  It's very straightforward stuff.  Sticking to it is tough, though, because the commitment it requires is very, very high.

But if you can maintain it, you'll be amazed how profitable you can be… and how quickly it can happen!

Good luck!

Warmest regards,


John Sanpietro
Certified Business Coach

The Premier Online Community for BUSINESS-MINDED Stamping Business Owners!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

MARKETING - It Makes a Difference!

Low- and No-Cost Marketing

First a few tips for putting together your marketing messages and reinforcing your personal brand:
  • Have a format - work with your brand - but be flexible so you can respond to circumstances
  • Sometimes your marketing initiatives will have INSTANT results and sometime it can take weeks or even months to see those results
  • Always have more than one marketing plan running at a time so the ones that give your fast results can support your business while you are waiting for the long term ones to kick in
  • Bigger is NOT always better - analyze your results to ensure that the time you are spending turns into actual business
  • Stack your efforts and reinforce your brand with your internet appearance, your newsletter, your messaging
  • FOLLOW UP!!!  This is the one thing that GUARANTEES results yet so many of us don't have an ironclad follow up plan
  • Learn from the "No's"; listen to what people are objecting to so you can have workarounds ready to go
  • Stay realistic
Here are some things you should either have on hand or have ready to update and get out the door in a FLASH:
  • Business cards; either through MDS (marketing opp for MDS!) or from a vendor
  • Current promotion flyers 
  • Samples to hand out or display
  • Preformatted press releases 
  • Thank You For Asking packets (see below) 
  • Giveaways or donations 
  • Prize drawing slips 
  • Hostess Packets 
  • Recruit Packets
Also think about:
  • Putting the SU! logos on your car with other DE motifs (check with your automobile insurance company first!)
  • Carry SU! reusable shopping totes, your SU! event bags, deliver EVERYTHING (even non-SU! stuff like things for school, etc). in SU! plastic bags
  • Wear your SU! apparel and Simply Adorned items
  • Carry one of those window totes with card or page samples showing
Thank You For Asking packets are little packets that I make batches at a time.  They consist of our card sized flat cello bag with several (2-3) blank-inside cards, a business card, a mini, any SU! promotions printed two to a page and sliced in half, a half sheet flyer I make up listing my classes and a "FREE PARTY!" coupon.  I hand these out to EVERYONE!  If the cashier is a peach, give her one and say something like "You have been so nice today, I would love to give you one of these!”  And if the cashier is nasty, give her one and say something like "You seem like you could use some cheering up, I would love to give you one of these"!  And then turn to the person behind you and say "My mom told me that unless I had one for everyone, I shouldn't offer something, so here's one for you too!"  If anyone asks "What's Stampin' Up!?" you say … “Thank you for asking - here's a little gift that will tell you all about it."
Here is a list of places that might need cards to send - remember that when you do this you have DOUBLE exposure - the people for whom you are making the cards and the people who are receiving them, PLUS anyone else they show it to!; may have inexpensive advertising in newsletters, at events or on their websites - many offer a discount or free ads to people who offer discounts to their members; may need someone to come in and be a guest speaker or provide an activity for their group
  • Realtors - offer to put together little "We've Moved" kits with stamped post-it notes for the new people to put on their bills, etc. with some stamped postcards and a Welcome to the Neighborhood or Thank You card for the realtor to send to them.
  • Teachers - thank you notes, good job notes for students, postcards for events, post-it notes; offer to teach scrapbooking or stamping to kids
  • Nursing Homes - for the residents to send to their families, for the employees to send to families; offer to hold a monthly mini camp for the residents with the nursing home paying only for supplies
  • Chamber of Commerce - thank you notes, congrats notes, etc. for members to send to customers and clients
  • Rotary Club – ditto
  • Mothers Groups - Mothers & More, MOMS, M.O.P.S. - offer to be a guest speaker about scrapbooking, stamping, etc at one of their meetings; offer to hold a special event for the members
  • Adult Education Centers - teach classes!
  • Fundraisers - offer baskets - fill with as much retired stuff as you have with a current mini, current catalog, promo flyers AND A COUPON FOR A FREE PARTY!
  • Libraries - while many won't allow you to "sell" you can teach classes!
  • Consignment Stores - see if you can set up a little area with cards and gift packaging
  • Gift Stores - any independent store that does not already sell cards (and some that do might still be interested!) has that need - go fill it!
  • Florists - make up a bunch of business card sized cards (that's the size of the envelopes they have and what their stands fit) along with some greeting card sized items; show them around!
  • Candy stores - cards and gift packaging
  • Hair Salons - make up some fun, blingy, girlie cards
  • Wedding Stores - see if you can display a board with everything from save the date cards to thank you notes
  • Maternity Stores - show off baby announcements, congrats cards, enclosure cards for gifts
  • Tutoring Centers - parents sit there with nothing to look at - give them something!; tutors may want congrats and good job cards to give to students
  • Monument Stores - Sympathy cards, thank you notes
  • Nursery Schools - make up albums of party invites, announcements, thank you notes
  • Greenhouses - same as florists
  • Jewelry Stores - cards, gift packaging, set up display for shoppers
  • Knitting Stores - gift enclosures, cards using the knitting set for the knitters to send, set up display for shoppers to buy
  • Sewing Stores - WAHOO!  All our new sewing stuff - PERFECT!
  • Garden Clubs - Offer to be a guest speaker, demo garden related projects, see if they need cards to send to members, etc.
  • Civic Groups - thank you notes, congrats, etc.
  • Women's Groups - cards for members to send
  • Red Hat Groups - be a guest speaker, cards for members to send
  • Attorneys - cards to send to clients
  • Medical and Dental offices - cards to send to patients
  • Nutritionists - cards to send to clients, set up display for clients to buy
  • Health Clubs - cards to send out to clients, set up display for clients to buy
Remember, OFFER don’t ASK, make it all about the other person and LOVE WHAT YOU DO!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Workshops - What Do Customers Want?

