Monday, September 30, 2013

made it monday {oldies, but goodies}

Thought I would do a little post about some of the fun things we  have hidden away in our archives! The Mavens are gearing up to start listing items on Etsy, and that has had me taking a peek back at old photos and items. And remember almost everything we do is customizable! Who doesn't love to pick their own colors or add a monogram?

A multitude of fun colors are available in these sweet ruffle pillows! Perfect for the couch or bed or your favorite chair!

This sweet happy wreath is still looking for the perfect home!

Tons of garlands available. Little flags like this, adorable circles in a variety of colors, yarn poms, and even paper buntings!

Sweet little matching set of cork boards. Perfect spot to hang your daughters favorite pictures, drawings, ticket stubs, etc.

This GIANT hoop is waiting to be the focal piece of your gallery wall! Who doesn't love navy and coral?

A variety of hoop decor for any home, including these sweet fall themed ones. Get them now and start decorating for the glorious season that is upon us!
These are just a few, but take a peek back through our other "made it monday" posts and see what we have to offer!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pennys Top Five Fall Favorites

In my opinion, nothing is more motivating for wanting Fall to come than living in Texas in the sweltering heat!  This summer has been a little milder than others, and by that I mean it has been under 110 most days :), but looking ahead at the possibility of cooler weather makes me want to happen now! 
Shannon inspired me with her post earlier this week, so I thought I would share some of my Fall favorites as well.
1. Scarves - ask any of my friends and they can tell you that my absolute favorite thing, hands down, is scarves.  Nothing says fall to me more than scarves do! Now I have tried in the past to make scarves happen in the summer, but lets be honest.........its HOT, too hot for that in the summer! Now for me, I am a black, gray, blue jean kinda girl, and I add color and personality with my accessories. So my fall accessory is scarves, obviously. Honestly, for me scarves are an obsession.  I have been collecting them for many years and in my opinion, you can never have too many!

I love this website scarvesdotnet, which has a plethora of video tutorials on how to tie a scarf other than the norm. They also sell scarves, if you are looking for something new.  I use the website as inspiration and knowledge and I highly recommend you check it out!!

2. Outdoor beauty and smells  - yellowish-brown leaves crunching under my feet, darker skies, cooler air and crisp wind.....oh how the outdoors call my name when fall rolls around. The smells of crackling fires and rain in the air! I LOVE IT ALL! It makes me want to be outside all the time!

Beautiful Fall Outdoor Rooms
I love the look of this outdoor living room that I found at Southern Living/
 I am a city slicker, but I dream of the days when I can have an outdoor room like
this..............someday maybe!

3. Soups! - what is it about soup that makes you feel like you have been hugged and comforted? Soup can be hearty, meaty, vegetabaly (ok, that isn't a word), but the point is soup is perfect and warms the heart and soul. And let's talk about how easy soup can be! You can put it into the crockpot and let it cook up while your gone, or you can whip it up real quick on most nights! Perfection!!
My absolute favorite soup, is also super easy, but not quick, Crockpot Potato Soup!

potato soup1
{ source } Easiest Crockpot Potato Soup Ever!!!

potato soup2
Not the best picture, but TRUST ME.....this soup is Crazy

4. Cozy time in front of the fire - I love my family, and there is nothing more enjoyable after a long day than cuddling up with my peeps next to a crackling fire! Especially my super handsome husband :)......but I digress!  Anyway, who doesn't love to sit under a blanket with your honey, sipping on cocoa with marshmallows! Or better yet with homemade whip cream with crushed up peppermints <--- TRUST ME.....give it a shot!

The caption in the photo says it all! BEST EVER
from thefarmgirlrecipes.

5. Thanksgiving - so what is Thanksgiving to you? Is it lots and lots of food? Is it Football? Is it time with family and friends? Is it just a nice 4 or 5 day weekend?  For me, it is all those things! Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because it gives an excuse for extended family and friends to come together and enjoy each other! I can remember when I was growing up, we would always go to my Granddads house, with all the cousins, and play games, laugh, tell stories and of course EAT! Everyone shared in the cooking and everyone shared in the fun! As an adult, I try really hard to give my children the same experience that I had, so they too can look back and smile!
Have you ever done a craft project for Thanksgiving? Last year, some friends and I made these super cute t-shirts for our kids! It was so much fun spending time with them, and I left with a unique shirt that I look back on and smile!

