Invited By Lama Works

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

There's more to it than you think!

In all the moving fiasco, I've been having some doubts about my future as a small business owner - which is completely normal and expected. I spent 7 years in college working on my degrees in biomedical engineering. Now in just a matter of days, I'm giving that all up to run Lama Works - which I am really excited about!

Now when people ask me what I do, I often get a lot of confused looks that translate into .. I'm sorry you do what? Oh ... you must be really smart! Yes, i have a job that no one has ever heard of and the idea of using animations to determine surgical recommendations is a scary sounding job, not to mention I have not one, but two degrees in what kind of engineering?

Now that I'm leaving that behind and moving forward with the shop I get a lot of looks that say "Oh, isn't that nice ..." code for - "Are you crazy?? You're going to knit for a living???? Right ... good luck with that!"

So today I'd like to defend the independent artist a bit. To the outside viewer I knit and make stationary and those are usually just hobbies. Over the last year I've learned that to sell something is so much more than just making it.

I don't sell mittens by accident. There is a lot of research that goes into it. What's popular? What colors are in? What is my target audience and how to I make sure that they see those mittens? Are others making mittens like mine? If they do, how do I make mine different and better?

What about taking pictures of the products. You need the right backdrop and the right lighting and a little bit of skill in making those photos look like a million bucks. Even here I do research to see what works for others. I watch what's on the front page of Etsy to see how I can make my photos fit the right "style". Do you take a full picture of the product? A close up so that you are intrigued enough to see what it is the picture is depicting? On a model? In the grass?

There is also the marketing side. How do people find your store? This leads in to tagging items so that they come up in the right searches. It's also important to be active in all of the social networking opportunities ... Facebook, Twitter, blogs ... to get your name out there. I even track things like how frequently people "heart" my store or items. Is there a particular day of the week this happens more frequently or even a particular time of day? This all gives me cues to when the best time to renew my items would be. Yep there are even strategies on when and how often to renew items so that you are always at the top of the search list.

How about my skills as an accountant? Each item that is listed has to be logged and tracked so that I can track my sales and again look for trends. Are there products that sell more in one month than another? How can I use this so stock my inventory appropriately?

My husband said it best last night ... if you went away for a week and asked me to look over the store, I wouldn't have even the slightest clue where to start and what to do to keep your sales coming in. So to those that may think I'm wasting my degree ... I'm just applying it to a new direction.

I'm going to try to blog a bit more about these things once I am moved and find everything again, so stay tuned!!

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Things not to miss ...

Since we sold our house I've been thinking a lot about what is to come. I won't lie, moving is a scary thing, but only because it's new I think. I'm not particularly fond of living in Chicago. I came to Chicago for the job and that was it. So now that I don't like the job anymore, getting out of the city I don't love should be a good thing right?

Things I won't miss:
1. Parking on the street - I refuse to pay $3.50 to park in the garage at work every single day so I trudge around Lincoln Park trying to wedge my car into a tiny spot every single morning. My bumper is scratched beyond belief probably from both myself and others trying to park and let's not forget the big scratch along the side of my car where someone clearly didn't quite fit while driving through. When I first moved here and parked on the street after a weekend in Milwaukee it could take me 45 minutes just to find a spot on the street. All this ties into ...
---I could park a boat in the street spots in Quincy

2. Astronomical parking fees - $6 an hour to park at meters in Chicago now! Even in Evanston I have to pay $1.25 an hour just to go to the library! When I lived in the city, I got so fed up with trying to park my car that I just stopped using it. This lead to me not seeing the big orange "Street Cleaning" signs they would put up on random weeks and a few $50 parking tickets. Eventually I found a "cheap" parking spot in a lot for $120 a month. A spot mind you that wasn't guaranteed, so during a Cubs game I would often have to park on the street yet again. Unless you can get your parking waved you have to pay to go to the Farmer's Market, the movies and even the mall and let's not forget $30 to park downtown to see a show.
---They don't have parking meters in Quincy!

3. Traffic - need I say more? I'm pretty sure it takes me at least 20 minutes to get anywhere local, we leave at least an hour to an hour and a half to get anywhere significantly far away. 30 minutes to and from work every day plus the time it takes to park and don't forget to add Cubs traffic into that. Have you ever seen a traffic report around here?? It takes up a significant portion of the morning news ...
---Traffic reports?? Is there traffic in Quincy?

4. Neighbors practically in my yard - Our lot in Evanston is 40 feet wide. Just 40. That means that our house is only 25 feet wide and that my neighbors house is only about 10 feet from my own. While it is a lot more privacy that a condo downtown and no one lives above and below me, and my dog does have a patch of grass to run around in ... we desperately want to have a bit more privacy than that.
---Looking at houses on 1/2 an acre in Quincy :)

5. Taxis - they are everywhere! Cutting me off, slowing up traffic, yelling ....
---Do they have a need for taxis in Quincy?

6. Buses and trains - they are loud, and they smell and again add to traffic delays.
---I think there is a bus in Quincy and a train that takes you to Chicago ... not much else!

