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Whatever rings Mel's bells

Posts Tagged ‘plans’

Time for a change

Well, the Christmas sales season has come and gone, and I’m sad to report that my sales were weak.  I certainly can’t point to anyone for that except myself.  I left a lot of opportunities on the table because of my schedule and my need to prioritize.  Frankly, it’s kind of insane to try to run a business with everything else I do!  And when you consider that I’m selling in a glutted field, it’s not hard to understand my distinct lack of wild success.

Honestly, I look at my pieces and I don’t see a common thread.  There’s nothing recognizable about my pieces – nothing that makes them obviously mine.  Nor is there anything to set them out from anything else on the market.  I have a couple of amazing ideas in the works that will make both of those true, but unfortunately they both require time commitments that I just can’t fulfill right now.  :,-(  Though I am slowly squirreling away all the supplies and tools I need to make them happen.  And eventually, I will get laid off and have some time…  But that doesn’t help me now!

The other thing about my pieces is that they don’t stand out.  They’re balanced and attractive, aesthetically pleasing and sometimes meaningful.  But I don’t think they’d ever make someone stop in their tracks and release an involuntary gasp.

Basically, I’m saying that I don’t think I’m a particularly special snowflake, and I’m tired of putting this kind of energy into a business endeavor that isn’t going to go anywhere.  So it’s time for a big change.  Like, a REALLY big, world-shaking, life-changing, paradigm-shifting change in direction.

I look around, and I say, what’s selling?  What do people want to buy that I enjoy making?  What can I make that will satisfy my desire to create, and also satisfy a need (or desire) that people actually have?

Short story long, I’m going into the wedding market.

Starting this weekend, I’m going to pack up my office and all the unfinished or half-finished projects so I can start developing new products.  Pinterest is quickly becoming my friend!  I’m getting great ideas for what brides are looking for right now, and I’m going to use those as guidelines to design things like attendant gifts, table decorations, and of course jewelry and accessories for the bride herself.

On one side, I’m very excited!  Big projects and plans always get my peanut brain going, and I love developing ideas and figuring out what I need to make them happen.  On the other side, I’m scared. To. Death.  Change of this scope is daunting, to say the least.  Comfort zone?  Not even sure where it is at this point.  I need to reinvent myself, rebrand what I do, and in some ways start from scratch.  Practically, this means everything from business cards and packaging to descriptions on every social media site I have a presence on.  (See what I mean about big plans?)

I guess what I’m saying is, watch for updates.  It may take me a few weeks or even a couple months to get what I want to do right, so you might not hear much from me right away on new product.  Rest assured, I’ll be busy behind the scenes.  And when I emerge from this dark, scary cocoon, you’ll be treated to some amazing things!  I may even share some of the process as I go…  Sneak peeks, anyone?

So stick around.  There’s a lot to see, and though its going to be a rocky time, it’s also going to be fun.  And after the growing pains are done, a whole new world is going to open up.  Hey look, I’m excited again!

Shocking news

Today is a red-letter day, my friends.  Today I’m going to tell you about…  Making jewelry!  Or at least, my jewelry business activities.

Yes, I know!  Unprecedented, isn’t it?  I’m pretty sure I talk about everything *but* jewelry on this blog.  But I figure, hey, why not?  And since I’ve lately been devoting a lot more time to building up my business, I figure I ought to take a crack at it.

What have I been doing, you may ask.  (Or you may not.  But I’m going to tell you anyway.)  Well, first, when I moved the bulk of my item listings to Zibbet, I also started cruising the fora (plural of forum, for those of you who prefer your Latin without the standard American twist) and found a thriving, warm community.  I got involved with a group that does weekly “flash attacks,” trading links and promoting each others’ shops and items.

The best time for me to do this work turned out to be on my morning and afternoon commute, so I ponied up the cash for wifi service on the ferry and signed up for a Hootsuite account to manage all my posts.  And it’s been working brilliantly!