This is my beautiful daughter Madison modeling the turkey shirt I made! Isn't it cute?

Well that's about it! Had to keep it to 5, or else I would go on for days at all the wonderful things about Fall!

What are your top 5?

.....................till next time! -- Penny

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fall Favorites {Shannon}

I honestly can't believe that autumn is here! I swear my life right now is like those movie montages of the calendar pages floating by way too quickly. Between finding a new routine for back to school, little league practice and games for my middle boy, nutcracker rehearsals for my ballerina girl, and engaging with my youngest during the day, my time seems to be stretched thin! When it's hot here in Texas there is only one place I like to be: under the AC! Which means a lot more time spent inside, and a lot more time available to be making and creating.

Now that the weather is nicer we are stretching our legs and moving to the outdoors. Less time sewing, and more time being together as a family. Which I love. Something about fall just brings us all together, everything feels cozier and just...better. I have to be a little more creative when it comes to finding time for projects, but I love a good challenge, and fall is definitely worth it! It's definitely my favorite season!

I thought I'd share with you five of my  favorite things about fall, and even some ways I've found to sneak a little "me" time into all the hectic, activity filled days.

1. Snuggling. I LOVE being cozy. I love when it's cold and I get to bundle up in socks and sweaters and scarves and blankets. We are never lacking in blankets in our home. We have a mix of handmade and store bought, but no one ever has an excuse to be cold! I've got my eye on some quilts I'd love to make this season, and really who doesn't love to cuddle under a brand new mama made blanket?
I absolutely love this quilt (and look the name is already perfect!). It's such a simple design, but so amazing. {source}
This bunting quilt is SO cute, and SO simple. I'm pretty sure at least one of my kids is going to get one of these cuties for Christmas! {tutorial here}
2. Baking. Now that the weather is cooler, you will find my oven on a lot more. Baking makes me happy, and since I'm trying not to keep all the goodies to myself, it allows me to make my friends happy too. Nothing brings a smile to someones face like a plate of homemade goodies, especially if they include pumpkin. Yum.
I've had this brown sugar pumpkin cheesecake pinned for forever, I think this year I'm finally going to try it out. {recipe here}
This recipe is the closet I could find online to a dessert I've had many times, such a good twist on the traditional pumpkin pie. {recipe here}
3. Layering. Honestly who doesn't love a good cardigan/scarf combo? Because I don't wear tank tops, summer dressing is always a little tricky for me. I still end up wearing layers, but they make me hot and cranky rather than confident and cute. In the fall bring on the layers! Nothing sets you up for a great day like loving what you've got on.
So many tutorials for making your own scarf! Maybe this year I can actually try one out? And how fun to have something custom made just how you like it! {tutorial here}
4. Shorter days. Call me crazy, but I love when the sun starts to go down earlier and earlier. When the kids are nestled in their beds, and the house is picked up, I love to hunker down on the couch for some good TV. Usually I can be found with a project in my hands. Embroidery is something  I can do and still get to spend some quality time with Keith.
I ADORE this hoop idea. This scripture is perfect for a sweet little reminder to hang on the wall, and it's wordy enough to keep my busy for more than a few nights. {original here}
 5. COOLER WEATHER! Obviously this the BEST part of Autumn! I feel so much more relaxed when I'm not in fear of constant sweating, haha! Though I love swimming, and the lazy days of summer, a cool climate is top notch in my book. Of course that begs the question, what the heck am I doing in Texas! And while the cool season isn't long here, I make the very best of it!

Writing all these out has me excited for what lies ahead! September to December has to be the best time of the year, hands down!