When we have new customers we often mistakenly assume they know how to use the tools and products we demonstrate. What tips do you give new customers that they appreciate the most?
I always start out by asking the customers who has used punches, a Big Shot etc, depending on what tools I will be using.  I them ask them sweetly to wait until I show them some tips on how to use the products before jumping in.  Things like using a separate Stampin' Scrub for Staz-On, or how the new punch design works best when it is used flat on the table (and you can use it upside down to center the image you want to punch) . .. even if they have been told these things in the past, a refresher is always good.  It helps prevent MY products from being ruined. 
I think my most popular "tip" is the bow-making advice I have taken from SUDSOL!  People are always so thrilled when they can make a nice bow!
I always show everyone at a workshop HOW I cut the  cardstock to make a card. Most people don't even know how you get to the card part so I take a 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock and show them how to cut it in the middle and fold it. They are always amazed and excited that it is easy to make a simple card with cardstock.
Believe it or not I show them how to mount and use stamps. If they are really new they have no idea how to put the new stamps together, how to open an ink pad, how to get ink on the stamp (rub it? Pat it? Upsidedown or rightside up?), clean the stamp. If they don't even know that it's not surprising that we can overwhelm them with a three layer card in four colours with ribbon, buttons and bling! :0) Sometimes people say "I've been to these workshops before but I didn't order anything because I didn't know what to do with it!"
I know personally that the more layers, embellishments, and bling the better I like it, so I have to force myself to remember what it was like the first time I stamped.
The tips my gals appreciate the most are these: 
1)  How to apply adhesive so things stick but they don't break the bank by over-adhereing stuff.  If they are using good adhesive, they don't need to cover the back of the cardstock!

2)  How to stamp something and then hold the punch upside down so they can see it through the "hole" and then punch the item while centering the image they want punched.  (I hope that makes sense.)

3)  How to use their measuring tool (I always recommend our Fiskars cutter).

4)  How to use markers on their stamps to omit an image if they choose.

5)  If you want all the colors, buy spots instead of full inkpads but always buy the re-inker when you buy a pad or a spot!  Never be without a re-inker!

6)  Your projects will only be as good as the tools you invest in and cardstock counts as a tool. "Cheap" products will give you cheap looking projects.

 7) How to use the Stamp-A-Ma-Jig!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Golden Rules for Business

After running his own successful and unsuccessful businesses, consulting to others and researching the factors that make a business grow, small business expert John Petty says that there are twelve golden rules for establishing and developing a business.
  • Don't kid yourself. Face the facts on business success. Self-deception is easy, but it is also fatal to your business.
  • Keep it simple. Focus on what you do well.
  • Never run out of cash. In small business, cash is always king.
  • Don't try to grow too fast.
  • Meet your customers' needs, not your own - customers come first.
  • Plan everything. Leave nothing to chance.
  • Build a winning team. You can't do it all by yourself. The right staff can be your best asset.
  • Keep accurate records and accounts and use them to manage the business.
  • Know your business better than anyone else.
  • Avoid risk whenever possible - risky business is not good business.
  • Be honest. Being ethical pays in the long run.
  • Live a balanced life. Life exists beyond the business.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stamping on Chocolate - Yum!