I sign on in the morning and schedule tweets to go out all day while I’m at work.  Generally, I do half of them for the “flashee” at the time, and the other half are divided between my own items and other random things like Seahawks news or current events or useful articles.  I really enjoy finding the twitter handle of someone affiliated with whatever I’m posting and tagging them.  ;-D

One thing I’m really trying to do is provide more content than just sales pitches.  I mean, who’s going to follow me – and pay attention – if all I do is advertise all day?  No, I need to have more to attract people than just that.  So after I schedule out a dozen or so messages (more if the mood strikes) I look at what’s trending and find a discussion to contribute to.  Like the #YesAllWomen, for example, though I wasn’t doing this yet when that got started.

Basically, I’m trying to interact with others in the Twitterverse in a way that encourages them to pay attention.  Thus far I’m meeting with some results.  Pretty much every day something that’s come out of my feed gets attention from outside our flash attack group.  Which is the mark of success for what I’m doing – we’re all very attentive to each other, so when these ladies share my tweets it’s awesome, but doesn’t show the same results that I’m looking for in my other posts.

It’s a slow process, but I think it’s working.  At least a bit.  Which is really all I can ask for!  As my darling HSO is fond of saying, “Progress is.”

Happy birthday, apprentice!

I got the most wickedly awesome birthday present today – a new career!

Last fall I got into the electrical trade, applying for an apprenticeship as an Inside Wireman and getting a  job as a low-voltage Sound & Communications Installer.  The installer job wasn’t meant to last forever, just till I got into my apprenticeship.  However, that can take a really long time – six months or even several years if you don’t get in the first time.  So I was just happy to be working at all, let alone in my chosen field.

Guess what?  I got into the program on my first try!  And today I went to my employer’s office and got dispatched out to my FIRST SITE AS AN APPRENTICE.  And it’s my birthday.  How about them apples?!?  Kiss it, retail, I told you I’m never coming back!

Gotta say, things got pretty hairy last fall, and I was worried I’d have to go back to the hateful retail world.  But I got the install job, and now I’m taking the first step on the five-year path to my Journeyman ticket.

I am SO. EXCITED.

Conventionality

I had a moment today, as I was leaving the pet store walking behind a happy couple with a toddler in their shopping cart, when I wished for a conventional life.

I wished for the normalcy of a 9-to-5-working husband and house with a white picket fence.  I wished for a moment of being like everyone else, with 2.4 kids and a dog and church on Sundays.  I wished for a firm place in the community, clear social expectations, and neatly defined behavioral roles.

For just a moment there, I really wished I could sink into apathy and mediocrity and just be part of the faceless masses.

Then I shook my head and decided I’m going on tour next summer as a solo act.  If Gumby’s not still around, I can just rehome Princess and put all my stuff in storage, you know.  Have to give up my waterfront view, but I’d get to see a lot more of the country from the road.  And I bet I’d get a whole lot of songs written, too.

Onwardo.

Depression

K, so if admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, then I shall do so.

I’m dealing with some depression right now.  I’m at a crossroads in my life, and I’m feeling ready for a change.  But the change is taking so long in coming, it’s getting frustrating.  I was just saying last night, I’ve gone through the part where I let go of my plans and embrace the new paradigm.  So I’ve turned the mental corner and I’m ready for the new thing now.  But it isn’t coming!  So I’m still stuck here in my old life, the one that won’t work and isn’t working and that I’ve already given up.  But I can’t go on to my new life yet.

So I’m feeling really out of sorts and it’s really messing with my head.  I guess the only thing to do is soldier through and deal with it, huh?  At least I have friends who I can turn to and get it off my chest, which I really need to employ more often because it’s a much better coping mechanism than my usual ones.

Know what?  I think I’ll go clean the affirmations off my mirror and write a new one.  Something along the lines of, “You will succeed if you apply yourself.”  With the IF really big.

And then tonight I’m going to go see my wonderful family and celebrate my nephew’s birthday and bask in the love and appreciation and togetherness and understanding and BELONGING that makes me so happy to have been born into this bunch of people.

Take that, depression.

Announcement

Big changes are a-coming…  There’s no way to work up to this, so I’m just gonna pull the bandage right off in one yank.

I’m auditioning for the Navy Band.

