Tag Archives: Business

Professional GROWTH: a wee story & art

I’m feeling better each day, y’all. I’m volunteering weekly at a local elementary school, I’m working a part-time job;  I’m exercising and reconnecting with friends and family members, and I’m feeling confident as a mom again.

And, of course, I’ve been painting.

With my creative process ever evolving, well… I’ve had to learn more about how to run the business end of things more effectively. I figured out how to create invoices and take payment PayPal.

And then I realized I have issues.

Not long ago, an enthusiastic buyer sent me dozens of messages via Facebook, email and text message. I thought we’d finalized things so I got to work; apparently – she sent me a Tweet requesting that I revise a few things. Needless to say, I never saw it, so I didn’t make the piece the client wanted. After this snafu, I realized that corresponding on so many platforms didn’t do me any favors. Now, I only communicate via email, and I make sure to confirm orders with people before I start any work.

GROW is a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint, texturizing medium & buttons. Just $20. Interested? Type SOLD in the comments or email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com

GROW is a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint, texturizing medium & buttons. Just $20. Interested? Type SOLD in the comments or email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com

Another one of my issues involves asking for money.

I feel uncomfortable every single time I ask for payment.

Every. Single. Time.

Until recently, most of my orders came from people with whom I’m friends with on Facebook. It felt weird to ask friends for money. I thought people were just being nice by buying my little canvases. I felt unworthy of being paid for something that I was dabbling in as a hobby. And then I opened my Etsy shop and the orders started flooding in. That’s when a friend told me she was concerned I was undervaluing my work.

“Just because you make small paintings doesn’t mean they’re worth small dollars.”

I squirmed around with that for a while.

Me? Charge more? What if no one wants my paintings anymore? That will be so embarrassing. And how do I change prices. And won’t people be mad if they’ve already bought a 4×4 canvas and now I’m asking more?

I have a tendency to be a people pleaser, which is to say that historically, I’d go to great lengths to make else comfortable, to my own detriment.

I’m done with that.

So here’s the deal: effective immediately, I take cash or payment via PayPal. (No more personal checks.) I won’t start work on anyone’s canvas until I’ve received payment. If payment is not received within 48 hours of placing your order, that order will be canceled. Starting in the new year, 4×4 canvases are $25, plus shipping and handling (if applicable). Oh, and I’m not delivering canvases anymore. Folks have to pick them up or I’ll pop them in the mail (for an extra $5.95).

These are my policies. (There are a few others, but you get the idea.) As my friend reminded me, policies establish boundaries for acceptable behavior and guidelines for best practices in certain situations. They offer clear communication to buyers as to what they can expect from me, the seller, and also how I expect them to act.

Still, I can’t help feeling like my policies sound rigid and kinda bitchy.

Professional growth for me is learning that it’s okay to create boundaries, to say yes or no to something and then stick with that decision. It’s believing my work has value, that I’m good at what I do, and that I have a right to request payment.

To that end, the 4×4 canvas above – GROW – is yours for $20. Because it’s still 2014. Interested? Write SOLD in the comments or email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com.

Do my policies sound reasonable? And what are doing to promote your personal or professional growth?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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6 Lessons From A Lemonade Stand: A Guest Post by Diana Sabloff

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This piece is special because it is written by my cousin, Diana Sabloff. If you ask me, nothing screams summer like an end-of-the-driveway lemonade stand. In fact, we have an unspoken rule in our family that we must never drive past a homemade lemonade stand that is 100% maintained by kids. If parents are there, we can ease on down the road, but if I see kids out there in the world, with banners and pitchers, wearing grins on their faces and hearts on their sleeves… well, if you ask me, it’s positively un-American to zoom by. Even if the lemonade is crappy, the idea is awesome: gotta love those little entrepreneurs.

And Diana’s hot day at the garage sale/lemonade stand gleaned many lessons. Thanks, Diana, for being a great guest blogger!

• • •

Lessons From a Lemonade Stand

I was selfish. I wanted my garage back. Or at least a path through it. It had been packed from the cement floor to the ceiling rafters with boxes-o-stuff for a long time, but when I couldn’t get to the tools and my kids couldn’t get to their toy box, I knew the time had come.

