Bragging Rights

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Just like Hollywood has its time, so does the Greeting Card Industry.

When you design throughout the year and start planning for Christmas in February, I feel like you’ve earned the right to brag or at least do something to keep your mind off of snowmen and pretty wreaths.

First of all, we are up for two trendy awards. Something I love more than pineapples is brunch. And these two cards hit on these two spots. Stationery Trends brings out the Trendys this year and we are so excited to be in the finals with two of our cards. My love for brunch really came about this past summer when I lived in Manhattan. Each week was best celebrated at a new brunch spot. And I found myself counting the days until Sunday, typically a day not really on my radar, but eventually my love for it grew. Because let’s be honest, I love food!

Secondly, we are a finalist for a Louie Award in the Rising Stars category. This little flamingo has brought our company so much joy. People love this guy on all kinds of products. I’m not a tropics lover, despite partially growing up in Miami, so flamingos took a while to grow on me. In the end, when he’s gold foiled and surrounded by hot pink, I can find the love in a flamingo.

Last year, we were up for a Louie and I took my son with me to the event in NYC. We were up for one in the Christmas card category for our “What the heck is figgy pudding card?” We didn’t win, but had a heck of a time at the Edison Ballroom. To me it’s not always about winning, but the excitement of being in the mix of things. However, winning could help me celebrate more at my next brunch!

Entrepreneurial Relaxation & Other Mumbo Jumbo

Matrick&EvebyAHP-7Why should you read what you want? Well the answer is simple, because you can, because you earned the time to do so and because reading is reading. As long as you are reading, you’re technically doing something constructive with your time.

I have been told before that I should be reading books that challenge me and make me think. However, this is what I do with my brain for 8 – 10 hours a day: challenge myself and never stop thinking. When I read, I want downtime, to enjoy a story, a place, something that is different than my everyday world. There is no such thing in my opinion, as a “garbage” book, because anyone who takes the time to write and publish via traditional publishing or self -publishing has accomplished something.

So here are my 3 picks of books I have truly enjoyed this year. Call it a “gift” list, me sharing books that are a great distraction from the office and work.

Side note: you can get these cute bookmarks at matrickandeve.com 

  1. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

The backdrop is Milwaukee. I have been there, so I can relate to the charm she describes in the book. Food, business and romance are not a bad combination.

  1. A Week in New York by Louise Bay

She is one of my favorite authors. I love that this series takes place in both New York and London. I find these cities to be magical and endearing.

  1. Hardwired by Meredith Wild

This series sparked my interest because it takes place in Boston, one of my favorite cities that I have lived in. In addition, the side story about running a tech company and start up alongside romance was intriguing. I read the entire series lightning fast.

It would be nice to tell you about all of the philosophy and psychology books I have read, but I have not. I’m a simple reader just looking for an hour or two to escape from reality.

Entrepreneurs need an outlet for relaxation otherwise stress is imminent. Every hour spent in a successful person’s life doesn’t have to be rigid, accounted for and something that could be carved on a plaque.

One of my outlets is reading, what is yours?

Here are a few other relaxation outlets for those in need of a clarifying a few hours of relaxation:

  1. Painting – Using your hands is known to be therapeutic. You don’t have to feel the pressure of being the next Picasso, make it fun. Buy a canvas or sketch pad and experiment. I’ve done it many times, and I paint on a three year old level but it really clears my mind.
  1. Archery – As a kid at camp I loved archery. As an adult, I found it challenging but the kind of challenge that required focus and concentration and didn’t let me think of anything else.
  1. Binge watching TV – Do not underestimate the power that Netflix has on our lives.

Have fun!

What I Learned from Being Green and Inexperienced (My first job)

I was thrilled when The Ladders career site reached out to me and inspired me to share what I learned from my job experience after receiving my MBA. My first one was quite short lived! If you are looking for a job or just exploring the market there are so many resources out there to help. I learned a lot about myself and it really gave me the push to start my own business afterwards.