(I haven't tried it yet, but hope to soon!)

by Susan Rice

Give a hand stamped romantic treat to your sweetheart by stamping extra special chocolates. You will need some cooking oil, store bought chocolates, little paper liners for individual chocolates to sit in and small clear acrylic rubber stamps. Experiment with different chocolate brands. It may be easiest to begin on solid chocolates.

1. Place a small amount of vegetable oil on a paper towel and allow it to absorb. Take your choice of new acrylic rubber stamps and dab it in the oil. It is important that you use new rubber stamps for this as the finished product will be consumed and you don't want any ink coming off the stamps onto the chocolate.

2. Heat the surface of the chocolate with a heat embossing tool.

3. Place the oiled clear rubber stamp (without a stamping block) into the melted chocolate. Refrigerate the chocolate with the clear stamp still in the chocolate. Complete your set of chocolates using different rubber stamp images.

4. Once the chocolate has solidified, bring it out of the fridge and gently peel the clear acrylic stamp from the surface of the chocolate.

5. Package your personalized, unique stamped chocolates in a box. Add a little colored tissue paper if you like. Be sure to clean your clear rubber stamps with soapy water as you don't want any traces of chocolate or oil left especially if you plan on converting your clear stamps over for use on paper crafts.

6. Make a coordinating Valentines Day card to go along with your gift of heart.

That is it! It is easy and it is yummy! Rubber stamping with clear stamps on food is a completely unique way to say Happy Valentines Day!

• Stamp a favorite image in a plain sugar cookie before baking.
• Stamp a flower into fondant, cut it out and decorate cakes or other goodies with it.
• Write a special message in a chocolate bar with this technique for an unexpected surprise.

Use your imagination in the kitchen, stamp on anything that will hold an image. Remember, if it doesn't work - you might have to eat it! No matter how unbelievable, enjoy rubber stamping fabulous sweet treats!

Susan loves to craft and particularly enjoys card making with all its forms of art. Using stamps for more than just card making has become a fun challenge for her as well. Visit for more ideas. __________________

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Punch PotPourri/Greenhouse Gala Card Gift Set

This set is inspired by a project from "UStamp with Dawn & Friends" (a great - although somewhat expensive - place to get ideas.) I changed a little bit of everything but the main theme is still there.
The set includes six cards, 10 sentiments, DSP decorated envelopes, and a 'matchbox' for candy. If you want the dimensions and directions for making the set, just zap me an email!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shrinky Dink is Back!

Shrink Plastic Tips
By Colleen Kidder

Here's what I've found working with Shrink Plastic:

1. The standard black pad works fine. It is permanent ink! You just need to be sure to sand with our sanding blocks, first one way and then the other sort of a crisscross pattern. It gives the ink something to “hang” onto. It also keeps the plastic from sticking to itself without "letting go".

2. The other color pads tend to bleed and once they shrink they are not water fast and will run if gotten wet. I have tried sealing them with fingernail polish, laminate, etc. but they bleed when I put it on. I don't recommend using them.

3. Our markers work well to color in the black-stamped image. They do not bleed or run when I apply a sealant. You can also use the colored pencils or chalks to color in an outline stamp. You don't need too much color since they intensify when shrunk. I prefer the Fabrico markers. They provide the most vivid colors and reliable results.

4. Also remember to punch holes in plastic before shrinking and make sure the holes are larger than you want them. When I use the regular size hole punch it shrinks down to the 1/16 in. size.

5. I have found that one of the best sealants is plain, cheap, clear fingernail polish. I have also found that using fingernail polish allows you to sprinkle on glitter while it is still damp. (I made a very cute Frosty pin using red, green and dazzling diamonds glitter doing this.) You can then add another coat of polish if you wish. You can also use Crystal Effects as a
water-proof sealant over SU! standard markers. This way they won’t smudge if they get wet. It also creates a nice shiney, smooth look to finish your shrink art.

6. One of the best tips I ever got was to make a shrink ruler. Using a Fabrico marker just trace a regular ruler onto a piece of shrink plastic and then shrink it down (use the oven for this). You will then be able to determine what an image that measures say 3 inches will shrink down to by looking at your 3 inch mark on your shrunken ruler.

7. Use Crystal Effects to glue on pin backs, magnets, etc. You can also use a hot glue gun but it is messier.

8. The metallic colors do NOT do well on the poly shrink unless you do an extra step after you shrink (keep reading). Also, the metallic colors seem to bubble when you shrink the plastic by heat gun so I would use the oven. The black poly shrink with the Gold Colorbox or Encore pads looks striking. Pigment ink will not dry on poly shrink unless you emboss it - just like vellum, coated cardstock and other non-porous surfaces. When you use pigment inks shake on some clear embossing powder AFTER shrinking and heat again so ink will be sealed. If this step is not done the pigment ink will wipe off or smear. If you try to put the clear embossing powder on before you shrink, it will bubble and slide off and create a real mess.

