Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thanks a lot Facebook Ads: My Latest Obsession with Subscription Boxes & a Citrus Lane Review

So, you know those little ads that show up on Facebook for everything in the world you didn't know you needed? Some of them creepily right on about what you are into (is that a coincidence?)? Well, sitting around on extended maternity leave left me wide open to way too much Facebook time. Let's face it, my friends are only so interesting after checking facebook 1057 times, clicking on ads was inevitable.

I think Citrus Lane does the best job of advertising their subscription box. Bright colors, name brands, who can resist? So when Target sent me an invitation for a Target Citrus Lane Box for $10 (valued at $29) and no commitment I caved in. There I was signing myself up, I mean my toddler up, for a surprise box of goodies delivered right to my door. Now for the waiting.

I guess I couldn't wait, I decided to go and find myself another subscription in the mean time. This one I'd heard about way back on another blog I think. Stitch fix, boy they hit the nail on the head with that name. A year ago or so I'd toyed with the idea of doing this one. The idea is you tell Stitch Fix what your style is, the brands you love, your sizes and pay a small fee to have a box of clothing and/or accessories sent your way. You pay for and keep what you like (and the $20 fee is applied to your purchase) and send the rest back, or send it all back and you're out $20. They give you a 25% discount if you keep everything. I am skeptical but excited at the same time, we will see how this pans out.

It's funny, I'd already created a Stitch Fix style profile a year ago and I really didn't need to change a thing when I looked it over. I did request that they not send accessories or pants, since these are the things I'm pickiest about. And I gave them the biggest challenge they likely face,  I asked for tops and sweaters that won't make me look frumpy post baby. The box is coming tomorrow, I seriously can't wait.

Well, my husband didn't want to miss out on this opportunity (when else would I agree to frivolous spending) so he quickly ordered himself a Loot Crate. Apparently the theme is "Anniversary" this month and he has convinced himself it will contain Batman stuff since it's the 75th anniversary of, well, Batman? (I don't know what's going on!) Thank you Facebook ads for also confirming this so we can rest at night. His box comes tomorrow, too. A subscription box his/her face-off!

So the only thing I have to base my subscription box opinion on at this moment is the Citrus Lane Box. And now, for the big reveal!

Keep in mind, this box was intended for my 3 1/2 year old son, and these opinions are entirely my own. He hasn't seen any of it and you'll see why shortly.

The biggest item in the box was a set of dominos from Janod. They are made from a nice thick cardboard and have shiny colorful animal pictures on 1 side and dots on the other. These haven't come out of the box, other than me looking at them, because we have dominos and other similar games. It never occurred to me when I ordered this box (for my 3rd child) that we might already have the items in the box. Noted. This is my first experience with this brand, seemed like good quality. From a quick search, it looks like they retail for around $10-13 dollars online.

The box also contained Maracas from Hohner Kids. I am familiar with this brand, in fact I have a few of their instruments. And yes, we already have maracas. So...these are still in the box. They sell for $6.15 on amazon with prime shipping, so likely under $5 in a retail store.

Next up is a red velvet Hero Cape from Little Adventures. Not only do we have 1 red super hero cape here at home, we have 2! And guess how many times they've been worn. That's right, only the first time they received them as a gift! The cape seemed very well made, I'd have given it a shot if we didn't already have a few. I turned around and sold this on a local facebook group for $10, it retails for $17.

 Here is something we didn't already have at home, a tiny bag of Annie's Organic Cheddar Snack Mix. My son took this to school for snack and it was never heard from again. He hasn't requested more. It's probably worth less than a dollar.

By the way, here's what the ad looked liked in my email invitation. Striking resemblance, right?!

Needless to say, I've lowered my expectations for the boxes headed my way. It isn't that I didn't like the stuff in the Citrus Lane, it just didn't match what I pictured in my mind (or my email) . I think if I purchase from them in the future I would skip the surprise. I also think these would make excellent gifts for first time parents who likely don't have all the junk we do!

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you about another box I bought as a gift for my former mother-in-law from Mary's Secret Ingredients. She likes to cook and is one of those people who has everything, so this was a no brainer for me. I found a coupon on the blog for a few dollars off and shipping was included, just $21.95 out the door. I didn't take pictures because the website posts a full rundown. I opened it to make sure everything was intact and then wrapped it up for Christmas. I am super happy with this box and would definitely gift it again. I stole this picture from their blog.