7. General hostility - I have found living in the city that people can be very self absorbed. Everyone is on a cell phone and in a hurry to get somewhere. People swear and honk at me on a regular basis and I've found that this rubs off! I have never had road rage before and here I am honking at people. It's not necessary and really just raises your blood pressure.
--- People want to know about you in Quincy. I may not even know the cashier in the store, but she asks me how my day is and opens up a genuine conversation. People stop to chat and are even friendly.

I think that's it for now, but I'm sure I'll come up with more as I ponder the move this week. My last week at work and not a whole lot going on. Lots of time to think ... and blog :)

Until the next time ..
The girl behind the lama
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

So close I can taste it!!

Don't get me wrong, I get a little giddy and my heart picks up a bit every time I get an email that says "Etsy Order From ..." but today was a little extra special. Earlier this year I decided that I needed to set some goals for the shop. Something realistic and attainable.

My shop is just my part time job, something to keep me busy and out of trouble while Andrew finished law school and studied for the bar. I decided that I wanted to try to get just 52 sales in my first year so I could average about 1 sale per week. At the time I think I was about half way through the year and at about 20 sales, so it was going to be a bit of a stretch, but who doesn't like a good challenge right?

Over the months I've done a lot of tinkering because I'm still learning how to be an entrepreneur. I've tried joining different Etsy teams, taken new photos, promoted things, Twitter, new product lines .... and it all seems to have helped because today's "Etsy Order From..." email made me hit 51 sales!!! Only 1 more to go by the end of this month to hit my goal!!

This is giving me a lot of confidence with the months to come. If I can make 1 sale a week every week while I'm working on the store just a few hours a week, who knows where I can take this once I'm working on it full time! I would love to expand things to have more knitted sets that coordinate and to sell them in actual stores. I want to expand my stationary and do more wedding invitations. So much to do!

So today I'm a happy camper :) I'm quitting my day job in one week and I can't wait to see what is ahead for many, many reasons :)

Happy Sales!!!
Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Photo Shoot

Yes, I'm still packing.

Yes, I'm still procrastinating. But really, it's a good thing! In the middle of packing/organizing some of the items in the store I realized it was a beautiful day out and maybe it would be a great time for a photo shoot!

Now when I first started making hats, I ran across an Etsy forum post about people complaining about store owners using real people as models because they didn't want the hat the purchased to have been worn by someone else. OK, I get that. So I had some fun with decoupage and made up an interesting Styrofoam model head.

It's alright and it works, but I haven't sold all that many hats, so why not try a live model! I just happened to have gotten a hair cut and we all know that your hair never looks as good as when a professional spends more time than you could ever conceive of having in the morning to make you look great.

Have I mentioned how fantastic my husband is??? I convinced him to take a break from the boxes to man the camera, because let's be honest .... it's very difficult to take pictures of oneself. Always find a friend.

I've done a little cropping and editing to these, but I must say that he did a great job and will definitely be hired again!! Here are some of a few older hats and some that will be coming out soon!

What do you think of the new pictures?? Think they will work??

Until the next time
The girl behind the lama ...
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Never Ending World of Boxes

The packing has started! I must say that this weekend has brought on a new phase in the "Moving to Quincy!" chapter of life. We were away in Quincy this past week for a variety of things and are happy to be "home" even though we had to leave behind "home" if that makes sense. Yesterday we woke up and started talking about plans for the weekend and both came to the same conclusion .... "Oh my God we're moving in 2 weeks!!"

2 weeks!!!

Just 2!!!

Thankfully my husband loves me more than anything and would move the moon for me if it would make me smile. We have struck up a deal that he will do 90% of the packing and I'll do 90% of the unpacking. It seems like a pretty fair deal to me. Right now I am still working full time and he is not working or studying at all anymore and when we get to Quincy he will be working full time and I will be left to sort through our things, cook dinner and well ... unpack and organize us.

Really we are sticking with each other's strengths. I have packing ADD. I hate packing. I'm slow. Things never fit right in boxes. Boxes get heavy and I get hot and sweaty. But once we are moved I am going to go crazy when I realize that my entire life has been stuffed into what I hope are properly labeled boxes, yet I still can't find anything and my spice rack is no longer alphabetized. I am an organization nut. I'm not always organized, but I like the act of organizing itself and usually work like a mad woman until an organizing project is complete - much against my packing woes.

In fact I should be packing right now. But I'm not. I'm trying to find all sorts of excuses. True, I did pack up all my material and sewing supplies (very sad, but true) along with a box of old photos (which I didn't even pause to look through!). But here I am trying to decide if I should make cupcakes ... which movie we should see this weekend ... and refreshing my mailbox to see if any orders have come in. Yep, I'm desperate.

So the move continues! We are really excited to start a new adventure, even if there will be some bumps along the way.

Until the next time,
The girl behind the lama...
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Emotions Run High ...

Today was quite a big day for me. A very emotional day. It's been a very hectic summer with the bar exam and figuring out what is next for us. We accepted an offer on our house 2 weeks ago and are all set to move on September 1st.