Monday, September 23, 2013

{made it monday}

Restocking the shop with a few old favorites in new patterns this week. All of these diaper cozies have a coordinating burp set available, which makes a wonderful baby shower gift. Useful, mama-made, and super cute!
Chevron and floral diaper cozy, $10 (my favorite!)
Whale and polka dot diaper cozy, $10
Pink floral and sweet owl diaper cozy, $10
fun blue sock monkey diaper cozy, $10
pretty floral and teal diaper cozy, $10
pretty floral and teal burp cloth set, $12
bold chevron and floral diaper cozy, $10
Royal blue chevron and floral burp cloth set, $12
hanging towels with snap closure, $5 each.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

my {little} addiction

Hello, my name is Shannon. (Hi, Shannon) I am addicted to craft supplies. BUT, thankfully for me I have found a way to completely justify it! Lucky for you, I'm going to teach you how to justify it too. ;) Your husbands (or wives) can thank me later.

Fabric is my number one craft supply. This is a small corner of my stash. I try to keep it organized, and varied so that no matter the project or color I need there is a great chance I have a little bit!
There are few things more frustrating to me than wanting to work on a new project that I've come across during my Internet browsing or brainstorming and finding that I don't have all the materials I need to even get started on the first steps. When the creating bug hits me I have to get moving! Most times for new endeavors I may have to get one or two special items to complete a project, but I love to be able to start the first stages of a project right away.

My ribbon stash has severely lessened since I stopped hard core scrapbooking, but I still love to have a few spools on hand, and I never throw away the ends of the spool!
By having a well stocked craft area I have ensured that when I get the itch to create something there is a pretty good chance I already have more than half of the needed supplies. Over the years I have gone from a tiny box to hold all my things to a full blown craft room. You can have a good selection no matter the space that is available to you. You may just have to edit a bit more, and really decide what things you love and use the most. Those are the things you have handy.

Any time thread is on sale I buy another color. Sitting down to start sewing only to realize you don't have the correct thread is so aggravating!
 The key is keeping an eye on the sales! When the notions wall at Joann's is 50% off I stock up on things I know I'm going to use (elastic, velcro, snaps) and maybe if I can afford it I buy a few things I'd like to try using or just some extras add to my notions supply at home.

I love to have a good variety of paints. The kids and I both use these for many things! I always buy a color or two when they go 50% off!
I also try and use every coupon I'm given. My store of choice is Joann's (I seriously LOVE that store), and they are great at sending 40-50% off coupons out in their mailer. They are currently running a special called "coupon commotion" where there are two pages full of coupons in the mail-out add. Jack. Pot. I will take an evening to browse the whole store looking for things that I need or could be useful just so I can use each coupon!

My kids have a drawer full of supplies that have been collected over the years that they are free to utilize at any time. Beads of all types, glue, pipe cleaners, construction paper, canvases, markers, etc.
A lot of the things I like to use never go on sale, coupon commotion is when I will stock up on those (embroidery hoops, spray paint, thread). You can always use another can of spray paint, and if it's half off you can be brave and try a fun new color! There's something so satisfying about wanting to paint a frame and having a wide variety of colors to choose from right in your own garage.

all this plus 6 cans of white...
I also hold on to things I have accumulated.. I haven't scrapbooked in ages, yet I have all of my paper, alphabet stickers, brads, embellishments, stamps, etc. that I never used. I can use these things in many different ways, and to me the money I may have recovered by selling them didn't outweigh the money I may have had to re-spend if another paper based project came up. I have them stored nice and neat, and ready to be used at a moments notice. Perfect for cards and projects, and my oldest LOVES when I let her dig into my massive collection of stickers and paper and go to town. We are big on handmade birthday cards, and I can't think of a better way to use up old supplies.

The white drawers hold all my remaining scrap embellishments and tools. Easy to access, but not in the way.

So there it is, my dirty little secret. I stockpile craft supplies like nobodies business, but the key is that I use them! So my stash is in a constant flow of in and out. Plus then it gives me a reason to buy something new!

Monday, September 16, 2013

made it monday {custom orders}

I'm sure you've seen by now that we LOVE to do custom work! When you get a request for custom work, it means that someone likes your skills/product enough that they trust you to make exactly what they need. For me as a crafter it provides a good challenge. It is surprising how challenging it can be sometimes, to make a customer happy! Normally when I sew I use fabrics and things that I am drawn too, when it's custom, anything goes!

The Garaging Mavens have had quite a few opportunities to do custom work, and I'd love to share them with you!