Given that I started my business at twenty-three, I did not have a lot of time to create a show-stopping resume. I had a PR internship in college, and at the time of my MBA I had two internships in marketing for financial companies, and a part-time job teaching math at an afterschool program at a Korean church (one of my favorite jobs I ever had). After my MBA, I thought (like most grads) that I was “golden” and had paved the way to write my own ticket for a six figure job. I was waiting for the red carpet to be rolled out and the direct deposits to roll in. Instead, what I got was one rejection after the other, almost finding that my MBA was a detriment. My red carpet turned into a crumpled doormat that I could make from my school loan slips. Finally I was offered a job as a marketing analyst for a financial marketing company for less than six figures but still a decent salary. After weighing my options, I knew that my school loans were imminent and they surely did not care about my pride. So I sucked it up and took the job. Within six months I became a casualty of a company layoff.

While I was at the position, my initial excitement about working there waned quickly and I knew it wasn’t a fit. I thought “marketing” was a synonym for creativity, and this was an analyst job with numbers. I tried to ignore the voice inside and just enjoy the salary and my own office. In college, my friends and I talked about the dream of having our own office, and here I was, living the dream. Or so I thought.

Note to self: Analyst, really Allison? Avoid numbers, it’s best for everyone that way!

After a few months at the financial marketing company, I had a notable conversation that would really affirm my stance as a feminist. It was an eye-popping conversation with my manager. I wanted to ask about the protocol for moving up to a more advanced position. I remember he sat back in his chair and said in paraphrase, ‘Allison, there’s only so far you can go in this company.’ He proceeded to hold up his hand in a horizontal fashion and then said something about a ‘glass ceiling.’ It was at that moment that I felt like the ceiling was crashing down on me. A slew of emotions like embarrassment and disbelief shadowed me. Who did he think he was, to be squashing my hopes of moving up?

I found myself confiding in a male colleague about the situation. He was a little too eager to ask me tons of questions about what happened and in retrospect he was “feeding the beast.” He was just making me more and more upset so I would talk more and spew more venomous comments. Long story short, he told the boss everything I said, and he ended up being promoted. Lesson learned for me; never gossip in the office. End of story: I was laid off a few months later.

Note to self: Don’t feel bad. Remember, you are not the best employee in the world, but make a darn good boss!

Something else I learned from this experience was that if I hire someone for a position in my company that has no growth potential, and it’s really just a WYSIWYG position, (What You See Is What You Get) and the candidate seems eager to grow, I am up front and honest about it. I don’t want there to be unattainable hopes I cannot help them achieve.

My main takeaways from my first job:

Go in with clear expectations. Sure things can change on a dime, but make sure you are as informed as possible about your position’s responsibilities and growth tracks.

  1. Don’t settle for a corporate job until you know it is right. It is better to take two part-time positions than to become jaded and disenchanted by a full-time position that will end up a blip on your resume.
  2. Steer clear of office gossip and talking about your manager, even if you think they are wrong.

After just a few years as an employee, I realized it was my turn to be a boss. I was finally the leader of my own destiny. Some people feel more comfortable as a team member helping to guide a ship. I feel most comfortable at the helm of the ship, totally accepting responsibility for the direction and fate of the ship and crew.

I Couldn’t Handle the Paparazzi Anyways

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Beyond wondering if people are narcissistic or curious, I have identified that there are two types of people in the world: those that are magnetic and those that are not. Some people are just born to be flocked to; they are the ones with hordes of people wanting to be their friend, hanging onto their every word and emulating them when appropriate. Jake from Sixteen Candles embodies the ultimate magnet status. He was cute, alluring, and had a fabulous car, all the while playing aloof and coy. Who wouldn’t want to date him? Magnets seem to develop their fan base in the womb and the rest of life is just about maintaining their star quality. The opposite of Jake would be sweet Duckie from Pretty in Pink. His loyal and doting nature was overlooked. He lacked the style, car, and allure. However, I think he still holds a special place in a lot of our teenage hearts.