Now let's see how long I last before ordering a Golden Tote. I don't know if I can rest until I've exhausted every subscription box option!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

10 Must Read Etsy Blog Posts for New Shop Owners

Whenever I hear someone has opened a new Etsy shop, I get a big grin on my face. Etsy has been such a blessing in my life, providing added income and allowing me to cut down on hours in my "real job" and stay home more with my kids.

Like many others, I didn't know the first thing about Etsy when I started, less so about sales, merchandising or product photography. I was also a novice at design, a self taught user of Adobe Illustrator. I wasn't even sure what my product would be.

Maybe you're in the same boat. Maybe you've made up a name, put up an item or 2 for sale. Now you find yourself constantly checking back to see if you've gotten a sale. Been there! But there is so much you can do while waiting!

They say experience is the best teacher, well who wants to wait for that! Instead, build upon the success of your successors. Today I'm sharing with you articles from the Etsy blog that gave me the know-how and confidence I needed to make it in this crazy online business. No matter what stage you're at, I believe you'll find something useful here to help you take it to the next level. Get out your pen and paper and let's do this!

#1 Top 10 Marketing Tips from Top Sellers

When I got started I interviewed dozens of Etsy sellers about their personal success via Etsy. It's crazy how close these tips are to the responses I received. This is a great place to start when you are just figuring it all out.

#2 Shop Makeover Before and After with Photoshop and How to Make Your Photos Publicity Ready

Many will read this article and ask why I didn't make photography #1. I'll tell you why, photography is the most intimidating topic for new Etsians. I like these articles because they are beginner friendly. You don't have to take the most amazing photos and master Photoshop, but you can make them look better with a few simple steps.

I can remember wanting so badly to make the front page of Etsy. You know what makes the front page? A great photo. Maybe you want to feature your product on a fancy blog? You can edit bad lighting, remove a shadow, or brighten things up (#5), but you can also take awesome pictures. Photography was important enough to put up 2 posts, and there are tons more on the Etsy blog to read.

#3 5 Ways to Work Smarter Not Harder

Oh that I had this post when I was starting out. Still, there is always something to be gleened from a blog post at any stage of the game. When I read this article recently I decided my policies needed an update. Now my policy section includes a frequently asked questions section. Learn this early on, it'll save you a ton of time later on.

#4 Guidelines & Tips: Brainstorming Keywords for Tags and Titles

Overwhelmed? Try this article on for size. It gets down to the basics, brainstorming ideas for titles, descriptions and tags. I did this immediately after reading this article. I wish I'd documented the dramatic increase in item views after doing so. I don't care if you've been on Etsy 3 days or 300 days. Read it, do it. Such a simple thing can make a huge difference.

#5 Etsy Success: Make Your Shop More Relevant

Take what you learned in the last article to the next level with this blog post. So many key points are made here, read it a few times. For instance, we all panicked when Etsy started showing search results by relevancy. But recency (when you put the item up for sale) also affects a shoppers search. If this isn't sinking in now, pin it and read it later.

#6 4 Ways to Improve Your SEO

If you've read AND tried everything you've read so far, this will make perfect sense to you. It was mentioned in the first article, but this one has much more to offer on the topic.

I think when I came to Etsy I thought my customers would be family, friends, friends of friends, people who read random blogs. Hey now, you can do better than that! Would you believe me if I said I hadn't made a single Etsy sale to a family member or friend?

Do this. Search "kraft brown tag" on google images. Then "custom brown tag". Then "brown wedding tag". You'll find a few items from my shop each time, completely different items. I love how this article made me think about how whatever makes you unique helps you get found.

#7 Branded Packaging Basics

Love this article, love this topic. The focus is on pretty packaging, something I know a little something about. This is here to remind you that not only must you draw the customers in, but you must also keep them coming back. I order something from Fossil the other day and they sent me a cute little ornament with the package, made my day. You can bet I'll be back for more. And I'll never forget an adorable package I received from Octopurse with fancy tape all over the outside.

#8 Must read merchandising blog posts

No doubt you need a break, try this easy reading. These are my absolute favorite blog posts from the Etsy blog. Etsy does all of the hard work for you and flat out tells you what people are looking for when they come to Etsy. Anticipate another article early 2014 with tips on spring, Valentine's Day and Easter. Can't wait to find out what will take the place of the fox, I think we've officially worn that one out!