A woman contacted us and wanted some sports themed baby stuff. After a quick conversation we settled on a handful of items. I love them!

I adore these bibs!

This is one of my favorites! A friend emailed me a picture, and asked if we could make her something like it. I'm pretty sure we delivered!

This was a direct result of a request from a friend. I love it, and I'm sure she does too!

This was a fun request, a Velata themed apron for a silent auction! Here it is on the lucky bidder!

And this is just the beginning! We can do custom colors on almost every single thing we have in the shop (pillows, aprons, towels, blankies, etc.), and we can also add monograms or other types of personalization. All you have to do is ask!

We do have a small customization fee, just to help with cost of extra fabrics and things. I know that for me I sew with fabrics that I can find on sale, I love a good bargain, and sometimes when you need something specific and right away, it may not be on sale. We have tried to keep these fees as low as possible! For items $20 and under it's an additional 20% for the first item, and then 10% for each additional item. For items over $20 it's a flat $5. 

I hope the next time you need something special, you will think of us!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

8 Tips to Running a Successful Business

I've been a consultant for a successful direct sales company for 7 years. Within that time I was fortunate 
enough to reach the top title in the company,  but that wasn't without a lot of hard work or determination. Many may say that when you become successful it's because of luck. "oh, she got lucky she got in on a ground floor opportunity." or "he was at the right place or time." And their hard work is often discounted. Many want a get rich quick idea, but I'm here to tell you that there's no such thing. Even lottery winners have to wait patiently, usually for many years, working jobs they may not like and hoping that one day they will win AND if they do win, it's not always an easy process of holding onto that money. But that's a topic for another day. Back to the main point, today I would like to share with you the top 8 tips I have learned in growing my business and how you can apply these tips into running your own business.

1. Know Your Market
Before starting any business, whether direct sales or your own small business, know the people you are going to sell it too. Really think hard of who you want to target. Say you came up with a fabulous idea for children.  One would assume your target market would be kids but think narrower. Do you want to target children between the ages of 3 and 7 or 15 and 18? Would this idea interest parents of those children?  Knowing your market allows you to know how to spend your time and money on advertising.  If the idea is for younger children, you probably would not want to put an ad in a local magazine that caters to the teenage crowd.  Or if you are into craft shows, know your surroundings.  If your product is pricier, doing a craft show in a city where the median income is lower than $60k might not get you the results you are looking for.

2. Branding
Now that you have decided on your market and your product, you need to start branding. If you are a consultant for a direct sales company, they already have a brand, so this means you must begin branding yourself.  Don't be afraid to be known as the "cooking lady" or the "make up lady." Make sure everyone you know, knows what you do. This is true for a start up business. You are the brand until it grows and becomes a household name. Know your stuff, act professional, and don't be afraid to learn and grow. No one became successful without a learning curve.
    Next on branding, is creating your logo. In creating the Garaging Mavens, we knew it was very important to start off with our brand already in motion. If you are really serious about making your business successful, you must have a logo. If you don't know how to create one yourself, you can usually find someone that can create one for you pretty inexpensively. Then, when labeling any of your products, make sure your logo, or rather your business, is represented. If anyone picks up something that you created or you sell it needs to have your information on it. Very successful companies have a logo and it's all part of their branding. For example, our logo is on EVERYTHING! From the cloth labels we sew into our goodies, sign in the shop, or the price tags on our items. You can be sure that we do not want you to forget our name or logo. Also, be sure that you have your contact information in as many places as you can so that people can find you!

3. Social Media
Whether you want to or not, social media is important in growing your business. Many successful companies I know have exclusively grown their business through social media. It's super cheap, because it's free! It can also target that amazing market of teenagers and mommies! Plus, it allows you to stay in front of your market on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. Posting tips, tricks, or new fun items you have to offer is a great way to share with your customers and share your brand. Sometimes we may post pictures of our kiddos or what we may be doing, but that adds to the brand in allowing others to get to know us. Also, utilize hash tags. For some, you may be asking, "what the heck is a hash tag and what good is it for?" Well let me tell you that a hash tag can be whatever you want it to be. You can have a hash tag for your business or a random made up one. To me, hash tags are like what parentheses used to be, or even fine print. But the actual pound sign in the hash tag has allowed us to connect to millions of people. For example, on Twitter or Instagram you can find new followers by hash tagging anything and everything. So your product is targeting stay at home moms. Use the hash tag stay at home mom or #sahm after you type the description. When someone wants to view other pictures with that same tag they can then have the possibility of seeing your picture, go to your profile,  learn more and then begin following you. It's really quite ingenious!