Yep, I’m going to enlist in the US Navy and join the band and be a Navy rock star for the next few years.  Didn’t know the Navy had rock bands?  They do.  In fact, they have 11 fleet bands around the world, each of which has 2-3 vocalists.  One of those fleet bands is stationed at NBK-Bangor, right here in my backyard.  If they station me there, I’ll only be gone for about 7 months (8 weeks of basic, 21 of A school) and then I’ll be back home again for most of my tour.  If they don’t, I could end up in California or Europe or Hawaii or on the East Coast.  Who knows?

At any rate, I’m offering what I feel is my greatest talent and skill in service of my country.  It’s a decision I have not made lightly, and in fact one I was on the verge of making two years ago.  In 2010 I decided to stay here, but I guess it was just a matter of time!  I keep telling people that if I’d known at 18 that I could do this, I’d only be a few years out from retirement right now.  But no, I had to talk to the Army recruiter…  And the Army doesn’t have a dedicated vocalist position.  You know, it never occurred to me to walk out the door and into one of the other branches.  But hey, life is funny that way and playing the “what if” game is stupid and unproductive.

So this is the plan:  I serve for 5 years, and if I like it then I stay in until I want out.  If I don’t like it, then I’m back here in 5 years buying a house and picking up where I left off.

Either way, I’m excited and ready for a change.  Both Etsy stores will remain open for sales in my absence (big thanks to Albert who will be shipping packages out for me until I’m able to take back over) tho there obviously won’t be any new items available until I get to my duty station.  Keep an eye out for future communications as to when I go – it’ll be business as usual for the next couple months, or however long it takes for me to get on the road.

Opposite Day

Imagine for a moment that you are known for, almost defined by, your positive demeanor.  Imagine that you have put on a positive attitude like a coat you wear year-round.  Imagine that you fight any negative thought, that you self-talk your way out of any low point or discouraging event or setback or moment of doubt.  Imagine that you consider a positive outlook to be a basic part of who you are.

Now imagine that you look back on the last five years of your life and can see that every damned thing you’ve done is crumbling around you.  Imagine that everything you’ve set your mind to has failed.  Imagine that your very best efforts, your blood and sweat and tears and stress has gone to feed the insatiable, gaping mouth of a black hole.

Doesn’t it make sense that you’d want to run away from it all?  Doesn’t it make sense that your greatest desire would be to pack a bag and run away to join the circus?  Or maybe the Navy?  Especially if you know that the end result will be to get you into a better place, a place where you can have back the life you really wanted all along?  Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to give up all these things (that are falling apart anyways) for a few years, in return for getting them back in spades later?

Now imagine that you’ve made the decision to take that step.  And you’ve even started to feel good about it – feel excited about it.  And you’ve accepted that you’re a failure and your best efforts aren’t good enough and you might as well throw in the towel because why would anybody want you to stay anyways?  I mean hell, nobody even reads your damned blog, so who really gives a crap?

Nobody, that’s who.

(Not completely true; my family – who I once promised I would never leave again – gives a great deal more than a crap.  But this is hyperbole, there’s not much room for the nuanced tones of reality in this post.)

Anyways (sorry about the rabbit track there), now imagine that after you’ve accepted your own worthlessness, after you’ve realized that you’re a failure and it’s time to start over, after you’ve worked yourself around to a place where you can give up the life you love and you’ve been clinging to so desperately (even though it really isn’t working), and after you’ve come to terms with the nature of the new reality you’re looking toward, then and only then do you get a hint of hope that you might actually be able to make this work.  Then and only then do people reach out with a form of help that actually meets your needs.  Then and only then do you get a sense that you’re appreciated and wanted and maybe you shouldn’t assume that leaving is actually the best option.

So what do you do now?  What do you do once you’ve turned the boat and taken the first steps in a new direction and mentally re-written your life?

How hard to you try to keep the life you really want?  How far do you pursue it, when you know that the option to leave depends on a pretty narrow window of opportunity – a window that shrinks every day – a window that you can’t even get the involved parties to define clearly for you?

How far do I push this?

New shop naming contest

So the first of May came and went, and I got distracted.  But the first thing I did when logging on today was to hit up a random number generator website which picked AL EAKIN as the winner of the shop name contest.  Al suggested the name “CountYourBlessings.”

I haven’t actually settled on a name for sure yet, but as soon as I do I’ll make sure and let you all know.  Thanks to all the entrants for your interest and for your suggestions.  😀

Tell me my name!