#9 Shop Stats Exercises to Increase Your Traffic

In #8 you found out what the everyday shopper looks for on Etsy. Here you'll find out what brought the customers to your shop. This one always surprises me. Not only do people come to my shop looking at the thing I sell the least of, they come from places on the internet where I didn't even know I existed! This is fun, really fun. And educational.

#10 The Seller Handbook Archive

This is where you'll find just about everything else you could possibly need to know, and then some.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Freebies

Etsy sellers and vendors are stocking up on business cards and tags for their handmade items in preparation for local craft shows. Brides are ordering up chalkboard labels right and left to hang from mason jars and wedding favors. The clouds are rolling back and the sun is shining through, it feels like summer!

I've decided to give away some freebies to celebrate the start of summer!

The first 5 customers to place an order and write the code SUMMERFUN in the notes to seller at checkout will receive a FREE set of assorted chalkboard tags!

To make this deal even sweeter, enjoy an extra 10% off your order using coupon code SUMMER10. Offer expires June 30th, order now!

Happy Summer!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Silhouette Cameo: 10 Money Saving Tips

As many of you know, Mr. Modern Typography bought me a Silhouette Cameo for Christmas. 
Best. Gift. Ever. Now that I've cut 8 million tags on it (slight exaggeration) I feel qualified to throw some money saving tips out there.

Let's do it!

1. Don't buy the Designer Edition software.
You won't need it. Everything you need comes with the machine. Surprisingly, the program is easy to use but is also capable of most of the tasks I use in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Boom, I just saved you $50 dollars.

2. Do buy extras.
Chances are your machine came with an extra mat and blade. I find having 3 or 4 mats helpful when cutting large quantities of the same thing. I prep the extras with the paper I'm going to cut next. This saves me a lot of time, and time is money for me. 

The reason you'll need extra blades is that they dull over time. Buy these before you need them so you don't have to pay added shipping charges. By the way, I cannot find a place to buy these items locally, chances are you will also be forced to buy everything online.

3. Buy yourself some Krylon Easy-Tack.
Why? Because the mats don't last forever, which anyone who has had these awhile knows. Instead of constantly spending $15 on a new cutting mat, you can spray the ones you have with Easy-Tack and get the same results. It's $7.59 at Hobby Lobby, but you can use a coupon on it. You'll get multiple uses out of the can, saving tons of money. I'd say I sprayed about 5 mats 10 times. By the way, I am STILL using the original mat that came with the Silhouette. 

4. Move your paper, shapes or mat between cuts.
The reason the mats don't last forever is the adhesive that holds your paper in place loses it sticky. It's even worse if you cut in the same spot over and over. 1 Easy way to do this is to change the orientation of the paper (landscape/portrait) in the program. OR you can move the shapes in the program before each cut. If you are worried about cutting outside the paper, use registration marks. This is my favorite Silhouette feature. If you haven't learned how to use this yet, you should! Last, you can turn the mat 180 degrees and get more use out of your mats.

5. Avoid the double cut.
This will save both your mats and your blades. The only shapes I've had to use double cut on are my really intricate feathers and headbands for my Thanksgiving headdresses  There is some trial and error here, but I'd rather save my blade which costs $11 than a piece of paper that costs me 4 cents.

6. Buy this squeegee, not this scraper or spatula or the pick me up tool.
To take your cut items off the mat, simply bend the mat and the items will pop off.
They stick a little more when the mats are new or right after you spray Easy-Tack, but after that it's super easy to pull things off. I use the squeegee to scrape off any remaining paper, such a tiny circles from holes. Why pay $10-20 dollars for name brand tools when you can pick up a squeegee for a couple bucks at a hardware store or sign shop. I like the roller squeegee because I smooth items onto my mat with the roller side, and pop off small pieces with the scraper side.

7. Switch out your blades for different types of papers.
The same is true for hand held paper punches. When you cut a thicker paper, your blade dulls more. I keep one blade set on 3 and one on 7. I find all paper works with one or the other and switching blades is easy. My very first blade wore out quick. 

8. Clean out your blades when it seems dull.
It's easier than you think. You just set your blade to zero. Then twist that little white cap off the end, just below the red line (lefty loosy). Clean out of the goop and paper shreds and give the blade another whirl. 

9. Buy through Amazon.
If you haven't noticed already I don't buy anything straight from Silhouette. Its way more expensive. AND I have Amazon prime, so everything ships for free. This is a huge savings for me, and I get everything in 2 days!