Moving the boxes from out of the garage and onto the driveway was like transferring Mount Everest one pebble at a time.

By 8 am, I was filthy and sweaty.

Like really sweaty.

And hot.

And not just a little hot.

We live in the northeast, so I had worried about rain. It had never occurred to me that the day of our yard sale would turn out to be a triple-digit record breaker. Truly, it was a most awful trifecta: hazy, hot and humid.

My stepson suggested the kids set up a lemonade stand, and we all thought that was a brilliant idea.

• Lemonade mixed? Check.
• Plastic cups? Check.
• Sign made? Check.
• Table set up? Check.

image from Yellow Sky Photography from flickr.com

And then the people started coming.

Who knew our collective junk was treasure in disguise?

And then, right as I was trying to sell a green leathery-vinyl recliner, my 6-year old daughter came marching up the driveway.

I quit! she yelled.

I smiled at the potential buyer who was ready to shell out $5 bucks for the recliner and asked my daughter what was wrong. She said that her father and brother weren’t being fair; they wanted to raise the price of the lemonade from 25-cents to 50-cents, and she didn’t want to.

I quickly sealed the deal for the chair and, feeling pretty proud of myself, I figured I could negotiate a truce between the munchkins.

I went down to talk to Boy Munchkin, who informed me that 25-cents was too cheap and he could make twice as much money selling it for 50-cents. (When did he become Alex P Keaton?). My husband had agreed and already put up the new sign. My daughter insisted that was too much, and held up the bag of money they had already made.

I suddenly felt very inadequate with my $5 sale.

I said 25-cents seemed fair. My daughter beamed while my son spun on his heel and said he was quitting.

Realizing a truce was futile, I went in the house, got a second pitcher of lemonade, a second poster board, and a second table.

I announced that the partnership was being dissolved, and they each were responsible for selling their own lemonade, and the profits up until that point would be split 50-50, unless someone walked away, in which case the person who kept working would keep all the money.

Lesson #1: Go into business with family members at your own risk.

Boy Munchkin displayed remarkable business sense for an 8-year old: “What price is she selling at?”

Girl Munchkin was pleased with the new arrangement. She put on her biggest smile and shouted: “GETCHER LEMONADE HERE: 25-CENTS!”

Boy Munchkin shouted, “That’s not fair! No one will buy from me if they can get it from her for 25-cents!”

He stormed off after I helpfully tried to explain the workings of a free market.

Lesson #2: Be aware of your price point — and your competitor’s.

The woman who bought the chair offered to buy a cup of lemonade from Munchkinette – for 50-cents. How nice, I thought. Because the lemonade pitcher was heavy, I helped my daughter to pour.

“Mom!” my daughter shrieked, “That’s too much! Stop! You should only fill it half-way!”

Baffled, I asked, “Why should the cup only be filled half-way? Especially when this nice lady is hot and paying double for your lemonade?”

Munchkinette replied, “Because half is all she needs!”

The nice lady gave me the “Oh-I’m-really-sorry-and-I–really-need-to-leave” look. She drank her ½ cup and threw her empty into the garbage can. Munchkinette looked up at me defiantly and said, “See, I told you. Half is all they need.”

Lesson #3: Find your differentiation strategy, and make it work.

As high noon approached, deals were being made in every corner of our yard. The kids went inside for a break, leaving their older brother and his girlfriend in charge of the lemonade stands.

During this time, not one glass of lemonade was sold.

Not. One. Drop.

Lesson #4: Be careful whom you trust to run your business so they don’t run it into the ground.

After lunch, Munchkin decided to employ a new tactic for selling lemonade. He offered delivery for an extra 50-cents. His older brother asked for a cup to be delivered to the front lawn. After 10 minutes, the lemonade never arrived, so my older son bought from Munchkinette.

Lesson #5: Check your distribution channel to make sure deliveries come on time. Or else you’ll lose business to your competitors.