9. Fabricos do not need to be sealed and really do work the best. The ancient page pads would work well too because they also would be permanent and not require sealing.

10. It is also important to note poly shrink has a grain and if you stamp the same image twice, once horizontal and once vertically they will come out differently. Very important to know this if you are doing earrings.

11. Shrink plastic using one of two methods; either your embossing heat gun or in the oven.

Heat gun method: Place plastic on a heat resistant surface. Use a chop stick to gently hold down the plastic as you are aiming the heat gun 2 inches over plastic. It will curl as it shrinks. This is normal and will flatten out once entire shrinking process is completed. When it is not shrinking anymore, use the back of the wood block to smash the still warm plastic completely flat.

Oven method: Preheat oven to 275 degrees (not to exceed 300 degrees). Place poly shrink on a Teflon cookie sheet.
Hint: To minimize the distortion during shrinking it is important to shink your designs slowly by maintaining a low temperature in your oven. Remember that oven temperatures vary from oven to oven so if your designs curl too rapidly,your oven is too HOT regardless of setting! Watch your design shrink while it bakes! As if shrinks, it may curl up into a ball but then it will open up and flatten out. When it is completely flat you may remove it from the oven. Use a spatula to carefully place design on a flat surface to cool. It will take approximately 3-5 minutes to shrink.

12. Poly shrink comes in different “colors.” Opaque, black, clear and white. The opaque and white seem to not show the sanding marks as much but you can get rid of all sanding marks even on the transluscent by adding a coat of sealant (clear fingernail polish or Crystal Effects.) The black is great for using gold Colorbox or Encore pads.

**Poly Shrink Projects:

1. Use the shape punches on the poly shrink to create embellishments and charms. I have used the leaf punches and colored with fall Pearl Ex colors . Be sure to punch a hole at the top of the shape before shrinking. The leaves have made cute additions to fall cards after being threaded onto the metallic ribbon. The snowflakes are a very nice touch on a swing tag for a box like the one in the April Stampin' News issue. Another thing you can do is to use the shape punch as a “background" to attach another shrink item on top. Just be sure the shrunken punched shape will be a bit larger than the other shrunken image. Use the Crystal Effects to glue them together. This is a very nice finishing touch!!

2. Use it to make jewelry. For example use the Stipple Butterfly stamped in gold on black poly shrink as earrings. I like the rainbow Fabrico pad on white too.

3. Use poly shrink to make book marks. Cut desired length and width keeping in mind what you want your finished size to be (use your poly shrink ruler you’ve made to help you determine this.) Stamp, color images, punch hole in top and shrink. Or you can just make standard card stock book marks and just add poly shrink matching “charms” attached to the book mark itself or attached to tassles. The Button Bear set is cute for doing this. Stamp on cardstock and then shrink a button bear on white poly shrink and put it on end of ribbon for the bookmark.

4. Make a pin wheel topper for a pencil. Cut a square shape and then cut from each corner, angled in towards the center. Do not cut all the way in, leave about a 1/2 inch circle in the center. Punch the very middle of that cent circle. This is where you will put a straight pin through to attach to the eraser. Then use any stamp to create a colorful pattern. Shrink and bend poly shrink to resemble pinwheel while it is still warm. Attach to pencil top with pin.

5. Make lapel pin using the Button Bear set. The Bear was my main stay for the pin, I punched the holes in her feet and poly shrink the accessories. Colored and attached them with the little metal jewelry “O” rings (jump rings) that you can get at your craft store near the jewlery section. I then put a self adhesive pin on the back.

6. Make a charm bracelet. Just choose your favorite stamps or choose a similar theme. Stamp and shrink as usual. Using the jump rings attach these charms to your bracelet.

7. Create poly shrink gift tags for Christmas or any other gift-giving occassions.

8. Make REALLY cute doll pins using the poly shrink plastic for the head and body and wire for the arm.legs and hair. Too cute!

9. Make a poly shrink necklace. It is a little book that is worn as a necklace.
Poly Shrink Necklace Ideas: To make them a bit less extravagant leave off the brass jump ring-book bindings and the beads. You can fill them with mini phone book pages so the person you are giving them to can put their favorite or most used phone numbers in it. I also thought of printing out mini calendar pages and making them into little calendars. You can also scan old family pictures and put those in there. . . . sort of a mini photo album.