4. Work It!
No matter the business, ground floor or not,  you must never discount how hard you need to work to get your business to grow. It's not an easy process, even if others tell you it is, they're lying. Look at anyone you know that is successful, has lots of money and all they could ever dream about.  They had to start somewhere and that means they had to start at the bottom and work hard to get to the top. The grass is always greener so be sure to never discount that they worked their tails off, and probably still are, because to be successful means to work, and work hard. You may have the most amazing products out there but if you don't work to share them with everyone you know, they won't sell. If people don't know who you are or what you do, how will they know that they can buy from you! You don't have to be obnoxious and call people 10 times a day to see if they have changed their minds about purchasing from you, but branding yourself allows them to know that if they ever need anything from you, they know where to get it. Like I said, social media can play a great roll in this, but don't rely too heavily on it. Get outside the house. Learn SEO for your website. Become part of your local chamber of commerce, join networking groups, do as many shows or fairs that your budget will allow. Work hard and you can reap the rewards, later.

5. Budget
I can't tell you how important a budget is to your business. Try to never grow your business with a boat load of debt. Some companies may require you to purchase a kit, but try to have a party or orders ready from the start to make that money back from the beginning. If it's a new start up, you might have to have a loan to get started. Whatever the cost, try to have a plan to make that money back as soon as possible. Then with whatever money you do earn, make sure you know where it needs to go and how it needs to be spent. Many successful companies have failed because they did not manage their money properly.  Use a spread sheet to keep track of your budget or programs like 

6. Have a Business Plan
This leads me into my next step, which is to have a business plan. Know exactly the purpose of your business. Have goals for your first three months, 6 months, first year, where you see the business in 5 years. All of these are super important to help you stay on track. Know how much you want to sell, expand, etc. Let your business plan be your treasure map. If you have a solid plan, it will lead you to your treasure.  It’s also important to have a business plan so that it is a legitimate business in the eyes of the government, if they were to ever ask for your business plan.  You can find an example of a business plan or how to write one by using the wonderful world of Google.  Also, remember to reevaluate your plan once a year to see if any changes need to be made. 

7. Keep Amazing Records
I can't stress to you enough how important it is to keep amazing records. When it comes to taxes, it's even more important. Having amazing records of how much you sell, how much your product costs, how much your shipping charges cost, knowing the exact amount of sales tax your charged, etc. can make it easier to keep track of year over year numbers and it will make tax time super easy.  It’s also important to have a really great CPA.  Make sure you have someone that knows either small business or direct sales.  Some know both, some don’t know either, and some only know one or the other.  For example, direct sales business owners have different tax deductions than small business owners.  So if your CPA does not have a full knowledge of which deductions you can take advantage on, than you my friend will be paying a lot more money OR not receiving as much money back as you should be. 

8.  Know Your Why
Last but not least, know your why.  We use this term a lot in direct sales because it’s super easy to invest $100, forget your why and quit.  However, remembering your why can keep you going year after year.  If you own your own business, it’s really important to remember your why so that when the tough gets going you can easily remember the reason you are working so hard to grow your business.  Have a dream board in an area that you can see everyday.  Put up inspirational quotes around your home or work space.  When those whys change, create new boards and new inspirational signs.  Never forget why you are doing what you are doing.  If you find yourself in a rut then reevaluate your why.  Reevaluate the way you are running your business and figure out what’s working and what isn’t.  Our business will grow and change and so will our whys.  We must be flexible and remember that this will happen and remember to be willing to change. 

Never forget how amazing you are and can be!!  You have an inner strength within you that you made need to draw on from time to time but you can be successful!!  You can work hard!!  And you can have all that you want or need!  Do get out there and get going!
Much love!