Undeterred, Munchkin modified his tactics and employed his older brother to deliver the lemonade to shoppers up and down the driveway and to the front lawn. This lasted under 10 minutes, as my stepson got a bite on some of his items and that were for sale and disappeared. Munchkin pulled a Trump and fired his brother for failure to perform the requisite duties as an employee.

Lesson #6: It’s hard to find good help.

At 4 pm, we packed it in. Leftover items were bagged and ready for donation.

We tallied the profits and admired the beautiful, empty space in the garage!

Amazingly, the kids’ lemonade stand netted $40, one quarter at a time!

Munchkinette looked over at her brother who was still upset about forfeiting all the partnership proceeds when he had stopped working earlier in the day and immediately decided to give him all their partnership money, saying she just wanted to keep what she made on her own.

Munchkin hugged his sister, and they both walked away — together, happily — with about $20 in coins.

Priceless.

What’s the best item you ever found (or unloaded) at a garage sale? What have you learned from garage sales? And what are your policies about lemonade stands?

So About That Sign

Wegmans Food Markets

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday at 7 am, I posted a blog about a sign in my local grocery store that has been driving me bonkers for years.

By late morning, I received an email from a representative from Consumer Affairs.

While the rest of us were chattering about the sign and its grammar, one of my loyal readers — a former Wegmans’ employee — made a call, and the sign was promptly removed.

Last night at 8:25 pm, another loyal reader sent me this picture — along with an apology about the quality. She explained she was operating in stealth mode. 😀

The new & improved sign!

I felt I had to let everyone know the happy ending to this very big news story.

Mary Joan from Consumer Affairs wrote:

Bob Farr was more than happy to take down that offensive sign. And I have to tell you that reading your blog . . .  and the subsequent comments from your readers was quite enjoyable.  You made my morning!

Further proof that Wegmans positively rocks: Here is a company that received a little constructive criticism, and instead of getting defensive (typical) or just brushing it off and ignoring it (also typical), they got proactive, making this English teacher, blogger, and loyal customer soooooo happy.

So the new sign is up.

All grammatical errors have been corrected.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything in the world could be fixed so quickly?

I’m feeling empowered. Positively zippy.

So what should I take on today? I’m taking ideas.

Wegmans’ Grammar

 

English: A Wegman's store in Manalapan, NJ.

English: A Wegman’s store in Manalapan, NJ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is almost nothing wrong with Wegmans. It is the world’s best store. Indeed, people visit from across the globe to see how things are set up. They bring cameras and snap pictures of our amazing store, which is set up to look and feel like an outdoor market in Paris.

In the produce section, the fruit is heaped in baskets and barrels. There is usually someone cooking and serving something simple yet delicious — like sautéed shiitake mushrooms with shallots and basting oil — (and all the ingredients just happen to be right there for you to pick up for dinner that night). The marketing people are amazingly brilliant.

Wegmans also has a deli, a bakery, a fish shop, a meat market, a cheese department, a tea bar, a coffee bar, a place to buy sushi or salad or pizza or subs, and they have this one entrée and two sides deal for $6 that cannot be beat. There is a pharmacy and a café. They have an organic food section, a kosher food section, a lactose-free section. They cater. The store sparkles. The public bathrooms at Wegmans showcase nicer tiles than some private homes I’ve visited. The soap dispenser is always full. They have towels and air dryers.

If you buy a jar of tuna and get home and see it is dented, they will take it back. If you buy a pound of meat and think it smells a little bit funny, they will take it back. If your kid is hungry, you can let him nibble an apple or a cookie, and no one hassles you. Alec Baldwin’s mother loves Wegmans so much, he did some schtick about it on Letterman, and he landed himself a few pre-holiday commercials discussing Wegmans’ awesomeness. Frankly, Baldwin’s commercials are awful, but anyone who has ever been in a Wegmans understands; there really is nothing like it.

That said, the following sign has been tacked up in my local Wegmans for years! I don’t think anyone notices it except me, but it drives me bonkers. Given their attention to detail, I can’t believe the sign has lasted this long. I figured, surely, someone would notice it. After all, it’s right next to the water fountain.

For those of you who appreciate spelling and grammar, as well as the art of letter writing, see how many errors you find.

What has become of me?

And should I say something to Bob?