10. Design your own shapes.
When we first got the machine, I was concerned about the price of buying additional shapes. I was also concerned about using purchased shapes in my business, did you know you need a commercial license to use them? I decided to design all of my own shapes. It's so much easier than it sounds. Once you see how it's done, you'll realize why the machine is called a silhouette ;)

Here are a couple tutorials on converting images to cutable shapes on the Silhouette.

 Hope you found these tips helpful! I'd love to hear if you have any of your own!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I give in.

I finally signed up for Zulily.
You should, too!

Follow this link to sign up:

And if you do, I get a little credit.
Then I can buy this!

This is the reason I joined Zulily.
I clicked on a Pin and read about this company, Schoolbags for Kids.
For every backpack you buy, they send one to a child in need.
Isn't that awesome?

I mean, I'd buy it anyway, it's so cute!

These are cute, too.


Sold out, darn!

Another adorable item:



Friday, February 15, 2013

Presidents Day Sale

Who doesn't love a good Presidents Day Sale?!

Visit the shop and use the code PRES15 at checkout
to receive 15% off your entire purchase.

Don't miss the new fold-over vintage style recipe cards,
a great idea inspired by a custom order.
You guys are swell :)

Also, be sure to checkout the sale section of the shop for additional savings
and new markdowns.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend friends!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Procrastination Pays Off

At least that's what I like to tell myself. Putting off laundry = large loads = more efficient load of laundry, right? Wednesday is catch up day for me, and today I feel like I've been very efficient, hehe.

I did finally get around to a few of my business resolutions. I've updated my Etsy banner, added the new Pantone Sprint 2013 Color Palette to my designs, even sent out an e-Newsletter. The list of things to do for my shop is endless, but I'm working diligently and it's paying off. I feel very blessed.

About those other resolutions, I'm working on those, too. Putting them on the blog has really helped motivate me. Here's how it's going so far:

Goal 1: Invite more people into my home
No formal plans yet, but I've been stirring ideas around in my head. I'm thinking regular game nights with some people from church. Maybe some churros? Did I mention my husband made me churros? So sweet, both the churros and my husband.

Recipe Here
Goal 2: Get my children involved in more activities
This one isn't as easy as I thought it would be. How do people do this? I looked into half a dozen water polo and basketball leagues for Eleanor and I'm convinced that there is no such thing as a sport that doesn't conflict with violin. I'm hoping this one gets easier when she gets to junior high and the school has teams. For now I'm must trying to get them outside more, to the park or in the backyard. The weather has been nicer which has made this more enjoyable for me.

Goal 3: Make more meals from scratch
I packed my refrigerator and freezer so I wouldn't be tempted to eat out as much, but I haven't made nearly as much progress in this area as I'd like. I'm a little stumped by the fact that so many recipes I come across either have a ton of ingredients I don't keep on hand, or I don't think my kids will eat it. They did like the baked beans I made from dried beans (a first for me) but they were a bit sweet for me. I also went back to some old favorites, including home made build-your-own taco salads. I really think if I'm going to be more successful in this area, the next goal has got to happen.

Goal 4: Work Less
Would you believe right after I wrote my post about resolutions I found out my per diem job is changing? I've been working Tuesdays or Thursdays there for a little over a year. Now they've gone and hired a more regular employee and pushed me to weekends. I wonder if God isn't trying tell me to give this one up.

Goal 5: Encourage people
2 steps forward, 1 step back. While I have made some effort to say more encouraging things to people, I've also stuck my foot in my mouth a few times over the last week. The devil is trying to keep me from this goal, and it's making me kinda angry. This is a life goal, I know He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

Goal 6: Pray
Fail. Ughh. Why is this one so hard? While I haven't really been formally praying, I do find myself more thankful. Amazingly, I have managed to keep up with writing in a daily journal. It's helped me to remain positive and thankful for the blessing of each day. If you've never tried this before, I highly recommend it. I know I'll cherish it forever.

Here are a few entries I thought you may enjoy:

January 4th "I hope I never forget how cute it was watching George chase the others with a light stick"

January 11th "Already time to order [Suzuki violin] book 4, so proud!"

January 13th "Bought a pea coat. Paul said I look like Kate Middleton"

January 18th "Tonight George said 'night night' for the first time, just like his big sister"