As you may know if you followed a link to get here, I’ve decided to remove my prayer beads from my Etsy shop MelsBellsJewelry and create a separate shop specifically for the spiritually-related items.  So I need to come up with a name for the new shop.

My first shop takes its name from my business, which got its name thanks to my friend Ed Houser.  We were at karaoke one night in 2008 and I was telling some friends that I planed to open an actual business.  Problem was, I needed a name.  Without hesitation, Ed replied “Call it Mel’s Bells!” and I knew that was perfect.

My second shop got named for the store I plan to open (said plans have been pushed back until the economy improves and opening a new business makes sense, FYI), which will be a combined bead store and coffee bar, called The Bead and Bean.  It’s going to be a fun place to shop with a welcoming atmosphere where you can get a latte and bead very fast.

My third shop needs to have a name that’s just as fun, just as exciting.  And I’ll be honest with you, I’m stuck. So I’d like to enlist your help, internet friends.  Register on this blog and leave a post here with your name suggestion for my new prayer bead shop.   It needs to somehow convey that I sell prayer beads for many different faiths (Catholic, Protestant, Pagan, Buddhist, Muslim) so the name can’t be specific to one faith, like Jesus Beads or anything.  Imaginary bonus points if you search Etsy for the name and nobody’s using it yet!

On May 1 I’ll choose one of the entrants at random to receive a crystal birthstone rosary of your choice.  These beautiful strands make fantastic gifts, or you might want one for yourself.  I’ll email the winner to get a shipping address, so make sure your contact info is complete when you register.  You will also be added to my email list and will get one message about every 3-4 months talking about specials and news.

I look forward to seeing your suggestions, and to notifying the lucky winner!

Obnoxious Legal Statement Designed to Keep My Butt Out of Hot Water:
No purchase necessary to enter.  No age limit.  One entry per person.  Contest ends on April 30, 2012; any entries timestamped after 12:00 AM May 1, 2012 may be disqualified.  One prize will be awarded; no cash equivalent.  Odds of winning will depend on number of entries.  Void where prohibited.  Winner will be chosen on May 1, 2012 and notified by email.  Winner’s name will be announced in social media content published by Mel’s Bells and/or The Bead and Bean, including but not limited to Facebook, blogs, newsletter, and Etsy shops.  Contest is run by Mel’s Bells, 811 Hayward Ave. #5, Bremerton, WA  98310.

Bad news

Let me be brief: I’m not opening a store any time soon.

Yup, after spending the last year writing a business plan, doing market research, and building interest, I’m going to have to set aside the plans to open The Bead and Bean (and Broads and Bullets and Brews and I forget what the other thing was), at least for now.

Apparently I should have taken a few steps earlier that I waited to take till I had my stuff together better.  One of those things was sitting down with somebody from the bank and talking turkey.  ‘Cause it turns out, the turkey is me.

The short version is that after a brief presentation of my business plan to a panel of four mentors, they’re very impressed with the work I’ve done and the passion I have for my dreams and ideas, but – here’s the kicker – money talks.  And I’d have to have an awful lot of it to get a lease.  In my case, around $50,000.

Once the hysterical laughter subsided and I picked myself back up off the floor, I realized they weren’t kidding and there’s no way I can do this.  I mean, really?  Fifty grand?  Ain’t gonna happen unless I win the lottery, and you can’t win if you don’t play.  So I’m out.

Now, the good news is that by waiting, I’ll be able to open the store at a better time, when the economy is stronger and I’m in a better position to make it all work.  I mean, there really isn’t any advantage to opening a store now.  Let’s be realistic.  Consumer spending is starting to come back up, but it’s still pretty darned low.  And the commercial real estate market isn’t like the residential market; all those empty buildings are not causing lessors to lower their rates.  So there wouldn’t be an upside to opening now anyways.

Still, it’s pretty disappointing for me to have to do a 180 on this, especially since I could have spent the past year improving and refining my presentation for market.  But you know, I’m still teaching, and I’m still offering classes and parties, and I’m still selling online.  And I’m not giving up, not by far.  Just going to focus on those aspects of the biz for now, and leave the store for later.

So it’s bad news.  But it’s better than opening the store in ignorance and failing miserably!