To be honest, I am really excited about this plan. I really don't like living in Chicago. It would be a fun place to visit, but it is far too busy here for me. We are looking forward to settling down where there aren't taxis zooming around buses everywhere. I won't have to deal with a 30-60 minute commute, scratches on my car every day from the close parking, and never again will I deal with outrageous parking fees just to go see a show. My lot and my house will be more than 40 feet wide. My neighbors won't be living almost in my own yard. I'll have a driveway and a proper lawn. A world where traffic doesn't rule my life and we can just slow down a little.

Now all of this also comes with the added bonus that I get to quit my job! I have been pretty unhappy with my job for the past few months due to the usual office politics. I was even hunting for new jobs here before we decided to move. I find that I spend a lot of time at work dreaming of all the things I would do if I didn't have to come in to an office every day. I'm dropping my title as "biomedical engineer" and changing it to "design and process engineer". I get to take all of my skills in fixing things and making things run better and more efficient, and turn them all to my shop. Same skills, just with a new meaning. And the best part is that I can do it from home, any time I want to, without having to ask for time off if I just want to take a personal day. I don't have to work around all of the holidays anymore, and if I want to start work at 9:00, still in my pjs I can and that is such a liberating feeling. I have the opportunity to be my own boss. Push myself and know that my accomplishments are mine alone.

So all of these wonderful things, yet last night and this morning I found myself really crying over what I'm going to lose. My husband said it best last night. I am an optimist. The glass is always half full. I always see the sunny side of life. Something good is always there. So now that I am finally getting this opportunity, I can't help but put aside all of the things that I don't like about working here, and can only think of the things that I will miss.

My kids. Oh, I'll miss my kids. If you have ever had a chance to work with children with disabilities, you know as well as I do that they are such a great and inspirational group to work with. I think back to my time here, and I have seen over 450 kids come through for a gait analysis. 450 kids that come here to see me and get excited about seeing me turn them into a computer animation. 450 parents that are hopeful that what I do holds the key to how to make their children walk taller and fix the position of their feet.

Right now I'm not thinking of the kids that scream, kick and cry, but I'm thinking of the cute 5 year olds that are alight with curiosity. The 12 year old boy that had a crush one me. The ones that hug you and say thank you. The 6 year old from Arkansas who comes up to see us every few years and has a picture of me on her refrigerator. The 14 year old boy that did a High School Musical dance for me, even with his crutches. I'm not remembering the parents that yell at me, the ones that complain about the test or their insurance. I think about the ones that are grateful for the compassion I had with their child. The thank you note and cookies from the family that had a great experience with us. The family that says that because of us, their child can walk again and just be a kid.

I told my manager today that I will be leaving at the end of the month. And yes, we are leaving so that my husband and I can start a future together that works for us. We are setting ourselves up for the years that are to come. I'm not leaving because I'm not happy with my job anymore, but that did make the decision easier.

So it has been a bit of a bittersweet day for me. One door closes, and many more are opening up in front of us. I didn't make it through the conversation without crying and my manager was very sympathetic. He wondered why we ever came to Chicago at all. I came for this job and this job alone. I desperately wanted to work in a gait lab with kids. I wanted to help someone and change a life. Engineers don't get to do that much.

It has been a very difficult decision, but more than ever I think we're making the right one. There will be much to miss and the transition won't be an easy one, but moving and starting fresh is always a challenge. I think we deserve it though. We've spent the past 4 years in school, then living in different states, then living in the same state, but one commuting to Milwaukee every day. We can finally start the life together that we have always dreamed about.

More to come I'm sure. 14 days of work left and 26 days until we move!
Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cake Decorating Course 2 ... Royal Icing Flowers!

I had an absolute blast in the second cake decorating class! I think that royal icing and I are going to be good friends. I really like the tedious work of making flowers, petal by petal. To me at least, this cake can't even begin to compare to any of the ones from course one.

So as I mentioned, we made all different kinds of flowers with royal icing this time. We made a bunch in class and then were encouraged to make more at home. We used a flower nail and cut out templates to help guide us in petal size and placement. We made each flower on a small square of wax paper and then dried them in flower formers to give them a curved look. They get really hard and are almost like a piece of candy to eat, but all very edible and tasty!

We did the rose again as well as different types of leaves ....

Pansies and daisies ....

Apple blossoms, violets, daffodils and primroses:

We also learned how to do a basket weave and rope border to finish the cake:

Voila!!! I had so much fun! I have a million little flowers made and am all ready to start making some cakes!!

What do you think about that??

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Carry On Campaign

Those who battle cancer with every waking day know that they're on a journey that they can't turn back from. And there are no shortcuts. They face the reality of the disease with every day. Even survivors have to endure regular check-ups to ensure that the cancer has not returned or that there is not threat of it returning.

Such determination and effort on their part can be inspiration to the rest of us. We can fight the fight against cancer in every day of our lives through the Carry On Campaign. Those of us that have gone to a Concert For Life have started our own relationship with the American Cancer Society and the Carry On Campaign gives us a way to expand upon that relationship.

"My heart has settled on the fact that we could carry on. So look around, turn around and see." (Falling in Love)

For more information on the Carry On Campaign or to listen to Falling in Love, go to
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