I am not a magnet, and I do not strive to be one. I believe there is a place in the world for non-magnets. We beat to the rhythm of our own tune and are off in the corner dreaming up fabulous things, and really, do I have time for nagging fans? This is not to imply that magnets are not deep, intellectual, or complex individuals.  I believe that introverts can be magnets; it’s just a little harder. I tend to flock to non-magnets too, because it’s easier to get through to them, not because of the lack of paparazzi, but because we have an understanding. You’re not a magnet, I’m not a magnet, let’s just have a chat.

Even though I do not personally feel the need to be a magnet, I have an overarching need for my companies to be magnetic forces

What having backyard chickens taught me about business

photo2We had backyard chickens for a year and a half. We started with five and ended with five but only one was from the original grouping. Let’s just say opossums and raccoons played a part in the original crew not staying together. We brought them home as chicks and the kids watched them grow. It was a wonderful experience to live two miles from downtown and have a bit of farmland in our backyard. Besides having a goldfish or two in my lifetime, these chickens were my first real pets.

Oddly enough, they taught us lessons that I can bring into my business world.

Waste is for Novices

When we finished dinner, we often had scraps  that were not right for leftover status, so we would feed them to our chickens. We felt so much better about not throwing food in the garbage, but rather giving them to our chickens so they could enjoy table food and grow big and strong.

What I brought back to the office was: waste less. This would ultimately save us money. And what paper we needed to waste, we chose to recycle.

The Beauty of Consistency

After the chickens were a few months old, we were welcomed with a wonderful surprise each morning, eggs were waiting for us. Five eggs every morning. With the exception of molting season, we knew what we would wake up to.

What I brought back to the office was: Consistency. Customers and employees expect quality but also consistency. Deliver what is promised.

After a year and a half, we decided to bring our lovely feathered friends back to the farm because we travel too much to care for them. We surely miss them and thank them for these small but mighty lessons!

 

 

#MotivationMonday: MUSIC!

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I love music! Music motivates me throughout the day but especially when I am writing. Every now and again I like to share my playlist I am currently listening to, especially now while I am writing and editing my book. I love hearing suggestions for new and older music, so maybe one of these songs will be added to your Spotify queue and get your creativity flowing as well.

Compared to What by Roberta Flack

Cry to Me by Solomon Burke

Restless Heart by Peter Cetera

Ooh La La by Goldfrapp

All Night Long by The Mavericks

If You See Kay by The Script

Many The Miles by Sara Bareilles

Cruel by Jessie Ware

Like I Can by Sam Smith

Enjoy! And don’t be afraid to get up and dance!

Mom Meets Entrepreneur: Part 2

Today is Part 2 of “Our Non-Traditional Household – Mom Meets Entrepreneur” – catch up on Part 1 here!

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I have many friends who have daily routines. They might get up at five a.m. and work out before starting the daily routine. That is simply not me. I am not regimented and I like to be looser with my day. First off, sleep is a very high priority for me. I choose not to wake up before seven if possible. We usually do not know what we are eating for dinner till an hour beforehand and we embrace the European lifestyle by buying our food fresh each day (that is when we actually cook). And my favorite part of the evening is between ten and midnight because I can do whatever the heck I want! That sounds exciting, but it’s usually laundry, cleaning, reading, and watching tv. But, I do it at my own pace and on my own terms, so that makes me feel empowered. With so much to think about throughout the day, I like to take the trivial stuff like meal planning and laundry not very seriously. I work very well with no schedule and have a few to-do’s jotted in my paper planner for each day. I keep it simple. I multi-task like a maniac and work the best under no plan and invigorating chaos.

As I said last time, my kids have been with us in the business for a long time, and they are very involved, so much that I have to “shhh” them when they are in the office, because they really know too much. At the same time, I love that about them – their interest and excitement in what Mommy and Daddy do. Even though they feel invested in the company, I want them to do their own thing when they grow up, and make their own choices, mistakes and successes. But for right now, it is a family affair.

A few years ago, one of the boys walked into the office and pointed to a girl sitting at her desk and said, “Mommy, is she the one getting fired?” That was an interesting situation to get out of.  Thankfully as they get older, they have learned what I mean when I say, “Put a filter on that.”

When you are working in your business, everything is not kid-centric. It’s just a fact of life. Olivier and I both grew up in an environment where we were talked to as adults, and to the extent we can (based on their ages) we do that with our kids too. We sometimes don’t do a lot of stuff other parents get to do, and sometimes I get comments for that. I feel like I have to defend myself, and that’s hard because I notoriously like to beat to the rhythm of my own tune.  On the occasion that I am feeling like I need to conform, I stop and remind myself of all the amazing experiences we have given our kids. They have seen businesses, visited different cities, and met wonderful people. When I think about all of that, I snap out of it for the moment.

Our goal is to have our kids be grounded, hardworking, honest, creative, realistic, humble, and appreciative, and I think we are getting there. While my kids may not have had all the “traditional” family moments (who defines traditional anyway?), we have had more fun, and made more memories in the office and on the road, than I can even count.

Tiebreakers Podcast

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I’m so excited to have been a part of the new Tiebreakers podcast that launched this summer. You can listen to my interview with host Samantha Johnson on iTunes or on the Tiebreakers website.

Tiebreakers is a free weekly podcast featuring interviews with people who left very traditional, very corporate careers in fields like law, finance, medicine, politics, and business to pursue more creative (and awesome) endeavors. New episodes air each Wednesday.

 

Our Non-Traditional Household – Mom Meets Entrepreneur

FullSizeRenderOnce you have figured out what kind of company you are going to start, there is more than just the business aspect to figure out. There is the family aspect to consider. How will your business affect your family, whether your family is you and your partner or you and a minivan of kids?

We have three children and they have been exposed to our business since they were babies. Coming to the office does not result in meltdowns or complaints. They truly love it.  They find it exhilarating (maybe they have a better phrase for it like – “totes cool“) and love the snacks there too. They understand about hirings, firings, and downturns. We are quite transparent at home. It’s hard not to be. Any couple that owns a business together and says they don’t bring their work home – and I don’t mean in tangible form  – is either lying, not that dedicated, or has truly amazing separation skills.

I will be the first to admit I have forgotten to take my daughter to dance class on a Wednesday, forgotten a friend’s birthday, forgotten to take out the trash, or even to pay a doctor’s bill. So “how do I do it?” I don’t really know, so when I’m asked this, I do have a standard answer: “I just do it!” Bewilderment strikes as I give this answer. I walk around with an old fashioned day planner, my phone and post-it notes. It’s an “organization system” I have had for the past sixteen years. Although there have been a few forgotten tasks and events along the way, for the most part it works for me. It’s important to find a system that works for you.

Part two … coming soon! 

 

Is There a Difference Between Stillness and Stagnation

I often wonder if any part of me envies the business of a dentist or doctor. I certainly do respect these professions. However, I go into my dentist’s office and over the years the front desk people are the same, the television is tuned to the same station, the furniture, wallpaper and procedures – they are all the same. It seems stable. Isn’t that what many people long for, stability? Day in and day out, it’s façade is the same, but the patients each have their own unique story.  Even though my business can be like a hurricane at times, I do not envy this type of truly stable business. I am much too creatively charged to handle the stagnation! Yet at this point in life I do crave some stillness.

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Stagnation and stillness are very different. One being that you can expect what is going to happen and much won’t ever change, and the other being a calmness even in the most turbulent of times. I strive for stillness. Both stillness and stagnation have calming qualities. As an owner of both a mature and a growing business, I prefer the uproarious times of not being stagnant and I strive for that stillness and calmness to keep my mind open to new adventures and change.

The Pros of Stagnation

  1. Knowing what to expect
  2. Less risks involved

The Cons of Stagnation

  1. Lack of creativity and the excitement of risk
  2. Change will not happen often

The Pros of Stillness

  1. Feeling calm
  2. Having an open mind for new ideas

The Cons of Stillness

  1. May feel like a lack of emotion
  2. May be perceived as too laid back

Do you prefer stagnation or stillness, both or neither in your business?